When it comes to tourism, South Africa is a nation of variety. Whether you’re looking for the best safari destination or a countryside retreat, you’ll find your pick in our carefully compiled list of luxury hotels. Although, keep an open mind, as there’s more than meets the eye; South Africa’s boutique hotel scene is as booming as any, while their waterfront resorts are every bit as underappreciated. Some of the following destinations and accommodation options truly demand their due diligence.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Formerly the dwelling of Nelson Mandela, this 10-acre estate feels more like a retreat rather than an urban hotel, despite being in bustling Johannesburg. Saxon Hotel is only three miles away from central Sandton and its soaring banks and restaurants, but it owes its secluded feel to the gates and surrounding blooming gardens. Should you want to explore the city, a car or Uber rides are more than necessary.
The hotel’s sophisticated style is apparent right from the get-go. The vaulted reception hall sports neutral hues – a recurring theme throughout the hotel – and the traditional African decor and artworks give it a homely vibe. Photographs of Mandela and other notable former inhabitants are also a testament to the property’s history. The main building is connected to the luxury villas via futuristic skyways indicating a perfect blend of the contemporary and the customary.
The 53 luxurious suites are situated in the main building as well as the separate villas. The villa suites have their own pools, piano lounges, bars, dining rooms, and 24-hour chef & butler services. The main suites, on the other hand, consist of a bedroom, a lounge, and a dining area. Amenities in the suites include minibars, flat-screen TVs, safes, refrigerators, as well as complimentary bathrobes and wi-fi.
The slew of facilities is where the Saxon Hotel truly leaves an impression. The massive outdoor pool is simply majestic, while the Saxon Spa & Studio provides all sorts of massages, treatments, and facials. The sauna and fitness centers are a welcome sight for those looking for an endorphin rush and the manicure/pedicure stations ensure you look good while doing so.
The multiple-course menu of the Luke Dale Roberts X the Saxon restaurant is divine, to say the least. Chef Candice Philip is at the helm of the kitchen responsible for the best in fine dining. Another option is the Qunu restaurant, led by Jane-Therese Mulry, and their alfresco specialities include traditional African and vegan dishes.
Prices start at $560 in low season, while the most opulent suites can be upwards of $1700.
La Clé des Montagnes
Franschhoek, South Africa
La Clé des Montagnes has only four super-exclusive villas situated in a prime location of the Western Cape winelands. Less than an hour’s drive away from Cape Town, the historic town of Franschhoek is the beating heart of the region’s wine & art culture, featuring many restaurants and art galleries. It’s also worth noting that the town itself is within a walking distance from the lodge.
The surrounding mountains all but accentuate the farmhouse vibe, although the modern design of the buildings and the plethora of luxurious amenities guarantee the utmost comfort. The main building dates back to 1820 and is embellished by strong-colored decor in red and black. African, as well as contemporary art, can be found throughout the four villas, while the high ceilings and fireplaces make for a snug atmosphere.
The suites are incredibly commodious and feature king-size beds, extensive libraries, satellite television, free wi-fi, grand soaking tubs, and walk-in showers. La Clé des Montagnes has plenty in the way of leisurely activities despite being relatively remote. Each of the villas has its own swimming pool and garden, while the staff can book wine tours, horse rides, and yoga classes. What’s more, should you prefer aerial transport, helicopter transfers from the airport to the estate are available upon request.
In terms of dining, even though there isn’t a proper in-house restaurant, master chefs prepare exquisite gourmet dishes served in the villas. Wines and spirits are complimentary. Self-catering breakfast options are available in the upscale kitchens, while butlers can also prepare a wide range of pastries and English breakfasts.
Double bedrooms can go as low as $200 depending on the season.
Gondwana Game Reserve
Mossel Bay, Western Cape, South Africa
The first reserve-hotel on this list, Gondwana Game Reserve, is definitely one of the best in its niche. The main issue with resorts such as these is that they tend to be extremely remote, but Gondwana’s strongest point is that it manages to be only 30 minutes away from the nearest town of Mossel Bay. Yet again, it’s a five-hour drive away from Cape Town, so it does retain a sense of isolation.
There are a plethora of accommodation options across the immeasurable 26.000-acre expanse of the reserve. These include villas, tented eco camps, private suites, and the ultra-luxurious Ulubisi House with a private chef, butler, and field guide. The general theme across all accommodation options is that each one of them is rather modern and exudes a much-needed sense of comfort in stark contrast to the surrounding game-filled savannah.
