Yucatan Three Ways

As we dip our toes back into travel after a year of social distancing, it may feel hard to decide where to go and what to do first. Does a beach vacation sound most appealing or would you prefer an urban getaway focused on shopping, dining, and culture? Perhaps an escape to the country and days of waking to birdsong, dining on farm fresh meals, and exploring small towns is the trip you are dreaming of.

 

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula makes the process of picking a destination easier, as you can choose from all three of these holiday options in one place. It also offers the convenience of flying into and out of Cancun, with flights from more than a dozen American hubs. After you land, you just have to decide whether to drive south, to the beaches along the Riviera Maya; west, to the lively and charming capital of the state of Yucatan, Mérida; or into the countryside, for a stay at a sprawling hacienda reborn as a luxury hotel.

 

Escape to the Seashore

With its dramatic Maya ruins sitting atop a bluff overlooking the Caribbean and its small resorts strung along the sea, it’s not surprising that Tulum has become a favorite of those travelers looking for beach time in the winter but who aren’t interested in the mega-resorts of Cancun.

 

God of Winds Temple, Tulum, Mexico (Shutterstock)

 

The plus of Tulum’s emergence as a destination has been the opening of new hotels and restaurants that have transformed what was once a sleepy backpacker destination into a decidedly stylish one.

 

Getting There: From Cancun it’s a straight shot south on a well-maintained highway. If you are driving, expect the journey to take between 90 minutes to two hours. There are also buses and shuttles, though renting a vehicle will give you the freedom to explore some nearby sites like the Sian Ka’an Biosphere and the Maya ruins at Coba, a much larger complex than the one in Tulum.

 

Where to Stay: Olas Tulum is a small B&B that has a very Tulum-like boho-chic atmosphere and attitude. A plus is that it is to the south of most of Tulum’s hotels—you can enjoy the quiet of the location for naps on the sand in the afternoon but when cocktail hour comes around it’s a short walk to Tulum’s other bars and restaurants.

 

Don’t Miss: Make sure to have at least one meal at Hartwood Tulum which helped lead Tulum’s transition from modest beach town to jet-setter destination. Chefs and owners Eric Werner and Mya Henry opened the restaurant in 2010 and it has made its way on to many “best-restaurant” lists thanks to dishes featuring farm-fresh produce from the Yucatan and seafood straight from the Caribbean in simple preparations that let the ingredients shine.

 

Country Living

Much of the Yucatan peninsula is dotted with haciendas that used to produce henequen (a fiber that is, in English, more commonly called sisal, after the port of Sisal where much of it was exported from). Sisal was essential to rope-making and huge fortunes were made growing the crop. The Mexican Revolution and, more importantly, the invention of nylon led to the bust of that boom though today many haciendas are enjoying second lives having been reborn as luxury hotels where you can spend days lounging by pools or visiting off-the-beaten path villages, convents, and Maya sites. You’ll fall asleep each night to the captivating sounds of the jungle wildlife at night.

Getting there: There are haciendas throughout the peninsula, though there tend to be more of them in the states of Yucatan and Campeche (on the northern and western sides of the peninsula—Quintana Roo, where Cancun is located, runs along its eastern side). You’ll want to rent a car if you intend to spend your days exploring the backroads, but most haciendas will happily arrange for transfers to their properties if you intend to spend your days relaxing on the grounds.

Chablé, Yucatan

 

Chablé Yucatan

Where to Stay: Chablé Yucatan is the most luxurious of the reborn haciendas, though most accommodations there are in newly built free-standing casitas while the historic buildings house common areas, lounges, and restaurants. Hacienda Petac is an appealing smaller hacienda that is rented exclusively to one group at a time and can accommodate up to 14 guests. Marriott’s Luxury Collection includes five beautifully restored haciendas.

 

Don’t Miss: The Maya sites of Chichen Itza and Coba are world-famous, and the crowds at them are evidence of that. An advantage of a stay at a hacienda, however, is that it’s easier to visit some of the less-popular Maya sites. Uxmal, which is just over an hour south of Mérida, is one of the most magical of them. It is built in the so-called Puuc style which is known for being more decorative than other Maya styles with intricate carved geometric patterns and designs.

 

Uxmal Pyramid

 

A City Escape

Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatan (and the largest city on the Yucatan peninsula) has emerged in recent years as one of the most exciting cities in Mexico. It has long been known for its laidback pace and impressive collection of historic buildings spanning the 16th to 19th centuries (within Mexico, only Mexico City has a larger historic district). Now the city can also boast about its lively dining and shopping scene, supported by both a growing expat community and travelers who have discovered Mérida’s appeals.

 

Getting There: Mérida is roughly 3.5 hours from Cancun on a toll road. The colonial town of Valladolid and the Maya ruins at Chichen Itza are appealing stops en route. (It is also possible to fly to Mérida directly.)

