A few weeks ago I approached a number of travel bloggers and asked this question. What are your 1-3 all time favourite places to stay – be it a hotel, inn, hostel etc – and why???
I’ve had a huge range of answers from budget through to luxury, from Malaysia, Phillipines and Thailand through to Iceland and Italy, from the west coast to the east coast of North America and from South Africa to Australia to Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina.
This is a long read so go pour yourself a cup of coffee and then sit back and see where this set of travel bloggers likes to stay.
From me – Leigh McAdam of HikeBikeTravel
I had a hard time narrowing my choices down to three spots; part of the reason is that I do spend a lot of time researching before I go so I’ve had more than my fair share of gems. I’ve often found that the more expensive places (except in Africa) don’t mean a better experience. What I look for is a special ambiance and the presence of kind, considerate and interesting people – in the staff and also in the types of guest the place attracts. I don’t think you’ll go wrong with these three.
- Hotel Casa Aliso in Quito, Ecuador. This is a small, boutique hotel within walking district of the tourist area. It is a very friendly and accommodating spot with breakfast included with your room. Rates are from $US150. This was my favourite place to stay in Ecuador and service beat out anything the larger hotels could offer. On our first day they were gracious in providing afternoon tea in bed as we tried to get onto the time zone.
- Domaine du Vieux Couvent, Havre aux Maisons, Magdalen Islands, Quebec. I fell in love with the pictures on the web before we even got to this place last summer. The old nun’s convent oozes history and charm. Our room was extremely well appointed and had a wonderful view to the sea. Breakfast is included and the evening dinner is worthwhile for the upbeat vibe. Staff are exceedingly friendly and helpful too.
- Estancia de las Carreras near Tafi del Valle in central Argentina. Rooms are well appointed with country views – think cows and horseback riders. The place was built by the Jesuits in 1718 and the living room is filled with interesting artifacts. Every room and every hallway has lovely touches and lots of personality. Meals are excellent, and the wine is well priced and delicious. It’s a super place for bird watching, horseback riding and hiking and lounging. It would make a terrific base for a few days of hiking. There’s also an onsite cheese factory.
We’ve been fortunate enough to stay in many different type of accommodations from campgrounds to boutique hotels. Some of our favorite accommodations have been:
- Reykjavik Campground – Iceland For starters it was only about $10 per person a night. It was in an ideal location – only10 minute walk from the center of the city. It was also run in conjunction with the hostel in front of it and you could use the hostel amenities for no extra charge (wifi, tvÂ room, etc). The cherry on top was the thermal pools next door which were only about $3 for the entire day!
- Cerreto Libri – Pontassieve, Italy This is the farm that we wwoofed at in Italy. It was a 300 year old farmhouse and vineyard and it was pretty incredible. It was a very magical place and will always hold a special place in both of our hearts. We included it on this list because in addition to housing wwoofers they have another, even older, villa on the property that they rent out for agrotourismo guests.
- Copley Square Hotel – Boston, MA This was an amazing place! It’s a boutique hotel located right in the heart of Boston and it’s beautiful! The service was impeccable, the location was perfect and the bed was extremely comfortable. This place was top notch!
- For exotic luxury, Lion Sands Ivory Lodge located in South Africa’s Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, wins hands down. Picture a luxurious two-room villa with a plunge pool on a private game viewing deck. Early morning and late afternoon game drives are complemented by gourmet meals.
- On Hawaii’s Big Island, Waianuhea Bed and Breakfast offers a luxurious, laid back vibe in an off-the-grid setting. That’s right, you may be soaking in aloha luxury halfway between Hilo and Kona on the Hamakua coast, but you’d never know that the electricity is solar-generated or that the water is harvested from Hawaii’s abundant rainfall.
- A stay in one of the barn suites at Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley takes relaxation to new heights. After a day of wine tasting at some of California’s best wineries, a flick of a switch turns on the two-way fireplace in the bedroom of your suite. Lounge by the patio or watch the fire from the king-sized bed. It’s your call.
