16 Unique Hotels Around the World That Travelers Love

If you’re on the hunt for a great hotel, try these 16 unique hotels from around the world that AFAR readers can’t get enough of.

16 Unique Hotels Around the World That Travelers Love

Vatuvara Private Islands Resort, a secluded, three-villa retreat in Fiji.

Courtesy of Vatuvara Private Islands Resort

As part of our new Ask the Editors hotel newsletter, we asked AFAR readers about their favorite properties. Their recommendations were so good we couldn’t bear to keep them to ourselves. Whether it’s an eco-friendly resort in the South Pacific or an affordable hotel with outstanding service in San Francisco, read about the 16 unique stays they love most.

Seaside Resorts

1. Vatuvara Private Islands Resort
With Vatuvara’s stone-and-timber seaside villas and eco-conscious practices—the resort partners with a marine conservation foundation led by environmental scientist Katy Miller—it’s no wonder that AFAR reader and photographer Jonathan Pozniak fell in love with the resort upon checking in. “Beyond the remote beauty, beyond Katy’s conservation work, their villas alone changed the way I saw interiors,” says Pozniak. “Instead of the bright beachy vibe found in every other seaside bungalow in the world, theirs are dark, stone, and masculine. A drastic juxtaposition to the bright turquoise world outside.”


The Grand Hotel Quisisana in Capri, Italy, has hosted such notable guests as Ernest Hemingway and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Courtesy of Grand Hotel Quisisana

2. Grand Hotel Quisisana
Capri, Italy
The second-oldest hotel on the island of Capri, the cliffside, 147-room Grand Hotel Quisisana is located off the town’s main shopping street, and it has hosted the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Jean-Paul Sartre. For AFAR reader Edward Piegza, president and founder of tour operator Classic Journeys, it’s a home away from home. “Breakfast by the pool overlooking the Faraglioni Islands gets my day off to a cinematic start,” he says. Interiors retain their Old-World feel, with chandeliers, 19th-century artwork on the walls, and marble floors.


The Bahia Mar Boutique Hotel in Mozambique faces the Indian Ocean.

Courtesy of Bahia Mar Boutique Hotel

3. Bahia Mar Boutique Hotel
Vilanculos, Mozambique
Recently returned from a holiday vacation to Mozambique with her husband, Rome-based reader and seasoned globe-trotter Ulrike Gauss Ben Mansour (more than 100 countries and counting) is still dreaming of the Bahia Mar Boutique Hotel in the coastal town of Vilanculos. “We felt like family with all the staff,” she says. With private plunge pools, light-filled rooms facing the Indian Ocean, and dhow excursions to secluded islands, what’s not to love?


The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, dates to 1919.

Courtesy of Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

4. Condado Vanderbilt Hotel
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Atlantic-side Spanish revival hotel, which was founded in 1919, was reimagined a few years ago with a sophisticated contemporary feel in the 212 guest rooms (black-and-white photos of Puerto Rican flora and landscapes; oversize tufted headboards), while the public spaces, with their marble floors and long, elegant hallways, retain their grandeur. Says reader Rebecca Dahl: “The lobby sets the tone when you walk into its gorgeous and opulent surroundings. Tour the hotel and there is a beautiful piece of artwork at every turn.”


The JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa in Vietnam was designed by Bangkok-based Bill Bensley.

Courtesy of JW Marriott

5. JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
When reader Greg Howard described the seaside JW Marriott Phu Quoc as “eclectic yet luxurious,” I stopped in my tracks: This must be the work of delightfully eccentric designer Bill Bensley, who creates magically transportive spaces for even the largest hotel chains. Indeed, the Bangkok-based, Harvard-educated designer left his mark on the 243 guest rooms. Four-poster beds and wingback chairs are juxtaposed by bold colors, such as emerald and cerulean, on the walls. Says Howard: “I was upgraded to an amazing suite that had its own private upstairs swimming pool and even a clock tower with a killer view.”


Regular guests love the Art Deco interiors of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris.

Courtesy of Hôtel Plaza Athénée

City Escapes 6. Hôtel Plaza Athénée
The best romantic getaway in the world, according to AFAR reader Sandra Del Giorno? The Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris, which was built in 1913 and still wows guests today with its art deco interiors. “Elegance, excellent service, and extraordinary kindness, combined with the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that no one does better than the French, made for one of my most memorable stays,” recalls Del Giorno. “Whether sipping champagne, indulging in pastries, or just embracing the quiet calm of La Galerie salon, the world and all its problems gave way to the dream-fulfilling welcome of this iconic grand dame.” Enough said.


The 1 Hotel in South Beach, Miami, has one of the city’s best rooftop bars.

Courtesy of 1 Hotel South Beach

7. 1 Hotel South Beach
Miami Beach
I was delighted when AFAR reader Renee picked out a new favorite that I happened to check into last December. I agree with her wholeheartedly that the Atlantic-side 1 Hotel South Beach is indeed a standout. First, there’s the effortlessly stylish sustainable design, with reclaimed woods and organic cotton sheets. And then there’s Watr at the Rooftop: with its white-on-white aesthetic, top-notch cocktails, irresistible small bites (the guac really is to die for), and its beautiful clientele, I don’t think I felt happier or more fabulous anywhere else in Miami.

