Sultan Palace appears to have been one of the first 'boutique' category hotels on the island, having been opened in the late 1990s by its Italian owner, Paola. With only 15 rooms (primarily detached lodges/cottages throughout the grounds), it is an incredibly intimate and private place to stay. After a period away from running the hotel, Paola took up the reigns again a few years ago, and you can see her personal touch everywhere. She is involved in all aspects - from meeting guests, supervising the kitchen, and even eats most of her meals along with the guests. If not for Paola, I suspect the elegance, warmth and charm (and just a hint of under-stated glamour) that make it special, would soon disappear - for these qualities apply equally to her, as to the "bricks and mortar."
The rooms fall broadly into two categories - those with a direct sea view, and 'garden' suites. Many of the latter do have sea glimpses, all are vast, and tastefully decorated with local furniture and antiques. Most also have private, covered terraces or decks. The bathroom was large, but not state of the art - however, it was immaculately maintained (as was the rest of the hotel). Modern technology was notable for its absence - in fact the rooms do not even have televisions (though there is a very comfy TV room in the main building with satellite) - but again, that is part of the appeal, but won't suit everyone. The housekeeping was spotless, and the turn down service rapidly incorporated the precise way that I arranged the bed linens on the first couple of nights - a good example of the phenomenal attention to detail. The air conditioning was just about adequate - perhaps a point for improvement though.
The food completely exceeded expectation - breakfast, on a balcony of the main building over looking the sea(which contains sofas, reception, a bar and the dining room) with fresh fruit, home-made pastries and a hot breakfast cooked to order, was an excellent start to the day. Lunch, served on the beach, by default was a 3 course affair with lots of seafood/fish and a strong Italian influence. All of it delicious, but more flexibility might be welcome - I 'negotiated' it down to one course, as my appetite tends to wane in the heat. I sense most guests stay 'full board' - but some (more obvious) flexibility would be welcome here. Tea was available by the pool every afternoon, always with some tasty home-made biscuits and treats. Dinner, often in Paola's engaging company (possibly not an option at busier times!), delighted every night. Again, a definite Italian influence (the local chefs received their training from an Italian chef, and Paola's supervision in the kitchen is obvious). The trump card is the bountiful and freshly caught fish and seafood - the largest and most flavoursome crabs I have ever come across, a local variation on lobster, and countless types of fish, all simply, but expertly prepared. It is important to note that there is no menu as such - you are asked to choose your meal earlier in the day, and if there is anything you hanker after, there is a genuine desire to accommodate you. There is a wine list that goes from reasonable (circa $25 USD per bottle) to expensive, a selection of local beers ($5 USD) and a heartfelt attempt at a cocktail menu, which I did not try.
In terms of location, the drive from Stonetown/the airport is about an hour. Though Sultan Palace was one of the first properties on this stretch of the eastern coast, it now has plenty of neighbours - at no point are you aware of them unless you walk up or down the beach. Whilst possible to venture out to other hotels for food/drink, it might take some concerted effort and planning. As is widely publicised, this area of the island is tidal - meaning access to the water is not always straightforward, due to the coral reef some 200 feet from the shoreline. Rubber shoes are advisable for swimming - but the hotel has some to loan out. Although technically a public beach, you will rarely see a soul - other than the hotel's staff and security. The gardens and setting are attractive and private, and tended by an army of gardeners. The new-ish infinity pool complete the picture, and gets sun from dawn through till after 6pm.
Paolo works tirelessly to ensure that your stay is precisely as you want it to be - be it a private dinner on the beach, breakfast in your room, a trip out in one of the hotel's boats (out of action during my stay) or any other whim you might have. In the old days, with less competition, my impression is that the guests were almost exclusively (wealthy) Italians - and there would have been more than a hint of 'aspirational 5 star resort' with eye-watering charges for even basic amenities. The island has changed, and there is now a lot more choice - which has forced Sultan Palace to re-orientate (thankfully not re-invent) - a process that is not quite complete. Four nationalities were represented whilst I was there, but a few signs of the old days remain - the out-dated plastic information wallet in the room for example, quoting exorbitant hourly rates for internet access (thankfully free Wi-Fi is now available in the main building, but not the rooms). These are quibbles though, and just require a few tweaks to position the hotel correctly. Where Paola needs to her up game is her sales patter! The website, for example, does not do justice - but it is clear that more guests are required to keep the place ticking over.
In summary, if you are looking for a flashy, glitzy resort with cutting edge facilities and gadgets, you probably would not enjoy a stay here. Similarly, there might be better places for families with young children - but for a honeymoon, romantic getaway, or a battery re-charge with lashings of old-school personal service and hospitality, you could do a lot worse. And though not marketed as such, it would be a spectacular place for exclusive use if you had 25 - 30 friends, deep pockets and a good (or not so good!) reason to celebrate.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.