The 14 dome-shaped huts huddled around the main lodge are adorned by animal skin rugs, giving off a rustic vibe, while the contemporary styled bathroom and four-poster beds breathe out an air of sophistication. The villas and suites have all the necessary amenities and then some, including pools, safes, minibars, fireplaces, telephones, and blackout curtains.
Although, if you want to experience the environment first-hand, book the tented eco camps, featuring activities such as wildlife husbandry and care for endangered species, monitoring large predator movement, and more – all according to a pre-planned itinerary with field guides. Aside from all the exploratory activities you can partake in, there are also mountain biking trails and a proper spa and infinity pool.
The single, small restaurant at the main lodge offers pan-African cuisine as well as international and European dishes. The food is prepared from the freshest local produce, while the wine list is extensive and features only the best of South African wines.
Double rooms start at $320 in low season, while the villas’ starting price-point can be as low as $550.
Hermanus, South Africa
What might pass as unnoticed when planning your trip to South Africa is that the country also has exquisite beachside hotels. Birkenhead House is surely one of the most outstanding ones. It boasts a prime beachfront location with two scenic coves on its perimeter and also doubles as one of the best whale watching spots in the country.
In terms of decor, the owner, Liz Biden, has a very peculiar approach, exhibiting an array of contemporary paraphernalia as well as antique pieces. Suffice it to say that the rooms make for an eclectic atmosphere, yet absolutely nothing is done at the cost of comfort; numerous sofas and loungers grace the carefully arranged interior. All 11 of the rooms have a unique flair, while only two of them have unobstructed sea views.
In terms of amenities, you can’t ask for more. The rooms have king-size beds and seating areas, as well as safes, minibars, flatscreen TVs, and air conditioning. The bathrooms have both baths and showers with complimentary bathrobes and toiletries. There are two pools on the property, one of which is an infinity pool, while for utmost relaxation, you can visit the on-site spa. The hotel also offers bicycle rentals, shuttle service, car rental, as well as concierge, butler, and laundry services.
All meals are included in the rates and the hotel has all bases covered no matter your tastes. Their breakfast buffet is definitely one of the best and most abundant, offering delights such as smoked salmon trout, a selection of cheese, and fresh fruit. Lunch consists mainly of rich tapas with a dash of Asian influenced delicacies, and dinner menus consist of all sorts of multi-course international dishes.
Standard room rates start at $240 in low season.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town’s craggy hillside creates one of the most distinctive skylines in the world and Dorp Hotel takes full advantage of the fact. Nestled on Signal Hill, the vistas of the city below are nothing short of marvelous. Being less than 5 minutes away by car from the city center, Dorp Hotel is also a great base for those who want to enjoy Cape Town’s vibrant nightlife.
The resort’s buildings are remarkably classy with their distinct Georgian-style windows and balconies, while the surrounding lush gardens ooze palatial character and sophistication. The interior is designed by hotelier Gail Behr, and each and every room is unique in its own way. Some rooms may come off as decadent, with contemporary art and photographs of South African drag queens, while others can feel rather homely, with intentional imperfect details such as old poker tables or layered rugs.
As with the design, all of the included amenities are incredibly thoughtful and unique to each room or suite. Some rooms have Nespresso machines and flat-screen TVs, while others may go the whole nine yards with stocked alcohol cabinets or fully-equipped kitchens. The only thing lacking in all accommodation options is probably an in-room fridge. There is free wi-fi throughout the whole hotel and there’s a public outdoor pool. One of the suites also has a pool of its own.
The only thing better than the food in the in-house lounge/dining room are the scenic views of Table Mountain. Homemade dishes include international delicacies such as twice-baked cheese soufflé, spinach & ricotta ravioli, and roast chicken. The only knock in terms of “wine & dine” is probably the actual lack of wine whatsoever. The hotel is located in the Muslim community of Bo Kaap, so no alcoholic beverages are sold on the premises. The hotel can stock the room cabinets with your poison of choice, though – free of charge.
Prices for double rooms start at $220 in low season.
Dock House Boutique Hotel & Spa
Cape Town, South Africa
In contrast to our previous listing, Dock House, as the name might suggest, sits on the far side of Portswood Ridge, overlooking the bay. The residence, dating all the way back to the 1800s, had been the Cape Town Harbourmaster’s private estate and has since gone through many renovations, but it still holds the same grandiose Victorian charm.
The light yellow ochre facade is a tad unassuming, but upon experiencing the equally neutral hues of the interior, it can be said that there is an air of graciousness and tranquility throughout the hotel. What truly makes a difference in terms of style though, is the decor that pays homage to the Victorian heritage of this historic property.
