The World's Best Small Hotels

A master list of the world's most luxurious yet intimate and humble hotels, inns, and guest houses.

Courtesy La Sultana Marrakech
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The DEPARTURES reader is a well-seasoned traveler who knows the big hitters—the classic luxury hotels that define perennial destinations. Which is why we didn’t bother with those here. Rather, this list provides the off-the-map, lesser-known small hotels (we loosely defined them to have fewer than 50 rooms but sometimes a bit more) that often escape our notice because they lack (or don’t require) powerful press machines or marketing budgets. 

These retreats, instead, rely on word of mouth. And that is exactly how this short list has been gleaned—through real recommendations from real people with whom we have built deeply trusting relationships over the past decade. The bylines are not the point; indeed, sometimes it’s a convergence of voices we have refined to create sharp reviews that carry important caveats. Because while we believe this list of 109 hotels is ruthlessly edited, we also think not every property here is perfect for every kind of traveler. Our pinpoint opinions—and breadth of experience—help you, the discerning traveler, to navigate the same-same world of luxury resorts and uncover the brilliant, the maverick, the soulful. 

We believe this list captures the zeitgeist that the luxury hotel is coming to represent; it is far more than the sum of its parts, be they fine-dining restaurants, linen thread counts, private butlers or staff-to-guest ratios. These hotels are one in a million, and even with their quirks and perhaps even kinks, they will change the way you feel about a destination and, of course, about travel.

See the index below, for small-batch browsing by continent:

North America
The Caribbean
Central and South America
Australia and the South Pacific