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Travel Pros Share The One Hotel They Can’t Wait To Go Back To

2020 was a wash for the travel world. Entire segments of the industry were temporarily shut down. Airlines faltered. Hotels had to close their doors for months at a time (many shuttered permanently). It was, in a word, bleak.

While the travel industry will be fundamentally different in the future (hopefully better), there is some hope on the horizon as vaccines arrive and lockdowns continue to halt the spread of the virus. We’re not out of the woods — not by any stretch — but it feels realistic to start eyeing that “where I want to travel next” list a little closer at the outset of 2021.

One of the key aspects of any adventure — whether on a road trip, closer to home, or at a far-flung locale — is where to stay. Hotels, resorts, and home-shares often reveal something about the destination, thereby becoming integral to your trip itself. A good hotel is a nice place to lay your head; a great hotel is an experience that sticks with you.

We gathered some of our favorite professional travelers to talk about the hotels, BnBs, homestays, and resorts around the world that they can’t wait to get back to when it’s safe to travel again. Let’s get to it!

Hacienda Encantada Los Cabos Resort, Mexico — Melanie Sutrathada

Average Price: $140

Why This Hotel:

Hacienda Encantada Los Cabos Resort is one of my favorite places in the world. With postcard-perfect views and stunning sunsets that will stop you in your tracks, this resort is pretty much what you’d imagine as the set of Bachelor in Paradise — minus all the couple-swapping and drama.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

A horseback ride along the beach! I actually did miss this while I was visiting and still regret it to this day. This is an activity that nearly everyone I spoke to during my stay could not rave enough about.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

If you went to Cabo San Lucas and didn’t see the Arch of Cabo San Lucas, did you really even go? Book a boat ride that takes you past it and spend your afternoon snorkeling and swimming.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

Head to Los Riscos at the resort for the surf and turf and a delicious jalapeno margarita just before the sunset. This restaurant is located on a cliff with stunning views of the Sea of Cortez and is easily the most beautiful place I’ve ever had dinner. The quality of the food, service, and views simply cannot be beaten!

Gramercy Park Hotel, New York — Benjamin Liong Setiawan

Average Price: $350

Why This Hotel:

It’s a gorgeous hotel with a ton of history and it’s located in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Manhattan. World-class art is dotted all over the property. You’ll find works from Jean-Michel Basquiat, David LaChapelle, Annika Newell, and Damien Hirst.

Make sure to request a room with a view of the historic Gramercy Park.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

I’ve lived in NYC for over 20 years and have only been inside Gramercy Park when I was staying at the hotel. The park is gated and only residents who live in a property immediately surrounding the park have a key to it. Accessing Gramercy Park is something that no other hotel in the city can offer.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

The Gramercy neighborhood has no shortage of top-notch dining. My favorite, Rezdôra, is just a 5-minute walk from the hotel. I’ve celebrated my birthday there, Mother’s Day there, and everything in between. The staff is so warm and welcoming. It feels like dining at a friend’s house. A friend who just happens to have worked with Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Modena.

Chef Stefano Secchi specializes in cuisine from the Emilia Romagna region. Go hungry and order the pasta tasting menu for the whole table.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

A major bonus of being a guest at Gramercy Hotel is having Maialino in the building. I wouldn’t mind having breakfast, lunch, and dinner there. But no matter what time of day you go, definitely order their famous Olive Oil Cake. Their wine list is also extensive.

For drinks, definitely grab a spot at the Rose Bar. If you’re lucky, your future stay will coincide with one of their intimate concert series (of course when it’s safe to resume again). Previous performers include Axl Rose, Elle King, and BØRNS.

Rancho Valencia, CA — Nathan Fluellen

Average Price: $700

Why This Hotel:

Rancho Valencia is a secluded oasis of luxury located in Rancho Sante Fe, CA, in north San Diego county. The treelined driveway gives a dramatic entrance to the sprawling property. Every room is a suite designed with a living room, fireplace, and private patio. But my favorite part of the room was the bathroom. The showerhead had terrific water pressure, and the sunken tub was big enough for me to extend my legs while soaking.

The rooms and amenities are spectacular, but the solitude is what really has me dreaming about returning. It’s a two-hour drive from L.A. and the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle without having to hop on a plane.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

You can’t miss out on taking a yoga class at the spa. The instructor teaches the class on a floating platform surrounded by water. The studio’s open-air structure welcomes in the fresh air and safe environment for your practice.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

You can’t miss booking one of the house Bentleys to take for a spin and explore the surrounding areas. Rancho Valencia gives guests the option of driving the Bently Flying Spur, Continental G.T. coupe, or convertible.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

The Pony Room is an excellent al fresco dining option. Its Spanish courtyard has an intimate setting for dining under the sunny blue sky or twinkling stars. My favorite dishes are the swordfish bites and classic ceviche.

