November 25, 2018

The 6 Best Hotels I Stayed in This Year

There's nothing I love more than the feeling of freedom that comes along with arriving solo at an airport in a foreign country. Travel is one of my greatest loves—maybe it's because I grew up in New York, and as much as this city has to offer, it can also feel stifling and claustrophobic (like, I never get to see the sky) after too many weeks on the ground—and this year I was lucky enough to do my fair share of country-hopping, mostly for work, but oftentimes with a few extra days tacked on pre- and post- for personal exploration. Here are the 6 best hotels I got to stay in this year—they're all fantastic and memorable for different reasons.

Waldorf Astoria Beijing: The perfect city-center location for a long shopping or sightseeing weekend in town, the Waldorf Astoria is one of the most beautiful city hotels in Beijing—and, for sure, one of the most luxurious. I used my Hilton status to upgrade to a suite and it was so nice, I just about wanted to move in. The food and spa in the hotel are also spectacular—make sure to grab a casual lunch in Peacock Alley, and breakfast in the main restaurant shouldn't be missed.

The Grand Hyatt Xi'an: Situated in the high-tech district in Xi'an, this new-in-2018 high-rise luxury property-meets-convention-center is a nature-design-inspired breath of fresh air—and a sea of calm in the middle of an ultra-modern city. The restaurants are all uniquely themed and excellent—especially the pan-Asian barbecue restaurant Maple House, a must-visit destination for a long, leisurely dinner.

SLS Baha Mar: I visited the SLS in Baha Mar when it first opened—and I still tell people, today, how incredible the rooms and the property are. Each hotel in the Baha Mar collection has its own unique vibe and characteristics, so I'd recommend checking them all out before you decide which one suits your personality and travel needs best. I loved the quiet and low-key luxury of the SLS.

JW Marriott Austin: I've been to SXSW Interactive several times as a speaker and mentor, and the JW Marriott is, hands-down my Austin hotel favorite (I've also stayed at two other properties in town and they're great—but the JW is one of the only hotels in the city center that doesn't have all the roads around it shut down during the festival—this is key for getting in and out of town to and from the airport as well as to further-afield restaurant reservations). To me, the JW brand is the quintessential luxury business traveler hotel—great executive lounges, polished-but-not-too-familiar service, fancy-but-not-too-fancy everything, good spas, good dining options. I've stayed at a few around the country / the world and it's a brand I feel like I can always trust.

The Temple House Chengdu: To me, the Temple House in Chengdu is the only place to stay in Chengdu—the location, smack dab in the center of the city in a semi-tranquil oasis of lowrises and attached to some of the best shopping and dining areas in town, is unbeatable. The rooms are also ultra-chic, quiet, and beautiful, and the in-house restaurant and facilities (that swimming pool!) are excellent. The staff are also some of the best in the business and you'll want to be best friends with all of them.

Surfrider Malibu: I stayed at the Surfrider Malibu back before it was even the Surfrider Malibu—years ago, it was a small apartment complex and I used to rent a place on Airbnb from a surfer who kept a studio there. Since its transformation into a boutique hotel, it's my go-to spot in L.A. (besides Chateau Marmont, which is just the hands-down ultimate in-town hotel). For a non-driver, the Surfrider's location right across the street from the Malibu Pier and just a 10-minute walk from Malibu Country Mart can't be beat. It's also next door to Casa Escobar, a really great Mexican restaurant where I happily eat 30 percent of all my meals when I'm in the neighborhood, and the Malibu outpost of Aviator Nation, my favorite sweatpants store on Earth. Make sure to check out the private guests-only bar-restaurant on the roof deck of the Surfrider—great food, great views.