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The One&Only Cape Town was the perfect home for my first trip to South Africa. Pros: huge rooms, stunning views and a gorgeous pool deck. Cons: very expensive room rates, non-heated pool and no jacuzzi outside.
This fall, I had the opportunity to attend the annual PeaceJam conference near Cape Town, South Africa. It was the trip of a lifetime for me, full of unforgettable experiences. An important part of preparing for this trip was finding a hotel that could accommodate a big group of people, as we had several TPG team members, a video crew and, of course, TPG’s parents in tow.
We settled on the One&Only Cape Town, a positively massive resort that was big enough to handle all of us and all of our stuff. In past trips to Cape Town, the TPG team had stayed at properties like the Westin Cape Town and the Protea Hotel North Wharf Cape Town, so we wanted to try something new this time around. A search on Hotels.com led us to the One&Only, a property ideally located by the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. This would also be my first stay with the chain, and I was excited to test it out.
One&Only hotels aren’t part of any major points program, so we had to use cash to book my stay. And, it wasn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but Cape Town is known for its pricy hotels, and One&Only is considered to be among the world’s most exclusive hotel chains, so you get what you pay for, I guess. We paid $760 per night for a six-night stay with a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which earns 10x miles per dollar spent on hotel reservations when booked through the special link at hotels.com/venture. You can also stack this with Hotels.com Rewards, which awards one free night per every 10 paid nights. Since the free night is based on the average price of the 10 nights, when stacked with the 10x miles from the Venture Rewards, it effectively gave us a 20% return on this reservation. That’s one of the very best credit card returns you can get when spending cash on hotels.
Getting between the airport and hotel by taxi was easy — it was a 30-minute drive without traffic.
The location was perfect, with dozens of shops and restaurants all within walking distance, a stone’s throw away from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. In fact, the resort was actually connected to the waterfront, with a lagoon in the middle of the property. I stumbled upon the Watershed Market right next to the hotel, an airy, industrial space with lots of cool artwork, crafts and goods for sale. The location was especially ideal for leisure travelers, as I felt like I was right in the heart of everything that a tourist would want to see and do in the city. Cape Town’s version of the London Eye was even within walking distance.
For anyone worried about security in South Africa, I felt totally safe both at the hotel and in its surrounding area. There were security guards outside the hotel, but this is common for hotels in the neighborhood.
When I arrived late at night from Johannesburg, it was already dark, but even then I could tell the lobby was both palatial and gorgeous. I’d have to wait until morning to see the lobby in all its glory.
I was promptly handed a glass of sparkling wine upon checking in, which was much needed after a long day of travel. The check-in agent was friendly, and we even joked around about how readily I accepted her offer for a free glass of wine.
Then she gave me my room key, which was on the first floor. At first I assumed that the room was on the same floor as the lobby, but I soon realized that South Africa follows the European system, where the first floor is actually one level up.
Maybe I’ve been living in New York for too long, but the first thing I noticed upon entering my Marina Table Mountain room was its sheer size. It was absolutely enormous — 678 square feet, to be exact. Note that the photos of the room were taken the next day when there was natural light.
I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised, given the proportions of the property overall, but I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten a hotel room that big, especially not at the lowest room category.
The foyer was also large, providing plenty of space for my way-too-big, overstuffed Away suitcase (in my defense, I was in South Africa for 10 days). The room opened up with a large bed as the focal point, which I’d soon learn was extremely comfortable.
Decorated with chic, contemporary furniture (including a sofa and armchair) and African-inspired artwork, the room looked cool but also had all the traditional amenities.
The room had a Nespresso machine, minibar and large bottle of still water that was replaced daily. The mini-fridge was stocked with the usual, as well as a drawer with candy and salty snacks.
It was useful having plenty of outlets around the room: US, South African, British and universal, which was great. The Wi-Fi was fast throughout the hotel and was easy to connect to. The room also came with a large TV and a big desk, which was a necessity, given that this was a work trip.
Perhaps the best feature of my room, though, was the positively enormous balcony and the jaw-dropping views that accompanied it. It really didn’t get much better than waking up on a sunny Cape Town morning, opening the drapes and seeing the majestic Table Mountain towering directly over me.
The hallway provided two separate entryways to the bathroom, which was also gigantic. There was a huge soaking tub which, had there not been a water shortage in Cape Town, would have actually been tempting, even though I’m the furthest thing possible from a bath person.
