6 Fabulous boutique hotels around the world

What’s your preferred accommodation style? Big-box brand hotels or lodgings with more uniqueness and personality? This is a non-judgment zone, of course, as there is no wrong or right answer. Personally, I’d rather stay at a small, personalized property with local flavor than at a high-rise, chain hotel that offers cookie-cutter amenities and experiences.

Apparently, I’m not alone. The Highland Group recently came out with a 2018 Boutique Hotel Report saying it was a $15 billion segment of the hotel industry in 2017, and it’s still growing.

If you’re a curious and courageous traveler who is always on the lookout for unexpected discoveries that are the antithesis of tried-and-true chain hotel experiences, this My Travel Stamps Approved List could be just right for you.

Cartagena, Colombia: Allure Chocolat by Karisma Hotels & Resorts

This is a 34-room city hotel conveniently located near all the action and within a 5-minute walk to the Walled City. The rooms are small, but contemporary and chic, and they feature either city or waterfront views. One particularly delightful part of your stay is that at check-in you get to select a fragrance from their Aromatherapy & Pillow Menu that will be used in your room. A nicely stocked mini-bar that includes Jose Cuervo rum and their onsite full-service restaurant, Red Knife, that’s run with a farm-fresh philosophy, are also cool factors.  

Lima, Peru: Hotel de Autor

This Miraflores area property has four bedrooms that, as one Travel + Leisure article put it, are “individually designed, mixing vintage artifacts with contemporary furnishings.” Its dining room is a converted garage, and it has a small rooftop garden area and terrace where you can relax after a busy day of sightseeing.  The absolute best things about this property are its claw-foot tubs, the short walking distance to many shops and restaurants (including those in the famous Larcomar Shopping Center), and the attentiveness of the staff. Miguel Payet was my point person and he was amazing.

Hoedspruit, South Africa: Waterbuck Game Lodge

Part of the Thornybush Collection, Waterbuck Game Lodge is a private, four-suite safari lodge nestled next to a watering hole on a reserve that is home to colorful birds, monkeys and diverse wildlife. Ideally suited for couples, families or small groups of up to eight people, guests can enjoy facilities that were designed to blend into the natural environment and provide maximum opportunities for rest and relaxation. Their rooms feature en-suite bathrooms AND outdoor showers, a cozy library with a fireplace, and a private patio for game viewing. What’s more, there’s a breakfast deck overlooking the estuary, and the bonfire style meal on your first night is not just delish, it’s dreamy!

Playa del Carmen, Mexico: Magic Blue Boutique Hotel

Literally only steps from the happening 5th Avenue, this tropical oasis somehow manages to sneak 44 elegant and minimalist rooms into the heart of a busy city without you realizing you’re that close to traffic and civilization. No, I’m not kidding. The ambiance is that serene! You get champagne as a welcome drink, and there’s a small spa on-site that offers daytime massages and treatments like shiatsu and reflexology. While not on the beach, a stylish pool and poolside bar provide the often sought-after water respite, and guests get access passes to trendy beach clubs only three blocks away.

Saint Kitts & Nevis: Paradise Beach Nevis


If this 5-star boutique villa resort is good enough for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family, I figure it is good enough for us too, right? Built on one of the most unspoiled islands in the Caribbean, this property now offers five brand-new beach houses in addition to the seven exquisitely designed three- and four-bedroom villas it launched with in 2015. British designer Naomi Cleaver used wood grains, crisp white linens, and carefully selected accents to invoke a feeling of vintage glamour in the two-bedroom houses. And it’s a fitting complement to New York based designer Adam Tihany’s villa décor which was inspired by a sophisticated blend of Balinese and Caribbean culture. And that isn’t all. In addition to these idyllic surroundings, private chefs are available on request for preparing in-home meals and conducting cooking tutorials.

Irish Town, Jamaica: Strawberry Hill Resort

Perched 3,100 feet above sea level in the cool hills of Saint Andrew, this picturesque getaway is a nature lovers enclave of 13 Georgian-style cottages that have heated beds, plank floors, vaulted ceilings and French doors that lead to private balconies offering either jaw-dropping views of Kingston or surrounding mountains. Local meals can be enjoyed at the restaurant, which overlooks a scenic infinity pool. And the bar, where Red Stripe and Appleton flow freely, used to be frequented by global music icons like Bob Marley and the Rolling Stones for creative inspiration, revitalization and renewal. It was there that Bob found refuge in the 1976 when a failed attempt was made on his life. You can also visit Island Record’s (and hotel owner) Chris Blackwell’s legendary Gold Room that displays platinum and gold records of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ albums. Plaques of other musicians like U2 and Mellisa Etheridge who were once signed to Island, are also proudly exhibited on the walls. 

Have you ever stayed at a boutique hotel? If not, it’s time to try it. Believe me, they’re a whole mood!

Is it time to add new chapters to the Black History story? Yes, please!

Each February, the U.S. observes Black History Month to celebrate the achievements of African-Americans and the central role they played in shaping the country’s history.  But when I thought of planning a quick weekend trip and turned to Google to identify inspiring things to do and see during the period, I found myself stuck. 99% of the searches returned results based on visiting museums, historical sites, and memorials dedicated to either revisiting the horrors of slavery or documenting the painful struggle to end segregation.

Slavery happened. It is an important part of our collective history. And in no way, shape or form am I advocating for it to be sugar-coated. Nor do I want the selfless and tireless work of great civil rights leaders and activists like Martin Luther King Jnr. and Harriet Tubman to ever be downplayed or forgotten.

However, I found myself wondering why I couldn’t find more comprehensive listings of tours, sites, locations and experiences that paid homage to other aspects of the black experience and culture.  Of course, the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African-American History and Culture and the U.S. Civil Rights Trail are powerful entities that provide valuable context to the post 1960s socio-economic and political landscape. But when all is said and done, the African-American story isn’t one-dimensional.

Where is the curated list of museums showcasing the work of black inventors, researchers, educators, and scientists? There must have been prolific thinkers other than the late, great George Washington Carver.

Which galleries and libraries nationwide house the paintings, sculptures and books of our most talented creatives, and which urban or metropolitan cities boast epic street art sure to be a draw for photo enthusiasts?

Is there an app or guide travelers can use to pinpoint the performance venues, cocktail bars, and clubs that nurture black dancers, actors, musicians, and spoken word artistes? And where do epicureans looking to join a food tour or dine on soul-infused meals go to find culinary delights prepared by outstanding black chefs or skilled, home-taught cooks? Does a list of black-owned hotels, tour operators and attractions in America exist anywhere?

Even with multiple mouse clicks, I kept coming up with slim pickings.

Next year, I’d love to be able to share a good mix of itinerary suggestions that pay tribute to the full tapestry of textures that form the African-American narrative. Let’s work together to crowdsource that dream list, shall we?  And whatever the outcome, we’ll let the public know it’s available year-round.

Please share at least one relevant place, activity or experience below. Thank you!