From Catherine Sweeney of Traveling with Sweeney
- We visited Anguilla before it was as popular a destination as it is now. Covecastles Resort was a luxurious treat. It was designed by renowned architect, Myron Goldfinger, and featured in Architectural Digest. Everything was top quality in our two-story, one-bedroom beach house, located right on a gorgeous, private beach. There was an excellent restaurant on site where dinner was prepared, but served to us course by course in the dining area of our beach house.
- Point-No-Point is a small, secluded resort near Sooke on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. Our cabin was near the cliff where we overlooked the shoreline from our large picture window and front porch. The one-bedroom cabin was rustic, but very comfortable and cozy with a fireplace and full kitchen. There was great hiking at the resort and nearby along the coast. Although Point-No-Point is in a somewhat remote location, it has a highly-regarded gourmet restaurant on site. We had a table by the window where we watched a spectacular sunset during dinner.
For me, the best places to stay are places that offer you more than just a room. Quite honestly, I am not picky when it comes to hotels, hostels or inns. But every once in a while, I like to splurge. When I travel, quaint, cozy and simple is all that I look for. Two of my favorite places to stay definitely fit these criteria.
- Baracka B&B in Ronda, Spain One of the best places I ever stayed was an affordable B&B in Ronda, Spain. Run by a lady named Anahid, the rooms were nice, simple, and affordable. However, what made the experience was Anahid. Part of our stay included a two hour conversation with Anahid and a couple of other travelers. One of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Read all about my fantastic stay at the Baracka B&B with Anahid.
- A cabin in Lake Tahoe, CA For me, I love the outdoors and one of the most peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful places to visit is Lake Tahoe, California. Every year, I stay at a cabin owned by family and enjoy a peaceful, authentic experience. For those who don’t have the option of a family cabin, there are some cabins to rent available as well as campsites at Camp Richardson – which I have also done and love.
- Solage Calistoga in Calistoga, California Definitely not a budget option as room rates are around $400 and up. However, this was a place I loved because it was about connecting with the community. While the rooms and suites were fabulous, it also included bikes. One of the best experiences was biking around town and seeing places many people don’t get to see. If you enjoy spas and a romantic weekend getaway with a chance to connect with a town, it’s a beautiful place to visit in the Napa Valley area.
From Lash of Lash World Tour
When selecting places to stay during my world travels I really value quiet, privacy and cleanliness. As a budget traveler, cost is also a big consideration. Beyond these priorities I give ‘gem’ status to places that offer either of the following:
- Nature, gardens and/or scenic views
- Charm: great architecture, cultural detailing, quirkiness, something unique.
Quite happily I’ve developed a long trail of such gems scattered all over Asia in every country I’ve visited. The following I’ve singled out as places I return to repeatedly and which I frequently recommend to travelers I meet along the way:
- Riverview Guesthouse, Bangkok, Thailand: 768 Soi Panurangsri, Songvad Road, Sanjao Josuekong, Talad Noi, Bangkok / phone: 66-2-234-5429
Riverview is essentially a 2-3 star hotel right on the banks of the Chao Praya River near the Royal Orchid Sheraton, far far from Khao San Rd. Large standard rooms have balconies overlooking the river. Backpacker rooms with sweeping views of Bangkok’s skyscrapers cost 200B at my last visit. Riverview’s top 8th floor sports an open-air restaurant with spectacular views along the river as well as the sky-scrapers of Siam and Sukhumvit areas. It’s like staying in NYC for just $5/day! The surrounding neighborhood feels like ‘real Thailand’ full of Chinese-Thai mechanic shops and with a startling little fresh market and many delicious local restaurants. Very few people speak English. This hotel is really very difficult to find the first time. Go to the Royal Orchid Sheraton and ask the bell-hops to point the way… Once you get down the correct alley look for hand made signs.
