At grand and luxurious hotels, rates are pricey and bookings can be difficult, but it’s still fun to dream of laying your head on a pillow at one of these properties.
If I had a hotel bucket list for the new year, it would include a handful of lavish properties where I’ve had some brief interaction—a convention, a meeting, or a meal in an on-site restaurant. My daydreams often took over as I wondered what was happening beyond the darkened conference rooms.
While the rates at these hotels are generally geared to an upper echelon of guests with unlimited budgets, it is always fun to fantasize about a leisurely stay in one of these properties where guests are pampered from the moment they arrive. A special or off-season rate occasionally is offered, making it possible for dreams to come true.
Hotel du Palais
If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a palace and be treated like royalty, the Hotel du Palais is the place. After all, Napoleon III (nephew of Napoleon I) built the palace in 1855 for his wife, Spanish Princess Eugénie de Montijo, who had spent her childhood summers in Biarritz. Known as the Villa Eugénie, the Atlantic oceanfront property was sold following Napoleon III’s defeat in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War. It was transformed into a hotel in 1883 and continued to attract European royalty.
Biarritz was a playground for the rich and famous, including iconic Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Several rooms at the Hotel du Palais are named after celebrities who were regular guests, including Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, and Ernest Hemingway, whose suite is occasionally opened for tours when guests aren’t renting it for well over 1,300 euros a night. Hemingway spent time in Biarritz when the movie based on his book, “The Sun Also Rises,” was filmed there.
My favorite hotels offer not only history but also luxury, and the Hotel du Palais delivers on both. A bowl of cherries is placed in guest rooms each day, as are toiletries from Guerlain, one of France’s most prestigious skincare and perfume companies. Hotel du Palais has its own workshops with craftsmen dedicated to refurbishing rooms and furniture as soon as they show any signs of wear. Spending hours relaxing in the Imperial Spa is a favorite pastime for many guests. And then, there is the beach, the Grande Plage, internationally known as one of the best spots for surfing.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
In the dog days of summer, Floridians dream about being somewhere cooler. The Broadmoor is not on a mountain top, but it’s close enough. Spend a day hiking the nearby mountain trails or stay in one of the Broadmoor’s retreat properties, like the Emerald Valley Ranch or Camp Cloud; however, you can enjoy the outdoors down below at the historic resort. The Broadmoor “campus” has a variety of activities at the base of Cheyenne Mountain: golf, tennis, pools, fishing lakes, and even the ancient sport of falconry.
Founded by entrepreneur and philanthropist Spencer Penrose in 1918, the Broadmoor celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. Its timeless grandeur, exquisite service, and reputation for excellence are well-known, especially among its well-heeled clientele, many of whom return year after year bringing their children and grandchildren. In addition to classic rooms and suites in the main buildings, the Broadmoor also offers cottages, brownstone vacation homes, and a 12,000-square-foot, five-bedroom manor known as the Estate House.
With 10 on-site restaurants, Broadmoor guests never have to eat in the same place twice. From the casual Natural Epicurean with its farm-fresh and organic dishes to the fine dining AAA Five Diamond Penrose Room, the most difficult decision is which one to choose during a brief stay.
Follow Interstate 75 south to one of the most fun boutique hotels that food and wine lovers will ever find. Everything about the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa’s Hyde Park area is designed for foodies, right down to the door handles shaped like kitchen utensils.
As soon as you enter the wine-themed lobby, a greeter hands you a glass of wine and escorts you to your room where the entire check-in procedure is handled via electronic tablets. The Epicurean has a state-of-the-art culinary theater-style classroom where cooking and wine certification classes are offered.
Although the 137-room hotel is located directly across the street from the famed Bern’s Steak House, the hotel has its own award-winning restaurant, Élevage, where executive chef and James Beard Foundation semifinalist Chad Johnson creates his own showstopping dishes. Edge, a rooftop bar, offers the latest creations in mixology while the on-site patisserie Chocolate Pi is filled with colorful and delicious creations.
The modern, chic rooms offer the comfort and luxury expected at an Autograph Collection of Marriott International property. The Epicurean is a delightful urban retreat, and special rates are occasionally offered for Florida residents.
Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica
If lush, green rainforests and mountain views are your idea of a secluded getaway, Hacienda AltaGracia may be just the place to find “pura vida”—the Costa Rican philosophy of enjoying life slowly and appreciating nature.
Named as one of the world’s best new hotels on Conde Nast Traveler’s 2016 Hot List, this Auberge Resort offers an authentic Costa Rican experience amid luxurious surroundings. Guests have their own spacious “casita,” or private hacienda, at the mountaintop resort near the town of Perez Zeledon in the southern part of the Central American country.
Hike to a yoga pavilion, ride horses at the resort’s equestrian center, enjoy a lavish day at the world-class spa, or simply lounge on your own sprawling terrace overlooking the mountains of San Isidro Valley. The resort also has three excellent farm-to-table eateries, including the signature Ambar restaurant.
Hacienda AltaGracia is located three hours from the San Jose International Airport via a scenic mountain road. The resort also offers a charter air package to its own private landing strip, where guests arrive only minutes away from the lobby.