Travel Intel

Introducing The Skylark Originals

By: Kathryn O’Shea-Evans

When was the last time you were impressed by a mint on the pillow? Yeah, we can’t remember either. Not that we’re complaining: High-end hotels have been engaged in something of an amenities arms race for years, with guests ending up the winners. We’ve all come to expect—and usually receive—niceties like flat-screen TVs, crisp duvets, multiple charging ports and high-end bath products. That’s why we’ve created the Skylark Originals: a list of innovative amenities that show a spark of creativity or thoughtfulness, and special experiences that bring a destination to life in a new way. Along the way, we also discovered airlines, airports, and apps that made us feel like V-VIP’s, so we included those, too. Hats off to them and the other travel providers that are Making Amenities Great Again!


The Mark Hotel, on New York’s Upper East Side, has chic black and white sailboats to whir around Central Park’s Conservatory Water—accompanied by a picnic lunch by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Toy boats not your thing? Pack your Saint James striped boatneck shirt for a Hudson River cruise on the hotel’s vintage schooner, complete with cocktails and JG hors d’oeuvres.


On a 105-square-mile isle that’s a regular getaway for everyone from Tommy Hilfiger to Kathy Lee Gifford to the Clintons, why sequester yourself away in a car? Nantucket Island Resorts, which includes the White Elephant and The Wauwinet, maintains a fleet of loaner BMW e-Bikes that go from eco to turbo in a flash...should you need to catch up to Hillary.


Amenities for those who don’t feel good unless they look good: In Paris, the Hôtel de Crillon, a Rosewood Hotel, offers men haircuts by the city’s first female barber—avec straight razor—and shoe shines using Delamain cognac. • At New York’s Baccarat Hotel, guests of select suites can receive gratis blowouts each evening from 5 to 7, plus beauty swag from the on-site La Mer spa. • At The Upper House in Hong Kong, your paws get the star treatment, with in-room mani-pedi’s—using Louboutin nail polish, of course.


At the iconic Carlton Hotel in St. Moritz, skiers can spend the day with Olympic medalist Marc Girardelli or even learn to snowkite, but the best Alpine amenity may be the outdoor butler, who serves as a knowledgeable guide to the Engadine, hefting gear and keeping you fueled up for adventure. • In Aspen, the Little Nell’s Ski Concierges await to warm your boots, pour hot coffee and tune up your gear, so you can hit the double-black diamonds like the pro you are.


Hauling yourself from your languid perch on a chaise lounge to the hotel bar is becoming a thing of the past. At Faena Miami Beach, simply raise the red flag by your chair and the hotel’s own butlers will fetch you a cocktail (we recommend the Tortured Genius, with Bulleit bourbon) and even wash the sand from your feet, so you look shower-fresh for dinner at the Francis Mallmann restaurant, Los Fuegos. • In Los Cabos, Mexico, Chileno Bay Resort’s proprietary app means you can request everything from fresh fluffy towels to an ice cold cerveza to be delivered to your exact locale. • One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos practically invented poolside pampering. We love that they still  provide an assortment of pillows—for neck, knees, feet—to make your chaise even chilller.


Leave it to Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris, whose halls are graced by works by Nikolay Polissky and Thierry Dreyfus, to employ a dedicated arts concierge to sate your every Warhol-esque whim. Art consultant Julie Eugène will tip you off on the latest exhibitions and gallery jaunts and give an insider tour of the hotel’s own collection (look for the outsized teapot sculpture by Joana Vasconcelos in the garden).


Park Hyatt Aviara’s Executive Chef Pierre Albaladejo has done stints in Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton kitchens, but his obsessions go beyond food: He’s a surfer. On a two-day exploit at the San Diego–area resort, he’ll teach you to “shred the gnar,” take you up the Pacific Coast Highway to Greg Noll’s surfboard workshop in San Clemente, and, of course, cook for you. Did we mention he’ll send you a personalized surfboard after you return home?


Hotels are stocking ultra-luxe amenities you can wear, and not just slippers. At The Lowell on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, suite guests may find monogrammed pajamas awaiting for a cozy night in. • In certain suites at Claridge’s, Burberry trench coats—the city’s most famous fashion export—are on loan in case it rains (it’s London; it will). • In Venice at the Gritti Palace, slippers made by storied textile company Rubelli will have you padding around the 1475 palazzo in smashing style.


The closest thing you’ll likely ever experience to living like Chinese royalty is booking a stay at Aman Summer Palace in Beijing, which proffers after-hours back-door access to its neighbor, the ornate UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss the Hall that Dispels the Clouds, where it’s said occupants are graced with a longer life—i.e., more time for Aman’s phenomenal spa treatments.


How to have time for one last flute of Veuve Cliquot before heading home from St. Barths: Flying Tradewind Aviation saves both time and schlep by providing air transfers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, instead of St. Martin—so you only have to go through customs (groan) once. • For something completely different—but no less soothing—Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport trots out miniature horses from Ohio’s Seven Oaks Farm twice a month. The therapy animals are there to comfort stressed flyers (a.k.a. everyone).