Guilermina Restaurant, Merida

Where to Stay: Mérida has an abundance of rental properties in historic homes that have been lovingly restored and you will want to check out the options on AirBnB and VRBO. If you prefer a hotel, the recently opened Wayam has a cool, contemporary style and also one of Mérida’s best new restaurants, Cuna, which serves delicious updated takes on Yucatecan cooking.

Cuna Restaurant at Wayam (Photo: Orbitz)

Don’t Miss: Mérida is not only a state capital but a culinary one too. It’s a place to sample both street food like the simple tacos served at stands at the Santiago Market (a small neighborhood market that is less intimidating than the central one) to the innovative Mexican cuisine of Picheta which overlooks Mérida’s cathedral and central square.

—John Newton, Founder, Signal Custom Content. (John previously worked as an editor at AFAR, Condé Nast Traveler, and Travel+Leisure and has written travel stories for many other publications and websites.)

Fall Into Barcelona

Autumn can be a tricky season in Barcelona. The phrase “the rains in Spain fall gently on the plain” isn’t a misnomer and sometimes “gently” is a vast understatement. The weather tends to fluctuate between heavy rains and periods of sun that make Barcelona glow like a mythical lost city of gold. Usually by September, thunderstorms begin to drift in off the Mediterranean Sea, pounding the pavement along La Rambla.

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Conrad Hotel & Resorts Comes to Los Angeles

Conrad Hotels & Resorts will be opening its first hotel in California in 2022. A part of Hilton’s luxury hotel brands, Conrad announced its debut in California with the signing of Conrad Los Angeles at The Grand LA, designed by Frank Gehry and located in downtown Los Angeles.

 

Downtown LA

 

“With Los Angeles experiencing its largest downtown development boom in nearly a century, we believe 2022 is the right time to introduce such a dynamic hotel and exciting development to this cultural epicenter,” said Danny Hughes, executive vice president and president, Americas, Hilton. “We’re thrilled to continue to expand Conrad’s footprint in the Americas and have the opportunity to bring this empowered and design-forward brand to a new market.”

 

 

Downtown LA

 

The 28-story Conrad Los Angeles is expected to open in 2022 and will include 305 boldly designed modern guest rooms, a spa, fitness center, elevated indoor/outdoor lobby with sweeping views of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and a 16,000 sq. ft. rooftop terrace complete with a private pool deck overlooking bustling downtown Los Angeles. All amenities are set within the design-forward, 24-7 destination of The Grand LA.

 

POOL

 

The Grand LA will include 176,000 square feet of retail and dining space, more than 400 residences, and a landscaped public plaza that will host free arts programming throughout the year, including live concerts. Within walking distance of the Conrad include The Broad, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Museum of Contemporary Art, Grand Park, Colburn School, and The Music Center. A part of The Grand Avenue Project, the public-private partnership with the Los Angeles Grand Avenue Authority aims to revitalize downtown LA’s culture and showcase great public spaces with world-class architecture.

 

“The Grand LA is thrilled to host Hilton’s first Conrad property in California,” said Rick Vogel, senior vice president at Related Companies. “Conrad is one of Hilton’s high luxury brands for the Epicurean traveler in search of culture, arts and dining, which is aligned with The Grand LA’s landmark destination as the epicenter for arts and culture in LA. We look forward to welcoming Conrad Los Angeles’s first guests when The Grand LA opens in 2022.”

 

 

rooftop

 

For more information, please visithttps://newsroom.hilton.com/conrad.

 

Jimmy Buffet Comes To the Island of Manhattan

The newest Margaritaville Resort recently opened on an entirely different kind of island… the island of Manhattan!

 

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Margaritaville Resort Times Square, the newest addition to the Margaritaville Lodging portfolio, is now open to the public. This 32-story laid back lounge-y resort destination sits smack in the middle of NYC’s hustle and bustle, truly transporting guests to an island oasis in the middle of Manhattan.

 

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You can still nibble on a sponge cake and watch the sun bake from Margaritaville Resort Times Square’s 234 guest rooms, five restaurants and bars, year-round outdoor heated pool, and street-level Margaritaville retail store.

“The resort brings paradise to the island of Manhattan and offers something for everyone from families to happy hour with friends,” says Kori Yoran, General Manager.

 

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Located at the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 40th Street, Margaritaville Resort Times Square is blocks away from the bright lights of Manhattan’s entertainment district and provides the ultimate location for a “no worries” vibe vacation immediately adjacent to New York’s most notable attractions, shopping, and museums.

 

 

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Among its dining and drinks options, Margaritaville Resort Times Square’s LandShark Bar & Grill is home to Times Square’s only year-round outdoor heated pool, bringing the beach to Manhattan with a menu of poolside eats and drinks. And guests can also see jaw-dropping, 360-degree views of New York from Margaritaville Resort Time Square’s 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar without even changing out of their flip-flops!