- Hotel Nobel Penang, Malaysia Located just off Jalan Chulia, Penang’s main backpacker street
Penang’s plentiful budget guesthouses are a complete nightmare for anyone who values quiet! They are all Chinese-style hotels which means that the walls do not go entirely to the ceiling. Instead, the top foot or so is left open, for air flow I presume. The result is NOISY. From these rooms you can hear everything going out in the entire hotel- neighbors talking or…?@%?, lobby TV blaring, doors opening and closing, showers and toilets, entire conversations. You get the picture. I don’t honestly know how anyone sleeps there?! Hotel Nobel is the ONLY quiet budget place I’ve found in all of Penang! I’ve searched high and low, hours upon hours, spent untold sleepless nights in a dozen Chinese style hotels during numerous trips, all to my utter dismay. So man was I happy to find Hotel Nobel! The secret to quiet there is thick 1-foot cement walls. Walls that reach the ceilings. Since Hotel Nobel is extremely popular with long time travelers, you must book a reservation at least one week beforehand if you ever hope to get a room. If you just show up, forget it. Rooms 18- 20 RM ($6- 7 US)
- Puri Asli 2 Ubud Bali, IndonesiaÂ Sukma St 59, Peliatan , Ubud Phone: 62-361-973-210
Ubud still has many guest houses and homestays for budget travelers. My favorite is located in Peliatan, the southeastern outskirts of Ubud, and home to Bali’s most famous dance/gamelan troupes. Puri Asli 2 is run by a Balinese family who offer 4 stand alone Balinese style bungalows at the far end of their family compound, surrounded by gardens on the edge of a bamboo forest. Each room has a large balcony, hot showers (rare treat for budget rooms in Asia) and amazing Balinese design detailing. A splendid room service breakfast is included in the room rate. In 2010, 80,000 – 100,000 rp ($8- 10 US)
- My favorite place to stay is on a live-aboard for diving. In essence a live-aboard is really a “moving hotel,” which as a traveler I really appreciate. When you get tired of one dive spot, the captain takes the boat to another one, while you enjoy a tasty lunch prepared by the ship’s chef, or a nap on the rooftop deck. Another reason why I love liveaboards is that they provide access to places not reachable any other way. I went to Cocos Island, the world’s largest uninhabited island and home to one of the largest schools of hammerhead sharks on the planet by live-aboard, the only way to get there as it is more than 500km off the west coast of Costa Rica. Other memorable live-aboard diving vacations have included the Galapagos, the Red Sea and Palau, in which I have seen schools of hundreds of hammerheads, whale sharks and the island where the popular TV show “Survivor Palau” was filmed. The nicest live-aboard I have stayed on is the “Tropic Dancer” in Palau which was luxuriously furnished and in which the chef outdid himself at every meal. The other benefit of live-aboard is that you really connect with the other divers since you are living in such close quarters. I have made friends that I am still in touch with from almost every live-aboard I’ve ever been on and even met my now fiancée on my first live-aboard!
- Palace Hotel Lucerne (Switzerland) A 5* hotel is not my usual fare but I have to say, living in the lap of luxury for a few days was a very nice treat (on the Swiss tourist bureau!). Everything was amazing with this hotel. The only thing I could complain about was they wouldn’t bring an iron to my room. Besides the sumptuous room, the views completely sold me.
- Gasthof Fraundorfer Partenkirchen (Germany) My favorite type of lodging is traditional hotels with a very local atmosphere. This describes Gasthof Fraundorfer in Partenkirchen Germany to a T! The 150 year old charming Bavarian inn has great breakfasts and hospitality with very comfortable rooms. The bottom floor is a restaurant serving traditional Bavarian food along with oompah band and dancers. If you want Bavarian atmosphere, this is it!
- Sleepy Hollow Lodge, West Yellowstone (Montana, USA) The fact that this lodge is one of my favorites has nothing to do with the actual lodging. Traditional hand-hewn log cabins didn’t fully live up to my expectations and the fact that the cabin didn’t have a kitchen like I thought it would didn’t help either. The dorm room size refrigerator/freezer barely held the food I brought with us but I love this place anyway. Every evening, as we tried to cook our dinner on the BBQ, we played Rummy Cube with our 3 kids and drank wine or beer. It really was a lesson in making do with what you have. It’s important to have a sense of humor when traveling especially when you are trying to figure out how to cook spaghetti on a BBQ! One of our family’s favorite adventures!
