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- 1. Rustic Mountain: Plitvice Miric Inn, Croatia
- 2. Affordable City: Il Girasole Bed & Breakfast, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
- 3. Beach: Relax in Luxury at Jamaica Inn, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
- 4. European City Luxury: Hotel Vestibul Palace, Split, Croatia
- 5. Desert Inn near Joshua Tree National Park, California
- 6. City Luxury in Korea: JW Marriott Hotel, Seoul, South Korea
Can a hotel make a vacation better? A unique hotel can change your whole perception of a trip. And it’s not just about luxury. The hotel’s beautiful physical location, its sumptuous breakfast, or dramatic architecture can all be memorable. Great service can stand out, or a concierge or hotel clerk who offers tips on what to do in the area. These 6 unique hotels, some fancy, some not, have made all the difference on our vacations. We will always think of them.
1. Rustic Mountain: Plitvice Miric Inn, Croatia
On the winding drive through the Croatian mountains to this family-run Bed and Breakfast, my husband and I took in the gorgeous mountain scenery. Along the way, family farms sold homemade cheese and honey.
Even the drive felt invigorating, as we breathed in the fresh mountain air. In fact, most guests in the rustic Plitvice Miric Inn’s 12 unpretentious rooms are there to hike in nearby Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, famous for its bright green water and waterfalls.
The friendly Croatian family that runs this unique hotel speaks excellent English. We appreciated their helpful advice about navigating the Park to avoid crowds.
And I was glad we reserved dinner at the Inn when we booked the room. We lingered over a 4-course gourmet meal. We savored huge portions of fresh trout or grilled meat, vegetables, homemade desserts, and good Croatian wine. Honestly, one serving would have been plenty for both my husband and me.
Hiking, wine, and mountain air ensured a restful sleep.
Read More: Yes! You Still Might Be Able to Book a Hotel That’s Sold Out. Here’s How.
2. Affordable City: Il Girasole Bed & Breakfast, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
There are only three rooms at Il Girasole, an affordable Bed and Breakfast in the ancient seaside city of Cagliari, on the Italian island of Sardinia. In the cheerful yellow room, my husband and I stayed in, our French doors overlooked a narrow medieval street with mostly pedestrian traffic.
Each morning, the friendly B & B owner, Luca, parked a delicious breakfast tray outside our room. Every day, it was a pleasure to wake to a carafe of coffee, warm bread, hams, and cheeses along with Sardinian specialties such as sebadas, cheese enveloped in pastry, fried, and drizzled with honey.
Luca is fluent in English and knowledgeable about Cagliari. We happily followed his suggestions for restaurants, how to catch the bus to the beach, and other tips. Luca made our stay in his cozy B & B feel like staying at a friend’s house.
While Luca’s welcome tips helped, Il Girasole’s convenient location also makes this a unique hotel. Il Girasole is a second-floor apartment within easy walking distance to restaurants, the marina, and shops. Also, since my husband and I are comfortable walking uphill on medieval stone streets, we walked to Cagliari’s charming Cathedral, botanical garden, archeological museum, and hilltop overlook.
Cagliari is not the glitzy Sardinia of celebrities. Rather, Cagliari is a middle-class university town.
3. Beach: Relax in Luxury at Jamaica Inn, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Luxury defines this family-owned 48-suite hotel. We easily understood why Marilyn Monroe honeymooned at the Jamaica Inn. It’s a splurge. Every suite has an open-air living room overlooking the hotel’s private beach. We woke up to the luxurious sound of tinkling cutlery as the butler prepared our morning coffee on our private verandah.
Jamaica Inn feels like a step back in time. No TVs but a beach, spa, pool, croquet lawn and friendly, white-uniformed staff who have worked there for decades. And at this relaxing luxury hotel, our kids happily splashed on the private beach, played croquet and volleyball, read books, and rediscovered the fun of board games For our family of four and my mother-in-law, this was perfectly relaxing downtime.
Except for a boat trip directly from the beach to visit the nearby waterfall, Dunns Falls, we saw no reason to leave the relaxing hotel grounds.
4. European City Luxury: Hotel Vestibul Palace, Split, Croatia
Unbelievable, but the modern Hotel Vestibul Palace is a luxury hotel located inside the ruins of a Roman Emperor’s palace in Croatia. My husband and I recognized parts of the Roman Palace ruins from Game of Thrones. (Hint: Where does Daenerys keep her dragons?)
We lingered over the ample breakfast buffet, which we enjoyed outside in the courtyard. Traditional male a capella Croatian singers performed in the courtyard each day. To bring back happy memories of this elegant stay, my husband and I still listen to their CD.
This unique hotel is in the middle of town.
5. Desert Inn near Joshua Tree National Park, California
At 29 Palms Inn, the focus is on the gorgeous surrounding desert – and great food. This rustic inn is on 70 acres of a desert oasis. And it’s a good base to explore the nearby Joshua Tree National Park.
While most customers wore hiking clothes to the Inn’s casual restaurant, the food was gourmet. Like roast lamb, house-baked carrot cake, and local wines. We enjoyed the hotel restaurant so much, we ate both breakfast and dinner there, every day.
And rooms are affordable. In fact, my husband and I stayed in a wood cabin that could also have slept our two kids. No TV – instead, we enjoyed the night sky.
6. City Luxury in Korea: JW Marriott Hotel, Seoul, South Korea
This sleek luxury high-rise hotel is surrounded by modern skyscrapers and a crowded neon-lit shopping neighborhood that never sleeps. It’s like finding a quiet elegant oasis in the middle of Times Square.
My husband and I like pampering. And JW Marriott Seoul in Dongdaemun Square is happy to oblige. The staff-to-guest ratio was about 1:2. So every need was speedily met, in fluent English.
We got breakfast included and left time to linger over the – not one, not two but three – separate simultaneous breakfast buffets. One buffet was traditional Western food, one was sushi, and one was Korean dishes like kimchi, crab soup, scallion pancakes, and beef stir fry.
Our luxurious hotel room had a skylight and a giant window seat sofa with a great view both of Seoul’s high rises and also a 14th-century city gate. (Oddly, our bathroom had 3 walls. But we adjusted.) The Internet is the fastest in the world. And the clean, efficient subway is close to the hotel and easy to navigate in English.