Jimmy Buffett performs at Margaritaville Resort Times Square “First Look” at Margaritaville Resort Times Square on June 10, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
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To celebrate the opening, the resort is offering a limited-time SummerzCool package, offering discounts for longer stays and a complimentary 1:00pm checkout… so they can sleep past noon in the city that never sleeps.

Best Hotels for Active Travelers

While relaxing vacations certainly have their virtues—think pina coladas on a white sand beach, or a deep tissue massage at a desert spa—many people prefer a daily dose of action and adventure on their vacations. No, I’m not talking about golf, or tennis or long walks on the beach. I’m talking about real activities and adventure—perhaps even a little danger.

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7 Great Hotels In San Francisco

While San Francisco may have become too expensive to live in, it is still relatively affordable to visit. Unlike New York City’s hotel scene, which seems to grow and grow, with trendy newcomers stealing the show, many of San Francisco’s top places to stay are the same properties they have always been—albeit some minor name changes.

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6 New England Beach Resorts to Stay at This Summer

While booking a summer rental has its merits, there is something about beach resorts—convenience, amenities and hospitality to name a few perks—that can make it much easier than hassling with the research and paperwork normally associated with summer rentals. Here are 6 resorts in New England that are sure to satiate your summer travel cravings, without any hassles. 

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The Resurgence of the Travel Agent

If there’s one thing we can collectively embrace in 2020, it is a bit of nostalgia. Sure, we are still trying to be mindful, and grateful, and present, but the past can be a comforting balm when living in the moment looks more like “Groundhog Day” than “Eat, Pray, Love.” Whether you have been staring dreamily at old vacation photos on your camera roll or grinning at the sight of Mark Hamill and R2D2 back on your TV screen, being reminded of the days of old (or, you know, any day prior to February 2019) has been energizing and damn near delightful. GLR doesn’t mind that you’re fondly reminiscing—we are, too!—but might we suggest a tip for marrying the comfort of the past with the prospects of a vaccinated future? If “Saved By the Bell” can get a reboot, so can an old travel industry standby. (Re)enter:  the travel agent.

 

We know what you’re thinking:  you have a plethora of online booking options at your fingertips, which are already almost permanently glued to your keyboard or phone at this point. Redirect that side eye and hear us out, though. Sure, widespread, global travel is not greenlit just yet and we understand if you are still too spooked to count the proverbial chickens of 2021. With the FDA’s approval and roll-out of vaccinations now on track, though, it just might be high time for wanderlusters to seek out a helping hand in a changed landscape.

A new type of travel agent

“The role of the travel advisor has become more important now than ever, as people need help navigating all of the Covid details, including which counties are open for travel, entry requirements, testing sites, and more,” says Corey Cook, an agent for Elli Travel in Larchmont, NY and GLR’s resident travel advisor.

 

Jolie Goldring of the NYC-based agency In The Know Experiences (ITKE) has a similar take on the logistical benefits of using a travel advisor. However, the veteran advisor also points out the additional perks she can get her clients, noting amenities such as resort credits, daily complimentary breakfast, small personal touches and often confirmed upgrades—not to mention the general hand-holding that her clients have become accustomed to receiving.

 

“Whether it be leveraging our relationships to help with more flexible deposit and cancel policies, deciphering airline cancel and refund policies, or guiding clients about testing and quarantining policies that may be required, we are offering an invaluable service and peace-of-mind,” says Goldring.

 

 

Cook also sees the role of travel agent as similar to other sought after experts that the average person seeks out on a regular basis, such as a financial adviser or interior designer. Due to all the travel sites that have spawned across the web for years, many think that planning a trip is no longer something they need to outsource. According to Cook, though, she has recently seen her job become en vogue again, and hey, we get it. After all, why scour the internet for the best flight deal or agonize over conflicting hotel reviews when you could instead enlist the help of an individual who has made a career of knowing these things?

A sea of information

“The web has become oversaturated with travel information, and it’s simply overwhelming for many people. Which hotel should I book? What are the better activities/tours to do? There’s a million options,” Cook opines. “That’s where travel advisors come into play. We cut through all of that confusion to properly guide our clients and help with the bookings.”

 

Furthermore, studies in recent years have shown that the use of travel agents, even pre-Covid, was still more prevalent than the average I-can-do-it-myself hodophile might have guessed . The 2018 Global Passenger Survey completed by the International Air Transport Association, which garnered 10,408 responses from 145 countries, found that about 43 percent of passengers preferred to use a travel agency, travel management company or corporate travel department to book flights. Another particular standout from that 2018 survey that rings particularly relevant was a finding from the responses that passengers wanted “a human touch when things go wrong.”

