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.
September 14, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
After the devastation caused by Hurricane Wilma, Cancun is making a grand comeback. The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun is the latest luxury hotel to announce its reopening, scheduled for September 27, 2006 after a dazzling renewal program. Proudly advertising its status as the "world's only Triple Five Diamond oceanfront resort," the exclusive hotel has been completely refurbished with new features and attractions. Considered one of the most luxurious resorts in the world, the Ritz-Carlton, Cancun sits on a spectacular white sand beach, (115 feet wide and 1,200 feet long), the pride of Cancun. The hotel's tiled roofs, fountains, wrought iron handrails, and private patios reflect the region's rich Spanish-Mexican heritage. With AAA Five Diamond restaurants, the indulgent Kayanta Spa, Cliff Drysdale Tennis Club and Pro Shop with three outdoor courts, sculpted outdoor pools, fitness center, and new Culinary Center, this tropical getaway is well deserving of the 2005 National Quality Award, presented by Mexican President Vicente Fox.
There's no shortage of spectacular picnic spots in Vancouver: observe harbor seals from your seat on the rocks at Lighthouse Park, hit the rainforest trails of Stanley Park (or soak up the sun at Third Beach), find a spot in the grass on Granville Island (after kayaking down False Creek), enjoy the people-watching along the seawall at Davie Street in Yaletown, or unpack your picnic after hiking Grouse Mountain, munching on lunch while savoring the beautiful view of city and ocean. Four Seasons Vancouver has recently launched a Day Tripper Menu, so that guests can visit these gorgeous urban picnic spots with a deluxe gourmet meal (by backpack or basket).
Recently named as one of the top ten luxury hotels "worth the splurge" by SmarterTravel.com, Cheeca Lodge is the ultimate Caribbean resort— only it's still within the continental United States. Situated on 27 lush acres in Islamorada, halfway down the Florida Keys archipelago, Cheeca Lodge delights guests with its luxurious facilities: spa with lap pool, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, six lighted tennis courts, saltwater lagoon stocked full of fish, a myriad of water sports, brand new Deluxe Beachfront Bungalows with private balconies and gardens, and award-winning dining. Just offshore, the only tropical coral reef in the continental US delights snorkelers and divers with its teeming marine life, and anglers are thrilled by the fishing opportunities— 600 species of fish in the surrounding waters!— in the self-proclaimed "sport fishing capital of the world."
And from now until mid-December 2006, Cheeca Lodge and Spa is celebrating its 60th anniversary and offering special room rates of 40 percent off. Rates start from $160 per night, and includes accommodations in a Deluxe Resort View Room, $60 credit towards food purchases or spa treatment, and a chilled bottle of champagne in room upon arrival. Must book room for a Sunday or Monday night arrival. Two-night minimum required. Make your reservation by October 6, 2006.
Le Meridien Tahiti is one of those dreamy tropical locales— you know, the ones with over-water bungalows on stilts over the perfectly clear blue— that travel magazines ooh and ahh about. It's also got a swimming pool with a sandy bottom, a long white-sand beach that curves around a gorgeous lagoon, water sports aplenty (cruise on a catamaran with or without a skipper), tennis and volleyball, and excellent dining options. From now until mid-December, Le Meridien Tahiti has slashed their prices and is offering the "Linger Longer for Less" package, at 50 percent off hotel rack rates. A three-night stay (double occupancy) will set you back a mere $820; six nights-- $1,490. At $249 a night, what a steal.
According to GaultMillau— the influential French guide to restaurants, hotels and wine-- that honor goes to the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland, named "Hotel of the Year" for 2006. The iconic landmark has wowed its high-profile clientele with impeccable service since 1861. And Forbes.com recently rated the hotel's new Cinq Mondes Spa "one of the most luxurious spas in the world."
But according to Andrew Harper's Hideaway report, the best international resort for 2006 is the Four Seasons Punta Mita, the Mexican paradise getaway just 26 miles from Puerto Vallarta (gorgeous oceanfront rooms, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, heavenly spa, and all that jazz.)
What's your vote?
