Author E.M. Forster knew the value of a room with a view; he used the phrase to name one of his most beloved novels. Here are some hotels with views so special that you’ll have a hard time dragging yourself out the door.
St. Regis Bora Bora
People tend to use the shorthand “Tahiti” when referring to French Polynesia, a vast scattering of islands that covers a nearly a million square miles of the South Pacific. Some of French Polynesia’s island chains barely break the surface of the water, but the Society Islands are mountainous, with stunning Bora Bora containing the famed double peaks of Mt. Otemanu and Mt. Pahia. Mainland Bora Bora is ringed with islands, called motu, and one of the most luxurious motu resorts—positioned for maximum vistas of the lagoon and the pair of mountains—is the St. Regis Bora Bora. Overwater villas, some with their own (decadently redundant) overwater pools, boast enchanting Otemanu views.
My best Eiffel Tower-from-the-room experience occurred at the venerable Hôtel Plaza Athénée, when I stayed in an art deco suite with a view of Paris’ tallest landmark from the glass-tiled bathtub. But with the Plaza closed for a major expansion until May 2014, view seekers should make note of the Shangri-La. Although the Plaza was where Carrie ran into “Mr. Big” during the final episode of “Sex and the City,” but the Shangri-La is no slouch is the fame department: It was the former home of Napoleon Bonaparte’s grandnephew, and its interiors are the vision of Pierre-Yves Rochon, the king of luxury hotel design. You can enjoy BVLGARI White Tea toiletries while taking in the Eiffel Tower view from one of the Shangri-La’s soaking tubs.
Photo: Drew Limsky)
Mandarin Oriental, New York City
When I first came to New York, Columbus Circle was an oddity: The household-name landmark rests fabulously on the southwest entrance of Central Park, and yet it was plainly in disrepair. The buildings that flanked it were roundly dismissed, even mocked. When plans for the Time Warner Center were announced, and people contemplated a shopping center—a mall!—in Manhattan, locals were dubious. But the glittering edifice has glamorized the location, and the Mandarin Oriental, which occupies the upper floors of the north tower, has been a big part of that renewal. Its exclusive sky lobby, Asiate restaurant and richly textured rooms seem to float above Central Park, offering some of the city’s best views of the park’s trees and trails.
Hotel Palazzo Manfredi, Rome
One of the most thrilling things about the Eternal City is how accessible the ruins are. You walk down a street, and suddenly you come upon one of the world’s most iconic sights. This is especially true of the nearly 2,000-year-old Colosseum, which rises from a low-slung neighborhood and is encircled by a greenbelt. Just a few blocks away, the Palazzo Manfredi, an elegant boutique hotel, offers great Colosseum views both from its rooms and from Aroma, the hotel’s magical rooftop restaurant. Between the hotel and the Colosseum on Via Labicana are the ruins of gladiators’ barracks—and the city’s so-called Gay Street, lined with bistros and bars.
Jade Mountain, St. Lucia
I’ve been to St. Lucia several times, and to me, there’s no point to going unless you hole up in the area of the Pitons, the twin “volcanic plugs” that attest to the island’s geologically violent beginnings. Several resorts lay claim to fantastic locations that overlook either Gros Piton or Petit Piton, but only Anse Chastanet and its more luxe sister property, Jade Mountain, offer awe-inspiring views of both Pitons side by side. The guest rooms of the two resorts have done away with one wall to maximize the panoramas, and Jade Mountain’s rooms have enviable private infinity pools that (when you stand in the right place) reflect the peaks, doubling the double vision.
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
One of the more surprising things about pulchritudinous Southern California is how few resorts capture the area’s coastal majesty. But the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, which is actually located in Dana Point due south of Laguna Beach, makes the most of its commanding view atop a 150-foot cliff. The altitude allows for serpentine walkways, grand terraces and subtropical gardens descending from the building to the beach, an especially popular break for Orange County’s surfers. There are even terraced lawns ringed with Adirondack chairs for quiet contemplation of the rolling Pacific waves. New fireplace guest rooms boast sweeping views of the coves below, and when I stayed on the top floor, I had an endless all-water vista framed by palm trees.
(Photo: Navin Rajagopalan / Flickr)
Gritti Palace, Venice
A setting on the Grand Canal would be coveted by any Venice hotelier, but the Gritti Palace, which reopened last May after a $55 million renovation, bests all competitors. I was present during the early stages of the renovation, and I got to watch craftsmen shape and paint the guestrooms’ ornate new moldings so the hotel could once again live up to its lineage as Doge Andrea Gritti’s 16th-century residence. Now the interiors equal the hotel’s peerless view of the gorgeously domed Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, in Dorsoduro across the Grand Canal. Of course the Presidential Suite commands the front and center of the palace, but note that the corner rooms overlook two canals—so it’s gondolas galore.