Updated: May 12, 2021
Where are you dreaming of going this year? This year, while we stayed rooted at home, we reminisced over memorable stays at Parisian icons, Moroccan riads, and Great Smoky Mountain retreats. We hope this comprehensive list of winners helps spark your wanderlust and inspire your next trip.
It may be only 22 miles west of San Juan, but Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve feels a world away from any semblance of city life. The resort has a spectacular location on a three-mile stretch of beach on Puerto Rico’s north shore. Following a 2018 renovation, every room is beachfront, with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that disappear into ocean views, plus deep soaking tubs, outdoor showers shaded by gardens, and either spacious balconies or private plunge pools.
Commissioned in 2006 by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, Royal Mansour is like a medina within the city’s medina. Fifty-three private riads, each three stories high, feel like mini-palaces, with open-air courtyards and on-call butlers. Every detail is an homage to Moroccan craftsmanship, down to the gorgeous zellige ceramic tiles, intricately carved woods, and molded plasterwork created by local artisans.
Grande Dame Hotel
Winner: The Ritz Paris
Ritz Paris unveiled its 2016 renovation—a four-year, $450 million affair led by starchitect Thierry Despont. He wisely retained iconic features like the red entry carpet and the hotel’s signature amber scent, but also incorporated subtle touches like a heightened lobby ceiling and the addition of peaceful landscaped gardens, and bold statements such as a retractable glass roof on the patio. Overall, too, the number of guest rooms was reduced to 142, and the number of staff was raised to 630.
Back-to-back wins confirm travelers adore this healing experience in the Sonoran Desert. Arizona honey, agave nectar, adobe clay, and more infuse spa treatments at this Southwestern retreat. Guests stay active during one-on-one fitness classes (including one designed specifically for frequent travelers), refuel at Sprouts spa restaurant, or enjoy the mountain views from a poolside perch.
Winner: Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
At this four-time Travelers’ Choice winner, guests rejuvenate during a massage in an overwater bungalow, learn traditional Polynesian fishing techniques on deep-sea expeditions, or simply relax looking out over the crystalline lagoon.
Winner: Park Hyatt, Tokyo
Immortalized in the film Lost in Translation, the modernist Park Hyatt may have the sexiest cocktail bar in all of Tokyo. The rest of the hotel—set on the upper floors of the three connecting columns of the 770-foot Shinjuku Park Tower—is just as attractive, with a bamboo garden, swimming pool, and restaurant seated high in the sky.
Winner: The Fairmont, San Francisco
Atop Nob Hill, the Fairmont sits like a queen on her throne, reigning over San Francisco with a century of stories behind her (the hotel opened in 1906). She’s also a bit mercurial, known to ask the staff of the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar to stage the occasional indoor thunderstorm for the tourists in her court.
Food and Wine Experience
Winner: Blackberry Farm, Tennessee
America’s dreamiest luxury farm retreat is on a 9,200-acre estate in the Great Smoky Mountains. In addition to several gardeners, the farm employs its own butcher, cheese maker, and beekeeper, along with a preservationist who makes pickles, jams, and jellies. The staff raise sheep, pigs, and chickens on the estate and forage the land for mushrooms, berries, ramps, wild crab apples, and muscadines—which you’ll share at the table with other guests (all meals are included in your stay).
Thank you Afar for the best hotels in the world! This list is our new bucket list!