20 best new hotels to visit in 2020

Posted at 5:05 AM, Dec 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-26 12:40:28-05
Originally Published: 26 DEC 19 03:17 ET

    (CNN) -- Whether it's for business or pleasure, today's travelers are more discerning than ever about their hotel choices.

Luckily, the newest batch of hotels and resorts have stepped up to the challenge.

From underwater suites in the Great Barrier Reef to luxurious yet affordable hideaways in the heart of London, Brisbane or Cape Town, we've handpicked 20 incredible new hotels where you'll love your stay in 2020.

Reefsuites, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

As if scuba diving alongside the Great Barrier Reef's 1,500 species of tropical fish wasn't enough of an adventure, you can now sleep among them -- in a luxury glass-walled suite, submerged 15 feet underwater.

Opened in December 2019, Reefsuites, Australia's first underwater hotel, allows visitors to take in the Reef's incredible underwater world -- and all its fish, rays, sharks and turtles -- from the comfort of a plush, king-sized bed.

Each suite also features a light switch that allows you to illuminate the water surrounding your room for extra effect.

On top of that, every stay also includes a scenic cruise through the Whitsunday Islands, dinner under the stars with unlimited wine and a guided snorkeling tour.

Reefsuites, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia; +617 4846 7000

Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé, France

With its bucolic location and acres of mazes, lakes and rose gardens, Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé might possibly be the world's dreamiest countryside escape.

The château, built in 1760, opened its doors to guests in June 2019 after a multimillion-dollar renovation that restored the structure to its original Neoclassical splendor.

Its 17 rooms, adorned with hand-painted murals and antique furnishings, are large and light-filled and boast sweeping views over the château's manicured gardens.

Added bonus: It's just 55 minutes from Paris by train, making it an easy weekend trip.

Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé, 9 Place de la République, 72150 Le Grand-Lucé, France; +33 02 5548 4040

Aman Kyoto, Japan

Tucked away inside 80 acres of dense forest just outside of Kyoto, the newest Aman, opened in November 2019, is the perfect place to unwind and unplug.

Its 26 suites -- scattered throughout minimalist ryokan-inspired pavilions -- are clean-lined and almost monastically sparse, yet still undeniably luxurious. Think super-soft beds, deep-soak wooden tubs and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the woods.

Other highlights include a spa with mineral-rich onsen (hot springs) and five-star Japanese cuisine. Pro tip: Ask to have dinner in one of the seven al fresco dining spots hidden carefully throughout the woods.

Aman Kyoto, 1 Okitayama Washimine-Cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto, 603 0000, Japan; +81 75 496 1333

Kachi Lodge, Bolivia

From above, Kachi Lodge looks like a cluster of tiny geodesic domes set amidst the lunar-like Uyuni Salt Flats.

But don't be fooled by its sterile, space station-like appearance: Inside each dome, you'll find bohemian-chic interiors, plush beds and huge bay windows that offer some of the world's best stargazing. (Being 35 miles from the nearest town -- and 11,800 feet above sea level -- Kachi is virtually free of light pollution).

In the daytime, there's plenty to see and do, from biking across the arid, otherworldly landscape to high-altitude hikes on the nearby Tunupa volcano.

Alternatively, guests can simply relax in the main dome, take a class on Andean cosmology, or enjoy the homemade Bolivian cuisine. Thanks to a culinary partnership with Gustu -- one of Bolivia's finest restaurants -- the food at Kachi is as impressively unforgettable as the views.

Kachi Lodge; Uyuni Salt Flats, Jirira, Bolivia; +591 706 98 300

August, Antwerp, Belgium

It doesn't get much cooler than August, a former Augustinian convent-turned-boutique hotel behind private walled gardens in Antwerp's leafy Green Quarter.

Sprawled across five renovated Neoclassical buildings, the hotel's rooms are full of raw natural materials and thoughtful artisan touches, from the handwoven carpets to the custom-built lights.

Amenities include a curated library and a luxurious spa with a hammam and sauna.

August, Jules Bordetstraat 5, 2018 Antwerp, Belgium; +32 3 500 80 80

InterContinental Hayman Island, Australia

Just two years after Cyclone Debbie left the Whitsunday Islands battered in her wake, the iconic Hayman Island Resort debuted a $135 million transformation -- and its stunning new incarnation as an InterContinental Resort.

The sleek new property has eight beachfront villas, built mere steps from the ocean.

Its crowning jewel is the Beach House: a 4,000-square-foot, three-bedroom villa, outfitted with a whopping three private pools, that looks out over the Coral Sea.

But don't be fooled; it's not all infinity pools and ocean views. Rooms are energy-efficient, single-use plastics are forbidden and guests are provided with reef-safe sunscreen and glass water bottles upon arrival to ensure the resort is as sustainable as it is luxe.