The Newmark hotel chain went for utmost exclusivity with this particular hotel, including only five very spacious rooms and a single suite. The upstairs rooms provide incredible views of the surrounding area, be it the Cape Town skyline, or the bay. The single ground-floor suite opens into the garden and pool area, while three out of four rooms have access to the long balcony. In-room amenities include minibars, air conditioning, coffee making machines, flat-screen TVs, hairdryers, refrigerators, safes, etc. Other than the pool, there’s a gym and a first-class spa on the property.
The hotel doesn’t have that many options in terms of food & drinks, Dash, the on-site bar and restaurant, being the only option. The restaurant is headed by two award-winning executive chefs, Chris Erasmus and Ash Arendse, who serve gourmet dishes made of the best and freshest local, seasonal ingredients. Although, if Dash isn’t up to par with your tastes, there are plenty of other amazing restaurants in the Waterfront area.
Double rooms at the Dock House Boutique Hotel & Spa start at $340.
Rhulani Safari Lodge
Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa
Madikwe Game Reserve is the fifth-largest game reserve in South Africa’s heartland and guests of the Rhulani Safari Lodge have the sole privilege of enjoying everything the reserve has in store. Think buffalos, lions, rhinos, and leopards in an untarnished landscape making for a prime safari experience.
The lodge itself consists of the main building and seven gorgeous wooden chalets in the surrounding area. The lodge has a rustic outlook blending in with the surrounding savannah, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t get to enjoy the contemporary luxury inside. Wooden decor and warm hues add to the already homely atmosphere, while the outdoor sitting areas are as romantic as any.
Free wi-fi is available throughout the lodge, while amenities such as coffee machines, safes, air conditioning, and complimentary toiletries are present in every accommodation option. The lodge has its own swimming pool, currency exchange office, concierge services, and more. In-room massages after a long day of game drives make for a much-needed respite and the entertainment areas help you unwind even further.
The in-house restaurant offers plenty of opportunities to sample authentic African cuisine, such as eland beef, biltong, and boerewors. International meals, including fish dishes or barbecue, are also available. To top it all off, an extensive wine list will soothe your thirst after devouring all of the savory treats on the menu.
All-inclusive (all meals, two game drives per day, and wi-fi) double-room packages start at $685 in low season.
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge
Kruger National Park, South Africa
We don’t know about you, but we simply can’t get enough of these one-of-a-kind lodges. Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge is yet another take on the luxurious safari experience, but with an ecotourism twist. Located way off the beaten track in a private 230 square mile reserve in Kruger National Park, the landscapes provide a feast for the senses.
The style of the lodge is probably the most modern of all other options on this list, and if not for the interior decor, the brutalist buildings of the estate may come across as an alien settlement on a different planet. Even so, it somehow manages to blend in with the environment, thanks to some buildings being sculpted into the surrounding slopes. The carefully thought-out rooms sport earthy tones, occasional wooden ornaments, and teak marble.
The 13 luxurious suites have their own private plunge pools, balconies, sitting areas, as well as in-room amenities such as safes, air conditioning, and minibars. The well-equipped gym and top-notch Amani spa couldn’t be any more ideal in terms of maintaining your well-being after traversing the wilderness. The game drive tours are planned out with the guest in mind, with pauses for coffee, while the accompanying rangers and trackers are attentive to your every need.
The hearty a la carte dinner menu options are akin to a lavish feast, while the buffet breakfast covers any and all tastes, offering international options. South Africa’s luxury hotels aren’t complete without an exclusive wine list, but Sabi Sabi offers expertly mixed cocktails as well in the air-conditioned bar.
All-inclusive packages per person start at $1470.
Cape Town, South Africa
The more exotic retreats and lodges tend to take away some of the spotlight from South Africa’s five-star seaside boutique hotel scene. Compass House is here to break the mold, and rightfully so. The location of the hotel couldn’t possibly be any better; the affluent suburb of Bantry Bay, perched on the cliffside, is a dozen minutes away from all the attractions you’d want to experience in Cape Town. These include the beaches, the Waterfront, the city center, and the restaurants.
Bright and elegant off-white hues exude intimacy and sophistication, while sofas, loungers, and sitting areas characteristic of a tropical resort allow for relaxation in an opulent setting. The owner, Olivier Trachell, himself has designed the furniture for each and every room, who clearly has a taste for the refined.
