Looking for ‘a Different Kind of Wow’: Next Level Hotel Experiences

Jesmine Hall is director of communications for Raffles Singapore. “We see a hotel being a destination for not just rest and rejuvenation,” she said, “but a setting for cultural immersion.” The hotel’s Enlightenment Retreat (from 7,800 Singapore dollars, or about $5,745) features four days of holistic treatments — including yoga, meditation, hydrotherapy herbal body wraps — along with personalized menus from the hotel’s restaurants. It also includes visits to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the Intan, a private house museum devoted to Peranakan culture — a mix of local and Chinese heritage. Tea with the owner, Alvin Yapp, well known in Singapore’s cultural circles, gives it that extra insider’s feel.

Sometimes the location itself is the experience. Rather than choosing downtown San Diego when it opened a new California location three years ago, Alila Hotels and Resorts went 28 miles north to Encinitas, Calif. “It’s this little beach town that’s always been known as a surf destination, always been known as laid-back and friendly,” said Emily Teachout, director of marketing for the 130-room Alia Marea Beach resort. Through Fulcrum Surf, a top-tier surf school, guests can take a one-hour lesson ($200) on the resort’s beach. Or they can opt for a private coastal tour ($925) to scope out the best breaks, take in the local scene and get an extended lesson on different surfboards.

Other resorts make the most out of their natural environment. When Jon Borschow, 72, and his wife, Galina, 68, of San Juan, P.R., arrived at Amanpulo resort on the private Pamalican Island in the Philippines, they noticed a lot of birds. Being amateur birders, they inquired about them and were offered a tour with the resident naturalist. “I would say we saw at least 30 different species,” said Mr. Borschow, including Thai imperial pigeons and a Philippine megapode.

“Travelers really just want to be taken care of by hotels and have them provide and arrange everything,” Ms. Hall, of Raffles Singapore, said. Responding to that desire, Raffles offers a personalized shopping extravaganza, in which guests consult with a personal shopper before arrival, and then enjoy a chauffeured four-hour trip to some of Singapore’s best boutiques (from 3,900 Singapore dollars, or about $2,860, which includes two nights in a suite and breakfast).

Hotels also seize opportunities to deliver a personal touch.

When David Anderson, 78, of St. Louis, took his extended family on a trip to the Clayoquot lodge, he emailed Ms. Cruse, the general manager, in advance, sharing a bit on each of the nine family members.

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