American Trade Hotel Panama event venue 2

We often get asked: "What exactly is a Boutique Hotel?" It seems like every unique hotel considers itself a boutique hotel. We have even seen chains like the Kimpton and Belmond Hotels call themselves boutiques even though they are very large. So we want to set the record straight and tell you what we think makes a hotel a true boutique hotel?

The Definition  - “Boutique hotel is a term used initially in North America and the United Kingdom to describe small hotels that have between 10 and 100 rooms. These hotels boast unique settings and upscale accommodations.

So a hotel must have these characteristics to truly be considered a boutique hotel

  • 10-100 rooms
  • Provide upscale accommodations
  • Provide a unique setting and style unlike any other hotel
  • Should be an independent hotel (not a chain hotel). A possible exception could be a hotel group that offers independently unique venues that are totally different from one another.

Styles of Boutique Hotels

Hip Boutique Hotels

Palihouse west Hollywood

Image Via Palihouse West Hollywood

You will typically find hip boutique hotels in major cities like San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Boston and Los Angeles. Many of these metropolitan cities have converted old apartment buildings and motels into hip hangouts serving craft cocktails that provide that speakeasy style feel with a modern twist. The Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, XV Beacon in Boston, and the Palihouse West Hollywood are examples of Hip Boutique Hotels.

Modern Boutique Hotels

Insolito Boutique Hotel Brazil Events

Similar to the Hip Boutique Hotel, Modern Boutique Hotels are popping up in major cities. These hotels have the same kind of of coolness at Hip Boutiques, but they are modern in their design, not at all retro. Examples of Modern Boutique Hotels would be the Insolito Boutique Hotel in Brazil and the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin, Texas.

Eco-friendly Boutique Hotels

Casas na areia Portugal Honeymoon

Casas na areia Portugal Honeymoon

Eco-friendly Boutique Hotels are typically found outside of the city. They provide spaces and amenities that are good for the environment. Examples of this kind of boutique hotel would be Encuentro Guadalupe in Valle de Guadalupe, and Casas Na Areia in Comporta, Portugal.

Off-the-Beaten-Path Boutique Hotels

Bruma Valle De Guadalupe Mexico Wedding and event venue

Usually hard to find because they are located in remote areas, Off-the-Beaten-Path Boutique Hotels are completely different from any hotel you have ever experienced. Examples of Off-the-Beaten-Path Boutique Hotels are Bruma, in Valle De Guadalupe, and  Awazi, in Patagonia Chile.

Health Retreat Boutique Hotels


This kind of boutique hotel provides yoga classes, nutrition, exercise, culinary experiences, and other outdoor activities. Examples of a health retreat include Aro Ha Retreat on Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand and Rancho La Puerta in Tacate Mexico.

Luxury Boutique Hotels 

Singita Lounge Area

A Luxury Boutique Hotel has all the amenities of a five star hotel but with the personal service of a small inn. A Luxury Boutique Hotel will more than likely include a personal butler, a custom-stocked mini bar, and possibly an all-inclusive custom experience. Examples of this kind of hotel include Singita Lebombo in Kruger National Park, South Africa and Twin Farms in Barnard, Vermont.

Castle Boutique Hotels

Photo via Venuelust

Photo via Venuelust

A Castle Boutique Hotel is, as the name suggests, a castle that has been converted into a hotel. Many Castle Boutique Hotels provide the perfect setting for a fairy tale getaway. Examples of Castle Boutique Hotels are Oheka Castle in Huntington, New York and Castle Leslie in Ireland.

Glamping Boutique Hotels


A Glamping Boutique Hotel not only has luxury tents for accommodations but it also offers the amenities of a regular brick-and-mortar boutique hotel: restaurants, spas, workout facilities, etc. Examples of glamping boutique hotels include The Resort at Paws up in Greenough, Montana and Dunton Hot Springs in Dolores, Colorado

What do all Boutique Hotels have in common?

Boutique Hotels Focus on Service - A boutique hotel should go beyond the valet attendant greeting you at the entrance and the bellboy carrying your bags to your room. If it is small enough, a hotel will remember your name, what you had for breakfast the day before and they may even ask what kind of pillow you prefer. It's these little details that make boutique hotels extra special.

Boutique Hotels Focus on Food and Beverage Service - Whether they are whipping up craft cocktails, creating tasting menus, or turning heads with sophisticated five star restaurants, boutique hotels typically stand apart from the big chains when it comes to food and beverages.

Boutique Hotels Focus on a Unique Style - Whether it be modern, luxury, boutique trendy, or hip, a boutique hotel will have its own unique style that cannot be found anywhere else.

Boutique Hotels Focus on Being One of a Kind - Even if a boutique hotel is part of a group of hotels, it should be one of a kind.

Palihouse santa monica

Boutique Hotels by Destination

Mexico Boutique Hotels - In Mexico, you will find boutique hotels that range from haciendas and beach bungalows to eco hotels and health retreats. You can more than likely expect delicious homemade Mexican cuisine rather than the Americanized menus you will get at chain hotels.

South America Boutique Hotels - Whether you are staying off the beaten path in Patagonia or in a hip boutique hotel in Rio, South America will have everything from modern boutique hotels to glamping venues to five star eco retreats.

South Africa Boutique Hotels - South Africa offers an abundance of amazing luxury safari camps in Kruger National Park. You can also choose a cool chic hotel in Cape Town or foodie boutique hotels in Johannesburg.

Have a favorite boutique hotel? Let us hear about it. Share your comments below.