As post-quarantine travel rebounds, Forbes Travel Guide offers a sneak peek of its 2021 Star Award winners to provide some getaway inspiration.
These early hotel and spa winners were all inspected prior to the COVID-19 closures. The full slate of honorees will be revealed in spring 2021.
To find the world’s best properties, Forbes Travel Guide’s inspectors check into a hotel for a two-night minimum stay, posing as regular guests and paying their own way. The incognito inspectors test up to 900 objective, stringent standards — such as whether you are greeted curbside by a staff member within 30 seconds of arrival, whether the bedroom is exceptionally clean and whether turndown service includes a special or thoughtful element. The ratings calculate 75 percent of a hotel’s score based on its service and 25 percent from the quality of its facilities.
See the list of preliminary 2021 winners, along with the properties that earned awards in February 2020, here. And scroll down to learn more about the new crop of Star-Rated hotels and spas so that you can start planning your next escape.
Montage Hotels & Resorts swept the Five-Star hotel category. Newcomers Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah, and Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina, joined repeat Five-Star recipients Montage Kapalua Bay in Maui, Montage Laguna Beach and Montage Los Cabos in achieving the top honor. This makes Montage the second all Five-Star hotel company in Forbes Travel Guide history (Peninsula became the first in 2019). The brand will look to continue its winning streak when Montage Healdsburg in Sonoma debuts in the late fall.
Given its mountain location with ski-in/ski-out access next to the lifts of Deer Valley Resort, Montage Deer Valley is a skier’s haven. But the hotel, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, offers far more. Its alpine pool overlooks the mountains of Empire Pass, its cozy craftsman-style rooms have gas fireplaces and the Four-Star spa doles out Tata Harper facials and wellness offerings like outdoor mountain power walking and a Muscle Mania sculpting class.
About 20 miles west of Hilton Head, Montage Palmetto Bluff embodies Lowcountry elegance. The hotel’s 20,000 acres include groves of oak trees draped with Spanish moss, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, dining options along the May River, a Four-Star spa that uses local ingredients (like minerals from the aforementioned river) and charming cottages with screened-in porches that almost require you to unwind with a glass of cold sweet tea.
Elsewhere stateside, Houston landed the first Five-Star hotel in the city’s history. Clinching the coveted title was The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston, which also boasts the only Five-Star spa in Texas, a two-story Rolls-Royce showroom, a museum-caliber art collection (including pieces from Frank Stella and Alex Katz) and a library of Assouline books.
While the skyscraper only opened in August 2019, Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center soared to the top of our Star Awards list with a double Five-Star win. The Four Seasons, which sits in the nation’s 10th-tallest building, provides breathtaking views of Philadelphia, though the floral-filled interiors from Jeff Leatham are equally eye-catching. The 60th-floor JG SkyHigh cocktail bar promises the best vistas, but the 57th-floor infinity pool and Five-Star spa deliver sumptuous pampering, too.
In D.C., the newly built Conrad Washington, DC picked up a Four-Star award. Opening its doors in March 2019, the hotel highlights works from local artists (like Matthew Langley’s double-sided blue-and-white abstract painting), an eatery from Top Chef alums and brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio and the 11th-floor hot spot rooftop bar Summit.
The newly renovated The St. Regis San Francisco attained Five-Star status. The 2005 hotel unveiled redesigned guest rooms in March that draw on the locale: the silver, copper and iron color palette is a nod to the California Gold Rush of 1849, wall coverings feature curves that evoke San Francisco’s hills and valleys and glass-covered desks display landscape photographer Ansel Adams’ California panoramas.
Also on the West Coast, Four Seasons Hotel Seattle joined the ranks of new Five-Star standouts. Close to Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum, the urban hub is a favorite for its Goldfinch Tavern, coffee concierge, Four-Star spa and the city’s only heated, outdoor infinity-edge pool, and it overlooks the Olympic Mountains, the Seattle Great Wheel and Elliot Bay.
