From the Arizona desert to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, we combed the earth for the best new hotels that opened in the last year. No matter what kind of traveler you are, we’re sure you’ll find a place in these pages to inspire your future adventures.
For Tasteful Taste-Testers: Santa Monica Proper Hotel
Santa Monica, California
If you’re at a Proper Hotel you’re going to be staying in style. After all, acclaimed designer Kelly Wearstler does the interiors for this booming brand, whose rapid expansion beyond its original San Francisco hotel includes not only this 271-room property but also new hotels or forthcoming ones in Austin, Downtown LA, and Portland, Oregon. While one of-a-kind artworks adorn seemingly every nook and cranny, the real eye-catchers at the Santa Monica location are the restaurants. The Mediterranean-skewing Calabra sits next to—unbelievably—the only rooftop pool on the west side of LA, while the ground floor is home to Onda, the long-anticipated collaboration between chefs Gabriela Cámara (of Mexico City’s Contramar) and Jessica Koslow (of LA’s Sqirl). Dig into the tapioca-fried whole fish and give thanks that you got a table where so many tastemakers have come to meet.
WE LOVE: The suites’ carpeted balconies, which are perfect for private sunset viewings. From $450.
Miami Beach, Florida
The Palisociety hotel group may be based in Los Angeles, but there’s no mistaking where you are when you pull up to the brand’s seventh property—and it ain’t California. The smooth curve of the facade and the neon “Palihouse” marquee are vintage Miami Beach, and those are just a couple of examples of how faithfully the 1940s building, originally the Greenbrier Hotel, has been restored. The 71-room spot also gives a callback to its predecessor with its secluded pool and eclectic lobby lounge, Greenbrier Swim & Social. While the interior design cools things off with a passel of pastels, you (and your friends) can toast old-school South Florida with something a little brighter: an Aperol Spritz fountain that serves four to six and comes in an appropriately Deco decanter.
WE LOVE: The beach butler service, which shuttles guests two blocks over to the sand and furnishes them with an umbrella, chair, and towels—because, really, who should have to walk to the beach? From $250.
For Digital Detoxers: Posada by the Joshua Tree House
Before you ask: Yes, this five-room desert inn has Wi-Fi … but you’re totally missing the point if you use it. Straddling the line between a rental house and a boutique hotel, the Posada sits on 38 cactus-filled acres just minutes from the entrance to Saguaro National Park. Owners Sara and Rich Combs perfected this mixed model in Joshua Tree, California, and their second desert dwelling serves as an equally ideal place to blissfully do next to nothing: read a book on Georgia O’Keeffe in front of the fireplace, watch for roadrunners from the boulder-lined pool, or listen for howling coyotes while gazing up at the Milky Way from the rooftop. The only reason to ever pick up your phone is to snap photos of the immaculately curated decor, which includes salvaged railroad-tie roof beams, retro Marshall speakers, and abundant potted cacti.
WE LOVE: The simple breakfast of Rise Above pastries and Exo Roast Co. coffee, both Tucson institutions. From $185.
For Fish Fanatics: Reefsuites
Hardy Reef, Australia
If you can rattle off every creature mentioned in “Under the Sea,” you may want to splurge on Australia’s first underwater hotel. Opened in December and operated by Cruise Whitsundays, Reefsuites comprises a pair of guest rooms tucked under a floating pontoon, located 40 nautical miles off the shore of Airlie Beach, Queensland, amid the Great Barrier Reef. Who needs sheep when you can fall asleep counting the sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, and sea turtles that might swim past your floor-to-ceiling windows?
WE LOVE: That a stay includes snorkeling and semi-submarine tours of Hardy Reef. $528 per person (double occupancy) including meals, beer and wine, access to the underwater observatory, and transfer by scenic cruise from the Whitsunday Islands.
For History Buffs: Cirqa
If you’ve already crossed Machu Picchu off your bucket list, Peru’s second city, Arequipa, is calling. This UNESCO World Heritage–designated colonial town sits 7,661 feet above sea level and is surrounded by three Andean volcanoes, which provide pinkishwhite sillar stone, a favorite construction material that has earned Arequipa the nickname La Ciudad Blanca. Since August, one of the city center’s historic structures—a 1583 monastery—has housed this 11-room Relais & Châteaux hotel. While the building’s bones, including vaulted ceilings and shadowy stone passageways, recall the days when monks entertained guests here, there are more than enough sophisticated contemporary details to keep the place grounded in the 21st century, from the heated plunge pool to the organic toiletries.
WE LOVE: The comfy alpaca-skin throws draped over the patio chairs—perfect for relaxing by the firepits, even on the chilliest Andean night. From $269.