 

Ahem. Case closed, are we right?

See our full report on State of Travel: 2021

 

Escape to Crested Butte’s Scarp Ridge Lodge

I toured Eleven Experience’s flagship property, Scarp Ridge Lodge—in the heart of downtown Crested Butte, CO—this past summer and loved it! I can only imagine how comforting it must be to stay here after a long day of skiing in the winter. Perhaps even “snowcat skiing” via their partnership with Irwin Guides (more on that).

A former Croatian saloon, with its Western façade still in tac, this European ski chalet-meets-Rocky Mountain lodge makes for an ideal place to stay for private groups and families.

Eleven Experiences

You may be wondering, what is Eleven Experience? Eleven Experience is an exclusive accommodation and experiential travel brand which seeks out unique and authentic places and properties around the globe. They tend to be off the beaten track, and are mostly all-inclusive, full buy-out type properties. Think 5-star accommodations, but in the comfort of a private home. In addition to seeking out these special properties, Eleven Experience also provides customized experiences with private guides.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, COPin this image on Pinterest

 

The bar at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte ColoradoPin this image on Pinterest

Eleven Experience has a few properties in Crested Butte, Scarp Ridge Lodge being its lead property. I visited the lodge this summer, when I was in Crested Butte, and had a wonderful tour. The property is fabulous.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested ButtePin this image on Pinterest

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge—The Flagship

Scarp Ridge Lodge, with its 5 King bedrooms and bunk room with 7 beds (including a nanny’s room), functions as a retreat for private groups during the winter, and as an upscale B&B during the summer. During winter, Crested Butte is known for its excellent skiing, as well as a plethora of other outdoor winter sports. Think Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, fat biking (extra fat tires to allow you to bike on the snow), and cat skiing.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge living roomPin this image on Pinterest

The lodge has its own, custom snowcat that comes each morning and takes guests to exclusive ski terrain in nearby Irwin. This is part of the “experience” Eleven Experience offers its guests here. Along with a private snowcat, private guides, amazing terrain, and two mountain cabins for eating and apres skiing, guests of the lodge can enjoy a completely unique and plush experience.

 

Rooftop hot tub at Scarp Ridge LodgePin this image on Pinterest

 

Indoor pool at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, COPin this image on Pinterest
Relax and Unwind

After a long day on the mountain, Scarp Ridge Lodge itself is the perfect place to relax and unwind. With a rooftop hot tub, indoor hot tub, indoor salt water pool, sauna and steam room, gym, and media room, there’s not much the lodge doesn’t have. It even has its own oxygen-enriched air system for those who are having a hard time to adjusting to the high altitude. There is a bar for post-skiing drinks, and an open kitchen with fully stocked fridge accessible 24/7. And no worries about cooking – a private chef will do that all for you. Though I must say – the restaurants in Crested Butte are pretty great! You can dine out too.

 

Bedroom at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, ColoradoPin this image on Pinterest
Playing in the bunk room at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested ButtePin this image on Pinterest
Bedrooms

Each of the 5 bedrooms has its own en-suite bathroom and is uniquely decorated, with rustic touches in a contemporary setting. We were able to see a bunch of them, all cozy and inviting. The lodge really does feel like a home. The bunkroom, with its 7 beds, is awesome – it had my kids grinning from ear to ear. Based on the board game Chutes & Ladders, it’s adventurous and fun, and just plain cool. There is a loft you can climb up to, and if the kids are young and need some watching after, no worries – there is a nanny’s room right next to it. My kids have been begging to go back. I keep telling them, we will.

 

Hanging out in the media room at Scarp Ridge LodgePin this image on Pinterest
The kitchen at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte Colorado

 

As I mentioned, we toured Scarp Ridge Lodge during the summer, when it is a B&B. Not only a ski town, Crested Butte is amazing to visit during the summer. Known for its mountain biking, hiking, flower festival, a happening downtown, and gorgeous scenery, Crested Butte is a special place to visit any time of the year. The lodge is conveniently located in downtown, making it a very easy and accessible home away from home.

—Corey Cook, Luxury Travel Advisor at Elli Travel Group and founder of Fifi+Hop Travel Blog

 

See also: Rocky Mountain Resort Towns

 

Having a Wild Time at Sting Ray City

One of the great things about visiting Grand Cayman in the Caribbean is the various day trips it has to offer. North, South and East of Seven Mile Beach, there are a number of scenic spots to visit and places to explore, including secret coves, underground caves, snorkeling and diving spots, botanical gardens, and pretty beaches.

One of our favorite day excursions was a boat tour to picturesque Rum Point, with a stop at Stingray City, Grand Cayman’s #1 tourist attraction (and for a reason), along the way.

