A new crop of chic retreats are about to open their doors - and the stakes are high. Rhiannon Batten offers a sneak preview

1 San Francisco for art lovers

One for deep-pocketed artists, the St Regis Hotel in San Francisco is pitching itself as a destination for the aesthetically minded. Located next door to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, not only was its modern exterior inspired by the Rodin sculpture "Balzac", it is also home to three public-art installations - a water sculpture, a mobile and a glass mural. The hotel incorporates an early 20th-century building. The 306 bedrooms and suites are decorated in neutral colours and feature leather walls.

When did it open? 4 November 2005.

What's the USP? The 9,000sq ft Remede spa (they start as they mean to go on with champagne and truffles on arrival).

How much? Opening rates start from $603 (£351) per night, room only (00 800 3254 5454; stregis.com/ sanfrancisco).

2 Asian chic in the Caribbean

When the new Amanyara resort opens in the Turks and Caicos in a few months' time, the islands look set to give St Barts a run for its money as the most glamorous destination in the region. Especially given that they're already home to Christina Ong's glamorous Parrot Cay retreat. Amanyara is currently under construction in a quite corner of Providenciales, the main tourist centre. This Caribbean outpost of low-key, Asian chic will feature a library, boutique, dining room, fitness centre, swimming pool and a dramatic circular lounge, as well as 40-odd guest pavilions and villas.

When does it open? 1 March 2006.

What's the USP? Just in front of the resort is Northwest Point Marine National Park, a five-mile-long reef system that boasts some of the world's best wall and reef diving.

How much? Rates start from $1,620 (£944) per night, room only (00 65 6887 3337; amanresorts.com).

3 W Hotels arrive in the Maldives

Having conquered most of the world's major cities, the team behind the sleek W Hotels brand has decided to break with convention and branch out into its first beach resort. Swapping iPods for snorkels and Jimmy Choos for flip-flops may come as a shock to some of its regular guests, but there's no reason to panic. W Maldives-Fesdhu is as glossy as its urban sisters, with 80 swish villas scattered around this private, tropical island cleverly blending traditional Maldivian design with the best of the brand's more contemporary design features.

When does it open? May 2006.

What's the USP? Accommodation takes the form of either "aqua retreats", perched over a turquoise lagoon, or "beach retreats". Both have their own plunge pools but the latter also come with private beaches.

How much? Not confirmed yet, but expect rooms to start from around $830 (£483) per night (00800 325 5252; whotels.com/maldives).

4 Have a ball in Helsinki

In a slightly naff way, the 137 rooms at Helsinki's new Klaus K hotel - which has just re-opened after being transformed from the old three-star Klaus Kurki hotel - are labelled "passion", "desire" and "envy" (there's also "envy plus"). If you can see beyond the rather awkward rebranding, it has plenty of charm (how many other Design Hotels boast a turn-of-the-century ballroom?).

When does it open? Just opened.

What's the USP? If you're into saunas, it features the ideal place to let off steam in the form of a posh new day spa, Finnish style.

How much? Double rooms start from €137 (£93), including breakfast (00 358 20 770 4700; klauskhotel.com).

5 Glamorous Galway

Galway may be more commonly associated with horse-racing, but this picturesque county in the far west of Ireland is much more than a one-trick pony. As The g, a new 98-room, five-star hotel, is about to prove. About as removed from the traditional log-fires-and-pints-of-Guinness image as you can get, the concept here is resolutely contemporary. With its sleek lifestyle spa, high-class Italian restaurant and glamorous, vibrantly-coloured furnishings, it is at the cutting edge of hotel style.

When does it open? 29 November.

What's the USP? Local boy turned celebrity milliner Philip Treacy is the hotel's director of design, hence some rather elaborate decor.

How much? Opening rates for a double room start from €220 (£150) including breakfast (00 353 91 865200; theghotel.ie).

