Our Favourite Hotel Stays of 2018

From spa treatments in a warm lagoon to cool bands in a basement bar, here are 15 new hotels to check out.

December 18, 2018
Small guest building on a rocky coast at Montage Kapalua Bay
   Photo: Montage Kapalua Bay

Nature

Montage Kapalua Bay, Maui, Hawaii On a peninsula on northwestern Maui, this lush property embodies ahupua’a, the Hawaiian concept acknowledging the connection between land and sea. The hotel’s 50 residences have been completely renovated, with fully equipped kitchens, down to the pizza cutter. Enjoy views of Kapalua Bay while lounging on a poolside daybed. But who wants to stare at the scenery when you can explore it? Rent a mask and flippers and head to the bay, known as one of the best snorkelling spots in Hawaii. The water is clear enough to see needlefish and parrotfish, and deep enough to watch moray eels, from a distance.

Culture club Cultural host Silla Kaina upholds and teaches Hawaiian traditions and, after her hour-long ukelele lesson, you’ll be able to strum a few tunes, as well as correct your friends who pronounce it youkaleylee instead of ookooleyley.

Ventana’s redwood glampsites
   Photo: Ventana Big Sur, An Alila Resort

Nature

Ventana Big Sur, Big Sur, California The Big Sur coast is dotted with hippie hiking camps, wellness retreats and top-end resorts – and this 160-acre property is a flawless blend of all three. Fresh off an eight-month renaissance, Ventana takes a low-impact, high-rewards approach to hospitality, integrating rustic, ultra-luxe guest rooms with eco-friendly practices, like recycling grey water. Ask resident naturalist Jamie Siebold to guide you on a hike exploring the flora, fauna and different terrain that define this coast: pristine ocean shoreline and shady redwood canyons. Afterward, soak in the onsen hot tub, or pair a glass of Navarro pinot noir with a Pacific sunset.

Room to book In Ventana’s redwood glampsites, tents are outfitted with electric blankets and the almighty hot-water bottle, plus a s’mores kit for your own gas fire.

Tofino Resort and Marina exterior
   Photo: Tofino Resort + Marina

Nature

Tofino Resort + Marina, Tofino, B.C. British Columbia-born professional hockey players Dan Hamhuis and Willie Mitchell, with business partner Andrew Purdy, took a 1980s motel, stripped it to the studs and turned it into a stylish and simple 62-room hotel with a full-service marina and mountain views, where the ocean’s bounty ends up on your line and on your plate. After a day of heli-fishing or angling for albacore tuna on your GPS self-guided boat, retreat to the resort on the Tofino Inlet and grab a patio table at 1909 Kitchen to feast on cedar-roasted black cod and foraged mushrooms from chef Paul Moran. Order a Diefenbaker smoked cocktail of whisky, amaro and maple syrup to cheers the sun setting behind the sparkling sound.

Dish of the day Bring your catch to chef Moran, who will prepare it to order in his 1,000°F wood-fired Mugnaini oven and serve it with seasonal veggies.

Aerial view of the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita
   Photo: Petr Myska

Wellness

Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Punta Mita, Mexico This hilly Nayarit resort is shaping up for its 20th birthday with a string of wellness retreats based on the four elements. Get grounded with cliffside hatha yoga and twist toward pelicans hanging ten on volcanic boulders, then make waves during an Aqua Forza class – doing burpees and squats on a floating exercise board, you’ll discover muscles you didn’t know you had (and probably fall into the beach-facing pool). Menus at all three on-site restaurants are fired up with healthy vegan options, like dehydrated watermelon that you sear at your table on a sizzling river rock. End the day at Playa la Manzanilla for a meditation session to the sound of singing Tibetan bowls.

Souvenir Retox at the hotel’s tequila workshop and taste four types of Casa San Matías’ small-batch agave liquor before blending your own bottle – our smooth mix of 20 percent reposado, 60 percent añejo and 20 percent extra añejo made it well worth checking a bag.

