Plenty of travelers know the famed, grand dame hotels in the big cities: The Plaza in New York City, The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, and The Fairmont in San Francisco, to name just a few. But sometimes the best hotels are the ones that pleasantly surprise you, the ones that you hadn't even heard of before planning your trip. We call those hidden gems -- the quaint hotels that fly under the radar, but wind up being just what the travel doctor ordered. If you're looking for a hotel that's a bit off the beaten path, consider one of the hotels below -- our top picks for the best hidden gem hotels on Oyster.com.
Maison 140, Los Angeles
This tiny, 43-room boutique makes up in style what it lacks in size and amenities. Granted there's no pool, real business center, or even a restaurant -- but the unique Chinoiserie and Parisian-inspired rooms, cozy lobby bar with nightly absinthe happy hours, and central Beverly Hills location lure in a loyal crowd.
Petit Ermitage, Los Angeles
It's a matter of taste. The hotel's bohemianism -- think hipsters and distressed fixtures -- will appeal to some but not others. Oyster's take? We dig it, man. For half the price of some of its competitors, you get a newly renovated, truly unique boutique with large suites (many with kitchens) and a lovely rooftop pool.
Library Hotel, New York City
A homey, 60-room, literary-themed boutique, located down the block from New York's famous Public Library, and among Midtown East's corporate skyscrapers. It's one of New York's best values, mostly because of the perks: an upscale bistro on the ground floor, a lively bar on the penthouse floor, free Wi-Fi, free gym passes, and free daily pastries, wine, and cheese.
Casablanca Hotel, New York City
A homey boutique in the heart of Times Square, the Casablanca is a small treasure among massive hotels. A daily wine and cheese reception and free breakfast in the cozy lounge add to its charm, and the service is among the best in the city. Rooms are nothing special, but overall, the Casablanca is a great value.
Marcel Hotel, New York City
Located in an quieter, residential neighborhood more popular among locals than tourists, the Marcel fits a bit of style and top-notch comforts -- like Lather bath products -- into its 135 well-designed guest rooms. Though it lacks a gym and charges extra for Wi-Fi, its popular on-site wine bar and restaurant and beautiful outdoor terrace tend to compensate.
Hotel Marlowe, Boston
With large, playfully furnished rooms, the 236-room Hotel Marlowe is one of Cambridge's most family-friendly hotels. Its neighbor, the Royal Sonesta Hotel, is cheaper and has a pool, but the Marlowe offers a boutique-like feel at a reasonable price, with personality to spare.
Courtyard by Marriott Boston Copley Square, Boston
Ideally located in Back Bay, just down the block from Copley Square, this 81-room Marriott has some of the best and biggest rooms for the buck in its location (making it a smart choice for families). Plus, it has a comfy business lounge with free computer and printer access, a small fitness room, and a quality $15 breakfast buffet. Truly quaint considering it's part of the huge Marriott chain!
Hotel Kabuki, San Francisco
Off-the-beaten-path in Japantown, the 218-room Hotel Kabuki is a low-key alternative to the crowds and noise of downtown. It's got a serene vibe and traditional Japanese decor highlighted by the in-room soaking tubs. The neighborhood gets quiet early, but free Wi-Fi and a meditation garden are nice perks.
Phoenix Hotel, San Francisco
Famous for A-list rocker guests and an artsy, cool vibe, this one-of-a-kind, converted 44-room motel may have seedy Tenderloin District surroundings and bare-bones rooms, but the unique, SoCal-style courtyard pool and happening Bambuddha Lounge keep the hip crowd happy. Its humble motel beginnings make it a quirky choice.
Laurel Inn, San Francisco
Spacious, apartment-like rooms, loads of free perks, and basic but stylish decor distinguish the 49-room Laurel Inn. Located in Pacific Heights amid upscale galleries and boutiques but away from the tourist frenzy, it's an ideal spot for long-term visitors or travelers who who don't require a full array of services.
Hotel Renew, Hawaii
A top pick for those who want more than a budget hotel but less than a mega resort, this independent, recently renovated, 72-room affordable boutique a block from the beach is high on style, but short on amenities. While most Hawaiian hotels are still sporting ugly polyester bedspreads, the rooms here are impressively modern and Zen-chic.
Koa Kea Resort Hotel and Poipu Beach, Hawaii
This 121-room Poipu boutique hotel offers five-star features -- rooms with fine Egyptian linens, Italian marble bathrooms, and personal espresso machines, and a free fitness center with individual cable-TV monitors. With just one pool and restaurant, it lacks the extras of the mega-resorts -- but the service is more attentive and pampering.
Rumor Resort, Las Vegas
Opened in July 2010, the adults-only Rumor Resort promises guests a hip, intimate, and above all, sexy experience off the Strip. With bold, quirky design that's heavy on the purple, 150 rooms (many with balconies or patios, some with two-person tubs), a pool and bar open 24 hours, and lots of freebies, it delivers.
Cadet Hotel, Miami
The Cadet is a different type of South Beach experience. There's no pool, gym, spa, or views of the beach, and the vibe is more B&B than SoBe Cool. But a number of charming little touches -- welcome strawberries, personalized notes, nighttime chocolates, garden breakfasts -- compensate for the drawbacks.
Beach Plaza Hotel, Miami
This 55-room crash pad is one block from the beach, in a prime South Beach party location. Moroccan Gardens and free breakfasts are highlights, but unlike the similarly priced Hotel of South Beach or the Albion, there's no pool. Basic rooms are tiny, but upgraded rooms have plasma TVs, DVD players, and iPod docks.