Mukul Luxury Resort and Spa Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Mukul, opened in early 2013, is more than just a luxury resort; it is one of the most exclusive hideaways not only in Nicaragua, but Central America. The name, Mukul, is Mayan for "secret," and guests are assured of a high level of privacy: The resort, part of a sprawling, 1670-acre beach community, has only 37 luxurious Bohios and Villas, and the grounds are not open to the public. The existence of the resort is hardly a secret, however, as this $40 million project helmed by Don Carlos Pellas, a Nicaraguan business magnate, is helping to change the face of the country's tourism industry. The guests who can afford Nicaragua's most expensive hotel rates will be rewarded with a gorgeous white-sand beach, one of the most beautiful spas in the world, an 18-hole golf course, gourmet cuisine, and pampering service -- though they should note that construction on the property's hillside real estate is still underway.
The Jade Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The Jade opened in February 2013, and thorough attention to detail and old-world charm set this quaint boutique hotel apart. Its 12 rooms have been individually decorated with period antiques and fireplaces, and feature modern amenities, such as flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and free Wi-Fi. The property lacks most of the amenities of larger hotels, including a fitness center and a full restaurant -- but it does offer an elegant tea salon, a central location a block from Union Square, and an intimate feel that's hard to come by in New York.
The Out NYC Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The Out NYC, opened in spring 2012, may be New York's first hotel specifically tailored for gay travelers, but it's also the first to pronounce its "straight-friendliness." Indeed, the 105-room boutique property hosts guests of all orientations, including many foreigners drawn by the hotel's central location, sleek design, gorgeous common areas, and hot nightlife. Rooms are small but filled with features such as natural beauty products, Internet-enabled flat-screen TVs, and absurdly comfortable beds. You won't, however, find any closets -- a cheeky reference to the fact that no one needs to be in the closet here.
Eden Roc at Cap Cana Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The Eden Roc, opened in summer 2012, is one of the most high-tech properties in the Dominican Republic, and is located in the gated Cap Cana community -- which has a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, marina, and beach club. The 34 colorful suites (11 are open so far) are clustered around a small, man-made lagoon and feature elegant decor (picture four-poster beds, intricate floor tiling, and spacious bathrooms). Up-to-date amenities include iPad-controlled lights, sound systems, and TVs with numerous channels in Spanish and English. Suites also come with small pools and golf carts for getting around the property. In the winter, the main resort area will open, but for now guests check in at the Caleton Beach Club, which is also the main beach area -- about a five-minute golf cart-ride away from the suites.
Wythe Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
With a hopping rooftop bar boasting jaw-dropping views of Manhattan, a wonderful restaurant, and cutting-edge industrial design, the Wythe, opened in May 2012, is a destination unto itself. It’s located near the subway as well as dozens of restaurants, bars, and shops in the heart of trendy Williamsburg. Rooms are spacious and have high pine ceilings, reclaimed wood furnishings, and great amenities, including flat-screen TVs; local, hand-made toiletries; free Wi-Fi, and radiant floor heating. But noise can be a problem, and the lobby and the elevators can get crowded with non-guests on weekends.
Dream Downtown Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Dream Downtown, opened in June 2011, is an aggressively modern hotel located directly behind the Maritime in Chelsea. The hotel blends public spaces together in a unique way: The fitness center has portholes overlooking the pool, and the pool itself has a glass bottom that looks down into the lobby. The hotel's scene is decidedly hip, especially at PH-D lounge (a popular celeb haunt) -- with stunning, sweeping views of Manhattan, PH-D is easily one of the best parts of the hotel. Gold King rooms have portholes surrounding the bed with killer views. But the super modern, futuristic touches can be weird (such as the odd lighting near the minibar, and overly metallic bathrooms), making the space feel less comfortable.
King & Grove New York Rating: 4.0 Pearls
This mid-range Midtown hotel, formerly known as LOLA -- and formerly, formerly the Hotel Thirty Thirty -- boasts a hip and atmospheric lobby and lounge area, as well as 176 rooms and suites stylishly renovated in 2011. Sizes vary, and all units include modern amenities such as duvets, flat-screen TVs, iPod/iPad docks, sleek work desks, and slate bathrooms. The lobby is by far the place to be, with designer lighting installations, contemporary furniture, and black-and-white murals. The hotel offers the requisite business and fitness centers, but not much else in the way of features -- not even a restaurant. It is, however, a suitable choice for those who want to plop down the bag, have a drink, and get out and see the city.
