One of my favorite ways to find the Perfect hotel – the kind that defines your trip, and is not just for sleeping— is to browse the myriad of options on Small luxury hotels (SLH). These are all unique and “independent” properties, but what each carefully curated SLH has in common is an emphasis on lavishness and personal attention. If this is right for you, chances are your next holiday destination has one or more SLH member properties worth checking out. So far, there are more than 500 distributed in more than 90 countries.
Take my recent trip to northeast Brazil. My partner and I wanted to spend a week on the coast of Bahia, first in a secluded pousada for a few days, then a few nights in the bustling oceanside town of Itacaré. Doubting that this random corner of the world had an SLH property, I checked anyway and was glad I was wrong. We quickly booked a tour at Barracuda Hotel & Villasa 17-suite hotel nestled above the treetops with stunning ocean views.
At the end of the day, I was by first name with the reception, the bartender, the waiters and even the president of the hotel. While the owners of the property are Swedish, over 90% of the staff are from Itacaré. It is locally designed and honors the region from which it resides. Barracuda is also part of SLH Considerate collection, a portfolio of hotels pioneering sustainability. I had to order two dozen sparkling waters throughout my stay – each served in a Soda Stream container with recycled and purified water right on the spot – without waste or excessive cost. Food-wise, the hotel’s prices also proved to be comparable to those of the best restaurants in town.
It was a seamless trip, hosted in my ideal version of a design-driven property offering an authentic experience, as opposed to a charmless luxury hotel you can find anywhere. Other highlights include a bossa backdrop rooftop bar; on-site yoga and CrossFit classes held each morning in the outdoor gym; and a menu of curated experiences ranging from surfing and fishing to cocoa plantation tours, mangrove river cruises, and fish grilling on the river at sunset. Now that it has several fundamental memories, I make a wish to return to it.
If you need additional space, consult SLH Private collection. These freestanding upgrades redefine large living spaces. Barracuda is also a member of this, with its nine villas, each with four to eight bedrooms. You can rent a place for the whole family or for a special occasion. The cost of these villas per room is competitive with an individual hotel suite.
A free membership to SLH’s guest club gives you 10% off these properties, plus early check-ins, late check-outs and flexible bookings, and it’s easy to earn perks. You get free upgrades and breakfasts after just four nights at SLH properties and a $300 voucher after 13 nights. keep an eye on member-exclusive offersAlso. Hyat’s WorldMembers can also capitalize with participating SLH properties.
Here are nine other small luxury hotel spotlights worthy of a visit. Each is an independent destination in its own right, not to mention the fantastic cities, islands and landscapes they all call home.
Pousada de Lisboa is among the highest ranked properties in the SLH portfolio. Its charming location along the Lisbon river, right next to the Praça Comércio trams, is only part of the reason. The bustling, palatial hotel is housed in a century-old building next to the old Government Square, and its interiors are inimitable by today’s architectural standards. Be sure to dine in the inner courtyard or stroll through its vaulted public spaces.
Take the family or more to Riverview Ranch for a fever dream that would make Kevin Costner jealous. Here you can treat yourself to aAmerican Safarispotting elk, deer and eagles. Visit any time of year for the best deals of each season, from river floating, horseback riding and jet skiing in the summer to ice skating and snowmobiling in the winter. Everything slows down in Big Sky country, and the eight-bedroom Riverview Ranch is a great place to savor every moment that lingers.
The boutique Hotel Amparo reopens its doors in July 2023 after a renovation and will be ready to display its vibrant colors. The colonial town of San Miguel de Allende is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as one of Mexico’s most distinguished pueblos magicos (magical towns) that stand out for their beauty, history, culture and natural wonders. An hour’s drive from Mexico City, the five-key hospitable property is housed in an early 20th-century Spanish-style house.
Complete with Art Deco glamor and blue ribbon dining, the Plymouth South Beach looks like a film set and perfectly encapsulates everything Miami. Of course, South Beach is just therebut you don’t need to leave your poolside cabana as long as the mojitos are flowing.
Few hotels are as striking at first glance as Arctic Bath in Swedish Lapland. This 12-key property is part of Small Luxury Hotels’ Considerate collection and greets you with a floating walkway leading to your lakeside cabin. Glass walls and viewing terraces allow for admiring the Northern Lights or marveling at the midnight sun, and the property also offers a front seat to remote Sami culture. Befriend a reindeer or three, take a dog sledding trip, and top it off with a Svensk Arktisk massage.
The Battery is part of a members-only club near downtown San Francisco, but as a hotel guest you can enjoy the same high-level wellness perks plus access to the bar, wine cellar and renowned dining areas of the 14-room property. . Its signature is its colorful, art-filled interiors, while its location puts you close to the Embarcadero Center as well as the historic North Beach and Russian Hill neighborhoods.
Huvafen Fushi Maldives boasts the world’s first underwater spa, as well as the only underground wine cellar in the Maldives, and that’s just the icing on the cake on this private island paradise. You fly to the Maldives for the secluded bungalows of Huvafen Fushi, which have nothing but the blue of the ocean on the horizon. Just a 30-minute speedboat ride from Velana International Airport in the Maldives, you’ll have a drink in your hand, shoulder-deep in your private bungalow pool as soon as you arrive. Set aside time to snorkel in the lagoon or board the hotel’s Princess 54 yacht.
We love everything Dubrovnikexcept for the massive crowds, which is all the more reason to adore Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik. A few steps from the ramparts of the old town, the majestic hotel (part of SLH’s Considerate collection), marries a 20th century villa with modern luxurious details. This slight distance from the masses makes a huge difference. You can enjoy a private view of the Adriatic while peacefully watching hundreds of people crash on a small nearby beach. Excelsior’s parent company, Adriatic Luxury Hotels, plays an important role in preserving Dubrovnik’s medieval Old Town, championing sustainable tourism efforts and helping to clean up the Adriatic’s marine ecosystems.
The only thing that rivals the cozy interiors of the Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa is its postcard-like Adirondack landscape. The resort’s enduring appeal evolves with each season, offering lakeside, mountain-backed luxuriance on eight acres, five lodges, and 130 rooms. Skiers flock to these areas in the winter, and even beginners have a serious draw at Mirror Lake: two-time Olympic downhill ski medalist Andrew Weibrecht offers exclusive lessons to guests, perhaps because his family runs the lodge.