For Pattern Loving Pioneers: Urban Cowboy Lodge
Big Indian, New York
Following successes in Brooklyn and Nashville, hoteliers Lyon Porter and Jersey Banks have transformed an 1898 Alpine chalet into the perfect escape from the Big Apple—and from cell service. The third Urban Cowboy property offers a rebuke to the prevailing tendency toward mid-century minimalism in hotel design. In keeping with the name of its Catskills hamlet (Big Indian), the place trades clean lines and potted succulents for Pendleton blankets, antler chandeliers, and potbelly stoves. On second thought, maybe they did go all in on mid-century decor: You’ll feel like a guest at a stylish mid-19th-century cabin.
WE LOVE: The ultra-bold Printsburgh wallpapers, which are hand-printed by Clinton Van Gemert; the Walden King suite’s bandanna-inspired print is a particular knockout. From $199.
For Retro Road-Trippers: Drake Motor Inn
Toronto-based brand The Drake single-handedly turned sleepy Wellington—a lakeside hamlet in Prince Edward County’s wine country—into a hipster getaway by converting a former iron foundry into the Drake Devonshire hotel in 2015. Last May, the company opened this whimsical roadside motel just across the street. The dozen rooms feature a cozy mix of retro and modern elements (think handmade quilts and quirky dolls), while the den-like common room is decorated with vintage knickknacks such as porcelain chickens and old TVs. Your stay includes a loaner Polaroid camera, perfect for capturing your friends as they make s’mores at the firepit, hang out in the garden, or pose in front of the wall-size colorblock mural by Spanish artist Antonyo Marest.
WE LOVE: The vending machine stocked with Canadian goodies (Cheezies, Squish gummies, Cacao 70 chocolates) and dog toys and treats, in case your road trip includes any four-legged family members. From $249.
For Outdoor Enthusiasts: Arctic Bath
Whether it’s searching for moose on a snowshoe hike or paddleboarding the Lule River under the midnight sun, adventure awaits at this haven for nature lovers. Opened in Swedish Lapland this January, Arctic Bath has just 12 guest cabins—six nestled among pine and birch trees and another six floating atop the river, linked by wood-plank walkways. The centerpiece of this new hotel is the ring-shaped floating spa, where you can follow up a saunagus session (a steam bath plus aromatherapy) with a dip in the chilly river. Rooms feature natural leather and stone, but you’ll want to spend your time outside in the pristine landscapehiking, biking, bear-spotting, or going on a Northern Lights photo trek or a snowmobile safari.
WE LOVE: The intimate restaurant, where the country’s only Sámi gourmet chef, Kristoffer Åström (alongside kitchen partner Maarten De Wilde), mines his heritage with dishes like smoked moose heart and reindeer marrow. From $475.
For Do-Gooders: The Russell
This March, East Nashville was hit by a devastating tornado. In a twist of irony, one of its newest hotels was born out of a similar tragedy: The 23-room Russell occupies a 1904 Presbyterian Church, which sat empty for decades after its steeple was torn off by a storm in 1998. Luckily, the hotel suffered no damage this time around, and a visit here is a great way to inject some much-needed capital into the local economy. Befitting the building’s origins, the hotel incorporates a number of religious elements, such as headboards made from old pews and Gothic-arched mirrors. But the holy-rolling inspirations are more than cosmetic: The Russell donates a portion of its proceeds (roughly $100,000 in the first year) to area homeless charities; an average weekend stay raises the equivalent of about 16 nights in a bed, 100 showers, or 30 meals.
WE LOVE: How the color scheme—yellows, pinks, greens, and blues—is drawn from hues found in the lobby’s 16-foot stained-glass rose windows. From $120.
For Wannabe Wranglers: The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection
For years, the 3,500-acre Blue Sky ranch, about 25 minutes outside Park City, has been a gateway for outdoorsy folks to access heli-skiing in the Uinta and Wasatch Ranges, trail-riding through elk-filled sagebrush country, or fly-fishing for trout in Alexander Creek. Last May, the ranch partnered with Auberge Resorts Collection to open a 46-room hotel, where the decor skews natural (local limestone, living turf roofs) and the views would wear out Ansel Adams’s clicker finger. Not secluded enough? Opt for one of five adults-only Creek Houses, suites hidden in a streamside aspen grove and stocked with fly rods and tackle.
WE LOVE: That the resort rescues abused horses through owner Barb Phillips’s Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation; guests can learn vaquero-style horsemanship—a gentler alternative to the normal method of breaking a horse. From $1,000.
