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.)
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.
What could be better than good Southern eats, coupled with that legendary Southern hospitality, at the elegant Inn at Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina's picturesque Low Country? The 2006 Andrew Harper's Hideaway Grand Award Winner is a peaceful and luxurious retreat just minutes from Savannah and Hilton Head Island. Surrounded by flowering gardens overlooking the May River, the Inn provides the ultimate pampering resort experience expected of a world-renowned Auberge Resort. It is also South Carolina's greatest golf resort.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday with the Inn at Palmetto Bluff and treat yourself to a delicious, traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the River House along with a slew of exciting family-oriented activities. Beginning Thursday, November 23 and continuing through Sunday, November 26, 2006 fun-filled adventures include: family games, the Crab Cake Social, 5K Turkey Trot, oyster roast, cider and hot chocolate around the fire pits, cooking and and wine demonstration, and a cruise on the May River for dolphin watching.
The quiet island of Vieques, located eight miles off Puerto Rico's east coast, could be the best-kept secret in the Caribbean. Dreamy, secluded and breathtakingly beautiful, the island's 55 square miles are pristine and untouristed. The island's swankiest hotel, the Martineau Bay Resort and Spa, will close at the end of September to morph into the Caribbean's first W Hotel, slated to open next year. For the next month, the hotel is offering exceedingly attractive rates starting at $149 a night (that's a 30 percent discount). Set on two gorgeous Atlantic-facing beaches, the hotel features sumptuous accommodations, excellent dining, world-class spa, recreational facilities galore, and a large two-level pool surrounded by a lovely coral-stone sundeck.
September 6, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Easily one of the hottest new hotels in the world, The Standard shook things up in Miami when it opened in late 2005, created by hotelier Andre Balazs as a hydrotherapy playground with communal spa activities. The hotel represents the advanced spa-hotel concept at its finest, with its incredible and innovative spa. (Mud lounge, anyone?) Located on quiet Belle Island, a calm refuge from South Beach, The Standard, Miami is as creative with the names of its room types-- Missionary, Lush, Dry, Wet, and the Full Spread—as it is with the spa features and amenities. Guest rooms are designed in the simple Scandinavian tradition, with plush features including Egyptian cotton sheets and fluffy pillows, day beds, private outdoor living rooms, mood lighting, spa showers, outdoor soaking tubs, mini bars stuffed with yummy organic stuff, Kiss My Face amenities, high speed internet, flat screen TVs, DVD library and CD players.
Now couldn't be a better time to check out this higher Standard, with a hot Autumn deal from the hotel. The Holistic Hideaway is a two-night escape for just $395, which includes Accommodations, Limitless use of indoor and outdoor baths, Turkish hammam, sauna, aroma steam room, sound pool, Roman waterfall, hot tub, arctic plunge and gymnasium, Your choice of either one in-room "Standard" massage or two "quickie" massages, An invigorating "Just Pure" herbal bath, Complimentary access to the mud lounge, Two Yoga classes in The Standard's Movement and Meditation Center, Spa breakfasts for two every morning, and a two-course wholesome dinner for two at The Lido Restaurant. Wow.
Via Daily Candy (The package is just $350 for Daily Candy readers)
September 4, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The German-born executive chef of The Lodge at Sea Island will be teaching a delicious array of authentic German specialties, including sauerbraten (a savory, marinated German pot roast), spätzle (handmade German noodles), and schnitzel (crispy pan-fried veal cutlets with aromatic herbs). The next session of the Sea Island Cooking School takes place on September 18 and 19, 2006, starting with the Friday evening private reception and dinner with Chef Johannes Klapdohr in The Lodge Wine Cellar. Also includes Saturday morning cooking school with lunch prepared by the participants, Sunday brunch, and your very own monogrammed chef's jacket. The "Cook Together" package starts at $850 per night, with a two night minimum stay. (If you miss the cooking school, there's always the annual Oktoberfest celebration at Sea Island on October 10, 2006.)
"Add some sizzle with schnitzel," Chef Johannes Klapdohr says. And here's a teaser for your next Fall tailgating picnic, for Southern German Potato Salad:
2 lb. Potatoes
1 lg. Onion, finely diced
2 c. Chicken stock
6 tbsp. Vinegar (mild vinegar like apple, with 5 percent acidity)
1 tbsp. Mustard
1 tsp. Salt
4 tbsp. Oil
1 tbsp. Parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Chives, finely cut
Pepper and Nutmeg to taste
Boil the potatoes in their jackets and peel while still hot.
Sweat onions with one tablespoon of oil and deglaze with chicken stock. Set aside.
Slice potatoes thinly in large bowl.
Season potatoes with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Add mustard, vinegar, parsley and chives.
Pour chicken stock over potatoes and add oil.
Mix carefully and let rest for 1 hr.
August 31, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
On the elegant and exclusive island of St. Barts, Le Sereno is a beautiful hideaway designed by famous Parisian designer Christian Liaigre in a modern, minimalist style. Located seaside on the Grand Cul de Sac Beach, the fashionable hotel is an intimate and stylish refuge of only 37 suites. Formerly the Sereno Beach Hotel, Le Sereno reopened to much applause from discriminating travelers and press in late 2005. The makeover was exquisite: rooms are minimalist masterpieces with bare white walls and dark wood floors, and feature beautiful gardens with large daybeds, private terraces, private bars, and ocean views. As expected technology is superb: wireless Internet, plasma TV, two-line phones, personal iPods and iPod docking stations, and the amenities are luxurious: robes and towels especially made for Le Sereno by D. Porthault, Ex Voto Paris amenities, 310-Thread count linens. Enjoy the Beach Club, located on the hotel's 600 feet of palm-dotted white sand beach, and relax by the beachfront freshwater swimming pool. Or for those feeling more adventurous, numerous water sports are available, along with a fitness club. The Spa is currently under construction.