 

Day trip to Stingray City in Cayman Islands

 

My family and I knew that we wanted to visit Stingray City to swim with the stingrays, and we knew that we wanted to check out another part of the island; Rum Point is on the north end of the island in a serene setting away from it all. So, a boat excursion to both seemed like a good fit.

 

Red Sail Sports

We booked our tour with Red Sail Sports directly through the Westin Hotel the day before, and it couldn’t have been easier. Depending on which hotel you stay at, you will have several options of tours to book. Some include Rum Point with snorkeling near the coral reef, while others include Stingray City with Rum Point and Starfish Point, while some focus on diving. And if you’re not staying at a hotel, you can just book through a local operator, such as Red Sail and Captain Marvin’s.

 

Red sail Sports Catamaran in Grand Cayman

 

“Public” Catamaran

We decided to book our tour on a catamaran. As it happened, friends of ours told us they went on the Red Sail catamaran the day before and said it was an amazing experience. So that’s what we did. We went with another group of friends and about 20 other people on the “public” catamaran (not a private charter), and it was perfect for us. Though it’s bigger than a private one, it still felt fairly small, and we even had a corner of the boat to ourselves where our girls could lie on the “trampoline”.

Let me begin by saying, from beginning to end, this day trip was perfect. The weather was fantastic, the Red Sail staff were great, and everything ran along seamlessly. From the moment we boarded the shuttle to the marina and onto the catamaran and throughout the entire day, there were no hiccups.

 

Part of the reason why the day went so smoothly was the Red Sail staff was superb. It was about 4 or 5 people, including a photographer for Stingray City, and they were all knowledgeable, fun, funny and engaging. They gave us a run-down of the day and informed us on how to handle the stingrays, and off we jetted into the sea.

WHAT IS STINGRAY CITY?

Our first stop, and about a half hour from the Seven Mile beach area, was Stingray City. What is Stingray City, you may be wondering? It’s a group of sandbars out in the middle of the sea, some very shallow at 3-4 feet, some much deeper (where the divers go). The shallow ones you can obviously stand on, and that’s where many of the tour boats go.

 

red-Sail-Stingray-City-tour-Grand-CaymanPin this image on Pinterest

It is said that in the 1970’s fishermen would clean their fish and dump the fish guts into the sandbars, and that the stingrays caught on and would frequent the fishermen whenever they were there. That turned into the fishermen and divers feeding them, and the stingrays swarming them every time they came. They were very docile and adapted to being around humans, and eventually the tours started. The stingrays are still completely in the wild, only now they’re used to being around humans.

 

Playing with a stingray at Stingray City in Grand CaymanPin this image on Pinterest
Swimming with the Sting Rays

Visiting Stingray City was a unique experience – we swam with them, touched them, and with the help of the staff, held them. All out in the middle of the turquoise water in the middle of the sea. It was pretty spectacular. My girls, ages 12 and 10, were a bit shy and nervous, but the Red Sail guys helped them with every move. All of us were able to hold a stingray, and even give it a kiss! As I mentioned, there was a photographer on board, so we were able to get pictures with the cute rays as well.

 

Touching a stingray at Stingray City in the Cayman IslandsPin this image on Pinterest

 

Stingray City will definitely go down as one of my girls’ favorite vacation activities of all time, for the playfulness and sheer joy of it. Once we re-boarded the boat (after about 45 minutes), we were on our way to Rum Point, where we were to spend the remainder of the day.

—Corey Cook, Luxury Travel Advisor at Elli Travel and founder of Fifi+Hop Travel Blog

A Travel Advisor’s Take on Family Travel in 2021

I work in the travel industry as both a travel advisor and a travel writer. I’ve owned the travel blog, Fifi + Hop, for the past 6 years, and write mainly about family travel, as I have two kids. Between my conversations with other family travel bloggers and my colleagues in the travel agency world, there are certain trends that will no doubt play a part in family travel in 2021. We’ve seen them already, and they will continue for a while.

 

The first one is family vacations to national parks, such as Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Acadia and the Great Smoky Mountains. They offer wide open space in nature, and are much more easy to socially distance in than a city. The vaccine is encouraging news, but as it will take some time to distribute, people are still going to be more inclined to travel to places where they can be outdoors. The U.S. national parks have always been a favorite for family vacations—now more than ever.

Road trips, RV’s, and glamping were huge in the summer of 2020. They will continue to be big in 2021 as well. Families can be outdoors and socially distanced, and simply by themselves. It’s a great way for East Coasters to discover the west, and vice-versa. Speaking of “by themselves”, private home and small hotel rentals are going to continue to soar. With the onset of COVID-19, many hotel groups ramped up their villa and home offerings—simply by building more. There is a vast array of hotel homes to stay in, either with just your family or a group of families (or friends). A great example of a small hotel to rent out is Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, CO. Want all the luxuries of staying in a 5-star hotel, but don’t want to be around a ton of people?  Lodges like this provide the perfect solution.

Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, CO is a family ski vacation dream spot with all the amenities and Colorado style.

 

The bunk room at Scarp Ridge Lodge is like none other—perfect for kids.

As 2021 moves along, and so does the vaccine, international travel will undoubtedly pick up. It may be slow in the beginning as people adjust to the idea of long-distance travel, but one thing is for sure—once the vaccine is distributed and the country has “herd” immunity, international travel is going to come back with a vengeance—especially with those who like to travel a lot. Big trips will be a form of compensation for many, for the long hiatus.

 

As far as which places will be most popular first, that of course depends on the administration of the vaccine, and which countries open first. I don’t have a crystal ball, but it is generally considered that places such as Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean and Bahamas will be hugely popular. Mexico and Costa Rica, for one, don’t require a COVID test to enter. That is appealing to some, and not appealing to others. While these countries may be easy to get into, they may also become more risky. But we are already seeing Mexico as a hugely desirable destination.

Grace Bay in the Turks and Caicos is another family friendly dream spot with tons of hotels at different price ranges.

Another trend that is and will be big—even for families—is wellness travel. People have been put through the ringer in 2020, and what they really want is to relax, recharge, and renew…get a treatment, get a massage, get their body in shape. People (parents included!) want serenity and tranquility. Places such as the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Mexico can provide them with a sense of total relaxation among white sand beaches and turquoise blue water. And the kids won’t complain.

 

Europe is a bit hard to predict at this point, but Greece will most likely be a hot spot. It did well with COVID, and opened in 2020, just not to Americans. Much like the Caribbean being a place of beauty and peacefulness, so are the Greek islands. The sea, beaches, healthy Mediterranean food are all tonics for the soul. The Greek islands provide a sense of adventure too – they are in Europe and you can hop around from one island to the next. And the Greek culture is extremely family-friendly.

Mykonos Island, Greece. The Greek isles should be a hot destination when international travel bounces back.

Another European country very much in a similar vain is Italy. Italy is the mother of family-friendly destinations, and I have written a lot about the country, as I have taken a few family vacations there with my kids. Yes, Italy did not do well with COVID, but once the vaccine is in full-effect, Italy will be huge for family travel. Simply put, it always has been, and always will be.

 

Rounding out Europe, I suspect that Portugal, Spain and Switzerland will be popular for family vacations as well. Portugal has the Algarve, with its dramatic coastline and beaches; Spain has its beaches and islands, such as Mallorca, Menorca and the Canary Islands; and Switzerland of course has its mountains and stunning scenery—a nature lover’s paradise.

 

It will be interesting to see—as the vaccine takes shape—how each country progresses. No one can predict what will happen, and things are ever-changing, but I believe these trends give us an idea of where things are headed.

—Corey Cook, Luxury Travel Advisor at Elli Travel and founder of Fifi+Hop Travel Blog

Poetry Inn—A Hidden Gem in Napa Valley

Not long ago Napa Valley had few luxury lodgings options. Auberge du Soleil pretty much had a monopoly on the market. Yet today, visitors looking to pamper themselves can choose between lux juggernauts such as Carneros Resort and Spa (formerly Carneros Inn), Calistoga Inn, Solage and Meadowood—to name a few. Continue reading

A Lofty Plan: The Story of Airbnb

It must have sounded like a crazy idea at the time but it’s since become the stuff of legend. Back in 2008, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were two ambitious entrepreneurs living in an expensive loft in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood. Continue reading

pool at Baha Mar

Baha Marvelous

1,000 acres—3 Deluxe Hotels—2,300 rooms—100,000 square foot casino —8 Pools—30 Bars—42 Restaurants—$4 Billion in total cost. 

These are just some of the staggering statistics that accompany the newly opened, much ballyhooed, longtime-in-the-making mega resort Baha Mar in the Bahamas—which was famous long before it ever opened due to multiple bankruptcies, a revolving door of owners, and the now well documented, stutter-step fashion in which it was conceived and ultimately built. Continue reading

CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa

The moment you arrive at CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa in Anguilla, your body immediately begins to unwind as you bask in the sun, sand and sea. Boasting white stucco buildings and distinct, Mediterranean-influenced architecture, this beachfront property has it all, for families or a romantic get-away. Continue reading

Las Vegas Refresh

When gangster Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo in 1946, it was the first large-scale casino-hotel project on a quiet stretch of Nevada desert. Today, Las Vegas is anything but quiet, with massive casino-hotels stationed like giant soldiers on the world-famous Strip.

