Utqiaġvik, Alaska is the northernmost town in the US, overlooking the Arctic Ocean.
“Polar night” begins this week, plunging the town’s residents into 66 days of 24-hour darkness.
Local business owners told Insider what it’s like to work in the region — from $98 laundry detergent to hunting whales.
When Myron McCumber talks about life in Alaska, he talks in terms of “the lower 48,” a saying used by locals to describe the continental US.
“Alaskans tend to be pretty independent thinkers,” he told Insider. “We see ourselves as separate from and still belonging to the United States.”
Myron and his wife, Susan McCumber, run Latitude 71, a 12-room bed and breakfast in Utqiagvik, Alaska. Their guests range from Brazilian tourists chasing the northern lights to local oil rig workers.
Along Utqiagvik’s coast is a welcome sign that reads “America’s northernmost city” above a blue and white illustration of a whale tail. Home to just over 4,000 people, Utqiagvik goes by many names, including “the rooftop of the world” and “ground zero for climate change.”
Starting this week, the town will enter “polar night” and plunge into 66 days of 24-hour darkness. Without the sun, temperatures drop substantially. Utqiagvik is below freezing for 160 days out of the year.
While tourists plan visits around the cosmic phenomena, the locals of Utqiagvik continue their daily lives, Myron said — just without the sun.
“It’s dark when you come home at lunch,” he described. “You turn your headlights on at noon to drive home … that would be a little different for most people living in the lower 48.”
Year-round, running a business in Utqiagvik comes with its own set of challenges. Namely, food.
“It’s $14 for a gallon of milk,” Myron told Insider. “A box of Tide laundry pods is like $98. A case of water that you get from Walmart for $6 — here it’s $48.”
In order to afford meals for hotel guests, the McCumbers travel four to five times a year to Anchorage, where groceries are slightly cheaper. The hauls are then stored in Latitude 71’s six freezers and two refrigerators.
“We bring in 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of food and supplies like toilet paper,” Myron said. “An 18-pack of paper towels here is $58. In Anchorage, that would be about $24.”
The majority of North Slope residents are Iñupiat Alaska Natives, who have inhabited the polar region for thousands of years. The Iñupiat have historically survived the harsh climate through subsistence hunting of whale, caribou, walrus, seal, and bird.
With grocery prices so high, hunting is still an important part of living in Utqiagvik. Each Spring, the community gathers during “Nalukataq” to celebrate a successful whale-hunting season.
But climate change has made hunting harder than ever, Myron told Insider. In 2017, the temperature in Utqiagvik rose so fast that an algorithm flagged the data as “unreal” and removed it from the government’s database.
“With the sea ice not being here as much, we don’t see the seals and the walrus and the polar bear,” he said. “It’s changing migration patterns for animals and birds — so all of that has a big impact on subsistence hunters, which is a lot of the population here.”
Most of Utqiagvik is immune to the lower 48’s commercialization — except for the local Subway.
“There are 4,500 people here and there’s only five other restaurants,” its owner, John Masterson, told Insider, adding that Subway is the only place in Utqiagvik whose menu doesn’t include pizza, hamburgers, or Chinese food.
Despite the fact that a foot-long steak and cheese sandwich costs $16.99, Masterson said the store broke “every Subway sales record” there was.
“We sold over 1,000 sandwiches the first day and over almost 10,000 sandwiches in the first week,” Masterson said.
Starwood Capital founder Sternlicht said that one of his hotels in Brooklyn had 40 vacancies. It usually had a staff of about 220, he said.
“We can’t find them, they won’t come back to work,” he said. “It isn’t even what we pay. They won’t leave their house or whatever they are doing.”
Sternlicht didn’t say how much the hotel paid staff. US desk clerks at hotels, motels, and resorts earned an average of $26,770 a year in 2020, while maids and housekeeping cleaners made on average $27,420, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows.
Starwood Capital owns SH Hotels & Resorts, which has more than 1,500 employees across its four brands. There are 182 vacancies listed on its website, including 81 at its 1 Hotel South Beach on Miami Beach.
“The whole service economy is in a crisis, whether it’s a restaurant, a pizzeria, a laundromat, a small shop,” Sternlicht told CNBC. “Amazon can raise wages, no problem,” he said, but added that was not an option available to smaller businesses.
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Carmel and Monterey are two charming towns on California’s coast amid the Pacific Ocean and Big Sur.
Both towns have many hotels, from a romantic B&B to a family-friendly stay next to the aquarium.
These are the best hotels you can book in both Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea.
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There are just four miles between Monterey and Carmel-by-the Sea, but each of these charming California towns has its own distinct allure drawing families, couples, golfers, and travelers of all stripes.
Monterey is home to a famous aquarium and Cannery Row, the once rugged avenue made famous by John Steinbeck that is now populated with quirky stores and seafood restaurants serving up plates of local calamari and crab.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a former artist colony where luminaries like photographer Ansel Adams, author Beverly Cleary, and actors Doris Day and Clint Eastwood all once lived. In fact, Clint was once the mayor. Now, the village is filled with charming boutiques, wine shops, intimate restaurants, and world-famous golf in adjacent Pebble Beach.
Each has its own appeal and so do the choices for local accommodations. The best hotels in Monterey and Carmel range from bed-and-breakfasts poised for romance to family-friendly hotels next to the Aquarium, and a 500-acre ranch in the valley.
Browse all of the best Carmel and Monterey hotels below, or jump to a specific area:
The relaxed romantic style of the Spindrift is ideal for couples with 45 rooms and suites, most of which boast ocean views. See if you can spot local sea life like seals and otters with the help of in-room binoculars.
Standard rooms are the Cannery Row Kings, which overlook the legendary street made famous by John Steinbeck. The Ocean View Kings are my pick for their cozy window seats or private balconies that offer a prime perch over the water. Whichever you choose, you’ll enjoy tastefully decorated accommodations with a subtle European vibe of rich brocades, dark wood furniture, and hues of sage green and dusty rose. All rooms include a wood-burning fireplace as well.
Breakfast is included in every stay and is the only real amenity offered. Start each day with fruits, cereal, bread, juice, and coffee, which are delivered to your room on a silver platter. In the afternoon, the hotel hosts a wine and cheese reception.
Hotel Abrego is an affordable, clean, comfortable option in downtown Monterey. Since it is located away from the waterfront, it is less busy and far cheaper than its closer counterparts. Of course, you won’t have those beautiful bay views, and Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row are about a 40-minute walk, so keep that in mind when booking.
If you don’t mind the distance, the entry-level Deluxe Rooms are spacious, though relatively basic. For about $10 more, upgrade to a Deluxe Room with a fireplace for a bit more ambiance, or go up to the next tier, the Premier Room, which has a balcony or patio.
The hotel’s public spaces have a Craftsman-style aesthetic and there’s a large heated swimming pool and hot tub. The restaurant, Bistro Abrego, serves California cuisine for dinner and will soon be offering breakfast.
There are several dining options nearby as well as a Pete’s Coffee and a Trader Joe’s.
Right in the heart of Cannery Row, Monterey’s iconic tourist area, and along with the InterContinental, the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is one of the most popular hotels in the area. The hotel is built over the water, which offers incredible views of the ocean and Monterey Bay.
The hotel rooms have a simple, clean, contemporary style in soothing hues of beige, tan, and cream. Standard rooms have street views, so upgrade for a higher tier to enjoy ocean, bay, or harbor views, as well as private balconies or fireplaces. The best splurge is a suite, which ranges from 700 to 2,100 square feet and comes with a hot tub, a sun deck, and ocean views.
The rooftop spa is not to be missed, with two hot tubs framed by water views. The fitness center is well equipped with Peloton bikes and staff members are on hand to create personalized itineraries for your visit.
If you plan on spending the majority of your visit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this is the best hotel to choose as it’s right next door.
And when you go back at the end of the day, you’ll have plenty to do with a pool, fitness center, and restaurant all on-site, which are far more amenities than most in the area. The hotel also has its own pier and boardwalk, which gives guests an unobstructed view of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
There are 120 rooms and suites, done up in the chic, contemporary style that you’d expect from the higher-end Intercontinental brand with comfortable beds and nice bathrooms. For ocean views, balconies, and fireplaces, you’ll need to pay extra, in some cases twice as much as the entry-level rooms, though they are a good bit larger.
The outdoor pool and spa are popular with families and are a big perk for those with water-loving kids. The courtyard also has fire pits and is a nice place to relax on chilly evenings.
The Old Monterey Inn is a traditional bed and breakfast housed within an old 1920s English Tudor mansion in the heart of Monterey. This romantic inn, which has been welcoming guests since 1978, even secured a place in Patricia Schulz’s “1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List.” Intimate and quiet, it isn’t a place for families, but rather, is a destination for couples looking for a special getaway.
Charming guest rooms are homey and elegant with oversized worn leather chairs, European-inspired linens, and an eclectic array of antiques. Rooms range from the Brighstone Suite that overlooks the garden with a stately fireplace and soaking tub in the living room to the Library Suite that includes floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, a rustic stone fireplace, and a quaint patio.
Each morning, guests can enjoy homemade breakfast in the dining room or in the privacy of their own room. Follow with a stroll through the lush English garden dotted with places to sit and relax.
In the evening, nightly cheese and hors d’oeuvres are served by candlelight next to a roaring fireplace, paired with house wines from local vintners. There is also a spa for facials and massages.
The Cypress Inn is famous for two things, Doris Day and dogs. The Hollywood star was once the co-owner of this charming Mediterranean-inspired hotel built in 1929 that’s been a long-time friend of furry family members.
Old-school charm oozes throughout the property with vaulted ceilings, wood beams, and colorful Spanish tiles. An airy garden courtyard serves as a welcome oasis from the busy sidewalks of town.
Standard rooms are handsomely decorated with dark wood furniture but are admittedly small and boxy. Deluxe rooms and suites offer far more character with wood-beamed ceilings, fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, and ocean views.
The hotel is dog-friendly so you’ll see canines of all shapes and sizes walking around the grounds, halls, and even in the restaurant. A continental breakfast buffet is included in the stay, and in the evenings, a locally sourced menu is served along with live music. Finish with complimentary cream sherry, fresh fruit, and snacks.
La Playa Carmel, conveniently located two blocks from the beach and the village’s main street, has 75 remodeled rooms that are attractively designed with a beach cottage vibe in mind through wood shutters and wicker furniture. Upgraded rooms include ocean views, private patios, and fireplaces for a more comfortable stay.
