Howdy! I recently had the opportunity to tour Hyatt Zilara Cancun and want to share it all with you! Be sure and click on each heading to check out my Instagram videos and contact your Chief Travel Guru with any questions. You guys are going to love this property!
Follow me into the grand marble open-air lobby of the all-inclusive adults only Hyatt Zilara Cancun and look up at amazement at the stained-glass ceiling – and featuring easy access to the Hotel Zone with views of the lagoon in the front and the ocean in the back.
We then get a glimpse of the buffet dining option – Spice – which boasts of international cuisine in a casual atmosphere. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bonus – they have a make your own pasta station! Yum!
On to check out the rooms – here we tour a Jr. Suite King Ocean Front. This stunning room has a spacious bathroom and a jacuzzi tub in the living area that looks out over the balcony to the ocean. FYI – should you choose a lagoon view room – it will offer you amazing sunset views.
Accommodations, Fitness and Spa
If you do a Jr. Suite Ocean Front you may also have views of the pool area and if you are on ground level it may be a swim up room. If you have either of these luxury rooms – you also get use of a cabana on the beach for free. Should you book a non-luxury category – you would still have access to cabanas, but you would have to pay for them.
Connecting rooms are available - on request and subject to availability. And room service – this is unique – you have a “magic box” with a door and a light. When the light is illuminated it means your food has arrived. And once you are done you can put your dirty dishes back in the box, so you don’t have to see them.
They also have a large fitness center with plenty of windows and ocean views while you are working out. In addition – they have a huge spa on site that features an oceanfront gazebo for outdoor treatments. Another cool thing available at the spa is the opportunity for you to create your own oils and creams based on what your body needs, jar it up and take it with you for use during your stay – for an additional charge.
The Pool Area
In this spot I give you more spa views – which includes a sun deck and a Zen Water Journey experience. Then onto an up-close view of the swim out rooms that have cabanas right in front of them for your relaxation. You can also see how large the main pool is here and how it looks out over the ocean. Stunning!
We pan by Pelicanos - a gourmet Caribbean fare dining experience and then to the uber important pool bar. The pool does have a quiet section for those of you who prefer quiet over activity.
Moving along we visit Casa del Café – for flavorful coffee as well as ice cream, decadent deserts and yummy baked goods. Chef’s Plate is our next stop – which is a fabulous five-course gourmet experience with a new menu every day and wines selected to compliment the meal. This is for guests staying in premium suite categories only – another reason to upgrade! And finally, to La Adelita Cantina – featuring Caribbean seafood as well as Mexican cuisine and cocktails made from local tequila and mezcal.
And More Food Options
For those of you that enjoy Asian fare there’s Asiana Restaurant – that will delight with a Teppanyaki cooking show and sunset views. And don’t worry – there are plenty of bar areas – like Time Out where you can shoot pool and grab some drinks and appetizers 24 hours a day.
For more details on the fabulous Hyatt Zilara Cancun, their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
*NOTE: Starting April 1st all international visitors over age 15 to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum, will have to pay a new tourism tax of 224 pesos.
Howdy! I recently had the opportunity to tour Hyatt Ziva Cancun and want to share it all with you! Be sure and click on each heading to check out my Instagram videos and contact your Chief Travel Guru with any questions. You guys are going to love this property!
Lobby, Pool, Beach and Dining
Join me as I enter the all-inclusive Hyatt Ziva Cancun's stunning open-air lobby that looks out over the pool area and ocean, then walk with me down to the pool area to check out the huge pool with plenty of cabanas (which are an extra charge) and that oh so important swim up pool bar. Here you also get a glimpse of the theater on property.
As we walk around, we see that there is the amazing fire pit area that overlooks the water – perfect for destination weddings - where you can hold your rehearsal dinner or even your reception if you like.
Another thing you will notice as I tour the outside of the property is that since the hotel is located on the top of the seven of the hotel zone when you look out from the beach you can see Isla Mujeres this also makes the ocean calmer here.
Then onto El Mercado- the resorts buffet restaurant – which you do need reservations for dinner and then over to the Moongate Asian Fusion restaurant where you can sit up close and watch the chefs cook in an open kitchen or at a table – reservations are required.
More Dining Options
Check out the oh so cool Chevy’s Diner where you can sit in a car or at the bar! Or how about Italian restaurant Lorenzo’s where you can watch them make pizza right before your eyes.
Heading back outside you can tour Mayan Ruins – right on property! So cool! And oh those ocean views. But wait – there are the swim up rooms with that ocean view for families with children ages 13 years and older. These provide lounge chairs right in the water and a hammock on the patio. Sweet!
Hyatt Ziva also has a Club Level – and here you get a glimpse of the private lounge as well as the private check in area. There is also a tranquil pool where there are no activities making it a peaceful place to hang out.
Get a glimpse of a Tower King Room – Ocean View – with a grand bathroom and a sleeper sofa so you can sleep three. You can also get a room with two double beds to sleep four. Thanks to the fact that you are at the point of the seven the views from the Tower Club Room are of the seven miles of hotels lined up down the beach in the zone – which is an absolutely incredible view.
You’ll also get a peek at an Ocean View King Room Turquoize Tower which is the adults only section of the hotel. Featuring a peek-a-boo shower, a jacuzzi on the balcony and amazing pool and ocean views - this is the room I want!
This and That
Join me Casa del Café for some flavorful coffee then head over to the mouthwatering Pasteles Desert Parlor for luscious baked goods and ice cream! See the children’s water park – complete with a slide and you’ll also notice a golf simulator for the big kids!
Latin America’s only brewery is located right on property and its family friendly! Featuring home brewed beers, pool tables and a sports bar – this is a great place to hang! And get ready for probably the coolest thing on property – dolphins! Yes, you can swim with the dolphins right on property!
For more details on the fabulous Hyatt Ziva Cancun, their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
*NOTE: Starting April 1st all international visitors over age 15 to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum, will have to pay a new tourism tax of 224 pesos.
Howdy! I recently had the opportunity to tour Panama Jack Resorts Cancun and want to share it all with you! Be sure and click on each heading to check out my Instagram videos and contact your Chief Travel Guru with any questions. You guys are going to love this property!
Walk with me as I enter the beautiful open-air lobby of this family friendly and budget minded resort and catch a glimpse of Panama Jack Coffee Company, Viaggio Italian restaurant and Jack’s Landing lobby bar. Jack’s Landing has a stage where you can catch live music and some amazing décor – especially the ceilings.
For Kids and Teens
Next – for the kiddos – Camp Jack with a really cool water park that includes a water slide encased in a castle plus an indoor play area as well. Then on to their teens club #Hashtag for the older children ages 13 to 17. Indoors you will find big screen TV’s, pool, foosball and arcade games. There is also a virtual reality experience available here – for an extra cost. Outdoors – a soccer field!
Here, There and Everywhere
For those of you who choose Panama Jack for a destination wedding – get this – there is an oceanfront catholic chapel on site! Then back to Panama Jack Coffee Company where we go inside and hear the bell that rings when fresh bread is brought out of the ocean. Yum!
On to the accommodations – how about swim out – ocean front rooms? Pretty amazing views! We also get a tour of a family room – this one with one king and bunk beds that have a pull-out bed on the bottom bunk and thus sleeps five! The best part? The ground level rooms have access to the kid’s club right off the patio!
And our last stop is the stunning Casa de Rosa restaurant which features Mexican cuisine and hacienda style décor.
This one starts with a fabulous Instagrammable photo op – a giant, colorful Cancun sign! Then on to the beautiful main pool area as well as the Las Olas beach bar where you can relax with your drink in a cabana or on a lounge chair. And if you’re hungry – hit up the grab and go pizza station!
For more details on the fabulous Panama Jack Resorts Cancun, their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
*NOTE: Starting April 1st all international visitors over age 15 to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum, will have to pay a new tourism tax of 224 pesos.
Howdy! I recently had the opportunity to tour Panama Jack Resorts Playa del Carmen and want to share it all with you! Be sure and click on each heading to check out my Instagram videos and contact your Chief Travel Guru with any questions. You guys are going to love this property!
Introduction, Rooms and Event Space
I start off our tour with the large and oh so pretty open-air lobby of this all-inclusive family friendly property that you can clearly see has all social distancing protocols in place.
Taking a look at the accommodations we see a Courtyard View King room. It features a very spacious bathroom - with a super cool walk-in shower may I add! Since it is a family property, they do offer rooms with bunk beds for families of up to five. We then check out the amazing view from an Ocean View room – including a beach filled with cabanas that looks so relaxing!
On to some event space – there’s a gazebo overlooking the ocean that would be a perfect place to say your vows or even hold a private dinner for up to ten people.
Touring the Property
Here’s a peek at Camp Jack for the smaller kids – ages four to 12. It includes a kid’s pool / water park as well as mini-golf. FYI - This property also features a Teens Club for the older kids.
In the food department – I tempt you with the coffee shops amazing sugary treats then onto the 24-hour snack bar where you can get what you want any time of the day! You also get a tour of the open-air lobby bar that looks out to the pool area and beyond that out to the ocean. And the final shots are of Ventana’s buffet – which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and Ipanema Brazilian Steakhouse. Yum!
Everybody in the Pool
The main pool area is actually separated into two parts – one side is quieter, and the other side is where the activities take place – both with marvelous views of the ocean by the way. Out here you will find Jack’s Shack pool bar right in the middle and off to the side a food truck – how fun! There is another smaller pool separated from the main pool – for adults - that is actually next to Off the Hook which is a sushi bar.
Also on this link you’ll see shots of Aura Spa, Bella Italian restaurant and Zarape restaurant.
For more details on the fabulous Panama Jack Resorts Playa del Carmen their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
*NOTE: Starting April 1st all international visitors over age 15 to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum, will have to pay a new tourism tax of 224 pesos.
Howdy! I recently had the opportunity to tour Hilton Playa Del Carmen and want to share it all with you! Be sure and click on each heading to check out my Instagram videos and contact your Chief Travel Guru with any questions. You guys are going to love this property!
Introduction, Food and Drink
My first video gives you an idea of the beauty of this all-inclusive adult only property – thanks to an amazing open-air lobby and welcome area with fabulous views.
You then get a glimpse of the scrumptious baked goods and desserts available at Café Aroma – which are served with fabulous coffee – this is my kind of place! Then onto the Mexican Cantina – a brightly colored bar where you can have mixologist mix whatever drink you want – again – my kind of place! Next is the gorgeous outside area where tequila tastings take place in the evening. And we end at Spice which is the buffet area that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Water, Water Everywhere!
Here you’ll see the uber relaxing – and quiet - wellness pool with Mediterranean restaurant Kalamata restaurant in the background. The swim out suites that are soooo sweet can be seen too – a private area of a larger pool (that spans the length of the wing of rooms) right off the patio with lounges and a table in the water waiting for you to join them! Then you have the beach with private cabanas galore! Depending on the room category you choose you may already have one reserved or perhaps one right off your patio! You will also get an idea of the main pool – very large – also with cabanas and lounges right in the water and where you would find the daily activities as well.
Accommodations And Miscellaneous
Check out this tour of the King Room with the jacuzzi tub in the main area! This particular one is pool view and if you are on ground level the pool is literally steps away from your patio.
Also highlighted here - if you are thinking of doing a destination wedding - there is a breathtaking infinity area with ocean views that is absolutely perfect!
We end up with two more dining options. The more upscale Chef’s Plate restaurant - which is included depending on the room category you choose (if it’s not included you can still dine here for an extra fee). And Maria, Marie – a Mexican-French fusion restaurant open for dinner.
For more details on the fabulous Hilton Playa Del Carmen, their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
*NOTE: Starting April 1st all international visitors over age 15 to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum, will have to pay a new tourism tax of 224 pesos.
Howdy! I recently had the opportunity to tour Royalton CHIC Suites Cancun Resort & Spa and want to share it all with you! Be sure and click on each heading to check out my Instagram videos and contact your Chief Travel Guru with any questions. You guys are going to love this property!
Just a quick look around the entrance to this “Chic” resort! Note – this one is Adult’s Only – ages 18 and up only.
Take A Look Around
Here you will find me showcasing key points of the property. Starting with the spa – which is called The Royal Spa and is a full service health facility dedicated to wellness.
Then on to the third floor you will find a Hunter Steakhouse, Score Lounge and the delightful culinary experience – Jade – which is Asian cuisine. Not to mention amazing ocean views all around!
Heading up to the eighth floor I check out the Luxury Two Double Sunset View Room which includes a balcony that faces the beautiful lagoon.
And continuing to the awesome rooftop that is adorned with cabanas, hot tubs, pools and more amazing 360-degree views. Note - If you get Diamond Club you have access to alcoholic beverages here as well. There is also space here for a cocktail hour should you want to hold a corporate retreat or perhaps if you are doing a destination wedding you can do your rehearsal dinner or even reception here!
For more details on the fabulous Royalton CHIC Suites Cancun Resort & Spa, their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
*NOTE: Starting April 1st all international visitors over age 15 to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum, will have to pay a new tourism tax of 224 pesos.
Howdy! I recently had the opportunity to tour Planet Hollywood Cancun and want to share it all with you! Be sure and click on each heading to check out my Instagram videos and contact your Chief Travel Guru with any questions. You guys are going to love this property!
First up – the resort entrance where you immediately feel like you are a star! Bright lights and music - and a welcome drink - await! As for dining – they feature 13 restaurants including a buffet. As far as seating, the buffet is divided into sections - one for adults only, one for families and one for Star Class - however everyone has access to the same food. And it is super important to note that my Star Class folks get premium bar options as opposed to house options too!
The beautiful – and delicious smelling spa – where my Star Class folks will have access to the one hour hydrotherapy with an appointment!
The resort features a state-of-the-art fitness center should you want to work out. For the families there is a great family friendly pool complete with a water park and lazy river. There is also a FlowRider that you can get a free pass to if you chose Star Class and stay at least three nights. If you are not Star Class, it is a $20 daily fee and reservations are required. And if you are looking for a destination wedding or a corporate event there is a fabulous raised outdoor area with amazing ocean views.
Around the Property
Some more views of the oh so relaxing Lazy River where you will notice that there is a bar to stop at while you are floating along! The property has a great beach that even features cabanas for outdoor massages should you care to partake!
Adult Only Section
This is the exclusive section for those staying in the Adult Scene (adult only) part of the resort. One of the coolest things you will find here is that the pool has been set up for some outdoor hydrotherapy sessions at your leisure! There are also two restaurants here that are free for Adult Scene occupants.
Accommodations, Food Options and More
To give you an idea of how the Star Class differs it is basically the same room – just upgraded amenities in the room and what you have access to on property – in addition to a separate check in area and lounge. In the video you will see an Ocean View Junior Suite - King Room. Check out the super cool bathroom mirrors! Another cool feature – instead of irons they use steamers – which I love. And you will find a famous movie quote sprawled across the wall in each room as well (the one in this particular room is a Ferris Bueller classic!) Also, here you will see a mini mall that you can shop on property as well as the several of the restaurants and bars.
One Last Look Around
And the final clip is of various other spots around this colorful and oh so hip property.
For more details on the fabulous Planet Hollywood Cancun their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
*NOTE: Starting April 1st all international visitors over age 15 to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum, will have to pay a new tourism tax of 224 pesos.
Hello my friends! In today’s video chat series, we are going to journey to the Caribbean and introduce you to a great opportunity to visit two islands that are literally two miles away from each other – yet offer two entirely different flavors. The islands? Saint Kitts and Nevis.
And joining me today to make the introduction is my fabulous colleague Greg Phillip - the CEO and Founder of Nevis Sun Tours Inc. - a destination management company based in Saint Kitts and Nevis. Greg’s enthusiasm, energy and infectious smile while talking to us about what these destinations offer is sure to have you texting me to ask when you can visit them in person.
Ready for takeoff? Well then buckle up because here we go!
About the Islands: Saint Kitts and Nevis are located just south of Puerto Rico, adjacent to Antigua, Barbuda and the Guadalupe Islands and north of Dominica - which means they are situated right in the heart of the Caribbean. Together Saint Kitts and Nevis are actually one country - a dual-island nation situated between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Nevis is the smaller of the two at only 36 square miles but according to Greg - the great thing about it is that once you're there - it doesn't feel as small as it actually is. Both islands offer you great beaches as well as beautiful panoramic views of the cloud shrouded mountains from pretty much anywhere you are.
Getting There: From the US mainland you fly directly into Saint Kitts - which as you probably have already surmised is the larger island of the duo. If you are staying in Nevis – the transfer from the Saint Kitts is seamless as you will be picked up at the airport via taxi and then proceed to get taken on one of the most wonderful introductory drives you can get in a destination that is new to you. The taxi takes you to the pier where you will board another taxi – this time a water taxi – over to Nevis. Now if you are concerned about being on boat – don’t be! The distance between the two islands is just two simple miles and it is only going to take around six minutes to get from one island to the other. And of course, being in the water is a great opportunity to see these gorgeous islands from another vantage point. The best part is that all of this is pre-arranged for you by myself and Greg as I build your itinerary - meaning you don't have to worry about planning all of these moving pieces because we take care of you from beginning to end so all you have to do is just relax and enjoy!
Accommodations: There are a number of different resorts, homes and villas that are available for you to choose from as far as accommodations. Some are on the beach, some are in the mountains but pretty much all of the properties you will find in Saint Kitts and Nevis really provide an opportunity for some incredibly unique stays - as they are not like anything you've ever seen anywhere else in the world. And – being that they all have a different flavor of their own you have an opportunity to – as Greg put it - pick the one that really and truly tickles your fancy.
If you have booked with me before you know that even though there are branded properties available – I tend to steer you toward the non-branded properties – meaning a lot of my itineraries focus on the small, boutique properties that exude the local atmosphere. That doesn’t mean that if you want a branded property I can’t help - I absolutely can coordinate that for you, just keep in mind that I really want you to have that full cultural immersion experience so I'm going to offer you something with more of a local flair, that has a boutique feeling and is not cookie cutter - because with me and Book Here, Give Here it's all about the curated travel experience.
All-Inclusive Packages (Sort Of): So, let me start off by reiterating what Greg did - in Saint Kitts and Nevis there are no all-inclusive hotels. However – what Nevis Sun Tours has done is through their partnerships they’ve created all-inclusive stays on the island regardless of fact that there are no all-inclusive hotels. What they have come up with is really something that is a great innovation because what they essentially present is an opportunity for you to come to an island and not simply be confined to a single hotel property as you normally are in an all-inclusive resort. So, with Greg’s help I have an opportunity to have a package created just for your specific requests.
For instance – should you want to participate in some tours while you are there, we can set them up and include them in the price. This means you are paying for only for the things that you decide that you want to experience. These packages also include your transportation and you get the chance to decide if you would like a car rental so that you can drive yourself around or if you prefer to take taxis. The same goes for dining – and Greg related a story about how creative they can be with these packages. Apparently in the past they had a group who decided that they preferred to eat specifically at one restaurant every evening for dinner – which was no problem for Greg and his team. They worked specifically with the restaurant to ensure that every evening there was a different menu so that it did not feel like they were dining in the same restaurant night after night.
