At home, we bathe to wash off the remains of the day. But on our travels, the sight of a showy hotel bathtub—gracefully claw-footed or sturdily egg-shaped; a copper roll-top or hinoki-wood barrel—is enough to summon our inner sybarite, stirring us to sprinkle the bath with exotic salts and oils while we immerse ourselves with a cocktail (or two). The best kind of hotel soak can also immerse us in a location. That might mean a front-row seat to the Circle of Life while neck-deep in suds at Singita Faru Faru Lodge in Tanzania in an almost hallucinogenic communion with wildlife. Or a corner bathroom high in a skyscraper in buzzing and beeping Honkers. It could also mean a bath at the edge of the earth on the lonely coast of Australia’s windswept King Island in the Tasman Sea at the new Kittawa Lodge. Or it could be a chance to literally be surrounded by the opulence of a palace—as at Paris’ Hotel de Crillon, where the late Karl Lagerfeld commissioned a bathtub out of a gargantuan Carrara marble monolith. Here are a few of our favorite sublime soaking tubs around the world.
Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California
Even the non-spiritually inclined will agree that Big Sur is a power spot, with its cliffs overlooking the Pacific exerting a dramatic energy. The designers of Post Ranch Inn made full use of this force, positioning grand tubs with views that seem truly infinite, especially at night, when it feels like you’re floating just beneath the stars. Those staying in the cliffside Ocean Houses can get even closer to them in outdoor soaking tubs, built for two.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York
Few hotels offer a close encounter with Manhattan’s iconic skyline like the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, a sustainably-minded property in the borough’s DUMBO neighborhood. High above the cobblestone streets where local families ply their strollers and the New York Water Taxi docks near the spot made famous by Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” the best seats are in the 2,000-square-foot Riverhouse, a two-bedroom, glass-walled suite. You could take in the view from the loft’s hammock, but even more inviting is the chiseled stone bathtub—reminiscent of the city’s granite bedrock—with its unobstructed sight lines of the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge and the gleaming skyscrapers that make up this intoxicating concrete jungle.
Hotel Coqui Coqui, Merida, Mexico
The antidote to the busy streets of Mérida, Coqui Coqui is a chic parfumerie-meets-residence housed in a restored 19th-century hacienda that caters to all five senses. That philosophy extends to the guest rooms too, especially in the L’Epicerie suite, where two freestanding bathtubs occupy a colossal bathroom lined in Carrara marble, vintage vanities and plush velvet drapes. Coqui Coqui’s home-grown bath oils are just as transporting, as you might find yourself steaming in an olfactory paradise of rosas frescas, sandalwood, or coconut.
It was on this estate on Jamaica’s northern coastline that British author Ian Fleming penned James Bond into existence. Today, the two guest rooms within the coconut tree-shaded resort’s Fleming Villa, aptly named 008 and 009, allow you to roll out of bed and into your own tropical garden, complete with an outdoor shower and an emerald claw foot tub. How many times can you lather up with soaps and shampoos made with intoxicating herbs and botanicals—wild ginger, pimento, lemongrass—and bathe under a palm tree? When you have your answer, dry off in a batik robe, walk a few yards to the property’s edge and watch the sunset over Oracabessa Bay.
Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel, Paris
The two Karl Lagerfeld-designed Les Grands Appartements at the legendary Hôtel de Crillon, built by the architect who designed Versailles, are among the most extravagant in the city—the textured grey walls and crystal chandeliers are homages to the Kaiser’s affinity for the Parisian sky and for 18th-century antiques. But the most astonishing flourish can be found in the bathroom: a two-ton bathtub that was carved out of a single block of Carrara marble, with the same wavy Arabescato marble also adorning the mirror, vanity, and walls—entirely appropriate for a home that Marie Antoinette is said to have frequented. Naturally.
Santa Clara 1728, Lisbon, Portugal
In Lisbon’s old quarter, an 18th-century building has been reimagined by noted local architect Manuel Aires Mateus as a minimalist six-room hotel. With its limestone walls and stairs, high ceilings and pale wood flooring, Santa Clara 1728 exudes a cloistered serenity that extends to the guest rooms. In each of the white-tiled bathrooms, a curvaceous pink limestone bathtub occupies the center; in the afternoons, throw open the glass doors and flood the space with light and fragrance from the property’s garden before sliding into the tub to take your soak.
