From food to fitness, wellness has long been a lure of Hawaiian resorts, a strength newly bolstered by the JW Marriott Ihilani offering a mermaid-inspired workout employing a monofin and The Fairmont Orchid featuring “flo-yo” or floating yoga. The St. Regis Princeville Resort offers custom spa consultations with Dana Roberts, founder of island-based Malie Organics products. The Grand Hyatt Kauai added renovated treatment rooms, complete with relaxing outdoor patio gardens. And the Four Seasons Resort Maui launched a wellness series of weekends devoted to environmentalism, yoga retreats, a tennis fantasy camp with past champs including Lindsay Davenport, and a cycling camp featuring Tour de France and Olympic veterans.
Luxury travelers want a special experience,” says American Express’ D’Arcy, “not just a lie on the beach.” And they can get it at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and spa, offering nightly astronomy tours via a new high-tech telescope installed on the roof.
Readers generally rewarded depth, even beneath the glossy surfaces of Las Vegas. Bellagio again pulled out first place among casino hotels, an honor it earned in part thanks to its fine art gallery, which launched monthly art-and-wine events featuring libations and lectures. Runner-up Wynn Las Vegas will introduce vegan menus from Encore Chefs and Tal Ronnen, author of The Conscious Cook.
Culinary initiatives starred at ranked Canadian hotels too, including winner Four Seasons hotel Toronto, which recently launched its own custom-blended line of teas and hired executive chef Thomas Bellec, who features Niagara Peninsula produce in his cooking. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, including the perennially lauded the fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, and the fairmont Banff Springs, just introduced special menus for gluten-free, raw-food, and vegan diners.
In 2010, travel budgets increased a healthy 25 percent, according to a survey by Rand McNally, noting that travelers prioritized spending on “life-event trips” such as honeymoons and family vacations. The winner in Latin America, the JW Marriott Cancun resort and spa, anticipated the trend, debuting a new wedding chapel shared by its sibling and neighbor CasaMagna Marriott Cancun resort, also a reader favorite.
Unique experiences distinguish winners in this region. the ritz-Carlton, Cancun features two fine-dining restaurants, Fantino and The Club Grill, and just began allowing guests to cook alongside the chef during five-course chef’s-table dinners in the resort’s culinary center. The aquatic center at the Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya transports guests to the migration route of massive whale sharks for close encounters of the marine kind. And in Los Cabos, staffers at las ventanas al paraíso will make a plush bed under the stars for guests in rooftop terrace suites, One&Only Palmilla recently introduced half- to three-day classes via its new PGA Tour Academy, and Esperanza launched candlelight yoga at dusk.
New to the list is the Alvear Palace Hotel, in Buenos Aires, a favorite among both leisure and business travelers for its period grace. “The hallways are wide, and there are big elevator lobbies,” notes David Moore, president of Adventure Associates, which is based in Dallas and specializes in South American travel. “There’s no traditional architectural cost-cutting that you see in a new hotel.”