- When I checked into the Ritz-Carleton Laguna Niguel near Huntington Beach in southern California, I knew immediately that I was in for a rare treat. The valet who took the luggage out of our car politely and respectfully refused my tip. When I went to the front desk, he stayed with my luggage and did not leave until a bellman approached. The next morning, while having breakfast, I asked the host where the women’s restroom was. Instead of giving directions, he said, “right this way mam,” and he walked me to the area where the restrooms were (At one point, I thought he was going to walk in with me!) I even hurried because I thought he might be waiting to walk me back to the restaurant. I was participating in a business seminar, so I didn’t leave the hotel for two days. On the third day, when I stepped outside to hand my parking ticket to the valet, before I even reached him he said, “Hello, Miss Vance, are you enjoying your stay? He actually remembered my name. Now I understand what they mean when they say “It ain’t the Ritz,” when comparing other hotels. There is simply no greater customer service in the industry and it made my stay the most memorable experience I’ve ever had while traveling the world.
- Red Inn Located on Love Lane in downtown historical Penang, Malaysia. The Inn offers everything from dorm rooms to private rooms. I opted for the deluxe twin private with private bath at $US28.00/night including continental breakfast. The spotless rooms are bright and spacious with hardwood floors, comfy bed, and a modern bath. Free wi-fi is also available in the room. There are lots of outlets to charge your gadgets. I loved the location. I was able to walk everywhere, and felt perfectly safe walking along the lane at night. Cons: There is a lot of noise from the street at night. Take some earplugs! Secondly, for $28.00/night I expected daily room cleaning. I was there two nights and the room was not cleaned. Those two negatives aside, I would stay here again.
- Rembrandt Serviced Apartments. Their rate is a little more than I generally spend, but I found a deal at Latestays.com. The Rembrandt is located off of Sukhumvit 22, Soi 20 in Bangkok. I initially booked their studio room at $50.00US/night. However, on arrival, the staff couldn’t find my reservation. It took a while to sort out, and I was upgraded to a one-bedroom unit at the same price. The apartment is awesome. There’s a separate living room/dining room/kitchen; very well furnished. The bedroom has a lovely queenside bed, and the bathroom is totally modern. I would not have had a problem living there long term. The nightly rate included daily cleaning, bottled water. The apartments are located a few minute’s walk from the Sky Train. Cons: Check-in was difficult. Be sure to have your confirmation printed out. That issue aside, I would definitely stay here again.
- Sylvia Hotel, Vancouver, BC When the desk clerk knew the name of a four-legged customer arriving with his human companion, I knew I had checked into my kind of hotel. The pet-friendly ambiance of Vancouver, Sylvia Hotel has even been commemorated in two children’s books about Mr. Got To Go. The stray cat wandered into the lobby and became a permanent resident. The heritage hotel is tucked among taller neighbours, within steps of the beach. The 1912 exterior looks much the same as it did when the hotel was built, though a live covering of Virginia creeper has softened the brick. There are more modern, luxurious hotels in Vancouver, but I doubt there are any that are friendlier or more accommodating. The location is ideal. The Sylvia is right on English Bay, two blocks from Stanley Park, at the edge of downtown, and within easy walking distance from many good restaurants. When I stayed there, the only wireless was in the lobby. The upside of that was the number of canines who stopped to make my acquaintance.
- Bimbi Caravan Park, Cape Otway, Great Ocean Road, Australia With the choice of bare-bones Bimbi Caravan Park, I definitely confess my preference for experience over luxury. We opted for one of the camper vans that dot the grounds. That put the amenities block far enough away that a midnight biffy (aka toilet) run was impractical. In exchange we slept in a comfortable bed, prepared our own meals, and quickly discovered why the park is well named. Bimbi means a place of many birds in the local Aboriginal language. Cheeky kookaburras, crimson rosellas, and melodious magpies were the most common wildlife visitors, but my favourite park neighbours were a mammal. Koalas perched sleepily in the crooks of tall gum trees. They need nineteen hours a day to digest their diet of eucalyptus leaves, plenty of time for people like me to photograph them unobtrusively. The park has some cabins with ensuite, lots of camping spaces, and places to park caravans, but we would quite happily opt for the vans again.
