Saturday, January 16, 2010


As we criss-crossed the globe in 2009, my colleagues & I checked into luxury hotels we loved from Mexico to Peru, Italy to England, Bali to China & beyond. There are way more than 10 that we recommend, but we'll start with a Top 10 list of Where To Stay in 2010:

1) SONEVA GILI, THE MALDIVES: In addition to being visually spectacular & one of swankiest over-water-style island resorts in the world, the 45-villa, private-island property prides itself on having a staff that fully understand over-the-top. Just ask my client who proposed to his girlfriend here, in a seaplane circling a private beach where "Will You Marry Me?" was spelled out in coconut shells. Awesome spot for a honeymoon or any sort of romantic getaway.

2) AMAN AT SUMMER PALACE, CHINA: A must visit for anyone wanting the best of Beijing but in a setting different than a city business hotel. A peaceful retreat on the outskirts of the city, Aman at Summer Palace is a series of historic historic dwellings--some 100-years-plus--sitting next to the East Gate of Summer Palace. An incredible spa and a design inspired by the Ming Dynasty era are other reasons to stay here when Beijing bound.

3) Four Seasons Hampshire: This country-style estate just 30 minutes from Heathrow Airport has been on my "to visit" list for years. The style is pure traditional English countryside, while the service, food, setting and spa are five-star modern all the way. The presidential suite is a study in style with a blend of high-tech touches and classic yet ultra-tasteful furnishings. The just-outside-London property is truly the perfect spot for an authentic taste of English hospitality (and of course, be sure to book time at the Spa).

4) LAS CASITAS DEL COLCA, PERU: To say this is a special place is an over-exaggerated understatement. Located in Southern Peru, the stunning Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world (yet it sits high above sea level in the Andes). On a river bank in the Canyon, the 20-casita Orient-Express resort property offers a serious glimpse into true Andean life--from the farm-fresh cuisine to the unique culture. Combining this property with a visit to Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco and Hotel Miraflores in Lima is definitely the way to go. There's just nothing quite like waking up in the Colca Canyon to find baby alpaca strolling outside your private Peruvian casita.

5) AMANKILA, BALI: One of my all-time favorite beachside resorts in the world, I've been hard-pressed to find a prettier spot throughout my travels. Cliffside suites, three infinity swimming pools overlooking the Indian Ocean and the private Beach Club stand out as memorable features of an ultra-romantic property that's a must-visit in combination with Amandari in Ubud & Amanjiwo (just a short flight away in Java minutes from Borobudur, the world's largest Buddhist temple).

6) THE SURREY, NYC: Opened just since last fall, the new version of this newly redone classic Upper Eastside hotel is winning raves for its no-expense-spared style and accoutrements including Duxiana mattresses, Sferra bedding and Pratesi robes. The hotel's 190 salons and suites & white marble baths are luxe to say the least, and room service catered by Cafe Boulud is certainly a nice touch.

7) MAROMA RESORT & SPA, MEXICO: Located in a quiet corner of the Yucatan jungle on the Riviera Maya, Maroma Resort is just 45 minutes from Cancun. The traditional Mayan, residential-style property boasts one of best beaches in the region, and sits on a 25-acre jungle preserve where privacy is a given. All rooms have a distinct Mexican flavor,and we love the junior suites which offer fab thatched-roof terraces and both jungle & ocean views. The Kinan Spa, plus incredible food & a warmth felt property-wide are reasons to book a special getaway here in 2010.

8) TWIN FARMS, VERMONT: Where else can you possibly enjoy a solid dose of Vermont/New England hospitality in posh, beautifully decorated luxury cottages with food so good it's almost reason alone to book a stay at Twin Farms, a private country estate set on 300 acres just 10 miles from Woodstock, VT. Any time of year, the picturesque, garden-filled setting is spectacular, whether you prefer fall foliage, a white Christmas or a summertime adventure.

9) BAGLIONI ROME, ITALY: What can I say about one of my favorite Rome hotels other than it's better than ever after a massive (and much-needed) redo last year. The city center location on Via Veneto is as perfect as it gets for a serious shopping/dining/cultural escape, and the new suites are stunning Art Deco gems. Beautiful furnishings & artwork line the newly expanded lobby lounge while the on-site Brunello restaurant rivals some of the best spots citywide.

10) FOUR SEASONS COSTA RICA at PENINSULA PAPAGAYO, COSTA RICA: Add this property (pictured) to my list of favorite all-time warm-weather beach resorts. The lush setting, featuring a mix of low-rise buildings that blend into the natural background and stunning suites and private homes, is flanked by two serene beaches and features multiple swimming pools (including my fave, a quiet one). It's probably the best family resort in North America, with lots of connecting rooms/large suites plus separate kids' and teens' centers as well as plenty of off-site activities on offer. That said, couples should book their stays during non-holiday periods,as it's a very romantic setting and those who golf & spa will especially love it here. It's hard to top the incredible, genuine, high level of service and foodies like me will rave about the delicious options--everything from Latin to sushi to Italian and even a fabulous steakhouse. Most notable: the service and food both rate many notches above any luxury Caribbean resort competitors.


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