Our annual list of favorite hotels and inns will give you 22 reasons to leave home.

By Larry Bleiberg
September 03, 2008
Howard L. Puckett


Newport, Rhode Island

Prepare to feel spoiled. This converted mansion high above Easton Bay provides every amenity you can imagine and then some. No need to bother drawing your bath, for example; the bath butler can take care of that. Each of the 20 rooms reflects a different historical period or theme, artfully mixing gas fireplaces and antique furnishings with contemporary touches such as flat-screen TVs and sumptuous baths. The hotel's name reflects its location at the north end of the Cliff Walk, a 3 ½-mile waterfront path that provides views of the bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and some of Newport's most spectacular mansions.

• Rates range from $395 to $1,295; 401/847-1300 or thechanler.com.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Twenty-four shingled cottages perched on Old South Wharf's docks let you sleep over the water. In the heart of historic downtown Nantucket, the one-, two-, and three-bedroom units boast beautiful harbor views and contain polished pine floors and red, white, and blue nautical decor. Modern kitchens and baths, TVs with cable and DVD players, and wireless Internet bring the place up to date. Book a room with a private balcony or terrace, kick back, and watch the world go by.

• Rates range from $200 to $1,200; 866/838-9253 or thecottagesnantucket.com.

Greenport, New York

Goldilocks would approve of this Long Island inn. Not too big and not too small, it's just the right size for the personal attention of a bed-and-breakfast, but with conference facilities typical of large hotels. The 35 airy guest rooms feature luxurious Frette linens and showers with five showerheads. Most rooms afford views of Greenport Harbor, Peconic Bay, and Shelter Island. Guests don't have to venture far for a pleasant afternoon in a quaint seaside village. The hotel sits next to Mitchell Park―with its 1920s carousel, observation deck, harbor walk, and seasonal ice skating―and is just a few minutes' walk to The Frisky Oyster restaurant, itself worth the trip to Greenport.

• Rates range from $189 to $749; 631/477-0707 or theharborfrontinn.com.

New York, New York

Ah, to have a Manhattan apartment with an outdoor terrace and a river view! The Seaport Inn offers a taste of that life, and a glimmer of Old New York. The accommodations are comfortable but not swanky, and the included breakfast is pretty basic. But rooms on the top two floors come with roof terraces overlooking the East River and (for some) the looming Brooklyn Bridge. Shops, restaurants, and South Street Seaport's collection of maritime exhibits and historic ships lie steps away. And you can jog or stroll on the riverside promenade or across the fabled bridge. With subway lines nearby, this cheery inn makes an offbeat base for a New York visit.

• Rates start at $299; 212/766-6600 or seaportinn.com.

Solomons, Maryland

The Blue Heron offers four especially large guest rooms, but the most beguiling spaces are the smallest: window seats tucked into dormers. Both top-floor rooms have a pair, one each facing the Patuxent River and the sailboat-filled harbor. Just add a good book and a glass of Chardonnay from the "honor bar" for a blissfully lazy afternoon. Amanda Rutledge Comer, a trained chef who operates the inn with husband Chris, prepares wonderful breakfasts and will cook dinner on request. Guests also have access to bicycles, a kayak, the inn's dock, and first- and second-floor balconies that overlook the harbor.

• Rates range from $165 to $235; 410/326-2707 or blueheronbandb.com.


Duck, North Carolina

Accommodations at this Outer Banks resort are divided among three inns. Most rooms have private porches overlooking Currituck Sound or the beach, where anything from a beach wedding party to a red fox may wander by. Considered among the best places to watch the sunset, The Sanderling also offers spa services, gourmet cuisine, and the soothing sound of waves outside your window.

• Rates start at $129; 252/261-4111 or thesanderling.com.


Seaside, Florida

Love Vera Bradley's signature floral and paisley handbags? Now you can stay at an inn with the same sense of style. This past spring, the company revamped the B&B, giving it nine guest rooms and common areas decorated with primary hues and mixtures of blooming wallpaper, toile, and checked patterns. Beds dressed in matelassé coverlets and sateen sheets make for great snoozing, although the inn's savory breakfast nudges even sleepyheads downstairs. Then, step outside to the roomy porch and relax in wicker settees and chairs. A final bonus: You get to take a bit of the inn home with you. Guests receive a complimentary Vera Bradley tote bag.

• Rates range from $270 to $300; 800/358-8696 or innbytheseavb.com.

New Orleans, Louisiana

As visitors return to the Big Easy, nabbing a nice room at a fair price can be as challenging as finding a moment of stillness on Bourbon Street. The Lookout Inn offers a surprising alternative: large, comfortable rooms at an amazing price. You'll have access to a saltwater pool, hot tub, and satellite TV, plus the French Quarter less than two miles away. The catch? The historic Bywater area might give Crescent City first-timers pause. You'll find a neighborhood with a dash of grit: Carefully restored shotgun houses trimmed in gingerbread details share the block with sagging shacks. But crime is minimal here, so stroll a half-block to The Joint for what some call New Orleans' best barbecue. Or walk to Bacchanal, a wine shop that also sells pâté and cheeses, and sample your purchase in its courtyard garden.