Besides the accolades for its world-class tennis program, the premiere Southern California resort of Rancho Valencia is destined to become a top Spa destination as well. Located just 25 miles north of downtown San Diego, Rancho Valencia is an all-suite hideaway set within 40 acres of lush landscaping. The 43 suites— decked out with cathedral ceilings, hand painted tiles, fireplaces, and private garden patios— seem reminiscent of early California haciendas. This summer, the resort opened its full-service Spa Rancho Valencia, a center for health and well-being which offers yoga and Pilates classes and a well-equipped fitness center (PreCor cardio machines with personal televisions and DVD players) in addition to its superb treatment menu. Each of the ten treatment rooms boast private patios, and the two couples treatment rooms even have fireplaces, outdoor showers, and tubs for two. The Spa also offers a new lap pool (with private cabanas available), three therapy pools, and a Watsu treatment pool. The luxurious treatments incorporate the indigenous plants found at the resort, and pure essential oils of citrus, avocado and eucalyptus. Signature treatments include Zest for Life— a 120-minute treatment starting in the signature Vichy rain room with a rosemary and lemon steam, followed by an uplifting bergamot and fresh lemon zest sea salt exfoliation, and finished with a massage— and the Terra Cotta Clay Couples Clay Bake.
Take advantage of a superb Fall Special, which includes a $75 Spa Credit, with the Suite and Spa and Breakfast Package. Starting from $450 per night, the package includes Suite Accommodations for Two Nights, $75 Spa Credit, per person, and breakfast for two daily, including tax and gratuity. Two-night minimum stay required. Valid through November 17, 2006.
September 11, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Though hardly new— the exclusive private island of Cayo Espanto has been pampering guests since 1998— the ultra-luxe resort has put Ambergris Cay, Belize on the map. Just eight minutes by boat from the town of San Pedro on Ambergris, Cayo Espanto has developed the best kind of environmentally-friendly luxury resort. The five oceanfront villas are sprawling in size and feature personal plunge pools, private docks, al fresco showers, romantic mosquito netting over the beds, and 180 degree wrap-around views of the Caribbean. Here, lucky guests enjoy the ultimate pampered relaxation: spa services are readily available, chefs prepare personalized gourmet fare with the freshest tropical ingredients, and activities include fly-fishing, boating and conching excursions, scuba diving and snorkeling the second largest barrier reef in the world (including the famous Blue Hole), and sailing to deserted beaches for a gourmet picnic. Though Belize is less than two hours from Miami, its sparkling waters are still largely undiscovered. Enjoy your own private island at Cayo Espanto.
September 8, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Your own pristine private island accessible only by boat and seaplane, Little Palm Island is a lush tropical paradise listed among the top resorts in the world by Conde Nast Traveler and Travel and Leisure magazines. The internationally-acclaimed resort has got it all: romantic, spacious guestrooms (outfitted with ocean facing verandahs, private outdoor showers and jetted tubs), a heated lagoon style pool, natural white sand beach (rare for the Keys!), cozy Great Room library, endless array of watercraft choices, and fitness room. But the best part of all is the candle-lit Dining Room. Recently voted the best Hotel Dining Room in the Southeast by the Zagat Survey and number three in the nation, the Dining Room creates a real epicurean experience, sure to delight even the most discriminating of foodies. Executive Chef Luis Pous and his culinary team serve exceptional French-Caribbean plates served in a magical setting overlooking the turquoise sea. (And the service is really unparalleled.)
September 7, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Amanresorts has devised an incredible expedition to explore Komodo National Park, the World Heritage Site in the magical islands of Indonesia, where guests will be escorted by park rangers to view the Komodo dragons in their natural habitat. Though the 2006 Komodo Expedition is completely sold out, Amanwana is taking reservations for the 2007 expeditions, to take place between May and October 2007.
The seven-night adventure cruise is an island-hopping adventure to some of the world's most pristine marine environments, colorful dive spots, and beautiful beaches. Guests board the Ikan Gurami-- a traditional 27-meter coastal cruiser romantically reminiscent of the spice trade sailing vessels—which consists of luxurious, air-conditioned teak cabins perfect for a few couples or a family. For the last two nights of the expedition, guests enjoy the resort of Amanwana—a luxury tented wilderness hideaway-- and its nature reserve of Moyo Island. From here, explore the jungle's waterfalls and limestone pools, partake in endless water sports, or indulge in a spa treatment. Starting at $14,150 for an Ocean Tent (one couple.) Includes meals and dives.