All of the rooms have their own private balconies providing otherworldly views of the sea, while customizable lighting, temperature, and your music of choice help you create your ideal vibe. Although there are no coffee making machines, the minibar is well-stocked. The bathrooms are commodious and the complimentary Bulgari toiletries are a high-end traveler favorite. The staff is available 24/7 and the sea-facing infinity pool is exquisite.
There are multiple breakfast options, which are complimentary, and the eggs Benedict are a delight. Imported and local cheese, as well as a decadent charcuterie, is always available on the kitchen table, while the exotic fruit and snack options will not leave any taste bud dissatisfied.
Double rooms start at $270 in low season.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa
The crown jewel of the Eastern Cape has to be the Kwandwe Private Game reserve. Neatly located along the Great Fish River, Kwandwe is a 54.000-acre piece of heaven. Other than “The Big Five” of lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos, the game reserve is also home to giraffes, warthogs, and zebras.
The lodge itself is tastefully stylish, with the majority of rooms having ranch-style decor, sitting areas, and paraphernalia. Most of the rooms also have French-style windows and balconies peering into the astonishing wilderness, while the outdoor plunge pools add to the relaxing ambiance. The select few exclusive-use lodges appear to be a bit more experimental in terms of style, sporting modern design, and lively colors.
All of the rooms are as spacious as any and the bathrooms are equally commodious. Amenities include satellite TV, electric kettles, walk-in closets, coffee machines, soaking bathtubs, rain showers, and complimentary toiletries. The standard safe and minibar combination can also be found in some accommodation options.
The game drives at Kwandwe are simply amazing. Each of the vehicles on the tour has a ranger and a local spotter to make your safari experience as pleasant and informative as possible while keeping you safe and attending to your every need. After an eventful day of exploring you get to enjoy in-room spa treatments or unwind in the swimming pools.
Breakfast at Kwandwe is relatively standard, with options ranging from croissants and fruit to fully-prepared meals. Lunch is a three-course delight-filled affair, while supper has two main courses on the menu, with options being springbok steak, chicken or duck breast, or kudu.
Rates for all-inclusive double room packages start at $1020 in low season.
Morukuru Beach Lodge
De Hoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa
Morukuru Beach Lodge is yet another gem on the Western Cape of South Africa. This boutique-hotel-nature-reserve combo is a mere three hours’ drive away from Cape Town, yet provides all the intimacy of a secluded off-the-beaten-track lodge. The protected marine area of the Whale Trail is a sight unto itself, while the inland environment is home to less predacious wildlife when compared to the usual big game reserves.
The splendidly designed interior is unambiguously trendy, with wooden lounge areas, textured fabrics, and floorboards. The predominant turquoise and beige tones are demarcated by Navajo white hues, while the modern drapes that grace the floor-to-ceiling windows make for a very cozy atmosphere. The exterior architecture can be plainly defined as American modernism, yet the lasting impression is anything but plain.
There are only five exclusive, commodious rooms at Morukuru that present a home away from home. The beds are comfortable, the huge windows open to the scenic vistas, the sea-facing balconies allow for whale watching, while the dune-facing private terraces make for ideal relaxation spots. In-room amenities include telephones, safes, fireplaces, walk-in showers, and complimentary toiletries. If you get too restless in the hotel, you can opt to go for marine walks, game drives, go hiking, or even partake in sandboarding.
Breakfast at the lodge includes cold meats, cheeses, croissants, as well as fully-prepared dishes. Lunch tends to be a bit lighter with options such as filo pizza pastries, while dinner is a fully-fledged three-course marvel, featuring dishes such as lamb with sweet potato purée or dedicated vegetarian meals.
Double room rates which include all meals and non-alcoholic drinks start at $590 in low season.
Delaire Graff Estate
Stellenbosch, South Africa
The vineyard-laden hills of Stellenbosch are home to some of the most renowned South African wines and Delaire Graff Estate seems to only add to the illustrious heritage by being one of the best “art hotels” in the region. Picturesque vistas surround the hotel from all directions, from the distant Table Mountain to the precipitous cliffs surrounding Franschhoek.
Aesthetes and art tourists will appreciate the fact that every detail is carefully and tastefully thought out. Peculiar modern decor, darkwood walls, as well as hand-picked contemporary African artworks, make for a one-of-a-kind upscale experience without being too on-the-nose.
The sizable suites have separate sitting areas, private swimming pools, elegant terraces, and vast bathrooms. The practical well-equipped kitchenette creates a homely atmosphere, while minibars, refrigerators, flat-screen TVs, and other similar amenities add to the all-around luxurious comfort. The on-site cinema room, the full-scale spa, and the gorgeous gardens ensure that there’s never a dull moment.