Sightseeing and Activities: For those of you guys who like a little bit more activity there are all kinds of things you can do such as bike tours or walking tours. There is also a lot of history on the islands and the day trips Nevis Sun Tours offer are a perfect way to learn all about it. You can do a day trip in Nevis and a day trip in Saint Kitts – no matter which island you choose to stay on.
Greg also pointed out the one of the great things is that the islands cater to families with children. Which of course with more of you homeschooling the kiddos, you really have an opportunity here to make travel a learning classroom - and it is something that the kids will never forget. They will take with them as they grow older plus it helps to build that love of travel and adventure in them. Bonus – Nevis Sun Tours offers a day trip specifically geared towards families. It's fashioned in such a way that the family gets to spend time together and they get to do things that everybody is actually interested in doing – making for a very meaningful experience together.
Fun Fact: Alexander Hamilton - who thanks to a little Broadway show you may have heard of - is quite the popular fellow now was born on the island of Nevis. And because of that there are a lot of historical things related to him that even the children will find interesting and hence they created an Alexander Hamilton Island tour. The tour takes you to places that would have been here only when he was born back in the 1700s - so essentially, you're following in his footsteps. For instance, they can visit his birthplace, they can visit the place where he would have gone to school if he were able to go to school on Nevis and more. It’s really a great chance to have a fun vacation with your children.
For my athletes - you want to do a cross channel swim, a triathlon or run a marathon - Nevis has all of these things. And as Greg pointed out none of these events are events where they take themselves too seriously. For example, the cross-channel swim – which is that two mile stretch between Saint Kitts and Nevis - may sound difficult and challenging, but he promises it's something that's absolutely fine and safe to do provided you can swim of course. There are different categories you can participate in – like one for those people who are serious and want to race and one for people who simply want to do it for fun. The organizers will let you do it in snorkel gear or with floaties or whatever else you come up with and they kayak along while everyone is in the water for safety and to provide assistance should you need it.
For my water babies and sun worshippers there are plenty of beaches. In fact, when I asked Greg how many beaches there are between the two islands he laughed and said they don't count them. The reason is because honestly the beaches are everybody’s - there is not a single private beach between the two islands. Which means if you are out and about, just driving along and you see a beach you like – you are welcome to go to it.
And finally - don’t forget the famous Nevis Mango and Food Festival which is an entire weekend dedicated to that tasty little fruit - the mango - and the creative and oh so tasty cuisine made with it.
Side Note: Greg advised that really - no matter what time of year you visit - there's a chance that there's some significant activity happening at that you can actually join in.
Gastronomy: My favorite part of any trip is trying new cuisine and of course I posed one of the questions I always ask during my video chats – what is the national dish of Saint Kitts and Nevis? Greg advised that it is saltfish -in particular - saltfish with dumplings and noted that even though it's something that you can get everyday there - it is unique to them and not something you are going to easily find - if at all – back home. One great way to experience cultural immersion via food is on the Village Food Tour. As Greg explained you actually go into a village where you have the opportunity to walk through it and talk with locals who share some very intimate, specific things about the village, the trees, the plants and so much more. Now, there are three food stops on the tour and these stops are all at local eateries - not posh restaurants. As a matter of fact, these are the places that the locals frequent making them one - off the beaten path and two – say it with me - cultural immersion through food! And as opposed to mainstream restaurants where yes - you are interacting with the staff who are locals – here’s your chance to see the locals not at work – but at the places they go when they want to get something to eat and hang out with friends - so you're interacting with people who you wouldn’t have had a chance to interact with otherwise.
Saint Kitts or Nevis? Naturally, I asked Greg that if he had to pick between Saint Kitts and Nevis which island does he prefer and he did not hesitate in naming Nevis the winner. Why? Because it's smaller and thus more intimate. Physically it's about half the size of Saint Kitts and 1/3 of the population. There are around 12,000 or so people that inhabit the island and the fact that they have such a small population on Nevis means that the island has a different personality than Saint Kitts. It's not crowded – in fact, Greg said you are going to go to places and wonder where in the world everybody else is! You’re going to find yourself on a beach and it's the like the best beach you have ever been on and you are going to have it to yourself. In the meantime, somebody else is on another beach wondering where everyone is because it’s like the best beach ever. Sounds like the ultimate in social distancing to me!
Saint Kitts on the other hand is more hustle and bustle because there's more people and there's more activity there – making it a different type of atmosphere entirely. Per Greg it is so much more outgoing than Nevis with lots of opportunities to party and hit the bars and such. Not that there aren’t bars on Nevis – they just aren’t as hopping as Saint Kitts. There is also all different sort of activities that you can do on Saint Kitts that you won't find on Nevis such as ziplining and all the other activities that you will find in most of the Caribbean destinations.
The best part according to Greg? You are experiencing these two vastly different, distinct environments without the hassle of having to go to the airport, taking out your passport and flying for hours - because it's one country and once you are there you just get in a water taxi go.
Updated COVID-19 Information:
Saint Kitts: As of this writing all international travelers must submit a COVID-19 negative test result from an approved lab taken within 72 hours of travel, along with required embarkation form and all other supporting documentation. A form is required regardless of age. Forms must be submitted no later than 24 hours prior to travel.
Nevis: As of this writing travelers must complete the Travel Authorization Form on the national website and upload an official COVID-19 negative test result from an approved lab taken 72 hours prior to travel and bring a copy of the negative COVID-19 test for their trip, undergo a health screening at the airport which includes a temperature check and a health questionnaire and download the SKN COVID-19 contact tracing mobile app to be used for the first 14 days of travel or less.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements for Saint Kitts is click here and for and Nevis click here.
If you're looking for both a relaxing and a unique experience that you're truly going to remember the rest of your life - Greg promises you won’t be disappointed with Saint Kitts and Nevis - as they are small and are going to present you with things you probably haven't considered before on a vacation. As for me - I am thinking you want to get ahead of the game - especially if you want to be able to have a private villa or home – so now is the time to reach out to me to start planning your visit!
For more details on things to see and do in Saint Kitts and Nevis, where to stay, it’s price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
Howdy! Today we are heading back to Lake Tahoe. You may remember that we previously chatted about the Reno side of Tahoe, however this time we are going to the South Lake Tahoe side.
For this side of Tahoe, I had the pleasure of welcoming Tony Lyle – the Vice President of Tourism Development of Tahoe South, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority who filled us in on all of the wonderful things to see and do in the city of South Lake Tahoe – so named due to the fact that it is indeed located in the southern part of Lake Tahoe.
Since Tahoe is a great road trip destination – let’s gas up the car, fasten our virtual seat belts and head to this stunning domestic destination.
Tell Me About Lake Tahoe. Think of Lake Tahoe as the base. As Tony so creatively put it - think of it like a basin or a cereal bowl and the rim of the cereal bowl are the peaks of the mountains. The land, the beach and the water fits in between the mountains. The mountain behind South Lake Tahoe is Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort where you can actually take a gondola from the downtown village up to. There is a strip of land that runs all around the lake and because this land is long and thin the town is only about five miles long and about half a mile wide. And - the downtown is not in the middle - it's at one with the California/Nevada state line running right through the middle of it. In fact, you wouldn't even know it was there unless you looked up and saw the signs that say Welcome to California and Welcome to Nevada. Which by the way is a very popular photo op! Actually, the entire area is filled with photo ops thanks to the unique landscape and surrounding beauty. Picture that you are sitting on the beach with the mountains behind you - often snowcapped. How cool is that?
How About A Multi-Destination Trip? Thanks to where South Lake Tahoe sits there are numerous options to make this a multi-destination adventure. We can add in stops in Napa Valley or San Francisco or perhaps you want to hit a little bit of Yosemite. Flexibility is easy here as you can fly into Reno International Airport which is just 55 miles outside of South Lake Tahoe or any of the bay area airports - San Francisco, Oakland or San Jose - then create an itinerary that includes a little bit more north like upstate California or even northern Nevada.
What Kind Of Accommodations Can I Find Here? On the Nevada side there are four full-service casino resort hotels for those of you who want that kind of experience. Sitting on the lake – right on the beach you will find Edgewood Tahoe – which is only a couple of years old and is a five-star, 154 room property. And you guys, if you think about it 154 rooms is really not that big of a resort. It is actually a medium sized resort which gives you an opportunity to have that social distancing room around the property and on the beach and lake. When you go across to the California side there are two Marriott properties in Heavenly Village as well as a variety of hotels in town. As Tony pointed out – it is a great day trip to Lake Tahoe but there's nothing like waking up in the morning, opening up your curtains and you're at a beachfront property looking straight out over the lake. Then in the evening you can enjoy a glass of wine and watch the sunset. I’m sold!
And of course, there is camping – via tent or RV or even glamping – all of which are fabulous ways to social distance. And there are camp sites located all over the place, all around the lake. Tony also noted that they get a lot of people who will camp but then they will come and stay the last night or the last couple of nights in a hotel because they want to clean up and go and eat in a restaurant instead of roughing it the entire time.
What Kind Of Activities Can I Find Here? There are quite a bit of different activities available in South Lake Tahoe. For instance, you can go bike riding and there are lots of places that you can rent bikes so you don't have to bring them and of course I can set that up ahead of time. There are bike trails that are flat that the go to all of the popular places everyone wants to see – like the nature trails, the lake and the waterfalls. But there's also a huge network of mountain bike trails that range from easy to intermediate to advanced - so you’ve got everything from just trail riding all the way to extreme mountain biking and everything in between.
There are plenty of hiking trails too and Tony said that this is something he does with his wife and kids and that it’s easy to get onto to the trail from the downtown area. Basically, you’re in the middle of it all downtown which means easy access to the outdoors - so in minutes you're out on trails with stunning views. And thanks to the gondola in the downtown area, you don't need a car once you are in South Lake Tahoe. It’s very pedestrian friendly as you can walk everywhere from all of the downtown hotels on both the California and Nevada sides including to the gondola. The gondola by the way runs almost year-round – in winter for skiing and in summer for sightseeing.
If you are one of my golfers, you are in luck because there are golf courses everywhere in this area! And that includes an 18-hole world class golf course at the Edgewood Tahoe. Then there is Eagle Falls which are at the head of Emerald Bay and they are quite easy to get to per Tony. You can drive, you can take a cruise boat, you can rent a speedboat, you can kayak, or you can walk. So whatever level you are you can still experience the same thing – whether via hardcore adventure or soft adventure.
And we cannot forget the famous Lake Tahoe sandy beaches where you can build a sandcastle if you would like. The sand is a bit grainier than the sand at the ocean – not quite as powdery – but it’s all natural. Along the lake you’ll find several marinas where you can rent anything that you would use on water. How about a power boat that you can pilot? Per Tony it's not difficult to handle and you can go to the supermarket beforehand and stock up on food and drinks for your boat trip. Another option are the super fun jet skis which are also easy to drive. However, if you don't want a motor you can rent a kayak or another type of non-motorized boat or even a paddle board. There are also all sorts of water sports going on in Emerald Bay along with one island - Fannette Island across from Vikingsholm - a Scandinavian style castle.
Then there is the color of the water in Lake Tahoe. It is like a giant mirror and it reflects the sky. It’s also 99.9% pure and you can see to the you can see to the bottom.
And don’t forget come winter there is plenty of skiing and other winter sports available which we will discuss shortly.
Wellness Opportunities? I am sure by now you have already realized that South Lake Tahoe is also the epitome of wellness travel thanks to all the different opportunities we covered whether it be soft adventure, higher-level activity or even full-on adventure travel. And it is off the beaten track and away from the crowds. You are actually in the Sierra Nevada mountains at around 6200 feet so there's little humidity, it doesn't get too hot and there are no bugs – sounds ideal! And you know just being at one with nature – from the smell of the pine trees to the sounds of a trickling stream, a waterfall or maybe some wildlife - you really do become one with nature and at one with Lake Tahoe. It's very unique, beautiful place and what I consider mind, body and spirit rejuvenation at is best.
What Else Will I Find Here? Well, there is Emerald Bay which is the most visited place in the area. Here you can take a cruise on the MS Dixie paddle boat. The paddle wheeler goes from the east side of Laker Zephyr Cove all the way across to Emerald Bay and features three decks with the top one being open. The middle deck features a bar and there is also a restaurant on board. You can opt for a daytime sightseeing cruise where you can buy lunch and drinks or in the evening you can do a dinner dance cruise with plated dinners and entertainment that is timed so that you are in the middle of the lake when the sun sets.
And yes - eventually events will be coming back to South Lake Tahoe although there is no date yet and they are not sure what they will look like. But in summers past, they have held a summer concert series in their outdoor amphitheater that seats 6000 people making it up close and personal. Plus, they get world class names like Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Elton John and Pitbull to name a few.
Then there are the casinos which we know some people love and some people don't – but that’s the beauty - you can take it or leave it. They are a great amenity and a huge draw for bachelor and bachelorette parties - because you've got 24/7 action going on in the casinos with dancing in nightclubs plus all the bars and restaurants. Then on the flip side there is Lake Tahoe to relax and enjoy during the day.
And in winter you can find a whopping 15 ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area - with Squaw Valley being one of the most popular. There are different sizes for different levels of expertise and as Tony pointed out - remember the cereal bowl - three of the 15 are inside the rim so when you're skiing you get the fantastic views of the lake. And those three on the South Shore include Heavenly – which is the largest ski resort on the West coast of the US, Kirkwood – which is a little bit more hardcore and Sierra – which has more kind of a beginner/family feel to it – but all three are fabulous.
When Should I Go? It is a year-round destination - although a lot of people think of Tahoe as strictly a ski destination. But according to Tony they are actually busier in the summer than they are in the winter - especially in July and August when you get people escaping the heat of the cities and towns they live in. But the year is broken up as such: July and August are considered peak season, September and October - which are typically Indian summer weather and not as many people - so great rates are available, the winter of course which is November, December, January, February, March and then in April the ski season ends. It really changes quickly from winter into summer and once May hits you get great rates once more – June too – until you hit peak season again. The fall and spring season are short but extremely popular – especially for destination weddings and honeymoons. A large part of business are people who want to have their wedding on the beach at Lake Tahoe and there are numerous sites around the lake where you've got picture perfect backdrops for those weddings and subsequent pictures.
And if you are looking to go during ski season Tony suggests mid-week as a good time – where you will find better rates and it is not as crowded. He also noted that the storms that come up the Pacific go quite quickly up over the Sierra mountains where they then proceed to dump all the snow and move away quickly. So, the storms are short but bring a lot of snow unlike other destinations within the North America where they can linger for days - so you get maximum slope time without the bad weather. Bonus - you don't have to go out and buy or invest in ski equipment or even clothing as you can rent everything right there. And if you are not a fan of skiing you've got snowmobiles as another option which are great because you can double up and keep it cost effective. Plus, you have a guide to show you the ropes.
In addition, a lot of families that want to get out there and remain active while also social distancing but don't ski and don't snowmobile - they just bring the kids up sledding or just to take a walk or play in the snow. Also in winter there is a family-owned business called Borges that’s been there for many years and they will take you on horse drawn sleigh rides through the fields as well as on the beaches. Note: In the summer Borges offers horse drawn carriage rides – that depart from the Welcome to California sign downtown and take you for a ride around the streets downtown. Both are just a nice, relaxing thing to do for half an hour or an hour as you can just sit back and relax and be chauffeured around on the snow or on the road. It really is a great family destination no matter what you choose to do – and no matter what season.
How Long Should I Stay? Per Tony, in the winter people come to ski and they tend to stay maybe a little bit longer than they would other times of the year – like six or seven nights - because they're there for the specific purpose of skiing and although they might ski different resorts each day – more often than not the majority of the days would be at Heavenly because that's their base. FYI - Heavenly and South Lake Tahoe are one and the same.
In the summer it depends on if they are road tripping or they're just going to hang out here and do what they call basecamp itineraries. This is where they would use South Lake Tahoe as a base camp and then tour around to places that are within driving distance such as Carson City, Virginia City, Hot Springs and the wineries in the foothills in El Dorado County – just to name a few. That being said the absolute minimum would be three nights and that gives you two whole days but then you're going to regret it and wish you had stayed longer. So optimum would be four or five nights to get the full feel of it and actually get the benefit of a vacation and relax a little bit rather than rush things.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing both the Nevada and California side of Tahoe South are open to travelers with COVID precautions in place. Masks are required in both states. Since Tahoe South spans both California and Nevada it is important for visitors to be aware of the different restrictions and requirements between the two states and counties.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements Lake Tahoe Nevada click here and Lake Tahoe California click here.
That wraps up our South Lake Tahoe overview and I am going to end it with one of their current taglines that I already told Tony I was going to steal - “South Lake Tahoe - Keep a six-foot distance at 6000 feet!” With wide open spaces and plenty of social distancing room - let’s talk Tahoe!
For more details on things to see and do in Lake Tahoe, where to stay, it’s price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
When your tagline is The Most Beautiful Place on Earth you better be able to back it up. And boy – Sedona not only backs it up – it takes it to a new level!
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Susan Boehnstedt from the Visit Sedona Tourism Board who gave us a fantastic introduction to stunning Sedona. The best part about this destination is that it is domestic – meaning no passport is needed – and it is within a couple hours flight from most destinations within the US.
If you are looking for a new city to explore, I am certain that this overview will have you heading to Arizona sooner rather than later!
Where Exactly In Arizona Is It? Sedona is pretty much centrally located within the state of Arizona. It is just two hours north of Phoenix by car. If you fly into Flagstaff, you are just about a 45-minute drive away. And then for those that might be coming to the area from Las Vegas it’s around a four hour but very scenic drive. So basically, it is quite easy to get to from three major southwestern US airports. Its also a great drive destination from neighboring states like California, Nevada and Texas.
Sedona itself is kind of spread out and consists of four main areas. They are West Sedona, Uptown Sedona and Gallery Row, the Village of Oak Creek and Oak Creek Canyon – all of which are really comprise the greater Sedona area. Sedona has just over ten thousand residents year-round, but they serve over four million visitors a year!
Tell Me About The Climate. One of the things that I personally love about Sedona is that it truly is a year-round destination, and every season is has its unique feel and flair. They do get snow in the winter – not much – but snow none the less – that would remind you of powdered sugar when it stays on the Red Rocks – although it normally doesn’t stick. But these mild winters really give you an opportunity to experience that cooler, crisper air. You can start out in the morning with the jacket and maybe gloves depending on how thin your blood is and by noon you're in a long sleeve t-shirt. Then come evening, it cools down but never fear as most of the properties and many of the restaurants have those amazing outdoor fire pits or heat lamps to keep you warm.
So yes, they certainly have four seasons, and one bonus is that the summertime is not as hot as Phoenix. Per Susan it is usually about ten to 15 degrees cooler than the Phoenix Area in Sedona. Typical higher summer temperatures are in the 90’s but it is not unusual that the mornings are cooler so that you can get out early, get your hiking and biking in and then you sit back during the hotter parts of the day and have a nice glass of wine on the patio at your resort.