The guest rooms surround the hotel’s well-kept grounds that include gardens, patio areas, and a large swimming pool, which is a rarity in town.
A daily champagne breakfast buffet is served with fruit, pastries, cheeses, and hot entrees in the library overlooking the Pacific, and for an evening cocktail and snacks, head to the bar for drinks in a cozy bohemian-inspired atmosphere.
The Tradewinds is an ideal spot for a tranquil, quiet stay that’s still close to the restaurants and shops of Carmel-by-the-Sea but feels like you’re off the beaten path.
There are just 28 rooms, each with Asian-inspired decor sourced from Bali, Japan, and China, including Kimona Balinese robes made specifically for Tradewinds. The rooms are plush with goose-down feather beds, jetted bathtubs, and gas fireplaces. While big on comfort, they’re small in stature and only suited for two people.
A private courtyard invites guests to relax in a lushly landscaped mediation Zen garden filled with tall bamboo, tropical plants, a fountain, and a fire pit. Breakfast of coffee, juice, fruit, and baked goods are included each morning in any stay.
The L’Auberge Carmel, a Relais & Châteaux luxury property, is located in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea, four blocks from the beach and near all the shopping and dining that Carmel is known for.
Originally built in 1929, the intimate hotel has a distinct European elegance, and feels like the kind of inn you’d find it in a small town in the South of France.
Each of the hotel’s 20 guest rooms are individually designed with antiques, lush fabrics, and unique touches. Standard rooms are small but well-appointed with French windows and many rooms have four-poster beds, draperies, and connect to a beautiful courtyard.
Thoughtful perks include fresh baked cookies in the afternoon, free valet parking, and breakfast served in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Aubergine. For dinner, a splurge on a meal in the lauded restaurant is well worth it, for the signature tasting menu that includes eight courses of seasonally inspired dishes (at $205 per person).
The Carmel Valley Ranch is part of the Unbound Collection By Hyatt, a roster of upscale properties offering sumptuous stays in one-of-a-kind destinations. Sprawling over 500 acres, The Carmel Valley Ranch is so much more than just a place to sleep with a wide array of activities ranging from animal meet-and-greets to archery, falconry, and beekeeping.
There are also three salt-water pools with hot tubs, a generous selection of fitness classes, and a Pete Dye-designed golf course.
Every room is a suite, starting with studios up to one to four-bedroom suites. Each has a fireplace, a private deck, and starts at 650 square feet. Larger options include kitchens and have dreamy outdoor bathtubs with vineyard views.
The ranch welcomes dogs, pampering them with their own beds and room service menu, and there are plenty of hiking opportunities at the Ranch.
When is the best time to visit Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea?
Due to the moderate weather in Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea, it is comfortable to visit any time of the year. Some of the hotels don’t have air conditioning, so the summer can be a bit hot. The summer is also the hardest time to secure a hotel room reservation since that is when families are most likely to be visiting and the area is at its busiest.
Which hotels allow dogs?
The area’s hotels are generally dog-friendly. La Playa Carmen, the Cypress Inn, The Tradewinds, L’Auberge Carmel, Carmel Valley Ranch, and the InterContinental the Clement Monterey all allow pets. Standouts include the Cypress Inn, which was a pioneer in pet-friendly lodgings, and Carmel Valley Ranch which offers dog beds and a special room service menu just for dogs.
Which Carmel or Monterey hotel is best for couples?
The central California coast is the perfect destination for a romantic getaway and many of these properties cater to couples. For honeymoons, anniversaries, or just any given weekend, the L’Auberge Carmel, Spindrift Inn, and the Old Monterey Inn are particularly alluring for adults.
Is it safe to stay in hotels?
At this time, the CDC states that domestic travel is safe if you are fully vaccinated. While the vaccination rates vary by location, the unvaccinated should continue to take extra precautions, including those 12 and under who aren’t yet able to be vaccinated.
It is advisable that all travelers should continue to follow the CDC and local guidelines such as wearing masks, social distancing, and using hand sanitizing.
All of the hotels that we’ve included in this list have cleaning protocols for the guest room and the public spaces to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
How we selected the best hotels in Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea
As a San Francisco native, the Carmel and Monterey areas have been a destination for my family since I was a child. As an adult, I try to visit as often as I can and am very familiar with the following hotels for their location, charm, comfortable rooms, and access to unique experiences and amenities.
Each hotel or resort is located in an area of interest either by the main tourist areas or, in the case of the Carmel Valley Ranch, on a 500-acre property.
Many of the hotels boast comfortable, spacious rooms and can accommodate families while a few have cozy and intimate rooms that are perfect for a couple’s getaway.
Hotels are considered three-stars and up and hold a Trip Advisor rating of four or above with significant, honest recent reviews.
The hotels have good on-site amenities such as pools, free breakfasts, and perks that guests will enjoy.
The hotels promote stringent COVID-19 policies to prioritize the health and safety of all guests, which we’ve noted for each hotel where available below.
I was a political-science major on a path to becoming an attorney when I took my first job in hospitality, and what began as a temporary role turned into a career in an industry I fell in love with. Hospitality proved to be full of new challenges every day and provided me with opportunities to work with different people, learn from guests, and travel and see different places. I’ve had the privilege of working in eight major markets across the United States including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, and Tampa.
There’s really no such thing as a ‘typical’ day for a hotel general manager, but whatever was considered normal has certainly changed
Management by walking around is in the DNA of hospitality professionals, so walking around the property and talking with guests and team members usually shapes my day.
Additionally, there are administrative needs, community engagement – I’m the chairman of the board of directors for Experience Prince George’s, a destination marketing organization for the area, and on the executive committee of the Maryland Hotel and Lodging Association – and general management of the business including sales, finance, and operations that fill the rest of the day.
Throughout much of the pandemic, morning huddles with my team gave way to virtual Zoom check-ins or physically distanced conversations in relatively quiet lobbies with little guest interaction.
Our core group jumped in to support housekeeping’s needs by working to get laundry done or assisting on the floors when we started to experience a return of leisure travelers. Seeing our group look beyond their typical job description and focus on how to be there for one another and our guests made me prouder than ever to be in this industry and with this team.
The biggest change was the almost full elimination of individual business travel during the week – a staple for our hotel
Replacement by leisure travelers and vacationers at the end of spring and into summer definitely helped in creating more business, but the market also became more competitive than ever.
Last year from April until June, we had no transient individual guests. We were able to mitigate some of this loss of revenue by servicing groups like the Maryland National Guard that were responding to the pandemic on the front lines.
Because of this, we were sold out last year. However, we’ve continued to see improved occupancy for leisure travelers and extended-stay guests this year due to the return to school and increase in corporate travel. As such, we’re experiencing an approximately 50% increase in individual travel year over year right now.
As guests return, we’ve embraced the return to in-person daily stand-up meetings to prepare for the day ahead.
Conversations with guests are critical in understanding why people are traveling, receiving feedback, and adding a personal touch to their visit
When school came back in session last year, I recall speaking with several parents who were so excited to have their kids going back to school or starting college. They’re thrilled to be able to be traveling with their kids as they embark on such an exciting time in their lives and they’re happy that their children get the chance to have a real college experience.
Hoteliers are accustomed to warm, personable greetings, handshakes, and smiles. We recognize the necessity of wearing face coverings and remaining physically distanced, so we’ve had to pivot and focus on conveying warmth, hospitality, and understanding in new ways.
Whether it was using body language or over-communicating with written notes in their rooms, which we rarely did before, we had to demonstrate our empathy and understanding during such a challenging time. Now it’s a matter of blending the return to those warm greetings with a greater sensitivity for our guests.
Last year, we also provided long-term accommodations for a number of students as an alternative to campus housing
As the region began to reopen and the University of Maryland transitioned to a nontraditional school year, many students turned to alternative housing. The signing of a lease or long-term commitment to a dorm presented a financial challenge to families as well, so we were able to provide a clean, safe, and flexible solution.
We opened to these students and provided them discounted housing – a decrease from our usual daily rates that are typically around $110 at Cambria Hotel College Park or $150 at The Hotel. The students really felt like they could depend on us, and so did their parents. We even had parents calling and contacting us to check in on their kids from time to time.
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Tulum is a design and gastronomy mecca on a turquoise beach overseen by ancient Mayan ruins.
Tulum hotels push the limits of beauty and design but some come with astonishingly high prices.
We compiled highly-rated Tulum hotels that are also affordable, ranging from $128 to $669 per night.
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Two hours south of Cancun, Tulum is one of Mexico’s hottest destinations. Nestled in the stunning Riviera Maya, this jungle-embedded city offers gentle Caribbean waters, lush jungles, ancient ruins, standout design, and plentiful hotels to showcase it all.
I spent three months living in Tulum and the best hotels range from spiritual centers and hostels to luxury and boutique hideaways. All proudly boast the Tulum aesthetic of natural wood and leafy palms and make it easy to soak up the sun, admire the ruins of Coba, or go cenote-hopping in swimming holes scattered within the jungle.
While most Tulum hotel prices can reach astronomical levels, we found beautiful and accessible Tulum hotels that don’t skimp on comfort, beauty, or amenities.
Browse all the best Tulum hotels below or jump to a specific area here:
The Aloft Tulum is one of the largest hotels in Tulum that offers the signature style of a Marriott hotel from their hip, colorful Aloft brand. It also offers many comforts that are hard to come by in Tulum, like industrial-strength air-conditioning and contemporary hotel rooms (that won’t cost a fortune). The hotel is located halfway between the city center and the beach zone, which means it’s a slightly shorter ride to the beach than from other hotels in town, but you can get there by bicycle or cab.
The Aloft has a bar space designed for live music, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a restaurant, and two pools. There’s a family-friendly pool on the ground level, but the adults-only rooftop infinity pool is the highlight with stunning views over the jungle canopy.
Rooms are modern and spacious with bright colors, natural textures, and amenities like smart TVs and Marshall speakers. The polished style may not suit all types of Tulum-bound travelers, but for anyone dreading bugs and humidity, it’s a comfortable, affordable place to stay.
In a quiet section of Aldea Zama, tucked between the beach and city center, Copal has apartment-style accommodations that are great for families and large groups.
The hotel has a polished jungle-inspired design with bamboo and natural wood finishes. Rooms feel new and modern with stainless steel appliances and smart TVs, and the most basic offering is similar to a standard hotel room but with a kitchenette. Larger rooms like the Studio Jungle Terrace have living spaces and kitchens, and there are also multi-bedroom suites with a private rooftop and ground-floor pool.
