There are a lot of luxury hotel programs out there like the FHR offered by American Express and the Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection offered by Chase.
But there is another group of hotels that stands out known as Relais & Châteaux.
In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Relais & Châteaux including how to get the most out of this amazing luxury hotel program.
What is Relais & Châteaux?
Relais & Châteaux is a network of individually owned and operated luxury hotels and restaurants located all around the globe.
There are currently approximately 550 members and they are predominantly located in Europe, although you can find locations in other places such as the United States, Asia, South America, and Oceania.
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What is so special about Relais & Châteaux hotels?
Relais & Châteaux hotels are special because they are often located in idyllic locations, offer exceptional dining experiences, and provide high levels of quality service on a consistent basis. Hotels must also successfully go through an extensive selection process to be a member of Relais & Châteaux.
Quite simply, the properties you will find in this hotel group are often exceptional and located in breathtaking settings like the beaches of the Seychelles or Napa Valley vineyards. It’s not uncommon for them to be found in historic landmarks or castles and elegant manor houses.
When we stayed at the Palazzo Manfredi, the view looking directly to the Rome Colosseum was exceptional and the property fit right into the nearby neighborhood. So expect big things in terms of location when you stay at a Relais & Châteaux hotel.
It’s not uncommon to find a Michelin starred restaurant located inside your property as Relais & Châteaux hotels make great places to indulge yourself in “haute cuisine.” It’s home to many Michelin stars including some three Michelin star rated chefs.
Sometimes you can take the culinary experience even further and sign up for something like a cooking class. Relais & Châteaux definitely caters to true foodies.
What stands out to me the most is the level of service.
You’ll find people who truly love what they are doing staffed at these properties and they will go over and beyond to make you feel welcomed in a warm and memorable way.
For example, whenever we stayed at the Palazzo Manfredi in Rome it was such a memorable hotel stay. We had been on a kick of staying at big brands like the Park Hyatt and Hilton Conrad and then we decided to mix it up and go with a smaller boutique luxury hotel.
The level of attention that we received was exceptional and there just was something special about the entire hotel experience that made it feel like one of the best stays I’ve ever had.
In short, some of these Relais & Châteaux hotels have that “it” factor that’s hard to describe.
How do I get the most out of Relais & Châteaux?
To get the most out of Relais & Châteaux, make sure that you are aware of all of the special packages and offers that might be available to you before booking. You might be able to find the perfect itinerary already arranged and priced out or simply be able to save by lumping together spa treatments and dining experiences.
And also, after you choose your designated hotel, be sure to check out all of the property details so that you have a good overview of all the available amenities. You’ll be surprised about some of the activities offered and this will help you narrow down what things you’d like to do during your travels.
Check for special packages and offers
Relais & Châteaux itineraries
Relais & Châteaux itineraries are pre-made, multi-day itineraries that range from a few days to a couple of weeks and their prices fluctuate accordingly.
For example, you can do a package from New Mexico to Texas for three nights for a total of $1,045.48 where you will be exploring “remains of old Native American villages and the deepest caves in the United States.”
On the other end of the spectrum there is the 1 Route du Bonheur — a 15 night journey through Argentina and Chile, along the Andes Mountains that will cost you over $19,000.
These packages will combine other forms of travel such as rental cars to get you from point A to point B. When booking, you can get assistance from the concierge and put together the perfect travel itinerary based on your specific travel needs.
Relais & Châteaux special offers
Relais & Châteaux offers special offers that can provide you with savings on your travels.
For example, you can get one night free when booking three nights or possibly even two nights free when booking seven nights (two free nights is definitely a rarity for hotel programs.) By the way, if you are looking for ways to score free nights with credit cards be sure to check out our full guide here.
If you’re a foodie, you can look into gastronomy packages that were lumped together with your stay. These may offer a free breakfast and something like a three course meal at a fine restaurant. If you are into wellness, you might even be able to throw in a spa treatment into that package.
So be sure to check on the special offers to see if there are any packages right up your alley.
Relais & Châteaux Experiences
Instead of checking on the experiences tab one by one, you might just want to search for hotels based on the type of experiences you are looking for.
Relais & Châteaux experiences breaks down different types of travel styles that you might be interested in. For example, you might be interested in an exciting safari tour in Africa or you might be more into a weekend spa getaway.
Either way, you can search for properties based on the type of experiences that you are interested in pursuing by clicking on the “Experiences” option on the main menu.
Here are some of the experience categories you might look into.
City breaks is about getting a concentrated dose of culture during your stay.
Whether it’s sipping a ristretto coffee in Florence or listening to snake charmers in the Jemaa el-Fna square in Marrakesh, the city breaks will help you encounter the local culture in a way that will leave a lasting impression on you.
In more than 200 properties, you can enroll in a cooking course to sharpen your culinary skills.
There are 160 properties that specialize in spa experiences.
If hitting the links is your thing, there are over 100 golf courses in the program to choose from.
Safaris and wildlife
If you are someone who likes to explore, there are about 20 hotels that offer some form of a safari or wildlife experience. As you would probably expect, most of these are in Africa and places like South Africa, Kenya, and Madagascar.
The inspire me page is cool because you simply click on an image that you think represents the type of travel you would be interested in and you will get recommendations on where to go.
Check the details on your hotels website
If you’re paying top dollar for a luxury hotel experience, you definitely need to do some research ahead of time to make sure that you are aware of all of the special perks available to you.
Whenever you are searching for a hotel, and you land on its main page, you can click on different tabs to get insight into that property.
