Be Our Guest: The Showstopping Hotels Redefining Modern Hospitality
Whether you’re looking for seaside getaways, reinvented spaces, classics reborn, urban sanctuaries, or adventure retreats, these hotels make being on the road feel like home. This is hospitality in the 21st century.
A Miami Beach icon is making waves again.
Elizabeth Taylor partied here. Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner honeymooned here. Winston Churchill painted the sea here.
And today, the Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club Miami, located on the northern end of Miami Beach, is poised for a new golden era following a three-year renovation. The isolated beach, lined with white umbrellas and lounge chairs, feels worlds away from the throngs at nearby South Beach. And the Surf Club is the kind of place where, if you doze off at sunset, beach attendants will wait until you awaken before putting your umbrella down.
The restored original building, a private members’ club built in 1930, retains its historic flavor, with hexagonal, art deco–inspired lamps hanging in public spaces filled with palm trees. Five classic cabana studios have been converted to overnight accommodations under the eye of French designer Joseph Dirand, who oversaw the installation of Connemara marble floors and custom-built, minimalist white furnishings in the 77 guest rooms. A former ballroom that once hosted lavish New Year’s Eve parties has made way for a new icon—Le Sirenuse Miami, the first outpost of the Amalfi Coast restaurant by the same name, which serves Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as octopus and linguini with clams. Another dining legend is soon to follow: A restaurant from French Laundry chef Thomas Keller opens later this year. From $600.
Similar seaside retreats
Sound View, New York
Set on a private beach on Long Island’s North Fork, the Sound View’s 55 guest rooms, designed by Brooklyn-based Studio Tack, connect to a sunset-facing veranda on the water. Get a taste of the Atlantic at the hotel’s seafood-focused Halyard Restaurant. From $205.
Park Hyatt St. Kitts, St. Kitts
Secluded on the southern shoreline of this Caribbean island, facing Banana Bay, the 126-room Park Hyatt is an off-the-grid escape. The Miraval Life in Balance Spa, an outpost of a renowned Tucson wellness retreat, offers eucalyptus and lava-rock massages. From $500.
Hotel Amapa Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, no longer lacks small, design-driven hotels. Located in the city’s Old Town, Amapa has 55 guest rooms that display Mexican weavings by fiber artist Mariella Motilla and hammocks handmade in the Yucatán peninsula. From $200.
A glimpse of a bygone China.
It was an act of love.
Fifteen years ago, the Chinese entrepreneur Ma Dadong heard about a reservoir project in his hometown, Fuzhou, that would destroy a centuries-old village and a forest of ancient camphor trees. He stepped in and transplanted 10,000 of those trees and had 50 Ming- and Qing-dynasty villas transported brick by brick to a location near Shanghai for safekeeping. Today, those relics of history are the centerpiece of Amanyangyun, a new 25-acre resort on the outskirts of Shanghai.
Australian architecture firm Kerry Hill arranged the antique houses into 26 larger dwellings with courtyards and pools, preserving on each facade stone carvings that depict traditional daily life. Modern comforts include private plunge pools, a 30,500-square-foot spa, and the restaurant Lazhu that specializes in such regional dishes as clay pot lamb. Guests can experience tea ceremonies, calligraphy and brush painting classes, and Chinese opera—ensuring, as Ma Dadong did, that China’s past is not washed away by development. From $948.
Similar reinvented spaces
Alila Fort Bishangarh, Rajasthan, India
Behind the six-foot walls of the modernized 230-year-old hilltop fort, hand-printed fabrics lend a traditional feel to 59 guest rooms. From $340.
The Publishing House, Chicago
One highlight of the 11-room West Loop B&B, named for the building’s original 1909 function, is a subterranean wine bar. From $189.
A Parisian classic reinvented.
On a recent night in Les Ambassadeurs bar at Paris’s Hôtel de Crillon, Mike D of the Beastie Boys was behind the turntables spinning old-school rap. Sarah Andelman, the creative director behind the now-shuttered Colette concept store, and prince of French electronic music DJ Pedro Winter were dancing to the beat.
You might expect to find this scene in the hip Belleville or Canal Saint-Martin districts, but not in the ritzy eighth arrondissement, home to the Champs-Élysées. But when Rosewood Hotels closed the 18th-century landmark building four years ago for a stem-to-stern renovation, led by architect Richard Martinet, the goal was to reinvent what a Parisian grande dame hotel can be to its city.
A sense of history is ever present. It’s easy to imagine such former guests as Theodore Roosevelt and Sophia Loren passing through the doors of the columned French neoclassical facade. The 124 rooms and suites have marble bathrooms stocked with soaps from l’Officine Universelle Buly, a French apothecary that dates to 1803. But beneath the lobby, the new pool is flanked by a modern sculpture by the artist Peter Lane. And Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld designed a pair of suites that include a walk-in closet hidden behind a button-operated bookshelf and a room dedicated to Lagerfeld’s fluffy cat, Choupette, complete with feline portraits and scratch marks on the carpet. Doubles from $1,355.
