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3 Under-the-Radar Hotels

July 31, 2012 at 5:50 PM | by | ()

Sure we love big name hotels with glam names and cache behind them—they’re crazy exciting. But there’s something about those hidden places. They don't get a lot of fanfare, but are worthy of being celebrated. And while we hesitate to reveal them for fear they'll blow up and start smelling themselves (aka get big heads), we think you should check them out the next time you're in their neck of the woods.

1. Villas Sur Mer, Negril, Jamaica
While everyone exclaims about the big three resorts in Negril's West End (namely Rockhouse, The Caves, and Tensing Pen) the Villas Sur Mer is an 18-room hideaway that's one-to-watch as the others have started to rest on their laurels. Each villa here is made up of huge one-to-three bedroom units with kitchenettes, sitting rooms, free WiFi (and free calls to the U.S. and Canada!) and even patios with cute wooden porch swings made from rich greenheart wood. There's a deep sense of privacy here thanks to the jungle-like thicket of palm and ackee trees surrounding the property. Plus, each home is spread apart, none more than the stand-alone six-bedroom seaside villa, popular with families and wedding guests.

This is the West End, so there's no beach. But the hotel's lagoon-like pool and oversized hot tub is quite nice and Seven-Mile Beach is just 10 minutes away. Two of the coolest things about VSM is the onsite underground tunnel to Negril's famous cliffs and a ladder that leads right into the Caribbean sea for amazing snorkeling.
Rates begin at $200 per night with a 3-night minimum

2. The International Cozy Inn, Harlem, NY
Last month, we were faced with a dilemma. A relative had come to town and had naturally asked us for affordable hotel recommendations. Groan. It seemed to be the wrong time to be in New York. Hoteliers had seemingly lost their mind and were charging in-vitro rates for no-frill places like a Courtyard Marriott. For the first time, we were flummoxed. We were afraid we'd have to send them to a truck stop in New Jersey. And then THEY scooped US.

By going to Trip Advisor and Yelp, they came across six-room hotel called The International Cozy Inn located in a Harlem brownstone. Had we heard of it? At first we thought they said the InterContinental and we were sure they'd lost it. But no, The ICI did exist--two blocks from the subways and most importantly right across from Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster restaurant! Say what now? How had we not heard of this? Was this some sort of "No Tell, Motel"? Apparently, not.

The rooms are designed in individual styles, but all have kitchenettes and sitting areas--are meticulous, and come with either twins, queens, or king size beds so everyone from singles to families are welcome. Oh, and WiFi is $3 a night, LOL. But given the rates below, we can't be mad at them for such an odd price.
Rates begin at $109 per night if you book 4-nights in their lowest category room, but rates are still a steal without the minimums for bigger rooms!

3. Hotel Chez Swann, Montreal, Canada
You could easily walk by the Chez Swann and not know it was there. Which is what we did. Twice. That's because it's lobby is tucked way inside an otherwise non-descript Tudor building. Odd. But, OK, we like a little mystery! There's just 23 rooms to the petite place which opened two years ago in the trying-to-be-trendy downtown area. It's a decent spot, though you'll might find yourself seeking the action of nearby McGill U, the shops of Rue Ste-Catherine, or biking to Old Montreal.

The "boudoirs" are a decent size, but it's the details that make them funky--a touch of red velvet here, a faux-grass rug there. The bathrooms could use a bit more room, but the multi-jet shower heads and free WiFi make up for it. Funny enough, there's no room guide to speak off. But if you take the in-room coupon for a free drink at the bar, someone's sure to clue you in what you need to know about the hotel.
Rates begin at $165 per night

[Photos: HotelChatter/ICI Hotel]

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