InterContinental Hayman Island, Hayman Island, Queensland, Australia, 4801; +61 7 4940 1234

Puro Vik, Chile

When the design-forward hotel Vik opened in Chile's Millahue Valley in 2015, it brought an unprecedented level of luxury and sophistication to the destination. Now, its sister property, Puro Vik -- opened in April 2019 -- is doing it again.

Comprised of 19 literal glass houses carved into the hills just below the original hotel, Puro Vik makes guests feel as if they're completely immersed in their lush natural landscape without having to leave the comfort of their own beds.

Though the focus here is the landscape, each house is also carefully furnished with striking art pieces and sleek furniture handpicked by owners Alex and Carrie Vik. .

Naturally, such an experience will cost you: nightly rates start at a cool $1,100. But sipping wine in your own deep-soak tub, engulfed by lush, unobstructed mountain vistas? Priceless.

Puro Vik, Millahue, San Vincente de Tagua Tagua, VI Chile; +569 6193 1754

Jao Camp, Botswana

When it comes to glamping, it doesn't get much plusher than Jao Camp in Botswana's Okavango Delta. Though the camp was established in 1999, it was completely rebuilt and reopened in the summer of 2019.

The camp's five tented suites are lavishly outfitted with spacious sun decks, plunge pools and indoor-outdoor bathrooms, while an additional two villas created for families and groups come equipped with their own private vehicle, guide, chef and butler.

It's architecturally stunning, too. Communal areas feature floor-to-ceiling windows, and the swimming pool sits beneath a spectacular bird's nest-like canopy that allows guests to soak in their wild surroundings, uninterrupted.

Jao Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana; +1 415 814 6676

Nobu Hotel Los Cabos, Mexico

With just twelve properties around the world, the ultra-exclusive hotel brand owned by Robert De Niro and celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa has opened its first Latin American outpost and (unsurprisingly) it is sublime.

Unlike most hotels in Los Cabos, it's not your traditional, hacienda-style property; instead it blends Nobu's signature Japanese minimalism with the area's stark desert beauty. The hotel is fronted by a wide, windswept beach over which the sun sets rather dramatically.

Other hotel highlights include a 13,700-square-foot spa and stellar dining options, from the signature Nobu restaurant to California's highly popular Malibu Farm -- a nod to its sister property on Malibu Beach, which made last year's list. Rooms from $350.

Nobu Hotel Los Cabos, Blvd. Diamantes N, Los Cangrejos, Los Cabos, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico; +52 624 689 0160

Gorgeous George, Cape Town

The aptly named property is a design lover's dream, blending its Art Deco and Edwardian architecture with raw industrial vibes and midcentury accents.

Its 32 rooms are all individually decorated with stylishly mismatched furniture and colorful rugs and huge potted plants, and they feel more like the downtown loft of a cool artist friend than hotel rooms.

On the rooftop, there's a cute plunge pool shaded by leafy palms and an excellent restaurant serving up elevated comfort food, like mac and cheese with black truffles and fancy craft cocktails.

Gorgeous George, 118 St Georges Mall, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa; +27 87 898 6000

Islas Secas, Panama

If you thought a private island was the pinnacle of exclusivity, what about your own private archipelago? Located 33 nautical miles south of mainland Panama, Islas Secas is the sole development on a dreamy 14-island archipelago, offering guests an unparalleled level of privacy and tranquility.

It has just four casitas (three more will be added in March 2020) nestled amidst the lush, Jurassic Park-like landscape. Though they're undeniably luxe -- each comes with an ocean-facing private plunge pool -- they're also sustainable, powered entirely by solar energy and fitted with water recycling systems.

Activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and whale watching -- or simply dozing off on one of the archipelago's dozens of private island beaches.

Islas Secas, Islas Secas Archipelago, Gulf of Chiriquí, Panama; +1 800 377 8877

Mama Shelter, London

The Mama Shelter hotel brand is fast becoming an empire, having opened three new properties in 2019 and two more slated for 2020.

Like its sister properties, Mama Shelter London is offbeat and funky and doesn't take itself too seriously with its eclectic decor and "anything goes" vibe. But what you're here for is the trendy East London location, the Japanese-style karaoke rooms (first hour is free for guests) and the extraordinarily good fish and chips.

Rooms are admittedly on the small side, averaging at 200 square feet, but the beds are comfy and the layout is so functional and intuitive that you'll hardly notice or care.

Mama Shelter London, 437 Hackney Rd, London E2 8PP, United Kingdom; +44 20 7613 6500

Nayara Tented Camp, Costa Rica

Flanked by lush rainforest near the base of the Arenal Volcano, Nayara -- one of the first luxury tented camps in Costa Rica -- is worth visiting for its location alone.

Just minutes from camp, guests can enjoy thermal hot springs, whitewater rafting, countless hiking trails and horseback riding. There's even an on-site sloth sanctuary home to more than 15 sloths (and a "sloth concierge" to guide you through it).

Of course, you won't be judged for staying holed up in your room, either. Each of Nayara's 29 hillside tents feature plunge pools fed by natural hot springs, luxurious indoor-outdoor bathrooms and unobstructed views of the volcano.

