We’ve all heard the horror stories and now we watch them in Gordon Ramsay’s show Hotel Hell. The unsuspecting guest books what they initially believe is a top quality room or suite at a charming boutique hotel or inn only to find sheet stained beds, canteen style restaurant food and dead maggots in the infinity pool.
If you thought being able to complain to the owner would change things – you were sorely mistaking. Ownership treats the hotel as their own personal party rather than a business, they’re complacent and they don’t realize the goldmine that’s right at their feet.
Booking an independently owned luxury hotel is one of the most difficult travel tasks there is. A good photographer can make almost anything seem beautiful and programs like Photoshop have made it all too easy to edit out the cracks in the wall, the stains on the bedspread and the mouse hiding in the corner. It’s only once you arrive during peak season when every other hotel in the area is full, that you realize why you’re the only guest in what seems like a ghost town hotel.
No person should ever have to endure that.
Now fortunately, that is the worst case scenario, but even something like bad food can ruin an entire guest experience. When my wife and I went on our honeymoon, we stayed at a beautiful country side resort. Fresh produce was abundant, but that didn’t stop the “chef” from deep frying everything. Set in the middle of nowhere with just a golf course, woods and a walking path around us, there was no other restaurant in sight, and quite frankly, McDonalds might have been a healthier option.
That’s not say we didn’t enjoy our experience. The spa was resplendent, the evening bath that the butler service drew was romantic and the building was clean, safe and drew nature in. Over all it was a beautiful resort, but because of how bad the food was, we’ll probably never return.
So the question begs to be asked. How do you ensure you’re staying at real luxury boutique hotel? The answer is simple: Read this article.
There are companies dedicated to this business. From Small Luxury Hotels, or the SLH Club to the Leading Hotels of the World, the competition to be recognized by organizations such as these are as tough as it comes, but once a hotel has the right to place their logo on the front door, guests are pretty well ensured a superlative experience on all fronts.
Of course, that doesn’t guarantee a perfect time. A bartender in a foul mood or a steak cooked well when you wanted it rare can still be prevalent in any hotel, but at least you’re safe, knowing that management will rectify any situation and ensure the remainder of your experience is nothing short of exceptional.
We’ve scoured the internet, spoken with the experts and listened to the guests. That’s why we’re proud to provide you with this list of the top small luxury hotels around the world.
At Gentleman’s Gazette we like to stay consistent with our reviews. Just as we did in the leading hotel chains of the world article, the criteria will remain somewhat the same, with a few obvious changes.
For this particular piece, we’re going to focus on independently owned and operated hotels by families or organizations that operate each of their locations separate and apart from any of their other business. We’re also avoiding large resorts that cater to the mass clientele. The hotels in here are the definition of boutique and they all have a history of providing an incredible experience to the vast majority of their guests.
The first list of hotels I had was quite long, so I short listed the hotels based on the following:
– Guest experience and rating in online reviews
– Critic experience and Rating in online and print reviews
– Awards from reputable associations
– Star ratings
– Amenties and luxury services
Unfortunately, or depending on how you look at it, fortunately the list became quite sparse. It turned out that many of the hotels that initially looked beautiful either had terrible online reviews, poor reviews from critics or awards they advertised turned out to be ones they paid for and therefore bias.
Luckily we still had a few hotels on the list and in our effort to provide you with a list of only the very best, we think we’ve excelled.
Here are some of the most popular, award winning and well respected boutique hotels in the world that you may want to consider for your next vacation.
Pikaia Lodge in the Galapagos Islands
Settled in the crater of an extinct volcano, the green Pikaia Lodge is nature focused with modern amenties and unique opportunities. Home to a giant tortoise reserve, it has white sandy beaches, pools, a highly regarded restaurant, a lobby bar and a full service spa.
For those traveling to the Galapagos Islands, there is truly no better resort for getting back in touch with nature.
The villas are deeply nestled on the slopes between the savannah and a forest with some of the most breathtaking views of the island. From the lodge you can easily spot mountains, volcanoes, the sea and of course their tropical misty forests. To soak up even more relaxation the spa offers some of the highest rated massages on the island with a focus on zen. Should be in the mood for adventure, there are daily excursions and nature is literally just outside your door.