Behind the hotel and through the restaurant, you’ll find a pathway to a small public cenote. It’s not as large as others in the area, and can sometimes get crowded, but it’s nice to visit for a quick and easy dip.
In Tulum’s super-polished Aldea Zama neighborhood, Orchid House is a quiet hotel with a serene nature-inspired design. As you enter the lobby, you’ll first notice the interior garden with tropical plants and a small footbridge for a photo opportunity. Upstairs, the pool bar is the hotel’s main attraction, with a classy take on in-pool seating so you can sip on a juice or cocktail without ever getting out of the pool.
Throughout the hotel, a light and airy color scheme reflect the natural environment, while intricate details and antique furniture add a touch of luxury to this bohemian chic 10-room hotel.
Each room features a wood-carved door, a plush King-sized bed, and a private terrace with a small plunge pool. For more space, Jungle Suites have terraces large enough for a hammock, and the Master Suites, which also have two additional twin-sized beds, have plunge pools that overlook the jungle.
Make sure to have at least one meal in the signature nest, a dining booth on top of the hotel with an interrupted view across the treetops all the way out into the horizon.
There are a lot of glamping options in Tulum, but Nativus offers premium accommodations with access to a natural crystalline cenote.
From the main area of the hotel, you’ll find tents, a small restaurant, and a winding jungle path that will take you to the huge El Cenote Encantada, an open cenote where you can swim, kayak, and paddleboard. The cenote is not private, but it’s hard to reach and find if you’re not accessing it through a local business, so it doesn’t get very crowded.
Every tent has a plush bed and its own outdoor bathroom, which is beautifully decorated with natural materials and has a private outdoor rainfall shower.
This hotel is located at the end of the beach road, right before the entrance to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve National Reserve, so you can indulge in more adventurous jungle experiences without compromising on proximity to the beach.
Located on the north end of Tulum’s beach road, which is closest to the entrance of the ruins, Ikal is a lively, hip spot that offers community events like Brazilian capoeira lessons, yoga, spiritual lectures, and eclectic live music. It is also an extremely kid-friendly hotel with weekly events designed especially for children relating to yoga, music, and art.
Although restaurant visitors are welcome to use the day beds on the beach, the pool is for guests only. There are a large variety of accommodation types from spacious and air-conditioned glamping tents with shared bathrooms to beautiful jungle suites with private plunge pools, outdoor showers, thatched walls, and eye-catching furniture that look like they were magically summoned from the depths of the jungle.
All rooms are unique but Cabaña 8 stands out with its huge macrame entryway that really tells you everything you need to know about Ikal’s dedication to a bohemian aesthetic.
La Zebra has a top-rated reputation for a fun ambiance, great service, chic rooms, and great beach access.
The hotel has six different categories of rooms from basic Garden Rooms to beachfront suites with balconies and plunge pools. Rooms offer a harmony of natural beach tones and traditional textures that skips the flashy or industrial touches of other Tulum hotels. However, all rooms are still sophisticated and families will appreciate the suites, which come with one King-sized bed and two single beds.
The beach area offers plenty of space to spread out on shaded daybeds. There is also a small spa and a restaurant with unique tabletops that pay homage to famous works of Mexican art.
For epicurean guests, the restaurant also serves an eight-course Chef’s Table experience that pairs artisanal cocktails, beers, and wine with Mexican gastronomy in a special dining room decorated with Mexican antiques.
Hidden in the less busy part of the Tulum city center, this adults-only hotel has loft-style villas with living rooms and private plunge pools. The lofts are beautiful, filled with natural textures and a dark color scheme, all in what feels like your own private corner of the jungle.
The shared hotel space is also sophisticated and calming with Mexican culture woven into every element of the hotel’s design. Special features include an agave garden and an ofrenda, or altar, decorated with black and white photographs and skulls.
The location is far from the beach, but parking is free if you rent a car. The common areas are lively, thanks to the inviting restaurant and bar with billiards and a stone fire pit. The main pool has a fantastic design, fringed with lounge areas that have been sectioned off so you can enjoy a bit of privacy with your toes just inches from the water.
Hotel Bardo also offers many immersive experiences, like sunset intention-setting rituals, temezcal ceremonies, sound healing, and yoga. It may be a long journey to the ocean, but you’ll enjoy a rejuvenating and aesthetically pleasing stay that encompasses all the reasons why people come to Tulum.
Located on the south end of the beach, Nômade is a dreamy resort where meandering pathways lead you through a jungle with thatched roof villas, treehouses, a yoga shala, a gathering nest, and a meditation tent. Each week the hotel offers a variety of programming from spiritual seminars, live music, tea and cacao ceremonies, and yoga. On the beach, there is a restaurant with seating areas, daybeds, and scattered hammocks shaded by swaying palm trees.
Accommodations range from boho-chic suites to deluxe glamping tents and whimsical treehouses. Perched up in the jungle canopy, those treehouses are artistic and intimate with bathrooms and air conditioning. As you walk up the winding staircase, you’ll feel like you’re stepping into your own private oasis, far away from any disturbances.
Though from the city center, there are plenty of posh places to eat and shop nearby while avoiding the more boisterous bars and party hotspots, and the beachfront location can’t be beaten.
At Be Tulum, a lush entry includes tall leafy palms and meandering paths that lead to a stunning oceanfront, for what feels like a remote island oasis.
Rooms are modern but embrace natural elements and colors with a variety of jungle suites and oceanfront villas with multiple bedrooms, rooftop terraces, and private pools. Rooms at Be Tulum feature so many stand-out design pieces, you’ll want to take them home with you, like the cubical tree log nightstand or embroidered pillows.
The hotel’s spa, the Yaän Healing Sanctuary, is one of the main reasons to stay here. It offers a variety of indigenous-inspired treatments from healing rituals to more traditional body treatments like massages, facials, and herbal baths. You can also arrange to join a temezcal ceremony and there is daily yoga in the treetop studio.
Not every room has a private pool, but all guests can enjoy the beach club with two great restaurants, one which is dedicated to seafood and the other that serves elevated Mexican cuisine using ingredients from a sustainable garden.
On what’s normally considered a busy strip, this small luxury boutique hotel offers a calm peaceful atmosphere with just eight rooms and one restaurant dedicated to its guests.
Although it does not offer the wide range of amenities or “scene” you’ll find on other beachside hotels, it has plenty of space on the beach with inviting chairs and umbrellas, and great service from the front desk and restaurant staff. Ordering a drink or plate of guacamole to your beach chair is as easy as sending a text.
Each room has air conditioning, luscious beds, and a spacious bathroom with an open shower. When you’re not lounging on the beach, relax on the front porch with a hammock and two chairs, and rinse off sandy feet in the seashell water basin. Not all rooms have ocean views, but they’re just steps from the beach no matter which room you get.
Encantada’s design scheme is nowhere near as flashy as other Tulum hotels but is still rich in beautiful details like the large macrame wall-hanging in the entrance or the blue stained glass windows in the hallway between the bedroom and bathroom.
Tulum is about 80 miles from the Cancun airport and it takes about two hours to drive there along the main highway. If you don’t rent your own car, you can either take a cab or car service to Tulum, or you can take the ADO bus for a more affordable option.
What is the best way to get around Tulum?
There are many taxis in Tulum, but prices can be quite high especially on a busy night. Alternatively, bicycles are very popular and there is a safe bike path that connects the city center to the hotel zone.
How far is the city center from the beach?
Because much of Tulum is still protected land, there is a lot of jungle between the hotel zone on the beach and the city center. The road from the center to the beach is 2.5 miles long. Without traffic, it takes about eight minutes to drive and 15 to 20 minutes to bike. If you’re considering walking, that will take you at least 45 minutes.
Which is the best side of the beach to visit?
When you reach the beach, you’ll notice that you can go left or right. It is easy to visit both sides in one trip, but you’ll find that it will be difficult to access the beach on the south side without paying an entry fee to one of the pricey beach clubs or having a meal at one of the hotel restaurants. Meanwhile, the north side of the beach has public access and is also closer to the Mayan ruins.
Where should I stay when visiting Tulum?
If you want to make the most of your time in the water, you should select a hotel on the main beach road but be aware that this will also come with a hefty price tag unless you choose glamping accommodations. There are many places to stay in the main town, but you will need to take a cab or rent a bike to get to the beach.
What are the best hotels in Tulum?
Our list is a 50/50 split between the best Tulum hotels near the beach and non-beach options since the beach hotels can be very expensive and there are other attractions that lure visitors beyond just the sand.
We picked the best hotels that represent a variety of lodging styles, budgets, and experiences. Additionally, we looked for strict COVID policies to protect the health and safety of guests, and not every well-regarded hotel in Tulum takes these measures seriously. We also considered amenities such as yoga shalas, beach clubs, spas, and special access to well-hidden cenotes, which are natural swimming holes that are a defining characteristic of the Yucatan region of Mexico.
Tulum also has many hotels that are famous around the world that we did not include, such as Casa Malca, which was also the former home of Pablo Escobar, and Azulik, which is known for its beautiful rooms that are more like works of art, and is the most expensive hotel in Tulum. However, we opted to not include these hotels in our list of the best hotels in Tulum because they are prohibitively expensive for most people.
To see the famous “Come to the Light” sculpture that depicts a towering female figure ripping open her chest, which is filled with lush green plants, you can visit Ahau Tulum. The Papaya Playa Project is another popular hotel that is well-known for its restaurant and community events, and one we considered.
Tulum is one of the most expensive destinations in Mexico and travelers will pay premium prices for hotels right on the beach since that is the best location to be in Tulum. In the city center, there are more budget-friendly options, as well as Airbnb vacation rentals, and hostels, but you will be far from the beach.
During the low season, between late spring and fall, you can expect to pay at least $130 per night on a hotel in the city center or at least $200 for a hotel on the beach (unless you’re glamping). During the high season, which starts in November and lasts until March, hotels in town will likely raise their rates above $200 per night, and hotels on the beach can charge as much as $1,000 per night. The most expensive time of year is around Christmas and New Year’s.
What is a temezcal ceremony?
Many hotels may offer a temezcal ceremony on-site. This traditional Mexican ceremony is a cleansing ritual purported to have many health benefits. It requires sitting in a small domelike structure in which rocks are heated to raise the temperature and cause you to sweat. It is usually combined with some kind of meditation and is followed by a cold shower. Because it takes some time to prepare, the ceremony is usually only offered a few times per week.