There was a double vanity, a wall of closets and even more storage in the form of a large dresser to the left of the vanity. The safe was in here. I noticed a hair dryer and bathrobes, too.
The shower was huge and featured some of the best water pressure I’ve ever experienced. The hotel had a warning sign on the outside of the shower door telling guests to limit their showers to two minutes or less. As someone who should really pay more attention to his water usage, it was actually an eye-opening experience, and I did my best to adhere to the two-minute suggestion, though I’ll admit it was difficult given how awesome the shower was.
The Charlotte Rhys bath amenities smelled wonderful, and I noticed it was a brand local to Cape Town, which was a nice touch.
Food and Beverage
Since my stay was six nights long, this gave me a chance to sample most of what the resort had to offer, foodwise. On my first night there, I ordered room service, since I’d only eaten a smallish meal on my flight several hours earlier.
There’s something so very comforting about ordering a club sandwich and fries from room service no matter where you are in the world. And this one lived up to my expectations, not to mention it was delivered promptly: it arrived at my door just 20 minutes after placing the order.
My room rate came with daily breakfast included at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Reuben’s. The spread was lavish, with everything from cereals and candy (every parent’s nightmare) to made-to-order eggs.
The eggs Benedict were delicious, too.
If you’re in the mood for trendy sushi and other Japanese dishes, look no further, because the hotel had a Nobu restaurant on site.
One afternoon, we had a few hours at the hotel before we needed to be anywhere, so a group of us headed to the pool to relax and order a late lunch. I got a salad of halloumi, bacon and avocado, which was probably the weakest meal I had at the hotel. We also split a pizza, which was fantastic. When in doubt, choose pizza, not salad. (I should really follow this as a life choice too, and not just at this hotel.)
Back in the lobby, the main hotel bar was actually a hip hangout that boasted phenomenal views of Table Mountain.
The drinks were good, though sometimes it took quite a while for one to arrive after ordering.
On weekend nights, the hotel provided live music in the lobby that was much better than the typical soft jazz one would expect to hear in a hotel lobby.
When I arrived at my room, I noticed that the staff had left for me as a welcome amenity a lovely bottle of South African red wine, but unfortunately I didn’t even have time to open it, given how busy we were on this trip.
Although I was staying at the hotel for six nights, I was busy with many activities and events, so I wasn’t able to explore and take advantage of all the amenities the resort had to offer. I did, however, manage to get a few hours in at the pool, which was fantastic.
It never felt crowded, and I absolutely loved the large (surprise!), comfortable loungers with their extra-puffy covers. It was odd to me, though, that the hotel didn’t have an outdoor hot tub. Also, the pool wasn’t heated, and despite the sunny skies, it was still springtime in South Africa while we were there, so the temperature of the water was on the chilly side.
There were only single-gender jacuzzis in the spa. The spa itself looked very luxurious, but I didn’t have any time to unwind there with a treatment.
There was also a fitness center, which I didn’t use; our busy days in Cape Town were enough of a workout (that’s how that works, right?). Besides the machines and cardio equipment, yoga and pilates classes were offered. Also, the hotel offered in-room fitness equipment that could be delivered to your room, including weights, an exercise ball and resistance bands.
In the afternoons, the hotel set up an elegant tea service in the lobby. Everything was arranged in the middle of the room and it looked like everything was there for the taking. I poured myself a cup of tea, and at the very moment I took my first bite of a scone, a staff member asked which room I was staying in so that she could charge me for the tea service. Oops. I sheepishly explained that I thought it was a complimentary spread and didn’t realize it was part of the afternoon tea service. They graciously didn’t charge me for it, but were sure to give me a thorough explanation of the afternoon tea so I was aware for the next time.
The One&Only Cape Town was the perfect base to explore the city for this first-time visitor. Perfectly situated in the V&A Waterfront, it was a large and luxurious property that was perfect for our large crew of people (and all our stuff). The rooms were luxuriously appointed, large and afforded stunning views of Cape Town’s most famous landmark, Table Mountain. And the resort itself provided plenty of amenities and dining options to keep anyone busy for several days. On my next visit to Cape Town, I’d definitely look into staying at this property again, though I’d probably have to look for a points property, given the high price of entry at this hotel.
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