For Super-Soakers: Hoshinoya Guguan
Last June, the acclaimed Japanese hotel company Hoshinoya debuted its second international outpost (after Bali) in the matcha-green hills of Taiwan. The 50-room hotel is all about Guguan’s spring-fed waters, which gurgle through canals and fill pools in the garden. Much like a zebra’s stripes, each onsen’s water has its own unique fingerprint, and the mountains here supply slightly alkaline hydrogen carbonate water; it’s mineralrich, a bit fizzy, and great for soothing skin and relaxing muscles. You can get a soak in your room’s private outdoor tub or the indoor-outdoor bath hall, which is suffused with the scent of cypress.
WE LOVE: The cool-down snack the spa offers during the summer: a small mountain of shaved ice topped with fragrant pine powder. From $596.
For Nordic Nomads: Kex
It was love at first sight: Seven years ago, during a scouting trip, Kristinn Vilbergsson decided the Rose City was the perfect place to open an American location of his trendy Reykjavík hostel, Kex. With the help of former set designer Dáni Pedersen, he restored a landmark 1912 apartment building, combining elements old (salvaged Douglas fir beams from the Fort Vancouver train station, horse name plates from a Belgian racetrack) and new (custom puffin-print wallpaper by illustrator Melanie Nead). The resulting 15 shared and 14 private rooms are marked by a cozy vibe that carries down into the basement’s red-cedar sauna and the Nordic-meets-Northwest restaurant Dóttir, where culinary director Ólafur Ágústsson and executive chef Alex Jackson incorporate Scandinavian delights such as skyr, aquavit, and open-faced smørrebrød sandwiches.
WE LOVE: The shared rooms’ custom bunk beds, outfitted with personal lamps, power outlets, storage drawers, and Icelandic wool blankets from Geysir. Bunks from $45, private rooms from $125.
For Land-Lubbing Cruisers: Thompson Washington D.C.
D.C.’s Navy Yard district has transformed what was once the nation’s largest naval shipbuilding center into a post-industrial playground of urban wineries, breweries, and a riverside park—but this new design hotel hasn’t forgotten its roots. The 225 guest rooms subtly evoke the cabins of a luxury ocean liner, thanks to creative furnishings that maximize space (flip-down wall-mounted desks), a soothing nautical palette of blues and whites, and soft curves that call to mind aerodynamic Streamline Moderne architecture. In keeping with the aquatic theme, restaurateur Danny Meyer offers up his first seafood-focused restaurant, the coastal Italian Maialino Mare, and a rooftop bar called Anchovy Social.
WE LOVE: The Frères Branchiaux Candle Company candles, which are available for purchase in room minibars. The feel-good company was founded by three brothersages 9, 11, and 14—and donates 10 percent of its proceeds to area homeless shelters. From $359.
For Classics Majors: Andronis Arcadia
Tucked away from the scrum of Oia, this 53-suite retreat is a loving, if subtle, ode to Ancient Greece, from its name (the home of the god Pan) to its design (patito plaster walls, of the sort that has been used in these parts for centuries). Opened last summer on a hillside overlooking the Aegean Sea, this new hotel is filled with succulents, cushioned chaise longues, and shaded nooks for curling up with a good book—maybe The Odyssey? Plan a dinner at Opson Restaurant, where chef Stefanos Kolimadis consulted with an archaeologist to recreate millennia-old recipes once favored by the likes of Plato. Instead of the usual tomato and feta, you’ll find ingredients like cactus fruit, hyacinth bulbs, and grape molasses.
WE LOVE: The infinity pool—Santorini’s largest—which is a perfect spot to catch a sunset. From $715.
For Agave Aficionados: Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
San José del Cabo, Mexico
Marriott’s exclusive Ritz-Carlton Reserve brand is all about location, location, location. When it opened its fourth property in November, the guiding principle was to pay tribute to San José del Cabo’s abundant natural assets. Architects built the resort’s 115 rooms, suites, and villas around the existing beach landscape and preserved natural waterways and native vegetation, such as towering cacti and agave plants. Guests can learn more about the latter at Candil, a bar with more than 100 bottles of mezcal and tequila on hand. During tastings, glasses are arranged atop a map of Mexico, taking drinkers on a journey through the country’s spirits culture. Those culinary influences continue in the resort’s three other restaurants: ceviche-focused Equis; Humo, which specializes in Latin-American grilling; and El Barrio, which has a Mexican street food–inspired menu and is decorated with colorful murals of Frida Kahlo and indigenous flora and fauna.