Is Tulum beach swimmable?
The water in Tulum beach is very clear and the waves are extremely gentle. It’s very swimmable, however, the beach occasionally suffers from sargasso seaweed invasions. Most hotels employ teams to clean up the seaweed in the morning, but you still might encounter it as you swim. It can be very unpleasant, but the problem is an issue all along the Riviera Maya and throughout the Caribbean.
What are the different neighborhoods in Tulum?
Aside from the beach zone, which is split into the north and south side, there are many neighborhoods in Tulum.
The city center is where most locals live and where you’ll find lively restaurants and a shopping scene. Aldea Zama is a highly-polished gated community, which is more like a small suburb within Tulum. La Veleta is another community slightly further from the beach than Aldea Zama, where there are luxury apartments but there is still a lot of construction. Villas is a very small local neighborhood that is quiet and although there are no hotels here, you might be able to find a vacation rental.
Is it better to stay in Tulum Town or the beach?
It depends on your budget and what you plan to do. The beach is beautiful, but on top of the high nightly hotel rates, you will spend a lot of money at pricey bars and restaurants. However, if you want to spend every day at the beach, you’re better off staying in the beach zone since high taxi prices from the center of town will end up being just as expensive.
If you’re more set on visiting ruins, exploring cenotes, and taking day trips, you’ll save money on lodging and dining by staying in town, away from the beach.
How we selected the best Tulum hotels
I’m personally familiar with many of the hotels on this list and researched all extensively.
All hotels are highly rated by past guests on trusted travel sites such as Trip Advisor and Booking.com
To keep things reasonable but also call out some stand-out properties, I looked for a variety of price points under $700 per night to start. During the high season, between December and February, nightly rates are likely to rise way above this number.
I looked for hotels with standout amenities and impressive design, from quiet beaches and cenotes to wellness offerings and community events.
Hotels were chosen in a variety of neighborhoods including and beyond the main beach road.
All hotels have new COVID-19 policies in place to prioritize the health and safety of guests.
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Camping isn’t your only option when visiting Yosemite National Park, there are many hotels, too.
From a luxury resort to a retro Airstream or a cozy cabin, there are lots of hotels near Yosemite.
We found the best Yosemite hotels with tons of activities, beautiful scenery, and easy park access.
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A trip to a national park might conjure images of tents, sleeping bags, and bugs, but that doesn’t have to be the case, especially when planning a visit to Yosemite National Park.
Sure, you could rough it with a camping trip, but for those who yearn for a more elevated experience, there are plenty of hotels in or near Yosemite ranging from a quirky refurbished Airstream to full-on luxury.
As a native San Franciscan who lives about a four-hour drive away from Yosemite, I try to visit the park as often as I can. Since I am not much of a camper, I always choose from the following hotels, which come with comfortable rooms, stunning views, loads of activities, and perhaps most importantly, easy park access.
Keep reading for my picks of the best hotels in or near Yosemite’s five park entrances.
Browse all of the best hotels near Yosemite National Park below, or jump to a specific area:
Located just two miles from Yosemite National Park’s South Gate and amid the Sierra National Forest, the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite is ideally situated near the park with much to offer families, especially.
Beyond the large Lodge, which has over 300 rooms, there are three outdoor swimming pools, including a kid’s pool and an adults-only relaxation pool. There’s also an indoor swimming pool for colder months, and tons of activities, ranging from a kid’s adventure course and a rock-climbing wall to a variety of games, play areas, and ice skating and sledding in winter. There is also a tour service, at an additional charge, that guarantees entry into the national park.
The AAA Four-Diamond hotel has a variety of different lodging types including Lodge rooms, suites, cottage rooms, and stand-alone cabins. Standard rooms in the Lodge are about 350 square feet and feature rustic wood furniture and pine barn doors.
Cottage rooms have outdoor sitting areas and fireplaces, while the 560-square-foot, two-bedroom cabin Explorer Cabins come with a separate living room, a private deck, and the most privacy and space.
For a stay immersed in the wilderness but with more luxury than you’ll find in a sleeping bag, Autocamp Yosemite offers a fun take on glamping with sleek accommodations that include luxury tents, Airstreams, and tiny homes.
Luxury canvas tents feature a King-size memory foam bed, a futon, electric blankets, a heater, mini-refrigerator, sofa, Wi-Fi, and an outdoor fire pit, though restrooms and showers are shared.
For a bit more privacy, opt for their Classic Airstream Suites, housed within polished, retro aluminum trailers that have a bedroom with a Queen bed in luxury linens, a futon for extra sleeping space, rain showers, a kitchenette, and a private patio with a fire pit and dining area.
If you’re coming with a large crew, you can choose the Premium BaseCamp Mini Suite, which features a 31-foot custom-designed Airstream Suite as well as a custom TeePee with two extra child-sized Twin beds.
There’s a cafe on-site, though offerings are limited, likely because all accommodations come with cookware, plates, and utensils for guests to prepare their own meals (just remember to arrive with all the ingredients you’ll need). A general store is also available to purchase charcuterie fixings, BBQ-ready meats, as well as beer and wine.
For socializing, Autocamp has a midcentury-inspired clubhouse with a fireplace, board games, and happy hour. They also offer yoga classes, live music, and wine tastings.
The Wawona is a quaint, historic hotel on the southern end of Yosemite National Park. It originally opened in 1856 and now consists of six whitewashed Victorian-style buildings with antique furnishings that make it feel as if you stepped back in time. Musical performances in the lounge add to the atmospheric ambiance.
Room decor keeps with the Victorian aesthetic through faux antique white and wood furniture and floral draperies. Most open onto a large veranda with Adirondack chairs, and about half of the Wawona’s guest rooms include a private bathroom Those without utilize nearby shared facilities that include showers, sinks, and toilets. Additionally, all rooms don’t have TVs, telephones, or Wi-Fi, so this is a place for those looking to disconnect.
This hotel is also seasonal; this year it closes on November 29 and opens again on March 25, 2022.
The Rush Creek Lodge is the newest addition to the Yosemite lodging scene joining its sister property, The Evergreen. Located just half a mile from Yosemite’s Highway 120 West entrance, the Rush Creek Lodge consists of 143 hillside villas, lodge rooms, and suites spread throughout the 20-acre property.
All rooms include private balconies overlooking the surrounding forest and have clean, modern, and simple layouts and furnishings, accented by large format photography of area nature and wildlife. Rooms do not have televisions but are supplied with a radio and a variety of games. If you don’t want to miss the big game, there is a big screen TV in the resort’s tavern.
The Rush Creek Lodge is particularly fitting for families since they offer an eclectic array of activities for kids of all ages. There is a one-of-a-kind nature-oriented playground with a zip line, a 60-foot hillside slide, and a rope swing in addition to crafts and programming.
Adults will appreciate the spa area that has a mineral hot tub, warm river rock loungers, and plenty of lounge chairs.
The Lodge also offers a variety of tours and events for an extra fee, from guided hikes, yoga, an introduction to glass blowing to whitewater rafting.
Located near Yosemite Falls, The Yosemite Valley Lodge is a popular choice for those looking for a centrally located place to stay within the national park.
Yosemite Valley Lodge feels more like a motel than a lodge but is a top pick for its unbeatable location and the fact that it costs about half the price of the Ahwahnee, which is one of the other popular hotels inside of Yosemite National Park.
Traditional Rooms are basic but possess a rustic flair with sturdy wood furniture and nature photography on the walls. These entry-level rooms are suitable for up to three people. If you need more room, Family Rooms and Bunk Rooms have extra space to spread out. Some rooms have balconies and patios, which are a nice perk. However, there is no air conditioning in any accommodation, which may be uncomfortable in hotter summer months.
On-site dining is offered with a casual cafeteria-type vibe.
Staying at the Evergreen Lodge is akin to being away at a summer camp with rustic cabins and activities galore. There are 88 cabins sprinkled across the 20-acre property located nine miles away from Yosemite’s Big Oak Flat entrance.
All come with private balconies, and cabins range from cozy offerings for two to family cabins that can sleep six. The standard Deluxe Cabin is 400 square feet with a King-size bed, a Queen-size pull out sofa, and a gas fireplace.
The hotel can also set up tents for those who want more of a camping experience ($120 to $155 a night).
During the day, sign up for nature crafts, family hikes, forest disc golf, and a variety of games, while and in the evenings, join s’mores by the fire, stargazing, and campfire sing-alongs. Live entertainment and a variety of lectures are also offered.
The Ahwahnee is a stunning example of the National Park Service’s historic hotels and lodging. This grand hotel, located within Yosemite National Park, opened in 1927 and has been a sought-after destination ever since. Presidents, royalty, and movie stars have all stayed here while visiting the breathtaking beauty of Yosemite.
The striking hotel offers a luxurious oasis in the middle of the wilderness, with a unique and rustic architectural mix of steel, stone, and concrete, which protects it from the risk of fires. Due to its architectural importance and history, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
The public spaces with roaring fireplaces, murals, and tapestries are stunning, with a casual elegance evoking the 1920s Arts and Crafts Movement. The hotel has remained timeless and classic after almost 100 years. The Great Lodge is particularly lovely with high-beamed ceilings accented with stencil work inspired by Native American artwork.
The hotel’s location on the floor of the Yosemite Valley is also a major benefit of staying here. It’s one that far outshines any other hotel in the area as you’ll be well-placed to explore Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Glacier Point, which are all a short stroll from the hotel.
Rooms are tastefully appointed with natural hues and vintage art, though they are rather small. For more space, book one of the cottages or splurge on the Library Suite with a wood-paneled sitting room, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and a cozy fireplace. For the best views, Featured Hotel Rooms boast stunning vistas of Yosemite’s waterfalls and iconic cliffs.
The Ahwahnee Dining Room is a landmark with 34-foot high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, fine dining, and special events such as their Bracebridge Dinner, Vintners’ Holidays, and Chefs’ Holidays.
Château du Sureau, a Relais & Chateaux property, is a 5-star luxury hotel possessing a European fairy tale feel with a majestic stone turret, manicured gardens, and cozy interiors. Located in the foothills of the Sierras near Yosemite, the Château du Sureau is about a 20-minute drive to the South Gate.
The nine-acre property is abundant with old-world charm from the grand piano nestled with a mural-covered alcove to French furnishings that feature throughout the property. No two rooms are alike; each is named for a fragrant herb from the South of France and features unique antiques and art, canopied beds, and private balconies overlooking the gardens. Some have fireplaces.