The 17th and 18th-century Tuscan villas at Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco come with more than private heated pools, wood-burning ovens and garden pergolas—they also have their very own mamma, who takes care of cleaning and tidying of the villa, meanwhile concentrating on details for your stay. You’ll adore her so much you’ll want to bring her home—possibly to replace your own mother!


The glam Boca Beach Club is one of our favorite things about the Boca Raton Resort and Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, in South Florida. But getting around the spread-out property takes some advance planning. Thanks to to the resort’s app, you’ll always know the exact locations of the shuttle buses, and how much time you have to smear on sunscreen before it arrives.


A stay in the Kingston Treehouse at Lion Sands Game Reserve, in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve, sounds pretty magical: lofted above the tree canopy, with a four-poster bed swathed in romantic mosquito netting—and its own drawbridge! Not convinced? Take a virtual walk around it on a Google Earth tour. Not shown: the tropical boubou birds, chirping sweet nothings into the ether.


You haven’t experienced a truly relaxing massage until you’ve had one at Velaa Private Island in the Maldives, whose spa sits on stilts over the glass-clear Indian Ocean. The massage table is positioned over a glass window into the otherworldly turquoise water below—with tropical fish so eye-poppingly beautiful, you’ll swear you’re in a screen saver.


You’d think waking up in an ultra-luxe oceanfront resort in the Riviera Maya would be the best possible way to start the day, but at Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa, a local chef named La Tía makes it even better. She starts by making corn tortillas by hand, then fills them with meat, cheese and squash blossoms. You’ll work out mañana.


For guests of the iconic Ritz Paris, the legendary experience starts as soon as they land at Charles de Gaulle: The hotel’s staff meets you at the door of the plane, speeds you through customs, and whisks you to the hotel in coddled comfort. Flexible check-in and check-out times make the transfers extra-seamless. • In New York, Delta has partnered with helicopter company Blade to whisk passengers from Manhattan to JFK in five minutes flat. An escort through security (or immigration and customs for arrivals) is included. Remember to wave at all the cars stuck on the Van Wyck Expressway!


If you find arriving at your hotel by taxi or rental car a little lackluster, consider a trip to Oman’s Six Senses Zighy Bay, where you can paraglide in at a 960-foot altitude from nearby Zighy Mountain. • In Thailand, at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, guests are ferried to a jungly bank of the Ruak River by private longtail boat, then ride the property’s lumbering resident elephants uphill to check in.


Newly opened on the southern Sri Lankan coast, Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort introduces guests to an ancient local custom: freshly picked coconut. Upon request, their resident “coconut guru” will scamper up a tree in the property’s 21-acre plantation and return in two minutes to open one for you poolside—by machete! The fruit aisle at Whole Foods just doesn’t compare.


Tschuggen Grand Hotel, a modernist hideaway in the Swiss Alps, combines the best of Switzerland with a dose of the American West with its Tepee Experience. After a night in the hotel, designed by Carlo Rampazzi, and a chug up the mountain on the Tschuggen Express funicular, guests enjoy a night in a tricked-out tepee complete with an alfresco barbecue and antique Coca-Cola coolers. • Across the globe in Belize, Ka’ana Resort can arrange a glimpse even further back into human history with overnights at nearby Mayan ruins—sites of centuries of secrets, now lost to the wind.


Attention, tech-forward travelers—your ultimate hotels have arrived. Phuket’s Trisara resort has an in-house digital studio to capture your wedding (or just your splash around the infinity pool) in virtual reality, so you can relive your jaw-dropping moments over and over. • Eden Rock - St. Barths maintains its own recording studio, should you feel like creating your own Marley-esque soundtrack during your stay. • At the W Seattle, the town that birthed Kurt Cobain, guests can record tracks at the first 24-hour W Sound Suite—complete with recording gear from industry favorite Native Instruments. Rock on.


That whole “adult coloring book” trend has met its match at Mexico’s Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, where en-suite easels (in both adult and kid sizes) and paint supplies await in all Artesana Private Residences. It’s a way to get in touch with your creative side—whether you fancy yourself a Frida or a Diego.


Skylark clients have a tailor-made trip highlight waiting for them at the 700-hectare Il Borro Estate, in Tuscany: a wine tasting in the historic cellar where Chianti was first produced—all within stumbling distance of your revamped medieval villa. • The Chedi Andermatt brings guests to a farm just up the hill so they can learn the process of cheesemaking firsthand—starting with milking the cow themselves. Not into farm life? Just check out the hotel’s cheese humidor. It’s the largest in the Alps and there’s no milk pail required.


For anyone who has ever had a bad day at an airport (read: everyone), Solve helps ensure it doesn’t happen again. The service, available at over 500 airports around the globe, essentially gives you Beyoncé status, assisting, escorting and expediting every minute you're there, from customs to connections to baggage. • Clear already puts TSA Pre-Check to shame by letting members scan their eyeball or fingerprint to speed through security. Now it’s rolling out the service to sports venues, including New York’s Yankee Stadium, San Francisco's’ AT&T Park, and Miami’s American Airlines Arena.