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.
Nestled in the gentle sloping foothills of the Pyrenees, the elegant city of Pau is excellently situated for jaunts into the mountains, by foot or on skis. Along the grand blvd des Pyrenees, the rugged mountain peaks emerge majestically through mist and cloud. Indeed the palm-lined promenade, packed with cafes and trendy bars, seems more reminiscent of Nice than the quiet neighboring villages of France's Southwest. This vibrant university town, long favored by travelers and wintering Brits for its mild climate and sweeping vistas, has transformed into a modern and stylish urban center. The nearby Jurancon vineyards lure oenophiles, and Pau natives point out the convenience of the Atlantic coast, just an hour away. Where to stay? On the edge of the Parc Beaumont, the famous public garden in the heart of Pau, the new Parc Beaumont Hotel is a contemporary luxury hotel with elegant interior design. Excellent amenities include heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and Turkish bath in the spa, and exquisite gastronomic restaurant, Jeu de Paume. From the terrace in your suite, enjoy lovely views of the Pyrenees.
Dating from 1902, Blantyre is a Tudor-country-house estate (modeled after a castle in Scotland) situated amidst 100 acres of impeccably manicured grounds. Critics hail Blantyre as America's Best Inn, its elegant surroundings and superb service conjuring a bygone time of gracious living and refined taste. Here is the ideal spot to enjoy the Berkshires countryside and fall foliage. Recipient of the Mobil Five-Star Award since 2003, Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2002, and Andrew Harper's Hideaway Grand Award Winner, Blantyre offers guests an experience of grandeur. Guest rooms feature hand-carved four poster beds, fireplaces, French windows, and lavish furnishings. Play croquet on the tournament-rated croquet courts, hit on the four Har-Tru tennis courts, enjoy the heated pool, relax in the excellent new spa (housed in Blantyre's original Potting Shed), or take to the trails to appreciate the beautiful changing leaves. The hotel is happy to prepare a special picnic basket, decorated with flowers and ribbons, just for the occasion. Dinner, likewise, is a memorable experience (jacket and tie required).
Conde Nast Traveler Gold list. AAA Four Diamond award, 15 consecutive years. Best in Colorado, Golf Digest. Best Romantic Getaway in North America, Mountain Living Magazine. The list of awards is staggering. Situated on a mountain top in a 6,500-acre private wilderness, with sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains, The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera is a magical mountain hideaway. After a $5 million renovation in 2004, the 56 luxurious guest rooms have new bathrooms with tumbled-stone floors and extravagant new linens, the Avanyu spa has been expanded to 20,000 square feet with new treatment rooms and amenities, and the acclaimed Mirador restaurant boasts a new private dining area, new menu, and elegant wine cellar.
Besides the excellent winter skiing at nearby Vail or Beaver Creek, The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera is known for its world-class golf. The resort features access to six championship golf courses, designed by several of the greatest names in golf (Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Tom Fazio, Dave Pelz, and Greg Norman). The facilities are excellent, and the scenery absolutely breathtaking. For a limited time, the resort is taking 30 percent off its fall golf packages, which includes two nights accommodations, a round of golf per person, one couples massage, and a dinner for two. Rates are $426 per person, September 5-30, 2006, and $386 per person, October 1-31, 2006.
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.