Mother Nature Sure Has Blessed Sedona. Oh yes – it certainly has the most breathtaking landscapes you will ever see! And oh, those sunrises and sunsets! Thanks to the fact that there is no light pollution, seeing the stars when you are there is bound to be a brand-new experience for you. Especially if you're coming from a bigger city where there are a lot of lights – hence light pollution – as well as regular pollution. If you are not used to seeing the stars, it's kind of shocking to go out at night and look up because you kind of forget that they exist, and boy are they ever stunning! For those of you guys who are coming from cities like New York City or even here in Austin or in Atlanta here's an opportunity where you can actually see Mother Nature and what she has to offer. And Susan advised that they work with several companies that actually will take small groups or families out at night so that you can experience this in a really unique and special way. Then they have monsoon season which runs from mid-June through the end of September. When the rains come in, they are so beautiful to watch. They arrive in big puffy clouds and there’s often lightning as well. Then they end with dramatic rainbows that are magical.
What Kind Of Activities Can I Expect? Sedona has all kinds of outdoor activities including those for true adventurers as well as soft adventures and plenty of wellness opportunities. There are activities for all ages and all physical abilities making it a place that everybody can genuinely enjoy.
For example – there are off roading and ATV adventure options as well as a couple different Jeep tour companies in the area. Or you can opt to do some touring via horseback or even on a trolley car for a less bumpy ride. In addition, there are amazing opportunities via air such as helicopter tours and hot air ballooning. The hot air balloons are not available all year round but pretty much the majority of it. And those helicopters also have tours to the Grand Canyon giving you that birds eye view that is just incredible.
Sedona also has a whole trail system giving you the opportunity to hike and / or bike the area to get up close and personal and be one with nature. And renting a bike is extremely easy to do in Sedona – all you have to do is ask me to include it and when I build your itinerary, we make it happen!
There are two amazing state parks and one of them has something that I think everybody should do – a natural water slide! It is called – appropriately enough – Slide Rock State Park and thanks to the way the water comes in, it smooths the rocks making them like a slide. It is a super fun place to go and have a picnic or you can ride too or hike there as well. In addition to being family friendly there are places that are a little bit more flat and not as rugged so that people that might have mobility issues can still enjoy the park. Red Rock State Park is also awesome and to me I liken it to a Japanese feel thanks to the horsetail that resembles thin bamboo and the red rock that gives you that zen feeling.
Tell Me About These Vortex Spots. Sedona has a lot of different vortex sites - there's a very holistic, spiritual and wellness aspect to Sedona that has been there for years and has only been developed more and more by some of the companies that are in Sedona. A lot of international and domestic travelers come to experience these vortexes. Four of the most well-known ones include Cathedral Rock, Airport Mesa, Boynton Canyon and Bell Rock. For those of you who aren’t familiar - a vortex area is a place where you kind of slow down and really listen to what's going on internally, connect one on one with your environment, the atmosphere and earth. It’s a very zen, calming, peaceful experience. They are also known for their healing properties and many people who have health issues report healing that came as a result of spending time in these vortex sites. Not to mention that they are all stunning and all unique! If you prefer, we can book you a guide to help you through this and show you what you can experience.
Speaking of Wellness…So you're always surrounded by red rocks wherever you are in Sedona and to most – including me – that is a natural wellness opportunity like no other. Of course, there are plenty of other wellness experiences to be had there and they include the calming spas, meditation and yoga programs and so much more. Mother earth will help us heal in the vortexes we talked about above and of course there's also that spiritual piece of life and as we know, wellness is mind, body and spirit. Sedona is one of those destinations that really gives you an opportunity to get to all of those different levels and get down to that core of what is inside of us and how we can do better and be well. There are also a lot of medical spas here that we can talk about if you are interested in having that conversation.
Sedona As A Home Base. So not only can you make a whole vacation out of Sedona, but you can also make it your hub – or home base – and do day trips from there. The average stay in Sedona is three and a half to four nights which is great because you can explore Sedona and then just do day trips to some or all of the surrounding areas such as Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley, Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood and Camp Verde – with the furthest point out of all these about four hours away. Many of these spots are famous and well known in the Arizona area but there are some that may not be so well known such as Jerome and Camp Verde. These are smaller communities along the Verde River that have amazing attractions and a little bit of a different climate then Sedona – not much – but because it’s along the River it's a different altitude and a different slightly all within a 30-minute drive. And if you like wine that means you don't have to go very far to get some because Arizona has an amazing wine country there. The Verde Valley River that comes through this area has the same kind of soil and texture and the clays and the dirt are very similar to what you might find in southern France. People don’t associate Arizona with winemaking but there are some pretty amazing wines. You can even kayak to some of these places and do wine day trips or have a driver take you. There are also wine tasting rooms within Sedona proper that you can visit.
Now Jerome is a funky little town with its own unique personality that also happens to be a ghost town. It is lots of fun and a great place to spend a day. Besides the ghosts they also have many awesome jewelry shops that you can frequent and since it is kind of built on a hill you get some really unique views from this city.
Right next to Jerome is the Verde Canyon Railroad which has a train that runs year-round. The entire trip takes about four hours. Throughout the year they will also run themed train rides. For instance, during harvest season they'll do a special wine train or they'll do a chocolate train or during Oktoberfest they’ll do a beer tour. Either way – theme or not – it is a really relaxing and fun four-hour round-trip adventure!
What Are My Accommodation Options? There are tons of lodging options so whatever kind of accommodation you're looking for you’re definitely going to find it in Sedona! Among those options are some incredibly unique resorts in West Sedona. Uptown there are a couple different properties that are actually located on the Creek which are stunning. And through out there are both smaller, boutique properties as well as larger resort properties. Sedona is a great destination for meetings, events, weddings, family reunions – you name it – and they have properties to fit every need and budget.
And Food Options? With over 50 restaurants you are certainly going to find one that suits your pallet and your budget. One of the things that I love though is that they have some celebrity chefs and probably one of the most famous in Sedona right now is Chef Lisa Dahl. Her newest luxury venue –Mariposa – which means the butterfly – features fabulous sunset views. She also has a couple different pizza shops as well as a lovely Italian venue in the Village of Oak Creek. Her food is quite popular – think very organic and natural - and she's been written up in all kinds of magazines as well as featured on cooking shows. In addition to Chef Dahl there are many other organic and healthy food options and choices – many that are tied into the spas that are so popular in Sedona. How great is it that you can book a spa room, have that full spa experience and also enjoy cuisine that's detoxifying and healthy – making it a full complement to your overall wellbeing.
Can I Get My Shopping On? Oh boy can you ever! They not only have the name brand stores but they also have a lot of local, amazingly talented artists that have shops. The artwork and the craftsmanship in Sedona is really unique and the pieces are one of a kind. Here you can have a piece of jewelry made with local stones such as turquoise or perhaps some handcrafted fabric goods or even beaded work. There are over 20 galleries and over 80 shops for you to choose from. You can even take classes like art or pottery in some of the studios and workshops. So, if you would like to add some art and culture and this is something that you'd like to do we can easily add this to your itinerary as we plan it. What a great opportunity for cultural immersion to get to know another American through art!
What Types of Travelers Would Be A Good Fit? As we already alluded to Sedona is a great destination to do if you are looking for a spot for a girlfriend or guys trips or a bachelor or bachelorette trip. It is also a perfect spot for multi-generational family get togethers as well as corporate offsites and retreats. And for those of you who are homeschooling it is the perfect opportunity for travel as a living classroom. You can incorporate those art classes we told you about as well as history class because you've got so many well preserved Native American heritage sites to explore such as Tuzigoot National Monument as well as Montezuma Castle National Monument. You can literally cover a number of different classes in real life so there is no need to worry about the digital learning piece of things because you're living it and sometimes nature is the best classroom.
Safety, Sustainability and Such. So, in 2019 Sedona created the sustainable tourism plan that is not just about a healthy economy but also the resident’s quality of life as well as the visitor experience in the environment. And of course, your Travel Guru totally loves this since it's a very similar mission to Book Here, Give Here which is all about socially responsible travel.
And as per Susan they are profoundly serious about it - not only for the four million guests that come to visit them during the year but also in keeping Sedona pristine for their community of just ten thousand. They are very protective of their beautiful environment and want to keep it keep it that way for the residents. However, they also want those tourists that are coming to visit to capture that same mindset and embrace the values that they are trying to maintain and be sustainable for the long term. And honestly you will see that all throughout the city when you're there.
Sedona also asks that you take the Sedona Cares Pledge when you are there as it is all about making sure that Sedona stays safe and sustainable. And personally, I like the part that says, “I'll make my own memories but not my own trails.” And as Susan said – with the 400 miles of trails that they have you're never going to be running into anyone, but they also want you to stay on those trails so that they can keep the trails well preserved and safe for everyone who enjoys them – but also being respectful of the environment that you're in.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing there are no travel restrictions or COVID-19 test requirements for individuals visiting Arizona. However, face coverings are required for everyone in all public places and they ask you adhere to all of their safety and health guidelines that can be found listed here.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements for Sedona click here.
And that my friends is your Sedona summary. If you went only to see the scenery it would still be worth it but as you can see there is so much else to do there as well. As Susan said come visit them because you won't be disappointed, and it won't be your only trip – that we both promise!
For more details on things to see and do in Sedona, where to stay, it’s price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
Ready for a little rest and relaxation on the west coast? If so, I have the perfect place for you to go – Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. I had the opportunity to visit this fabulous resort a while back and just had to introduce it to all of you, so I invited Jennifer Yang, the Director of Travel Industry & Reservations Sales at Terranea Resort to join me for a video chat and she happily agreed. This hidden gem is even hidden to many California folks making it a social distancing paradise. Let’s get our virtual tour started and you’ll see exactly why I am so excited about this property!
So Where Exactly Is Terranea Resort? Terranea Resort is located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula - right on the coast of Los Angeles County which is just 20 miles south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). But let me tell you - when you take that drive along the coast from LAX down to the property, once you turn on to Terranea Way you totally forget that you are so close to the city. It sits on 102 acres of outdoor space - 75% of which is green meaning it’s not built on – so you are pretty much surrounded by nature.
Jennifer shared that the founding father of the Palos Verdes Peninsula actually liked the area to the Amalfi coast when he came there in the early 1900s from New York. In fact, the coastline reminded him so much of the Amalfi coast that he envisioned a beautiful Mediterranean village built on it along with a resort. While he did not build the resort - the resort wasn't built until 2009 – they did try to stay true to his vision of a Mediterranean resort sprawled across the peninsula with wonderful facilities and all oceanfront. And boy did they succeed!
And thanks to its location it is a great property to use as a home base – meaning you can enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city life but not have to stay in the city center as it is accessible to numerous major Southern California cities and sites including the Staples Center, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Disneyland, Universal Studios and Hollywood – which are all within 1/2 hour to an hour's drive. You can also use it for a short layover on your way further east to Asia or the South Pacific as Jennifer and I agreed that sometimes when you travel that far you are so busy and exhausted you need a vacation after your vacation! So why not pause here and really feel like you've relaxed before you head home?
i See That Discover Is One Of Your Core Pillars - Tell Me More About That. Yup - it's truly about forgetting the real world and discovering nature again. Most of us rarely take time to really enjoy nature. Here you will find miles of walking trails all along the property that also connect to the greater peninsula trail system as well. There are well placed strategic telescopes along the paths so that you can actually watch the whale migrations from November to May as the grey and blue whales migrate from Alaska down to Mexico. Each of the telescopes are actually coin operated and all of the proceeds from the telescopes go to charities that protect marine life.
What If I Want To Do A Work-cation? This is a property you could easily spend four or five days on at a minimum and still not see all of it. Which makes it a great spot for a work-cation as you can stay for say a week and a half to two weeks and after work each day really enjoy the property and everything that it has to offer. Per Jennifer this has actually become extremely popular these days especially with their larger accommodations like the villas, the casitas and the bungalows where you have your own kitchen, washer and dryer and just more living space in general then a typical hotel room. And thanks to numerous activities like archery, paddle boarding, kayaking or even just laying out on the beach with your laptop – it’s a very appealing option. Not to mention for those of you guys who have children who are doing digital learning - while you work – they can get their schooling in then afterwards you can get them out in nature and to explore the cities that are nearby, thus breaking up the monotony of the day-to-day grind at home.
Tell Me More About The Accommodations. As I mentioned I had the pleasure of staying at Terranea a while back and while there I stayed at one of the casitas. And I can tell you that while the property itself is exceptionally large it can be very walkable. However, if need be there are golf cart shuttles available. Per Jennifer from the furthest out villa to the lobby building it’s just a ten-minute walk – in heels – because she’s usually doing tours!
The Villas offer a full chef’s kitchen, a washer and dryer and a garage as well as living room space. Situated at the top of the resort, they are the largest and most spacious of Terranea’s accommodations as well as the most residential or home-like. so theyThere are two- and three-bedroom villas available and if you're on the ground floor there’s a private hot tub. Jennifer likened it to being in a multi-million-dollar home. Everything’s upgraded – including the beautiful stainless-steel appliances, fabulous indoor and outdoor living spaces and fireplaces and the ocean view villas overlook the golf course – making it feel like the entire golf course is your backyard. You can even get a private chef. They are really just luxurious homes away from home.
The Casitas come with one, two or three bedrooms with absolutely gorgeous views and are the most favorable in terms of the configuration for families and small groups. Should you need five, six, seven or more bedrooms everyone can have their own private casita and at the end of the day you can all congregate together at one.
Then you have the Bungalows which are very cute. They sit in front of the spa and are Jennifer’s favorite accommodations. They also happen to be adults only so they are great for those parents who need to get away from the kids or a bachelorette trip or just a girl’s spa getaway so you and your crew can get pampered all weekend long. The bungalows still offer a separate living room and a kitchen and dining area but what Jennifer said she loves is the fireplace and the fire pits because it's the best way to unwind and enjoy a bottle of wine and charcuterie and just enjoy the views. Sounds like the perfect way to chill! Plus, when you stay in the bungalows you also have full access to the spa facilities and the spa pool during your stay.
In the lobby building you’ll find the majority of the traditional guest rooms and suites. Bonus – all of the rooms at Terranea offer views of the ocean - they just differ in terms of how much of the ocean you want to see. They vary from ocean view to ocean side - which is a coastline view - to ocean front - which offers a 180-degree panoramic view of the ocean. Guestrooms come with two double beds or one king and for larger families of five or more we can hook you up with connecting rooms. The suites offer an amazing layout as all have a door off the living room giving you a separate, private bedroom. They also feature an in-room cellar that is stocked with bottles of wine and beer and liquor. But according to Jennifer the oversized living room with what she calls the cruise ship view (because when you look out your windows all you see is water) is the best part.
What About The Cuisine? Terranea offers amazing farm to table gastronomy thanks to
Executive Chef Bernard Ibarra who is actually from right outside of San Sebastian. He grew up on a farm and was always passionate about food – in fact, his family were restaurateurs. When he was hired at Terranea about six years ago he made a case for them get a farm which resulted in them leasing land two miles south of the resort. On this working farm he produces his own produce such as heirloom tomatoes, lettuce and avocados to name a few. He also built a chicken coop which allows them to serve farm fresh eggs every day.
But perhaps the coolest thing is that he actually harvests sea salt! He goes into the ocean around the resort and gets buckets of water that he takes to a sea salt conservatory that he built where it is put through the evaporation process after which he’s left with sea salt. He then infuses it with other ingredients that are on property like meyer lemons and rosemary and creates different flavors of sea salt that is then served at all of Terranea’s restaurants. He's actually had the sea salt tested in labs to make sure it’s good to eat and they were completely shocked that the sea salt was from right outside of LA because the water is so pure. And thanks to this they have done a great job since they opened of filtering the storm water before it reaches the oceans so that they leave very minimal footprints. It’s really made the cult beds thrive and added so many nutrients to the water right off the coast which has allowed the marine life to thrive as well.
In addition, they harvest kelp – which is a very sustainable product and is used in their dishes as well as at the spa to make kelp soap and other kelp products. They also produce their own honey – which is available for sale if you would like to take some home – as Chef Bernard has beehives as well. In fact, he jokingly likes to say he's got 80,000 workers and their busy as bees! And of course, since sustainability travel is what Book Here, Give Here is all about I adore all of this.
Now for the dining options - there are a number of different restaurants that feature amazing cuisine and great views to go with it. In fact, all of Terranea’s restaurants offer indoor and outdoor dining right and since they are blessed with Southern California weather outdoor dining is perfect. They have an international pallet available with each restaurant offering a different menu as well as different beverage lists.
Among the dining options are the Catalina Kitchen which is the resort’s main restaurant and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then there is Nelson's which is quite popular with the locals thanks to its location featuring fabulous sunsets and the fact that you cannot get closer to the water thank dining here. Fun Fact: Nelson’s is actually a tribute to a character in Sea Hunt which was an old tv show that was filmed at Marineland Pacific - the predecessor to SeaWorld - which is what the property used to be until 1987. There is also a fabulous pan Asian restaurant Bashi that offers great sushi, shaken beef and garlic noodles along with Jennifer’s favorite cocktails. And for upscale dining there is Mar’sel which is great for special occasions or a fancy Sunday brunch with awesome views.
I Am Into Wellness. Good because there are plenty of wellness aspects to Terranea and not just the spa and the fabulous fitness center. Just the fact that the property is surrounded by nature – you immediately feel a sense of peace and relaxation once you step on it. The property is also unique in that it faces south which is kind of different because you think when you're on the west coast the oceans to the west. But since they do face south you can actually see the sunrise and the sunset from the property.
Now when they were developing their wellness program they really focused on the natural circadian rhythm of the body. So, for the mornings they recommend more rejuvenating, more revitalizing treatments and then in the afternoon it’s about calming down and getting ready for bed. They even have a sleep therapy spa treatment that concentrates on how to cure your jet lag and it really helps you sleep at night.
They built their 50,000 square foot spa at the very tip of the peninsula which is not commonly done at resorts because as you know a lot of hotels bury them in the basement without any views. Here they did the opposite and built it in the most prime location of the resort for amazing views. Many of the treatment rooms – as well as the yoga movement studio – opens open straight out to the water so you can hear the waves crashing during your treatment- allowing for natural sounds instead of what is getting pumped through your earphones.
Then of course there's with all the outdoor space and activities like the kayaking - you can kayak with dolphins! – and paddle boarding just to name a few. They also offer a class they call Nature’s Gym where they take you out onto the walking trails and you use the different picnic tables and steps along the property and get a workout the old-fashioned way!
I Hear There are Quite A Few Pool Options On Property. The property has four heated swimming pools for guests to choose from. There is the adult only pool for those age 21 and over, then another that is age 18 and older and of course two family friendly pools. The Resort Pool is for all ages and features a 140-foot corkscrew water slide as well as a kid’s splash zone. But then there is also the Vista Pool where they have separated out the older children from the younger children - this one is for ages 13 and up - so that families can have some quiet time away from – as Jennifer said so cutely – “all the Marco Polo and splashing around.”
What Else Can I Find Here? You can play some golf on a super awesome golf course called the Links at Terranea which is a collection of nine championship caliber par three golf courses that in the summer sometimes gets converted to a foot golf course. If you aren’t familiar with foot golf it is played with a soccer ball and it’s so fun to get out there and run around on the golf course and kick a soccer ball. The beauty of this course is that it is great for skilled golfers who just need to sharpen their short game, or the beginner golfers or people have never golfed before as it's a very unintimidating course. It is also family friendly and you don't even have to wear golf shoes or have golf attire or have your own golf clubs!
