Hotel Spotlights

2020 Kiwi Collection Hotel Awards

Once again, we comb the depths of the collection to single out the year’s extra special hotels and resorts. While all of our hand-picked, invitation-only properties possess their own kind of magic, the 13 selected for our Kiwi Collection Hotel Awards are truly transcendent. Within their categories, they create a new, soaring standard for luxury. Each one has a different story to tell—be it rising from the ashes of natural disaster or making sustainability the modus operandi—but what unites them all is the unforgettable experiences they shape for their guests. May we present the best in class of 2020.

Wow Pick of the Year

Heckfield Place

Heckfield Place

Good things come to those who wait. For watchers of Heckfield Place’s progress—originally slated to open in time for the 2012 London Olympics—the wait has delivered an immaculate countryside retreat deep in the Hampshire heartland. Set on 400 sleepy acres, this 18th century estate has undergone a lavish restoration that straddles a respectful line between historic deference and satisfying the modern accoutrements expected by modern travelers. Michelin-starred chef Skye Gyngell helms the world class kitchens, with many ingredients hand-picked from the estate’s own organic farm. Keep an eye out for Prince Harry and Meghan, who chose Heckfield Place for their well-publicized ‘babymoon’ last year.

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BEST NEW HOTEL

Equinox Hotel, Hudson Yards

Equinox Hotel, Hudson Yards

Known as one of the world’s foremost fitness brands, Equinox has expanded their footprint into the world of luxury hospitality with the opening of the show-stopping Equinox Hotel in NYC’s emergent Hudson Yards. As one would expect, lifestyle and wellness are effortlessly meshed here, headlined by the largest-ever-built, 60,000 sq. ft. Equinox Fitness Club and SoulCycle. Not just a one-trick pony, Equinox called on superstar design firm Rockwell Group to handle the design, creating 212 memorable and boundary pushing accommodations. This bold design extends to the outdoor space, where the terrace’s infinity-edge pool is spectacularly fringed by a one-of-a-kind Jaume Plensa sculpture. Occupying 15 floors of Hudson Yards’ tallest building, Equinox Hotel offers a bold glimpse of the future of hospitality.

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BEST HOTEL COMEBACK

InterContinental Hayman Island Resort

InterContinental Hayman Island Resort

Forced into closure in the wake of Cyclone Debbie in 2017, InterContinental Hayman Island Resort has risen from the ashes to reinvent itself as one of Australia’s leading luxury resorts. No expense was spared throughout a lavish nine-figure restoration effort, that saw every element of the guest experience re-evaluated and enhanced for the modern traveler. The experience begins before one even sets foot on the island, with guests choosing to arrive by luxury catamaran, helicopter or floatplane. Upon arrival, guests can do as much, or as little, as they choose, with oceanfront pools, tropical gardens, rainforest hikes and the Great Barrier Reef providing ample distraction. With 166 thoughtfully appointed accommodations set across three wings—beach, pool and lagoon—guests are guaranteed a stunning vista wherever they lay their head.

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BEST FAMILY-FRIENDLY HOTEL

The Lodge at Blue Sky

The Lodge at Blue Sky

Nestled on the outskirts of Utah’s Park City, The Lodge at Blue Sky offers a rugged countryside retreat that’s perfect for the whole family. Against a backdrop of the Uinta and Wasatch Mountain Ranges there’s a swathe of activities to be discovered, ranging from guided kids-only experiences to moonlit snowshoe family treks. Let the kids play ranch hand for the day, guiding the resort’s gentle horses around the ample 3,500 acres of space. Thoughtful personalized welcome gifts and turndown amenities make younger VIPs feel right at home, while farm-to-table cuisine, the High West Whiskey Distillery, and cliffside wellness sanctuary are just some of the other highlights on offer for older guests. No matter the size of your tribe, the Lodge’s two-bedroom suites with connecting room options offer flexible sleeping arrangements to fit all.

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MOST ROMANTIC HOTEL

JOALI, Maldives

JOALI, Maldives

In 2019, we fell in love with the romantic stylings of JOALI, a sumptuous modern resort set on the 24-acre island of Muravandhoo. ‘No news, no shoes’ is the guiding philosophy here, with guests ensconced in a carefree vibe from the moment they set foot on the astonishing arrivals jetty—a Zaha Hadid-inspired creation designed to pay tribute to the local aquatic life. Couples are invited to take to the water on custom-designed sailboats for a morning picnic, or savor a romantic sunset cruise over amazing tapas and breathtaking views. Four restaurants and an organic fruit and herb garden anchor a world class dining selection, while a floating yoga pavilion, marble hammam and Espa spa products melt away the stresses of the outside world. In the Maldivian language of Dhivehi, ‘Joali’ is the word for hammock. Guests here will leave cradled, relaxed and rejuvenated.

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BEST SUSTAINABLE LUXURY

Six Senses Resorts & Spas

Six Senses Resorts & Spas

Sustainability came to the fore in 2019, led by the inspirational energy of Greta Thunberg and the Climate Strike movement. Travelers have responded with their wallets, placing an expanded emphasis on making sustainable vacation choices. While hotels are increasingly catering to this cohort, it’s an area Six Senses has been operating in for over 15 years. This year, the Thailand-based brand announced ambitious plans to go completely plastic free at all resorts by 2022. Each individual property also has a role to play, hosting, among a swathe of sustainable features, an organic garden and “Earth Lab” where guests can learn about the conservation efforts happening locally. With a Vice President of Sustainability appointed to the hotel group’s executive team, these efforts look set to increase in the coming years.

