What is a Boutique Hotel and Should You Book One

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Boutique hotels are the latest trend for travelers that are wanting a unique and luxury experience when traveling. 

What really is a boutique hotel? A boutique hotel is “a small stylish hotel, typically one situated in a fashionable urban location.” A boutique hotel has a distinct character, intentional design and decor, and personalized service.

I decided to put together a comprehensive and in-depth guide to help you understand what is a boutique hotel and why you should stay at one on your next vacation. 

I love a good boutique hotel and they are fast becoming the favorite among both millennials and baby boomers because who really wants to be herded in and out of a hotel or resort-like cattle. 

Once most hotels and resorts reach a certain size they often lose their intimacy, their hands-on service touch, and the magical feeling that they know and care about each and every guest. 

Boutique hotels no matter the country will give you a genuine local flavor and sensation of a true home away from home.

But on the other hand, if you are accustomed to larger resorts the smaller properties often under-deliver, lacking the amenities of a full-service hotel that many travelers want, such as multiple restaurant options, a lavish spa, and sporting facilities.

Who needs 10 restaurants anyway and by the time you get to the restaurant you will need a shower and refreshen your deodorant because it has taken you 2o minutes to walk across the resort.

What Makes Boutique Hotels Unique?

What is the difference between a lifestyle hotel and a boutique hotel?  The main difference is that boutique hotels are much smaller in size but more importantly, the decor and design are absolutely next level when it comes to style and luxury.

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Features of a boutique hotel:

  • Small size: Boutique hotels often have less than 100 rooms, small intimate restaurants, one or two recreational facilities, 

  • The theme of the property: Boutique hotels always have a unique theme that is taken from the local culture including; historical sites,  culinary-focused, and even the architecture of the destination.  

  • Style of the property: Boutique hotels embody luxury from the decor, furniture, look and feel of the property to the hand-crafted art hanging on the walls.  

  • Service: Because boutique hotels are small in size, they deliver quality service the staff will probably know you by your first name and will deliver exceptional service.


boutique hotels around the world

What is a Boutique Hotel?

The #1 defining aspect of a boutique hotel is its size.  A Boutique Hotel is small but has a BIG personality.

How many times have you checked in at the front desk and the person didn’t even look up to greet you, didn’t know your name, didn’t care what your name was or why you were there?

You are looking forward to breakfast after a late night out so you make your way down to the restaurant and the food looks like a troth that pigs eat out of for breakfast. 

Most boutique hotels are farm to table and the food is prepared fresh every day.

My favorite boutique hotel is located in Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula.  Florblanca Resort is the ultimate boutique hotel experience.

I have stayed in quite a few boutique hotels in my travels and Florblanca offers 11 private villas, a secluded beach, yoga, and attention to detail are just a few of the reasons why Florblanca is my favorite boutique resort.

Unique and Chic Decor

Whether you are staying in Costa Rica or Belize you will find a boutique hotel that suits your needs.  You will not feel like you just stayed at the same hotel with the same mediocre service and the same mediocre decor.

Boutique hotels often have furniture locally sourced from places like SixPenny Furniture  This is what sets them apart from chains.

The boutique hotel’s focus is more intimate and customer-focused.  The staff knows your name and tailors your stay to your individual needs.

If you are looking to have an experience and immerse yourself in the culture just ask the staff who is always ready and eager to share entertainment or dining ideas.

If you want to experience the local flavor, festivals or other local community events check with the hotel ahead of time to see if there are any events you’d like to plan your vacation around.

Boutique Hotels Provide Attention to Detail

When I stayed in Ka’ana Resort in Belize the hotel arranged for us to have a car with a driver for the day and he drove us to the other side of the Island to enjoy the Palencia Lobster Festival.

My husband and I enjoyed lobster prepared in every way imaginable.  What chain will arrange for you to have a car and drive you to a lobster festival?

Boutique Hotels are not generic, blah, or bland.  Most boutique hotels strive to be one-of-a-kind and have an independent attitude.  

The decor in boutique hotels is often modern and cutting edge.  Their style runs toward the sleek with stark palettes and bold color splashes.

Here are My Top 5 Boutique Hotels

1. Florblanca Resort

Florblanca Resort is located on seven acres of the mostly undeveloped shore which sits along the edge of thick rainforest and is at the quieter northern end of the town of Santa Teresa. 

The hotel is far from the crowds which my husband and I loved and it was just enough visitors on the property just in case you wanted to mingle with other people instead of your spouse.

Click here if Florblanca Resort is right for you.


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A post shared by HotelFlorblanca (@hotelflorblanca)

2. One&Only Gorilla’s Nest 

One&Only Gorilla’s Nest has 21 rooms and suites that are tree-house style in a lush landscape created with thousands of plants and flowers tended to by a team of staff gardeners.

The décor throughout is rich and textured, mixing African textiles and art with contemporary furniture and finishes.

Every room has a fireplace and a deck, and the one- and two-bedroom suites have outdoor showers (the Virunga suite even has an open-air soaking tub).