And one of the things that I love about the property is that even though things are set up for adults it also caters to families with children, so nobody is going to ever feel left out here. What a fabulous opportunity for those of you looking to do a multi-generational trip or entire family reunion.
Wedding And Reunions. Speaking of reunions – this is a great place for them as well as for destination weddings – which typically turn into a family reunion of sorts! Terranea offers fabulous accommodations and amazing views plus there is no passport needed! What more could you ask for! And Jennifer confirmed they can accommodate from ten to 1500 people for weddings.
They really have something for every type of traveler. Even if you wanted to celebrate a retirement or just celebrate seeing family again. Let’s face it - we've all been stuck at home for so long and we want to get out and see our friends and family and Terranea is the perfect outdoor playground for that.
I Want To Travel Responsibly. The sustainability at this property is amazing. In addition to what we touched on earlier they also donate food in the fight to end hunger. Being oceanfront, you can rest assured they are definitely responsible stewards of this priceless land. Jennifer made a fabulous comment that every day is Earth Day at Terranea, and they want to make sure that they leave as little footprint as possible.
Covid Safety? Everything is sanitized and is completely disinfected, and they ask that you wear face masks in the public spaces. They are abiding by all the LA County and CDC guidelines and Jennifer assured us that their main priority right now really is to protect their associates and their guests while still ensuring that you have an extraordinary time at Terranea.
Fun Fact. There is a cave that can be found on property – on the beach actually – that they call the Batcave because in the 1950s the old Batman movie has the Batmobile drive straight into that cave! In fact - Terranea has been the site of many major Hollywood movies including Pirates of the Caribbean.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing visitors from out of state are discouraged from coming to California for non-essential purposes Anyone arriving from out of state, including California residents, are encouraged to quarantine for ten days after entering or returning to California.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date COVID protocols at Terranea Resort click here.
So, what do you think? I love this property because it has so much opportunity for social distancing. You are certainly not on top of each other plus you have that Mediterranean feel along with being surrounded by nature. What a great place to just forget the real world for a while, unwind and rejuvenate yourself or reconnect with your loved ones.
And bonus! The hotel has offered us some great opportunities to offer you guys - including getting a third night free. And since Terranea participates in the Travel Leaders select program – which I am a part of – I also have great amenities to offer you such as breakfast for two people or perhaps a one-time $100 resort credit or early check in and late check out if available – just to name a few! So, what do you say? Let’s get to planning!
For more details on the fabulous Terranea Resort, their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
It’s very appropriate – that since I find myself missing Germany and everything about it – as I spent a lot of time there when I studied in Switzerland and have not been back in a year and a half - that today’s guest is here to talk everything and anything Deutsch! And I could not be happier as it really gave me a chance to take a virtual trip down memory lane.
Today’s guest is Carolin Belcher the West Coast Sales Manager of the German National Tourist Office. Carolin was born and raised in Germany and now resides in the US – but loves talking about her home country! And there is so very much to explore here - Germany has sixteen federal states - that it was a fabulous opportunity to have her do just that – picking some of the country’s highlights to – well – highlight!
Tray tables stowed? Seats in upright positions? Great – make sure that seat belt is fastened too because we are off to Germany!
Getting There and Getting Around: Getting to Germany from the US is easy. For instance – from my neck of the woods Lufthansa has direct flights from Austin. And for my East Coast peeps – there are direct flights from most of the major city’s airports. And may I say I do recommend flying business class as it gives you the opportunity to lay down and totally relax during your flight!
Once you are there it is easy peasy to get around in Germany as all of the major cities are connected by train – a high speed train to be exact – called Intercity Express – or ICE for short.
And there is a train route from Berlin to Munich that comes in at under four hours! This is so cool because you can connect to two major cities - that couldn’t be more different or diverse than each other I may add - in just a few hours! The train transportation is awesome in Germany – all announcements are in English too so that’s always a plus. And Carolin pointed out that she always says “we Germans are OCD” – so the trains are very clean and very safe. And as I pleased to find out they have Wi-Fi!
This is also a very drivable country – unlike a lot of other European countries. It is a very safe place to drive on the highways or through the towns. And there are over 1300 car rental stations offering both automatic and stick shift vehicles so don’t be afraid to drive there - it is so much fun! And speaking of driving – for you car fanatics there is the Autobahn which everyone wants to experience once in their life – so why not rent a Porsche or BMW or Mercedes and drive it! Did you know that almost everywhere on the Autobahn there is no speed limit? And that you need to be very aware that they only pass on the left side – not the right side? Don’t worry we will take car of car insurance prior to your trip!
There are also plenty of of opportunities for travel by boat. There are many different companies that offer boat transportation and there are even private residents who offer boat rides! One of the best to do is the hop on / hop off boat on the Rhine River which affords you the opportunity to get off – visit a city – then get back on and continue to the next place you want to see. And Carolin noted that seeing Germany from the water is a great way to take it in. If you are worried about sea sickness - I can attest that the water there is very calm – it’s not like ocean cruising. It is actually very smooth and the views are beautiful.
Destinations: Below is a great look at that different flavors that abound in the cities throughout Germany and a great opportunity to start planning which you would like to visit based on your personal interests.
Berlin: Carolin describes Berlin as hip and fast moving - but not in a stressful way. She explained that it is constantly changing and each time she visits there is always something new to see. Here you can see a UNESCO World Heritage Site - Berlin's Museum Island. You will also have the opportunity to see the government district as well as where the Berlin Wall stood – such a powerful piece of history. It is also a culinary mecca and not to worry if you are vegan or vegetarian as they have many such restaurants and even a vegan street festival. The culinary tours here are abundant and can be done as a walking tour or on bikes. The best part? It is the locals that give the tours so they are basically guiding you through their home city and letting you taste food you wouldn’t have found on your own! As per Carolin you could be there for four full days and you still won’t have seen everything there is to see.
Dresden: Dresden has a very classical and medieval feel to it and is a cultural mecca well known across Europe. It is filled with historic sites dating back to World War II and many musical opportunities including the famous Semperoper Opera House.
Hamburg: Located in northern Germany, Hamburg is surrounded by water and actually has more bridges than all of Italy! And if you are a Beatles fan – this is a must see as this is where they got their start – where everything began them. Hamburg is also a magical city during the Christmas season, and you will find great Christmas markets throughout. And – being surrounded by water - the fish is a must eat while you are there. And a great place to explore? The fish market – which is only open on Sunday morning and very early so it doesn’t interfere with church.
Frankfurt: As Carolin observed Frankfurt is like Germany’s Manhattan. There’s a lot going on – including museums and the banking quarter. It’s got a metropolitan side with a towering skyline, but it also has areas that have a classical feel. And the gastronomy is very different here than in other parts of the country with things like Frankfurt’s famous green sauce and although they drink beer like the rest of the country – they love their Apfelwein as well – which is similar to apple cider. Bonus - it sits directly in the middle of Germany so it’s a good starting point with everything just a couple of hours away.
Cologne and Dusseldorf: On a personal note - Carolin has family in both these areas so she spends a lot of time in both of them and they are actually her two favorite cities. She describes Cologne as the most welcoming city ever – with so many great people that it’s hard to leave there without at least one new friend! It is also home to Cologne Cathedral – a true masterpiece that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Dusseldorf you’ll enjoy Rhine River cruises, fabulous architecture, great shopping and culinary experiences that will delight. They are both tremendously amazing cities with a lot of green so you able to do a lot of walking and picnicking in parks.
Stuttgart: Stuttgart is located in the in area of the Black Forest – which is personally one of my favorite parts of the country – where my heart lives. Here you can partake in cooking classes and learn to make maultaschen which are giant raviolis or the infamous Black Forest cake. During the holidays you will find Christmas markets in the castles which are amazing to shop in. And - you are surrounded by wine country when you are in Stuttgart so can get out of the city and into nature where you can participate in wine tastings and tour vineyards.
Munich: When I lived in Switzerland, I made the trip to Munich often and I just loved this city – there wasn’t anything I couldn’t find there! There is an amazing farmers market there - Viktualienmarkt - filled with stands that are all family owned. It is a great place to socialize and taste local cheese and olives and drink fine wine and beer! Munich also houses the Olympic Stadium where you can go up to the roof and zipline from one side of the stadium to the other! And for the less adventurous type there are the English Gardens. Here you can sit, eat pretzels, drink some beer and people watch! (My favorite!) You can also spot people on the river - surfing! This is also great starting point before you travel to Bavaria where you can have one off the beaten path experience after the other.
Sightseeing and Activities: Oh gosh – so many great things to see and do in this country. First off – they have marvelous landscapes which means lots of hiking to be had thanks to the mountainous terrain. And of course, those mountains come with great scenery and a healthy way to social distance. For those of you that aren’t about walking up hill – the northern part of Germany has plenty of flat areas where you can take leisurely strolls. And speaking of mountains - there is also the opportunity to do some skiing – not only within Germany but also in other nearby countries and I can hook you up with a pass that will let you ski at several different spots.
And then there is the culture! Now you may be surprised to hear that Germany is actually a rather small country - about as big as the state of California – but they are home to over six thousand museums! One of the best ones to visit – especially if you have German descendants is the German Emigration Center museum in Bremerhaven. This is where people left from in Germany when going to the US. Even if they were from other parts of Europe, they traveled to this port to leave to go to the US. The museum also works with Ancestry. com so you have the opportunity to not only find your ancestors information there but also when, how and why they left. What a super interesting museum! And might I add is definitely now on my list to visit the next trip to Germany!
There are also many theaters and operas in the country. And the opera houses have so much history – World War II history - as so many were bombed or burned down and then rebuilt. So even if you are not interested in music or attending the opera, they are mind blowingly gorgeous and absolutely worth visiting for the history and architecture alone.
Another thing you will find a lot of in Germany are casinos! Which was a surprise to me. And they are not your Las Vegas Style casinos where you can go in flip flops – these are quite formal, suit and tie venues and are extremely beautiful.
And – something I have done in the past and is a fun and unique experience is taking a Porcelain class. They have great porcelain in Germany – especially the Meissen Porcelain by Dresden.
Another unique thing you can do in Germany? Zeppelin Rides! Yup – they still have Zeppelins, and you can even book a shipyard tour through the Zeppelin hangar! Then afterwards you can take a breathtaking flight over Lake Constance – which is shared by Germany, Austria and Switzerland – allowing you to view all three countries from high above.
Castles and Palaces: Germany lays claim to some of the most magnificent castles you have ever seen – about twenty thousand to be exact. Below are highlights of a few of the most magnificent ones.
Neuschwanstein Castle: This absolutely gorgeous castle sits on a hill – which you can get to by carriage ride or shuttle - from which there are fabulous views. And there is an inn just a short drive from the castle that you can stay at that is home to a Michelin starred restaurant – making for a great cultural and culinary experience!
Heidelberg Castle: This stunning castle is filled with much history and is a great one to explore – and it has that ambience that makes you feel like you are in a fairytale! And the city is beautiful in itself and is filled with a lot of college students – including a lot of American students. And due to the fact that it is more budget friendly than some of the other cities.
Wartburg Castle: Carolin recounted that this was one of the first castles she saw as child – when it was a still separated East and West Germany. She recalls how big and beautiful this medieval German fort situated on the top of the mountain was - hovering over equally beautiful views. Wartburg Castle – another UNESCO World Heritage Site is over a thousand years old and very well preserved. It is very impressive and highly recommended – especially for people interested in traveling on the Path of Luther.
Stuttgart’s Castle of Solitude: Looking at this castle – which sits on a huge parcel of land – it’s amazing to think that it was just a hunting palace and summer residence! But - that it was! While you are here there are a number of wellness opportunities nearby – such as Baden Baden – known for its thermal baths. In fact, there are many hot springs within Germany to enjoy – although some are clothing optional so choose wisely!
Castle of Eltz: This 850-year-old castle is remarkably still owned by same family - the Eltz family – whom original lived there in the 12th century. As per Carolin it is totally Instagram-worthy and it is on her list to see as she has yet to visit.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing travel the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Germany.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements click here.
Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of Germany and I am fairly sure you now realize why I am missing it so much! Until I can get there again – I am visiting #discovergermanyfromhome and invite you to do the same!
For more details on things to see and do in Germany, where to stay, it’s price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
If you are a traveler who always searches out the absolute best five-star properties – opting for boutique resorts over large ones and loves to dine at Michelin starred restaurants – then the Wanderlux Collection is for you!
The Wanderlux Collection is a hotel representation company that showcases independently owned, luxury properties all over the globe. And I had the honor of speaking with both Angelique and David Johns founders of Wanderlux Collection- and colleagues of mine - about some of the fabulous European properties they represent. The great thing about these properties? They are little different from what we normally encounter as they are off the beaten path - so to speak - thus making them ideal for social distancing. And remember – everything I am doing these days for my wonderful clients is with the new normal in mind.
That being said – put your face masks on – stand six feet apart and enjoy the presentation!
Background: Angelique and David and their company Wanderlux Collection - represents 5-star luxury resorts throughout Europe and the Maldives. As David quipped – he is known as the Executive Wanderer and he reports to the Chief Wanderer – Angelique. Now, these are inarguably some of best properties you will ever set foot in and are all considered boutique properties - which are smaller resorts. The largest they offer is 120 rooms while the smallest is just fifty rooms. And – as I pointed out in the intro– that means they are great for privacy and social distancing.
And here’s where you really benefit! I am part of Select Experiences and so is Wanderlux. Which for you means that if you book through me – I can get additional benefits for you – making you feel even more VIP than you already will by staying at one of these amazing properties!
Destinations and Properties: Wanderlux Collection currently consists of a dozen or so properties – with new properties added as they are vetted. Today we will be focusing on three of them – one in France, one in Portugal and the last one in Greece on the Island of Crete.
Maison Albar L’Imperator - Nimes, France: This magnificent property was original built in 1929. The Maison Albar family came along and proceeded to give it a multimillion-dollar facelift and reopened it in June 2019. Fun fact – there have been some very notable people who have stayed here over time including Ernest Hemmingway and Ava Gardner.
Maison Albar Le Monumental Palace - Porto, Portugal: The Maison Albar family believe in bringing properties back to their former grander and just reopened Le Monumental Palace after a multimillion-dollar face lift in the fall 2018.
Domes Noruz – Chania, Island of Crete, Greece: This property – one of three that David and Angelique offer on the Island of Crete is adults only and is great for honeymoons, destination weddings or just plain and simple getaways!
Miscellaneous: Just want to put it out there that all three of these properties are short flying distances within each other so – if you have say two weeks to travel – we can make it a multi- destination trip – giving you the opportunity to visit all three resorts and a chance to experience the different flavors of Europe
Updated COVID-19 Information: As each property resides in a different destination please check with the Office of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Health in the destination you are interested in visiting for up-to-date entry requirements.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date COVID protocols at each property visit their individual websites.
And there you have it – three amazing 5-star properties covering three amazing European destinations. If you cannot wait to “wander” remember – it’s never too early to start making plans!
For more details on the fabulous Wanderlux Collection properties, their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
Truffles and Wine and Olive Oil – oh my! Sorry – channeling my inner Dorothy there! But truffles, wine and olive oil are the topic of today’s travel adventure in my Dream Now, Travel Later segment.
Now as you are probably well aware of by now, I am a huge culinary freak and I even attended culinary school! Needless to say, I was extremely excited to welcome Alex Opacic from Taste Istria as our guest speaker to share his passion for this perfect gourmet trifecta with us! Not only that but we also got to explore three different areas of the world including Croatia and Slovenia as well as some of Northern Italy because Istria is a triangular peninsula that actually lies within these three countries!
So, grab a glass of vino and sit back and relax and enjoy this journey into the world of truffles, wine and olive oil – and more!
Company Background: Taste Istria has been dedicated to wine and culinary tourism since 2007 offering what they refer to as the perfect trifecta of truffles, wine and olive oil. Alex noted that there are other products as well in their tourism offerings, but these are the three he is focusing on during this chat. Now Istria – which as I said in the into is a triangular peninsula that is part of Croatia, Slovenia and Italy – is just a two-hour drive eastward from Venice and before you get to the Croatian part you have to pass through Slovenia which is a relatively short coast. Clear as mud? Basically, Alex surmised that when he leaves home to go shopping for some delicacies - he travels through two countries – even though the trip there is only 25 miles!
And while visiting Istria it as a fabulous trip in itself it’s also a great extension to an Italian holiday thanks to their proximity. From Rome or Tuscany, it only takes three to four hours by high-speed train to get to Venice and then another hour to get to Trieste which is the furthest city you can get two in Italy via train. From there you are only about 45 minutes by car to get to anywhere in Western Slovenia or to the part of Istria that resides in Croatia!
And for our guests coming from the bigger cities in Italy that were so crowded - once they cross the border, they’ll be pleasantly surprised! This off the beaten path destination with no crowds and plenty of elbow room is great for social distancing! Between its small population and a six-lane highway network created for tourist arrivals by car - even if by chance everyone was out on the highway at one time - it still wouldn’t be that crowded. And you’ll find the attractions, restaurants and wineries will always have reservations available. And my favorite part - Alex assured us you won’t arrive at a winery and find it’s overcrowded - you pretty much have the winery to yourself! Now that’s a no-brainer!
About Those Truffles… Truffles are generally known as coming from Piedmont, Italy. They are also occasionally found in Tuscany. Alex also noted that in Serbia they just found some, so it is on its way to becoming a great truffle destination, but it is still in the very early stages.
Piedmont is actually famous for the white truffle, but Istria has them as well. There’s a story here! Istria did not actually become known for white truffles until about two decades ago because prior to that all of the truffles in Istria were smuggled and sold as Italian ones! According to Alex about two decades ago is when they started operating their own truffle businesses with some government subsidies. But what really gained them popularity was when – in 1999 – one of their employees found the largest white truffle in the world! Yup – the people from the Guinness Book of World Records came and measured and it certainly was – and still is – the largest truffle ever found. There were offers from all over the world to purchase it, but they decided to pool all of their money together and buy the truffle themselves – then proceeded to make an omelet with 1999 eggs – with all the profits going to local children’s charities and children’s hospitals. Alex also let us know that there is a Michelin-starred restaurant featured in his tours where the cooking classes take place where you can actually view this strange brain looking cast of that very truffle!
Now in addition to the white there are also black truffles. They are the same ones that are also found in Provence, France which are called black diamond or the black Périgord. In addition to that black diamond truffle, they also have two other black truffles - a winter black truffle and a summer black truffle - meaning you can have truffles no matter what time of you visit. What is interesting here is there are actually laws for black truffles that are pretty stringent. You must serve them fresh. You cannot freeze them and then serve them unless you get a special permit! However, this does not apply to the white ones which only grow four months out of the year - between mid-August and late December depending on the weather.
And The Olive Oil…Alex proudly informed us that each year 10,000 samples of high-end olive oil are gathered from all over the world and judged by a panel of Italian jurors. And this year - for the fourth consecutive year - Istria topped everyone - even Tuscany - as the top region for olive oil. In addition, 90 out of the top 500 olive oils in the Flos Olei Guide were from Istria - with the majority from the Croatian part, some of them come from the Slovenian part and the others were from the eastern part of Italy. Needless to say, Alex is pretty proud of all this!
