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.
Landmark Vineyards, California Wine Country
For people who harbor fantasies of running away and starting their own winery, Landmark has the answer: two guest rooms right in the middle of a working vineyard, where, from your front door, you can watch the grapes growing and being harvested. Seeking an escape from the rapidly suburbanizing town of Windsor (20 miles north), Landmark's founder, Damaris Deere Ford, relocated the winery in 1989 to a spectacular piece of property at the base of Sugarloaf Ridge in Kenwood. She also brought in her son Michael Colhoun and daughter-in-law Mary as partners, making it a real family business. Ford is the great-great-granddaughter of John Deere, and the John Deere company's signature forest green pops up throughout the property, whether on a pair of rocking chairs or on an antique 1946 tractor near the front gate. The white-shuttered, stand-alone Cottage sleeps up to four and is ideal for families—it has a bedroom, a foldout couch in the living room, a washing machine and dryer, a small front porch, and a spacious, fully equipped kitchen. The smaller Suite has two twin beds (which can be pushed together), a fireplace, and a private patio with views of Sugarloaf Ridge and Hood Mountain. Both rooms are a stone's throw from the bocce court and California mission-style tasting room, so guests can sip freely, knowing it's a quick stumble home through the vines. 707/833-0053, landmarkwine.com, from $170.
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Les Deux Frères, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, French Riviera
Go up—past the crowds, past the noise—to the tiny cliff-top village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Stop to gasp at the panorama from the tiny town square, and notice the lovely dining terrace to your right. It's attached to the restaurant of the intimate Les Deux Frères, in a 19th-century stone building that was once a school. A mahogany bar fills the lobby; a narrow staircase leads up to the 10 small, pretty rooms. Each has a name indicating its theme: Provençal, Africain, Marine, and so on. Views range from lovely to stupendous; depending on your room's orientation, you might look out on the town square, the rugged hills, or (if you get the full frontal) the cliffs, the sea, and, in the distance, Monaco. 011-33/4-93-28-99-00, lesdeuxfreres.com, from $100, closed late November to early December.
Amor de Mar, Montezuma, Costa Rica
An Adirondack-style lodge houses Amor de Mar's 11 rooms, paneled in dark wood and decorated sparely, so as not to distract from the views (best from the second-floor porch). Two rooms share a bath, but the others are private. A patio restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, emphasizing simple fare like tropical smoothies and homemade breads. The wide front lawn gently slopes toward a rocky point, where there's a tide pool big enough to swim in. It's a five-minute walk to the nearest sandy beach, and thrill seekers will be happy to know that Amor de Mar is close to the famed Montezuma Waterfall Canopy Tour, a zip line that whizzes through treetops and down over waterfalls ($50 for two hours). 011-506/2642-0262, amordemar.com, from $70.
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Posada Que Onda, Akumal, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Even though it's now thickly settled, Akumal, Mayan for "Place of the Turtle," still has room for turtles, which return each spring to lay eggs in nests along the very beaches where they were hatched. It's the oldest resort town in this part of Mexico, a former coconut plantation with an extraordinary coastline that was rediscovered by a diving club in 1958. Akumal has maintained the easygoing style that first attracted those divers to its waters. It has also been popular with families because its shallow, sandy bays could have been designed with kids in mind. The same could be said of the Posada Que Onda: Half of the hotel's pool, for instance, has a built-in shelf where kids can play. (Adults use it, too, sitting in water from the waist down under the blazing sun.) Posada Que Onda is not on a beach—the closest, Half Moon Bay, is a 10-minute walk away—but it's only 50 yards from excellent swimming in Yalku lagoon. Guests can borrow the hotel's snorkel equipment and bikes at no charge. Large rooms have cool, white-tiled floors and are adorned with local art and artifacts. Especially spacious is a bi-level suite with two terraces; the upper terrace provides a view of the lagoon and the Caribbean. Kids love the restaurant, too, because it features homemade pastas. 011-52/984-875-9102, queondaakumal.com, from $60.