In the 2004 Tom Hanks movie, “The Terminal,” Hanks’ character gets stuck living at an airport for months on end due to immigration details and a revolution in his native country of Krakozhia. Humor abounds as Hanks endures the misery of living in the confines of an airport, a drudgery only slightly offset by a lovely flight attendant played by Catherine Zeta Jones.
The movie works because viewers appreciate all the inconveniences and stereotypical stuffiness associated with staying at the airport. Sympathy for Hanks’ character would not be found, however, had Hanks been flying through Vancouver and found himself at The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, as I did several weeks ago.
The soundproofed hotel, situated within Vancouver’s International Airport (YVR) above the U.S. departures terminal, is anything but your typical airport hotel. The luxury hotel offers 5-star caliber accommodations, breathtaking floor-to-ceiling views of the runway in front of Vancouver’s mountains, diverse dining choices, and an indoor pool, health club and spa.
In 2014, the Fairmont was named the No. 1 airport hotel in North America by Skytrax World Airport Awards, and boasts a litany of elite awards including mention in coveted “2014 World’s Best Hotels” lists for both Expedia and Travel + Leisure.
I had seen the photo galleries on the website and knew I was in for a treat, but didn’t fully appreciate what I was in for until I made the two-minute stroll from the luggage carousels to the hotel’s entrance via a grand, spiral staircase. I was immediately welcomed to the hotel by a courteous staff member, then went up to the top level where I was greeted again by two concierges specifically assigned to the top floor. They led me to my room, where I was greeted with this spectacular view, and––as a delicious surprise––a spread of chocolate-covered strawberries.
“We take pride in delighting our guests,” said Nancie Hall, Regional Director at the Fairmont. “Our goal is to exceed guests’ expectations and we do everything possible to make each visit to our hotel special.”
On the top floor, the Farimont also offers a club lounge with complimentary desserts and appetizers in the evening. It was a relaxing place to watch the planes come in.
The Fairmont was also my base camp for several outstanding outdoor adventures. My first day at the hotel I took the famous Sea-to-Sky Highway drive, which is a wonderful one-day roundtrip from the hotel. Start early and plan on returning at dark––there are more than a dozen parks, hiking trails, waterfalls and scenic lookouts along the way.
From the Fairmont, you can cut through Vancouver––stopping at Stanley Park if you so choose––and then head north on Route 99. The views along the 160-mile round trip drive are stunning, and surprisingly diverse. The massive Western Red Cedars around Vancouver gradually give way to hardy mountain evergreen trees near Lillooet, which receives roughly a quarter of the rainfall the coastal rainforest receives. The elevation changes dramatically as well.
“As you travel north along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, you’ll gradually climb from sea level to over 2,200 feet of elevation by the time you reach Whistler,” said Marsha Walden, CEO of Destination British Columbia. “As you begin your journey north, you’ll have sweeping views of Howe Sound on one side of your car and the towering Coast Mountains on the other side. Keep an eye out for Arbutus trees which stretch at wild angles towards the water. The highway also winds through lush forests and alongside raging rivers as you continue north.”
Walden offered me some prophetic advice prior to my trip. “You’ll have a hard time keeping your eyes on the road!” she cautioned. “The Sea-to-Sky Highway is one of the world’s best drives.”
As someone who has sought out the world’s most scenic drives––from Ireland’s Ring of Kerry to Italy’s Amalfi Coast to Kauai’s NaPali Coast––I wholeheartedly agree with Walden. Trust me, my photos don’t do it justice, but I couldn’t help myself from clicking away. The scale of the mountains and the trees and the vastness of it all is impossible to capture, but nonetheless, below are a few photos from the day.
During another day at the hotel, I made the 20-minute drive to nearby Granville Island for some salmon fishing. I met up with Bon Chovy Fishing Charters and enjoyed the best salmon fishing of my life.
We caught many king salmon, weighing up to 20 pounds, and even played around in the afternoon fishing for ling cod.
I was impressed when I returned to The Fairmont after a couple days away, the concierge remembered I had mentioned my plans to do the Sea-to-Sky drive, and immediately asked me how I enjoyed it. That quality service certainly carried over to The Globe at YVR, the hotel’s signature restaurant.
“Many of our staff at The Fairmont have been with the hotel for years and years, and that makes a huge difference,” Hall said. “We don’t just hang our hat on the views and the top-notch accommodations we can offer. We work hard at providing personal service and making sure each guest has a wonderful stay.”
By the time my visit was done, I found myself wishing I had another few days at The Fairmont. It was strange, but true: I wish I spent more time at the airport.
The website for The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel is Fairmont.com/vancouver-airport-richmond. For more information, call 1-800-257-7544.
The airport hotel is one location within the larger Fairmont family of hotels. To see the full listing of Fairmont Hotels, click here.
For information on other area attractions, visit HelloBC.com.