“Five star” is often thrown around in the ranking-obsessed world we live in, but Forbes Travel Guide (formerly Mobil Travel Guide) originated the Five-Star rating system when our team of professional incognito inspectors began traversing the country in search of the best hotels in 1958. The coveted Five-Star award was established in 1960; and more than half a century later, our globetrotting inspectors are still uncovering the world’s best hotels, restaurants and spas.
Earning a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star rating is a pinnacle achievement; it means that a property aced up to 800 service and facility standards. A hotel of this caliber provides a memorable stay through flawless service and the finest of amenities. The staff is intuitive, engaging and passionate. Dining at a Five-Star restaurant is an unforgettable experience: The food is exceptional; the service is superlative; and the décor is original and elegant. And if you’ve been to a Five-Star spa, you’d know it—no detail is overlooked, from the uncompromising service to the high-end products.
With January’s announcement of the 2014 Forbes Travel Guide Star Ratings, an elite field rises above the rest. Thirteen standouts earned Five-Stars in all three of our categories—hotel, restaurant, spa. For the first time, we revealed our list of star-rated restaurants in Asia, and with that came a new distinction: quadruple Five-Stars. Three properties in China achieved this honor, each winning Five-Stars for a hotel, a spa and two restaurants. For the ultimate luxury trip, the following top hotels should be on your itinerary.
Crown Towers Macau
The crown jewel of Macau’s City of Dreams complex shines inside and out with its shimmering glass façade and sleek Oriental-inspired décor (imagine a high-ceilinged lobby filled with bamboo groves). The 290 rooms, including 33 opulent villas, are decked out with floor-to-ceiling windows—ensuring you can savor top-notch vistas of Cotai and Taipa—and marble bathrooms with deep-soaking tubs and rain showers. The luxury seeps into Crown Towers Macau’s amenities, in the form of the delightfully relaxing Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Crown Spa, whose interiors ooze modernity with massive steel doors and curved walls. Your taste buds will delight in a meal at either of the Five-Star restaurants. Chef Tam Kwok Fung’s mouthwatering Cantonese cuisine (try the roasted goose) can be had at Jade Dragon. For eclectic European fare, snag a table at The Tasting Room to relish elegant dishes such as oven-baked sea bass with wild mushrooms, yellow wine sauce and Tasmanian black truffles, or unique options such as carbonara-style abalone with 56-month pata negra ham.
Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
Known for its service and top-of-the-line technology, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is the island’s grand dame hotel (it marked its 50th anniversary last year). The luxurious rooms have travertine and marble bathrooms stocked with Hermès amenities, and walnut furnishings that are sleek and homey at once. Be sure to make reservations at the hotel’s two Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurants: Pierre, where you can indulge in innovative French dishes with Victoria Harbour in the background, and Mandarin Grill + Bar, which serves exciting twists on classic dishes (e.g., “bacon and egg,” composed of 18-week Spanish suckling pig, organic duck egg, herbs and truffle jus). Don’t pass up on the opportunity to unwind in The Mandarin Spa, where you can reserve a block of time rather than a specific service, allowing you to choose depending on your mood upon arriving at the Five-Star spa.
Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
Bordering the beautiful Victoria Harbour, this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star dazzler boasts fantastic views from just about everywhere. A fusion of East and West with silk-paneled interiors and marble entryways, the rooms have wall-to-wall windows showing off postcard-worthy panoramas of the harbor, Victoria Peak and Kowloon. Those marvelous sights don’t go away, even when you retreat to Five-Star The Spa at Four Seasons Hong Kong. The 17 treatment rooms feature large windows, allowing you to soak up that harbor backdrop in the midst of your fusion massage. Sticking to the East/West theme, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong’s two Five-Star restaurants represent flavors from China and France. Divine Cantonese cuisine is whipped up in the kitchen of Lung King Heen, where chef Chan Yan Tak creates intricate dishes that combine flavor and texture, while some of the finest French fare in Hong Kong can be had in the opulent dining room that is Caprice.
