Top Hotel Picks of 2015

Villas at Belle Mont Farm have their own infinity pool with views of the Caribbean Sea.
Villas at Belle Mont Farm have their own infinity pool with views of the Caribbean Sea.

It’s been a busy year on the road for our editors and writers, who know that a good hotel stay can often make or break a trip. Here is a sampling of their most enjoyable hotel experiences.

Caribbean Kudos

Senior Editor Joe Pike did plenty of island hopping in the Caribbean and had a hard time narrowing down his top picks. Following are a few highlights.

Belle Mont Farm, St. Kitts: This magical place that we visited early this summer is a collection of 84 guest houses, seven four-bedroom farmhouses and five expansive villas set within an organic farm. The bathrooms in every room are outdoors — the sinks and toilets as well as the showers — but are completely blocked from outside view by foliage.

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Most rooms have a full pool and sundeck with lounge chairs and a day bed. Each also comes with its own mini iPad, which doubles as the room’s directory. But the room feature that truly blew us away was the full movie projection screen in our bedroom with access to Netflix. Good to know: Your clients can also opt for butler service.

The food is spectacular, including all-natural produce. We were served perhaps some of the freshest and most flavorful dishes we’ve had in quite some time. The hotel’s menu changes almost daily; it is basically at the mercy of the farm.

Sandals Barbados: In July, we made our first visit to the new Sandals Barbados, which opened earlier in the year. There are roughly 280 rooms across three villages: Ocean, Crystal Lagoon and Caribbean. We stayed in Room# 4411, a Crystal Lagoon One Bedroom Butler Suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub. The best features here were the balcony overlooking the swimming pool, the large soaking tub in the bathroom and the 46-inch smart TVs in both the living room and bedroom.

Club Sandals is available for all guests staying in any Club Level room or any category that includes butler service. It is accessible 24 hours with the Club Sandals Concierge available between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. to assist with reservations for spas, excursions, restaurants and just about anything.

Galley Bay Resort & Spa, Antigua: This is perhaps the best luxury all-inclusive in Antigua and one of our personal favorites in the Caribbean in general. We stayed in one of the 20 Ocean View Suites, mere feet away from the sound. The top rooms provide better views of the ocean while the lower-level rooms offer easier access to the beach — but we suggest going with a higher-level room since it is still practically effortless to get to the beach.

More Isle Eye-Openers: In May, we visited Anguilla and had high praise for the luxurious Viceroy Anguilla; the quaint, eight room Ultimacy Villa Retreat; the beachfront villas at CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa; and the new Jonquil Suite (a 3,290-square-foot villa, actually) at the revitalized Cap Juluca. We also thoroughly enjoyed our January visit to the family/adult mix Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa, St. Lucia.

Over the Oceans

Online Editor Natalie Maneval took a long flight east and a longer one west to experience these gems and found them all well worth the travel time.

The Lodge at Kukui‘ula, Kauai: This ultra-luxurious establishment includes a collection of island-style cottages, bungalows and villas. Cottages work well for families, and it’s possible to get a cluster together. Even though kids are welcomed and encouraged at the lodge, the Kukui‘ula environment remains calm and tranquil. We suggest guests take advantage of the relaxing atmosphere and visit one of the three pools, hit the greens on the Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, or ask the staff to prepare a traditional Hawaiian pig roast in the authentic imu pit.

Not interested in the pig roast? Dine on the deck of the open-air plantation house, with views of the ocean (think fresh mango smoothies, fresh fish and sunsets). The Spa at Kukui‘ula has a meditation garden, relaxation pool and six treatment rooms. The “Wet Ritual” is a must before any treatment.

St. Regis Princeville, Kauai: Our room, #1001, at this stunning luxury resort afforded a full view of Hanalei Bay through a large, sliding window (the view was one of most impressive we’ve seen yet). Nice Touch: When the windows are opened the air-conditioning automatically shuts off, allowing guests to hear the water and to enjoy the fresh air. A privacy screen can be turned on and off in the bathroom, so guests can even enjoy the view while showering. For dinner, both the Kauai Grill and Makana Terrace at the St. Regis are excellent options. In the morning, the beach at the St. Regis offers some of the best snorkeling on the island.

Chewton Glen offers a mix of English heritage and modern touches.
Chewton Glen offers a mix of English heritage and modern touches.

Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa, Hampshire, England: This luxury country house is just the thing for guests seeking a mix of English heritage and modern touches. No two rooms are the same. The Croquet Lawn rooms were refurbished at the end of last year and come with either a balcony or private terrace. The Marryat Suite, the largest room in the hotel, can easily sleep four, has a sitting area and a large private balcony terrace. For those looking for privacy, lots of space and an added touch of luxury, the Treehouses are a must. There are six “pods” set away from the main property and surrounded by trees, of course. Each has both a six- and a two-person suite.

Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Wiltshire, England: A two-hour drive from London, Lucknam Park is a country estate right out of a Jane Austen novel. Sitting on nearly 500 acres with 42 rooms and suites, this Relais & Châteaux property is just the thing for family travel, as nearly all the suites at Lucknam Park can fit multiple guests. The Jasmine, for example, comes with a large canopy bed, a roomy sitting area and a sofa bed; the room can easily fit three. It’s in the same private building as the Snowdrop room, so you can request both suites, making your own private, large accommodation to sleep five.

Lucknam also has activities to please the whole family. While the adults take advantage of the spa, the children can enjoy the equestrian program with multiple trails. If it rains (it does frequently), a day inside may be necessary, and the cooking school is entertaining for guests 16 years of age and older.

Taj 51 Buckingham Gate, London: A stay here will make any guest feel like royalty, as Buckingham Palace is just a short four-minute walk down the road. Families should book the two- and three-bedroom suites (with in-suite washers/dryers). For guests who want the ultimate view, book a room on the seventh floor that overlooks the tranquil courtyard or Buckingham Palace. The Cinema Suite, with its 85-inch TV, has unique Hollywood touches (e.g., the walls are painted the same color as Marilyn Monroe’s favorite lipstick), while the Jaguar Suite pays homage to the classic sports car and all the leather in the suite is the same kind its namesake luxury car company uses.

Vive la France

Our Paris-based correspondent Mary Winston Nicklin had much praise for the City of Light’s new La Réserve Paris (and its day-trip to the exceptional vineyards at the Chateau Cos d’Estournel); the renovations to Hotel Napoleon; and the spas at The Molitor, Le Royal Monceau-Raffles and The Peninsula Hotel, as well as the new sumptuous guest rooms at Domaine des Etangs, a former French billionaire’s residence in the French countryside. You can read more about these and other top French hotels and more in the Europe section at our sister publication’s website, www.luxurytraveladvisor.com.