Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Retreat
Courtesy of Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Retreat
Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat located in the Cedar Mountains Wilderness Area, three hours from Cape Town, South Africa, provides a full-service hideaway with a wellness focus and access to original Bushman art sites.
updated 1/9/2010 8:34:27 PM ET 2010-01-10T01:34:27

Who says staying at the world’s best hotels has to cost a fortune? Travel + Leisure has ranked the top 500 hotels on earth, and—surprise!—more than 50 of them cost $250 or less.

Ranking hotels is no small undertaking. Every year, we ask our readers to vote on the places they’ve stayed recently. Thousands of readers share their expert opinions on their favorite—and not so favorite—properties.

What did we discover in 2009? That in a year filled with challenges, our readers still love hotels that deliver unique experiences and stellar service—particularly if the price is right.

In fact, the No. 1 hotel in California—the new 200-room London West Hollywood, set in the Hollywood Hills and known for its rooftop bar scene—is one of those $250-or-less properties. Not surprisingly, the hot rooftop scene is also a draw across the country at the Peninsula New York, ranked No. 3 in New York City.

But the top hotel in America was an unexpected choice: the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a secluded golf and spa resort in Bluffton, SC. It’s clear that travelers are looking for an escape from the daily grind.

Beaches, of course, make for an idyllic getaway, and Waikiki’s Halekulani remains a fan favorite even after 25 years, taking the No. 1 spot in Hawaii. The Halekulani wasn’t the only iconic hotel to take top honors: the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok placed first in the Thai capital (up from No. 3 in 2008), and Buenos Aires’s Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt (with its 700-label wine cellar and weekly tango lessons) ranked first in South America.

Earth Lodge at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
Courtesy of Earth Lodge at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
Earth Lodge at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in Kruger National Park Area, South Africa has13 butler-serviced suites built into the hillside.
Sometimes, however, getting away is all about intimacy, and our readers also love small hotels. The 32-room Domaine des Hauts de Loire, two hours from Paris, once again took top honors in Europe. And Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge (No. 1 in Central America) stole the show for its proximity to Mayan ruins.

But what everyone wants to know is: which hotel took top honors as the best in the world? Last year’s overall winner, Singita Sabi Sand, in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, didn’t repeat its victory. Its replacement—also in South Africa—is truly a contender: it was the highest-scoring hotel in the history of our survey.

So when you’re planning your 2010 getaway and looking for that perfect hotel—the one that combines luxury, service, and location—this is the list to consult. You may even find your dream hotel at a great price.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation


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