Similar reborn classics
Mombo Camp and Little Mombo, Botswana
Wilderness Safaris’ flagship camps have reopened after an overhaul that added central fireplaces to the common areas, and outdoor showers, private plunge pools, and vintage leather sofas to the 12 suites. From $1,892.
Raffles Europejski Warsaw, Poland
From its opening in 1857 until it was badly damaged in World War II, the Hotel Europejski was one of Europe’s most glamorous hotels. Raffles has restored the 106 guest rooms to their prewar magnificence, and contemporary Polish artwork hangs on their walls. From $290.
The only grand hotel on Paris’s Left Bank, the Lutetia, founded in 1910 in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area, reopens this spring with 184 guest rooms featuring brushed oak floors and Murano glass lighting. Other new additions include a jazz bar and a spa. From $1,050.
A beloved New York City hotel has gone bicoastal.
“We think of the NoMad like it’s someone’s dining room or living room,” says Will Guidara, who, with chef-partner Daniel Humm, is responsible for the restaurants in both cities’ hotels. “We want it to feel almost like you’re living in a house—a really nice one.”
Located in the former Bank of Italy building, which dates to 1923, the NoMad Los Angeles riffs on its neoclassical bones. Original works by local artists and vintage European postcards hang in the 241 guest rooms. Downstairs, the public areas, designed by the French architect Jacques Garcia, are opulent studies in velvet, marble, and mahogany wood, complementing the main lobby’s original blue-and-gold Italianate ceilings.
But don’t let the sumptuous materials fool you: The NoMad’s mission, whether you’re staying there or just dropping in at one of the two restaurants or the Venetian-style coffee bar, is to make anyone feel welcome—no snooty servers or strict dress codes here.
“You might hear the Rolling Stones while sipping on a rare Chave wine,” Guidara says. “We have all the trappings of a really formal restaurant, but we’re approaching it with a louder and looser sensibility.” From $315.
Similar urban sanctuaries
Made Hotel, New York
Located in New York City’s Madison Square Park neighborhood, the Made Hotel is both sleek and cozy. Intimate public spaces are outfitted in warm woods and handwoven fabrics, and the 108 guest rooms feature French oak walls and exposed concrete ceilings. From $375.
The Siren Hotel, Detroit
The latest sign that Motor City is cool: The Siren Hotel, a downtown 1926 Renaissance Revival building renovated by Brooklyn-based design studio ASH NYC. Garrett Lipar, a James Beard Award–nominated chef, serves his tasting menu at an eight-seat counter. From $139.
The Murray, Hong Kong
A landmark 1969 government office building has become a refuge in the heart of Hong Kong’s frenetic Central neighborhood. Designed by Foster + Partners, the 336 muted gray-and-gold guest rooms have picture windows that face nearby skyscrapers and parks. From $510.
Introducing the Asian beach safari.
During your stay at Wild Coast Tented Lodge, on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, you can hunt for leopard tracks on the beach. Or venture into the jungle to see elephants. Or spend a morning at an ancient Buddhist temple before hopping into a boat on the Indian Ocean to look for blue whales. This lodge offers a unique mix of safari vacation, cultural immersion, and beach retreat.
Wild Coast Tented Lodge is the third resort opened by the family that owns Sri Lanka’s famous Dilmah tea company. Composed of 28 cocoon-shaped tents, the lodge is located on the fringes of Yala National Park, home to elephants, crocodiles, and more than 200 leopards. Each dwelling has a colonial-era aesthetic, with campaign chairs, four-poster beds, and copper claw-foot bathtubs; some have beach views, and others face natural watering holes that attract sloth bears and peacocks. Naturalists lead guided walks through the surrounding jungle and to the on-site leopard conservation station, which monitors the habits of the elusive cats. From $890.
Similar adventure retreats
Awasi Iguazú, Argentina
The new lodge’s 14 rooms sit along the Iguazú River surrounded by Atlantic rain forest. Private guides are provided for day trips. From $1,520 for two nights, all-inclusive.
Asilia Jabali Ridge, Tanzania
The largest park in Tanzania is also its least visited. And that’s the appeal of Asilia Jabali Ridge, a retreat in the heart of Ruaha National Park, which is home to elephants, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, and 10 percent of the world’s lion population. The eight suites, tucked behind large boulders near the Mwagusi River, all have sprawling verandas that face the baobab tree–studded landscape. From $788.
Longitude 131, Australia
Recent renovations include custom-designed furniture and outdoor daybeds for the 15 white tents. The Kinara spa offers locally inspired treatments. From $1,164.