Yotel Rating: 3.5 Pearls
European chain Yotel is known for its hip atmosphere and affordable rates. This Midtown West outpost, opened in June 2011, is certainly hip, featuring three bars (including two on an enormous rooftop terrace), a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant, and funky, outer space design. And it's usually affordable, at least for the area. Rooms are tiny, and the location on quiet 10th avenue is a bit out of the way, but the cool factor will make this a worthwhile option for a young, well-heeled hipster set. Dream and Hudson Hotel are similar in price, room size (small), and trendiness, so it's worth weighing your options.
Dream South Beach Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Literally a one-minute walk from the beach, this trendy boutique hotel opened in June 2011 caters to young, hip partiers. The lobby is decorated with a sleek black-and-white motif, the rooftop pool and bar are hopping late into the night, and house music plays throughout the property. The pool is tiny and the sexy see-through bathrooms aren't particularly kid-friendly, so families may want to consider the nearby Loews Miami Beach.
Four Seasons Resort Vail Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The Four Seasons Vail opened in 2011, and is one of the area's top hotels. All the rooms have warm colors, stone fireplaces, balconies, and huge marble bathrooms with standalone soaking tubs, and almost every amenity impresses, particularly the upscale spa (one of the best in Vail Valley) and lovely outdoor pool area. But it's not directly on the slopes -- guests face a 10-minute walk, or a short hotel shuttle ride.
Mondrian Soho Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Opened in February 2011, this stylish 270-room hotel is located right on the southern border of chic SoHo. It has small, beautiful rooms with white-and-blue decor, high-tech amenities -- like large flat-screen TVs and iPads -- and floor-to-ceiling windows, many with jaw-dropping views. The trendy Imperial No. 9 restaurant, by Chef Sam Talbot, serves sustainable seafood, and has a lovely garden room with cool glass decor and a greenhouse-inspired feel. The fitness center, though small and in the basement, has state-of-the-art machines with personal screens and headphones.
Westin Phoenix Downtown Rating: 4.0 Pearls
This Westin high-rise opened in March 2011 is luxurious and business-friendly, and offers great views of Phoenix through floor-to-ceiling windows. The large rooms are sleek and modern, and seem bigger than they are under 10-foot ceilings. Along with all this impressive size, however, come hefty fees for Internet and parking.
Ilum Experience Home Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Opened in early 2011, this beautiful boutique hotel is arguably one of the most unique and serene properties in bohemian Palermo Hollywood. With just 12 rooms and simple but stylish modern decor throughout, it is a wonderful retreat from busy Buenos Aires, even with a location in the thick of the action. Large, sun-drenched rooms are clean and contemporary, with flat-screen TVs, floor-to-ceiling windows, trendy bathrooms with jetted tubs, and a few colorful accents that make them feel more South-American spicy. The gorgeous rooftop Jacuzzis with city views and a sauna take R&R to a new level. Book a room facing the tiny back garden for quieter weekend nights.
The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong opened in March 2011 as one of Hong Kong's top luxury hotels. Large rooms feature decadent touches, such as plush beds with 400- to 600-thread count linens, iPods and iPod docks, Nespresso coffeemakers, and high-end toiletries. The hotel is set on floors 102 to 118 of Hong Kong's tallest building, and while acrophobes may not appreciate being this far from the ground, the height does make for breathtaking views -- that is, when the sky is clear. Highlights include a stylish indoor pool, sleek gym, and top-notch spa. The Ritz-Carlton is connected to a great shopping mall and corporate offices, and also offers easy access to the airport train and the MTR. However, its location in an up-and-coming business area west of Tsim Sha Tsui is a bit out of the way for leisure travelers, as there are no major attractions within walking distance.
Hotel Le Bristol Rating: 4.5 Pearls
This Paris icon may have opened in 1925, but in late 2011 it completed a $137 million renovation, receiving a new wing, a new restaurant (Le 114 Faubourg), and a new spa (Spa Le Bristol by La Prairie). This hotel gained additional traction when it was featured as a primary setting in the 2011 film Midnight in Paris.
Viceroy Riviera Maya Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Viceroy Riviera Maya reopened in January 2012, after a renovation that added 11 new villas (there are now 41 total), a new seaside restaurant serving Mexican-Mediterranean cuisine, and a new fitness center. The hotel was formely known as the Tides Riviera Maya, and the reopening marked the property's rebranding as a Viceroy.