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With these three Hot List 2023 hotel winners, there is as much to do beyond their doors as there is behind them—from learning to surf to shopping for mid-century furniture. Here's how to turn an overnight into a proper stay, complete with cultural to-dos and planning tips in Kaua'i, Baltimore, and Palm Springs.
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1 Hotel Hanalei Bay — Hawaii
This beachfront location overlooking Kaua'i's Hanalei Bay, with the waterfall-striated Hihimanu, Nāmolokama, and Māmalahoa mountains in the distance, has always been one of the prettiest spots the planet—and now it's home to 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay. Thanks to the swimmable beach, two pools (the stunning main one plus an adults-only option), a legendary surf break, stylish onsite bars and restaurants, and easy access to excellent hiking, the latest from the eco-focused 1 Hotel brand is an icon in the making.
But what makes this property truly stand out in an archipelago dotted with luxe oceanfront resorts is that it’s also a legitimate wellness destination, with an excellent outpost of the U.K.-based Bamford Wellness Spa. There you’ll find treatments that incorporate native Hawaiian medicinal plants like kava and noni, massages on a cutting-edge quartz bed, and floats in the spa’s sensory deprivation tank. For exercise fiends, there's also an outpost of former NFL player Marc Megna’s Anatomy gym onsite, with every piece of equipment you might want plus trainers and fitness classes. Also on offer: yoga and other healing modalities that incorporate sound, light therapy, and breath work. All of the well-rounded daily programming is truly impressive–guided hikes, sound baths, glute-blasting classes on the beach–there’s always something going on.
There’s more than enough to keep you happy and healthy on-property, but for a change of scenery, drive 10-minutes west to reach the charming town of Hanalei, where there are a handful of shops and good restaurants like AMA and Bar Acuda. If you keep heading west from the town of Hanalei, you’ll pass Tunnels Beach and eventually you’ll reach the end of the road and Hā'ena State Park, where the Na Pali Coast trail begins. Drive about 20 minutes east from the hotel and you’ll reach the town of Kilauea with a clutch of cute shops, like Hunter Gatherer, and places to refuel like Trilogy Coffee and an outpost of the Kaua’i Juice Co.
Don't forget to pack both your comfiest activewear and some smarter resort-casual outfits—while guests clean up for dinner, the point of this place isn't to be seen but rather to see (and do). It’s swimsuits and snorkels, workout gear, and hiking boots by day; stylish but low-profile (think flowy dresses, white jeans and chambray shirts) by night. —Shannon McMahon
Ulysses — Baltimore, Maryland
For years, all but the most ardent Acela warriors skipped over Baltimore. No longer. Now, they’re eagerly spending long weekends in Charm City—and they’re posting up at Ulysses. Housed in the historic Latrobe Building, on a quiet corner of the cobblestoned Mount Vernon neighborhood, the stately Italianate pile once boarded young bachelors; and while the cool kids of the New York-based hotelier Ash have utterly reimagined the space, they’ve managed to retain the roguish, roving spirit that might have once ruled its halls. There are floor-wide color schemes—telegraphed with flamingo block-print textiles (a nod to Baltimore native John Waters) from India’s Studio Bagru; colored-glass lanterns sourced in Jaipur; and leopard print-carpeting, among other details—handmade quilts adorned in winking symbols, and a treasure trove of stylish antiques that could have been sourced on a Grand Tour.
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All day long, creatives donning breezy blouses and wide-leg jeans dip into the burl wood-clad Ash Bar for polished Continental fare—think soft-scrambled eggs and salmon, Wellfleet oysters, and steak tartare—and when the sun sets, they beeline straight to Bloom’s. The marvelously over the top cocktail bar, outfitted with red velvet banquettes and undulating mirrors, buzzes with the energy of neighborhood folk who are eager to sample the barkeep’s magical mixing (the Ferrari, a mix of Fernet Branca and Cappelletti, could raise the dead). After a night of rabble-rousing, the Walters Museum is a quick stroll across Mount Vernon Place—stop to see the Washington Monument, the first monument begun in the U.S. to honor the President—as is the Peabody Institute, the renowned conservatory, which occasionally airs live performances by students, alumni, and faculty. Later, stop in at Comptoir du Vin. Operating from an unassuming townhouse in Station North, due north of Ulysses, they offer one of the best meals in the city, with a tight menu of French-inflected dishes and a robust list of genuinely delicious natural wines. Or, head to buzzy Clavel Mezcalería, from restaurateur Lane Harlan, to keep the party going. The celeb chef is quietly building a Baltimore empire of thoughtful, delicious, good-time spots, and the next venture—a bar called The Coral Wig—only just opened in Ulysses’ basement. —Betsy Blumenthal
Sensei Porcupine Creek — Rancho Mirage, California
You’d be forgiven for thinking this desert retreat—burrowed into the foothills of the Santa Rosa mountains in Rancho Mirage, California—was a figment of the imagination. Only Sensei’s second outpost, the lush, 230-acre spread once belonged to Sensei co-founder and tech billionaire Larry Ellison. But it’s real, and its modus operandi even more so. The brand is guided by the Sensei Way, a data-driven approach to wellness that hinges on the tenets of movement, nourishment, and rest. Among the offerings to work into your customized itinerary: a state-of-the-art gym, with exercise physiologists at your disposal; an open-air pavilion kitted out for wall yoga; tennis courts modeled on those of the nearby Indian Wells Tennis Garden; a spa that employs proprietary thermal mapping technology to optimize treatments; an expertly manicured 75-acre golf course; and a pool area with terraced alcoves that allow every swimsuit-clad guest to sunbathe in near-privacy. At the end of the day, once you’ve traded your workout separates for an off-the-shoulder sundress or a linen button-down and khakis, the guests-only dining experience of Sensei by Nobu awaits. The collaboration between Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Sensei co-founder Dr. David Agus marries classic Nobu flavors with local ingredients, and doesn’t skimp on fan favorites like the black cod miso and the rock shrimp tempura.
Part of the resort’s inherent appeal is in seclusion, but civilization isn’t too far off. Palm Springs is just a 20-minute drive up the road; visitors to the design-crazed town are wise to seek out a few of its famed antique and vintage dealers, including Angel View Thrift Mart, Iconic Atomic, and the plein-air Palm Springs Vintage Market, which takes place on the Sunday of each month. (Though, if you want to tuck your wallet away, the Palm Springs Art Museum—carved laterally into the landscape like the Temple of Hatshepsut—is an equally fulfilling stop.) Grab brunch at King’s Highway, the lovingly lived-in roadside diner inside the Ace Hotel, and hit Johannes for dinner; the eclectic, Austrian-inspired dishes boasts an entire mini-menu devoted to takes on schnitzel. —Betsy Blumenthal
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