My best hotel experience ever was in Venice. We arrived late at night as part of a large group, and when the hotel front desk people distributed the rooms, they realized (I suspect) that they were one regular room short, so they had to throw in what must have been their Royal Suite and we were the lucky ones who got it. They almost certainly gave us such preferential treatment only because we had our small son with us, two weeks short of his second birthday, and you know how the Italians are with bambini. But I forgot the name of the hotel. I may love to remember this, but will it do anybody else much good? Probably not, which is why I am going to talk only about hotels whose names and exact locations I do remember, starting with an advice for all those who love hiking – a type of holiday which is, as some of you may be aware, particularly close to my heart.
- Everybody who loves hiking will sooner or later get to Moab in the US state of Utah, the hub for explorations of several National Parks in the area. If and when you do so, do yourself a favour and stay at the Apache Motel. Book early – a couple of days before your arrival should do the trick as long as you stay ahead of the rush and you may be allocated one of their large double rooms with a separate kitchen. John Wayne stayed here when they shot The Searchers (in near-by Monument Valley), so you are free to imagine yourself drinking your whiskey from the same fridge as The Duke.
- Another place I loved is the Venice Beach Hostel near Los Angeles. It is right in the middle of all the action and blends in perfectly, too. I am sure that there will be plenty of people who sneer at the whole concept of Venice – the Californian version, that is, not the one with gondolas and a soft spot for little bambini. But don’t let their snobbery deter you. It is still a fun place to visit, particularly if you are young, and the Hostel is the ideal base for experiencing it all.
- And for something completely different. Carmel is neither a Mecca for hikers nor a town which would appeal a great deal to young people, I suspect. In fact, it is the most geriatric town I have ever been to – the kind of place where you feel that as soon you raise your voice beyond a reverent hush, a policeman will come and tell you to keep the volume down so as not to upset the residents. The day was saved, by the Carmel River Inn: a motel composed of little individual buildings, right in the middle of the lush Californian countryside, complete with birdsong and squirrels. And the best: every house has a little terrace which is perfect for an al fresco dinner. On the same holiday, we visited Vegas, the Grand Canyon and the Dodger Stadium, but it is the memory of that evening dinner we had by the terrace of our cottage which will stay with me forever.
- Sol y Luna Coroico, Bolivia One of my favorite places to stay in South America is an eco-lodge called Sol Y Luna in Coroico, Bolivia. For $22 a night I was able to rent my own cottage with a view of the mountains and the forest. It had a hammock, a kitchen and small garden with a fireplace! I could here the sound of birds and cicadas during the day. At night it was quiet with a view of the stars. I love this place because it was where made important realizations. I finally admitted to myself that I want to take a gap year to travel the world.
- Frendz Resort Boracay, Philippines Frendz Resort is my absolute all-time favorite place to stay in the Philippines because it holds a lot of memories. I rented a roomy native cottage with a loft for a month for $400/month (thatâ€™s $13/day). It could fit 4-6 people so I had different batches of family or friends coming to stay with me throughout the month. I was there for a short sabbatical from work that started the day after Christmas so I spent the rest of the New Year at an island paradise. I became an island hippie and collected friends from all over the world, most of whom I am still in contact with!
Two favourites come to mind.
- The Grape Leaf Inn in Healdsburg, California offers wine tasting of unique boutique wines in the pre dinner hour and the gourmet breakfast is notable especially with honeydew melon shooters presented to start the day. You’ll find a relaxed atmosphere and it’s only a short walk into the town of Healdsburg.
- The Belden-Stratford Hotel in Chicago, Illinois is on the National Register of Historic Places and directly across from three sights – the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Peggy Notebaert nature Museum and the Conservatory. Rooms are huge with a separate dining area and full kitchen. It’s our first choice for any return visits to Chicago.