October 30, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
This weekend NYT Travel profiled the new, high design hotels that are making waves in the Caribbean. These uber-luxe hotels boast private plunge pools, Egyptian cotton sheets, the best five-star service, and luxurious guest rooms designed by high-profile designers. One such hotel is Discovery at Marigot Bay, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, located on the breathtaking island of St. Lucia. Prized as "the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean" (to quote James A. Michener), Marigot Bay is surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery, tropical rainforests, and secluded beaches. The boutique resort offers 57 suites and 67 rooms overlooking the sea and the yachts anchored in the harbor. Rooms are the height of luxury (plunge pools, balconies, cable TV, wifi, espresso makers, huge bathrooms with walk-in drench showers, Italian kitchens…) In addition, there's the luxurious Lapli Spa, fitness center, numerous watersports, bars and restaurants. The Special Opening Offer includes daily breakfast, a USD500 credit to spend in the resort, and a 7th night complimentary. Valid until December 21, 2006.
October 27, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
This could be the most dramatic setting on earth: amidst deep blue lakes, snow-capped mountains, and the rivers and forests of Nauel Huapi National Park in Northwest Patagonia. Welcome to the Llao Llao Hotel and Resort, where the spectacular surroundings are only enhanced by extraordinary facilities. Recently recognized as one of the top three resorts in Central/South America by Conde Nast Traveler's 19th annual Readers' Choice Awards, Llao Llao is a luxurious mountain lodge, designed in the style of Canada's greatest ski lodges, with exposed timbers and grand stone fireplaces. No matter what season, Llao Llao's a picture-perfect destination, with numerous recreational activities: 18-hole golf course, state-of-the-art spa, spectacular heated swimming pool with mountain views, mountain biking, skiing, fishing, horse back riding, sailing. (And awesome skiing in the off-season, come next May/June.)
Announcing the 1 Hotel and Residences, the brainchild of Barry Sternlicht, former big shot at Starwood. (As HotelChatter points out, this is the same mastermind behind the yet-to-be-seen Crillon lux hotel brand.) The new hotel brand aims to compete directly with the St. Regis (Starwood's lux label), Ritz-Carlton, and Four Seasons brands. And Sternlicht's setting his sights high: these hotels will have a "level of amenities and service lofty enough to earn a coveted five-star ranking from Mobil Travel Guide." Hotel launch locations will include Seattle, Scottsdale, Paris, Mammoth Mountain (Cali), and Fort Lauderdale. It's a crowded field. In South Florida, for example, the St. Regis Fort Lauderdale Hotel and Residences has been under construction since 2000 and is expected to open soon, and other luxury properties—including hotels by Trump and W—are in the works. (Not to mention the already existing five-star hotels.) How will 1 Hotels distinguish itself? It's being billed as the first ultra-luxurious, eco-friendly global hotel brand. 1 is planning to donate one percent of revenue from each hotel to local environmental groups, and the NRDC will serve as the environmental adviser.
Pictured: St. Regis, Fort Lauderdale
What could be better than a few days retreat at the exclusive Peter Island resort? Add to that a few nights onboard the luxurious 41' sailing yacht Silmaril. Peter Island has devised the picture-perfect way to experience the best the Caribbean has to offer. By boat, explore the crystal-clear waters of the British Virgin Islands, and on land, discover the 1,300 acres of lush tropical island, and get pampered in style at the sophisticated luxury resort considered one of the best hotels in the world. (Added bonus: the new, swanky $6 million Spa.) The Ashore/Afloat package includes accommodations, full American plan (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), private lunch on a nearby secluded beach, unlimited use of facilities/activies (tennis, hobie cats, windsurfing, fitness center) and airport transfers. From November 1, 2006 to December 19, 2006, the four night package starts from $4,659. (Seven nights start at $6,401). From January 4 to April 15, 2007, the package rates are $5,330 and $7,925 respectively. All rates are based on double occupancy.
The secret's out about Itacaré. The favorite destination of Gisele and Sean Penn—a tropical paradise of white sand, lush palms, waterfalls, mangrove swamps and turquoise waters-- will witness the hottest luxury hotel opening in 2007, with the debut of the gorgeous eco-resort Warapuru. Wallpaper* hails it as a "Bond-style hideaway" that is "set to become the country's most exclusive retreat." And to quote the Fall issue of the New York Times Style Magazine:
While progressively more luxurious eco-resorts have been opening in early-adopting regions, the boom is currently spreading to more surprising destinations — like megapolluting Brazil. "Anyone with any feeling for the world is going green," says the cult interior designer Anouska Hempel, who is at work on Warapuru, a lavish eco-resort set to open next year on Brazil's north coast; made entirely of locally sourced materials, it will have customized spa treatments using native plants.
Anouska Hempel (who did Blakes in London and The Hempel in Amsterdam) has created a modern visual masterpiece, nestled within the rainforest canopy on a unique coastline. Warapuru will have 40 pavilions, beach club, restaurants, and exclusive spa. Opening set for early 2007.