He also educated us on a part of the olive oil culture that many people don’t understand - that olive oil - just like wine - can be mono varietal or single varietal like a Sauvignon Blanc or a Cabernet Franc wine for instance. And different types of olives can give you different types of products - some are sweet, some are pungent, some are tastier in a different way. Generally, one producer can make twelve different types of olive oils from the different olives they grow on different trees.
And Now The Wine! So even though it sounds like an oxymoron the wine industry in Istria is referred to as internal exports. There exists here a perfect blend between many different types of wine and the winemakers are privileged in that they don’t have to compete in the world market - thanks to tourism and not having to worry about wine exporting and all those hassles. Instead, they sell their wine local. In fact, they sell 90% of their wine locally to wine bars, wine shops and restaurants. This gives them more time to dedicate themselves to personally welcoming their guests. Years ago, the decision was made that they wouldn’t be able to compete with the low prices other winemakers can offer. So, they went with the concept of offering a high-end product. And although it took some time, they now are considered and recognized as a place where you will pay slightly more for your wine - and this goes olive oil as well – but you will get a high-end product that is fabulous - and worth it!
Other Products: As I stated earlier – the area is home to other products. And even though this presentation isn’t focusing on them - Alex still shared what some of them are. For instance – across border - but still in in Istria - there are 1200 salt pans where salt flour is still collected by hand to this day. And quality wise it can be compared to the salts that come from France. Also, across the border there is wild asparagus to be found.
In Italy, the city of Trieste is the unofficial capital of coffee in the country. Not just because illy Coffee is based there but basically every single Italian varietal coffee is from there except for Lavazza. Here they offer coffee tours that include coffee tastings or experiences where you can learn how to make your own cappuccino and more.
There’s seafood too! And Alex also informed us that his region in Istria is famous for arguably some of the best Mediterranean Sea bass as well and sole, gold bass and scampi.
Going further south in Croatia to Dubrovnik - which is super famous thanks to the fact Game of Thrones was filmed there - they’re equally famous for their lobsters and oysters too!
And surprise - Croatia is one of the largest exporters of tuna fish! This is because of the fact that the Adriatic Sea is a bay of the Mediterranean Sea and the water is relatively shallow meaning the tuna is already salty or - it’s basically already seasoned!
Sightseeing and Activities and Tours:
Tour Overview / Culture: The Taste Istria tours have been designed so that you aren’t spending too much time traveling in the vehicle. As Alex said - they want you to be out and about enjoying all there is to see and do. So, while they concentrate on the main aspect of the tour - truffles or wines or olive oils - they also include cultural aspects. For instance, the tour may include a visit to the regional capital city of Istria - Pula - where you will see one of the seven best preserved Roman coliseums in the world. Or possibly you might take in one of the ten designated UNESCO World sites thorough the country. No matter what the tour – culture is always a part of it.
Truffle Extravaganza: One of the most important truffle festivals in Piedmont starts in mid-September and last until mid-November and it’s really an incredible experience. The tours they operate in September and October are held on Truffle Extravaganza days – which are on the weekends. On these tours you will have your own private truffle guide, participate in truffle hunting then afterwards you will either attend a cooking class or enjoy a multi course lunch or dinner with a wine pairing and /or olive oil pairings as well. The best part is that since a lot of people attend the festivals the price of a truffle-based meal is really inexpensive – or as Alex likened it to – “like the cost of having a burger at some joint in New York!” This is also because you’re really at the very source of the truffles - so there are no intermediaries or expensive transportation costs involved.
Olive Oil Experiences: Alex related to us that the largest meal they ever hosted was a twelve-course meal paired with twelve different olive oils and twelve different wines! And - get this - it lasted somewhere from seven to eight hours!
With every Taste Istria tour, you will visit some olive oil farms and they tend to bring guests to those that have exports to the US. The reason for this - as Alex explained - is because generally the majority of all oils in the world are forged. Not that they are lying to you, but they are able to sell different types of oil and market them as extra virgin olive oil because the regulations are relaxed. There is a huge difference between regular olive oil and high-quality olive oil and though both of them are marketed as extra-virgin olive oil only the high-quality ones give you all the benefits that’s is known and used for. Thus, they will always take you to the olive oil farms where you will learn how to properly taste olive oil and once you learn that it’s a game changer.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Croatia, Slovenia and Italy.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements for each location these tours are offer in - please check with each country’s official website.
So, wow! What an opportunity we have here to combine a lot of these areas with additional countries on a 12-to-14-day trip. We can curate you an itinerary so that you can experience not only this gourmet trifecta – but also the culture, the gastronomy and the wellness opportunities that abound in these areas for a great recharging of your batteries!
For more details on things to see and do, where to stay in Istria, it’s price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
We’re keeping it domestic on this Travel Tuesday and this time we’re going straight to the top - the capital city of the United States of America - Washington DC.
Joining me today dish on all things DC is my colleague Lindsay Hill, the Senior Manager for Tourism Sales at Destination DC. Now I’m well aware that when most of us who aren’t familiar with this destination picture it, our minds eye is filled with monuments, museums and politics. Which of course can all be found here. But there’s so much more to our capital city and it is mine and Lindsay’s goal to educate you on just how much more.
In fact, Lindsay was very vocal about the fact that the one thing she wants you all to take away from our chat is that Washington DC is a vibrant city with many facets. Of course, there is the Washington politics side – but there's so much more than just the National Mall strip - there is also an entire city to explore with many great neighborhoods that she is going to walk us through on a virtual tour today.
So, let’s do some armchair traveling to the District of Columbia to uncover all that it has to offer.
How Can I Get There? Super easy! There are three airports that you can utilize – Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Reagan National Airport (DCA) - which is the closest - as it is only which is 15 minutes from downtown and easily accessible via the Metro system (more on that later). And, if you're on the East Coast corridor, you can simply take Amtrak right into Union Station arriving just steps away from downtown DC.
And Where Exactly Is It? I now a lot of you are quite familiar with Washington DC but if you're not on the east coast - to give you an idea - it’s about four hours from New York City and just two and a half hours from Philadelphia. It is nestled between Virginia and Maryland meaning you can use DC as your base then take side trips to the Shenandoah Mountains - and the wineries! - or head to the fabulous beach towns in Maryland. What a great mix of opportunities – think about what an awesome multi-city tour this would make!
Demographics? DC – which is a lovely diamond shape - is home to 700,000 people mainly between the ages of 25 and 45 making this for a young and vibrant town with plenty of nightlife. There are also a lot of families that live in DC and that means there are also plenty of activities to explore with the kiddos.
How Am I Going To Get Around Once I’m There? One thing Lindsay was quite adamant about was that you do not need a car in DC. In fact, she came right out and said do NOT bring a car to DC. For those of you guys who are in metropolitan cities like New York the subway is something we all cherish, and you will be thrilled to discover that DC has a subway system too – the Washington Metro - that also includes buses. The Metro system is fabulous because it is not confined to the city limits as it travels to the outskirts as well giving you the ability to even link up with the Light Rail in parts of Maryland or Virginia. That being said one piece I will definitely add to your DC itinerary is a SmarTrip card to pay for all of your Metrorail and Metrobus rides. One great thing about this SmarTrip card is that it can be used on all of the city buses including the DC Circulator which is similar to a shuttle bus system and costs just a one dollar per ride. And I am a huge advocate of taking buses when you can as it is a great opportunity to get sightseeing in - whether you are passing along popular sites or sitting at a traffic light – I feel it just gives you a view that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
In addition to the Metro and the buses DC is a very walkable city that has been voted the number one most walkable city in the entire country many times over. It is also a very bikeable city and its flat so no hills to worry about! DC has trails everywhere due to the fact they are mostly constructed of national parks – making it a very green city. Fun Fact: You can rent a bike and bike all the way to George Washington’s Mount Vernon and then take the boat back for a relaxing view from the water for a great day excursion. And the beautiful thing about that is you can take the bike from one area to another and not have to worry about bringing it back to where you started.
And finally, there is the Potomac River Water Taxi that is relatively new – just over two years old as of this writing. It connects the new District Wharf area (more on this later) to Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria and the National Harbor.
Tell Me About The National Mall Area. Undoubtedly the most popular area of DC, the National Mall area is walkable as it is just a little over 2 miles from the Lincoln Memorial to the US Capitol with all of the monuments, the White House and a slew of Smithsonian’s – or what Lindsay refers to as Smithsonian Row – all there in the middle before you reach the capital making for a fabulous way to spend the day. And if you are not big on walking there are other
ways to tour the monuments and memorials such as a hop on hop off bus tours. In fact, there are all kinds of tours you can take, including National Mall tours done by professional comedians – I kid you not. (See what I did there?) Lindsay shared that her absolute favorite is the guided night tour because seeing the monuments all lit up at night is just gorgeous – so much so that she suggests even if you do the tour during the day to get all your pictures up close – still go back at night and seeing everything illuminated is a completely different experience and will take your breath away.
As for the Smithsonian Institution – which most of you are quite familiar with – but did you know that the Smithsonian is not just one building? Nope – it is 16 buildings interspersed around Washington DC with most of them on the National Mall. And even the DC Zoo – featuring those oh so adorable giant pandas - is a part of the Smithsonian – with its actual name being the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Best part? Every one of the Smithsonian museums and the zoo are free of charge. So, for those of you who are on a budget and want to do something fun that also counts as a travel as a living classroom that free admission factor lets you get your children up close and personal to learn firsthand rather than just reading it in a textbook. And as Lindsay so poetically put it - they actually stand in the footprints of history at many of these locations. Just incredible opportunities here you guys!
As you walk along you will come across the International Spy Museum which is in the L'Enfant Plaza near the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Now, the International Spy Museum has been with the DC family for over ten years but last spring they opened their new location which is twice the size of the old venue. So even if you've been there before you have to go back as it's completely brand new with new exhibits. And if you are not familiar with it, the International Spy Museum is a super interactive experience where you get to put on the persona of a spy and take on little missions and at the end, they tell you if you would have been a good spy or not. And if you have a group we can arrange for workshops on forensics and other areas of interest.
Two other museums that just opened in 2020 are the National Children's Museum - that focuses highly on STEM - so all of your science, technology, engineering and mathematics related stuff- and Planet Word which is really about bringing words and language to life and reminding you of the power of words. Per Lindsay she is quite excited about this one and said that if you like crossword puzzles and libraries and things along that line you are going to love this place!
What If I Get Hungry? Or Thirsty? DC has you covered with a great food scene that includes OVER 2200 restaurants! Bonus - you've got Michelin starred restaurants included in those 2200 too. Lindsay also pointed out that DC has close to 200 embassies in its backyard which is unique to any city in the entire world. And with so many embassies they have a ton of global influence added to their culinary scene. That also means they don't have one thing that's considered DC cuisine because they have so many flavors coming at them. As for those Michelin starred restaurants – DC is only the fifth city in the United States to be honored with the Michelin Guide which of course they are oh so proud of as they are of Jose Andres who is their hometown chef who's doing some really wonderful things within the communities.
Some of the more popular places to grab a bite include Ben’s Chili Bowl (and a half smoke) - which is the only restaurant that survived the riots after MLK's assassination, District Donuts and of course Georgetown Cupcakes that many know from the TV show DC Cupcakes.
If happy hour is your jam you will not be disappointed in DC! There are a lot of rooftop experiences – both for rooftop dining and bars - which is a great place to try a Gin Rickey which is DC's cocktail, and you grab some Ethiopian food. Why Ethiopian food? Because outside of Africa, Washington DC has the largest population of Ethiopians.
And of course – we all know I am huge into cultural immersion through gastronomy so I would love to make an entire itinerary of culinary exploration for my foodies out there as there is so much to see from the Wharf Fish Market to Union Market to Speakeasy visits to neighborhood food tours and more!
Anything There In The Way Of Arts? There are over 30 theaters in DC with the Kennedy Center as the mainstay for opera, ballet and their Broadway circuit. But they also have so much more in terms of homegrown theater productions as well thanks to a huge community behind those efforts. Besides theater there's a ton of art in DC including the hidden art within like the Library of Congress and mural art everywhere that was commissioned to highlight leaders of the city.
Sports? Truly you are going to find something for everyone here in the way of sports. You’ve got baseball, football, soccer, basketball, hockey - I mean there's literally pretty much every major sporting event imaginable here. And Lindsay proudly pointed out that in the past couple of years they have had a lot of championship wins with the Nationals, Capitals and even their women's basketball team the Mystics bringing home the trophy.
What Kind Of Activities Can I Participate In? So besides professional sports, DC is quite an active city, meaning there is a ton of outdoor activities to be had. Which is great news - especially now - as everyone wants to make spend a lot of time outdoors and engage in some social distancing. The city has a plethora of wellness opportunities – and remember – wellness isn’t just a spa treatment – it includes many other activities including soft adventures! In DC you are going to find plenty of soft adventures - and hard adventures if that is what you are looking for. From kayaking on the Potomac River to bike tours to paddle boats on the Tidal Basin and even yoga on the National Mall! Then there is Rock Creek Park – part of the National Park Service – which is twice the size of Central Park in New York City. Here there are trails and there's actually a horseback riding center in there so you can even ride horses in Washington DC!
DC is host to many different events and festivals but arguably its most famous is the Cherry Blossom Festival. I personally have seen the cherry blossom trees at different points – when it was early in the start of the season and when they were in full bloom and it's just absolutely stunning. There are over 200 cherry trees around the Tidal Basin and Lindsay assures us not to worry about timing it right because even if for some reason the timing isn’t perfect there are three weeks of activities during the festival. You will still have the parade, the fireworks show, the kite festival and more - and you will still have a great time even if they're not in full bloom at that point.
You Mentioned Great Neighborhoods? Why yes, I did. And I can make you an itinerary for each one where you can spend one day exploring all they have to offer.
We Know You Like Your Off The Beaten Path Options Loulu. I sure do and I asked Lindsay to highlight some for us today so that we have a list of things not everybody knows about to take in during our DC trip. First there’s H Street that's definitely a part of DC that you want to see. It’s like raw DC – and is filled with nightlife, restaurants and festivals amidst a communal atmosphere. Then you have the Congressional Cemetery which is a really beautiful – and cool place to visit. Fun Fact: John Philip Sousa is buried there. There is the Saint John Paul II National Shrine featuring mosaics by Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik - so even if you're not religious my art enthusiasts would really love it. Or you can visit President Lincolns Cottage – a historic site and museum. And finally, there are the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens where every summer when the lotuses and water lilies bloom, they have a Lotus and Water Lily Festival.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing, the travel requirements for anyone traveling into Washington, DC from a jurisdiction with more than ten COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people are as such:
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements for Washington DC click here.
Whether you travel for the history, the gastronomy, the culture, the wellness, the activities or the off the beaten path adventures – Washington DC offers them all – right here in our own backyard – no passport needed. I'd love to be able to start building an itinerary for you and your travel companions that includes what’s important to you – so let’s get that conversation started!
For more details on things to see and do in Washington DC, where to stay, it’s price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
There are so many amazing places to visit on this wonderful planet of ours that sometimes we forget the beautiful destinations that are literally in our own backyards. Domestic travel is quite possibly all we may be able to do until the borders start opening which means there’s no better time than now to set out to explore this amazing country of ours.
By now you may have may have guessed that this week’s video guest will be chatting with me about a US city. And you would be correct! And that guest is my colleague Nicole Krekeler the Tourism Sales Manager for Experience Scottsdale (Arizona) who is relaying to us all of the marvelous sights, sounds and tastes there are to discover in Scottsdale - as well as some hidden gems that I didn’t even know about!
Grab your cowboy hat, pull on your boots, take a seat on your horse and trot along with us on this Scottsdale adventure!
Location, Landscape and Climate: Nicole first let us in on the fact that she’s an Arizona native - which is rare - from what she’s heard. And she advised that Arizona is known as the Grand Canyon State and cheekily added that “we own the entire Grand Canyon no matter what Las Vegas and Nevada say!”
Scottsdale itself is centrally located in the state and although it’s a suburb of Phoenix, it truly is its own standalone destination. Plus being right in center of state it’s a great place to hub and spoke out to Sedona, the Grand Canyon or south to Tucson or Tombstone. The city is long and skinny - measuring 32 miles north to south and 7 miles east to west. It’s also within close proximity to the airport as at the southernmost point it’s just 15 minutes from Sky Harbor - Phoenix’s international airport.
That, and coupled with the fact that there are 320 days of sunshine statewide plus no humidity – it’s a dry heat - which trust me - makes a big difference - means it’s a pretty safe bet you won’t get rained out! The average minimum temperature is actually 55 degrees – so it’s not 100 degrees all years round! Thanks to being located in the Sonoran Desert there is a temperature difference.
Popular Areas: One must see is Old Town Scottsdale. Filled with culture and life like it was back in the old west – they still have some original streets, the original post office and the First Bank of Arizona. That old bank is now a cool little (little is right – it only holds about 43 people) gem known as the Rusty Spur – a bar that opened after the bank closed down during the Great Depression and still stands there today filled with all its cowboy culture! They even still have the bank’s original vault which is used to store alcohol now instead of money. They also feature live music every day - plus every Saturday at 3:00 PM Gary and his horse ride in, strum a song, then back on outta there! You will also find numerous privately owned boutique shops as well as great chef driven restaurants in Old Town. It really is a great place to walk around, do some exploring and maybe buy a Mexican blanket or some stunning turquoise jewelry. Other areas of interest to explore - Tombstone a town that is just as if you are walking into the old west and recreating it – and it’s not a film set up – it truly is an actual town and also what they refer to as the Waterfront – which is Scottsdale’s canal system – featuring great shops, restaurants and scenery including palm trees, public art sculptures and fountains.
Sightseeing and Activities: Most of you probably associate Scottsdale with the desert but did you know that an entire one third of the city is a protected Sonoran Desert preserve? Meaning...there are outdoor activities galore! With over 30,000 acres of protected land - there’s over 200 miles of hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock-climbing trails and more!
There is also an abundance of Hot Air Balloon rides thanks to the temperate weather and low wind - which also allows Scottsdale to brag that they have the most flyable days in the US! Due to the heat in the summer only sunrise tours are offered - but from October through April you can take a sunset tour as well. What a great way to see the desert - by floating over! Especially if you aren’t into hiking and mountain biking. Bonus - you get a champagne toast at end!
Golf. Lots and lots of golf! In the Phoenix metropolitan area there are about 200 golf courses - and Scottsdale is home to 51 of them. (Side Note: This number represents both Scottsdale and Paradise Valley – a small town and suburb of Scottsdale). One really cool fact about these golf courses – to keep them green they use all reclaimed water and utilizing a very complex system it allows them to maintain green golf course without using up natural resources.
There are some really fun ways to explore that desert terrain – such as Jeep or Hummer Tours or renting a self-drive UTV’s that allow you to see - and learn about - the flora and fauna and the eco system up close and persona. Fun Fact – there is more plant life in the Sonoran Desert than in the Amazon thanks to all of the different species of plants.