The food, in the hands of the talented husband-and-wife chefs Bryan and Louise English, is equally sophisticated, blending African and international techniques into daily-changing menus. 

Click here if the One & Only Gorilla Nest is right for you.


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A post shared by One&Only Gorilla’s Nest (@oogorillasnest)

3. Circa 

The 11-room Relais & Châteaux hotel is nestled on a narrow street at the heart of the colonial city of Arequipa.

The décor at Circa epitomizes organic luxury; each of its rooms is uniquely outfitted with sculptural wooden furnishings, linens in earthy hues, and contemporary fixtures; superior rooms have standing bathtubs and barrel-vaulted ceilings.

Cocktails and alfresco meals are served on the arched lounge patio, with its alpaca-throw-laden sofas and pit fires; follow the terrace and you’ll come to a glass-walled restaurant nestled alongside a wine cellar and smaller private dining area.

The cuisine is fresh and Peruvian-inspired, featuring dishes like river crayfish ceviche and yellow chili quintetto. 

Click here if Circa is right for you.


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A post shared by CIRQA – Relais & Châteaux (@cirqa_arequipa)

4. Hotel Onda Verde

Hotel Onda Verde is at the center of all the towns of the Amalfi Coast, just 7 km from Amalfi and Positano, offers you the best opportunities to get to know and appreciate it every day visiting many of these attractions and then return to the quiet of ‘home.

The hotel offers a dock service for day trips to and from Capri and can easily help you get to and from the centers of Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, Sorrento, and many other places of the Sorrento-Amalfi Coast.

Created in what were once five independent villas, the 25 bedrooms of the Hotel Onda Verde all have splendid sea views.

Furnished with attention to detail and a promise: that guests will sleep peacefully here, lulled by the gentle sound of the waves lapping the shores below.

Click here if Hotel Onda Verde is right for you.


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A post shared by Tomiko Harvey (@tomiko.harvey)

5. Blackberry Mountain

Blackberry Mountain is known for fine dining, Southern outdoor culture, and weekend parties, all beautifully captured on Instagram.

Blackberry Mountain has a focus on wellness and offers spectacular views Smoky Mountain views from the 30 spacious guest cottages and six rustic-luxe Watchmen’s Cabins.

(If you want a digital detox, the latter, which are strategically placed at a higher elevation, have no TVs or WiFi) Will you spend time in those rooms?

There are 25 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails, and a center called the Hub, made up of contemporary, streamlined spaces for hot yoga, rock climbing, pottery, TRX, and more. 

Click here if Blackberry Mountain is right for you.


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A post shared by Blackberry Mountain (@blackberry.mountain)

Conclusion of What is a Boutique Hotel and Why You Should Stay at One 

Boutique hotels are typically small, with 10 to 100 rooms. They are intimate in scale, creating the ambiance of being a personal guest in a private home, rather than just a hotel occupant.  

If you are looking for Individuality then I suggest leaving the “cookie cutter” properties to other travelers. 

 They are often operated independently but belong to luxury hotel associations, such as Relais & Chateaux or Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

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Travel Guide


What is a Lifestyle Hotel?

15 Best Luxury Hotels in New Orleans

Best Luxury Hotels In Jamaica

Did I take the guesswork out of understanding what is a boutique hotel and the difference between staying in the chain or a large resort? 

Did any of your favorite boutique hotels make my list? If not please send me an email as I will update my list annually? 

I would love to hear your thoughts so leave me a comment on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.


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  1. This was so great! I’ve never stayed in a boutique hotel and looks like I’m totally missing out. As I start to travel more this guide will be very helpful. I was at your workshop last Saturday and have started working on tips and tricks you provided.

  2. Girl yes to all of this. I stayed at three boutique hotels in Kenya this year and Uh-may-zing! The attention to detail, the personalized service was all amazing.

  3. I am sitting here trying to think if I have ever stayed in a Boutique Hotel! I don’t think I have…but this is definitely on my list!!! These hotels are BEAUTIFUL!!!

  4. Before I moved to Nashville a few years ago I came to visit the city and stayed at the Hutton Hotel. I had some of the best service I’ve ever had a hotel while staying there. I rarely order room service, but I was really hungry one night. They were so super nice and brought me some free cheesecake. There’s definitely a difference in the personal service you get and it’s sooooo comfortable. They take care of the tiniest details.

  5. I love boutique hotels! I love staying in places with a little charm. The decor is gorgeous! And that outdoor tub?! I need that in my life right now.

  6. I stayed at a boutique hotel in my hometown of Charleston recently. It was beautiful and now I search or boutique hotels while planning our vacations.

  7. Great post. I’ve never stayed in a boutique hotel. However, I’ve heard great things. Your post confirms that I need to add boutique hotels to my travel options for future trips. Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. I have stayed in several boutique hotels. My experience has been that Boutique Hotel means

    * Small rooms
    * Uncomfortable furniture
    * Dark “mood” lighting which makes reading impossible
    * No restaurant on site
    * No bar or bar which doubles as a night club

    Not willing to risk it any more!

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