When planning a luxury vacation, your hotel choice can either make or break the overall experience. Figuring out what truly constitutes a 5-star hotel can make the planning process even more confusing. Unfortunately, there is not a comprehensive, globally accepted standard on what the phrase '5-star hotel' actually means. What constitutes a 5-star rating in one part of the world may only be a 4-star elsewhere. Countries have their own rating systems, and there are sometimes variations within different regions of the same country.
10 Luxurious 5-Star Hotel Brands
How do you ensure you're picking a true 5-star luxury hotel chain? Fortunately, there are a number of brands that are recognized as leaders in the luxury travel market. No matter what country's rating system applies, you can expect over-the-top service, lavish amenities, and perks that you aren't likely to find in any other hotel around.
1. Banyan Tree
Banyan Tree originated in Asia, where luxury travel continues to boom. The Banyan Tree is a symbol of shelter and the relief provided by nature. This motto has been adopted throughout the 30+ Banyan Tree properties that offer ecological and culturally-sensitive luxury experiences. While Banyan Tree may not operate as many hotels as other luxurious 5-star chains, they are racking up the accolades with over 900 awards in more than 20 years.
Banyan Tree offers three brands:
- Banyan Tree - Iconic pool villas and a tropical garden spa
- Angsana - Family-friendly luxury properties
- Cassia - Holiday apartment concept launching in 2015
If you fall in love with the Banyan Tree brand, you can spend $150,000 a year to join their timeshare-like club and then an additional $3,300 per week to book a villa.
- Sample rates at the Banyan Tree Seychelles start at 1,163 Euros per night for hillside villa.
Aman means peace in Sanskrit, and Amanresorts has worked tirelessly to provide exclusive experiences to high-end clientele. They are also regarded as the brand for high-profile celebrities as Amanresorts hotels are noted for exclusivity and discretion. Service is personalized, with four staff members per guest.
The flagship branch opened in Thailand and the brand has expanded to countries like Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Greece, Laos, Morocco, Turks & Caicos, the US, and more. Most Amanresorts properties feature 40 or fewer suites or free-standing villas. Look for exclusive spa treatments and wellness programs at each of the Aman branded properties.
Aman's unique model of no chandeliers, no reception desks, and no elevators is a departure from details you see with other 5-star hotel brands, but its model is obviously working as Amanresorts nabbed the top spot in Travel + Leisure Top Hotels of 2014.
- Sample rates at Amanpuri in Phuket start from $652 USD per night for standard pavilion room to $7,092 USD for an 8-bedroom garden residence.
3. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts was founded in San Francisco back in 1907 and prides itself on the historical connections maintained at each property. The common theme of unique architecture with creative decor and artistry is a standard across all Fairmont branded hotels. So, no matter which Fairmont property you stay in, you'll know it's a 5-star experience.
Many of the Fairmont hotels in Canada were built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, Fairmont properties operate in nearly 20 countries, including some unique spots like Azerbaijan, Kenya, South Africa, and Ukraine.
- Sample rates at the Fairmont Banff Springs start at 629 CAD per night.
Jumeirah hails from Dubai and includes some of the most luxurious hotels in the UAE. Jumeirah also refers to the very exclusive area of Dubai where the company, which is actually owned by Dubai's ruling family, was founded. Hotels like Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Emirates Towers are in Dubai, while Etihad Towers is in Abu Dhabi. There are also properties in other countries like Germany, Italy, Turkey. They even have five-star serviced residences - one in Dubai and the other in London.
Over-the-top luxury is certainly the trend in the UAE, and Jumeirah Hotels spare no expense. Chauffeur driven Rolls-Royce vehicles are available, or maybe even a helicopter arrival can be arranged. Suite-only properties like Burj Al Arab offer check-in within your room, private reception on each floor, and personal butlers.
- Sample rates at the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah start at AED 3,630 for a one-bedroom suite.
5. Mandarin Oriental
The flagship Mandarin Oriental locations in Hong Kong and Bangkok are iconic, but the luxury brand has expanded to other cities like London, Paris, Taipei, and New York. Fashion moguls like Christian Louboutin and celebrities like Kevin Spacey endorse Mandarin Oriental, helping further establish the brand as one of the best in luxury hotel brands.
High-end dining options are one of the highlights at Mandarin Oriental hotels, with locations like Hong Kong offering multiple Michelin-starred restaurants. Don't miss the signature Mandarin Oriental Spas, with interesting treatments such as four-handed massages.