Also home to Tonto National Forest where opportunities for kayaking, rafting and paddle boarding are plentiful and there are tour companies that will do these activities with you if you don’t want to give it a go alone. This area is actually quite green and in addition to manmade lakes you’ll also find the Salt and Verde Rivers – where you will see wild horses galloping around on any given day!
Arts and Culture: Culture is a huge part of who Arizona is as a state as well as is Scottsdale as a destination. Scottsdale actually butts up to one of the to one of the larger reservations in the state - the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian community. The state as a whole has 25 tribes residing there which is the most of any state in the country and they boast of great partnerships with festivals to honor those tribes being held often.
Art is actually a huge component in Scottsdale and a very interesting fact that Nicole let us in on is that 3% of any large corporate build’s total investment has to go back to community in public art. Thanks to this mandate - you’ll see numerous sculptures and interesting interactive art features throughout the entire city! In addition there are approximately 150 art galleries and art dealers in Scottsdale and just over 70 of them are located in Old Town which has an Arts district with a couple of walkable streets where every Thursday night they do an art walk allowing you to go in to the galleries and partake in cheese and wine while talking with the owners and possibly the artists themselves. You’ll also find a lot of handmade goods for sale by local artists and Native American communities sold throughout the town.
Then there is Taliesin West which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year! The story behind this is that Frank Lloyd Wright came out to Arizona to the desert for inspiration in the late 1920’s and built it as his home and a winter school for his apprentices. It is still an architectural school to this day! He also kind of founded the artist community that he stumbled upon in the 1930’s that is still a running artist community and compound today. A lot of the artist’s work with the local Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalow, creating all their artwork in the rooms and doing interactive art classes such as watercolors that are all free for the guests who stay there.
Scottsdale is also home to six world class museums – two of them being Smithsonian affiliated museums. The first is the Spirit of the West Museum - a beautiful museum that focuses on the cowboy and Indian culture of the seventeen most western states and how we all got out west. And the second is the Musical Instrument Museum which came about ten years ago thanks to the CEO of Target who had looked all over for a great location to open this fantastic, interactive museum and settled on Scottsdale. Per Nicole it is one place she ALWAYS takes her guest to when they visit, and it is awfully hard to pull them out of there! They have a lot of interactive exhibits, offer behind the scenes tours and are home to a bone flute from around 200 AD that’s quite fascinating!
Gastronomy: If you are in search of a gastronomic adventure there are about 800 restaurants in Scottsdale proper - more per capita than Manhattan! Now obviously there’s a difference in population but still! What a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a heck of a lot of food grown in Arizona and that they have chefs move there from New York and Chicago to embrace the local flavors and all the great things grown there to make a name for themselves. In fact, Nicole related that they are immensely proud of their local chefs and that last year Chef Charlene Badman was the James Beard award winner for the south and southwest! And for more social distancing opportunities there are lots of great patios to eat on! Food tours are available too for you foodies out there.
And there’s not just great food to be found here – Arizona is home to 70 vineyards – mainly located down south in Wilcox and up north in Cottonwood and Sedona. Yup – they can grow grapes in the desert – thanks to all that sunshine and great weather and reclaimed water! In Scottsdale you’ll find six of the larger Arizona vineyards/wineries have wine tasting rooms for you to try out those desert wines. There is also a company that does a walking wine tour and another one that does the tours on golf carts – telling you all about the history of wine making while you sip on wine! What a great idea for a bachelorette party (Nicole says they do host many of them thanks to this)!
Wellness: Wellness is also a huge component of travel to Scottsdale. Many of the resorts offer spas onsite and there are also a lot of stand-alone day spas bringing the total to more than 50 day, resort and health spas for you to choose from. There is definitely something very cleansing about the desert which is why you’ll see a lot of wellness groups hiking in the desert as well. The CIVANA Luxury Wellness Spa Retreat is a new property at the furthest northern point of Scottsdale offering all sorts of different styles of yoga classes as well as barre classes and more – and most of the classes are included in their experience fee (think resort fee)! How great would Scottsdale be for a corporate wellness offsite? Or for you wellness coaches - a perfect place to organize and lead your own retreat!
Accommodations: Home to more than 70 hotels and resorts with the beauty of that being that they are not skyscrapers – they are very well spread out (meaning social distancing friendly!) and of course are following all CDC guidelines and requirements to ensure their guests’ safety.
They also have smaller boutique properties with some being just eight room hideaways where if you so choose you can buy out the entire hotel to self-quarantine with your bubble! The Hermosa Inn which has 45 rooms was getting bought out for weddings prior to covid. Nicole advised us that this is one of her favorites and that it used to be an artist’s home - painter Lon Megargee back in the 1930s and when it was purchased by new owners they turned it into a bed and breakfast and it’s remained just that since the 1940’s. Domestic destination wedding anyone?
Types of Travelers: Great for families - especially those with younger children as it is a great living classroom experience - between the culture, history, and science of nature – as well as couples, honeymooners, babymooners, girls getaways, guy trips – ummm – it’s just great for everyone lets face it!
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing there are no travel restrictions or COVID-19 test requirements for individuals visiting Arizona.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements click here.
Scottsdale – as you can see - or as Experience Scottsdale and Nicole refer to it - hot, dry and wild - is much more than just the desert! And it is a destination that was well known for many years as a golf and spa destination, but it is so much more! It is also a luxury destination, an adventure destination, an arts and culture destination, a gastronomic destination … you get the idea! And Nicole also made certain to mention that is a very hospitable city to visit as well. For my Texans - Arizona is not far drive! And my East coasters - you can do a direct flight or if you aren’t ready to fly yet – what a great cross-country drive destination trip!
For more details on things to see and do, where to stay in Scottsdale, it’s price and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
How does taking a break from all the madness of the past year and heading to an all-inclusive property in a breathtaking country where you can relax and recharge your batteries - or you can partake in numerous activities to shake that stress right out of you sound? Yeah – sounds pretty awesome to me too!
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Kathy Stevens who is the Business Development Manager for Sandos Hotel and Resorts All-Inclusive properties in Mexico. And needless to say, Kathy agrees with me that we have been cooped up far too long and it’s time for a change of scenery – with no better place than one with the great rates, beaches and customer service of our neighbor to the south. And Sandos happens to have four properties – one on the west coast in Cabo San Lucas, one in the hotel zone of Cancun and two in Riviera Maya.
So, mi amigas and amigos – let’s find out exactly what we can expect from these magnificent all-inclusive budget friendly properties!
Properties: As mentioned above Kathy represents four properties across Mexico – stretching from one end of the country to the other.
In addition to a casino, they also have plenty of entertainment if you are not the gambling type. And it's not the typical resort entertainment where you go to the theater in the evening and the same staff that was running the afternoon activities is putting on the show. Here they offer spots of entertainment during the day and also in the evening - so if you're up for it - as long as you have the energy to keep going – they are always entertaining you!
There are three infinity pools on the property in addition to the beach - where you can do some parasailing by the way. And as Kathy mentioned it's located right there in the hub of Cancun - so when you walk outside the resort onto the street there is a local bus that you can take - or you can even walk if you prefer – to the hotel zone. It’s very safe and friendly and you’ll find plenty of places to go shopping among other things.
One of the things that I like about this property in terms of also the location is that you can easily enjoy a myriad of different things. If you want to get out and not be on the property all the time you have the ability to do so and still be safe – even if you are as me - a woman traveling alone most of the time. I'm extremely comfortable in the hotel zone and when people ask, I tell them Mexico is like any other place you're going to - be cautious but not afraid and don't do what you wouldn't do at home. Side Note: A lot of people still think of Cancun proper as spring break destination only – and that is not true anymore.
One of the great things about Sandos properties is that they have no restrictions, no limits and no reservations required in all of their a la cart restaurants. Meaning - at some all-inclusive properties you can only go to each specialty restaurant once during your stay or you need reservations in advance. At Sandos you can go once a day to an a la cart restaurant or three times a day. As Kathy joked - if you have the stomach and the clothes that fit! The only exception are their hibachi restaurants – as they do require reservations just because of the set up – as they are dinner and a show.
Sandos Caracol also has a fabulous water park - Aquapark - that Kathy insists is for kids of all ages - and sizes! It is divided into three sections so that you don’t have to worry about the bigger kids crashing into your little ones. And of course, there's no added cost and you can use it as many times as you want. It really is a great experience for the whole family and Kathy added that sometimes she sees the adults more excited to go to the water park then the kids!
One thing that makes this property unique is their All-Nature Experience that includes daily activities - such as eco-guided tours - to introduce you to the lush ecosystems and are open to all ages. And there are a lot of other things that you can experience while you're at the property including Day of the Dead activities (a very popular celebration in Mexico), bird watching, bike trails, yoga, Mayan shows and more. Here you're truly getting that cultural immersion and the ability to really enjoy what this destination is all about.
And we can’t forget about the pool! The main pool just underwent a major facelift so if you want to be by the beautiful turquoise water and sandy beaches but don’t want to actually swim in the ocean – there is a beautiful pool to enjoy.
This one has a quite different vibe from Caracol which is a little bit more about exploring the jungle and the Mayan culture. This one is all about the location. The beach here is absolutely amazing - and Kathy said that she has often shown videos or pictures of it to friends and relatives who think that they are fake. But it really is that calm that beautiful – trust us!
In the Riviera Family section, you’ll find the Riviera Family King Jr. Suite and the Riviera Family Queen Jr Suite. The family suites feature bunk beds so there is room for everybody. And should you have a party of five – because they know some families do have three children - there is a suite available with a king bed and a trundle bunk bed or one with two queen beds with a sofa bed - so everyone will have their own space and sleep comfortably. And if you have more than three children - there are connecting rooms available - subject to availability of course.
The hotel also offers Finisterra Casitas Deluxe or Finisterra Casitas Suites which are a great opportunity for those of you who want extra room. These also give you brilliant views of the marina – which are just as fabulous as having an ocean view. In fact, Kathy also told us about a time she was assigned a marina view room and was a little disappointed that she didn’t get an ocean view room. However – she soon realized that at night the marina in Cabo San Lucas is an amazing view with its own personality. There are multitudes of multi-million-dollar yachts parked for the evening as well as the bright colors of purples and blues and more – and she ended up thrilled that she got this view! And another bonus – the casitas are situated so you almost never see who your neighbor is - so again if you like little bit more privacy - this is the way to go. And of course – a definite plus for the social distancing aspect.
Personally, one of the things that I love about Cabo is the Arch of Cabo San Lucas – which is a distinctive rock formation at the southern tip of the town. And honestly just to be able to see both the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean is super great too. You can opt to take a sunset dinner cruise that leaves right out of the oh so close by marina or hang out there with a drink during the day and watch those adorably funny sea lions - that often seem to realize they are on camera and act accordingly!
Safety: Per Kathy, Cancun is one of the first destinations to be certified by the World Health Organization and are not only doing what they require – but going over and above to ensure you are going to have a great time and you're going to be safe. They are certainly not taking your health or your safety lightly.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Mexico.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date COVID protocols at Sandos Hotels and Resorts click here.
There you have it – four more fabulous resorts to consider when planning your Mexico adventure. One of the great things about Sandos Hotels and Resorts is they are budget friendly and offer some great pricing options for all-inclusives! So, you heard Kathy – let me know what kind of beach vibe you want so that we can figure out the best property for you and get to planning your 2021 getaway to sun in the fun!
For more details on the fabulous Sandos Hotels and Resorts, their price points, and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
In today’s video chat we are going to travel to a destination that I personally cannot wait to learn all about - as I have not yet had the opportunity to visit this beautiful country. And what beautiful country might that be? It is the largest country in the world - Russia!
Elena Ulko, owner of Ulko Tours - the destination management company for both Russia and Scandinavia - excitedly accepted my invitation to sit down and chat all about her homeland recently. And – I am willing to bet that most of you are going to be as surprised as I was to get a glimpse into what a lot of us envision to be a mysterious, somewhat dark and oh so serious land and its people. (Spoiler alert – that is so not the case!) And you will see right off the bat that Elena is very aware of the misconceptions about her beloved Russia and could not wait to show us why we have it all wrong.
Now let’s clear our minds of any pre-conceived notions and read all about the secrets and treasures that you will find there that Elena promises will entice you to visit and make you fall in love with her country.
Ulko Tours: Elena and Ulko Tours in general are great to work with because they let you decide what you want to see. Elena said their customers usually inquire as to what they should see while visiting but she prefers to give you a list of the everything there is to see and let you decide for yourself what it is on that list that interests you - that speaks to your heart. Whether you want to view the ornate residences or if you’re a museum fanatic or long to visit its churches and cathedrals – or all of these things – they will be more than happy to accommodate you. And of course – I will be curating your personalized experience with her assistance – so you can be assured you are in good hands!
Geography, Currency, Climate and More: Russia is home to 146 million people and occupies 6.6 million square miles or one-eighth of the worlds surface making it twice the size of the US. And it’s not only massive – but it is remarkably diverse as well. And how crazy is this – there are ten different time zones in Russia. So, if for instance you flew from Moscow across the country to the other side and landed in Kamchatka it would be a nine-hour time change!
Like I stated above – Elena mentioned that having lived in the US at one time she realized that most people don’t know much about Russia and that most of what they know they get from tv and movies which as she feels - portrays them as mobsters, very gloomy and perhaps a bit crazy. When in fact visitors are usually shocked when they arrive in Moscow and it’s not like they pictured it. Russians are really very friendly and enjoy meeting new people. Elena attributes a lot of the unfriendly perception to the Soviet times when life was so difficult for them and they just had to concentrate on their work and their everyday life in order to survive – which didn’t leave much space for happiness. But now life is getting better and they have the opportunity to travel and they love to welcome travelers to Russia in return.
The currency used throughout the country is the ruble which just so happened to be quite colorful currency. The exchange rate as of this writing - though it changes all the time, and we will need to check it for you prior to your trip - is 70 rubles to $1.00.
Getting There: There are direct flights available from numerous major cities in the US including New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago to name a few. And of course – if you know me – you know I do recommend flying business class as the trip is lengthy and this way you can lay down and be rested and ready to start your adventure when you arrive! Most visitors will fly into Saint Petersburg or Moscow - as they are the two cities where people usually start their adventure when they come over to visit. But there are also flights into other cities in Russia if you so desire.
It’s important to note that Americans do need to have a Russian visa to visit – along with a valid passport. And you want to make sure your passport is valid for the length of your visa. Elena related that 90 days prior to your trip is the earliest you can apply and though the questionnaire may look daunting it is in fact not difficult – just extensive. In addition to a visa, you will also need a letter of support to get the visa - which Elana said they can quickly and easily get for you. This letter serves as a confirmation that you are traveling with a certain company and that company is acting as a sponsor for the visa.
Length of Stay: In terms of how many days you should give yourself when creating an itinerary, it’s going to depend - of course - on what you want to experience. If you really want to do the whole country, Elena and I certainly suggest at least 15 days plus. This way you are not going to just be jumping from one destination to another but actually being able to do a lot of cultural immersion in each destination as well. Elana actually outlined some sample itineraries and the number of days for each:
Elena had a fabulous point – if you are going to fly all the way from the US to Russia it really makes sense to plan a little longer to be able to see as much as possible – because in reality for most of us it is a once in a lifetime trip. (Although Elena noted they do get people who come back over and over because they fall in love with the country.)
Getting Around: Being able to get around is key and there all different modes of transportation available. There are private vehicles, a public transit system, taxis, river and canal boat rentals, helicopters and hydrofoils. Ulko Tours will use more than one mode of transportation on their tours combining those that make the most sense. And of course, if you want to splurge a bit on a helicopter, they will happily do that.
Also on this list are trains. The Sapsan Train is the rail service which connects St. Petersburg to Moscow and Elena mentioned this because she knows that a lot of people think it is much easier to travel by plane when city hopping throughout Russia. And there’s no disagreement there – for instance it is just a one-hour flight between these two cities as opposed to a three-and-a-half-hour train ride. BUT – there is all the time – and hassle - spent prior to wheels up that adds on even more time. You must travel to the airport and be sure to arrive well in advance and go through the often-lengthy security checkpoint which ends up adding a few hours to that one-hour flight time. Now – picture this. You arrive at the train station which is right in the center of the city of Moscow, there is no hassle getting to the station and upon arrival you will board the train, sit down and settle in for the journey. And should you choose business class you get a meal and drinks as well ultimately ending up in the center of St. Petersburg easily, effortless and extremely comfortably. I am convinced!
And of course, we cannot forget about the Trans-Siberian Railway! The beautiful thing about starting out in St. Petersburg or in Moscow is that you actually can create an itinerary that includes the Trans-Siberian and if you chose to do the full route it is an amazing two-week adventure.
Destinations: Based on its size to see all of Russia you really need a lot of time so today we're going to talk about the major destinations that you should not miss when you come.
Here everything is extreme - large buildings, wide streets, expensive cars, couture shops never-ending traffic jams and big money. And yes, there is plenty to see, do and experience here - including gastronomy, sightseeing, art and culture, wellness and even medical opportunities - so for those of you guys who are maybe looking to travel for a medical procedure this could be an option. Hotel accommodations range from three to five stars and the recommended stay here is three to four days.
In the heart of Moscow, you’ll find the Kremlin which is the oldest fortress in the city. Featured inside are churches - or cathedrals. Part of the Kremlin is open for visitors so you can actually go in inside and explore all the centuries old churches – the history here is amazing and Elena guarantees you will come away in awe.
Another famous place you will find in Moscow is Red Square which is home to St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Tower of Kremlin and the Kremlin Clock all of which are symbols of Moscow that you will often see featured in all brochures.
And attention all my shoppers - Moscow is a great place for shopping! At Manezhnaya Square - which is located on the other side of the Kremlin – you will not only enjoy walking through the park and taking in the beautiful fountains – but they also have a shopping mall underground! This actually reminds me a little bit of Montreal and their underground city and is a great opportunity if you visit in the winter to shop in the warmth of the underground as opposed to outside shopping centers!
Elena shared that a huge chunk of the visitors coming to Russian request to do a Soviet Moscow tour and no wonder why! It is famous for its 1950s architecture that was created during the time of Joseph Stalin and is quite impressive – in fact, everything back then was impressive - even the subway stations! So much so that people request tours of them (which she noted is unlike most places with subway systems – for instance New York City) but in St. Petersburg and Moscow the subway tour is an extremely popular tour! The Moscow Metro or subway is a stunning triumph of Soviet architecture.
You can also have the theater experience in Moscow and Elena shared that a lot of people request seeing ballet at the Bolshoi Theater - in fact, she joked – unless it’s something that puts you to sleep - it is on almost on everyone’s list.
If you want to hobnob with the local’s head to Gorki Park as it is one of the places local residents spend their free time thanks to its plentiful outdoor space. And make sure you sample the local ice cream while you are there as it is one of their specialties!
Another must do is to partake in a Moscow River Cruise one evening. You can choose one with or without dinner – either way it is a marvelous opportunity to catch a glimpse of the beautiful sunset as it illuminates the city.