Tucked among the Wasatch Range, Waldorf Astoria Park City won a Four-Star award. The luxurious lodge is home to a heated pool (it’s even open for a post-ski session when it snows) and Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Powder, a restaurant that specializes in upscale comfort food from mountain regions worldwide. If you prefer a beach getaway, opt for the new Four-Star Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort in Maui. Along with a prime oceanfront location, the hotel offers nine pools and a massive 40,000-square-foot spa, the largest in the state.
For those who seek some post-quarantine self-care, a trio of spas joined the Five-Star elite. In Palm Springs, Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage’s Sunstone Spa spans 10,500 square feet and spotlights unique treatments like the Desert Rain Massage, which employs botanicals from the local chaparral plant to boost immunity and reduce stress. For Rocky Mountain relaxation, visit The St. Regis Aspen Resort’s Remède Spa Aspen, a forward-thinking facility with calming waterfalls, an invigorating cold plunge, an oxygen lounge (which helps with altitude sickness) and CBD treatments. A desert oasis, The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas incorporates the traditional (facials and a healing after-sun wrap) with the untraditional (a melted candle wax massage, cupping and table Thai yoga).
There were other noteworthy accomplishments across North America. Canada saw several key wins. Launched in May 2019, Four Seasons Hotel Montreal lays claim to being the city’s only Five-Star winner for both its modern design hotel and its soothing spa with gold-inspired treatments. The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Toronto also snagged a top award. The largest urban spa among all Four Seasons properties, the Toronto respite recently revamped its Cloud 9 Oasis, a seasonal terrace where you can go post-treatment for some healthy mezze and Yorkville panoramas.
In Mexico, Esperanza, Auberge Resorts Collection reaffirmed Los Cabos as a locale for luxury. The cliffside hotel and its palapa-topped spa garnered Five-Star honors. Sister property Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection cemented itself as a wellness destination with the newly minted Five-Star Auberge Spa Chileno Bay. Auberge Spa infuses local Baja culture into its services and has one of the best gyms in Los Cabos. And Solaz, A Luxury Collection Resort, Los Cabos, a modern, sleek beach retreat, earned Four-Star honors. On the opposite side of the country, Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun gained Four-Star awards for its hotel fronting turquoise waters and powdery sands and the hidden-away Gem Spa.
There were significant wins overseas. The Balmoral, a Rocco Forte Hotel emerged as the first Five-Star property in Edinburgh. The landmark Victorian-era railway hotel draws you in with its Number One restaurant, which serves modern Scottish fare, and its SCOTCH bar, which carries more than 500 single-malt whiskies. Sitting along the Bosphorus, new Five-Star Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul pairs Old World grandeur with modern amenities like a heated outdoor infinity pool overlooking the water.
The Middle East saw a Five-Star addition with The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi, which has Mediterranean-style architecture, tropical grounds and six miles of beach.
Over in Asia, two Bali hotels earned first-time Five-Star accolades. The Mulia – Nusa Dua, Bali is known for having the longest oceanfront infinity pool on the island and some of Bali’s top restaurants. The St. Regis Bali Resort lets you revel in privacy among its spacious suites and villas, and its serene Four-Star spa sanctuary specializes in Balinese treatments.
Tokyo added four properties to its Five-Star roster: Takanawa Hanakohro, a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) with 16 tatami suites and a five-acre Japanese garden with 230 cherry trees; The Capitol Hotel Tokyu, which sits next to the grounds of the Imperial Palace and showcases Japanese art from the likes of woodblock printmaker Shiko Munakata and sumi ink painter Toko Shinoda; The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, A Luxury Collection Hotel, which affords mesmerizing city views from its 36th-floor lobby and the cushioned window seats in each room; and The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, which resides at the top of the 53-story Tokyo Midtown building and gives breathtaking vistas everywhere from its 21,528-square-foot spa to Azure 45, one of the city’s best French restaurants.
Beijing welcomed Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing, Beijing as a new Five-Star hotel. Overlooking the Forbidden City, the property has some of Beijing’s largest accommodations, an expansive and enticing rooftop bar and a new Five-Star spa.