In 2016, I was fortunate to discover a sensational new resort in Miami and a unique boutique hotel in San Francisco, as well as fine inns of a more traditional variety in both Vermont and British Columbia. Everywhere I traveled I found imaginative cuisine and superior wines.
The Faena is not the kind of hotel I normally recommend. It is flamboyant, fashionable and routinely over the top — the path to the beach is punctuated by an extraordinary gilded mammoth skeleton, the work of sculptor Damien Hirst — but it is also exceptionally imaginative and run with professionalism and panache. Part of a $1 billion Mid-Beach renovation, led by Argentinean tycoon and hotelier Alan Faena, the resort is at the epicenter of the city’s burgeoning contemporary art scene. When Art Basel is in progress, its vast theatrical lobby with its massive gold columns and exotic tropical murals must truly be a sight to behold. But the rooms and baths are spacious and exceptionally well-appointed, the food in Francis Mallmann’s Los Fuegos grill is delicious, and the staff are friendly and unpretentious. Lounging by the pool, watching the palm trees fluttering in a cloudless South Florida sky, I felt extremely disinclined to leave.
Many of the best luxury resorts in Hawaii are rather large, with hundreds of rooms. That’s why I was particularly excited to discover Hotel Wailea, which has just 72 accommodations set amid 15 acres of mature tropical gardens. Spacious Ocean View Suites afford mesmerizing coastal panoramas from their patios or balconies. There is rarely a competition for loungers at the pool, and the inviting cabanas surrounding it require no reservations or additional fees. The beach is down the hill, it’s true, but quick transfers to and from the hotel’s beach club are complimentary. Those who don’t require doorstep access to the sand will surely enjoy this plush and tranquil retreat.
Experience has taught me to be wary of hotels and resorts that are listed as National Historic Landmarks. The Inn at Shelburne Farms turned out to be a noteworthy exception. The beautiful red-brick structure remains very much as it was when it served as a private home with original woodwork, wallpaper and furniture, all carefully preserved. Augmenting the opportunity to experience a gracious past, the service was in accordance with the expected standards of the present. I particularly enjoyed meals with ingredients from the farm itself, all delicious and elegantly presented. I highly recommend this property to anyone who is interested in a serene setting and attentive care.
San Francisco, California
For years I have been determined to find a worthwhile boutique property in the San Francisco area that embodies the qualities that make this city unique. This has been a source of frustration until now. Set in a private members-only club, The Battery hotel in the Financial District offers 14 guest accommodations and an expansive bar-lounge, plus a well-equipped fitness area, spa and library. The contemporary interior design, clubby atmosphere, graciously appointed rooms and strict no-photo or cell phone policy in public areas contribute to a feel of exclusivity. During our stay, the property was simultaneously glamorous and laid-back, a welcome haven from the hustle and bustle of the city. In many ways, The Battery proved to be the San Francisco hideaway I have been searching for all this time.
Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
Lake Louise in Banff National Park is undeniably lovely, but in high season, it is aswarm with sightseers. Most of them also wander through the only hotel on the lake, the vast Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The smaller and more secluded Post Hotel & Spa offers an escape from the tourists, three miles away along the boulder-strewn Pipestone River. Rooms on the hotel’s “Preferred” side overlook the stream and hotel lawns, and through the trees, there are glimpses of the Lake Louise Ski Resort. You can enjoy the stupendous scenery around Lake Louise, then quickly retreat to the Post Hotel, which has one of the finest restaurants in Canada.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Rosewood took over the Hotel Georgia in 2011, and its renovation of the 1927 property was masterful. The lobby retains its sumptuous historic décor, but the rooms are thoroughly contemporary. Our large Junior Suite (the urbane front desk agent upgraded us at check-in) had stylish, comfortable furniture and a striking marble bath centerpieced by a white freestanding tub. Arguably Vancouver’s best restaurant is on the ground floor; the three bars serve well-crafted cocktails and a wide selection of Canadian whiskies; and the art deco indoor pool is available year-round. Few Vancouver hotels have the pedigree of the Hotel Georgia, and Rosewood takes full advantage of that history while providing every contemporary comfort.