Since many of these properties have fine dining establishments located on site, you definitely want to check out the restaurant tab.
You’ll then be able to get details about the chef and restaurant and see any accolades such as Michelin stars that may have been awarded. You’ll also be able to see the prices and potentially menus for the restaurants.
You’ll also want to check on the “experiences” tab.
This will give you a sense of activities you can enjoy at the hotel. For example, you might discover a free yoga class.
Click on the “good to know” tab to get a full breakdown of everything offered at the hotel. You can quickly see what type of facilities are at the property such as bars, pools, tennis courts, etc. And you can also get a rundown of all of the available activities such as things like horseback riding, sailing, hiking, etc.
Relais & Châteaux Selection process
There is an incredibly in-depth selection process to be accepted as a member.
First, after receiving an application or finding a prospect, a quality department audits the candidates according to a quality charter that accounts for more than 300 different factors.
Secret inspections are then done to control the “criteria of excellence.”
The property must then submit a formal application which is reviewed by the network commission. Other members are also asked to give their opinions on the hotel and then an interview is done with the president.
According to the president, “The objectives of the interview are to check the commitment of the owner, the soul of the property and to ensure that the candidate intends to comply with the values of our association.”
The board of directors then decides on whether to admit the property based on the full file: the application documents, the secret audits, and the interview with the president.
And even after a hotel is approved, they must still pass annual secret audits that take place.
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Relais & Châteaux hotel locations
As mentioned above, there are over 500 properties in this hotel network and they all have to meet strict requirements for quality. So it’s hard to go wrong when choosing any of them but here are a few that you might look into.
Relais & Châteaux hotels in Canada
- Wedgewood Hotel & Spa (Vancouver, British Columbia)
- Hastings House Country House Hotel (Salt Spring Island, British Columbia)
- Auberge Saint-Antoine (Quebec, Quebec)
- Langdon Hall Country House Hotel and Spa (Cambridge, Ontario)
Relais & Châteaux hotels in the US
- Ocean House (Watch Hill, Rhode Island)
- The Inn of the Five Graces (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
- Meadowood Napa Valley Saint Helena, California
- The Inn at Little Washington (Washington, Virginia)
- Triple Creek Ranch (Derby, Montana)
- Auberge du Soleil (Rutherford, California)
- Château du Sureau (Yosemite National Park, California)
- Dunton Hot Springs (Dolores, Colorado)
- Hotel Wailea (Wailea, Hawaii)
Relais & Châteaux hotels in Mexico and the Caribbean
- Hotel Le Toiny (St. Barts)
- Hotel Solar de las Animas (Tequila, Mexico)
Relais & Châteaux hotels in Central and South America
- El Silencio Lodge & Spa (Bajos Del Toro, Costa Rica)
- Saint Andrews Gramado (Gramado, Brazil)
- Cavas Wine Lodge (Lujan De Cuyo, Argentina)
- El Colibri (Santa Catalina, Argentina)
- EOLO – Patagonia’s Spirit (Santa Cruz, Argentina)
Relais & Châteaux hotels in Europe
- Il San Pietro di Positano (Italy)
- Ballyfin Demense (County Laois, Ireland)
- Cliveden House (UK)
- Chateau de La Chèvre d’Or (France)
- The Yeatman hotel (Portugal)
- Sheen Falls Lodge (Ireland)
- Royal Champagne (France)
Relais & Châteaux hotels in Asia
- Asaba (Japan)
- Beniya Mukayu (Japan)
- Bettei Senjuan (Japan)
- Cape Weligama (Sri Lanka)
- Saint Pierre (Singapore)
- Hotel Villa de Pranakorn (Thailand)
- Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa (French Polynesia)
- Huka Lodge (New Zealand)
- Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa (French Polynesia)
- Matakauri Lodge (New Zealand)
- Otahuna Lodge (New Zealand)
Remember, these are only a fraction of the properties in this amazing network of hotels. If you’d like to search for more properties, just visit the homepage.
Relais & Châteaux FAQ
If you truly value luxury and fine dining Relais & Châteaux hotels are definitely worth it.
Relais & Châteaux Room rates can vary from a couple of hundred bucks per night to over $1,000 per night. It all just depends on the property and the location. Generally, I would expect to pay a few hundred dollars per night (~$300).
Restaurant rates can vary but generally you can expect prices to begin at around $100 per person. You can always check the website for details on menu pricing.
You can get special offers at select locations that allow you to receive free nights when booking multiple nights. For example, you can get the fourth night free when booking four nights or two nights free when booking seven nights.
Other discounts may be offered when booking packages such as spa treatments and dinners with your room. Always be sure to check the special offers page.
If you are a Visa Infinite cardholder and book through the concierge, you can take advantage of additional perks when staying at Relais & Châteaux properties. You will receive:
VIP Welcome: This could include a bottle of champagne on arrival.
Complimentary Breakfast: More than 180 properties offer a complimentary daily breakfast for each member of the party for up to a maximum of seven consecutive days
The cancellation policy for your booking will depend on the property you book with.
However, you can easily view the cancellation terms prior to check out by clicking on “See guarantee & cancellation policies.” Be aware that some cancellation fees may apply far out from your time for check-in.
Club 5C was the exclusive loyalty membership that came with special perks. The name 5C came from how perspective and current members are evaluated by the group which include:
You could get accelerated access to Club 5C status with Relais & Châteaux after staying just 2 nights at qualifying properties in a 12-month period with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
But this program is no longer available as of 2019.
Relais & Châteaux properties are exceptional and if you truly are interested in luxury travel and fine dining, then this network should be on your radar.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.