Forbes Travel Guide’s inspectors scoured the globe to discover the world’s best hotels, restaurants and spas for our 2019 Star Award winners. For the 61st annual list, we expanded to new destinations, including Anguilla, Bahrain, Belize, Danang, Doha, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Istanbul, Oman, Perth, the Swiss Alps, Tel Aviv and Uruguay. The result is our biggest and most diverse group of honorees yet.
To find the top luxury experiences, our inspectors checked into a hotel for a minimum of two nights and posed as ordinary guests. Once there, they tested up to 900 objective, exacting standards that covered everything from whether a staff member greets you curbside within 30 seconds of pulling up in a car to whether housekeeping arranges toiletries on top of high-quality underliners on the counter.
The ratings emphasize graciousness, thoughtfulness and personalized service: 75 percent of a hotel’s score is based on its level of service, while 25 percent is determined by the quality of its facilities (for more on how a hotel earns a rating, click here).
See the full list of Star-Rated properties here. Below are some highlights from this year’s esteemed winners:
The Peninsula Hotels emerged as the biggest winner — it’s the first all Five-Star hotel company in Forbes Travel Guide history. The Peninsula Manila earned its inaugural Five-Star award, giving the Hong Kong-based brand a total of 10 top-rated hotels.
Another brand with a stellar year was Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, which claimed a trifecta of Five-Star honors for Bulgari Hotel Beijing; Bulgari Hotel London; and Bulgari Resort Bali. This marks the first Five-Star wins for the company synonymous with the luxurious Roman jeweler.
Elsewhere around the globe, countries seized their first Five-Star hotel distinction. Among them were Malaysia’s Crockfords at Resorts World Genting, a secret spot whose luxurious rooms are mostly reserved for high rollers at the nearby casino; Portugal’s Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, an icon whose outdoor rooftop track affords one of the best views of the city; South Korea’s The Shilla Seoul, a historic property outfitted with the latest technology from owner Samsung; Turkey’s Raffles Istanbul, which boasts an unbeatable location in Zorlu Center mall amid high-end shops, restaurants and an Eataly; and Vietnam’s Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An, a dreamy beach escape with three tiers of infinity pools and breezy villas.
Other newcomers to the list include three hotels in the British capital: The Langham, London, whose experimental Artesian bar is a destination unto itself; Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, London, which makes a triumphant comeback after a June 2018 fire; and Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London, which resides in one of the city’s most-recognized buildings, the hulking Renzo Piano-designed Shard.
Plus, Five-Star awards went to Fairmont Pacific Rim, a sleek Vancouver spot offering Coal Harbour vistas and the see-and-be-seen restaurant Botanist; Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel in Paris, the 1909 grande dame that had a major facelift in 2017; and Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island, where each of the bright, modern rooms comes with views of the glittering gulf.
And there are two new Five-Star standouts in the United States. On the tiny 141-square-mile Hawaiian isle of Lanai, Four Seasons Resort Lanai offers the exclusivity of a private island alongside amenities like an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course (Bill Gates got married at the stunning 12th hole overlooking crashing waves). Salamander Resort & Spa, an elegant equestrian-themed countryside getaway outside of D.C., was inspired by the home of Sheila C. Johnson, founder of the Salamander Hotels & Resorts group and co-founder of BET.
The final tally was 21 new Five-Star, 49 new Four-Star and 62 new Recommended hotels.
Six new restaurants captured the coveted Five-Star achievement for the first time. Wynn Palace in Macau leads the pack with three new Five-Star awards for Mizumi at Wynn Palace, Sichuan Moon by Andre Chiang and Wing Lei Palace. The hotel now boasts five top-rated fine-dining venues (including previous Five-Star recipient Sushi Mizumi).
Macau also got Five-Star boosts with Robuchon au Dôme, which is perched 43 stories above Grand Lisboa Hotel under a glamorous dome overlooking the city, and Pearl Dragon at Star Tower at Studio City Macau, which serves desired delicacies (abalone, bird’s nest soup) and elevated classics (lobster and shark fin dumplings for dim sum).
Stateside, Five Stars went to chef Dave Beran’s Dialogue, an intimate 18-seat fine-dining restaurant tucked in the unlikeliest of places: a Santa Monica food court.
Eight new Five-Star and 22 new Four-Star spas landed on our list. Houston’s brand-new The Spa at The Post Oak Hotel became Texas’ sole top-rated spa. Other standouts include Las Vegas’ The Spa & Salon at ARIA, the largest Five-Star spa in the U.S.; La Prairie Spa at Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, where the Swiss brand incorporates caviar into the facials and massages; and The Spa at The Breakers Palm Beach, which pampers with marine-based treatments in a seaside setting.
Abroad, The Bulgari Spa Bali (a cliff-top retreat with dramatic Indian Ocean vistas), Lisbon‘s Ritz Spa (a soothing, Zen escape), Cabo San Lucas’ The Spa at Esperanza (a lush garden oasis) and Macau’s Zensa Spa (a hushed, old Hollywood-inspired space) in all clinched the Five-Star distinction.