In its annual “Best of the Best” issue, the Robb Report featured a global list of upscale accommodations that travel advisors should get to know if they have clients with discriminating tastes and a desire for something new.
From the Maldives, to South Africa, the Loire Valley to the British countryside, a number of small and distinct luxury properties are standing out from the pack because they not only provide lush accommodations, but take they advantage of their surroundings to deliver a unique experience for high-end travelers, says Robb Report Travel Editor Jackie Caradonio.
“It wasn’t a vintage year for hotels,” Caradonio wrote in the opening to the special section, noting how many luxury property renovations failed to live up to expectations, and many other projects experienced significant construction delays.
“But those setbacks just allowed the exceptional properties to rise proudly above the rest and remind us that, every so often, a wonderful hotel is more than just a fine place to stay,” said Caradonio, a guest speaker at Travel MarketPlace East 2017.
Swedish businessman Lars Petre recently opened his fourth Maldives resort, Kudadoo, an eco-friendly, adults-only, ultra-remote all-inclusive. The 15-residence Kudadoo “makes you forget what you thought you knew about the carbon-copy Maldives resort,” with its over-the-water accommodations, 24/7 butler service, solar-powered Himalayan salt room, and a bar and dining room under the direction of a chef trained by Joël Robuchon and Alain Ducasse.
andBeyond Tengile River Lodge. Photo: andBeyond.
In South Africa, the andBeyond Tengile River Lodge is adjacent to 26,000 acres of wilderness along the Sand River, just outside of Kruger National Park. Perfect for guests seeking safari experiences, the lodge features nine “massive” suites, Caradonio wrote, gourmet plant-based meals, spa treatments from South Africa’s Healing Earth skincare brand, and private pools.
Perhaps the most exotic and eye-popping of the seven lodges highlighted in the issue is the Shinta Mani Wild. Featuring 15 luxury tents situated in the treetops of Cambodia’s Southern Cardamom National Park, the property winds “in and out of the canopy and balances almost precariously on the edge of a thundering waterfall,” Caradonio wrote. “Everything is positioned perfectly for bird’s-eye views of wandering elephants below.”
Caradonio calls Shinta Mani Wild an “out-of-this-world experience you would never dream of,” with guests arriving via zipline, 1,000 feet above the valley floor.
In Hampshire, England, the 18th century Heckfield Place has opened on 400-plus acres, including a 19th century arboretum and a 280-bin wine cellar. An on-property biodynamic farm and garden supplies ingredients to a menu developed by England’s Skye Gyngell, famous for his Spring restaurant in London.
Heckfield Place, the English country-house hotel. Photo: Heckfield Place
It’s no surprise that the Rosewood Hong Kong made Robb Report’s list, as it recently opened to great fanfare with the travel agent community. The 65-story luxury hotel is “completely distinct from” its Kowloon waterfront neighbors, Caradonio wrote, including its “moody” cocktail bar, DarkSide, which “pays homage to Kowloon’s once-seedy reputation.”
The rooms are more relaxed than properties like the Peninsula and Ritz Carlton, Caradonio says, but still come at published rates of between $3,200-$27,600 a night.
Another property worthy of recognition in the Best of the Best was the Château du Grand-Lucé, south of Le Mans, which just opened this spring. It features classic French Gardens and a cocktail bar created from an 18th century chapel.
Also of note is Guntu, a 266-foot, 38-passenger boat that trawls Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, a body of water that connects the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Japan. Guntu is “designed more like a contemporary hotel,” said Caradonio, with floor-to-ceiling windows in its 19 guest rooms, ofuro tubs on cabin terraces, a sushi master, and a shiatsu therapist. Guests can enjoy visiting Shinto shrines and quiet islands off the beaten path.
Robb Report also recognized the Mammoth Dunes golf course, at the Sand Valley Resort in Nekoosa, Wisconsin; the Miraval Austin wellness resort; Seabourn’s Ovation (christened in May 2018); the Awasi Iguazu adventure lodge; and the recently opened Belmond Cap Juluca.