9 Best Secret Hotels in the World
Each year, Budget Travel scouts out undiscovered hotels in popular destinations, from Italy to California wine country. Here, we pull the best of our picks from around the world, all for less than $210 a night.
Rockhouse Hotel, Jamaica
Seclusion isn't easy to come by in the party town of Negril, with its sprawling resorts and thumping dance beats, but that's exactly what Rockhouse delivers, primarily to hip couples and families hoping to avoid anything close to a spring break experience. Rockhouse's rounded, thatch-roof villas are strung atop a low cliff carved with stairs that lead down to the warm waters of Pristine Cove. The 20 villas peeking out of the jungle right at the cliff's edge start at $220 a night, but the long buildings set a bit farther back are easier to pull off—five studios with sea views ($150) and nine standard rooms with garden views ($125), all with minibars, safes, A/C, and mosquito netting around four-poster beds. Guests chill out at the 60-foot horizon pool, take yoga classes, or stroll along the property's serpentine paths and stepping stones, which inevitably lead to quiet nooks, isolated beach chairs, and what most people say are the best sunset views in Jamaica. The action on Seven Mile Beach—including the nightlife hub of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, live reggae on the sand at Alfred's (Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday), and Roots Bamboo (varies)—is a quick $5 to $10 cab ride away. Closer to your cabana—right next door, actually—is Pushcarts at Pirates Cave, where patrons eat curried goat before jumping off the cliff and swimming into the sea cave underneath. 876/957-4373, rockhousehotel.com, from $125.
Albergo California, Positano, Italy
Maria Cinque makes a point of chatting with every one of her guests, if not at check-in (which her son Gianni sometimes handles), then at breakfast the next morning. She's particularly delighted to meet Americans, as she and her husband Antonio lived in the Bronx for nine years, returning to Italy in 1974 to run a family hotel five minutes' walk from the center of Positano—and to teach their children "what it means to be Italian," in Maria's words. Six of the 15 guestrooms are in the original Palazzo Bruno, dating from 1777, including four upstairs rooms with 18th-century ceiling frescoes. Many regulars prefer the ground-floor rooms 51 to 55 because they open directly onto the magnificent, long entrance terrace and enjoy postcard views of Positano framed by ivy trailing off the shady trellis. Rooms without sea views (they actually look out to a wall) cost $65 less—an option certainly worth considering, since all guests have access to the terrace. Each of the California's rooms is spacious, and seems even more so due to minimal furnishings. At sunset, small groups gather on the terrace to sip wine, plan the next day, and pinch themselves, realizing that they've got the same view as the chichi Le Sirenuse hotel down the street for one-third the price. 011-39/089-875-382, hotelcaliforniapositano.it, from $200, breakfast included, closed mid-November to mid-March.
- Related: World's Weirdest Hotels
Fundana Villas, Corfu, Ionian Islands, Greece
If there's any doubt whether Spyros Spathas values his heritage, just look at the reception area of his Fundana Villas, where a more than 200-year-old stone olive press serves as a reminder of the Spathas family's six generations of local history. It's been 29 years since Spathas converted his farm's stables and outbuildings into 12 guest bungalows, but the accommodations have been updated with flat-screen TVs and modern kitchenettes. And the views from the rooms are as glorious as ever: No. 10 has two wrought-iron balconies that look out on the Ropa Valley, and No. 12 takes in the green slopes of Mount Pantokrator to the northeast. A guide for the Greek National Tourism Organization for more than 35 years, Spathas maintains a half-mile hiking path to the 18th-century Monastery of St. Onoufrios, open every other Sunday, and leads weekly botanical walks through the area. His 26-year-old son, Foivos, just opened a traditional Corfiote restaurant on the grounds, serving dishes such as veal with garlic sauce and pan-fried artichokes from Fundana's gardens. If you feel inspired to venture off-property for dinner, stop in at Elisavet's Taverna in the nearby village of Doukades. There, the grandmotherly proprietress sits in front of her establishment encouraging visitors to try the kokoros pastitsada—rooster over macaroni—a local specialty she's been making for 20 years. 011-30/26630-22532, fundanavillas.com, from $67, breakfast $9.