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Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo, México, Opening 2021

Most of its 155 rooms will boast panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, enveloped by the surrounding jungle.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has announced a new luxury resort located in Tamarindo, Mexico. Opening in 2021 as Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo, México, the project will be located on a private peninsula along the Pacific Ocean. The area, known as “Costa Alegre” or “Joy Coast” is acclaimed for its picturesque beaches, lush landscape and unique topography.

“As we grow the Four Seasons portfolio in Mexico, this project in Tamarindo is the ideal opportunity to do so, offering our guests access to the natural wonder of the region, paired with Four Seasons renowned service and quality excellence,” says John Davison, President and CEO, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “

Rooms with a view

Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo will be located in a protected eco-reserve 25 miles north of the Manzanillo Airport. Most of its 155 rooms will boast panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, enveloped by the surrounding jungle and lush golf course. The contemporary architectural and interior design by the firms of Legorreta + Legorreta and Taller Mauricio Rocha + Gabriela Carrillo will blend with the natural surroundings and showcase local materials and textures.

 

 

The Resort will be part of the 2,100 acre El Tamarindo master planned development featuring multiple beaches and private coves. The development will be built to take advantage of elevations ranging from sea level to approximately 120 metres (394 feet) above sea level, providing breath-taking views of the landscape, golf course and ocean. Accommodations are well suited to both adult travellers and those visiting with children.

Dining

The Resort will offer four dining and beverage venues, including an ocean view bar and restaurant, beach bar and grill and golf club restaurant. The grounds will also feature three pools, a full-service spa set amid a tropical forest and a fitness centre, young adults centre and lounge, water sports centre, tennis courts and 370 square metres (4,000 square feet) of meeting space. The highly acclaimed 18-hole, par 72, Robert Trent Jones Jr. and David Fleming designed links golf course will round out the amenities.

Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo will join a growing collection of Four Seasons properties located in Mexico, including Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City, the recently opened Four Seasons Resort and Residences Los Cabos at Costa Palmas, and the recently announced Four Seasons Resort and Residences Cabo San Lucas at Cabo Del Sol.

Remote Learning at Four Resort Orlando

With millions of children going to school remotely this fall because of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is offering a “schoolcation” package.

“This new offering exclusively for our Resort guests will be both helpful to parents, as well as something really fun for kids to experience,” says Thomas Steinhauer, General Manager and Regional Vice President of Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort. “Many kids have been completing school work in their homes for a while now. A chance to mix up their learning environment, and combine school and playtime at the Resort, is sure to be a welcome treat and create a memory that will last a lifetime.”

Supervised schoolwork

The supervised schoolwork sessions will be held in small-group classroom settings, physically distanced with no more than six children per class. The spacious event rooms of Four Seasons Resort Orlando are the classroom setting, featuring airy and open rooms with a wall of windows for natural light, and a private terrace for outside break time.

Each student will have a dedicated desk area, physically distanced from the other students, and high-speed premium WiFi will be provided.

Supervisors oversee the study sessions, and they have experience working with children. With peace of mind, parents can then spend the day relaxing and vacationing on their own.

The supervised study sessions are available Monday through Friday beginning Sept. 14, 2020 for $50 USD per child for a half-day session or $100 USD per child for the full session including lunch. Reservations must be confirmed at least 48 hours in advance. The resort is also offering a special package through December 18, 2020, which includes a $200 USD nightly credit for stays in a guest room, or a $500 USD nightly credit for stays in a one or two-bedroom suite.

After school program

Once the schoolwork is done, children can take recess at the resort, which includes an island playground, a lazy river, waterslide and outdoor recreation activities and spots. Or, take a quick shuttle to experience the magic at Walt Disney World, which recently reopened.

For more information or to book your next “schoolcation,” visit the Four Seasons Resort Orlando website.

INSIDE PARK HYATT MALLORCA | 5 STAR LUXURY IN SPAIN

Perched on a hilltop overlooking the valley of Canyame, Park Hyatt Mallorca is a luxury hotel infused with local art and cultural heritage that offers amazing views, services and amenities. It features the splendid Serenitas spa, 3 swimming pools, 24-hour gym and several wonderful on-site restaurants.

 

 

The Park Hyatt Mallorca is on a quiet part of the east coast of the island — an hour from the airport – in the Cap Vermell estate overlooking Canyamel valley.

It is a five minutes’ drive from Canyamel beach with plenty more secluded coves and broad bays up and down the coast. Quint villages and historic towns such as Capdepera and Artà are a 10-minute drive away.

The hotel is an ideal base year round for all sorts of activities, including cycling, hiking, riding, fishing and watersport. Grab an electric scooter, offered by the hotel, and have a thrilling time exploring this exotic island.

The Rooms

The hotel’s 142 guest accommodations include 16 suites, ranging from 50 to 150 square meters, and feature upscale Majorcan style with furnished terraces. Spacious and elegant rooms and suites all include a large private balcony, free WiFi, and extra-large beds. The private bathroom comes with a rain shower and handcrafted soaps.