Giraffe Manor in Nairobi
One of the most iconic and spectacular estates in the country, it is a 12 acre giraffe sanctuary. Focused on classic luxury, the manor has just about every possible relaxation amenity from verdant green gardens and terraces to walking paths intertwined by romantic courtyards, the estate is as well known for its elegance as it is for the giraffes. What makes this hotel really unique is that whether you’re waking up under the warm sun in your room or dining in the hotel lobby, the friendly giraffes will poke their heads in through the open windows and greet you with kisses or ask for a treat.
For those who are looking for an African experience without the mosquito nets and lions, the Giraffe Manor is a perfect combination of refinement and the wild kingdom. It’s an experience not to be missed.
The Toren in Amsterdam
With a focus on indulgent luxury deep in the heart of a bustling city center, the Toren is one of the most luxurious boutique hotels one can find in a city filled with food, sex and marijuana. If you enjoy exploring new cities, the Toren offers it all outside it’s back yard. But inside, it features every modern luxury imaginable in a historic townhouse. It’s calm and secluded offering you a timeless elegance as your retreat back to your hotel after a busy day sightseeing. In Amsterdam, there is no better pick.
Dukes Hotel in London
Known for its culinary greatness and elegant fine dining, the Dukes Hotel in London offers the very best in cosmopolitan British charm, right in the heart of Mayfair. Focused on five star service at all times, the goal at Dukes is to make you feel more at home than you do in your residence. Something they’ve become well known for throughout much of England.
Alma Hotel in Israel
Known for their every changing menu by chef Yonatan Roshfeld, the Alma hotel has won more awards for its bohemian chic food than any other boutique hotel in Israel. With enchanting gardens, a focus on the culinary experience and modern spa amenities, Aman is worthy of your attention.
Hôtel de Vendôme in Paris
Walking distance to the Louvre and the famous jewelry and antique shops of Paris, the hotel is a virtual wrapped giftbox of quintessential Parisian luxury. Known for their fine art collection, dining and indulgent staff, this is one Paris hotel that should be on your bucket list. No exceptions. Oh, and in case I forgot to mention, they have one of the best whisky selections in all of France.
The Luang Say Residence in Laos
Say “tranquility”. Now say it again. This is the one word that defines this colonial resort. With tropical gardens, lily filled ponds and the most tranquil environment imaginable, if you just need to kick back and relax, this might be the place for you. Just minutes from the Royal Palace there is lots to see in the area if you want to get out. Surrounded by gold colored temples and monks, this is the ideal resort if you just need to forget everyday life and close your eyes.
Hotel Haven in Helsinki
Overlooking the harbor, this three restaurant resort and hotel is all about healthy comforts and relaxation. Focused on tending to your most basic needs, the hotel is relaxed, yet refined and perfect for those wanting to unwind in a relaxing atmosphere in the heart of a bustling city.
Jade Mountain in St. Lucia
Possibly one of the most stunning and romantic resorts in the world, Jade Mountain has less than thirty rooms, but each are outfitted with luxury in mind. Nestled into the side of a mountain, this breezy outdoor resort offers guests pretty much whatever they can dream of. In the heart of the rainforest it’s one hotel on my own personal bucketlist.
Alpenhof Murnau in Germany
A Bavarian style, five star rated hotel in the picturesque town of Murnau, the Alpenhof Murnau hotel is a splended and charming hotel for the most discerning clientele. What really makes this hotel noteworthy is its wine list of almost 1000 fine wines available to sample. It truly is a dream location and one that’s worthy of your attention while traveling to Germany.
Alpin Royal in Italy
A breathtaking hotel, the Alpin Royal is located in the scenic mountain terrain of Ahrntal in South Tyrol. With a magnificent pool and waterfall display, this hotel takes the charm of Aspen and inserts the culture of Italy making it an award winning combination.
Brooks Hotel in Ireland
Deep in the heart of Dublin rests a small yet wonderous hotel called the Brooks. Famous for it’s location, it brings a touch of elegance and refinement into the city-scaped core of Dublin. With 130 different whiskies in the bar, a private cinema and a pleathora of sightseeing opportunities nearby, there is no better choice when visiting the heart of Ireland.
Aqua Blu Spa and Resort in Greece
With two award winning restaurants and fifty three rooms, this quaint and charming seaside resort offers the very best in Greek culture and relaxation. The hotel can only be described as striking and it’s position on the waterfront is second to none. It’s a remarkably beautiful location for an equally lovely hotel.