Beyond the carefully curated rooms, the hotel is home to the award-winning Elderberry House Restaurant and the Spa du Sureau, both of which are destinations themselves.
Contact the hotel for more information on COVID-19 procedures at (559) 683-6860 of firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAQ: Yosemite National Park hotels
Are there hotels in Yosemite National Park?
Yes, there are a variety of hotels within Yosemite National Park, all of which are owned by the national park system. On our list, The Ahwahnee, The Wawona, and the Yosemite Valley Lodge are all located within the park.
Do these hotels guarantee entrance to Yosemite National Park?
Yosemite National Park utilizes a reservation system for the spring and summer when there are the most visitors. If you stay at the Ahwahnee, the Wawona, or the Yosemite Valley Inn you don’t need a reservation. Many of the other hotels on the list do offer park tours, for an extra fee, that includes park admission.
Are all of these hotels open in the winter?
It does snow in Yosemite National Park so although visiting in the winter is beautiful, you’ll need to have chains for your car and plenty of warm clothing. Most of the hotels on the list above are open all year, except for The Wawona.
Which Yosemite hotel is best for couples?
Many of these hotels cater to families. For those looking for a more romantic experience, the Ahwahnee and the Château du Sureau are the best hotels for couples. Both are beautiful, relaxing, romantic, and offer fine dining.
What hotels in Yosemite National Park allow dogs?
Autocamp Yosemite, Château du Sureau, and the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite are the only hotels that allow dogs. In fact, Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite offers pet concierge, pet beds, and an on-property kennel.
Is it safe to stay in hotels?
At this time, the CDC states that domestic travel is safe if you are fully vaccinated. While the vaccination rates vary by location, the unvaccinated should continue to take extra precautions.
It is advisable that all travelers continue to follow CDC and local guidelines such as wearing masks, social distancing, and using hand sanitizer.
All of the hotels we included have cleaning and safety protocols in place for guest rooms and public spaces to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
How we selected the best hotels near Yosemite National Park
Each hotel or resort is located a short distance, at most a 40-minute drive, from one of the Yosemite National park entrances. There are also a couple of options within the park itself.
The hotels boast comfortable, spacious rooms and can accommodate families as well as be a good fit for a couples getaway.
Hotels are considered three-stars and up and hold a Trip Advisor rating of four or above with significant, honest recent reviews.
The hotels have good on-site amenities such as pools and perks that guests will enjoy.
The hotels promote stringent COVID-19 policies to prioritize the health and safety of all guests, which we’ve noted for each hotel below.
More of the best places to stay near national parks
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When choosing a hotel, social media-minded travelers place a high value on a visual appeal.
Many hotels design with Instagram in mind, with decor ranging from highly curated to eccentric.
We found the most photogenic hotels across the US with options for all budgets and travelers.
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The saying goes, “pics or it didn’t happen,” and when it comes to travel, that is especially true. After all, vacation visuals that get posted to social media serve as photogenic proof that you had an incredible time away, inspiring others’ travel decisions, and perhaps even a bit of travel envy.
Whether or not you’re an influencer commanding a major social media presence, it’s nice to visit somewhere that is visually appealing, both on and off the ‘Gram. That’s why we rounded up some of the most Instagram-worthy hotels across the United States, each catering to a variety of aesthetics.
You can be sure that each and every hotel on this list has gorgeous decor that’ll photograph perfectly, even if you’re relatively inexperienced behind the camera.
Browse all the most Instagrammable hotels in the US below, or jump directly to a specific area here.
When it comes to themed hotel rooms, no one does them quite like The Roxbury in New York’s Catskills region.
Made up of two hotels, the Roxbury Motel and the Roxbury at Stratton Falls, there are 28 whimsical rooms and suites. Entry-level rooms are fairly traditional, though still bold in colors, but it’s the suites and cottages that really dazzle.
Themes range from Maryann’s Coconut Cream Pie, where the ceiling looks as if it’s coated in undulating meringue; and The Wizard’s Emeralds, a riff on “The Wizard of Oz” complete with a yellow brick (or, in this case, yellow tile) road and a glittering green bedspread worthy of the Emerald City. Additionally, the Tower Cottages are standalone duplex suites with themes like the Faerie Forest, where interiors resemble whimsical woods plucked out of a fairy tale, with flowers, ferns, mushrooms, and gnarled tree branches adorning every inch.
The Roxbury also has a pool with a spa that appears warped to create the illusion that it’s defying gravity, alongside a hot tub, dry sauna, and treatment rooms. There are also hiking trails, one of which leads to a 50-foot waterfall.
Palm Springs is a desert oasis primarily known for two things: amazing midcentury architecture and a raucous party scene, particularly at its hotels. The Saguaro Palm Springs is no exception to either.
The hotel was built in 1971 but underwent a major renovation in 2012 by the same group behind the ultra-hip Ace Hotels. That refurbishment brought about the brightly painted exterior with a gradient rainbow effect for which the hotel is best known. These vibrant, cheerful colors carry throughout the entire property, most notably in the courtyard pool area. Paired with swaying palm trees, bright yellow umbrellas, and the cool blue of the pool, and it’s positively photogenic.
That pool area, by the way, is one of the hotel’s biggest draws. Lively parties are thrown regularly and often spill over into the Saguaro’s restaurants and bars. Be sure to reserve a cabana in advance for the best spot for photos.
Inside, guest rooms are similarly colorful with lemon yellow walls, royal purple carpets, and furniture done up in lime green, hot pink, or electric orange alongside technicolor striped bedspreads.
As the only hotel within John F. Kennedy International Airport, the TWA Hotel is, of course, a place for those who need a place to rest pre- or post-flight. But it’s also so much more, as a design-forward gem that feels like a slice of preserved history with front-row views of airplanes taking off and landing.
Designed by midcentury architecture icon Eero Saarinen in 1962 (originally as a flight center for Trans World Airlines), the TWA hotel has jaw-dropping interiors. The main building, which houses the front desk, restaurants, and bars, features soaring, curved white ceilings that are not unlike a Jetsons–style spaceship with bright red carpets, classic midcentury furniture, and an old-school departures/arrivals board.
Throughout the hotel and in some guest rooms, enjoy iconic views of the runway as planes land and depart, a boon for aviation enthusiasts. Rooms are small, but feel like you’ve stumbled onto the set of “Mad Men” with bright red Saarinen-designed Womb chairs, retro TWA travel posters, dark wood paneling, and brass accents on furniture, including a martini bar.
Visiting this hotel is a lot like, walking into a time capsule, especially when you enter the hotel’s cocktail bar housed within an actual 1958 Constellation airplane.
When it opened in 1958, the Madonna Inn in the midst of San Luis Obispo’s wine country, had just 12 rooms. Today, it has 110, from economy kings to three-bedroom suites, and each one has its own absolutely one-of-a-kind, at times tacky, but highly memorable decor.
In the Fabulous 50s room, teal walls are framed by pink trim, while gilded mirrors form a focal point in the bathroom. In the Victorian Gardens room, a four-post bed is matched with floral wallpaper, pink walls, and pink-velvet chairs and sofas. And in the Caveman room, the ceiling, walls, and floors are all made with rough-hewn rock, while furnishings are upholstered with animal print to complete the prehistoric theme.
The rooms are spread across a 1,000-acre resort, which includes basketball and tennis courts, a pool, a retro gas station (a nod to the hotel’s roots as a classic road trip stop, though today you’ll find Tesla Superchargers there), a spa, a bakery, and several restaurants and bars.
The eclectic decor doesn’t stop in the rooms, either. Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House is decked out in topsy-turvy pink and gold colors that recall either the Mad Hatter’s tea party or the “Be Our Guest” scene in Beauty and the Beast.” Hot pink circular banquettes are trimmed with gold, while a pink floral carpet provides punchy patterns. An organic, tree-like candelabra rises in the center of the room, its golden tendrils supporting dozens of electric candles.
COVID-19 procedures are available by phone at 805-543-3000.
Opened in 1778, the Greenbrier is an iconic American resort in West Virginia, having hosted 27 presidents throughout its history. Naturally, there have been many changes to the property over the centuries, but perhaps the most dramatic was a 1946 redecoration by lauded interior designer Dorothy Draper, who introduced lurid colors and punchy patterns into the historic buildings.
Take the Greenbriar Avenue lobby, where black-and-white houndstooth club chairs sit atop bright red carpet, surrounded by teal-and-white striped columns, tropical-print wallpaper, and black-and-white checkered floors. Then in the Victorian Writing Room, rainbow-colored floral armchairs and drapes contrast with forest green walls and a bright red carpet.
The guest rooms feature similar idiosyncratic decor, though perhaps not as in-your-face. Entry-level rooms all feature floral wallpaper with floral drapes to match, while higher room tiers have slightly more vibrant approaches to interior design. In the Windsor Club Rooms, you’ll likely find brighter pink wallpaper, whole beds are covered by canopies, and furniture and carpets feature gingham or plaid patterns.
The Greenbrier is also known for its many on-site activities, ranging from sports facilities, studios, and workshops for creative types to a casino, more than a dozen dining options, and plenty of shopping on the 11,000-acre grounds. But its most unusual amenity is a formerly secret Cold War-era bunker designed to house Congress. It’s now declassified and open for tours.
In New York’s Catskills region, a popular weekend trip for city dwellers, the Urban Cowboy sits on 68 forested acres with plenty of outdoor recreation, but we wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to spend your entire stay indoors.
That’s because the hotel’s 28 accommodations feature super cool decor that focuses on quintessential rustic elements like deer antlers, live-wood furniture, rough-hewn wood beams, and outdoorsy accent pieces like snowshoes or oars. Colorful Native American pattern work covers the ceilings, beds, chairs, and rugs, creating a visual cacophony that feels high-design. And then there’s the matter of the absolutely gorgeous copper soaking tubs set in front of big picture windows.
This rugged-chic mountain style continues in public spaces, especially in the bar with a massive stone fireplace and columns that look like trees. The vibrant patterns make an appearance, too, from the walls to the sofas to the rugs.
If it feels like Faena Hotel Miami Beach is some sort of phantasmagoric movie set, that’s because it basically is. Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and production and costume designer Catherine Martin, a husband-wife team, spearheaded the design of this Mid-Beach property, and they went all out.
