A GOOD HOTEL CAN MAKE or break a trip. The worst hotel in the best place is still going to make retiring after a long day an unfortunate experience. The best hotel in the worst place, on the other hand, can be something of an oasis. Take the best hotels and put them in the best places, and you’ve got a private slice of the vacation you’ve always dreamed of.
Here are 24 absolutely epic dream hotels.
1. Ladera Resort, St. Lucia
Possibly the singular spot for your perfect Caribbean excursion, the Ladera Resort represents the intersection between design, luxury, and the ideal location. Amenities include a full spa, a host of excursion experiences, and the ability to swing straight from a bench into the pool. Equally sick: Jade Mountain Resort.
2. Manta Resort, Tanzania
Ever wanted to be able to go down the stairs of your resort room, hoist the blinds, and be stared down by schools of fish? Can you get over the fact that in doing so, you’ll be painfully aware that your accommodations are anchored offshore? If you answered yes to both of those questions (as I have), then the photos of the Manta Resort have probably inspired you to add Tanzania’s Pemba Island to the bucket list.
Photographer: Jesper Anhede
3. Äscher Cliff, Switzerland
More of an inn and restaurant than a luxury resort, this getaway built right into an Ebenalp cliff is the best spot to take a breather on your trek up the northern Alps. The views here will keep you charged as you continue your trip through the Swiss mountains.
4. Giraffe Manor, Kenya
These images are not photoshopped. At Giraffe Manor, located in a suburb of Nairobi, giraffes belonging to the resident breeding and conservation program will join you for breakfast.
5. Hotel Kakslauttanen, Finland
If you’ve never heard of this place, you’ve probably spent an enviably small amount of time on the internet. With its infamous glass igloos and log cabins, the Hotel Kakslauttanen offers an exclusive inside-while-outside winter experience. You know, so you can be immersed in the beauty of frozen forests and incredible winter auroras while simultaneously safe and comfortable inside your own private bubble of warmth.
6. Ubud Hanging Gardens, Bali
One part boutique hotel, one part epic infinity pool over the Ayung gorge, one part Payangan jungle, and one part architectural masterpiece combine to make one smooth cocktail of a resort. While the Ubud is known for its terraced tree villas, it’s really all about the award-winning pool. (Literally, this pool has won awards.)
7. Icehotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
At the absolute top of my bucket list, the Icehotel is like living in an art installation. A very cold art installation. Though the ice accommodations are available for only one season a year (for what I hope are obvious reasons), the hotel also offers “warm accommodations” and a host of summer activities, including “art experiences with ice, and adventures in the surrounding wilderness under the midnight sun.”
8. Cocoa Island Resort, Maldives
Just a 40-minute speedboat ride from the archipelago’s main airport, Cocoa Island floats as a cluster of 33 over-water suites (straight out from those sweeping white sand beaches you’ve seen in every tropical island fantasy you’ve ever had). With two private diving reefs to explore, who’s got time for spa treatments?
9. Loisaba Star Beds, Kenya
Two sets of outdoor “star beds” can be found in the Kenyan wilderness — the “Kikobo” beds overlook the waterhole from which they take their name, and the “Koija” beds sit on stilts over the Ewaso N’giro river. Each “star bed” is partially sheltered and contains a “Mukokoteni” (a specialty handcrafted bed on wheels, for moving into and out of the shelter). Kenya is known for its wildlife, so you’re bound to see some amazing creatures in this outdoor getaway.
10. Burj Al Arab, Dubai
One of the tallest hotels in the world, the Burj Al Arab sits on a private, manmade island 1,000 feet offshore and is connected to the mainland by a private bridge. Inside the tower (designed to look like the sail of a ship) are 202 double-story rooms, the largest of which covers 8,400 square feet and is the 12th most expensive hotel suite in the world.
11. Treehotel, Sweden
The multi-styled Swedish Treehotel comprises such rooms as the Cabin, the Mirrorcube, the Bird’s Nest, the Blue Cone, the UFO, the Tree Sauna, and the Dragonfly. Though perhaps a little literal in the naming of the rooms, the architecture, and execution at the Treehotel are pretty next-level and make for a unique experience in the Swedish forest.
12. Hotel Marques de Riscal, Spain
Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, this luxury hotel is situated in the heart of a Spanish wine country in the medieval town of Elciego. The property is famed for its Basque-Riojan cuisine and also has a rooftop library lounge with views of the Spanish countryside.
13. Dedon Island Resort, Philippines
According to the resort’s website, the property’s creators conceptualized Dedon Island as a “kind of laboratory” for realizing experiments in outdoor design, organic farming, and sustainability.
14. Phinda Homestead, South Africa
Small-scale and utterly luxurious, the Phinda Homestead is a family-size lodge situated on a private game reserve within the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. No one around but you, the lodge staff, and the wildlife.
15. Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi
Managed by the Kempinski Group of hotels and resorts, this seven-star property is the second most expensive hotel ever built. Might as well play the part and arrive via the private marina or helipad.
16. Conrad Maldives Hotel
With its glass-bottomed bungalows and underwater rooms, the Conrad Maldives Hotel has serious appeal. To reach it, you have to take a 30-minute private seaplane, but on arrival, you can enjoy any of their 101 carefully curated cheeses and 20,000 wines, while being surrounded by whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, turtles, and “an excellent coral reef.”
17. Alpina Gstaad, Switzerland
The Swiss ski village of Gstaad is one of the top resort areas in the Alps, and the Alpina is pretty much the top-of-the-line accommodations for those who have the scratch. The views from your room’s balcony couldn’t get much better.
18. Hotel de Glace, Quebec, Canada
The first (and only) true ice hotel in North America, Hotel de Glace opened in 2001 and has been rebuilt every December since. With a three-month lifespan, the features of this hotel are different each year, but it’s famous for its recurring chapel, bar, and a grand ice slide.
19. Gamirasu Cave Hotel, Turkey
This recently renovated hotel, used since the Byzantine era as a monastic retreat, had been a getaway just outside of Ürgüp, in the Cappadocia region, for centuries before it was converted into a hotel for the public, which pretty much guarantees its awesomeness.
20. Katikies Hotel, Greece
On Santorini (with its signature white-and-blue color scheme), the Katikies Hotel lends further credence to the idea that not only is putting a pool on an island surrounded by water not redundant, but you can do so just about anywhere in Greece and still achieve a killer view.
21. Rayavadee Resort, Thailand
The mac-daddy of Thailand resorts, this place looks like the deserted jungle island you’ve always dreamed of waking up on after a bumpy flight to somewhere boring. To top it all off, after your day of lounging in the luxury hydro-pool your pavilion is outfitted with, you can catch the sunset from this sandy beachside cave restaurant.
22. Hotel Au Vieux Panier, France
Situated in the heart of Marseille, each room at the Au Vieux Panier has been individually decorated by an artist or graphic designer of worldwide acclaim (and the rooms change every year). Not only is there a rooftop terrace where you can look out over the city center, but also a hotel library, perfect for a relaxing night in.
23. Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania
The absolutely quintessential African safari resort, the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge acts as the steward of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a wildlife reserve home to scores of rare and endangered species. It ranks #1 on TripAdvisor as “best stay in Tanzania.”
24. Panchoran Retreat, Bali
Carved out of the Balinese jungle by Irish designer Linda Garland in an ongoing project since the ‘70s, the Panchoran Retreat is a blend of an art project, resort, and eco-garden. The retreat has been home to festivals, workshops, and generations of environmentalists conducting research year-round.