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BEST BOUTIQUE HOTEL

Cour des Vosges

Cour des Vosges

Despite their relatively small stature, boutique hotels tend to tell a unique story, one that’s emblematic of the place they call home. Cour des Vosges is no exception, occupying a hôtel particulier in Paris’ oldest square. There are just 12 guest accommodations in this glam retreat, each thoughtfully arrayed like a guest’s own pied-à-terre in the City of Lights. Like other properties in the EVOK Hotels Collection, Cour des Vosges mixes authentic period fixtures with 1970s modernism to create memorable interiors—think stainless steel fixtures alongside 17th century timber beams. We were pleasantly surprised to find the presence of Roman baths at the hotel, as well as the charming Tea Room with patisserie corner featuring the creations of award-winning pastry chef, Yann Brys.

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BEST HOTEL POOL

The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur

The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur

In the travel world you see a lot of pools. Some boast jaw-dropping vistas, some ingenious design—what unites them all is their ability to become the heartbeat of a luxury hotel. It’s a place where guests can kick back, relax, makes some waves, or simply people watch from behind the pages of a novel. Within a hotel modeled after a traditional Rajasthani palace, the pools at The Oberoi Udaivilas cut a regal figure, appearing still and glass-like under the afternoon sun. The main pool, encompassing an impressive 40,000 sq. ft. of space, sits on a floor of royal blue and cobalt blue tiles and is fringed by checkered stairs clad from white Thassos marble. For most hotels, this would prove spectacular enough, but The Oberoi Udaivilas isn’t your typical accommodation. There’s also the Mewar-inspired design of the adults-only spa pool, a serene place to relax while enjoying the vista of Lake Pichola.

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BEST BEACH HOTEL

Kokomo Private Island Fiji

Kokomo Private Island Fiji

Sitting in a far-flung corner of the Pacific Ocean, Kokomo Private Island Resort proved one of 2019’s best kept secrets. It isn’t likely to stay that way for long. First impressions are dramatic upon arrival, with guests swooping in over the world’s fourth largest barrier reef, the Great Astrolabe, in the resort’s own seaplane. The guest experience is second to none, with the presence of just 21 villas (plus five opulent residences) ensuring this tropical hideaway preserves the feel of a private island getaway. Guests are free to be as active, or laid-back, as they please with a world class spa, snorkeling, kayaking, sailing and dock-to-dish dining offering plenty to see and do. Sound too active? Take to your own private infinity pool and unwind amid swaying palms.

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BEST GOURMET GETAWAY

Borgo Santo Pietro

Borgo Santo Pietro

For this year’s Best Gourmet Getaway, we trek to Tuscany to salute one of the world’s foremost gastronomic hotels, Borgo Santo Pietro. This 800-year-old farmhouse oozes pastoral dreaminess, sprawling across 270 acres of rolling hills and beautiful vistas. Within, a farm-to-table dedication to organic and zero-kilometer produce guides a world class team of high powered chefs across the two Michelin-starred restaurants, Meo Modo and La Bottega del Buon Caffe. Food also proves a central theme to activities here, with guests invited to try their hand at a cheesemaking class, attend cooking school, or tune up their palettes for an afternoon of wine degustation. Speaking of imbibing, Borgo Santo Pietro’s cavernous wine cellar offers a playground for oenophiles with nearly 1,250 prestigious and boutique labels to decide over.

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BEST WELLNESS RETREAT

COMO Shambhala Estate

COMO Shambhala Estate

Wellness matters. It informs everything we do and every emotion we feel. And, in our hectic modern world, it’s all too easy for our daily stresses to wear us down and leave us in need of rejuvenation. Como Shambhala Estate exists to erase these feelings, promising a true “Retreat for Change” amid the calming environs of Ubud, Bali. Ensconced in world class accommodations, guests can avail of resident wellness experts like yogis, Ayurvedic doctors and even an in-house dietician. The estate’s holistic approach to well-being extends to a full slate of massage therapies, beauty treatments and more active pursuits like hiking, climbing and fully-featured gym facilities. For those in need of more lasting change, embark on one of the targeted Wellness Programs that cover multiple days. You’ll leave relaxed, cosseted and ready to tackle whatever the world throws your way.

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BEST FAR-FLUNG ESCAPE

Amanemu

Amanemu

For our Best Far-Flung Escape award, we consider hotels that take guests to a different world; one where relaxation and adventure flourish. This year, Amanemu took our breath away, presenting a vision of a rustic ryokan-inspired retreat that doesn’t skimp on contemporary luxury. Boasting beautiful minimalist design throughout, the hotel is located in a remote corner of Japan’s Ise-Shima National Park, far from the country’s well-trodden tourist hotspots. Guests are spoiled with cultural highlights, ranging from nearby UNESCO approved pilgrim trails, to fishing trips on Ago Bay where guests catch their evening meal alongside an expert angler. Elsewhere, the show-stopping Aman Spa, built on natural hot springs, boasts over 2,000 sq. m. of relaxation.

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BEST ADVENTURE GETAWAY

Zannier Hotels Sonop

Sonop Namibia

2019 proved the year Namibia strode confidently on to the luxury travel scene. Home to some of the world’s more striking desert vistas, several stunning accommodation options opened during the year, headlined by the beguiling Zannier Hotels Sonop. Raised on boulders to enhance viewing angles, each of the 10 lavish tent accommodations offer a trip through time, evoking a British colonial vibe with antiques, wood furnishings and ornate rugs. Nature is the real star of the show, with oryxes, brown hyenas, leopards and jackals traipsing past during the day. At night, far from city lights, take to one of the lodges many telescopes as the sky comes alive with stars. Despite the remote locale, pampering comes easy here with the presence of a spa, heated outdoor infinity pool, open-air cinema and private airstrip.

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Globe maps credit: freevectormaps.com