Nayara Tented Camp, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica; +506 2479 1600

Rosewood Bangkok, Thailand

The Rosewood's newest hotel wows from the outset with its striking architecture: two slim, separate structures connected together to mirror the wai, the Thai greeting of hands pressed together in greeting.

The inside is just as impressive, thanks to a 10-story indoor waterfall (a tribute to the Chao Phraya River upon which Bangkok is built) and dozens of pieces of original work by Thai artists.

In signature Rosewood fashion, its rooms feel more like upscale residences than traditional hotel rooms. Rich woods paired with rattan furnishings, plush chairs topped with soft throws and fresh flowers and books on every table make each room feel like a cozy hideaway in the heart of the city.

Rosewood Bangkok, 1041 38 Phloen Chit Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330, Thailand; +66 2 080 0088

The Standard, Maldives

It was an odd move for The Standard, an urban hotel chain known for its hip hotels in New York and Los Angeles, to open up shop on the white sands of the Maldives. But they did, and it works strangely well.

Its 115 villas (several overwater) are a departure from the romantic, honeymoon vibes of many other Maldives resorts, instead going straight for the hearts of millennial travelers with their psychedelic decor (think disco balls in the bathroom) and neon-pink pool toys.

Other highlights include nightly beach bonfires, drum circles, karaoke and a glass-floored overwater night club that stays open until after sunrise. Bring friends.

The Standard Maldives, Huruvalhi Island, Raa Atoll, Maldives; +960 658 5555

Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards, New York City

The upscale gym chain's hotly anticipated first hotel is exactly as you'd imagine it to be: minibars stocked with magnesium supplements, a 60,000-square-foot gym outfitted with cryotherapy chambers, on-call "sleep coaches" and vitamin-fused IV drips.

But chances are, you'll like it even if you're not a fitness junkie. Rooms are fitted with lighting and temperature presets optimal for rest and relaxation and beds made from spring-free, organic fiber mattresses.

If you're after a little more action, there's also a rooftop pool and bar with panoramic views over New York City. Or simply step outside and hit Hudson Yards, which sits at the hotel's very doorstep.

Equinox Hotel, West 33rd St, New York, NY 10001; +1 212 812 9200

Six Senses Shaharut, Israel

Perched atop a cliff in Israel's rugged Negev Desert, the Six Senses Shaharut -- opening in Spring 2020 -- is the perfect destination for the intrepid luxury traveler.

The hotel offers a menu of unique and thrilling desert-centric diversions, from camel safaris to rappelling off the Makhtesh Ramon -- the world's largest erosion crater, located at the peak of Mount Negev.

Afterwards, guests can retreat to their sumptuous sandstone villa and watch the sunset over the arid landscape from their private outdoor plunge pool.

Six Senses Shaharut, Negev Desert, Israel;

The Fantauzzo, Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane is having a moment, thanks to a frenzy of hotel openings -- including Australia's first W hotel -- in the past two years. The Fantauzzo, a fantastical, shimmering, geometric-walled boutique hotel in the trendy Howard Street Wharves precinct, is not one you want to miss.

It's got everything you'd want from a hip Aussie boutique hotel in a hip Aussie city: minimalist-modern rooms decked out in timber, stone and leather, original art by local artist Vincent Fantauzzo (after whom the hotel is named) and a central location steps from the city's hottest restaurants and bars.

But what you're really here for are the views. Whether you're at the rooftop pool, in the restaurant, or in your room, you're smacked with heart-stopping views over the Brisbane River, Story Bridge and city skyline.

The Fantauzzo, 5 Boundary St, Brisbane, Queensland, 4000, Australia; +61 7 3515 0700

&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

Opened in October 2019 after a top-to-toe $3 million renovation, the sleek new &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is as luxe as it gets in the great outdoors.

Its ten 1,400-square-foot suites boast desert views from every corner and the finest amenities, from fire pits and plunge pools to butler hatches with solar-powered freezer drawers stocked with ice cream and Namibian craft beer.

The biggest draw, of course, is the desert itself. Though you won't find the Big Five here, there's still tons to explore, from the surrounding caves to the stark, otherworldly landscape of the nearby Deadvlei salt pan.

&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Sossusvlei, Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia; +27 11 809 4300

Santa Monica Proper Hotel, Los Angeles

Opened in June 2019, the Santa Monica Proper is the epitome of California cool with its indoor palms, sun-drenched spaces and scenic rooftop pool.

Rooms are tastefully furnished with midcentury modern accents; many have large terraces overlooking the Pacific.

Its dining options are terrific, from the Mediterranean-inspired Calabra to the hot-ticket Onda, which marries Californian produce with Mexican flavors. I

t can be a scene on weekends -- think dolled-up, cashed-up locals and bouncer-like security -- but after a spicy margarita and some pork tostadas, all is forgiven.

Santa Monica Proper Hotel, 700 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, California, 90401; +1 310 620 9990


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