• Rates start at $69; 888/947-8188 or lookoutneworleans.com.

Miami Beach, Florida

After a much-needed makeover, one of Miami Beach's Art Deco landmarks has gone from dowager to diva. Built in 1936, The Tides South Beach has 45 suites, all featuring sea views and serene decor. (To escape South Beach's hubbub, ask for an upper floor.) In front of the handsome coral-stone facade, guests lounge over the hotel's Popsicle martinis and observe Ocean Drive's endless parade. Inside, the lobby feels like a glamorous living room, flanked by two intimate bars and the acclaimed restaurant La Marea, where faux turtle shells line the wall like shields. A pool with cabanas supplements the beach.

• Rates range from $450 to $7,500; 800/439-4095 or tidessouthbeach.com.



Santa Monica, California

You can't beat the Huntley for location―two blocks from both the Pacific and Santa Monica's shop-lined Third Street Promenade. And the 42-year-old high-rise, which recently emerged from an $18 million makeover, still exudes Hollywood glamour. Guests now linger in a candlelit lobby that mixes tribal-influenced furnishings with splashes of whimsy, including a wall sculpture of 300 white ceramic piranha. Rooms offer high-thread-count comfort, big-screen plasma TVs, and ocean views. Definitely stop for a drink in the 18th-floor Penthouse restaurant, with what may be L.A.'s best Pacific panorama.

• Rates range from $469 to $1,900; 310/394-5454 or thehuntleyhotel.com.

La Jolla, California

The Grande Colonial Hotel has been a city staple since 1913. Last year, after a $5 million renovation, it brought the same sophistication and comfort to two adjacent historic buildings, the Little Hotel by the Sea & Garden Terrace Suites. All have kitchens or kitchenettes, and some have fireplaces. Guests love Little Hotel's rooftop library and terrace. Best of all, the buildings are a block from the beach and steps from the Prospect Street and Girard Avenue Shopping District, known for water-view dining, boutiques, and art galleries.

• Rates start at $375; 866/229-1146 or thegrandecolonial.com.

Manhattan Beach, California

The town's first boutique hotel, Shade, feels as cool as its name. Decorated in a crisp, modern style by Christopher Lowell, the rooms showcase king-size exotic wood beds and two-person tubs. The rooms will also cater to your mood. A special chromatherapy feature lets you adjust the color of lighting in your room from soothing blue to bold red, or any other shade that suits you. Or, you can always unwind with cocktails by the rooftop pool, or with a ginger-butter facial in the spa. The next morning, fire up the in-room espresso machine to kick off your day.

• Rates range from $295 to $805; 866/742-3377 or shadehotel.com.


Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Can't get to Bali? Tradewinds may be the next best thing. A recent reincarnation, designed by Charles Gruwell (best known for his work on Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino), follows the lines of the original 1959 motel: 28 units built on two levels enclosed around a central courtyard. What was the pool is now a multilevel meditation garden with waterfalls, tropical plants, and fire torches. Wooden Balinese beds, trickling in-room fountains, and Chinese cabinets hiding TVs bring the Zen indoors. Only glimmering views of Carmel Bay remind guests that they are, in fact, still in California.

• Rates range from $325 to $550; 800/624-6665 or tradewindscarmel.com.


San Francisco, California

Breeze through the superefficient check-in. Pause to savor the "welcome tea service" delivered to your door. Relax. Notice the serenity of the East-West blend of decor-conventional American furniture, but shoji screens instead of window curtains. Take a few minutes to enjoy the koi pond and Japanese gardens. Stroll the surrounding Japantown community, or learn about bonsai, calligraphy, sushi preparation, or other specialties in one of the weekly (starting in November) cultural presentations. Experience the elaborate, calming Japanese bath ritual, either at the nearby Kabuki Springs & Spa or in your room (where the bath butler can prepare everything for you). Close your eyes. Smile.

• Rates range from $159 to $389; 415/922-3200 or hotelkabuki.com.


Cannon Beach, Oregon

It may be one of the oldest lodgings on the Oregon coast (it's been in continuous operation since 1914), but it certainly doesn't feel like it. Recent upgrades―such as custom-designed furnishings and bedding―have brought this New England-style hotel up to modern luxury standards, all while retaining its warm character. Ask for a room with a claw-foot soaking tub and a four-poster bed. Most come with fireplaces and deep armchairs, but all get room-service breakfast delivered in a French market basket. It's hard to decide the best bonus feature: its proximity to one of Oregon's most picturesque beaches or the fact that it shares a building with Gower Street Bistro, a classy European-style eatery. Both are compelling, but the room rates probably win.