Public spaces are filled with sumptuous colors, dazzling metallics, and all manners of prints and patterns, from leopard spots to Art Deco geometry. Even the spa, a typically soothing space, is filled with bright colors, a neon-colored pom-pom chandelier, and bird-filled, floral landscape wallpaper.
In fact, public areas are absolutely buzzing with visual elements, with a gold-covered woolly mammoth skeleton by the pool (a Damien Hirst artwork) that takes center stage.
Guest rooms, however, are a bit more subdued, with white walls and wood floors to keep things grounded, accented by red and turquoise furnishings. Bits of animal print are thrown in for good measure and as subtle reminders of your larger surroundings.
From the outside, the Inn of the Five Graces is just another (450-year-old) adobe dwelling in Santa Fe. But inside, it’s a global journey along the Silk Road.
Public spaces and all 24 rooms burst with colors and patterns, whether from mosaic tiles, Central Asian textiles, or South Asian works of art. The look is definitely maximalist, but the blend of international styles is somehow never overwhelming thanks to the smooth and soothing adobe walls that serve as a calming backdrop. Natural elements like wood-beamed ceilings and stone hearths also provide simple contrast.
The boutique property is limited on amenities, though it has an exceptional spa treatment room inspired by Tibetan tradition (both in decor and in therapies), a gym, and in-room dining provided by a neighboring restaurant.
The Inn of the Five Graces is a five-minute walk from downtown Santa Fe, but thanks to its global influences, it seems to transport you to the other side of the world.
Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace was tragically murdered in 1997, but his lavish Miami Beach mansion was preserved to pay homage to his life, and now, operates as a luxury hotel.
Today it’s called the Villa Casa Casuarina, and was inspired by the Alcázar de Cólon in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Spanish-style mansion, built in 1930, captivated Versace, who bought it in 1992 and renovated it to suit his extravagant taste. It’s still exquisitely over the top.
The hotel’s suites feature ostentatious decor in various themes. In the Azure Suite, blue-and-white decor abounds with Roman-inspired architectural details, like the medallion-inlaid pediments above the windows in the bedroom and the tromp l’oeil “plasterwork” in the bathroom. In the Signature Suite, however, there’s a far more sultry vibe, with animal print upholstery, a sumptuous warm-tone marble bathroom, and gilded furnishings.
But the visual highlight of the entire property is the Million Mosaic Pool, which is comprised of thousands of 24-karat gold tiles.
COVID-19 procedures are available by phone at 305-908-1462.
Arguably one of the most exclusive resorts in the US, Amangiri is a lesson in understated elegance. Architecturally, the sleek hotel is designed to blend in with the stark, rocky landscape surrounding its 600 desert acres in Utah, with color palettes that match near perfectly.
Despite the indulgent luxury price tag, everything here is understated. Furnishings are made of sinuous wood or matte concrete with white upholstery to maximize the natural surroundings, which are often framed by views so beautiful, they appear like a work of art. With so many clean lines, use the sky for color and take pictures at different times of day to create variation.
Though it’d be easy to rest in your luxurious suite all day long, you’ll want to spend time in the dramatic Aman Spa, which covers 25,000 square feet. With looming concrete walls, it can at times feel cavernous, akin to the deep canyons found just a few miles away.
While expensive, the rate covers all meals (sans alcohol), some activities, and some spa treatments, too. Stunning nature, hiking, horseback riding, or climbing, are all activities that await.
For unusual hotels, consider the Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood, Idaho, where the main building is shaped like a beagle; The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where Christmas is celebrated year-round; and the Railroad Park Resort in Dunsmuir, California, where guests sleep in converted train cars.
How do I find cool hotels to stay in?
If you’re looking for an Instagrammable hotel, head to Instagram to get inspired by other travelers. Search hashtags like #beautifulhotels or #coolhotels. Or trust the experts, like us!
What makes a hotel Instagrammable?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Styles that some might consider Instagram-worthy might not be quite right for the aesthetic of your feed. But in general, bold interior design is key or a stunning setting. And bold doesn’t necessarily mean maximalist. A stark, minimalist interior can be visually dynamic in photographs, too.
What are some of the most photogenic hotels in the world?
There’s no shortage of beautiful hotels in the world, whether you’re looking for the classic Italian style of Villa d’Este on Lake Como, the over-the-top safari lodge Ol Jogi in Kenya’s Laikipia region, or the futuristic ME by Meliá Dubai, designed by Zaha Hadid.
How we selected the most Instagrammable hotels in the US
As a travel writer who focuses on architecture and design, I determined that every hotel has photo-worthy design elements, whether in the guest rooms, public spaces, or exterior areas.
Each property on the list is highly rated on traveler review sites like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and Expedia.
High-design hotels range greatly in budget. We’ve selected properties from each end of the spectrum; they cost anywhere from $95 to $$3,500 per night.
Tastes vary, so we’ve picked a selection of decor styles. There’s everything from kitschy-themed suites to magazine-worthy interior design.
While COVID-19 policies vary from state to state, these hotels still have strict health and safety policies in place to protect both guests and staff.
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Denver is a year-round destination for outdoor activities and great restaurants, museums, and more.
Denver is an especially convenient base for mountain vacations all over Colorado.
These are the best Denver hotels for all travelers, from $165 to $319 per night.
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While many travelers might consider Denver as simply a stopover on the way to visit some of the Rockies’ most iconic mountain towns, there’s plenty of reason to stay put. World-class art museums, award-winning dining, and easy access to hiking or bike riding are all on offer in this sunny city.
And while there are plenty of great Denver Airbnbs to consider, there is also a fantastic local hotel scene. While based in Denver for the past few months, I had the chance to check out many of the best hotels in Denver; here’s where you should stay for your next visit.
Browse all of the best Denver hotels below, or jump to a specific category here:
While check-in comes with a free cookie, The Curtis takes a good first impression and makes it great with a pop-culture-infused approach to hospitality.
From an entrance fashioned to look like a trailer to bold art, quirky design accents, and whimsically themed rooms and suites, everything about The Curtis is incredibly unique.
In fact, the playful approach is so one-of-a-kind, it’s hard to believe this is a Doubletree Hilton Hotel rather than a one-off, boutique property. There are 336 guest rooms that range from standard to hyper-themed. The former is more traditional but is still well-designed and appointed with retro-feeling midcentury furnishings, a mini-fridge, coffee maker, HDTV, and other comforts.
To fully immerse yourself in the eclectic atmosphere, book a hyper-themed room or suite, which ranges from a Ghostbusters room with slime green flooring to a video game-focused room with actual arcade games like Donkey Kong. Suites are larger and come with sitting areas and rock n’ roll themes that pay homage to The Rolling Stones and Kiss.
Located in Denver’s Golden Triangle, known for its many art destinations, this aptly named hotel is a prime choice for travelers who are interested in exploring the city’s robust art scene. The hotel is steps away from the Denver Art Museum, which regularly hosts fantastic exhibits.
In keeping with this theme, the hotel is brightly decorated and features striking paintings and sculptures from the owner’s private collection. The sculptural, glass building is a great complement to the architectural landscape of the neighborhood.
Rooms are more subdued, with soft woods and subtly bright accents. Furnishings are scaled back to minimize high-touch surfaces, but the comfy bedding, LCD TVs, and luxurious bath products from Gilchrist and Soames all remain.
This playful, colorful micro-hotel in Cherry Creek is geared towards hip, millennial travelers. Checking in, for example, happens at the hotel bar and your room key comes with a complimentary drink.
Modernly designed rooms are on the smaller side but feature clever storage solutions as well as wall fixtures for hanging clothing and personal items. The bathrooms come with walk-in showers but no tubs.
If the modest guest rooms seem pared-down, know that the public-facing amenities and social spaces are more exciting. There are complimentary bikes for guests to use during their stay, the bar has a shuffleboard setup, there’s a separate ironing room, the gym is full of top-of-the-line equipment, and an adjacent outdoor beer garden is frequented by both locals and guests.
Kimpton’s design-forward hotel is located steps away from Union Station and pays homage to the Rockies with a mountain-inspired aesthetic.
Pinewood surfaces, including beautiful wraparound headboards, and flannel-like upholstery deliver a wintertime vibe no matter when you visit. Every room boasts soaring, floor-to-ceiling windows, and art by Denver artists is found throughout this hotel. Pricier room categories come with massive soaking tubs, and depending on which floor you end up on, you might receive mountain views.
There are two restaurants: Citizen Rail, which focuses on wood-fire-prepared meals, and Tavernetta, considered one of Denver’s best Italian dining rooms. Join Kimpton’s signature social hour for drinks and snacks, which may also be enjoyed in your room.
The Denver location of the Life House hotel brand is one of the newest hotels in town, and this design-forward property features a ton of cool elements that are quite unique to the local market, including a wine program that’s entirely natural.
Tucked away in the Lower Highlands (or LoHi), a hip residential neighborhood with buzzy restaurants, bars, and shops, the hotel is not very close to the main tourist sights of Denver, but it is just on the other side of Union Station.
Inside, the interior decor, inspired by Victorian Industrialism, is all about Victorian-era meets Wild West drama. A medley of floral upholstery and heavy plush drapes mixes with lots of leather (of course), potted cacti, and mountainscape murals, presenting an intriguing visual narrative. Guestrooms are split between bunk-bed rooms and spacious suites, but both come with Le Labo bath amenities, rain showers, and wellness programming on the TVs. The hotel even filmed yoga classes in actual guest rooms to ensure you’ll have enough space to comfortably follow along.
While there are many local-approved restaurants near the hotel, Life House’s on-property dining concept Wildflower is a hit with potent cocktails and a vegetable-driven menu of shared plates.
The Maven mixes an industrial-chic aesthetic with hundreds of Instagram-ready art pieces. Case in point, the first thing you might notice upon arrival is the giant hand suspended from the lobby ceiling or the splashy Airstream coffee/bar.
The vibe in the guest rooms is similar, with concrete walls and steel furniture punched up by colorful murals, floor-to-ceiling windows, and spacious bathrooms.
For fitness enthusiasts, the hotel has a fully equipped 4,500-square-foot gym. The location in the Dairy Block, an artsy micro-neighborhood that was completed in 2018, is a fantastic way to experience the recent revitalization of the LoDo neighborhood.
The Oxford Hotel is Denver’s most historic hotel, dating back to 1891, though rooms feel current thanks to a recent refresh. Located in the popular Lower Downtown neighborhood, staying here places you within arm’s reach of Denver’s top attractions.
