Because I cover luxury lodgings in my role as a travel and lifestyle writer, I count myself very fortunate to have just about seen it all when it comes to hotel amenities—and that means it can be hard to grab my attention. Still, I sometimes visit a hotel that manage to blow me away with over-the-top perks.
Sometimes, it hits me when I walk into a lobby or swipe the key card to open the door to my room. Sometimes, it begins as early as the airport transfer. And other times, it’s not grand gestures at all, but rather a tiny act quietly performed by the housekeeping team that sparks my awe and gratitude for such attention to detail.
Here are nine of the most surprising, thoughtful, or otherwise over-the-top amenities I’ve ever seen in hotels and resorts around North America.
Rosewood Mayakoba‘s thoughtful touches are almost too numerous to count; it was perhaps one of the most creative properties I’ve ever stayed in when it comes to inventive amenities and surprises. Signature among them is the locally hand-painted alebrijes—brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical animals—guests receive in their rooms each night to collect and cherish later.
But standing out among the pleasant surprises for me were the monogrammed pillowcases I found on my bed after turndown service one night. I was so struck by the personalized gesture that I sent a pic to my friends at home who all wanted to know: What happens to these special linens after you leave? And the next day, I found out the answer: I returned to my room and found the cases pressed, folded, and wrapped in a ribbon for me to take home.
Confession: I’m just not comfortable on a bicycle. Even though I love the idea of breezing through a vast resort on wheels and think it’s a nice idea when properties offer beach cruisers for guests to use, the perk doesn’t really apply to me.
At the Rosewood Mayakoba, I must have mentioned my non-bike-riding status to the personal butler assigned to my suite (although I hardly remembered doing so), and the next day I opened the door to find a steady, cheery blue adult tricycle parked right outside. It was such a joy to ride all around the sprawling property, and just a rare opportunity to take advantage of wheels like other guests.
A visit to the Resort at Paws Up in Montana is like a visit to a national park—that is to say, it’s a wonderland of wide-open spaces and sublime natural landscapes, to the tune of 37,000 acres. Except it’s private—and boasts amenities you’ll definitely not get with your national parks pass.
For instance, the resort gives guests an easy—and ultra-luxurious—way to get around during the stay. When my family checked in, staff handed over keys to a personal Lexus to drive around the property, between the restaurants, lodgings, spa, and whatever adventures we chose to get into.
As children of two luxury travel-loving parents and a travel writer mom, my twins (now 7 years old) have a great gig. they’ve been spoiled rotten by over-the-top hotel experiences around the world, and the Four Seasons Punta Mita is the family-friendly property that has made our travel with them both possible and pleasurable since they were toddlers. (So we’ll always keep going back!)
The housekeeping team decorates the room prior to guests’ with kids arrival. That typically involves bath sponges arranged to spell out their names (which we can then use during the stay with the included tear-free bath amenities). We’ve also seen the kids’ names scrawled on the mirrors or shower doors to welcome them warmly and in a highly personalized way.
Taking the kid-friendly arrival even more next level, multiple times we’ve walked into our Four Seasons Punta Mita suite to find a teepee set up for our stay, festooned with extras like toys and treats. You can guess what happens next: Both of my kids want to sleep on couch cushions under the teepee rather than in the large, plush, pull-out sleeper!
Anyone familiar with my coverage knows how much I love a resort kids club for my young kids (and my husband and I relish the downtime, too). Four Seasons’ Kids for All Seasons clubs around the world are the best in the biz, in my experience. And although they never seem to feel crowded, in low seasons they can feel spare enough to feel extra exclusive—even totally private. In one instance at the then-new Four Seasons Los Cabos at Costa Palmas, the kids club offered a piñata party on the beach. But as my kids were the only ones there in that time block, they got to bust it open—and claim the candy spoils inside—all for themselves.=
I recently visited Castle Hot Springs—the Arizona resort that dates back to 1896 and was then a gilded age hotspot—I was delighted to arrive at dinner to discover a five-course menu already set as part of the inclusive experience. The only choice I had to make was among the entrees—I always choose vegetarian—so it was a no thinking, just relaxing situation.
The produce and herbs used in the dishes came right from the on-property farm, which is literally in view of the dining tables. Just that morning, we’d even talked to the gardener, pulled our own carrots out of the dirt, and nibbled cherry tomatoes right off the vine in the greenhouse.
These farm-to-table meals and cocktails were among the standout moments of this trip, even though it was also packed with activities like on-site archery, hiking, paddle-board yoga, and more. So with all that exercise, I was pleased to have a bottomless basket of inventive packaged snacks available on demand in the room, too (always included for guests).
Palm Springs is one of my favorite places to visit—though these days it’s hardly an undiscovered gem. But visiting the Mediterranean-style Korakia Pensione, with its distinctive keyhole-shaped entrance, still manages to feel like an under-the-radar secret hideaway. And in the summer, when the dry heat radiates and the crowds thin, it can feel downright magical. On a birthday visit one July, I was charmed to find the hotel hosting Marilyn Monroe movies from a cozy alfresco setup on the grounds.
Yes, it probably comes as no surprise that most of the over-the-top amenities on this list are attached to luxury resorts with eye-popping price points. But that doesn’t always have to be the case. Las Vegas is an incredible place to go for budget-friendly rooms with posh amenities that can make you feel like a serious baller.
This is true at properties both on and off the Las Vegas Boulevard strip. For instance, on a solo leg of a work trip at the off-strip Palms Casino Resort Vegas, I set up shop in a 10th-floor Fantasy Tower Executive King Suite that goes for a modest $200 or so a night and spans a generous 840 square feet with a bedroom and separate living room. Between those two rooms are not one or two but three massive 65-inch TVs. Because why not? More is more in Vegas—so of course the amenities are larger than life, too.
READ THIS NEXT: Never Leave a Hotel Before Doing This, Experts Warn.