6 Double luxury in Sri Lanka

After a shaky year, Sri Lanka looks set to put itself back on the map in 2006 with the opening of two new luxury hotels. First up is architect Geoffrey Bawa's former country estate, Lunuganga, which opens as a boutique hotel in December. Then, a new Per Aquum resort, The Fortress, opens in Galle a few months later. The latter may be modelling itself on the architecture of an old Dutch fort but its interiors promise some very modern styling with 49 standard rooms, six two-storey ocean lofts and two top-of-the-range "fortress residences" which come with antilevered infinity pools. More modest attractions include a traditional Sri Lankan tearoom.

When does it open? May 2006.

What's the USP? The Sen Spa, with its Ayurvedic treatments, sauna, steam, hydro-bath and yoga pavilion.

How much? One-week packages, including return flights and half-board accommodation, start from £1,420 per person through Essential Escapes (020-7284 3344; essentialescapes.co.uk). To contact the hotel directly, visit thefortress.lk.

7 Home comforts in Buenos Aires

Owned by an English record producer and his Irish wife (albeit one who grew up in Buenos Aires), Home Buenos Aires is a modern, multicultural bolthole that has been custom-built to provide the kind of hotel the owners wanted to stay in themselves but couldn't previously find. It will have 18 bedrooms and suites, a spa and a bar-cum-restaurant and it's set in the groovy Palermo Viejo part of the city, their answer to Notting Hill.

When does it open? Mid-December 2005.

What's the USP? Green space. The ultimate escape from the urban jungle, there is both a zen garden and a pool garden, the latter designed to host lazy afternoon "asados" (barbecues) among its leafy ferns and jasmine plants.

How much? Standard doubles start from $115 (£67), including continental breakfast (00 54 11 4778 1008; www.homebuenosaires.com).

8 Touch the sky in Barcelona

The glittering Hesperia Tower designed by Lord (Richard) Rogers is certainly one of the tallest buildings in the city, at just over 100 metres high. Its elongated frame shelters a vast conference venue and sports centre as well as several restaurants and bars. The end result could feel a little corporate, yet it doesn't. The 280 five-star rooms and suites have a slightly Asian vibe to them with muted colours shot through with flashes of gold and silk. Of these, the top 20 rooms all come equipped with window-side Jacuzzis for those who want to take a skyline soak.

When does it open? 16 January 2006.

What's the USP? The panoramic Evo restaurant, a minstrel-shaped bauble that dangles over the top of the tower.

How much? Rack rates will start from €390 (£265) per night, excluding breakfast (00 34 93 413 5000; www.hesperia-tower.com).

9 Eco-luxe in Australia

Ever travelled to a wild, peaceful spot and wished you could stay there in luxury? Well, you soon can. Set just off the Great Ocean Road in the far south of Australia, with waves crashing on to white sandy beaches one side and freshwater creeks and gum trees on the other, Moonlight Head will be a collection of five eco-lodges and a boutique hotel designed by the iconic Australian architect Glenn Murcutt. Guests can spend the day canoeing, whale-watching, birdwatching or mountain biking and then chill out in very luxurious surroundings - or do a spot of after-dinner astronomy.

When does it open? The first lodge opens in December, the hotel in 2007.

What's the USP? Eco-luxury; beds are 7ft by 7ft.

How much? Four-bedroom lodges start from A$3,000 (£1,277) a night, including some meals (00 61 3523 75208; moonlighthead.com).

10 Get retro in Arizona

Fans of 20th-century architecture should check out the Hotel Valley Ho, when it reopens in Scottsdale, Arizona, next month. What was avant-garde when it opened now looks downright classy. Not least because the retro-style interiors have been freshened up with boldly coloured furnishings and the addition of modern luxuries such as Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and Red Flower toiletries. The rooms may be snazzy but you're likely to spend more time sipping cocktails by the pool than doing anything as pedestrian as sleeping.

When does it open? 20 December - 49 years to the day after it originally opened.

What's the USP? Hollywood glamour. This was where Bing Crosby, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe et al hung out.

How much? Rates start at $196 (£114) per double, room only (00 1 480 248 2000; hotelvalleyho.com).