Sometimes a hotel makes the vacation memorable all on its own. Whether it is a beautiful physical location, a sumptuous breakfast feast, quirky architecture, a welcoming B & B owner with tips on what to do in town, or great service, some hotels make you feel so comfortable and catered to that the hotel becomes a key part of your vacation. These six hotels, some fancy, some not, made all the difference to my family on vacation.
Can a hotel itself makes your vacation memorable? These six hotels did. Some are luxury splurges, others affordable B & Bs. Four are in cities, one on a beach, and one in the mountains. But each of these six hotels in its own way made our stay truly memorable.
Plitvice Miric Inn, Croatia
On the winding mountain drive to this family-run Bed and Breakfast, you’ll pass farms, fields, and individual farmers selling homemade cheese and honey. Breathing in fresh mountain air in this gorgeous location made us feel healthy. Most guests in the rustic Plitvice Miric Inn’s 11 unpretentious rooms are there to hike in nearby Plitvice Lakes National Park, famous for its bright green water and waterfalls.
The friendly family that runs the hotel speak excellent English, and offer helpful advice about navigating the Park to avoid crowds. Be sure to reserve dinner at the Inn when you book your room. For about $22 per person, you can linger over a 4-course gourmet meal, with huge portions of fresh trout or grilled meat, vegetables, homemade desserts, good Croatian wine. One serving (pictured) would have been plenty for both my husband and me. Hiking, wine, and mountain air ensures a restful sleep. About $160/night for two, including breakfast and wifi.
Las Casas de la Juderia, Seville, Spain
Seville, Spain is an elegant city, and Hotel Las Casas de la Juderia is located walking distance from main tourist sites, in the former Jewish ghetto. The hotel’s quirky architecture is a delight, the result of converting many small houses into a labyrinth of rooms, alleys and courtyards. Each room is unique. The pathways between them are dotted with fountains, flowers, gorgeous tiles typical of Seville, and comfy nooks.
Blocks from the hotel’s front door is the Alcazar, the Moorish palace of the Spanish Royal Family, whose gardens you might recognize from Game of Thrones. The imposing Cathedral is also just steps from the hotel. If it is hot – and southern Spain is very hot in summer – take a dip in the oddly-shaped roof top pool. The breakfast buffet of fruit, hams, cheeses and breads will power you most of the day. (For Game of Thrones filming locations in Croatia, here and here.)
Il Girasole Bed and Breakfast, Cagliari, Sardinia
There are only three rooms in this cozy and affordable bed and breakfast, located on the 2d floor of an apartment building in ancient seaside city of Cagliari, Sardinia. Il Girasole is located within easy walking distance to restaurants, the marina, and – if you’re comfortable walking uphill on medieval stone streets – to the Cathedral, and museums. This is not the glitzy Sardinia of celebrities, but a middle class university city. For why Sardinia, Italy is great off-season, here.
My husband and I stayed in a bright yellow room with French doors that overlooked a cheerful busy street with mostly pedestrian traffic. Each morning, the friendly B & B owner, Luca, parked a delicious breakfast tray outside the room, with a carafe of coffee, warm bread, hams, cheeses, and Sardininan specialties like sebadas, cheese enveloped in pastry, fried, and drizzled with honey. Luca is fluent in English, knowledgeable about Cagliari, and happy to suggest restaurants, how to catch the bus to the beach, and other tips about sites nearby.
Luca made staying in his B & B feel like staying at a friend’s house, and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing a coffee with Luca every morning during our week-long stay. About $65 per night, for two, including a huge breakfast.
Jamaica Inn, Ochos Rios, Jamaica
Wake to the luxurious sound of tinkling cutlery and coffee cups as the butler prepares your morning coffee on your private verandah. At this family-owned 48-suite luxury hotel, where Marilyn Monroe honeymooned, every room overlooks the hotel’s private beach. Jamaica Inn feels like a step back in time, with no TVs but a croquet lawn and friendly, white-uniformed staff who have worked there for decades. Our family splashed on the private beach, played croquet and volleyball, visited the spa, took a boat ride directly from the hotel beach to nearby Dunns River waterfall, read books, and rediscovered the fun of board games at this relaxing luxury hotel. For our family of four and my mother-in-law, this was perfect downtime, with almost no reason to leave the hotel grounds.
Hotel Vestibul Palace, Split, Croatia
Unbelievable, but this modern luxury hotel is located inside the ruins of a Roman Emperor’s palace in Croatia. You might recognize parts of the Hotel Vestibul Palace from Game of Thrones. Take time to linger over the ample breakfast buffet, which you can enjoy in the courtyard in warm weather. We loved the traditional male accapella Croatian singers who performed in the courtyard each day, and still listen to their CD to bring back memories of this elegant stay.
JW Marriott Hotel, Seoul, Korea
This sleek luxury high rise hotel is surrounded by tall modern buildings and a crowded neon-lit shopping neighborhood that never sleeps, kind of like staying in Times Square.
If you like pampering,JW Marriott Seoul in Dongdaemun Square is happy to oblige. On a recent winter stay, the staff to guest ratio was about 1:2, so every need was speedily met, in fluent English. Be sure to get breakfast included and leave time to linger over the 3 separate simultaneous breakfast buffets: one traditional Western food, one sushi, and one typical Korean dishes like kim chi, crab soup, scallion pancakes, and beef stir fry. Our hotel room had a skylight and a comfortable window seat sofa with a great view both of Seoul’s high rises and also a 14th Century city gate. (The only wrinkle was our bathroom had 3 walls, odd for us but we adjusted.) Internet is the fastest in the world and the clean, efficient subway is close to the hotel and easy to navigate in English. We used the gym and but didn’t take advantage of the spa. For reasons to visit Seoul, Korea, here.
Have you ever stayed at a hotel that made your vacation more memorable? Tell us about it in the comments.