WE LOVE: Spa Alkemia, where desert botanicals (such as aloe, prickly pear, and agave) are used in modern treatments that incorporate ancestral Mexican traditions. From $900.
For Budding Botanists: Camissa House
Cape Town, South Africa
Taking its name from a Khoi word meaning “place of sweet waters,” Camissa House sits mere feet from the edge of Table Mountain National Park, on a quiet residential street in the suburb of Oranjezicht. Unsurprisingly, the hoteliers looked to the park—which boasts an astonishing 9,600 plant species, 69 percent of which can’t be found anywhere else on earth—for design ideas. Each of the eight rooms features bespoke wallpaper inspired by a different plant from the fynbos, South Africa’s trademark dry scrubby brushland, while the house’s centerpiece is a two-story, vegetation-filled atrium that feels like a posh greenhouse.
WE LOVE: The Africology toiletries, which incorporate local plants such as hydrating African potato, fragrant rooibos, and calming Cape chamomile. From $469.
For Stylish Sun-Seekers: Asbury Ocean Club Hotel
Asbury Park, New Jersey
Forget what you thought about the Jersey Shore. Last summer, this 54-key boutique hotel opened in a new residential highrise overlooking the boardwalk, helping restore Asbury Park to what the city’s favorite son, Bruce Springsteen, might call its glory days. Only 70 minutes from New York City (take that, Hamptons!), it’s the ultimate East Coast beach escape. In warmer months, a roving granita cart brings peak-summer refreshments straight to your poolside lounger or daybed, and at sunset it becomes a Champagne cart. After dinner at The Gallery (try the oysters with blood orange mignonette and the skate milanese), retire to your room, an oasis of calm with 11-foot ceilings and a balcony, where you can let the sound of the crashing waves lull you to sleep. You’ll want to stay forever, which, it turns out, is possible: The 130 condos are move-in-ready.
WE LOVE: That there’s live music in the communal Drawing Room every night. The hotel is smack dab in between the legendary Stone Pony and the Wonder Bar, but sometimes a little Cole Porter and a Hemingway daiquiri are the best way to end the night. From $295. [Note: The hotel is currently closed, but reservations are open for spring 2021.]
For Forest Bathers: Aman Kyoto
Opened in November, Aman’s third Japanese property has all the trappings you’d want in a luxury ryokan, from tatami mats to hinoki cypress soaking tubs. But it’s what’s outside the 26 rooms and suites that really makes this place sing. Set at the base of Hidari Daimonji mountain, the serene resort encompasses 72 acres of protected forest, plus a seven-acre planned garden that’s cut through with mossyboulder-lined footpaths and dotted with Japanese maple and camellia trees that change color with the season. It’s the ideal setting for indulging in the country’s most relaxing yet therapeutic pastime: shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), the practice of simply being outside amid the birdsong, sunlight, and rustling leaves.
WE LOVE: That the hotel offers private picnics in its beautiful gardens. From $987.
For Pub Regulars: The Buxton
There have been splashier U.K. hotel openings this year, but none is as thoughtful or inviting as this unfussy Shoreditch pub-with-rooms, which set up shop last May on Brick Lane. The place takes its name from Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, a progressive 19th-century Parliament member and social reformer who raised funds for local weavers hard hit by industrialization. In each of the 15 rooms, you’ll find nods to these Victorian artisans in the form of locally handwoven textile art, rugs, and blankets, plus loom-punched leather key tags. The hotel’s namesake also made beer (his now-defunct Truman’s Brewery was a few blocks from here), so be sure to sidle up to the marbletopped bar for a pint and some English bistro fare, such as duck rillettes or pork and prune terrine.
WE LOVE: The rooftop garden terrace, which provides herbs for cocktails downstairs and a view of the chimney stack at Truman’s, which is now a creative center filled with galleries, bars, and restaurants. From $115.
For Oenophiles: La Maison d’Estournel
The Bordeaux wine region has always leaned traditional, but there’s nothing stuffy about its newest hotel, which opened last August in the palatial limestone chateau of Louis Gaspard d’Estournel. The Maharajah of Saint-Estèphe, as the 18th- and 19th-century winemaker was known (because he exported to foreign markets including India), is honored with subtly exotic touches throughout the property, such as stone elephants and, in the vineyard, a carved gateway from a sultan’s palace in Zanzibar. Best of all, you can sample Cos d’Estournel wines in the velvet-furnished library or the vaulted stone cellar.
WE LOVE How chef Emilien Deschamps utilizes Southwestern French culinary staples—black truffles, foie gras, mushrooms, walnutsin elegant dishes that perfectly pair with local wines. From $183.