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June Hot List: 6 new hotels to have on your radar

As much of the world moves hopefully toward unlocking, these head-turning hotels are ready and waiting to treat guests to some post-lockdown luxury. From a trio of blissful Belizean reef-meets-rainforest retreats, to a tucked-away Irish townhouse keeping things sweet and sustainable with its own beehives, our latest additions should be top of your list for when the world reopens…

Matachica Resort & Spa, Ambergris Caye – Belize

The adults-only, 32-room Matachica Resort & Spa, delivers pure Belizean bliss inspired by its natural surroundings. Sitting pretty on Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island, Matachica borders one of the world’s biggest barrier reefs and is renowned for its ‘private by nature’ ethos. The modern barefoot beach property underwent a complete overhaul in 2019 and punctuated the Caye’s white sandy beach with vibrantly coloured, thatched-roof casitas and villas, each with a private patio. The zingy exterior flows through to the equally exuberant interior décor , which features uplifting custom murals. Locally sourced furniture, eco-friendly mattresses and amenities add just the right touches for this sustainably focused resort which holds community at its core.

During the pandemic, owner Daniel Lighter took the opportunity to enlist his son Stephen Lighter, a respected baker and pastry chef, and Parisian Chef Léon Cerredo, former Chef de Partie at The French Laundry, to reimagine the culinary offering. The resort’s award-winning restaurant Mambo and the newly launched casual beachfront eatery – Mambo Bistro both now honour local flavours infused with traditional North American and French influences such as homemade lobster ravioli and key lime pie with burnt locally harvested honey. Matachica is a soulful retreat that offers guests a pick of land or sea experiences, be it a calming papaya facial at the resort’s Jade spa or a thrilling dive at the Great Blue Hole.

SLH Insider Tip: A twin-centre trip of both Matachica Resort & Spa and sister property GAÏA Riverlodge is a must when in Belize, taking in the ocean and the rainforest.

GAÏA Riverlodge, Cayo District – Belize

Regenerative energy permeates the 16-room GAÏA Riverlodge, the sister property to Matachica Resort & Spa. This Belizean eco-friendly powerhouse of a resort meets some serious sustainability milestones and is one of only five properties in Belize with Green Globe certification. Flanked by the dramatic Five Sisters Waterfalls of the Privassion River, GAÏA is a hydro-powered retreat that sits calmly within the rainforest, home to over 450 species of birds and plant life. There’s exotic flora and fauna at every turn, and each room is made of locally sourced wood, thatch, and stone. The menus at GAÏA’s open-air restaurant and cocktail lounge were created after a countrywide tour by the chefs to bring back only the best local produce. The Spa operates in a similar vein, offering the best natural treatments sourced from the Belizean, Guatemalan, and Mexican wilderness.

Guests can enjoy a slew of experiences, many of which are complimentary such as guided jungle walks, nature trails, and early morning bird watching. Beyond the thatched roofs, guests can further immerse themselves in the education of ancient Mayan customs and traditions, including an introduction to Mayan farming techniques, chocolate making and pottery. Owner Daniel Lighter, together with Nigel Richards, are passionate about sustainability in every sense and have successfully married it with a relaxed luxury sensibility. GAÏA Riverlodge breathes life into those that visit and lives up to the true essence of its name, deriving from the ancient Greek goddess of the earth.

SLH Insider Tip: Join Samuel, the resort’s expert Mayan organic farmer onsite at GAÏA’s organic farm to pick up some top farming tips for back home or to select your vegetables for the day’s menu.

Itz’ana Resort & Residences, Placencia – Belize

An idyllic 21-room beachside resort, Itz’ana Resort & Residences is located in the palm-tree lined Placencia in southeastern Belize, where reef meets rainforest. The accommodations offer the utmost privacy with a selection of rooms and villas featuring wrap-around terraces, airy indoor living spaces, and endless luxury comforts. All rooms have a calming natural décor accented with palm-tree inspired murals. Limilia, Itz’ana Resort’s beachside restaurant, fuses local cuisine with wider Caribbean and Central American influences using fresh locally sourced ingredients caught by the hotel’s own fishermen and farmed in the organic vegetable garden. Its masterfully crafted cocktails have a reputation of their own.