No two rooms are totally alike at this independent hotel. Furnishings are simple and traditional with antique wood headboards and thick draperies, while bathrooms lean vintage-inspired with tiled floors and clawfoot tubs. Some come with spacious sitting areas and all have fast free Wi-Fi and HDTVs.
Common spaces feel regal thanks to soaring ceilings, marble walls, and interior balconies. A well-equipped fitness center is convenient, while a plus restaurant and bar area invites guests to linger on-site.
Located in the heart of River North Art District, Denver’s hippest enclave, The Ramble is a cocktail-obsessed hotel that calls Death & Co, the iconic NYC drinking den, its dining partner. Mixologists actually managed many of the property’s food and beverage offerings, from the various dining venues around the hotel as well as the contents of the minibar.
But this 50-room boutique hotel is more than just a bar with bedrooms. The interiors were modeled after the intrigue of centuries-old French salons. Guest rooms exude a moody but sexy aesthetic with velvet headboards, dramatic crystal chandeliers, whimsical wallpaper, and, in some rooms, soaking clawfoot tubs. For friends who don’t mind sharing space, Bunkhouse rooms offer a nice value.
The location within one of Denver’s thriving new neighborhoods is a particularly big draw for traveling creatives who want to be near new restaurants, buzzing food markets, local distilleries, and indie boutiques.
Located inside the historic Union Station terminal, just steps away from the train platforms, The Crawford Hotel could not be more accessible to all forms of transportation. The transformation of Union Station, which included the opening of this 112-room hotel in 2014, is part of the revitalization of Denver’s LoDo neighborhood.
The hotel combines old-world elements with modern perks. For instance, many guest rooms feature historic architectural details like exposed bricks, wood beams, and elaborate crown moldings that date back to the 19th century.
Staying here also places guests smack in the middle of a fast-changing neighborhood with bars, restaurants, and cultural attractions right at their fingertips. While pets are allowed, there is a steep $50 per night fee.
Located in Denver’s ritzy Cherry Creek neighborhood, The Jacquard projects both an upscale and boutique vibe, though it’s actually under the Marriott Bonvoy umbrella.
The hotel’s 201 rooms are known for spacious blueprints, as well as glistening custom furniture and stunning mountain and sunset views. Design-wise, there’s a modern but minimalist style to interiors, with warm wooden headboards and desk areas that may appeal to business travelers.
The walkable surrounding neighborhood means there’s plenty to do outside the hotel’s doors, whether it’s shopping, dining, art-hopping, or biking along a river trail. But guests should make sure to visit The Jacquard’s rooftop pool and bar, which boasts sprawling vistas of Denver. Similarly, the on-property restaurant Narrative, from award-winning chef Paul Nagan, is one of Denver’s best with a wine menu that is over 750-labels strong.
This good-looking, 154-room hotel in Cherry Creek offers up a contemporary take on the luxury experience. The check-in desk is called the Kitchen Counter, where guests might be offered a CBD drip coffee upon arrival.
Rooms are spacious and bright with high ceilings, minimalist decor, shiny subway tiles in the bathroom mixed with gilded fixtures, a yoga mat, and Jonathan Adler bath amenities.
Make reservations at the public venues ahead of your trip as they are often booked up by local Denver tastemakers. Local Jones is a great restaurant serving elevated comfort dishes and the basement-level speakeasy whips up some of the best cocktails in town.
The rooftop pool is also quite a draw. In the winter, the space is transformed into a wonderland with a curling floor and telescopes for sky viewing.
Denver is a year-round destination thanks to roughly 300 days of sunshine, plus being an excellent home base for enjoying all the nearby Rocky Mountains have to offer.
Thanks to its high elevation and semi-arid climate, even in the summer Denver offers enjoyable weather, with highs in the low 90s and lows in the 60s at night. April, May, September, and October offer some of the best weather and fewer crowds. Of course, many like to explore Denver during the winter months and use it as a jumping-off point for Colorado’s best ski resorts.
Keep in mind that prices tend to jump during popular summer weekends in July and August, as well as during peak ski season in winter.
What are the best areas to stay in Denver?
Some of the best neighborhoods to stay in Denver are popular areas like Union Station, LoDo, and RiNo. Cherry Creek is also an upscale area that many visitors enjoy. Art lovers will also enjoy the Golden Triangle.
What are the best activities in Denver?
From hiking Mountain Evans to strolling the Botanic Gardens, there’s no shortage of great outdoor options in Denver. Sports fans may want to catch a baseball game at Coors Field when the season is right.
There are also numerous museums and cultural attractions to consider, including the Denver Art Museum, Molly Brown House Museum, and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Be on the lookout for the trippy and interactive exhibits that will soon debut at Meow Wolf Denver, too.
There’s also plenty of top-notch restaurants, breweries, local coffee shops to keep foodies happy. You can also opt for a tour and tasting at Stranahan’s Whiskey Distillery.
Most hotels have also implemented new COVID-19 safety procedures. While you’re more likely to encounter other people than in a private vacation rental, experts say that with added caution, hotels are safe.
How we selected the best Denver hotels
The properties here appeal to a wide range of travelers. Whether you’re on a budget, seeking out luxury, or someone who won’t travel without your beloved pet, there’s something for everyone.
We also kept affordability in mind and hotels average $165 to $319 per night, though prices can jump during peak seasons.
These hotels come with desirable amenities from impeccable decor and rooftop pools to top-notch on-site restaurants.
The hotels were also selected for their prime location in some of Denver’s most exciting districts, from the shopping-friendly streets of Cherry Creek to the central neighborhood of LoDo.
In addition to my own experiences, I also ensured all hotels have excellent recent reviews and high ratings on trusted sites like Trip Advisor, and Booking.com.
In Denver, it’s important to note that many hotels feature resort fees to cover the cost of various amenities, from Wi-Fi to complimentary happy hours and even discounts at neighborhood businesses. We’ve outline additional fees to consider below.
All hotels have strict new COVID-19 policies in place so you can rest easy.
US cities across the country will lose millions, and in some cases billions, of dollars in revenue in 2021 as far fewer people travel for business than before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, new data finds.
The US travel market, especially the hospitality sector, is suffering due to remote work and the coronavirus, according to research published by data analytics firm, Kalibri Labs, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association. The research was first reported on by Bloomberg.
Business travel revenue, which includes corporate, group, government, and other commercial categories, is down dramatically in cities across the US for 2021 compared to 2019, before the pandemic started.
Ten major cities have taken the biggest hit. The New York market, the highest earner in business travel, is projected to make about $530 million in revenue in 2021, down 88% from $4.5 billion in 2019. The Washington DC and Orlando markets, which both made around $2.7 billion in 2019, also reported an 80% plus drop versus 2019 numbers. San Francisco made the steepest drop, with revenue down 93% since 2019. Las Vegas, which hosts scores of large corporate events, is projected to lose 71.2% of its 2019 revenue this year.
The pandemic is “wiping out a decade’s worth of revenue and job growth” in the hospitality sector, the report concludes.
Revenue per available room for most generic business travel hotels are down 45% from 2019, Insider previously calculated. Business and group travel are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 at the earliest.
“Corporate groups generally provide a base of occupancy for the market and without that, hotels are really not going to have tremendous pricing power so it’s going to be a challenge for several years on the profitability side,” Evan Weiss, chief operating officer at LW Hospitality Advisors, told NY1 in January.
Travel across the board is still struggling to regain pacing after falling off a cliff during the pandemic.
“Dense urban markets such as New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco are still only 20% to 30% recovered,” Hyatt CEO Mark S. Hoplamazian said in a second quarter earnings call.
The hotel and hospitality industry buckled during the COVID-19 pandemic as airline travel stopped, offices closed, and millions of workers went fully remote and virtual. Leisure travel made a slight comeback this past summer as more people got vaccinated and opted to travel.
Analysts expected business travel to recover in September as work began to start up again. But employers are finding it more difficult to get employees to fully return to the office, including commitments to travel for work. Many conferences and trade shows, which are the main opportunities for work and group travel, are still held virtually, further reducing the need for business travel. COVID concerns also linger and the Delta variant is creating further uncertainty with travel.
50% of business travel will go away after the pandemic as in-person meetings become less regular, Bill Gates said in 2020.
Still, executives at large hotel chains have remained hopeful that business travel will bounce back, with some even offering alternative uses for hotel vacancies, such as temporary office space. The CEOs of Hyatt and Hilton both said in their earnings calls that they were seeing business travel revenue recovering, especially among regional small and medium-sized businesses. Congress also introduced the Save Hotel Jobs Act this week, aimed at further dampening the impact of decreased business travel on the hotel industry and its workers.
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For wide-open spaces, outdoor activities, and plenty of nature, consider a dude ranch vacation.
A dude ranch is a western-style resort with horseback riding, fishing, campfires, BBQs, and more.
The best US dude ranches include options for families, couples, seniors, and those on a budget.
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For a western-themed adventure that doesn’t sit on its high horse, consider a dude ranch vacation. Some ranches are quite luxurious, with guests dressing for dinner and indulging in local wines. Others are more simplistic affairs, offering a down home way to unplug and reconnect with nature.
Though horseback riding is the main attraction at our favorite dude ranches, you’ll also enjoy a wide slate of additional activities to keep non-equestrians busy, from fishing to hiking to roasting marshmallows around the campfire. These are the best places to saddle up, or not.
Browse all of the best dude ranches below, or jump to a specific category here:
At 320 Guest Ranch, the bluebird skies, high mountain meadows, and ebb and flow of the river feel infinite. Once a historic homestead, the property was transformed into a guest ranch that oozes low-key western hospitality.
The ranch offers a variety of accommodations, from intimate log cabins with homespun decor to elaborate mountain chalets with glass-enclosed living rooms providing spectacular views. Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, and wrap-around porches grace many cabins. Every cabin is standalone and there’s no main lodge, making this an especially attractive choice for social distancing.
The remote beauty of Big Sky country is easy to appreciate from the back of a horse. Expert wranglers maintain over 2,000 miles of trails and excel at helping riders find their hidden inner cowboy. Rides are as short as one hour and as long as a full day with lunch served lakeshore.
A filling breakfast is including in the rate, and dinner at on-site McGill’s leans local, with just-caught trout and bison on the menu.
Located on 60,000 acres of starkly beautiful desert terrain with the Rincon Mountains as a backdrop, Tanque Verde Ranch has the authentic feel of an old-time cattle ranch.