• Rates range from $85 to $185; 800/238-4107 or cannonbeachhotel.com.

Ilwaco, Washington

From the private deck of this B&B's sturdy Audubon Cottage, you'll scan Baker Bay and its heron-filled marshes, the old-growth forest of Cape Disappointment State Park, and the mouth of the distant Columbia River charging into the Pacific. Inside, the wood craftsmanship and tile work of Washington artists will capture your gaze. With one bedroom, one-and-a-half baths, and a kitchenette with a small refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker, the cottage marries fine antique furnishings and modern technology, such as wireless Internet and a 42-inch flat-screen TV. With equally dazzling views, the adjacent Main House has three individual guest room/bath suites and a common area. Complimentary breakfast is five minutes away at the owners' other property, the 15-room Shelburne Inn.

• Rates range from $215 to $295; 360/642-5660 or chinabeachretreat.com.


Victoria, British Columbia

This modern, sleek lodge seems out of place on the banks of Brentwood Bay. The wooded setting is peaceful, yet only a short drive from bustling Victoria. The boutique resort, which opened in 2004, features contemporary Pacific Northwest design and floor-to-ceiling bay views from each of its 33 suites. Furnishings include Italian linens and spa tubs that open to the bedroom. And forget parking in the Disneyland-like lot at nearby Butchart Gardens. Take a private water taxi directly from the lodge to the gardens' back entrance.

• Rates range from $179 to $699; 888/544-2079 or brentwoodbaylodge.com.



Honolulu, Hawaii

Follow the flagstone whale's tail to enter a world where a $4 million collection of sea-life artwork awaits exploration. Named after marine artist Robert Wyland, the ultrachic hotel reflects all things oceanic, from glass-bubble lamp stands to a tile dolphin mural on the bottom of the swimming pool. Five minutes from the beach, this property is a technophile's dream. The media room brims with cushy massage chairs, video games, and a wall-size flat-panel TV. The 403 guest rooms offer complimentary Internet, free calls anywhere in the United States for up to 15 minutes, and MP3 docking stations. Get a massage at an on-site spa or a cup of Hawaii-grown java at the hotel's coffee bar. Free Otter Pops poolside and Pixy Stix upon check-in boost the fun quotient.

• Rates range from $129 to $405; 808/954-4000 or thewylandwaikiki.com.


Chicago, Illinois

"The story of Hotel Burnham is architecture," proclaims the in-room directory. Indeed. The building opened in 1895 as a wonder of its age, a pioneering skyscraper (three blocks from lakefront Millennium Park) designed in part by Daniel Burnham, a titan of the era's "City Beautiful" movement. The hotel plays up its heritage but hardly lives in the past. Amenities include high-speed Internet and CD players, and a playful spirit (bold colors, animal-print robes) tempers the grandeur.

• Rates range from $199 to $399; 312/782-1111 or burnhamhotel.com.

Cleveland, Ohio

Smack in the center of downtown, The Ritz-Carlton is Cleveland's premier address. Each room offers views of Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River, or downtown. No need to venture beyond the marble lobby for breakfast―the on-site Muse restaurant whips up a delicious three-egg omelet. Most everything is nearby, actually. The hotel is part of Tower City Center, which contains a shopping mall and a rapid transit station offering airport connections. Plus the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is within walking distance.

• Rates start at $239; 216/623-1300 or ritzcarlton.com.


Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

It's hard to believe that this Colonial-style hacienda, filled with centuries-old artifacts and antique furnishings, opened just five years ago. Owner Janice Chatterton also purchased and transformed five neighboring villas, creating what is now an exquisite hotel. Splashing fountains, courtyards dripping with bright bougainvillea, and multiple ocean-view terraces provide oases throughout. Each of the 16 suites is different―some feature domed ceilings, rooftop terraces, or marble bathtubs―but all are decorated with European touches. A mariachi band kicks off cocktail hour every evening in the main villa, which was formerly owned by actor Richard Burton. Best of all, it's only a short stroll to restaurants and shops, or el malecón, the oceanside boardwalk known for its street performers, food carts, and people watching.

• Rates range from $260 to $680; 877/815-6594 or haciendasanangel.com.


St. Martin, French West Indies

This luxury resort and spa is one of the Caribbean's most seductive retreats. The Baie Royale Suite includes a private, oceanfront terrace with a romantically draped daybed and a plunge pool. Famed for its restaurants' exceptional French-Caribbean cuisine, La Samanna features an award-winning wine cellar. Guests are pampered with massages, scrubs, and wraps at Elysées Spa, which offers a "complete stress reduction" package. Come December, eight villas with three or four bedrooms, private terraces, and infinity pools will be available to rent.

• Rates range from $995 to $8,500; 800/854-2252 or lasamanna.com.