Central Station Hotel, Memphis — Joe Sills

Average Price: $130

Why This Hotel:

I can actually walk to this hotel from my apartment… so I suppose I could just sleep at home. What I can’t do at my apartment is spend a night in the lounge mingling with Memphis music royalty while marinating in the hot buttered soul of Isaac Hayes or getting turnt to the trap beats that laid the framework for modern hip-hop.

Though the hotel has been open during the pandemic, the weekend crowds have dissipated.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

The Lounge at Central Station has an authentic, Memphis style that skips the gift shop vibes at Graceland and cuts right to the heart of the city’s soul. You’ll want to grab a sofa and linger here for as long as your night allows while the city’s top disc jockeys — like DJ Alpha Whiskey, Memphis Jones, and Jared Boyd — curate deep tracks from the libraries of Stax Records and Hypnotize Minds. The sounds resonate from a 500-album collection of vinyl stacked 30-feet high and a bespoke collection of Eggleston Works speakers designed specifically for the room.

If you’re lucky, you’ll spot famed producer Boo Mitchell or pioneering hip-hop icon DJ Spanish Fly in the crowd.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

In a city bathed in music history, the can’t-miss activity has nothing to do with Sun Records or Stax. Instead, walk a few hundred yards down the street to the National Civil Rights Museum. This is the former Lorraine Motel, forever etched in American history as the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

You will be moved.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

Fine dining aficionados can head over to Bishop, housed inside the building, or meander over to personal favorites like Rizzo’s or Central BBQ nearby. If you’re in the mood for ‘que, try the barbecue nachos on house chips, a secret menu item that I once ate in a disgusting fashion on Travel Channel.

Parrot Nest Lodge, San Ignacio, Belize — Kinga Philipps

Average Price: $45

Why This Hotel:

This is every Peter Pan dream you’ve ever had come true. There are two tree houses perched in 100-foot Guanacaste trees and seven rustic cabins set on the banks of the Mopan River with wildlife on your doorstep and twinkling fireflies at night make it even more magical. Communal tables in the open-air lounge and abundant hammocks overlooking the riverbank give it a hippy vibe that fits the location like a glove.

The sound of rain on the roof of the cabin is just so dreamy. It will rain. You’re in a jungle.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

Take the innertubes and float down the river then play on the rope swing. The resident dogs will come with you and swim the entire way to guide you so you don’t miss your exit.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

Caracol and Tikal are the nearby Mayan ruins reminding us that we are mere blips on the timeline of civilization. Horseback riding, river tubing, and, of course, caves round off the smorgasbord, but one of these grottos will nestle deep into your memory for life: Actun Tunichil Muknal, or ATM for short.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

The home cooking is tasty. The menu changes regularly. And, mealtime is when you can swap stories with other travelers over a drink and decide on the next day’s plan of action.

Sonnenalp Vail, CO — Juliana Broste

Average Price: $320

Why This Hotel:

One of my favorite places in the world is just a couple of hours’ drive from my home in Denver, but it feels like I hopped on a plane to Europe! Vail, Colorado is all about Bavarian charm, and hotels like the Sonnenalp give you the international flair you’re longing for.

This property has been a mainstay in Vail for over 40 years, and for good reason.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

Treat yourself to a spa day and enjoy a soak in the heated indoor and outdoor pools and whirlpools or splurge on a treatment. Out of towners acclimating to the high altitude may enjoy the Oxygen Bar.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

Winter or summer, you’ll find endless adventure on Vail Mountain! Skiers and snowboarders will discover something for everyone, from groomed trails, wide open back bowls, and fantastic tree skiing across a whopping 5,000 acres. My fave, packing a BBQ picnic and cooking out at Blue Sky Basin. Winding down the day at apres ski with a drink in hand at your favorite watering hole in Vail Village is all too fun for locals and visitors alike.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

You can’t miss brunch at Ludwig’s for a bountiful European-style breakfast (you can work off all the calories on the mountain later). In the evening, fondue at The Swiss Chalet always hits the spot!

