Jumping off the rocks at Beach Macarella in Menorca
Andrew Urwin

Editor's Letter: How a Hotel Earns Its Place on the ‘Hot List’

Introducing the new classics on this year's list.

It's 5:21 a.m., and I am in my hotel room in Arenal Volcano National Park in Costa Rica, listening to an absolute riot of birdsong, which was immediately preceded by a ferocious predawn downpour. The mosaic of sounds feels like the aural equivalent of the landscape of mountains and rain forest outside my room: It's dense with jewel-like tones, many soft and round, some strong and spiky. Somewhere above the tree canopy, the volcano lurks behind the mist. I've been here just 12 hours, and already I'm falling in love with my hotel.

This is Nayara Tented Camp, which appeared on Condé Nast Traveler's Hot List three years ago. (It and its neighboring sister properties, Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs, are also regulars on the Readers' Choice Awards.) The hotel's location gives it an incredible advantage, but also a lot to live up to. It does so with thoughtful landscape design that lets humans and sloths and howler monkeys comfortably share space, an approach to hiring and training that has allowed it to recruit more than 98 percent of its staff from the region, and a commitment to sustainability that has recently led it to achieve carbon-neutrality. All of this takes a tremendous amount of work—which is an essential part of what it means to be a Hot List hotel.

Work is what was required to give us the new classics on this year's list, including sanctuaries like Passalacqua, a showcase for Italian artisanal tradition on the banks of Lake Como; Caravan Agafay, a stylish, Berber-inspired retreat in the rocky desert outside Marrakech, from the community-minded brand Habitas; and Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection's Catskills outpost steeped in the region's agricultural heritage. I know that the Hot List reflects a tendency on the part of magazines (and our culture) to obsess over the new and the now, but these are properties, like Nayara and all the honorees on our 26 previous lists, that will stand the test of time—because of the thought, care, and effort that went into making them. Whether now or in 30 years, these are the places you should try to visit in your lifetime.

This article appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.