What is a “boutique hotel” anyway? The expression is all over travel sites and vacation planners, but what, exactly, are they talking about? Today, Gildshire digs its teeth into the term, unpacks it a little, and finds the best boutique hotels for our readers who love to travel and like to try new things.
First of all, what is it not? The expression “boutique hotel” is a little tricky, because it isn’t regulated by the travel industry. That means that every small hotel can label itself with that chic term and jack up their prices 40% or more. A vacationer leaves with a vague sense of unfulfillment and a credit card gasping for air.
That said (and we know this can get confusing,) a boutique hotel is small. Most hospitality pros agree that for a property to be considered a boutique hotel, it should not exceed 100 rooms. It can’t be too small, however. A property with fewer than 12 rooms is an inn…or your inlaws house.
However, beyond pure size considerations, most true boutique hotels are independent. Sure, the sign on the front of a Sheraton may say “Boutique” but inside, all of the Sheraton signature amenities are in place. That doesn’t make it bad or not worth your time and money, but it isn’t boutique.
A boutique hotel has a spirited and contemporary vibe. Its guest is, by and large, more active and seeks out the unique. Statistics tell us the average age of a boutique hotel guest is a full seven years younger than a traditional hotel guest.
Décor in a boutique hotel is modern, often cutting-edge. The style runs in the direction of sleek materials and bold color splashes. Fussier furnishings like chintz, brocade, and swags are not boutique-hotel hallmarks.
They are usually downtown, within earshot of an exciting city’s beating heart. Their small size fits into the expensive real estate. A boutique hotel announces its location within the room and common area designs. Boutique hotels in Washington D.C, the Mexican Riviera, Quebec, Portugal, or Tuscany will look nothing like each other. That can’t be said for a traditional hotel.
Boutique hotels have a sense of humor. Ask reception in a standard brand Hilton to come to your door each morning with a fresh slice of soap for your bathing pleasure, and see the look you get. That’s what happens at one of the best boutique hotels in Mexico. A mock-serious “soap butler” comes to your room to slice you a bar of soap in fragrances like strawberry margarita or sandalwood.
Are you a foodie? Oh, baby, a boutique hotel is your treasure. Michelin stars abound and unique food offerings are in abundance.
Does this kind of thing sound like fun? Allow us to share some of the best boutique hotels we have found.
XV Beacon, 15 Beacon St, Boston, Massachusetts. Each of the 63 guest rooms is individually designed so that no two are alike. That said, it is how you get out and about that makes the XV Beacon unique. The hotel offers complimentary Lexus cars to chauffeur guests throughout downtown Boston, or even to the airport. “Is my Lexus ready? I have some Earl Grey to dump into the harbor.”
Hotel Eleven, 1123 E 11th St, Austin, Texas. Remember when we said a boutique hotel was small? Hotel Eleven offers The Crash Pad. That’s a 220-square-foot space with a queen bed and window seat but not much else. Also on site, is Louis Vuitton. He’s a black cat that mingles with the guests.
The Betsy, 1440 Ocean Dr, Miami, Florida. Boutique hotels offer something different than the ones right next door. That is never truer than at The Betsy. It’s smack in the middle of the South Beach party scene but closes out the loud music and omnipresent D.Js. This property includes a 3,200-foot pool that straddles two buildings.
Pontchartrain Hotel, 2031 St. Charles Ave, New Orleans, Louisiana. Located within the historic Garden District, the Ponchartrain is a food and drink lover’s package. Walk through the jungle-posh lobby to the elevator and ride it to the rooftop. There, the Hot Tin bar beckons with a cocktail to die for after a day on the French Quarter. Then, downstairs for Mile High Ice Cream Pie in the Caribbean Room downstairs. Your taste buds never had it so good.
Hotel Wailea, 555 Kaukahi St Wailea, Kihei, Maui, Hawaii. While Maui is a boutique destination head to hula skirt, not every hotel there buys into the Maui vibe. That is decidedly not the case when it comes to Hotel Wailea! Does it get better for finding your bliss than waterfall yoga? Every Saturday, the hotel offers a tropical mixology class so you can take a little bit of Maui home with you.
That isn’t an exhaustive list of the best boutique hotels in this country, but it is a good start for your vacation planning purposes. You’re tired of being wet and cold all the time. Plan your vacation!