How to Find and Book a Unique Hotel Part 1

How to find and book a Unique Hotel Cay Pointe Villas

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If you’re looking for more than a cookie-cutter hotel experience, you’re likely looking for an independently owned, family-owned, or a unique hotel. These are not always easy to find via the big websites. Granted, sometimes your major booking engines do have the smaller unique hotels, but not every family-run hotel finds it easy or even feasible to join these larger sites.

One of the things we look for when choosing lodging is an authentic experience. A few weeks ago I wrote about choosing either a home rental or hotel. We have found that we can get the same authentic experiences doing both. While you may need a little research to find a unique hotel, I can offer a few travel planning tips to get you there faster.

Start Local

Find the local and official visitors bureau or CVB (convention/visitors bureau) and do searches there. Most will have listings for places to stay and the smaller hotels find these sites a good use of their investment. Recently, when I stayed at Cay Pointe, I found them through the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater visitors bureau website.

How to Find a Unique Hotel - East Shore Resort Clearwater

If I’m heading to an area, I also like to follow the local visitor centers on Twitter and Instagram. These sites will tweet out recommendations and post pictures of top attractions and places to stay. On Instagram, you can also see what hashtags they use and search for more content that way. For example, some popular hashtags in Florida include #LoveFL, #SunshineState #VisitFlorida. If you do a search on hashtags, Instagram will also suggest related hashtags.

Be careful! You can easily get sidetracked searching on Instagram!

Go Bigger

Search the state or country’s visitor sites. Google “Visit _______” and you’ll likely find what you’re looking for. In this post, I’ll list the US 50 States visitor’s websites. Some of the various countries might be a bit more tricky to find, so search using “Official {country name} visitors bureau.”

Not only will you find extensive hotels, bed & breakfasts, resorts, campgrounds, etc. but you’ll have a wealth of information about activities and best-of lists of things to do.

Bed and Breakfasts are almost always independently owned. I’m a little obsessed with right now. They have a ton of great listings and beautiful photos.

Trip Advisor

Tried and (mostly) true Trip Advisor includes listings for independently owned hotels. You can even filter your searches to include only those hotels in a designated area.

I am wary of reviews on Trip Advisor and read them closely. Not all bad reviews are the hotel’s fault (some people are just grumpy) and not all good reviews are real (yes, people get paid to put fake reviews up.) Knowing that I still believe that most of the reviews you find, especially for independent hotels, are authentic. Since Trip Advisor is a free site, you’ll find the most unique hotels listed here.


In my opinion, Pinterest is a better place to search than Google, largely because it’s blogger content (yeah, I’m a blogger… of course I think that) but also because it’s visual. Search Pinterest for unique stays and you’ll come up with hundreds of unique hotel places to stay. Need some inspiration, you can view my unique stays board to get started.

Word of Mouth

Not sure if we think of this often, but we’re all on social media right? Put it out there to your friends and family and ask, “Where should I stay in ____.” Who knows what you might hear?

With that… what’s your favorite independent or unique hotel that you’ve stayed in? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

Want more? Keep reading Part 2 of How to Find and Book a Unique Hotel.

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38 thoughts on “How to Find and Book a Unique Hotel Part 1”

  1. This is very good advice and some I will follow in the next few days, when looking for a hotel near Monterey. We will only need one night and it would be great if it could be special and not in a hotel that could be anywhere else in the world. I usually use tripadvisor but I think your idea about Pinterest is better: I only recently started using it as a search engine and wow, loads of great, visually striking information there

  2. Great suggestions. I didn’t know Twitter and Instagram had such centers. Pinterest should also be a great source!

  3. I never like to stay in hotels/motels run by big chains as they lack any distinguishable features – you’re forgiven of you forget which town or even country you’re in. For me word of mouth is often the best to go by…

  4. Great tips – I especially agree with go bigger, and go to word of mouth. Generally just asking the question on social media leads to fabulous recommendations, and I’ve stayed in some really unique hotels because of it. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Totally agree Anna! There just such a wealth of information out there and it’s how I’ve found a couple of places to stay.

  5. Great guide! I usually choose apartments over hotels, but ultimately, I’m just looking for a clean room with a comfy bed for a good price, since I don’t spend that much time in the room anyway.

    1. I agree Vlad but most recently we went for a stay at the beach and it ended up raining, so I was glad I had a comfy room with a few nice amenities in it to return to.

  6. Great tips! Chain hotels are OK, but the unique hotels offer something out of the ordinary, which a lot of people are looking for. Social media offers a great place to search!

  7. on a lot of the press trips I go on, we are treated to some great independent hotels that are a bit off the beaten track. I’d recommend reading blogs (and pinterest) for that reason

  8. Love independent hotels that are not cookie cutter!! Agree with the tip for hitting up the visitors bureau, we stopped in one in Pennsylvania and picked up the coupon book, only to find a great family run hotel in the area with an awesome breakfast and $5 off! Great post 🙂

  9. I often go with word of mouth, because you get a variety of options with different stories from different people- and its great to hear both the good and bad about a place. If there are no recommendations, I usually give Tripadvisor a read.

  10. Instagram has worked wonders for me when looking for unique places! And definitely Pinterest too! And then I head over to Trip Advisor to read up more about it!

  11. I definitely agree that searching a city’s CVB is a great idea for finding where to stay. And Instagram as well, even though like you said, you can easily get distracted on there! lol

  12. Interesting post. I’ve yet to stay in a BnB, mostly because I’m a budget traveller, but I’m sure it must be lovely. How do you find the unique hotels compare in price to an average hotel that one would find on, for example?

    1. Great question Ivana and I’ve found they have to be competitive, so pricing is usually the same or slightly more. The experience you get is more personalized however, so it makes up for a bit more in price.

  13. I feel your tips are really valuable and useful when you’re not set on visiting during certain dates. My experience is, that most sites don’t update the availability of the places they offer (or the owners don’t do it) and you waiste valuable time researching. If you don’t know or don’t mind when you’re going, it is a great way to find unique places to stay for sure!

    1. We are usually pretty flexible, however I have found if I book far enough in advance, set dates are not a problem.

  14. Those are some great tips. I love staying in a hotel with character or a theme. Just something that makes it not your same old same old cookie cutter chain hotel!

  15. Great suggestions! This is the same reason that I started doing airbnb more often than staying at a hotel. I love getting the authentic feel of the place we are visiting!

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