8. La Valise
Mexico City
A 1920s-era building in Mexico City’s hip and leafy Roma neighborhood houses La Valise, a gem of a pick from reader Christopher Mullen, creative director of the Wheels Up private aviation company. The hotel, located above a design boutique, has just three suites, which feel more like apartments; each was individually designed by France-born Emmanuel Picault with velvet furnishings and Mesoamerican artifacts. “Manager Roberto Ayala somehow balances being at a guest’s beck and call to offer advice and assistance with being invisible and out of the way,” says Mullen, “making the hotel feel like an intimate private residence.”


The centrally-locaed Handlery in San Francisco, is located steps from the Curran Theatre.

Courtesy of the Handlery

9. The Handlery
San Francisco, California
Not every trip needs to be over the top, and that’s why I loved reader Sara Candelaria’s budget-minded suggestion in her native San Francisco. The Handlery is centrally located within the city, just steps from the historic Curran Theatre, and the 377 guest rooms all have calming interiors in gray hues. “The part I love is when I check in, they know me,” she says. “They know I like a corner room. They know if I have my grandchildren with me, I like to be close to the pool. The little things.”


The Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam, exudes old-world charm.

Courtesy of Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

10. Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
Hanoi, Vietnam
Reader Anne Roberts suggested one of my personal favorites. “If you haven’t already, you must go to the Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi,” she says. “[It’s] a luxurious combination of service, Old-World charm, history, and French sensibility.” And she’s exactly right: the 364 guest rooms, whether you’re staying in the more colonial-style Metropole Wing or the modern Opera Wing, all offer a welcome respite from bustling Hanoi. There are glimpses of history everywhere, whether you’re gazing at artifacts in the lobby or taking a tour of the Metropole Bomb Shelter, which protected guests from air raids during the American War.

Countryside Retreats

11. Rote Wand
Zug, Austria
AFAR reader Ain Lausmaa directed my attention to Rote Wand, a resort in the charming Austrian village of Zug. She particularly loves Rote Wand’s multicourse tasting menu, which is served in a former schoolhouse connected to the hotel by an Austrian alum of New York City’s acclaimed Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. The hotel itself is a farmhouse dating to 1651, and the guest rooms, which face Alpine views and are clad in local silver fir wood, are cozy, minimalistic dens.

12. The Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa
Wilmington, Delaware
When work gets stressful in New York City, reader Carolyn Spencer Brown swears by the Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa, which is part of Historic Hotels of America. Located in the countryside near Wilmington, the retreat has 28 rooms and suites with stone walls, four-poster beds, and soaking tubs. “You check in and you feel like a rumpled, chaotic mess of a person, and you check out and you’re like a linen shirt, perfectly pressed and creased,” she says. “It’s better at making me feel whole again than any destination spa I’ve ever been to.”

13. Hostellerie de Plaisance
Saint-Émilion, France
Having been to Bordeaux for the first time last summer, I perked up when I read about Howard Kaplin’s recommendation in Saint-Émilion, a picturesque medieval town surrounded by vineyards. Kaplin tells me the Hostellerie de Plaisance is a “wonderful hotel in the center of the best village in Bordeaux,” and I am inclined to agree, thanks to this trifecta of attributes: it’s a Relais & Châteaux property, many of the colorful guest rooms have their own terrace, and the onsite La Table de Plaisance restaurant has two Michelin stars.


Villa d’Este, on Lake Como, Italy, was originally a Renaissance-era residence.

Courtesy of Villa d’Este

14. Villa d’Este
Lake Como, Italy
The palatial Villa d’Este, set along the shoreline of glitzy Lake Como, is a favorite of reader Carmen McCormick. “Villa d’Este (lake como) must be on your list,” she tweeted at me. And it absolutely is. The 152-room stunner, with its chandeliers and marble bathrooms, has been hosting such notable guests as Alfred Hitchcock since the 19th century, and its 25-acre manicured gardens look like something out of a movie set.


La Bandita Townhouse, in Pienza, Italy, is located in a former convent.

Courtesy of La Bandita Townhouse

15. La Bandita Townhouse
Pienza, Italy
Kyra Bowman loves the spare-but-chic, 12-room La Bandita Townhouse—located in a former convent dating to the 1400s—for its simple approach to luxury, which can be felt in both the light-filled guest rooms, with their high ceilings and stone walls, and in the Townhouse Caffe, which serves such locally sourced dishes as handmade tagliolini with black truffles. “Even if I don’t stay at the hotel, I always go for lunch or dinner when I am in the area,” she says.


The Seehotel Ambach in South Tyrol, Italy, has a 70’s-inspired aesthetic.

Photo by Helmuth Rier

16. Seehotel Ambach
South Tyrol, Italy
Reader Taylor Cremo recently stumbled upon the affordable, 32-room Seehotel Ambach while planning a trip to the Dolomites for herself. “The 1970’s design is a poppy feast for the eyes, and last year they sustainably built a bathhouse to reflect the curves of Lake Caldaro,” says Cremo. The property has all of the makings of an ideal lakeside oasis, complete with a 65-foot heated swimming pool, hiking excursions, and water activities such as windsurfing. >>Next: These Are the Best New Hotels in the World

Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the Senior Deputy Editor of AFAR, where she oversees hotels and hospitality coverage.
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