Ok so there are tons of Soviet artifacts that can be found throughout the city but for my history buffs here is something you are NOT going to want to miss! There is a Soviet secret bunker that you can actually visit – in fact - it is the only one open to the public. As you know - during the Cold War both in the US and in Russia everybody was convinced that something horrible was going to go down – and mainly that fear was of a nuclear war – leading to the beginning of the nuclear shelter craze. How cool is it that you get to descend deep down into one such shelter and explore this underground corridor! Even cooler is that you can actually even have a meal while you are there thanks to the canteen built for the young government employees that is open to visitors.
The Hermitage is a splendid imperial palace with stunning interiors located on the Neva River that was once the house of a Russian royal family. It contains the world's largest collection of art with pieces by da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens and others and in fact is really all about the art!
Another popular attraction is Peterhoff Park and Palace located just a one-hour drive from the city on the shores of the Baltic Sea. What was once the summer palace of the tsars actually consists of several palaces on the grounds that can be visited, jaw dropping fountains and is an overall amazing place to wander around in.
Catherine's Palace was another summer residence for Russian tsars - a royal countryside resort named after Peter the great's wife.
As for which churches and cathedrals you may want to visit, they include Spilled Blood Church – which is richly decorated with mosaics inside and out, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral – which is one of the largest churches in the world has an observation spot in it’s done that offers great views, Saint Nicholas Cathedral and Kazan Cathedral just to name a few!
Canal Rides on the Neva River are – according to Elena - one of the greatest experiences in the city and her absolute favorite thing to do there thanks to the great opportunity it gives you to view this amazing city from the water!
Russia's best – and oldest - ballet school - Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet and its number one theater - Mariinsky Theatre - are located in St. Petersburg - and just as seeing the ballet is on almost everyone’s list who visits Moscow it is also on the lists of those who visit St. Petersburg. You can catch ballet performances year-round in one of ten different theaters and the infamous Swan Lake is performed daily during the summer for everybody to attend. And for my ballerinas out there - we can arrange for you to do a ballet master class – which wow – what a unique experience! And if by chance ballet is not your thing – there are fabulous Russian folk shows - folk and dance and Cossack shows – which are filled with culture and wonderful to see live.
And for some hands-on experiences in the city, you can tour the House of Faberge facility – which is one of the largest jewelry factories in the world – where they will introduce you to the entire process of how they are produced, casted, decorated and certified. And you can also make your own Faberge pendant. If you prefer dolls over jewelry you can take part in a Matryoshka Doll class. This is a great activity for the end of a long day of touring as you meet in a café where you can sit down with a pastry and a cup of coffee, where an artist will join you and tell you all about the history of doll making. Afterwards you get to decorate the dolls with the design of your choosing – be it a traditional Russian design or even as a Minion!
Now, one of the things that your Travel Guru likes about St. Petersburg is that it's also a very quick way to get to some of the Scandinavian countries - so should you wish to do a combination trip we can make that happen quite easily. For instance – you can start in St. Petersburg and then hop over into Finland. And Elena took it one step further by letting us in on this great tidbit - for those who don't want to go through the trouble of getting a Russian visa there is a way around it! If you go to Finland first and then travel from Finland to Russia, you can do so for three days or 72 hours! So, granted it will be a quick trip, but you will get to experience some of St. Petersburg! You simply hop a ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, get a hotel, tour for three days and then take the ferry to return to Finland and all with no visa needed!
From here you can travel to Vitoslavlitsy which is a wooden architecture museum as well also a small village about a ten-minute drive outside of Novgorod. It features small wooden houses - preserved and moved from all over Russia – set up in one place and assembled into a small town. Here you will be exposed to the different types of architecture from different periods and as you walk into the houses you will get an idea of how they lived in different eras – from livestock to arts and crafts.
Now Karelia is not a town - it is an entire district. Elena shared that this is one of her favorite destinations to head to when it’s time to recharge and be one with nature. She absolutely fell in love with it and shares the beauty of it with everybody that visits her. Between the pine tree forests, the clean air that you breathe and the amazing sunsets - it's really an awesome opportunity to connect with nature and feel the rejuvenation of your mind, body and spirit. Here are some cool activities – pun intended - to take part in while you are there.
Other Ways to Experience Russia: Should you decide that you want to see Russia via boat or train there are some fabulous options to do both!
Now of course there are different types of train accommodations ranging in price all the way up to $16,000. And that super expensive train is the luxury train my friends. That means when you board the train it is similar to boarding a cruise ship. You unpack once and then as the train stops during the day, you hop off and spend the day in that city sightseeing. Later you return back to your train for some dinner and shut eye – and as you sleep - the train travels on to the next stop.
Yes – there is a cheaper train which is for you adventurous backpacker types as it’s the regularly scheduled train which means you get to travel with locals and get to know more about them. This unique experience provides you with the chance to travel in 3rd class and according to Elena a lot of her clients choose to do this as they are super curious about life in Russia and want to hear it straight from regular Russian citizens. Now these trains do travel nonstop so if you want to stop and explore a destination you have to leave the train and then get another ticket on the following train to catch up – making it a true backpack-like experience perfect for my adventurers!
Below are some more destinations that you would have the opportunity to explore should you choose to travel via the Trans-Siberian railway.
Health and Wellness: I found this part of my conversation with Elena remarkably interesting – enlightening if you will! Did you know Russia has become a great destination for medical and wellness tourism? Yup - since 2016 the number of international patients has almost doubled! Dubbed health care resorts you can choose from a one day stay to a week – or more!
And their offerings are plentiful and include detox and destress programs, weight loss programs, plastic surgery, genetics, general therapy, cosmetology and aesthetics. Heck you can even get massages here! So, my thought is if you want to actually add a number of days onto your vacation - whether you're having some type of surgery or what have you – we can coordinate the wellness part of your journey with the sightseeing part. There are some people who go to Russia to have an entire medical checkup then like to spend a week there resting, recharging and recovering. And Elena tells us – from firsthand knowledge mind you – that the food you will be served here is restaurant quality and that you really don’t feel like you are at a hospital - more like you're at a spa but are receiving full medical assistance and attention.
Oh, and the cost? Well as she put it – imagine getting several procedures, every for a week in the US? Yeah – we all know that cost would be astronomical to say the least. However - here it’s less than $3000 thousand US dollars - for all that plus full board and all done at a lovely center! I may not leave – just saying!
Gastronomy: Oh gosh the opportunities for gastronomy experiences are abundant in Russia! You can participate in professional cooking classes, you can take part in family dining experiences, you can visit private farms and taste authentic farm to table meals, you can sample art cuisine at gastro bars and gastropubs, you can take food tours, you can visit food markets and you can go bar hopping and experience the nightlife! Whew – told you the opportunities are abundant! And you know I 100% feel that the best way to experience cultural immersion is through food! Elena also let us in on the fact that she herself offers those family experiences and loves being able to personally meet some of her clients and participating in an intercultural exchange over a great meal.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Russia.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements for Russia click here.
So yeah – we have obviously covered quite a lot about Russia in just a short time. And since this was just a high-level overview, I would love to hear from you guys which ones you would like to be covered more in depth or what other ones that were not covered would you like to learn about. This way I can invite Elena back to share even more with us! Hopefully, this took the “mystery” out of Russia for you as it certainly did for me! It is an amazing country full of adventure, history, wellness, gastronomy and more. And talk about a living classroom! What a fabulous place to take your children to get an up close and personal history lesson that they are never going to forget!
For more details on things to see and do in Russia, where to stay, it’s price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
Let’s reel our travels back into the good old USA and chat about one amazing destination that houses several distinct regions filled with history, outdoor activities, gambling and so much more – the Reno / Lake Tahoe area.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Jamie Lokan the Tourism Sales Manager from Reno Tahoe in one of my Travel Tuesday video segments. Jamie brought with her a love and passion for this area that was infectious – so infectious that I by the end I was seriously contemplating hopping in the car and doing a road trip there myself!
If you are not familiar with the area – or even if you are – I think you are going to enjoy this virtual visit out west as much as I did. Let’s get started – shall we?
Getting There: The beautiful thing about Reno is that it's super easy to get to thanks to all of the airlines that service the area with direct flights – including for my peeps in both Texas and New York City! You can also make it a road trip from anywhere in the US and I would love to help you plan things to see and do along the way. Or we can always make it a multi-destination vacation and include California – as San Francisco and Napa Valley are only about a three and a half to four-hour drive and its only five hours to Yosemite National Park. Bonus -
Jamie said the drive to Yosemite is probably one of the most beautiful drives you can experience as it's on a scenic highway that takes you right up through Nevada. You may also consider adding Salt Lake City as a stop as it is just seven and a half hours away on the wide-open Highway 80. And if you aren’t into road tripping – how about the train? The Zephyr Line goes from Chicago all the way out to San Francisco with stops in Salt Lake City and Reno. So, in reality the options are plentiful as you can make it a fly, drive, rail or just a fly and drive or simply all rail! You decide.
Accommodations: With over 15,000 rooms just in Reno - that's not including Tahoe – there are plenty of properties to choose from - everything from the well-known brands in both arears to four diamond and four-star casino hotels in Reno. Most hotels feature multiple restaurants at multiple price points with the major resorts also having spas, pools, health clubs and shopping - as well as complimentary round-trip airport shuttles and free self and valet parking.
Destinations: There are a couple of different regions that make up the Reno / Tahoe destination – each with its own distinct flavor.
And if you prefer to stay on dry land - about a mile and half from the river you will find a really nice bike path that goes for about ten miles – which of course not everyone is going to do. But you can easily peddle up to the Hub Coffee Roasters shop for a cup of java and while you are there check out one of Jamie’s favorites – Dorinda’s Chocolate – which by the way is all homemade and features homemade ice cream sandwiches too. Yum! I’m in!
There are some great museums to be found in Reno too - including the Automobile Museum which boasts over 215 cars – none older than 1970. For my bowlers – Reno is home to the National Bowling Stadium and you probably already know this if you are a fan of the sport – but they also host a couple of really large tournaments every year.
Do I have any rock climbers out there? Well even if you aren’t you can still try out the rock-climbing wall outside of Whitney Peak which is a non-gaming, nonsmoking hotel. The wall is 150 feet high above the street and features panoramic views of Reno and in the surrounding area. So cool!
One must see here is the Bucket of Blood Saloon which is very famous in the region and was so named thanks to all the fighting between the miners – every night when they cleaned up – or mopped up – it would be bloody water. Yuck!
There are quite a few different tours you can take here – including several train tours – there are 600 miles of train routes - that range from 25 minutes to an hour and a half. Jamie shared that one of her favorite things to do is the tour via a tram car pulled by a tractor. At just six dollars it takes you around town and gives you the history of all of the different buildings. It runs about 20 minutes and is very interesting as well as educational. There are also mine tours you can take and plenty of museums to see including The Way it Was Museum – which is also one of Jamie’s favorites. Here you can see what the mines were like above and below and how they crossed each other in different levels.
Hot air balloon rides are another great thing to do here. Most of them go out of Tahoe verses down in the valley. They also offer them in Carson City – from the airport - which happens to be the state capital and about 30 minutes from Reno. Carson City has some great museums too – including the Nevada State Railroad Museum and the Nevada State Museum.
The Truckee River also has some rapids so for my adventures there is the Truckee River Whitewater Park. And for my golfers you will find over 40 golf courses in the 90-minute drive around the area. And come winter there is even more to do! It’s home to the largest concentration of ski resorts in North America – including Heavenly Resort and Squaw Valley Ski Resort and there’s cross country skiing at Royal Gorge. Fun Fact: Something that's fun to do - which not a lot of places can brag about - but that California and Nevada can - in the springtime you can ski and golf. And Jamie said she has done it – skied in the morning then golfed in the afternoon.
And of course – at the lake itself – there are many different types of water activities to partake in. There are many different paddle boat cruises to choose from – both during the day and in the evening - with dinner cruises as well – it just depends on how long you want to go for. The MS Dixie on the Nevada side has some that travel through Emerald Bay which is one of the most iconic photo areas in the Tahoe. Parasailing is also available – as is taking a guided fishing trip. Another fun thing in Lake Tahoe is viewing all of the Old Woody’s – or old wooden boats – even though you can't rent them as they're privately owned - but they are beautiful to see. But you can rent a powerboat for the day and when you get hungry – or thirsty – just pull up to a restaurant – they all have docks - and order it to go or dine outside! And the clarity of the water is absolutely amazing – it really is Caribbean like – though not quite as warm since it is snow fed! At it’s deepest it is about 1600 feet deep.
A visit to the Thunderbird Lodge is also amazing as they do really interesting tours that tell you how Lake Tahoe was settled. You can do this via foot, or you can do a kayak tour that will take you there to visit as well. They also do guided hiking and guided biking tours and there is plenty of mountain biking and road cycling as well as snowmobiling in the winter.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing the state of Nevada has strong systems in place to help protect Nevadans and visitors but continue to urge all those who have tested positive and not yet recovered or who are exhibiting symptoms to avoid travel to the state at this time.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements Reno / Tahoe click here.
So, wow – this is one destination that my active vacationers and my nature lovers need to get on their bucket list asap! And one of the best things about Lake Tahoe that Jamie mentioned – near the end of our chat - is how well it's been preserved thanks to an abundance of rules and regulations. For instance – when it comes to building at the lake - to keep it clean you aren't allowed to build in April because the spring runoff is happening, and they don't want all of that dirt to go into the lake. Now – let’s get you booked to see this crystal-clear water for yourself!
For more details on things to see and do in Reno / Tahoe, where to stay, it’s price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
You may have heard of it, but can you pronounce it? Juliana Leveroni, Director of Communications at Experience Kissimmee Florida said they always say that it doesn’t matter how you pronounce it – just come and experience their destination! And for the record - here in the US we tend to pronounce it Kiss-em-ee but our friends in the UK and some other European countries pronounce it Kiss-a-me.
I had the pleasure of having Juliana join me to talk about this domestic destination that often gets overshadowed by its neighbor Orlando and it’s oh so popular theme parks – but that has many wonderful things to see and do that you probably didn’t know about. I know I sure didn’t – but now that I do I know that it certainly makes for a great add on to when you are in the area!
So, set down the ears and wand for a moment and take a peek into what this other Central Orlando area has to offer.
So, You Said It’s Neighbor Is Orlando? Correct – and a lot of people don't know that it's only 25 minutes from Orlando International Airport and just ten minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort. And while the theme parks are usually the main reason people come to Central Florida, the area has so much more to offer in addition to them – especially now that people are looking for more outdoor adventures, stay-cations and vacation homes. Vacation homes – by the way – are the main attraction here and as per Juliana and Kissimmee is referred to as “The Vacation Home Capital of the World!”
And this makes it the perfect place to take a work-cation as well as to take that remote learning on the road – because when the work and school day are over there are plenty of opportunities for evening activities. Especially for those of you that may live in a smaller apartment or in a crowded city – what a great way to get a change of scenery – and lots of elbow room. With over 50,000 vacation homes from two bedrooms apartments to a 15-bedroom mansion with a lazy river, arcade and game room – you can do a multi-generation or combined family work-cation and at the end of the day you have your private pool in your backyard to hang out around or plenty of outdoor activities to partake in and spend quality family time together! And for the kids it’s a great travel as a living classroom experience – as you will see below.
Tell Me About That Travel As A Living Classroom Concept. Central Florida has its own ecotourism due to its own culture of swamps and the fact that it is home to the headwaters of the Everglades. Thanks to that there are thousands of species of birds – they are a one of the top destinations in the US for bird watching - plus all kinds of wildlife including gators and turtles. So, the kids – and the adults can learn about the Everglades and the wildlife that surround it. A living science class – which translates into the best way to learn!
There is a cultural side as well, to bring in the history and social studies lessons. The Osceola Welcome Center is also a museum that includes the Osceola County Historical Society Museum's local history exhibits. Per Juliana it’s a wonderful place with a lot of resources for you to learn about how Kissimmee and the Osceola County area became this amazing cultural mix thanks to the different people that settled here and the industries that took over the destination. In addition - right behind the welcome center there’s what is called Pioneer Village that you can visit. Here you will see houses that are from the beginning of the 1800s that show you how people used to live. The village also includes a general store, a school and a church and is a great way to experience a typical village in Kissimmee in the beginning of the 1800s - before it became this huge touristic place.
What’s There To Eat? Glad you asked! Head to downtown Kissimmee and you’ll find over 30 locally owned restaurants. In fact - it has the distinction of having the most privately owned restaurants on one street in the United States! Thanks to Central Florida’s great mix of nationalities, you’re going to find everything from ice cream shops to Hispanic flavors to bakeries to Jamaican fare. What a fabulous opportunity for cultural immersion through food! Plus, since you’re supporting local businesses it’s sustainable travel as well.
On Broadway you can enjoy a piece of pizza or burgers and wings at Three Sisters Speakeasy. Off 192 before you arrive in Margaritaville you have Sunset Walk - where you can shop and dine. Food options include Cuban at Estefan Kitchen from Gloria Estefan and her family, iconic burgers at Ford’s Garage and candy shops and ice cream parlors to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Another option is Disney Springs which is just 15 minutes from downtown Kissimmee. With restaurants from award winning chefs like Japanese cuisine from Chef Masaharu Morimoto at Morimoto Asia and comfort food such as fried chicken and southern mac and cheese at Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' Kitchen.
Finally, you have downtown Celebration which a lot of people don't know about. Celebration is a town that was originally developed by Walt Disney company and is now owned by an independent builder. It looks like a movie set city and was inspired by the real housewife type of suburban houses. It reminds you of a postcard and is quite beautiful. The oldest restaurant in Central Florida is located here – Columbia Restaurant – along with amazing flavors from different regions of Cuban and Hispanic food.
So Where Can I Find Off The Beaten Path Things To See And Do? So obviously the destination lends itself to be off the beaten path because you’re already removed from the theme parks and International Drive in Orlando. But to take it a step further not a lot of people know that when you’re in the middle of 192 (192 is the main avenue that goes from west to east in Kissimmee) in the midst of souvenir shops and hotels and then you make a quick left right across from the Welcome Center and you will come across The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek. At The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek you can rent a kayak or paddle boards or if you prefer to stay on dry land you can simply walk the trail along Shingle Creek.
Another fun thing to do right outside of Kissimmee is Wild Florida. This is a place where you can go and do a safari in your own car – which is perfect for social distancing! No lines or crowds here – you drive through the safari from the comfort and safety of your own vehicle. You also have the option to rent an air boat here which is an amazing experience. It’s so much fun and it goes quite fast, but you also learn about nature thanks to an amazing guide who’ll explain about wildlife conservation and the geography of the region as well.
Any Wellness Ops Here? So, Juliana shared - and I love this, “In Kissimmee you can find the perfect balance between being overwhelmed and underwhelmed – you’re just whelmed.” In other words, there’s a balance to be had here – you can choose the thrill and the chill of your own activities.
For example, you can start the morning in a beautiful and breathtaking sunrise hot air balloon adventure at 5:00am. In the quiet calm of the morning as you lift off, you’ll see the sun rising as well as the entire destination from above from the theme parks to the swamps in the Everglades.
Or you can keep your feet on the ground and head to the Cat Cafe for a coffee. Here you can hang out, read a book or just listen to classical music amongst the kitties. (It’s also an adoption center!) Or if wine is more your speed – there’s a winery called Formosa Gardens where you can go and taste the local wine from local fruits.