Itz’ana Resort welcomes families and even dedicates one of its two pools to children. There’s a dizzying amount of wildlife and no shortage of opportunities to spot them with the resort’s extensive range of activities. Itz’ana Resort prides itself on being the perfect base camp for adventure so guests can pick from Belize’s longest zipline to excursions at the world’s only jaguar reserve or diving the Belize Barrier Reef.

SLH Insider Tip: Placencia is a breeding area for saltwater crocodiles, marine turtles and endangered manatees. The hotel offers a popular Manatee Watch excursion where you can spot the rare creatures.

The Grady, Kentucky – USA

Launched this month, The Grady is the latest addition to Louisville’s downtown Market District. Housed in a 140-year-old building, the hotel’s developers – Vision Hospitality – have opened the space to craft a 51-room upscale lifestyle retreat spread across five floors. The historic building has been given a hip new lease of life with handsome tones in each guestroom featuring Grady green (the hotel’s signature colour), navy, and maroon, mixed with reclaimed wood ceilings, tufted headboards and locally inspired art. The public spaces, including a library area, art gallery and fireplace, are equally warm and inviting.

Guests are treated to a selection of surprises that unlock the city’s history throughout the hotel – souvenir horseshoes reminiscent of the city’s racing heritage and silk robes representing the late great Muhammad Ali, a Louisville native, are just some of the thoughtful touches. The property has enjoyed many previous incarnations, but it is its former existence as home to the Swann-Abram Hat Company, maker of iconic Kentucky Derby hats that has left a lasting impression. The hotel’s restaurant and bar, aptly named The Wild Swann serves up the best soulful Kentucky spirits and small plates.

SLH Insider Tip: The Wild Swann is also inspired by J.B. Wilder who produced medicinal bourbon at the property back in 1883. Today, you can Whisper ‘Swann Song’ to the bar keepers to learn more secrets about the city.

The Wilder Townhouse, Dublin – Ireland

Victorian architecture and thoughtful, modern design unite in this impressive city-centre property that is The Wilder Townhouse. Step into The Wilder’s dramatic red brick façade and you’ll find a bold yet warm and cosy interior, brimming with character, light and colour. There are 42 rooms, including four suites, spread generously over three floors, furnished with all the latest mod-cons and walk-in rainforest showers. The Wilder is one of the few residents-only townhouses in Dublin and opened its doors to the public in 2018 to bring a quiet and sophisticated retreat to the bustling capital. It’s tucked away in beautifully manicured gardens but surprisingly within walking distance to the famous Iveagh Gardens and St. Stephen’s Green.

General Manager Barry Francis and his team are committed to delivering the warmest Irish hospitality and are driving sustainable practices throughout the property. One such sustainable initiative sees The Wilder partner with the Dublin Honey Bee Project to introduce its very own Wilder Beehives and produce local honey for guests, while helping preserve the dwindling bee colonies. Reopened this month, The Wilder Townhouse offers a ‘Dublin Reawakened’ package inviting guests to discover Dublin’s famous landmarks with a private guided tour, Coffee Table Book of Dublin and cocktail on return to the hotel.

SLH Insider Tip: Ask Head mixologist Harry Crofton to make you the hotel’s most popular drink – The Honey Orange Blossom cocktail – in The Wilder Townhouses Gin & Tea Room, which serves a mouth-watering selection of bespoke craft gin from across Ireland.

Stock Exchange Hotel, Manchester – UK

When Stock Exchange Hotel first opened its doors in 2019, all eyes were on the property, not least because of its ownership by ex-footballers Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville of GG Hospitality. Today the 40-room hotel has more than proved its sound luxury hotel credentials and is a firm hotspot in Manchester. The Grade II listed building underwent a six-year renovation before launch when GG Hospitality took the former home of Manchester’s Stock Exchange and respectfully reinterpreted it for a contemporary lifestyle hotel, which is now a clever blend of opulent turn-of-the-century architecture and soaring interior spaces. There’s a lot to be admired about the generously sized rooms and suites which are tastefully decorated in muted tones with walk-in marble showers and free-standing bathtubs.

Michelin-starred Chef Tom Kerridge is at the Helm of The Bull & Bear, which on any given day of the week is buzzing with in-the-know diners. Together with his Executive Chef Sarah Hayward, he’s curated a refined British comfort food menu, which guests can enjoy in the main restaurant or within a private setting in The Vault or The Bank rooms.

SLH Insider Tip: Located on the fifth floor, The House is a sprawling 3,500 square foot three-bedroom residence and Manchester’s only residential apartment with five-star hotel service.