Alden Pellett  /  AP file
Twin Farms in Barnard, Vt. landed at No. 4 on Forbes.com's list of most expensive U.S. hotels.
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updated 9/30/2004 5:36:14 PM ET 2004-09-30T21:36:14

It helps to be one of the U.S.'s richest people to afford a stay at one of the most expensive hotels in the country, which range from the $5,000-per-night Mansion at MGM Grand in Las Vegas to the $600-a-night Inn at Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina.

As the adage says, you get what you pay for, and this certainly rings true with hotels. When booking a room, it's safe to say that any hotel in the $300-a-night price range will be quite good, or even great, depending on the location. So what exactly do you get for double, triple or, in some cases, more than ten times that price? It comes down to privacy, space and service.

The vast majority of the hotels on the list are tiny, averaging a capacity of about 20 rooms. The smallest hotel is the 11-bedroom The Point in the Adirondacks, with the largest being the 277-room Ritz-Carlton Central Park South in New York City. Most of the resorts are in secluded locations, such as Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys, and are often spread out on hundreds of acres so guests are assured of privacy. They're also getting plenty of attention, as the resorts on our list have a high staff-to-guest ratio. But at those kinds of prices, an attentive staff is expected.

Many of the resorts we thought would make it on the list — such as The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, or the Mauna Lani in Hawaii — have starting rates that were more reasonable than expected. The Mansion's rack rates start at $400, while the Mauna Lani's start at $385 per night. But after the starting rate, prices quickly shoot up to around the $800 mark. The largest luxury hotels have a wide selection of room types, so those who are price conscious can still experience what the resort has to offer, but often in a smaller room.

Most resorts all-inclusive
But guests are getting much more than just privacy and attention. Most of the resorts are all-inclusive, covering three gourmet meals a day, fitness activities, afternoon tea, and often spa treatments and wine. Some of the priciest resorts in the U.S. are the health spas, such as The Golden Door Fitness Resort and Spa outside San Diego, as well as Cal-a-Vie in Vista, Calif. One week at each spa costs $6,500 and $5,495, respectively, but absolutely everything is included, and guests don't have a to spend a dime more. Given that plenty of hotels cost more than that per night — and don't include food or activities — the price doesn't seem so bad after all.

To compile the list of the most expensive U.S. hotels, we looked at high-season rates for a standard double room. Some places, such as Twin Farms in Vermont, Cal-a-Vie and The Golden Door, have standard rates year-round but savvy bargain hunters could get considerable discounts if they're willing to travel off-season or during the shoulder season at resorts like Little Palm Island.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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