Zaborin, Hokkaido, Japan
For the skiers chasing the world’s best powder in Niseko, in Japan’s northernmost Hokkaido prefecture, Zaborin offers an aquatic antidote to a long day on piste. An elegant and subtle ryokan with views of Mt. Yotei, Zaborin was inspired by the Zen words for meditation, za-zen (“sitting zen”), za-bo (“to sit, to forget’) and rin (“small forest”). The hotel does, indeed, sit serenely amongst the trees. And a perfect spot for contemplation is in one of the 15 villas’ private onsen, which face the forest and whose water is drawn from Zaborin’s own spring.
Bambu Indah, Ubud, Bali
Outside Ubud in Bali’s spiritual center, former jewelry maker John Hardy and his wife Cynthia created an ecotopia in the jungle from a few Javanese wooden bridal homes and curvilinear bamboo structures built into rocky grottoes above the Ayung river. Although you can easily explore nearby mossy temples and rice paddies from here, it’s hard to step away from this enchanted forest of spring-fed pools, technicolor gardens and open-air houses, several of which have all-day soaking situations. The best of these is arguably at Riverbend house, with its two private natural spring plunge pools and a copper tub for butterfly watching and moon bathing.
Upper House, Hong Kong
In a vertiginous city like Hong Kong, the energy of the metropolis feels as palpable in the sky as it does on terra firma. And the Upper House, which sits 49 floors up in Hong Kong Island’s energetic Central Business District, offers bathing guests an eye-level look at the surrounding skyscrapers. The bathrooms in the corner Upper Suites—minimalist, blond-wood cocoons designed by Hong Kong native Andre Fu—are flooded with natural light; in the center, an enormous limestone tub occupies a glass-walled corner overlooking Victoria Harbour.
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, India
There are few better ways to take in the opulence of this sandstone-walled Jodhpur retreat—built in 1943 by Maharajah Umaid Singh and now owned by his grandson, Gaj Singh—than in the Indo Deco-inspired bathtubs of the palatial suites. Carved stone bathtubs framed by curved Deco mirrors jut out from the wall and put guests center stage in the immense bathroom. When you’re ready to mount the bath’s black marble pedestal and slide into the suds, it’s likely the staff will have topped them with rose petals—one of the only countries in the world where the gesture doesn’t feel contrived.
Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Grumeti Game Reserve, Tanzania
Afternoons in Tanzania’s 350,000-acre Grumeti Game Reserve—home to lion prides, elephant herds and millions of migrating wildebeest—are prime time for retreating from the heat of the day, observing as the light changes to golden, or watching the occasional storm roll in. And when all of this unfolds, there is only one place to be: at the reserve’s contemporary-style Singita Faru Faru lodge—specifically in the Calles Suite 1, where the bathroom’s enormous soaking tub faces a busy watering hole, where a parade of giraffes, zebras, warthogs and other animals come to the water to drink.
Qualia, Hamilton Island, Australia
Tucked away on Hamilton Island, one of the 74 islands next to the Great Barrier Reef that make up the Whitsundays, Qualia has all the aspects of an island paradise within its 60 low-slung, wood-and-timber private pavilions scattered along a hillside and by the water’s edge. But the rooms to book are the Windward Pavilions, which sit closest to the water, where an enormous oval bathtub might almost make you feel like you’re slipping into the surrounding azure waters.
Kittawa Lodge, King Island, Australia
A windswept speck of an island sitting between Tasmania and the Australian mainland, the agrarian King Island mostly stays off the traveler’s radar. It’s this solitude that makes the recently opened Kittawa lodge so alluring—and a bath within one of the resort’s individual cottages so appealing. In the slate-walled bathrooms, a black-stone tub sits in front of a glass wall facing the coast’s rugged 12,000-year-old grass-topped sand dunes and the Tasman Sea beyond it. Keep an eye out for red-necked wallabies, sea eagles, or wild peacocks strutting into your view.
The PRIOR editorial team, overseen by David Prior, works together to write and produce stories that inspire curiosity about, and the desire to connect to, places and people across the world.