ARRIVE Memphis — Ciara Johnson

Average Price: $115

Why This Hotel:

ARRIVE is the perfect launchpad for a weekend in Memphis. This boutique hotel is located in the heart of downtown Memphis and the vintage decor will make you want to stay for good.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

Sip on a Goji Berry Sling at the onsite creative cocktail bar, Bar Hustle!

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

You’ll find the National Civil Rights Museum directly across the street from ARRIVE. Once the Lorraine Motel (where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated), the NCR Museum is a sobering, multimedia experience where you’ll learn about Civil Rights and the large role that Memphis played in the movement.

Don’t forget to grab some Memphis BBQ at Central Barbeque while you’re in the area!

What To Eat and/or Drink:

Enjoy fresh bread and pastries at Hustle & Dough, an all-day bakery. Arrive early to beat the line!

Cempedak Island, Indonesia — Justin Walter

Average Price: $425

Why This Hotel:

When I daydream about post-pandemic travel, I transport myself to the paradise I experienced at Cempedak Island. After the rollercoaster year of #2020, everyone deserves the luxury, beauty, and tropical oasis provided by this private island located off the coast of Singapore. Embracing the “treat yo’ self” mantra, spending a few days in one of the property’s open-air bamboo villas — each with a private infinity pool overlooking stunning views of the South China Sea — is an escape to heaven.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

There are a lot of chill things to do here while you detox your pandemic stress, but at the top of the list is a massage at the spa! By far this is one of the best massages I’ve had around the world, plus it takes place in a gorgeous bamboo hut to the sound of real waves crashing underneath.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

I recommend renting a kayak to paddle around the entire 42-acre island. This is a great way to see the villas, jungle, and mangroves from afar while getting in a good workout.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

Trust me on this, every meal here is finger-licking good, and everchanging daily menus infuse Indonesian and international flavors using fresh, local ingredients. Make sure to enjoy any of the signature tropical cocktails at the Dodo Bar for sunset.

The London Edition Hotel — Cameron Lee

Average Price: $442

Why This Hotel:

Beautiful historic building façade with an interior that’s a mix of old and new, tradition and modernity. It’s luxury for the new modern traveler that’s seeking the subtle luxury experience and service without the stuffy flashiness of the traditional 5-stars hotel.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

The hotel’s restaurant, Berners Tavern is one of the hottest restaurants in town, under the direction of a Michelin-Starred Chef. It’s contemporary British cuisine at its best, along with the stunning décor and design of the restaurant itself.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

So many! The hotel is in central London’s Fitzrovia. It’s just off Oxford Street and Soho with its bustling shops and bars, within walking distance of Covent Garden, the West End, and Regent’s Park. You must have a night out in Soho if you’re staying here.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

Book a visit to the Punch Room, inside the hotel. It is tucked in the back and booked by reservations only. It’s a modern reincarnation of London’s 19th-century private clubs. The menu consists of 30 specialty punches. You will not be disappointed with any of these special creations.

Hotel Lutetia Paris — Amanda Burrill

Average Price: $630

Why This Hotel:

I used to live in Paris, so when I say, “I’m not a city girl,” believe it. I miss it. When I return I’ll beeline to my favorite luxury hotel in the city of lights: Lutetia. This Art-Deco landmark in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres has everything one needs to indulge under one roof: An eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, and lounges. Akasha — the zen 7,500 sq. ft. spa — has the best bathtubs on the planet and phenomenal views of the Eiffel Tower because … when in Paris.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

Since the hotel’s grand reopening in 2018, Brasserie (Lutetia’s Provence-inspired primary eatery) has returned to its original 1910 layout. There are two floors of open, vibrant hustle and bustle. Please do exactly what I did on one of my best nights there: After a seafood platter, dine on the quintessential Marseilles bouillabaisse, and then finish with a souffle. Retire to your quarters with a glass of wine and slip into the world’s most luxurious built-in marble bathtub, complete with a full line of Hermes products.

Extra. Special.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

Lutetia is an eclectic luxury, so choose an edgy activity to match. Taxi or take the 45-minute stroll up to the grandiose Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, aka Sacre-Couer, the highest point in the city. The tour is optional and lovely, but the real treat is gazing over the city. A hop and skip back down the hill is the iconic Moulin Rouge, the birthplace of the modern can-can dance. Everyone must visit the Moulin Rouge at least once in their lifetimes.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

The floor-to-ceiling Art-Nouveau frescoes in Bar Josephine will take your breath away. Sit at the bar and drink a Rive Gauche made with Guillotine vodka, St. Germain liquor, citrus, celery simple syrup, and topped with Champagne. By day, the bar feels intimate with light flooding in from the picture windows on two sides. It’s a great place to people-watch. By night, enjoy the live music. The bar is a Jazz-age legend, after all.

