Hotel del Coronado

Again the favorite Down Under, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney just unveiled four high-end suites, two of them featuring views of iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge in quarters that evoke a New York pied-à-terre circa 1930 with features such as four-poster beds, Roman blinds, and parquet floors. Its rival, the Park Hyatt Sydney, is currently closed for a seven-month rehab, set to debut in late fall with rooftop suites framing waterfront views.

Location leads in Africa, too, where top hotel Cape Grace now offers private rooftop dinners with panoramic views of Table Mountain, and new-to-the-survey Taj Cape Town debuted a two-story suite with a wraparound roof terrace.
The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows

Business travelers again rank their favorites for efficiency plus local flair. The Park Hyatt Chicago just remodeled NoMI restaurant overlooking the iconic Water Tower Square and recently launched a complimentary wardrobe service that allows guests to store clothing — think winter coats for Sun Belters — at the hotel. Guests of the Four Seasons hotel Miami can check in curbside and freely access the nearby Sports Club/LA Miami. The Grand Hyatt New York continues its $130 million renovation with 150 redesigned rooms, a new restaurant overlooking 42nd Street, and a new grab-and-go market in the lobby.

Top hotels compete just as fiercely — if entirely differently — for family travelers, loading up on amenities from a kitchen for kids’ cooking classes (Atlantis) to a dolphin-encounter center (Hilton Waikoloa Village).

The year-old JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country burst onto the list with a six-acre water park, 26,000-square-foot spa, Segway property tours, and two PGA golf courses. But its service was also lauded, a crop creamed from 23,000 applicants for 850 jobs. “We look for people who are genuinely friendly,” says Mike Kass, the resort’s marketing and sales director. “I can’t teach you to be a warm, caring human being.”

If a staffer can determine just when to suggest your favorite drink or quietly stock your rental car with bottled water, then they’ve delivered the elusive X factor — usually service related — that unites acclaimed hotels on every continent, in every niche of the hospitality business.