The dream team has been scheming to open a stunning all-season resort in the mountains of Idaho, and now the Fairmont Tamarack development is official. Agassi Graf Development LLC has partnered with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, who will manage the luxury hotel and residences in two locations: Tamarack's village and a mid-mountain site. The terrain is breathtaking (check out the sleek virtual brochure) and the resort promises extraordinary skiing, excellent fly fishing, a challenging Robert Trent Jones, Jr. golf course (with new Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf), white water rafting and watersports on the nearby rivers and Lake Cascade. To quote the daring duo:
Time together with family is one of the most treasured things in our lives. We value the days we spend together and the quality of the moments we share. We have discovered a location in the heart of central Idaho that creates the perfect backdrop for exceptional experiences and precious memories. Tamarack Resort, with its all-season landscape, provides families like ours an active outdoor lifestyle and a chance to appreciate its surrounding beauty. Fairmont Tamarack is our opportunity to share this extraordinary experience with you.
This "outdoor enthusiast's dream" is scheduled to open in 2008.
September 29, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The W hotel chain— adored by American urbanites for its sleek city hotels— has opened its first resort in the Maldives. Billed as a "sophisticated luxury playground," this Retreat and Spa is the first of its kind for W. Situated on the private tropical island of Fesdu, in the North Ari Atoll, the W Retreat and Spa combines indulgent all-villa accommodations with the Maldives first real nightlife: a subterranean grotto bar aptly called 15 BELOW because it's fifteen feet below the island's surface. This is the ultimate indulgence and exclusivity in the Maldives. In your private over-water villa, enjoy your own plunge pool, sundeck, and beach. Or marvel at the lagoon's colorful fish through the glass-paneled floor (the roof is likewise glass-paneled). The villas are all outfitted with outdoor lounging areas with individual barbeque stations for private dining, circular daybeds, and outdoor tropical showers. As to be expected from W Hotels, the accommodations are equipped with all the latest technology and conveniences: deluxe Bose sound systems, 42 inch plasma televisions, and wine refrigerators. Indulge in a spa treatment at the over-water AWAY spa. Lounge on the white-sand beaches, take a dip in the turquoise lagoon, and snorkel along the breathtaking reefs. The WAVE water sports facility is fully equipped with top-quality scuba diving gear, along with kite surfing, water skiing, wind surfing, kayaking, sailing, and endless other options. In the evening, dine at one of the six gourmet restaurants followed by a cocktail at the hip underground bar, which offers the largest selection of vodka in the Maldives. The W Retreat and Spa Maldives promises to be the ultimate private island paradise.
Among the fascinating destinations featured in the Fall issue of the New York Times Style Magazine: Travel, the ultra-exclusive game reserve in Tanzania's Serengeti intrigues because of the complexities and contrasts of modern-day Africa at its doorstep. Here lucky guests witness the spectacular seasonal migration of millions of wildebeest across the savannah while experiencing the exquisite luxury of one of the finest game lodges in Africa. The Grumeti Reserves is a 346,000-acre safari reserve, almost "a private extension of Serengeti National Park," its protected land a corridor right in the path of the great migration.
In the midst of all this is Sasakwa Lodge, a cluster of elegant colonial cottages with a spa and equestrian center on Sasakwa Hill. At $1,500 a night (part of which goes to the government as "hunting" revenue), Sasakwa is one of the most luxurious resorts in Africa.
At Sasakwa, each of the seven air-conditioned cottages is situated within the privacy of a beautifully landscaped garden, with heated infinity plunge pools, lounge, and spacious bedroom. This is the flagship of the Grumeti lodges, set high above the savannah, an elegant space of long, sweeping verandahs and classy lounges brimming with antiques.
No joke. Book a seven-night stay at the elite private island resort of Turtle Island, and get a free ticket from Los Angeles to Fiji. Or book a nine-night stay, and receive two airfares for free! The all-inclusive resort island is the favorite haunt of countless celebs and showcases eco-tourism at its luxurious finest-- more like "eco-hedonism," to quote Outside Magazine. Turtle Island is truly one of the world's most romantic resorts: 500 lush tropical acres for only 14 couples at one time, plus a staff of 150 to pamper them. Nightly rates start at $1,975 per night, per couple (Grand Bure accommodations). Rates are all-inclusive, including all gourmet meals, all drinks including alcohol, massage, deep sea fishing, horseback riding, private picnics, scuba diving, and countless other activities. Experience what Andrew Harper calls "as close to heaven on earth as you’re likely to get." Valid until March 31, 2007.
September 15, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, schools of colorful fish, sea lions… The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most fascinating wildlife on earth, a living study of evolutionary science since Charles Darwin first sailed through these isolated islands. A 10-day voyage with International Expeditions— the premier provider of nature travel tours and environmentally responsible expeditions for over 25 years— allows visitors the chance to see these remarkable animals up close and personal, in their natural habitat. Explore the islands' diverse terrain-- deserts, beaches, forests, and small active volcanoes-- and snorkel next to tortoises and sea lions in the clear Pacific waters. Sail aboard the Evolution, a newly-refurbished ship crafted like the European steamers of old, with comfortable accommodations for just 32 guests. During the trip, you will be accompanied by highly-trained naturalist guides extremely knowledgeable about the Galapagos wildlife. There are a few spaces available for 2006 journeys, with departures on October 6 and 20; November 3 and 24; and December 15.