Interior courtyard of Amanyangyun
   Photo: Aman

Wellness

Amanyangyun, Minhang, Shanghai In 2002, when a reservoir scheme threatened to flood a Ming-era village, businessman Ma Dadong had 50 stone villas transported to a meadowland 25 kilometres outside Shanghai, and had 10,000 ancient camphor trees transplanted to the relaxation getaway’s grounds. The Aman brand mixed the structures, with swooping gables and carved pediments, into a calm space with minimalist suites in sleek greystone outbuildings. Calligraphy workshops in a Qing-era schoolhouse set the pace for a meditation session over ceremonial incense.

Outdoor spa at Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge
   Photo: Lee Horbachewski

Wellness

Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, Kananaskis Village, Alberta Picture light snow falling as you swim in a heated outdoor pool. Just don’t get too comfortable – you’ll soon be taking a 10°C plunge. At Alberta’s first Nordic spa, part of this revamped Autograph Collection Hotel, the transition between stops in the thermal circuit is toasty. Paths that link steam and sauna cabins are warm on the feet, and heated hammocks sway around the sanctuary. Add a Powder Hound blonde ale at Two Trees Bistro, and you will feel zero guilt about skipping the slopes.

Kidding around The skating rink, scavenger hunts and movie nights keep wee ones in the game.

Mineral water surrounding the Blue Lagoon Iceland
   Photo: Blue Lagoon Iceland

Wellness

Retreat at Blue Lagoon, Grindavík, Iceland Surrounded by milky-blue mineral water, this 62-suite spot feels more like an alternate universe than a luxury hotel. The structure’s hyper-contemporary design flows into the black rock of the Reykjanes Peninsula, and TV-free rooms encourage visitors to gawk at the green-fringed moonscape. Drag yourself away: The main draw remains the private access to Iceland’s famed Blue Lagoon, where you can enjoy an in-water massage while floating in a warm pool far from the selfie-snapping crowds. At the spa, visit the subterranean steam cave and settle in for a three-part scrub using minerals, algae and silica gathered on site. Recharge by settling into a nest chair and letting your mind float away.

Nordic noshes Icelandic cuisine can be a hard sell for the less adventurous (hello, fermented shark), but Moss Restaurant delights with buttery Westfjord scallops, Arctic char sashimi and local reindeer smoked in a tableside spruce log.

Interior courtyard pool and deck at the Plymouth South Beach
   Photo: The Plymouth Miami Beach

Urban

The Plymouth South Beach, Miami The checked tile deck, potted palm trees and coral-coloured lounge chairs secure the Plymouth pool as the highlight of the courtyard at this 1940s art deco treasure. Renovations by Fernando Santangelo – the genius behind the Chateau Marmont’s restoration – give the swimming area a Côte d’Azur charm. It’s easy to forget that the frenzy of South Beach is only two blocks away from this Small Luxury Hotels of the World property. Settle into a cabana and order a Sake Tini (Sotō sake, Nolet’s gin and Giffard pink-grapefruit liqueur) or take advantage of all-day poolside brunch via a plate of fried quinoa with poached eggs and bacon.

Raw ingredients The Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill now has an outpost in SoBe and, thanks to its late-night menu on Friday and Saturday, you can order delicate raw fish until 2 a.m.

Lounge area at Torel Avantgarde
   Photo: Luis Ferraz

Urban

Torel Avantgarde, Porto From the second you see the reception’s light fixture made with empty wine bottles hanging above a wooden desk carved with spirals by sculptor Paulo Neves, you’ll know: This 47-room property takes Portuguese creativity to heart. Local artists and designers transformed the 1940s building into a work of art, so make sure to end a night at the Sala Das Flores living room to lounge on a sleek red divan. Order a tart port and tonic and gaze at the thousands of flowers hanging overhead and adorning the walls – after a few P&Ts, you might be convinced you’re sipping in an enchanted garden.

