There is no such thing as a Six Star Hotel, but if there were, this is who should be on the list



After Bill Gates recently self-anointed his Rome hotel, that hasn’t opened yet, with a non-existent six-star rating, we thought, let’s come up with a very considered list of exquisite properties and resorts that actually deserve this ever elusive, still mythical, sixth star.


I skipped over mega resorts and the historic Grand Dame’s that elite travelers and heavy spending vacationers already know and love, instead favoring more progressive, magical and dynamic properties in terms of design, unique guest experiences and an ethos with regards to sustainability and connection to the local community. 


I mean, sure, Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace Hotel, the George V in Paris, Singapore’s Raffles, the Taj in Mumbai and the Gritti Palace in Venice are all incredible hotels, but let’s leave them at five stars for now… 


A handful of the world’s best property operators come as close as anyone could to having their star-o-meter go to six. They deliver unforgettable, truly bespoke experiences. 



Aman Summer Palace lobby, so peaceful when no-one’s there Photo provided by Wonderlust



So it’s only fitting we start with Aman, which more or less invented the outer stratosphere of what over the top luxury hospitality meant. At the risk of sounding like a character from White Lotus playing the “how many Aman’s have you been to?” game, (which I overheard, in real life, at their Jackson Hole property 5 years ago, and it was as cringey in person as on screen), a couple seem to stand out above the rest. It’s hard to pin down why, but things like “magically immersive” and “transformative experience” came up over and over again from folks I asked.  


There’s the extraordinary Aman Summer Palace, just 15 minutes outside of Beijing but feels like a world away, while still being steeped in local culture. And there’s the Aman Tokyo, a refuge of serenity in a high rise above the organic madness of the city streets. 



Amankora Bhutan consists of five hotels, this is one Photo provided by Wonderlust



Amankora in Bhutan also makes the list, although it’s harder to classify as it’s really 5 hotels, and more of a cultural experience. Our own Daniel Sheffler stayed there.


Singita, whose enigmatic motto is “touch the earth lightly”, is indisputably one of the best hotel groups in the world, and we identified three of their properties as worthy of, in our surely infallible opinion, a sixth star: Lebombo, Kataza House and Sasakwa. 




A Lebombo Lodge bedroom.  Just like home, right? Photo provided by Wonderlust

Lebombo Lodge sits on its own private 33,000 acre land concession within Kruger National park, in South Africa and features four different eco-zones, 2 of the world’s 13 wild white lions, and zero other safari guests and vehicles besides yours to get in the way of your picture of a baby elephant. The modern, luxurious lodge and suites have stunning views of the rocky hills and seem suspended over the N’wantesi River below, with the high probability of exotic animal sightings while ordering cocktails from the infinity pool. In other words, a really, really nice place.



Kataza House, minimalist, exclusive and blended into nature Photo provided by Wonderlust



Kataza House sits on the edge of Volcanoes National Park, surrounded by the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda, one of the best gorilla trekking sites in the world. With only four suites, the property feels more like a modern African home than a safari lodge, so expect the highest levels of bespoke services and privacy, including two plunge pools and, like all Singita properties, an extensive wine cellar.


“Extensive wine cellars” go a long way in the estimations of the WONDERLUST cognoscenti. Just a little insight.




Sasakwa Lodge, almost ready for dinner… Photo provided by Wonderlust



Sasakwa Lodge overlooks the 350,000 acre savannah plains of the Singita Grumeti Reserve in the Serengeti, in Tanzania and leans more towards old world elegance than the modern vibes of their sister properties — plenty of candelabras, chandeliers, antiques and parquet floors. But it’s a casual elegance and comfort rather than stuffiness. Of course, there is an infinity pool, remarkable wine cellar, full fitness center and even a tennis court. I think seeing a lion while playing tennis is my new great travel ambition. (Or maybe a death wish?)


Nayara Resorts is the last but by no means the least group on this elite list of imaginary six star hotels, combining the pinnacle of luxury and perfect and seamless service with quite surprisingly effective sustainability. 


Founder Leo Ghitis operates his resorts in a holistically environmental way and hires as much of the staff as possible from local communities — his properties in Costa Rica are 98% locally staffed — and he maintains carbon neutrality across his entire portfolio. 


While all the Ghitis properties deserve mention (they even have one on Easter Island, God bless them), it is the trifecta of Nayara Tented Camp, Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs in the Arenal region of Costa Rica, and a new beach property in Bocas del Toro, Panama, that we here at WONDERLUST felt deserve six stars. Maybe seven. (See where this goes? That’s the problem if you open that box…) 


Whimsical Bocas del Toro Photo provided by Wonderlust

From iridescent blue Morpho butterflies, exotic birds and even a sloth sanctuary, the Costa Rican resorts are magnificently integrated with the surrounding (and largely replanted) rainforest. The suites’ pools are continually and naturally fed from local mineral hot springs. 


The new adults’ only property in Bocas del Toro is already being hailed as the best new beach hotel, and maybe just plain hotel fullstop, in the world by many of the expert travel writers I spoke to. 


So, what do you think we should have had on this list? Tell us at  We don’t know everything… (We don’t really mean that, but, you know, it’s a gesture to humility.)


And, now that we’re really thinking about it, maybe it’s time there was a sixth star.