The Spa

Serenitas Spa offers a wide variety of treatments, which incorporate many natural elements from the island. The spa also features a sauna, sensory showers, vitality pool, and a hairdresser. It offers seven treatment rooms including couples’ rooms, sauna, sensory showers, vitality pool and an exclusive Quartz sand bed. Signature treatments are based on healing ingredients dating back thousands of years, and guests can select from a range of services incorporating the island’s minerals, herbs, fruits, salt and water including rosemary, pine, lavender, almonds, olive oil, citrus, and aloe vera. Guests can enjoy free access to Cap Vermell Country Club, located 750 feet from the property.

Food and Wine

Set on a village square, the Park Hyatt Mallorca’s restaurants include Balearic with Majorcan cuisine crafted with locally sourced ingredients, the Tapas Bar featuring dishes by a Michelin star awarded chef, Café Sa Plaça providing a relaxed bistro café experience highlighted with Majorcan artwork and award-winning pastries, plus Asia, serving authentic dishes from South Asia in a private villa setting. There is also 24-hour in-room dining available.

Summary

Park Hyatt Mallorca is a wonderful luxury retreat that reflects the style of a traditional Majorcan hilltop village with a selection of restaurants on a village square offering authentic gastronomic experiences, together with treatments based on the island’s minerals, and elegant event spaces.

American Splendor: New England’s Fall Foliage Trail

Now that the summer heat has given way to cooler temperatures, we can all enjoy the great outdoors without sweltering. Fall is the perfect time to spend an afternoon at the cider mill, go pumpkin picking for Halloween or hike up mountains. It’s closing in on peak foliage time in the Northeastern United States, arguably the best place to see the changing leaf colors. Continue reading

The Road to Middle Earth

In 2012, director Peter Jackson returned to Middle Earth for a new trilogy based on the works of beloved author J.R.R. Tolkien. An Unexpected Journey, the first installment in The Hobbit series, received mixed reviews from fans and critics alike, with many quibbling over Jackson’s decision to release the film in a controversial high frame rate format. Nevertheless, it helped spark a renewed interest in the real-life locations used in the film. Continue reading

Spain’s Other Coast

Europe has always been a popular destination for American travelers in the summertime. While flights to France, Italy and the United Kingdom can be pricey this time of year, Spain tends to be a bit cheaper. But instead of heading to the overcrowded beaches of tony Marbella or touristy Barcelona, take a detour to the northwest Basque coast. Here are my top-three reasons to visit San Sebastian this summer.

You Gotta Have Art
Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa (Guggenheim.org)

San Sebastian is home to a thriving art and cultural scene, showcasing the region’s unique history—the Basques are an ancient culture and vehemently independent. Throughout the summer, the city hosts music and cultural festivals galore. The 54th Heinekin “Jazzaldia,” the city’s jazz festival, happens the last week of July and is the longest running festival of its kind in Europe. Classical music concerts are held throughout August at the Musika Hamabostaldia. Film lovers flock to the region in September for the world-renowned San Sebastian Film Festival. Basque culture is celebrated during Basque Week in early September. If you love art, head to one of the city’s many museums, but don’t forget to take a side trip to nearby Bilbao, home to the Guggenheim museum.

Dinner is Served
Arzak (Trip Advisor)

Most of us who have tried Spanish cuisine stateside have encountered regional fare from Sevilla and Madrid. Basque cuisine is entirely different. Fish and meat are grilled over large coals, and hearty stews and bean dishes are extremely popular. The area is home to a large proliferation of Michelin–starred restaurants—second only to Paris—including Arzak, Akelarre and Mugartiz. For less chichi dining, opt for a cider house, which can be found throughout the region.

The Great Outdoors
Surfers at Zurriola Beach (San Sebastian Tourism)

While most visitors to Spain don’t do anything more strenuous than climb a cobblestone street to visit a historic site, for more adventurous travelers, San Sebastian offers a wealth of great outdoor opportunities. You can hike to the top of Monte Urgull or one of the other peaks or bike the surrounding hills. Surfers head to Zurriola, Fuenterrabia and Hendaia beaches for their great waves and relative breathing room.

Where the Figawi?

The Story Behind the Annual Boat Race Between Hyannis and Nantucket

In 1972, a friendly conversation among friends at Baxter’s Boathouse in Hyannis, MA escalated to a challenge to see who could sail their boat to Nantucket the fastest over Memorial Day weekend. This was the inception of Figawi Race Weekend, a Nantucket and Cape Cod tradition that has grown considerably in popularity since it’s informal start in 1972 thanks to names like Kennedy and Koch joining the competition in the 80s and beyond.

Continue reading