- Sample Rates at Mandarin Oriental can start at HKD 3,700 all the way up to HKD 29,000 per night.
6. Peninsula Hotels
Peninsula Hotels' flagship hotel in Hong Kong was built in 1928. It is Hong Kong's oldest hotel and one of its most important historic Colonial-rule buildings. They've since expanded within Asia and North America, but remain a relatively small chain. Not surprisingly, the Peninsula Hotels brand is on USA Today's list of the Top 10 Luxury Hotel Chains.
It's not uncommon to see guests at Peninsula Hotels arriving in Rolls Royce vehicles - that is if they forego the helicopter arrival option available at most properties. If you're booking the Beijing hotel, the in-hotel Louis Vuitton store is said to be the "world flagship" store for the brand.
Don't miss afternoon tea at the Peninsula, especially in Hong Kong. It's offered on a first-come, first-served basis and does get very busy. Afternoon tea at the Peninsula is an iconic experience in the city, offering spectacular views of Victoria Harbour.
- Sample rates at the Peninsula Hong Kong start at 3,480 HKD for a superior room while 10,440 HKD will get you a grand deluxe harbour view suite.
The Shangri-La Hotel brand has been synonymous with luxury since its inception. The first Shangri-La opened in Singapore in 1971, inspired by the 1933 novel Lost Horizon. Today, Shangri-La has expanded and operates under several different brands:
- Shangri-La Hotels: 5-star hotels in Asia Pacific, North America, Middle East, and Europe
- Shangri-La Resorts: Located in some of the world's most exotic destinations
- Traders Hotel: Focused on Asian hospitality with more simple decor
- Kerry Hotels: More hip and located in some of the most happening spots
- Hotel Jen: Caters to what Shangri-La calls the "new jen-eration" of travelers
Hotels within the Shangri-La brand have garnered many awards over the years, including global awards like Asia Tatler's Readers' Choice Favorite Hotel Brand and Best Luxury Hotel Brand in the Asia TTG Travel Awards.
- Sample rates at the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa in Singapore start at SGD 685 for a pool view room, up to SGD 1,045 a night for a deluxe sea view suite.
8. St. Regis
St. Regis is part of the Starwood brand of hotels and resorts, but it was started by the very wealthy John Jacob Astor IV as a companion to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, of which he owned half. Sadly, he was a passenger on the Titanic, which sank only eight years after the St. Regis New York opened.
The St. Regis New York has seen a number of high-profile celebrities over the years. Famous guests include Salvador Dali, who vacationed there every fall and winter during the 1960s and 1970s.
- Sample rates at the St. Regis New York start at $795 USD for Superior rooms and go up to $10,500 USD per night for designer suites.
9. The Four Seasons
Originating in Canada, the Four Seasons chain has nearly 100 properties on six continents, including its flagship Toronto location. Four Season Spas are world-renowned and many properties offer very desirable beachfront locations or are located right at the ski slopes. The brand has won many awards and is always included in lists like USA Today's Top 10 Luxury Hotel Chains.
The Four Seasons has set the bar high for luxury experiences, now offering unique vacations that include travel on the Four Seasons' private jet. Their next 24-day around the world journey is in August and stops in Seattle, Tokyo, Beijing, The Maldives, Tanzania, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, Marrakech, and New York.
- Sample rates for deluxe rooms at the Toronto Four Seasons start at CAD 565 a night, while a one-bedroom suite starts at CAD 735.
10. The Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton brand is recognized throughout the U.S. and abroad as a leader in 5-star accommodations. The signature lion and crown logo was created in 1965, with the crown symbolizing royalty and the lion symbolizing wealth.
From its humble beginnings in Boston, the brand is now a global powerhouse. The Ritz-Carlton has expanded and now includes The Ritz-Carlton Residences and its first "Reserve" property in Krabi, Thailand.
While you'll find many of the same amenities throughout The Ritz-Carlton branded properties, each of the hotels usually has something that makes them unique. Among these are a 118th floor rooftop bar like OZONE at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong and honey grown on-site and used in culinary creations and spa treatments at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte.
- Sample rates at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte start around $600 USD for a guest room and $1,900 USD for the presidential suite.
Choosing a 5-Star Luxury Hotel Chain
These 5-star resorts work to provide the most exclusive experiences for their guests, including amenities like private transportation, high-end furnishings, personal butlers, unique spa treatments, and/or award-winning chefs. Rest assured that no matter which of these brands you choose to book with, you'll have a truly luxurious experience.