Travel with a feminine touch: 5 bespoke women-owned luxury hotels

Enjoy luxury tented accommodation at Zambezi National Park. Picture: Supplied

Enjoy luxury tented accommodation at Zambezi National Park. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 11, 2023


“Don’t be afraid to dream,” says Vimbai Masiyiwa, the first black African woman to own a luxury lodge at the age of 28.

Masiyiwa, a cancer survivor, dreamed of empowering local black African women, so she set on the task of using tourism and hospitality to build sustainable livelihoods and improve the lives of local Zimbabweans.

According to the owner of Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge, opening the lodges was prompted by a desire to use hospitality and tourism as a catalyst for social change and local economic growth.

“The process of opening the business was evolutionary in that I came in at a board level initially in the original lodge business about five years ago, and later I proposed and executed the move to creating a new, sustainably driven iteration of the lodges in 2020. I wanted somewhere that fills the gap of African luxury, owned and operated by locals with a genuine investment in the area beyond the property,” said Masiyiwa.

Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge is just one of many women-owned and -led luxury destinations in the growing segment of bespoke or luxury travel. Here are five luxury places to stay, owned by sophisticated and entrepreneurial women around the world.

Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge – Zimbabwe

An African-styled modern room at Batoka Zambezi Sands. Picture: Supplied

According to Masiyiwa, Batoka Zambezi Sands is for the curious traveller who not only wants to immerse themselves in an authentic experience, but also to travel with a purpose and give back.

Just one hour from the magnificent Victoria Falls, the newly renovated resort is nestled in the stunning western end of Zambezi National Park and offers guests unrivalled luxury in one of the world’s most breathtaking natural settings.

Set to open in June, the five-star luxury accommodation has 10 beautiful tented suites redesigned by renowned South African interior designer Yvonne O’Brien.

“Each of the suites has a private plunge pool and spectacular views of the Zambezi River. For families and those opting for more seclusion, a two-bedroom suite complete with a private swimming pool, lounge, a dining room and deck will be available for those desiring more privacy and an opulent home away from home experience,” said Masiyiwa.

The Mansion Resort and Spa Bali in Ubud – Indonesia

The Mansion Bali is an iconic boutique resort where art and Balinese features are prevalent. Picture: website

Described as one of Bali’s rare gems, The Mansion Bali is an iconic boutique resort where art and Balinese features are prevalent throughout its tropical lush estate.

Situated in the artisan community of Penestanan minutes away from Ubud Centre, the island’s cultural centre, The Mansion is a unique, magical place not to be missed.

The property offers more than 155 rooms, with categories ranging from deluxe to penthouse suites. This great spread of accommodation surrounded by coconut palm trees and tropical Balinese atmosphere offers guests the feeling of air and space, soothing and relaxing the mind.

According to the owner of The Mansion, Claudine Quynh, The Mansion’s down-to-earth and professional staff is what makes staying here truly unique.

“It’s where luxury, art, nature and wellness meet true hospitality,” said Quynh.

Stonefield Villa Resort – St Lucia Caribbean

Enjoy breathtaking views of the Pitons on St Lucia island in the Caribbean. Picture: Website

According to its website, St. Lucia, Stonefield Villa Resort is a luxury resort experience unlike anything else on the island.

The resort, formerly a 26-acre cocoa plantation, served as Anita Brown’s childhood home. It was transformed into a complete resort, including a restaurant, spa, gym, events space, and 17 villas.

Each lodging at Stonefield features a private pool, spacious terraces and garden showers.

According to the owner, Brown, it’s the only property on the island with a view of the Pitons and Caribbean Sea and the only one with a historical landmark on it: pre-Columbian rock carvings that face the Pitons.

The Chanler at Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island

The Chanler at Cliff Walk is beautiful at any time of the year, including winter. Picture: Instagram

The Chanler is the only hotel located on Newport’s famed Cliff Walk, and one of the most historic hotels in New England, surrounded by acres of manicured gardens and overlooks the sparkling waters of the Atlantic and pristine sands of Easton’s Beach.

It features 20 elegantly furnished rooms, each designed around a particular historical period or decorative theme.

Guests can enjoy modern services and amenities such as complimentary wi-fi and the hotel’s convenient house car transportation service, ensuring a stay that promises to be just as convenient as it is relaxing.

The fireplaces have been turned back on and the rooms are ready to embrace guests at The Chanler. Picture: Instagram

They can also indulge in meals at one of the hotel’s celebrated restaurants as they relish ocean views and relax in an atmosphere of tranquil elegance.

Lani Shufelt took over as the sole owner of the hotel after many years of working for her father at the property.

“We are fortunate to be a small and intimate establishment, bringing a high sense of personalisation to every guest’s stay. As often as the light changes over the ocean, we strive to make each day for our guests as meaningful in beauty and substance,” said Shufelt.

Casa Palopó in Lake Atitlán – Guatemala

Panoramic views of the lake and volcanoes are the order of the day at this hotel. Picture: Instagram

According to Casa Palopó’s website, it was originally a private home, until it was purchased by Guatemala native Billy Bickford in 2000 and turned into a boutique hotel.

In 2010, Claudia Bosch checked in to Casa Palopó as a guest and checked out as the hotel’s new owner.

The story goes, while having breakfast with the then-owner, Bosch learnt the property might be up for sale, and since she was already smitten, she decided to buy it.

Rustic colours and contemporary Guatemalan designs make up the rooms at the hotel. Picture: Instagram

The hotel boasts 15 spacious rooms uniquely decorated with contemporary and indigenous Guatemalan artwork that hangs on bright stucco walls.

Guests can enjoy panoramic views of Lake Atitlán and breathtaking volcanoes and villages.

Casa Palopó offers activities such as kayaking, birdwatching, boat trips and cultural visits to local villages. They can also taste the flavours of Guatemalan cuisine at The Relias & Chateaux Restaurant.

Read the latest issue of IOL Travel digital magazine here.