Guest rooms feature adobe walls and time-honored Southwestern accents such as beehive fireplaces. Private patios provide a peaceful place to listen to the morning birdsong.
Mount your horse for the popular lunchtime ride to Cottonwood Grove and soak in the majesty of the desert horizon. Beginning riders may enjoy a leisurely walking ride while experienced riders walk, trot, and lope. Everyone enjoys a BBQ lunch before heading back to the corral.
Additional horsemanship activities include team penning and lessons on equine behavior.
The Catskill Mountains in New York State have long been a playground for urbanites seeking a rural escape. To get in touch with your inner buckaroo without making a big dent in your wallet, Pine Ridge Dude Ranch is an affordable getaway located only 90 miles from Manhattan.
No-frills guest rooms are uncluttered with cathedral ceilings, hardwood floors, and large screen LED TVs, and some have fireplaces and private patios.
One horseback ride per stay is included in the rate, as are free daily pony rides for young children. The popular Barn Buddies program gives up-close access to the horses while teaching grooming and saddling skills, while tractor rides, a petting zoo, horseshoe pit, and s’mores by the campfire offer nostalgic fun. Additionally, take a swim in the pool, swing a tennis racquet, and play a round of mini-golf.
Meals are laidback in tune with the casual feel of the ranch. The kitchen takes pride in utilizing produce sourced from nearby farms and hearty main courses are served with freshly baked bread and retro desserts like Jell-O and chocolate pudding.
This 3,000-acre Sonoran Desert oasis has been owned and operated by the same family for generations. They take pride in offering personalized service, a welcoming atmosphere, and excellent value.
Guest rooms have tiled floors, solid wood furniture, and private patios. Local artwork adds panache, and the sprawling five-bedroom hacienda is a good choice for groups.
The ranch owns one of the largest private herds of horses in Arizona and guests are paired with one horse for the duration of their stay. A variety of guided rides are scheduled, from fast-paced trots to gentle walks where riders and wranglers have time to appreciate the flora and fauna. Nightly entertainment includes moonlight bonfires, whip-cracking demos, and a cowboy chorus.
Located in the wooded foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains a few hours from New York City, Rocking Horse Ranch is tailor-made for families.
Guest rooms are in either the Main Lodge or the adjacent motel-style Oklahoma Building. Rooms have faux-log furnishings, cowboy-themed bedding, Wi-Fi, and flat-screen cable TVs. Larger rooms with two Queen beds and bunks sleep six comfortably, and three homestyle meals per day and all snacks are included in the price.
Over 100 horses call the ranch home and an extensive year-round riding program is at its core. A network of interlocking trails provides ample room to walk, trot, or canter and wranglers arrange rides to suit first-timers and seasoned regulars.
The supervised children’s program is also top-notch. Infants and toddlers have their own age-appropriate nursery while older siblings may attend day camp. Finally, a water park, nightly entertainment, and arcade ensure kids are never bored.
C Lazy U Ranch has been introducing families to the traditions of the American West for over 100 years. While not for those watching their wallets, the all-inclusive model and high-end accommodations and meals still mean it offers strong value.
Locally owned, this classic dude ranch sits on 8,500 pristine acres within an unspoiled landscape that supports a wealth of plant life and colorful wildflowers. As such, keep an eye out for moose, black bears, elks, and eagles.
Upscale guest rooms and remodeled cabins feature stone fireplaces, exposed beams, and reclaimed timber trim that serve as characteristic complements to the Continental Divide surroundings. All are equipped with refrigerators, heated bathroom floors, and Keurig coffee machines. Roomy cabins with bunk beds work especially well for families.
Programming is anchored by extensive year-round horsemanship and horseback riding opportunities along with a patchwork of trails. However, if inclement weather hits, there’s also a heated indoor riding arena.
Yoga, fly fishing, trap shooting, hatchet throwing, and a zip line course are popular pastimes in addition to equestrian sports, and in cold weather, snow tubing, ice skating, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing round out the offerings. Each winter morning, guests may join the wranglers on the feed wagon and watch the herd of horses eat their breakfast.
You’ll build up an appetite as well and three full meals are included in the daily rate. Dinner is an elegant four-course affair with an award-winning wine program, led by an on-site sommelier.
Nestled in a wisp of a valley in the San Juan Mountains, explore your inner cowboy and a taste of the Wild West along the banks of the Rio Grande River.
Guest rooms are divided between four cottages and rooms have sturdy wood paneling, simple Shaker-style furniture, and plush bathrobes. Porches present panoramic views from the perch of comfy rocking chairs.
Horseback riding and an extensive horsemanship program anchor the resort. Novices gain confidence in the arena before heading onto wilderness trails while savvy riders can book an all-day ride through the Rio Grande Forest. Fly-fishing, hiking, a dip in the soothing natural hot springs, and evening campfires are also all on the daily schedule.
Additionally, a stellar children’s program includes riding, a weekly rodeo, hayrides, and lots of opportunities to play with barn animals.
For a dude ranch vacation with ample charm, pack your Stetson hat and escape to Wildcatter Ranch Resort in North Texas Hill Country ranch, just 90 miles from Dallas.
Cabin suites and main building hotel rooms utilize natural materials like wooden bed frames and stone fireplaces, and in spite of mounted taxidermy, the look is genuine gaucho over kitschy. High ceilings and porches with panoramic views accentuate the sense of space.
With 25 miles of lightly-tread riding trails rambling across the ranch, couples may have a trail all to themselves. Learn additional cowboy skills such as ranch roping, or if you prefer to kick-back, enjoy the scenery on an escorted Jeep tour. The infinity-edge pool is the perfect place to watch the sunset while sipping a glass of local wine.
Gracious Alisal Ranch is situated on 10,000 rugged acres in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, the heart of Santa Barbara County’s wine region. The ranch is surrounded by dozens of wineries, which is convenient for sampling top vintages once you’re out of the saddle.
Rooms and suites feature cozy wood-burning fireplaces, plus tasteful accents like reclaimed barn wood paneling, and fine linens covering the pillow-soft beds.
The extensive riding program is led by experienced wranglers and there are 50 miles of trails dipping through verdant glens, grass-covered hills, and riverbanks. Book the popular breakfast ride to start your day with an easy trail ride before indulging in a Chuckwagon breakfast served by a crackling campfire.
Room rates are for two and include breakfast and dinner daily, which adds value to the expensive rate. The evening meal is a traditional affair, with men asked to wear collared shirts and sport jackets.
This remote Utah ranch is a bucolic retreat on the shores of Bear Lake. Surrounded by rolling hills and mountain peaks, the area is home to numerous caves filled with otherworldly stalagmite formations.
Guests sleep in glamping tents outfitted with electricity, luxurious bathrooms, claw foot soaking tubs with room for two, and cushy beds. Or, dive into the pioneer experience and stay in one of the Conestoga wagons, based on the authentic 19th-century design.
Guided horseback rides showcase the area’s beauty and the wranglers are so genuinely friendly, you’ll feel like they’re your country cousins by the end of your stay. In summer, the sparkling waters of Bear Lake are a wonderland for fishing, kayaking, and swimming. If you prefer your fun on dry land, hiking, biking, and sunrise yoga are also enticing possibilities.
If you thought Florida was nothing but spring breakers, early-bird dinner specials, and a certain black-eared mouse, welcome to one of the state’s last wide-open tracks of wilderness. Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo is located on 1,700 acres overlooking the Kissimmee River, and is one hour south of Orlando, making it an appealing add-on to a theme park vacation.
The ranch offers a variety of comfortable accommodations including lodge rooms, cabins, glamping tents, and decked-out tipis. Each tipi provides luxurious linens, a fireplace, a cast iron soaking tub, and a private patio.
Saddle up and go for a guided 45-minute trail ride or try not to get thrown from the mechanical bull. If horseback riding isn’t your thing, there’s also skeet shooting, tennis, fishing, swimming, line dancing, and archery. Our pick is the weekly Saturday rodeo, where experienced contestants fight to hold onto a wild bull.
When you’re ready to dine, know that the menu leans towards meat and potatoes, with few options for vegetarians or those who favor clean eating.
A dude ranch is a Western-style resort typically featuring rustic-chic accommodations and a wide range of outdoor-centric activities, including horseback riding, fishing, hiking, roping, roasting marshmallows, chuckwagon dinners, and more.
Dude ranches are often set on hundreds (or thousands!) of acres of land offering plenty of wide-open spaces and on-site trails, ponds, lakes, and more. Many dude ranches are all-inclusive resorts where all meals, drinks, and activities are included. However, other guest ranch stays have a la carte options. Some dude ranches require minimum stays of anywhere from two nights to a week, but others allow you to book just one night.
How much does a dude ranch vacation cost?
Dude ranch vacation costs can vary quite a bit. It depends heavily on the season (peak summer dates will be the most expensive), as well as whether it’s all-inclusive or not.
Though all-inclusive options can come with an initial sticker shock, it pays off to do the math on how much meals and activities will cost at other dude ranches since sometimes the all-inclusive route can actually come out cheaper in the end.
Dude ranches span a wide range and there are budget options available for under $200 per night all the way up to decadent luxury stays packed with amenities and perks that can start from over $1,000 per night.
What do you do at a dude ranch?
Horseback riding is the main attraction at most dude ranches, but there are plenty of additional activities, including fishing, swimming, archery, and even lounging at on-site pools to keep non-equestrians busy.
Expect wholesome entertainment like toasting marshmallows under a starry sky, or listening to a chorus of cowboys singing country music hits by the campfire at night. Food options can also range from casual barbecues to gourmet meals depending on the ranch.
Are ranch vacations safe?
The CDC has stated that travel within the US is safe for fully vaccinated travelers, and experts say hotels are safe with the proper precautions taken.
Dude ranches also often present an even safer and more attractive vacation option right now since many offer standalone cabins and most ranches feature plenty of space for social distancing and focus on spending time outdoors.
How we selected the best dude ranches
We looked for options to suit a wide range of adventurers. We’ve broken our list into categories, with options for travelers on a budget, as well as families, couples seeking a romantic getaway, and active seniors.
Our top picks are based on our own travel experiences, as well as incorporating feedback from trusted review sites like Trip Advisor and Booking.com.
Every dude ranch offers plenty of activities and outdoor fun to keep you busy, whether you want to head out on a trail ride or lounge poolside back at camp.
We included a variety of locations across the US, but all offer wide-open spaces and stunning scenery.
All the ranches have strict COVID-19 policies in place, which we’ve highlighted.