he galaxy of five-star hospitality added several new constellations this year as Forbes Travel Guide announced its 2019 Star Award winners—the 61st annual list of the world’s finest hotels, restaurants and spas.
In rating the most luxurious locales this year, Forbes Travel Guide explored many new destinations—from Anguilla, Bahrain, Belize and Doha to Hanoi, Istanbul, Oman, Perth, Tel Aviv and Uruguay.
To evaluate properties, Forbes Travel Guide’s incognito inspectors pay their own way, checking into a hotel for a minimum of two nights and posing as ordinary guests. Once there, they test up to 900 objective, exacting standards—including whether a staff member greets them curbside within 30 seconds of arrival, whether housekeeping places toiletries on top of high-quality liners, and whether clothing left around a room is folded neatly within immediate view after turndown service. The ratings calculate 75 percent of a hotel’s score based on its level of service, while the remaining 25 percent is determined by the quality of its facilities.
In all, this year’s list features 21 new Five-Star hotels, 49 new Four-Star properties and 62 new Recommended hotels. Feast your eyes on the full list of star-rated properties here, and gaze at the most notable new five-star hotels, restaurants and spas below.
The Peninsula Hotels group emerged as the biggest winner in 2019 with The Peninsula Manila earning its inaugural Five-Star award. That rating gives the Hong Kong-based brand a total of ten top-rated hotels and makes it the first all-Five-Star hotel company in Forbes Travel Guide history. Bulgari Hotels & Resorts also had a stellar year, claiming a trifecta of Five-Star honors for Bulgari Hotel Beijing, Bulgari Hotel & Residences, London and Bulgari Resort Bali. (This marks the first Five-Star wins for the company synonymous with the luxurious Roman jeweler.)
A number of hotels were the first in their respective country to receive the Five-Star distinction—among them are Malaysia’s Crockfords at Resorts World Genting, a secret spot whose luxurious rooms are mostly reserved for the high rollers at nearby casinos; Portugal’s Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, an iconic property with a rooftop track with one of the best views of the city; South Korea’s The Shilla Seoul, a historic hotel outfitted with the latest technology from owner Samsung; Turkey’s Raffles Istanbul, which has an unforgettable location in Zorlu Center mall, amid high-end shops, restaurants and an Eatlay; and Vietnam’s Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An (top), a dreamy beach escape with three tiers of infinity pools and breezy villas.
Other newcomers to the list include three hotels in the British capital: The Langham London, whose acclaimed Artesian bar is a destination unto itself; Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, making a triumphant comeback after a June 2018 fire; Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard, London, which resides in one of city’s most recognizable towers. In addition, five-star awards went to Fairmont Pacific Rim, a sleek, Vancouver hotel offering Coal Harbour vistas and the see-and-be-seen restaurant Botanist. Paris’ Hôtel de Crillon, an 18th-century grande dame that underwent a major face-lift in 2017; and Abu Dhabi’s Four Seasons Hotel on Al Maryah Island, where each of the bright, modern rooms comes with views of the glittering gulf.
And there are two new Five-Star standouts in the United States: On the tiny, 141-square-mile Hawaiian isle of Lanai, Four Seasons Resort Lanai offers the exclusivity of a private island along with amenities such as a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course overlooking the ocean. (Bill Gates got married on the stunning 12th hole.) Salamander Resort & Spa, an elegant, equestrian-themed countryside getaway outside of Washington, D.C., was inspired by the home of Sheila Johnson, founder of the Salamander Hotels & Resorts group and cofounder of BET.
For those who let their appetite guide them, six new restaurants, including five in Macau, captured the coveted Five-Star achievement for the first time. They include Mizumi, Sichuan Moon by Andre Chiang and Wing Lei Palace—all housed in the lavish, flower-filled Wynn Palace, which now counts four top-rated fine-dining venues, including previous five-star recipient Sushi Mizumi—plus Robuchon au Dôme at Grand Lisboa Hotel and acclaimed chef Lam Yuk Ming’s Pearl Dragon at Star Tower at Studio City Macau.
In the United States, Santa Monica’s Dialogue—an intimate 18-seat restaurant led by chef Dave Beran, tucked on the second floor of a food court above an ice cream parlor—also received the prestigious Five-Star rating, joining the ranks of New York’s iconic Eleven Madison Park and Chicago’s molecular gastronomy mecca Alinea.
Eight new Five-Star and 21 new Four-Star spots were named among the most sumptuous spas, including The Spa at The Post Oak Hotel in Houston, now Texas’ sole top-rated spa.
Other Five-Star recipients in the United States include The Spa & Salon at ARIA in Las Vegas, whose highlights include a Shio salt room and heated-stone ganbanyoku beds; the 5,000-square-foot La Prairie Spa at Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, the only place in Los Angeles to offer treatments by the premium Swiss skincare line; and The Spa at The Breakers Palm Beach, which features 17 treatment rooms, multiple salon stations and a fitness center with ocean views.
The cliffside Bulgari Spa Bali was among those abroad to clinch the pinnacle distinction, along with the 16,000-square-foot Ritz Spa in Lisbon, the nature-inspired Spa at Esperanza in Cabo San Lucas and Zensa Spa in Macau, which showcases a one-of-a-kind “snow room.”
For more stargazing, the full list of Forbes Travel Guide Star Award winners can be found here.