All travelers who appreciate great views must visit downtown Vancouver. Luxury hotels and skyscrapers line the downtown waterfront, looking out across the busy harbor toward majestic British Columbian mountain ranges. In all my travels, I have found no greater view. Each summer I look forward to taking this in again, and on my most recent visit, the Fairmont Waterfront was an ideal choice.
Vancouver has moved past the excitement of the past Olympic Games and the storybook finish for the Canadian hockey team. The upbeat mood goes on with continued financial success due in large part to its close ties to the Orient. No city in North America has gained more from the growth of China. Much of the wealth that has been created there has found its way to Vancouver, and the result is a very clean, upscale, modern city.
The best way to get a feel for the area is to take a long walk along the waterfront. You will pass Coal Harbour on your way toward Stanley Park and the famous Lions Gate Bridge. The panorama that will unfold is unrivaled. In front of you, magnificent mountain ranges rise up quickly from Vancouver Harbour to snow-covered peaks such as Grouse Mountain. Turn around and you have the ultra-modern skyline hugging the coastline with a flurry of shipping activity and an occasional seaplane landing to complete the scene.
The Waterfront Hotel
The Fairmont Waterfront is ideally located on Canada Place Way directly across from the cruise-ship terminal. The views from my corner room were stunning, and most rooms afford a similar experience with their floor-to-ceiling windows. The guestrooms are spacious and come with all the elegant appointments one would expect from a five-star hotel. The bedding is extremely comfortable and the electronics state-of-the-art. Large marble bathrooms also look out to Vancouver Harbour.
The Fairmont Gold Floor offers an even higher level of service. Each morning it serves a sumptuous complimentary buffet continental breakfast. The Fairmont Gold Lounge also hosts evening cocktails with snacks and beverages available throughout the day. The Lounge offers equally spectacular views and a private patio to enjoy the summer weather. The food and the service here were the best of any hotel club floor that I have visited. Just like the guests, I think employees here treasure every day. I was truly sad to leave.
The Airport Hotel
Vancouver Airport is like no other in the world, clean and very well run. The Fairmont Vancouver Airport is actually attached to the airport and is so nice that I would stay there even if I were not catching a flight. The rooms are oversized and look out across the runways toward downtown with mountains and water everywhere.
This Fairmont property is decidedly modern to keep with the airport theme. Each room has a high-tech system offering fingertip control over everything from temperature to lighting. Fairmont Gold-level rooms have air-jetted soaker bathtubs and touchscreen controls that even close the drapes. The Fairmont Gold level at the airport also offers breakfast and hors d’oeuvres daily as you watch the planes take off below with the ocean and mountains as your backdrop.
Making your way from Vancouver Airport to downtown or any part of the city is quite easy with Skytrain. This sleek rapid transit service will take you from the airport to the downtown waterfront in 22 minutes. The cars are clean and the locals well behaved, making it a very easy journey. From the time we got off the plane to arriving in our room at the Fairmont Waterfront was one hour, with customs and all.
Normally I do not mention prices in my column, but I must make an observation here. The combination of luxury and scenery found at the Fairmont Waterfront and Fairmont Vancouver Airport is probably superior to anything offered even in our largest U.S. cities. Yet the price of these Fairmont rooms in Vancouver is far less expensive than similar rooms in San Francisco, Chicago, or New York. This is the kind of arbitrage we travel writers like to uncover, and I hope you, too, take advantage.