Have you ever wondered what makes a hotel a good hotel or a restaurant a good restaurant? How the place looks and how good the food is are probably secondary though: how the overall experience makes you feel is what really counts. When leaving a hotel, the question I always ask myself is whether I came back or not. If you are a traveller seeking new adventures all the time you may often decide to stay in different places in the same city to feed your inner pilgrim and keep your stay exciting. However, every now and then you run into these magical places that make you feel fortunate to be there and want to come back and experience them all over again.My list of favourite hotels is short but sweet – all of them with their own kind of magic making you wish you could stay forever.
1. The Sheridon, Sabang, The Philippines
The Puerto Princessa Underground River, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is just a stone throw away from this breath-taking setting, hidden behind hilly jungles and surrounded by cheeky monkeys begging for some nibbles. If it wasn’t for this natural wonder we would never have ended up in The Sheridon: arriving on the beach to spend the day exploring the sub-terrain river we immediately fell in love with everything in Sabang: the hot sand under our feet, the endless waves, hills behind us and the ocean in front. We were originally booked into another hotel in Puerto Princessa, a 40 minute drive thru tiny jungle villages (Stopped for a little hike on the way back. The surprise is that the only way to get down of the mountain is a zipline. One of the scariest but coolest thing I’ve ever been forced to do!). Returning to the hotel we decided to change the original plan, get on a bus the day after and head back to Sabang, Lucky enough we managed to book the last available room which was absolutely amazing, just by the pool and a 20 meter walk from the ocean. What makes this hotel my absolute number 1 is all the little details that came with what was given by Mother Nature: the pool with a bar in the middle, Pina Colada made with fresh coconut, massage in the sunset and movie nights on the beach. I would have stayed here for the rest of the holiday, but back then we didn’t yet know what was waiting for us in El Nido…
2. Cauayan Island Resort, El Nido, The Philippines
A bumpy 5 hour ride to El Nido followed as we left Sabang, chatting to backpackers and experiencing our first ever mango border control (The municipal government of El Nido is monitoring the town’s entry points to ensure that mango from southern Palawan are prevented from gaining access to their area to prevent the spread of mango pulp weevil). Arriving in the harbour of El Nido we didn’t quite know what would happen as no one seemed to know where we were supposed to go. Then a lady walked up to us wearing the name of the hotel on her shirt – and the real fairy tale began. We boarded a speedboat for a 20 minute ride between towering marble cliffs and enchanting lagoons heading towards Cauayan Island in El Nido Bay in the South China Sea. As we walked up to the top of the stairs on the island everything felt unreal, I have never seen anything like that before. This unspoilt Paradise is a real life Instagram filter and probably the most beautiful place on Earth. Peace, quiet, the kindest people you will meet, colours you’ve never seen and pristine beauty is all that you can expect. You will have your own private lake and outdoor shower in the back of your little private house. Everything is picture perfect and very very private. Signing up for an island hopping trip the hotel offered was probably the best holiday experience in my life. We had a whole day on the water hopping from island to island to explore the incredible underwater World that only Palawan can offer. From Secret Beach, that is hidden from the outside and unless you dive thru a little cave you’d never know it existed, to fishing and barbecuing fresh king prawns on the boat everything felt like a dream on this island.
3. Liberty hotel, Boston
This is a very different story: big city, American dream, sunshine and lobster. I love a good story and this place has an awesome one. The name Liberty gives away the main feature of the hotel: set in a converted jail in the vibrant Beacon Hill neighborhood, this high-end hotel is 3 minutes’ walk from the Charles River Esplanade. So in case you didn’t get it for the first time: this building used to be a jail- former Charles Street County Jail to be exact. The rug’s clocks and keys pattern honours the building’s rich history inside the rooms which are decorated in rich, warm tones and feature floor-to-ceiling windows. Bathrooms feature plush robes and tiny Molton Browns which I was obviously all over. Love the little details. You can actually ask for a Jail Room to be in the old jail which I find proper fascinating. All the above still fills me up with joy and happiness. Even beyond that I am very lucky that I had the chance to travel to these places and be part of their magic.