What It’s Like to Stay at Hotel La Palma, the New Star of Capri’s Glittering Resort Scene

Welcome to Checking In, a review series in which our editors and contributors rate the best new (and revamped) luxury hotels based on a rigorous—and occasionally tongue-in-cheek—10-point system: Each question answered “yes” gets one point. Will room service bring you caviar? Does your suite have its own butler? Does the bathroom have a bidet? Find out below.

Hotel La Palma

Capri is hyper-competitive but Oetker is aiming to blow away the competition.
Capri is hyper-competitive but Oetker is aiming to blow away the competition.

In three words: Worth the wait.

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The basics

Purportedly the oldest hotel on the island—it dates back to 1822, when the original owner Giuseppe Pagano created a glamorous flophouse for roving creatives in his home—Hotel La Palma was taken over by Oetker Collection in 2021, with the promise of a breakneck makeover in time for its bicentennial last summer. It proved an overambitious timetable, and the opening was pushed back an entire year. But the gut renovation upgraded the property from a workday four-star to what aims to be the island’s plushest hotel, a fitting sibling to existing Oetker-operated landmarks such as Eden Rock St Barths and London’s Lanesborough. The reimagined property will finally welcome guests this summer.

The best room

There’s a fistful of room categories at this hotel, cannily carved out of the conversion footprint, which took the former room count down from 72 to just 50, so choose carefully. The priciest is the Palma suite (#314), which claims to be the largest at any hotel on the island at almost 2,2000 square feet. It has its own wraparound terrace and can be configured for up to five bedrooms, with every booking also including full-time butler service and a comped day at the private beach tucked next to the hotel’s beach club, Da Gioia.

The Rundown

Dining at the hotel is overseen by Italy’s scandal-free answer to Mario Batali, Gennaro Esposito.
Dining at the hotel is overseen by Italy’s scandal-free answer to Mario Batali, Gennaro Esposito.

Greeted by name at check-in?

Yes. I was whisked to my room, thankfully, to freshen up. Bonus for the quick tour of my room, which didn’t require a manual to operate.

Was a welcome drink ready and waiting when you arrived? (Bonus points if it wasn’t just fruit juice)

It was fruit juice, but given that Capri’s synonymous with lemons, we’ll let it pass: one elegant decanter of fresh-pressed grapefruit and another of orange.

Is there a private butler for every room?

Nope, but the service is exceptional. The default reaction to glimpsing any guest is a genuine smile—but there’s no dedicated staffer rostered to a given room.

The hotel went from 72 to just 50 rooms with a variety of categories.
The hotel went from 72 to just 50 rooms with a variety of categories.

Is the sheet thread count higher than 300?

Yes. They’re by Mascioni in Lombardy—naturally, Italian. Plush and comfy beds are luxury hotel staples, but what about pillow-soft mats by the bedside and hotel slippers that don’t seem made from a few sheets of stitched-together Bounty? Bonus point for the turndown gifts, far more keepsakes than a chocolate: a branded eye mask, for instance, and branded robe.

Is there a heated floor in the bathroom? What about a bidet?

No and yes. No underfloor foot-warming, but there’s a bidet in the WC—no upscale Italian hotel would dare skip that amenity.

Are the toiletries full-sized?

Yes. The fruity floral Angeli di Firenze, a staple of another Italian luxury brand, Santa Maria Novella. Two sets of full-sized toiletries, in fact—one by the bath (also equipped with a branded inflatable pillow) and another in the shower.

Is there a private pool for the room’s exclusive use? How are the spa and gym?

No (but a bonus point nonetheless).

The recent makeover added a smallish pool to the terrace here, so the suites overlooking it—ask for numbers 110, 111, 112, 114 or 115—have direct access (great for scene-seeking guests, but watch out for noise when the hotel’s at capacity). The spa and gym in the basement are serviceable, but the hotel earns a bonus point for an unexpected amenity: its beach club. The new owners snapped up Da Gioia beach club and added it to the hotel, so there’s now an elegant way to enjoy the often-overcrowded pebbly beaches here without venturing to La Fontelina and Co. Book the private loungers in the tiny spit below the basement, which sit on their own cove, and don’t leave without trying the spaghettoni al pomodoro, tomato pasta perfection. The food there, like all the hotel’s F&B, is overseen by Italy’s scandal-free answer to Mario Batali, Gennaro Esposito.

Do you want to spend Friday night in the lobby bar?

Yes (and a bonus yes!).

La Palma has one of the best bar spots in the entire island: Bianca, a new addition via this renovation, right on its roof, with superb views out across the main town—and cooling breezes all-too welcome on a warm night. Don’t miss the basement supper club, Anema e Core (that’s Spirit and Heart in Caprese dialect): the Eurotrashy loungecore spot has a deliciously unselfconscious affect. When you’re handed a branded tambourine to tap along with the band, hold onto it, as that’s an insider’s island souvenir. And yes, that might be Beyoncé, Reese Witherspoon, or Leonardo DiCaprio singing along—they’ve all been spotted there.

Is there caviar on the room service menu? If so, what kind?

No (but a bonus yes). It’s not specified on the menu, but just call down and ask for the upgraded eggs benedict from the lavish breakfast buffet—for an extra $43, you can smother it in caviar.

Would you buy the hotel if you could?

Yes, but I doubt the Reuben Brothers would sell. The London-based property entrepreneurs snapped up the pile and have plowed more than just money into the makeover in partnership with operator Oetker. It’s clearly a passion project, too: Malta-based interior designer Francis Sultana, a London society favorite, was tapped to handle his first hotel by Debra Reuben—wife of co-chair David—who was an existing client.

The Verdict

The sea is the star, but for direct pool access ask for room numbers 110, 111, 112, 114, or 115.
The sea is the star, but for direct pool access ask for room numbers 110, 111, 112, 114, or 115.

La Palma sits like a stark white sugar cube plonked into the heart of Capri’s main town, a couple minutes’ walk from the Piazzetta. This isn’t a wallflower’s luxury hideaway for Capri refuseniks, but rather the ideal five-star perch for someone who wants to embrace the high-season scene with gusto. It’s a place for guests who refuse to travel carry-on only, since they’ve too many great outfits to squeeze into a tiny suitcase.

Capri’s allure remains compelling, despite the hordes of visitors that swarm its streets in summertime. La Palma is undeniably its standout hotel now, especially given the careworn state of nearby rivals like La Quisisana, but take note: It’s right in the heart of town, so better for party animals than seclusion seekers—there’s a reason its enduring asset is that gloriously retro, so-kitsch-it’s-cool nightclub.

Rates: Doubles from roughly $2,062.

Score: 10

What Our Score Means:

1-3: Fire your travel agent if they suggest you stay here.
4-6: Solid if you’re in a pinch—but only if you’re in a pinch.
7-8: Very good. We’d stay here again and recommend it without qualms.
9-10: Forget booking a week. When can we move in permanently?

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