The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
Its intimate size (there are just 113 rooms and suites) combined with chic décor and great service makes The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong a must-visit. Even though it’s part of the Mandarin Oriental brand, the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star property also gives you all the perks of a boutique hotel, including personalized service and exclusivity. Guest rooms come outfitted with high-tech amenities, such as bedside panels that control the shades and lights. The Oriental Spa is a modern oasis with its bright entryway (white floors and light woods) and soothing treatment rooms decked out in dark woods, dim lighting and warm hues. The two-level, Five-Star spa specializes in treatments that blend both ancient and contemporary techniques. For an elegant meal, Five-Star Amber shines. Sit beneath a massive chandelier that’s sculpted of 4,320 long bronze rods and enjoy some modern French cuisine. Chef Richard Ekkebus uses his classic training to create dishes with the freshest ingredients—the restaurant receives a daily fish shipment from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji market.
The tallest building in Taipa, this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star stunner isn’t just all looks. Altira Macau takes customized service to the next level; the staff calls you by name and can even personalize your robes and towels with monograms upon request. Rooms are just as welcoming with hardwood floors and unobstructed panoramas of the South China Sea. The Five-Star experience continues into the two-story masterpiece that is Altira Spa. The indoor infinity pool may be one of the most scenic you’ve ever seen, with jaw-dropping views of the Macau Peninsula. On the 10th floor of the skyscraper sits yet another Five-Star, Aurora. The restaurant offers a taste of Italy’s Puglia region in the heart of bustling Macau with dishes such as handmade pasta. Chef Michele dell’Aquila delivers a delightful Mediterranean meal with all the glamour of the glittering destination.
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colo.
A favorite of discerning travelers since Spencer Penrose founded it in 1918, The Broadmoor has maintained its Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star rating since 1960—the longest of any property in the world. The expansive Mediterranean-style resort sits on 3,000 acres at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The Broadmoor has a wealth of amenities, ranging from an on-site movie theater and 18 restaurants to three championship golf courses and a handful of tennis courts; so no matter what your interests are, you’ll never be bored. Two of those perks are particularly notable: Penrose Room and Spa at The Broadmoor. As Colorado’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant, Penrose Room stands out with both its contemporary French fare and stellar service (each table is assigned a three-person team, plus the sommelier). And when your mind and body need a little pampering, book a treatment at the Five-Star spa, where you’ll be greeted with lavish details such as hand-blown Italian glass chandeliers.
The more exclusive of Wynn’s sister hotels, Encore Macau provides 410 spacious suites (the smallest of which are nearly 1,100 square feet). The seamless service adds to the appeal of this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel, while the intriguing interior design of red and gold hues symbolizing wealth, happiness and good fortune reinforce the luxury. Five-Star The Spa at Encore Macau feels just as exclusive as the rest of the hotel, with its private spa suites, each of which contains its own steam room, aromatherapy shower and sauna. The signature “1-6-8″ treatment includes a four-hand massage, facial and soothing foot reflexology during which three therapists work together to help you slip into a blissed-out state. The extravagant elements aren’t lost on Golden Flower at Encore Macau, either. The Five-Star restaurant steps up the dining experience with a devoted tea sommelier and a resident poet who crafts original compositions and calligraphy for diners. Golden Flower’s specialty is Tan cuisine, a unique blend of northern and southern Chinese flavors.
The Grand Del Mar, San Diego
Taking inspiration from famed architect Addison Mizner (the original mastermind behind fellow triple Five-Star The Cloister), The Grand Del Mar opened in 2007. Although it’s in Southern California, it feels more like a Mediterranean estate, courtesy of its arched doorways, rotundas, wrought-iron accents and ornate stone. The family-friendly 249-room resort provides endless activities that vary from horseback riding at the equestrian center to hitting the Tom Fazio golf course. Another nod to the iconic architect is the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant, Addison. Chef William Bradley switches up his four- to 10-course contemporary French dinner menus frequently to incorporate the freshest seasonal ingredients. The only Five-Star spa in San Diego belongs to The Grand Del Mar, and the luxury is certainly present in details such as Hermès scarves lining the pathway to the women’s relaxation lounge and the 40-inch flat-screen TV in the men’s clubby lounge.