Timber Cove Resort, Sonoma, CA — Mike Schibel

Average Price: $450

Why This Hotel:

Nestled along the Sonoma Coast in Northern California, this resort offers rugged beauty, expansive breathtaking views, farm-to-table options, and an incredible history of famous artists and innovators who played and created on the property. The rooms and main lodge are cozy, combing upscale luxury with raw nature.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

Take one of the many coast view walks. I highly recommend hiring a local guide to learn the history of the area and property while also learning about the vibrant sea life that plays just off the shore.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

Cafe Aquatica in nearby Jenner is a must-stop coffee cafe.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

The always-evolving menu changes with the season. Try what is fresh from the sea or garden and ask your server for their favorites and they will take great care of you. This Northern California treasure is a stone’s throw from some of the best winemakers in the world. Enjoy the wide variety and select something to enjoy while you watch the sun dip over the Pacific.

Hotel Eden Rome, Italy — Zach Johnston

Average Price: $600

Why This Hotel:

Rome is one of my favorite destinations in the world. While there are a lot of great options for cool homestays in the Bohemian Trastevere neighborhood, a bespoke hotel experience is calling me back hard right now. The Hotel Eden — part of the famed Dorchester Collection — literally has it all. A hidden bar in the lobby? Check. A stellar and understated spa? Check, check. Amazing views of Rome from a rooftop bar and restaurant? Of-f*cking-course. Rooms that are unmatched in the industry when it comes to design, furniture, and comfort? You’d better believe it.

This place is about the experience of living in Rome in a Patricia Highsmith world of luxury, Jazz, intrigue, and three Martini lunches that just speaks to me. I can’t wait to get back there.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

The hidden Library Bar in the lobby is a real treat. It’s the perfect place to meet friends before heading out into the city for a bottle of Champagne or one or two expertly built cocktails from a barman in a white jacket, bowtie, and gloves. As the library shelves swing open and reveal a perfectly fitted bar, you’ll be transported to another time and place. The quality of the drinks might mean that you never even make it out into the city as the Champagne flows and the martinis never empty.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

There’s so much to do and see in Rome. A trip to Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina is a must if you want to experience the old-school deli nature of great Roman foods and drink.

Another must is a tour of Roman ruins or the Vatican or both. A great way to avoid all the lines and get a guide who’s often trained at a university level to talk architecture, history, or art, is to book a tour with City Wonders. Imagine getting a tour of the Colosseum from a doctorate of archaeology and you’ll have an idea of why booking a guided tour like this makes all the difference.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

There’s an abundance of places to eat and drink in Rome. You could spend a day strolling around Trastevere and only scratch the surface. My first choice is to head up to the rooftop of the hotel and snag a table at La Terrazza. Chef Fabio Ciervo is a modern Roman chef who’s changing the idea of what Roman cooking is and can be one dish at a time. For instance, chef Ciervo spent years matching heritage grains to create one of the best and most digestible pizza crusts in the world. His pizza really is magical. Then, there’s the rest of the stellar menu, killer views over Rome, and a perfectly executed bar menu.

W Taipei — Andrew Gunadie

Average Price: $213

Why This Hotel:

Taiwan’s response to the pandemic has been exemplary and it’s one of the safest countries to visit (if you can get in!). W Taipei is a favorite of mine. It’s got a sophisticated and electric vibe, and the service is first class. It’s also surrounded by great restaurants, shopping, and directly connected to transit.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

You’ve got to make time for afternoon tea at YEN Bar on the top floor of the hotel. They’ve got a rotating menu of creative themes and collaborations, and some of the best views of the city and Taipei 101.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

Taipei has some of my favorite night markets in Asia, so head out to tourist-friendly Shilin or Raohe, or explore one of the smaller local favorites. Ximending is another vibrant district where you’ll find a ton of great food and entertainment.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

The Kitchen Table at W Taipei has a next-level breakfast buffet. You’ll find all of your classic western breakfast and bakery items, as well as Chinese and Taiwanese dishes, noodle soup bar, fresh fruit juices made-to-order, sushi, ice cream, and more! You will always find me loading up on dumplings and scallion pancakes, one of my favorite Taiwanese dishes.

