I found a hotel I like better than the $1 billion hotel considered 'the most luxurious in the world' - and it all comes down to location
- I've stayed at a lot of luxurious places as I've traveled over the past year, including the Marina Bay Sands, the Burj Al Arab, and Nobu Hotel Ibiza.
- On a recent trip to Zanzibar, I was surprised to find that I liked a boutique hotel called Elewana Kilindi Zanzibar better than all of those.
- It was designed as a getaway for a member of the 1980s pop group ABBA, but has since been turned into a luxurious eco-friendly beach getaway.
- The reason I liked Kilindi better was because of its incredible location. It is situated on 50 acres of gorgeous tropical gardens and possibly the most beautiful beach I've ever stepped foot on.
I've stayed in a lot of luxurious places over the past year.
There was the Nobu Hotel in Ibiza that wows you with the novelty of having world-class cocktails and sushi at its own in-house Nobu Restaurant. There was the Myconian Ambassador Relais & Chateau, a regal getaway where the rooms have a view straight out of an influencer's Instagram post. There was the Marina Bay Sands, a $6.6 billion megahotel in Singapore with its own luxury mall attached and the world's largest infinity pool.And, who could forget the king of them all, Dubai's Burj Al Arab, named "the best hotel in the world"? Shaped like the sail of an Arabian dhow ship and built for $1 billion, the Burj is full of extravagances like a Rolls-Royce chauffeur, a 14-piece set of Hermès toiletries, personal butlers, and 24-karat gold everything.
So it surprised me that my favorite hotel I've stayed in all year was none of those. Instead, it was a boutique luxury hotel on the stunning African archipelago of Zanzibar.
Originally designed as a getaway for a member of 1980s pop group ABBA, Elewana Kilindi Zanzibar opened to swanky travelers in 2009 with the idea of turning the all-inclusive beach vacation on its head.
Now, I can tell you straight up that Kilindi's food is not as good Nobu Ibiza, that it's not on an island as swanky as the Myconian Ambassador, and it doesn't have service that approaches Burj Al Arab's 6:1 staff-to-guest ratio.What it does have, however, is location. And sometimes, location matters more than anything.
What makes Elewana Kilindi such a standout hotel
Elewana Kilindi is located on the quiet northern coast of Zanzibar, an island I consider to be one of the most beautiful in the world, even if the US News & World Report doesn't include it on its 20 Most Beautiful Islands list.
Zanzibar is full of wildlife, nature, and spice farms. The waters off the coast are a more mesmerizing turquoise than you'd find in the Mediterranean or Caribbean - and the powder-white beaches are quiet and private.
Elewana Kilindi sits on 50 acres in the middle of this paradise. Each guest stays in one of 15 eco-friendly villas. The hotel has the luxury of a swanky hotel, but dropped in the middle of nature. You wake up in the morning to the birds chirping, even as you are served a coconut lobster Benedict breakfast next to the private pool on your private deck.
The other fancy places I've stayed in left me feeling like I didn't need to go back. Nobu Ibiza is on one of the island's less inspiring beaches. The Burj is in Dubai, which often feels more like a business hub than a getaway. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore had me feeling like I was staying in a luxury mall.
Elewana Kilindi struck me as the platonic ideal of a honeymoon spot. That's not to say it's considerably cheaper than the other places I've mentioned: It still costs approximately $1,000 a night to stay there.
But unlike a lot of fancy places, Elewana Kilindi left me dying to go back as soon as I'd left.