Montage Laguna Beach
This Orange County gem celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013 by earning Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star ratings for the hotel, restaurant and spa. Perched on a rugged cliff-top, Montage Laguna Beach is the flagship for the luxury hotel group. The Craftsman-style resort features 248 bright and airy rooms, and its Southern California locale gives you access to four white-sand beaches and three swimming pools. Chef Craig Strong helms the kitchen at Five-Star Studio, where he delicately whips up modern French cuisine with using local ingredients, including some from the restaurant’s garden. The massive doors and windows are often open, allowing for refreshing ocean breezes and an even better perspective of the sun sinking into the Pacific. The idyllic sense of location isn’t lost when you check into Five-Star Spa Montage Laguna Beach, which takes a holistic, get-back-to-nature approach to its wide range of treatments.
Mandarin Oriental, Miami
Set on ritzy Brickell Key, this East-meets-tropics hotel has the best of both worlds: exclusivity and easy access to all that vibrant Miami has to offer. In true Mandarin Oriental fashion, all of the 326 rooms sport top-notch amenities (interactive entertainment systems, Illy coffee machines) and balconies so you can revel in the views of Biscayne Bay or the Miami skyline. Of course, the private 20,000-square-foot beach makes the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel that much more appealing. And the allure doesn’t stop there; the three-level spa boasts six VIP suites (in addition to its 11 treatment rooms) that frame those stellar Biscayne backdrops with floor-to-ceiling windows. One of two Five-Star Miami restaurants resides at Mandarin Oriental, Miami. Azul’s new American cuisine is nothing short of delectable, but it’s the thoughtful service that kicks things up a notch: Pashminas are available in a variety of colors in case you get cold, and reading glasses are at the ready when you peruse the menu.
Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas
It may not have its own casino, but this swanky hot spot has all the glitz you could want from a Las Vegas hotel. The 392 guest rooms are sleek and stylish—thanks to interior designer Adam D. Tihany—and have one-of-a-kind artwork, subtle Asian-inspired touches and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the neon-lit Strip and surrounding desert mountains. Just off the exclusive 23rd-floor lobby sits one of Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas’ main attractions: Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, the chef’s only U.S. outpost. The Five-Star restaurant is fittingly modern, which only adds to the avant-garde presentation of the inventive dishes. Find respite in Five-Star The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, where you’ll experience attentive but discreet service. The two-level, 27,00-square-foot space—reminiscent of 1930s Shanghai with Art Deco elements, dark woods and Chinese undertones—includes a hammam, vitality pool, laconium and ladies’ rhassoul.
The Cloister, Sea Island, Ga.
A true Southern belle, this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star resort has been a coastal retreat since Addison Mizner originally designed it in 1928. After a $350 million rebuild in 2006 that replaced the historic hotel, The Cloister still echoes Mizner’s legendary style with its Spanish Revival architecture and Mediterranean details such as wood-beam ceilings and Turkish rugs. Like any family resort, this Sea Island sanctuary offers a plethora of activities (bingo, squash and five miles of beach), but it’s the indulgent amenities that set The Cloister apart from its peers. Chef Daniel Zeal’s refined Southern cuisine at the lavishly designed Georgian Room (picture gold and crystal chandeliers, a carved-stone fireplace and heavy draperies) is a must-try—especially when the creative dishes are served on hand-painted Bernardaud china. It doesn’t get much more relaxing than the 65,000-square-foot Five-Star spa, where you can unwind in the airy Garden Atrium lounge amid a soothing stream, plants and an olive tree, or in the elevated pool in the striking white-pillared Water Atrium.
Macau is the Sin City of the Far East, so it’s only natural that casino magnate Steve Wynn made his mark in the Chinese gambling capital. Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Wynn Macau is as luxurious as you’d expect from a hotel that’s geared toward the high roller. The staff goes out of its way to make you feel welcome—even if you aren’t a professional poker player—by anticipating your every need. Escape the dinging slot machines at the tranquil Five-Star Spa at Wynn Macau, where you’ll find inner peace through one of the more than 30 treatments. Five-Star Wing Lei at Wynn Macau impresses the moment you step through the traditional Chinese moon gate: A shimmering flying dragon made up of 90,000 Swarovski crystals and blown glass hangs on the red wall. The wow factor goes beyond the décor though; chef Chan Tak Kwong’s fabulous Cantonese menu includes delicacies such as abalone, bird’s nest and barbecued Beijing duck.
Photos Courtesy of Altira Macau, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong and Encore Macau