W. Punta de Mita, Mexico — Leigh Grimes

Average Price: $450

Why This Hotel:

About a 30 minute ride from Puerta Vallarta, The W sits on a beach between the ocean and a whole lot of jungle. My car dropped me off at monstrous gates and I got out wondering if dinosaurs would be on the other side. *Cue Jurassic park music.* Instead, I was greeted with smiles, a cold lavender towel, and a refreshing, iced agua de jamaica.

After checking in, a man in a tuk-tuk — just like the ones in Bangkok — took me and some other guests about 10 minutes down the road, to our rooms. We drove under a gorgeous green canopy of tall trees and past two pools. The W’s contemporary-modern design offers an edgy contrast to the jungle setting. The rooms are cement, futuristic structures that line the property and are swallowed by lush jungle. The designers also did a seamless job at mixing Mexican and Asian culture, patterns, colors, and decor without taking away from the clean and luxurious vibe that the W is so well known for.

I often replay this trip in my head. It was one of those stays that, in retrospect, leaves you not quite sure if it was even real. It felt so dream-like. The staff made sure that I felt seen and happy. I mentioned to one waiter on my first day that I loved green juice and every day following there was one waiting for me at breakfast. They were happy to speak Spanglish with me. Me siento en casa — “I feel at home.”

Truly, the hospitality cannot be matched at The W Punta de Mita.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

One? No chance. You’ve got to give me at least four!

Yoga on the Camino Huichol — a massive runway that runs throughout the resort that’s made of more than 700,000 individual mosaic tiles with designs inspired by the Huichol Indigenous people of Mexico.

Bubbles & beats with a poolside DJ on Saturdays.

Take a pic at WET TOO, the adults-only pool, which has a clear glass wall so you can get cool IG photos while you’re swimming.

Bring your doggy… I really wish I knew that it was a pet-friendly place. My baby would have loved it here!

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

Surfing in and around Puerto Vallarta is a must. The towns of San Pancho and Sayulita are world-famous cruisy surf villages populated by welcoming locals and ripping hippies. There’s also fantastic surfing just steps from the property!

Another gem is Islas Marietas — easy to visit on a day trip. The waters surrounding these islands are a hotbed for whale watching and the chain itself is home to white-sand beaches and the famous “hole in the rock” beach — loved by Instagrammers everywhere.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

Mesa 1 at the W Punta Mita is an island to table experience that keeps you in a dream throughout the entire evening. They mesmerize you with ambiance and delicacies. They seduce you with the taste of a well-crafted — as in, could be personalized just for you — menu. The next day, you will be left with just the flashbacks of an incredible, picture-perfect, unforgettable night.

Ceviche-making at Chevycheria — a 1950’s vintage Chevy truck turned beachside ceviche bar. They do veggie ones as well!

Alderbrook Resort & Spa, Union, WA — Steve Bramucci

Average Price: $200

Why This Hotel:

There’s something so Pacific Northwest about Alderbrook Resort & Spa in Union, Washington. It’s really near nothing; located on the Hood Canal in a tiny town. The beach is made of oyster shells and smooth stones, tumbling over each other with the ebbs and flows of the tide. The smell of sea brine is forever present in the air.

The beauty is not just stunning, but vast. This is a corner of the country where the vistas have tremendous scale.

There are so few times in the life of a travel writer when you’d ever dare tell people it’s all good just to stay on property. Normally the idea is to get people out of the habit of lazying around a resort. But this hotel — with its hikes through old-growth forests, kayak paddles across the canal, and on-site spa is the sort that captivates you and holds you tight.

One Can’t-Miss Activity On The Premises:

Go for a hike — there are trailheads right on the property. Witness the towering evergreens overhead. Feel the loamy soil underfoot. Marvel at how everything is alive. Even the dead trees have already gone soggy and created a home for salamanders, mushrooms, and moss.

One Can’t-Miss Activity Off-Property/In Town:

Alderbrook is really the gateway to Olympic National Park — the wettest place in the lower 48 and one of the most rugged, wild coastlines in the country. Plan of taking a variety of hikes here (check our guide!), though my favorite is the truly wild Rialto Beach — where massive piles of trees (not branches, full trees) line the shoreline, worn smooth by the relentless Pacific Ocean.

What To Eat and/or Drink:

Hama Hama Oysters has long been beloved by our team, and for good reason. This drive is very worth it and though the on-property restaurants are exceptional, there are few culinary experiences to match oysters straight from the sea. Save room for the crab mac & cheese!

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