The two impressive in-house restaurants offer exquisite dishes made from the freshest of local ingredients. The Delaire Graff Restaurant is the go-to choice for most due to the excellent views as well as the menu which features delicious gourmet meals such as karoo lamb rump or ostrich fillet. Indochine, on the other hand, offers mouth-watering Asian cuisine in a wide range of soups and salads.
Double rooms at the Delaire Graff Estate start at $890.
The Michelangelo Hotel
Johannesburg, South Africa
Located in the central district of Sandton, The Michelangelo Hotel is the prime option for businessmen and passionate shoppers alike, as well as those who would like to experience the local nightlife. Nelson Mandela Square is also a popular sight among tourists, featuring a 20-foot bronze statue of the late president.
As its name would suggest, the hotel stands as an epitome of the Italian Renaissance, and it looks as much both on the outside and indoors with the lavish interior. The moment you walk into The Michelangelo, you’re bedazzled by the seemingly sky-high atrium capped off by a glass dome. The glorious fountains only add to the palatial complexion.
The rooms are also similarly styled, featuring amenities such as safes, minibars, flat-screen TVs, and air conditioning. The hotel has a heated swimming pool in a gorgeous glass-domed chamber, while the fitness center, the spas & saunas, as well as the wellness center with their world-class massages provide much-needed physical care in a bustling district such as Sandton.
The single in-house restaurant, Piccolo Mondo, serves all sorts of Italian dishes (who would’ve thought), but delicious burgers, meat cuts, and curry plates too. If you’re up for a drink, you would head to Il Ritrovo, where one can enjoy savory cocktails and spirits as well as order snacks from the neighboring lounge.
Year-round rates for double rooms start at $290.
andBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge
Hluhluwe, South Africa
The marvelous hillside grasslands of Hluhluwe are home to “The Big Five” as well as 436 bird species, including the African eagles who are known to prey on the fish from the nearby lakes. The lodge itself is about four hours away from Durban by car and about two hours away from Richards Bay.
The characteristic thatched-roof buildings comprising the lodge are amiable and pleasant, while the neutral-hued interior is graced by rosey furniture and authentic African decor. All in all, the rooms and suites come across as one with the surrounding nature, while most of the accommodation options have spacious terraces allowing for amazing views.
Other than the balconies and terraces, the private plunge pool is a real treat, from which you can catch sight of grazing Nyalas in the woods. What’s truly peculiar about andBeyond, in particular, is that once you’re there, you’re fully immersed in the environment despite being accommodated quite luxuriously; loud hyenas howls and yellow-billed stork squeaks are not uncommon. In-room amenities include well-stocked minibars, safes, and free wi-fi. Apart from exploring the wildlands, you can treat yourself to an afternoon in the spa or a massage.
Food options at andBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge are best described as bountiful. The breakfast buffet may start out with honey-glazed ham, smoked salmon, and that’s before you even order a fully-prepared meal. Again, that’s just breakfast. Equally epicurean a la carte lunch and dinner dishes are available and it seems that no expense is spared to provide the most lavish cuisine.
Rates which include all meals and daily game drives start at $526 per person, per night.
The Oyster Box
Hluhluwe, South Africa
Last but not least, we’re going back to another waterfront marvel, this time in the greater Durban area. The Oyster Box might’ve as well been named “The Pearl” since the experiences it offers are just that much of a treasure. The surrounding beaches are heavenly, while the inner part of Durban is a mere 20-minute drive away.
The colonial-looking exterior doesn’t do the interior justice due to it being relatively reserved, but the interior is a whole different story. Some of the rooms include gilded ornaments and floral wallpapers, while ornate chandeliers and marble floors seem to be the running theme. Bold realist paintings by local artists are also omnipresent.
Even the smaller entry-level rooms are as pleasantly decorated as the more opulent suites, while amenities include minibars, safes, laptop safes, flat-screen TVs, refrigerators, and air conditioning. Private balconies open into vistas of the ocean or the hotel gardens, and the large bathrooms feature rain showers and deep bathtubs. The hotel has its own cinema, two public swimming pools, a fitness center, a sauna, and a top-of-the-line spa.
For traditional gourmet cuisine, visit The Grill Restaurant, offering delights such as veal and roasted venison, while The Ocean Terrace offers a more laid-back atmosphere and Indian dishes. Don’t under any circumstances go without The High Tea experience; a buffet table of pastries combined with palatable tea makes for a real treat and is one of the hotel’s high points.
Prices for double rooms start at $395 in low season.