It's an odd time for travel operators to be recognised as the "best in the world".

With much of the world under some kind of travel restriction and most people unwilling to risk long journeys amid the coronavirus pandemic, many of the hotels, resorts and islands highlighted by Travel + Leisure's annual awards are simply off limits as destinations.

The awards which are in their 25 year have not seen another year like it, for shortly after voting finished on March 2, many of the shortlisted hotels were hit by the health pandemic and guests were advised to "stay at home".

New Zealand however has been an outlier.


Having come out of a national lockdown with some semblance of normalcy, New Zealand is not only in possession of some of the worlds' best holiday locations but in the privileged circumstance of being able to visit them, too.

Here are some of the best hotels, resorts and islands in the world which New Zealanders can visit right now.

World famous in New Zealand

Cape Kidnappers tops resorts list in New Zealand and Australia

In Hawke's Bay, Cape Kidnappers has been voted best resort in Australia and New Zealand for the second year in a row.

The resort in the middle of the 6000 acre sheep and cattle ranch caught the voters' attention for the stunning setting and its golf course - which, as one of the most famous fairways, is also world-class.

"It has indeed been a challenging year for the hospitality industry, and to be named the number one resort in Australasia is just so uplifting," said New-York born owner Jay Robertson of Robertson Lodges.

"This award should spark travel inspiration for New Zealanders as they begin to enjoy post-lockdown breaks and holidays in their own beautiful backyard," said Robertson, though he was cautiously optimistic about being able to welcome Australian guests from across the Tasman.

Ahead of the resorts reopening to guests on the first of August, Cape Kidnappers is offering guests a spring restart rate of $825pp a night, with complimentary 50-minute spa massage treatment or unlimited access to golf green.


New Zealand resorts dominated the top 5.

The world-class fishing resort and royal favourite the Huka Lodge in Taupo came in at number 4 and the lakeside Hilton Queenstown also made the list.

Island escapes

Auckland bolthole recognised as one of the best in South Pacific

While we plan travel bubbles from New Zealand, it seems the rest of the world is also dreaming of an island escape in the South Pacific.

The Cook Islands were voted number one destination in south pacific for an island getaway.

Awards recognise Waiheke Island as one of the top destinations in the South Pacific. Photo / File
Awards recognise Waiheke Island as one of the top destinations in the South Pacific. Photo / File

The talcum beaches and a year-round tropical climate or Rarotonga and Aitutaki singled out the island chain as a world-class holiday destination.


The Cook Islands are in urgent discussions with New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to open up passage for tourists, however there are some islands in the 'World's Best' list already welcoming Kiwis.

It's unusual for New Zealand's Waiheke Island to be mentioned in the same sentence as the Cook Islands, Tahiti and Fiji, however the spot in the Hauraki gulf impressed voters with its "wildlife, culinary clout, and rugged beauty." T+L's Chloe Sachdev said the island "captured hearts with its plentiful vineyards and restaurants."

To the surprise of readers - including many Kiwis - the US publication placed the popular Auckland holiday destination at number 7 in the South Pacific, ahead of the tropical islands of Tahiti, Huahine and Raiatea in French Polynesia.

"It's fantastic to see Waiheke Island recognised by global readers as our very own island paradise right here in the Hauraki Gulf," said Steve Armitage, GM of Auckland Tourism, in response to the accolade. "This recognition is another reminder of the amazing destinations that are right on our doorstep to enjoy while supporting local."

Waiheke is a favourite among Travel + Leisure readers and in the 2018 awards the island took the top spot in the region, appearing in the top 5 island holidays in the world.

Best cruises

With a hiatus on world cruising in place until later this year the awards' cruising accolades have been bitter-sweet to receive, say cruise lines.


New Zealand recently extended its own cruise ban until September at the earliest.

Viking which was voted Number 1 large ocean cruise line for the fifth year in a row, accepted the award with the hope that it might be able to welcome guests back soon.

"While we may not be travelling together at this time, Viking remains focused on the future and continuing to expand our fleet with more award-winning ocean and river ships, as well as new expedition vessels," said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. "When the time is right, we look forward to welcoming our guests back to exploring the world in comfort. Thank you to our guests and readers of Travel + Leisure for this prestigious award."

Similarly the Crystal Cruises which was recognised as the world's best river cruise line, accepted the award with the hope that it could return to cruising soon saying:

"While its fleet is paused, the Crystal team is developing new procedures and policies that will support all public health and regulatory requirements".