Room with a pull-out bed at Boxotel
   Photo: Félix Rioux

Urban

Boxotel, Montreal Once a commercial print shop, this sleek spot offers an eco-friendly, peaceful hideaway in downtown’s Quartier des Spectacles. It’s no fluke that your teched-out room basks in natural light: The hotel’s sun-oriented windows, solar thermal panels and heat-retaining concrete floors were all designed to reduce energy consumption. Apartment-like lofts have smart features that allow you to control lights, temperature and music from the TV screen, so you never have to leave the bed. That is, until you want to caffeinate at Café Nomade or take in the exhibit at on-site 175B art gallery, like Confluence that mixes pieces by local female artists.

Outdoor pool and patio at White City House

Urban

White City House, London When the minibar set-up rivals a Mad Men bar cart, you’d be forgiven for lingering in your mid-century room (we’re talking coupes, green olives and an atomizer for misting your glass with vermouth for a perfect dry martini). But as a guest of this Soho House hotel – located in the sprawling Television Centre, headquarters of the BBC from 1960 to 2013 – you get access to the members-only floors, with chic remote working zones, restaurants, bars and a rooftop pool to see and be seen. Head up for a spectacular view of West London, a Pisco & Plum Sour and tuna tataki in a fragrant truffle soy sauce, as a live band plays bangers like “Royals” and “Despacito.”

History class Bask in the glory days of broadcasting, celebrated throughout with art inspired by the building’s history and pieces from the BBC archives, including a drawing submitted by eight-year-old Sue Webster, now a celebrated British artist.

Dining area at the Anndore House
   Photo: Maxime Brouillet

Stylish Stays

The Anndore House, Toronto You could stroll into this spot just south of Yonge and Bloor without knowing it’s a hotel: With its barbershop, third-wave coffee counter and cocktail bar, the main floor is like a self-care arcade for the urban affluential. Upstairs, studio apartment-style rooms feature record players, sofas and tables fit for a work sesh. But why work when you can refresh your shave? Make a breakfast date with Constantine’s avo toast: thick-sliced rye anointed with shallot marmalade, avocado and dukkah eggs.

Tech it out Download the hotel app to use your smartphone as a room key.

Conference room at Jupiter Next Hotel
   Photo: Christopher Dibble

Stylish Stays

Jupiter Next Hotel, Portland, Oregon Located next to its sister property – the updated motor inn Jupiter Hotel (hence the name) – this new 67-room building in the city’s Central Eastside has plenty of creative workspaces. Live out childhood dreams of scribbling on forbidden surfaces: Meeting rooms are equipped with a whiteboard table and chalkboard walls for plenty of drawing room. After a day of getting down to business, head to Doug Fir – the 300-capacity basement bar hosts bands like Sports (indie Oklahomans who look like sexy cowboys from the future).

Lounge area at Rosewood Bermuda
   Photo: Rosewood Bermuda

Stylish Stays

Rosewood Bermuda, Hamilton Parish, Bermuda Gone are the days when a sunny vacation with children meant dispatching them to the clubhouse. At this 240-acre resort, lounge by the infinity pool as the kids join a game of Marco Polo or slurp banana smoothies (you can sip something more adult). An alfresco chef’s dinner can stretch on when the kids run off to chase wild chickens in the garden. Once your waiter arrives to point out the constellations with an app, you’ll know the stars have aligned.

When to go Bermuda’s best weather, hovering just below 30°C, comes in late spring and early summer.

Double bedroom at The George
   Photo: Lesley Unruh

Stylish Stays

The George, Montclair, New Jersey Makeup mogul Bobbi Brown knows a thing or two about makeovers, so she teamed up with her husband to transform a sleepy former inn into an upscale destination. The hotel boasts family-friendly British style: See the tartan and Union Jacks designs in rooms named after their children. Family suites with two beds are perfect for your whole clan – tots can camp out in a tent, and even pooches get VIP treatment with custom beds. Spend an afternoon in the library with a glass of Chianti, while your kids plot their next tic-tac-toe moves.

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