Cordée des Alpes in Switzerland
A quintessential ski resort, the Cordée des Alpes is right in the heart of the world famous Verbier ski region. A smaller hotel, it caters to an extremely wealthy clientele requiring it to consistently provide the most exceptional service imaginable. Right in the heart of the nightlife it’s seconds away from the slopes with a locally known spa and fitness facilities.
Club Marítimo de Sotogrande in Spain
Right on the Sotogrande marina, if you’re looking for a contemporary, chic, and yet elegant place to hang your hat for the night this could be it. Focused on the nautical lifestyle, the club is home to a vast selection of sherries and other wines, spirits and beers sure to make your stay even better. From walking around the marina to fresh seafood and fish, this is a great getaway location if you’re missing Cape Cod but need a bit of spice in your life.
Port Palace in Monaco
On the harbor of Monte Carlo, this gorgeous resort overlooks the the world famous Formula One Grand Prix Circuit. It’s not necessarily just what’s on the inside that counts, but the outside of this ravishing hotel which is home to some of the world’s finest yachts and one of the world’s billionaire playgrounds. This is another hotel on my bucket list.
Hotel Infante Sagres in Portugal
The Hotel Infante Sagres in Porto was only built in the 1950s, yet resembles a traditional 19th century manor. Home to one of the most famous restaurants in Porto, it of course serves a healthy list of port wines in addition to other spirits. From its inhouse oriental spa to the lavishly decorated interior, the hotel is home to ornate Baroque furnishings, modern custom-made furniture and contemporary works of art not found anywhere else in the world.
Bloomfield Lodge in Australia
The only hotel of its kind nestled right between the Daintree Rainforest, and the Great Barrier Reef, this remarkably serene and secluded resort is home to some of the most lush and tropically inspired spas and cuisine you can find. In fact, the hotel is so secluded it takes a private plane, an ATV drive and a river boat to get you to the final location. If you’re in the mood for adventure and relaxation this is the top pick.
Alexander House in Russia
The Alexander House in St. Petersburg is, out of every hotel in Russia, the only to be recognized by the SLH Club. Overlooking the Kryukov Canal, this historic hotel is custom decorated in each room to reflect the city. It has a theater, library and all the other amenties one could ask for in a luxury hotel. We just recommend you don’t visit during the war.
HOSHINOYA Hotel in Japan
The HOSHINOYA, yes that’s how they spell it, is a quiet and discreet cabin style retreat from the masses of the big cities. Nestled on the steep banks of the Hozugawa River in Arashiyama, it’s only accessible by boat and is so quaint they reserve the right to refuse children. In fact, the standard policies is children must be over the age of thirteen. If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway with the beauty and elegance of Japanese culture, this one is for you.
The Scarlet in Singapore
If you travel for work, this hotel is the break you deserve. Many companies send their employees to cheaper, less expensive motels, but if you’ve flown as far as Singapore you deserve this zen-inspired spa and resort right in the heart of the central business district. Meetings by day, massages by night, this is a great spot for those needing a pick-me-up.
The Windsor Arms in Canada
Right in the fashion district of Toronto, not only is this one of the top small luxury hotels in Canada, but it’s known as the top hotel in all of Toronto. Traditional and yet somehow contemporary, it takes the very best that Bloor Street has to offer and lifts it up a notch. This is truly one of the nicest hotels you’ll ever have the chance to stay in. Take my word for it.
Hotel Shangri-La in the United States
There are thousands of beautiful small hotels across the country, but I needed to pick just one that stood out from the rest. Welcome to the fabulous Shangri-La hotel in Santa Monica. An art-deco landmark just miles away from bustling Los Angeles, the Shangri-La is our top small luxury hotel pick for the US due to its rich history, a recent $30 million overhaul and it’s exquisite roof top patio and award winning restaurant. It’s truly a spectacular location.
Tiamo Resort in the Caribbean
Deep in a secluded area of the Caribbean is the lush and tropical Tiamo Resort. A festival for the senses, this oasis features private cottages with exquisite views. What is really special about the Tiamo Resort is the diving. If you enjoy diving, there is no better choice in the Caribbean.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this primer on some of the top boutique hotels in the world. There are many more and we’d love to hear your experiences. Stay tuned for reviews on specific hotels and be sure to check out our list of the top chain hotels in the world. Also, stay tuned for our lists of the top luxury hotels in specific regions and the tourist attractions that surround them.