However – if you are up for adventure and an adrenaline rush you can always zip line on tree tracks or you can go to Gatorland and zip line over the gators! And of course, there are plenty of waterparks as well as those infamous theme parks.
You decide the pace of your activities - it’s your vacation and it’s full of options.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing there are no travel restrictions or COVID-19 test requirements for individuals visiting Florida.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements Kissimmee click here.
So, you guys – bet you didn’t know that just 15 minutes from Disney a whole other world of fun and excitement awaits! Now that you do know – let’s get the conversation started and get you down to sunny Central Florida this year!
For more details on things to see and do in Kissimmee, where to stay, it’s price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
So, you want to do a Caribbean vacation, but you don’t want to deal with getting a passport, adding an international plan to your cell phone, exchanging currency or the lines and hassles of customs and immigration. Do you forgo that Caribbean experience? Heck no! You travel to Puerto Rico!
Puerto Rico is the best of both worlds for Americans – it’s US Territory (and has been for the past 120 years) that also happens to be a Caribbean island! So, all of those deal breakers I listed above are not applicable to this destination!
I recently invited Francisco Blanch the Director of Leisure Sales of Discover Puerto Rico back to share more about Puerto Rico with us (you may remember we talked to him at the height of COVID-19 as well) and he was all too happy to share his passion for it once again!
So – pack your bags and your dancing shoes (you’ll see why later) - but leave your passport at home because you don’t need it here! You’re coming with me to a place that will mirror an experience of an international destination – but is actually a US territory and close to home. Let’s get started!
Getting There: Puerto Rico has what Francisco calls a privileged location in the Caribbean - meaning thanks to where it lies it is an average three and a half to four-hour flight depending on where you are coming from. And bonus - New York and most of the east coast have access to direct flights but don’t worry my Texas friends – it’s just one easy connection for us! There is also plenty of lift to get you there with a wide choice of airlines available for you to choose from. Once you arrive at the San Juan International Airport, you’ll find a modern facility that isn’t too big making it easy to navigate!
Transportation and Getting Around: Puerto Rico measures 100 miles long and just 35 miles wide so everything is within reach in a matter of just a two to three hour driving distance. And drive it you can – and should! First – all you need is your US driver’s license to rent a car then all the rest is the same as driving in your hometown – as it is a US Territory. Same signs, rules, road rage (ha – kidding!) – but you get the idea. Second – they have invested a lot of money into the entire island since Hurricane Maria hit three years ago causing extensive damage - and therefore the island is in top shape and – per Francisco - has one of the most amazing and modern network of roads you will ever drive on. His words? “The roads are impeccable”! (Now that sounds even better than driving on some of the roads in the continental US!)
What’s New: Speaking of Hurricane Maria – here are some stats Francisco shared with us regarding recovery efforts which he credits to being a US territory. They actually already had a great infrastructure of roads so that helped hasten their recovery. The other infrastructure improvements were thanks to over 20 billion in government funds that were spent on response and recovery efforts. IN addition:
Language, Climate and More: First – Puerto Rico is the most advanced and up to date island in the Caribbean according to Francisco. As for language - both English and Spanish are widely spoken across the island. And the climate? It is tropical but thanks to the El Yunque Rainforest in the east and the Central Mountains region - Puerto Rico is a unique climate - temperatures stay at a range between 70- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit making it always feel like spring or summer.
Francisco told us he refers to Puerto Rico as a Continental Island – so - is it an island or is it continental? It’s both. Of course, it’s an Island but its offerings are very continental. It is not just all not just nature and recreation. it’s great for families too with plenty of museums including interactive ones for kids.
Breaking It Down Into Categories: This is certainly one of those “there’s something for everyone” destinations – and then some - just see below!
Destinations: Just like the categories I broke it down into, so too can we break down each destination.
Also close by is the infamous Bacardi Rum Distillery which you can reach via a ferry that leaves from old San Juan and travels across Old San Juan Bay to the distillery. Here you can tour the factory and sample some of their wares. There are other distilleries to tour across Puerto Rico as well and another fun fact - 70% of all of the rum consumed in the US is produced in Puerto Rico. I’ll drink to that!
Culture: For a small island Puerto Rico has a wide array of culture to offer its visitors. And you all know what that means – say it with me – travel as a living classroom!
From music to festivals to celebrations - 400 years of Spanish culture that lived there and developed traditions that are continued in present day. For instance - every town has their own patron saint and they each also have a festival honoring that saint. Did I mention there are a lot of festivals? And then there is the dancing – from the salsa to the bomba to the plena – which is African rooted – all of these dances along with the music and sounds make it an incredibly fun experience. Now do you see why I said to pack your dancing shoes? Whatever you do - don’t forget your dancing shoes!
Then there is it’s Pre-Columbian Culture. Being that Puerto Rico was so fertile and rich in resources the Taíno people – an indigenous tribe - chose to settle here. The Taíno Indians were actually still there when Columbus arrived. Not only can you find artifacts and engravings from them – but you can also find a lot of things that pre-date them – thus there are plenty of archeological sites and museums that are worth visiting to learn more about pre-Taíno and the Taíno native Puerto Ricans.
Gastronomy: There are more than 4000 restaurants in Puerto Rico so it’s safe to say you won’t go hungry! In fact - you’ll find all kinds of delicacies - and they want you to. That’s why you won’t find All-Inclusive properties here – they want you to get out and explore what they have to offer.
In fact - Culinary Adventures are plentiful here! There are even special roads – such as the
Pork Highway – where you will find one after another pork specialty restaurant lined up and people sampling each of them along the way! And just tasting all of the flavorful, marvelous foods is an adventure in itself – from churros to surullitos to empanadillas to arepas to alcapurrias and pionones there is a huge variety, and it is all so very delicious! Oh, and I can’t forget the pasteles which are made with a dough that is created from plantains then wrapped in banana leaves and filled with all kinds of meats and spices – yummy! And one more – mofongo. Mofongo is a staple in Puerto Rico and has become a major delicacy as now they’ll mix it with seafood or chicken or pork – your choice – making it right at your table and seasoning it however you want! If you haven’t had mofongo you are missing you!
The fertility of the island has paved the way for the farm to table concept to take root in Puerto Rico. So much so that as per Francisco - eating organic is a way of life – it’s there, it’s what they expect and they know nothing else. Some of the history of the food available includes the Taíno people bringing the Yuca Root which is a staple for many dishes to this day. In addition, when the Spaniards arrived they brought crops they gathered from other areas the visited including plantains, bananas and banana leaves - all of which play a strong part in the combinations of what existed before mixed with what the Spaniards brought.
Puerto Rico also boasts of its many celebrity chefs. As Francisco explained many of their chefs left the island and travelled to Europe and the US where they worked in fantastic restaurants – many of them Michelin-starred restaurants. When they returned to Puerto Rico, they would open up their own restaurants – taking the original food that is there and giving it their own signature taste – resulting in an abundance of new varieties and recreations of original dishes.
Accommodations: Puerto Rico offers all of the hotel brands you are accustomed to, but they also have Paradores. Paradores are small bed and breakfasts or small inns – think mom and pop type hotels. I always recommend that you stay at one of these properties in order to have a complete cultural immersion and experience the amazing local culture. Francisco also gave us the background on Paradores. The concept was brought to Puerto Rico by a tourism company about fifty years ago and the rule is they must be family run and those families must be Puerto Rican families as the idea was to develop the island AND allow the locals to deliver their hospitality to visitors.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing travel the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Puerto Rico.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements Puerto Rico click here.
In case you thought it might be – I have to point out now that Puerto Rico is NOT just a pre or post cruise destination. It is so, so much more and if I am being honest, I recommend one and a half to two weeks to drive around this amazing island and see all of its nooks and crannies.
For more details on things to see and do, where to stay in Puerto Rico, it’s price and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
I know when a lot of you think of Panama the first – and quite possibly only thing that comes to mind – is that engineering marvel the Panama Canal. But I am here to tell you today that although that is definitely a highlight in the country – it is actually one of numerous highlights!
In keeping with my travel off the beaten path theme due to the awareness that this is going to be a preferred way for a lot of you to travel – I have invited Aiden Mullen from NAMU Travel Group to share all of the secrets of this somewhat lesser-known vacation destination. Aiden is my eyes and ears on the ground for me in Panama and although he hails from Ireland, he has been in Central America for nearly a decade.
Below you will come to realize that Panama – which is the southernmost country in Central America - certainly has much more to offer and explore than just it’s famous canal – although of course you want to experience that too! So, sit back - maybe throw on Van Halen’s popular Panama tune from the 1980’s - and read on to learn more about this country truly blessed by nature.
Getting There: Good news – you can easily get to Panama City - which is where you will fly into - from the New York area as well as from the Atlanta area and even from Texas where there are direct flights out of Dallas or Houston. And for my local Austin peeps it would be a quick and simple connection through Houston, Dallas or Mexico City.
Destinations: The only major city in Panama to visit is Panama City however there are plenty of other destinations around the country for you to check out.
Casco Viejo is the old town of Panama City. It is a quaint little colonial city featuring incredible boutique properties and an up-and-coming food scene thanks to their amazing chefs who have been all over the globe and then returned back home to open up restaurants to showcase the cooking skills they gained.
And of course – the Panama Canal - which runs right through the middle of the city and connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean - is an amazing piece of engineering as well as being beyond historical - especially on this side of the world. If you haven’t done a European river cruise and have never gone through locks - this is certainly an opportunity for you to experience what it is like to sail through a set of locks. The lock mechanism is pretty similar to what you would experience on a European River Cruise - but it is just a whole different experience. And Aiden was quick to note that the canal is not just about the experience - but also about what it has given to the city. Because of the Americans coming down to take over the building of the canal at one point – you will find quite a bit of American influence in the city as we left a lot of our culture behind. So much so that they use US dollars in Panama – so no need to exchange currency here! And not only American influence can be felt here – they are actually a multicultural city because of the French influence that was here before the American’s arrived.
While in Panama City there is also the opportunity for some beach time as the Pacific Ocean is only about twenty to thirty minutes outside of the city. Although Aiden did note that Panama is definitely more well known for its Caribbean side beaches.
Another popular spot is the San Blas Islands which are also in the north but little bit more east. This is an archipelago composed of hundreds of islands and a lot of people will rent their own catamaran or sailboat - complete with their own captain - and sail around these beautiful islands. Ummm…count me in!
Sightseeing and Activities:
Gastronomy: Aiden joked that Panama in general certainly has a little bit of an identity crisis when it comes to their cuisine as there are a variety of dishes to be found from a lot of different locales. Of course, they have traditional Central American foods such as patacones, tostones and pico de gallo.
And as I mentioned above – they are also home to some incredible international food especially in Casco Viejo (Panama City’s old town) thanks to the young men who have gone all over the world, studied with Michelin-starred chefs and the like, then returned back and opened fabulous boutique style restaurants in small little townhouses.
There is also the Panama City Fish Market where you can pick out your favorite fish right there and the chefs upstairs will cook it up for you just how you like it! And I also asked about fishing charters – and Aiden confirmed that if you go out on a charter and catch some fish just bring it back to the chefs and they will prepare it for you. In fact, he said the chefs can’t wait to see what you come bac with!
And we cannot forget the coffee! Aiden informed us that it’s always a competition when it if comes to my favorite beverage - because Columbia says that they have the best coffee - and Guatemala says no we have the best coffee - and now Panama says you’re both wrong - we have the best coffee! Panama’s most famous coffee is referred to as black gold – and it comes from the the geisha plant in the Boquete region in the highlands. And it is a fact that it actually fetches the most dollar per kilo anywhere on planet and is usually sold in Japan. Now that’s a claim to fame! The reason for the high price? The lack of beans - as each plant only grows a few beans. And per Aiden it is delicious but it’s definitely for a different pallet as it differs from the coffee we in the US might be used to.
Accommodations: Panama is home to world class lodges like Isla Palenque Resort in Boca Chica. This beautiful lodge has the distinction of being one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World and is located in the Gulf of Chiriqui off the coast of the Pacific. Boca Chica is easily accessible as it has an airport nearby that is only a one hour from flight from Panama City and then it is only a 20- or 30-minute boat ride to the island where the resort sits. Here you will find just eight beachfront casitas and one estate villa with six standalone rooms. The beachfront villa estate is tucked away and is sold as a whole for groups of two to 14 people. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? How great would it be to hold a multi-generational family reunion here!
Another fabulous property is the El Otro Lado Private Retreat in the Portobello area - which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located about an hour and a half by car from Panama City and then a quick 20- or 30-minute boat ride, after which you are in the middle of the rainforest in a boutique luxury lodge! Now that’s social distancing!
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Panama.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements for Panama click here.
And there you have it my friends – your nickel tour of the beautiful country of Panama. One thing I think we can all take away from this is that Panama is great for the mind, body and spirit and is made for social distancing! And, since Panama is very small like the other countries in Central America that makes it very accessible for an eight, nine or ten-day trip to see it all. Also, thanks to its location it would be easy to combine with other countries that are close – such as Costa Rica – to make it a multi destination trip. As Aiden said even if you choose to just do Panama City it is still a very fulfilling trip in a short amount of time.
For more details on things to see and do in Panama, where to stay, it’s price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
I am incredibly excited about this Travel Tuesday video chat because Le Blanc Spa Resorts are amazing properties that I have had the pleasure of not only doing hotel inspections on – but I have also stayed at them and can I just come clean now and say I LOVE them! And I know you will too after you get done learning about all they have to offer.
My girl Natalie Rogers, the Business Development Manager for Palace Resorts is back - this time discussing the other side of her Palace Resort properties - Le Blanc Spa Resorts. Just a heads up these are Adult Only properties, so they are not for family vacations but rather when you just want to get away and take care of you. And though they are certainly luxury resorts – they do offer a very zen vibe.
Grab a cup of tea – or a latte – throw on some comfy clothes, chill and read on about what Le Blanc Spa Resorts can offer you!
Background: Featuring two properties – the Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun is the flagship property and it just celebrated its tenth year as an AAA - Five Diamond Award Winner making Natalie and team extremely proud. The second property – Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos which was modeled after the Le Blanc Cancun property has been open about three years now and the awards are pouring in for this property as well.
What’s Included: Warning - the Le Blanc Spa Resorts all-inclusive brand features you are going to get are above and beyond what you typically think of as all-inclusive features. Ready?
There’s more! All of the same luxury standards at the Palace Resorts that you have come to know are available at Le Blanc properties - such as the Chi bath amenities, a Chi hairdryer and a Chi flat iron – so ladies you can leave your hair appliances at home! They have also upgraded some of the bath amenities to BVLGARI so you will find a mixture of Chi and BVLGARI bath products. In room you will also find a complimentary mini bar, a comfort menu, specialty pillows, aromatherapy and bath salts, upgraded liquor dispensers, turndown service and Petit fours. All within luxurious, spacious and inviting accommodations with mesmerizing views of the surrounding landscape that exude chic comfort and feature smart designs, the latest entertainment and state of the art technology for your enjoyment and convenience. You may never leave the room!
About That Butler Service: The level of service here is mind blowing! This is not what other brands call concierge service – this is true butler service and boy are you going to miss it when you return back home! The butler service can – and will - do anything from unpacking your bags to making your restaurant reservations to drawing you a bath and so much more. There is an app that you can download while you are there and actually directly text your butler. So, say you are out shopping and your feet are hurting – you can text you can ask them to run you a bath for a specific time so when you return it is waiting for you – with bath salts and all.
And it is a very intuitive level of service as well. Natalie recounted a story when she was on property one time nursing a head cold – that she didn't even mention to her butler - but apparently - he picked up on it. When she returned to her room, she found honey and tea and anything else he thought would help comfort her. And no – he did not know she was an employee!
Gastronomy: The culinary excellence you will experience here is amazing. They mainly prepare meals from what they grow on property - with very few ingredients coming from off property. This is to ensure that all of their ingredients are as natural as possible and allows them to lean towards a garden to table experience. They also have an agreement with Certified Angus Beef so all of the beef you will find throughout both properties is Certified Angus Beef and that is regardless of whether you're at the buffet or at one of their a la carte restaurants. And speaking of a la carte they do focus on their a la carte dining experience - which is essentially a restaurant where you order from a menu as you would normally do at a restaurant at home. They do an amazing job making sure that they hire only highly rated, highly awarded chefs as well, to ensure that their culinary excellence is hard to compete with. And for my wine lovers – Le Blanc just signed an agreement with Robert Mondavi wines, so Robert Mondavi is now their new house wine which means that you're going to be able to order it at no additional charge. Plus, it will be available throughout the properties – whether in your room, at a restaurant or at a bar.
Another thing to note is that if you have any dietary restrictions, they can absolutely accommodate you. All you need to do is advise your waiter and he or she will make sure that your meal is catered directly to you since everything is made fresh on the spot. And - even if you choose to go to the buffet at either one of the properties all you have to do is tell the hostess that you have special dietary needs, and the hostess will let the chef know - and even though it's a buffet - he will prepare you something made to order so you don't have to worry about cross contamination and that type of thing. Now that is service!
Le Blanc Spa: I want to say that the spa adventures at Le Blanc are state of the art – that they have a little bit of a different touch and a different feel to them. One of the things that I love about it is the staff - who are only the highest quality massage therapists and are just take the experience to a whole other level. In addition, these spas offer an amazing hydrotherapy experience - which at the Le Blanc is complementary - you do not need a paid treatment in order to go through the hydrotherapy treatment and essentially you can go as many times a day, every single day at no additional charge.
The Staff: I know I typically don’t add a section about the staff in these overviews, but Natalie spoke so highly of them and of Palace / Le Blanc resorts overall that I felt I must. She told us that one of the things that she loves about this family that she works is that you'll find truly little turnover because it is an outstanding company that really takes care of their employees. She noted that you will find that the majority of the employees have been there a very long time and that is because they treat them so well - and of course that translates to a happy and experienced staff that is a pleasure to be around.
Destinations: As stated above there are just two Le Blanca Spa properties and each resides in a notably different area of Mexico.
Both of the Le Blanc properties focus a lot on a healthy standard of living, so you'll find healthier menu options as well as gyms that are absolutely outstanding. There are personal trainers available, yoga classes to participate in and every single day they have some type of class or a trainer on property to instruct a healthy living lifestyle class of some sort.
And my friends I can attest to this - it's definitely very zen and very natural and focused on healthy living. As far as the value for the money the rooms are just outstanding and of course the level of service is definitely upgraded with the full butler service. And of course, the beach itself is one of the things that I love about Cancun and here you will find both ocean view and lagoon view rooms. And we know most of you are thinking if I am going to Cancun it’s all about the ocean – but the lagoon is where all the beautiful sunsets are. Picture yourself siting in your room in the comfort of the air conditioning or on your balcony sipping your wine and watching the sunset over the lagoon. So, you can’t go wrong on this property regardless of whether you choose an ocean view room or a lagoon view room.
One thing to mention is that while Le Blanc Cancun is located in the Hotel Zone Le Blanc Los Cabos is located in the Corridor which means if you want to go off property in the evenings you have your choice because you are literally in the middle of everything - in between Cabo San Lucas and San Juan - so you've got your choice and where you want to go for your nightlife. That being said there is nightlife on the property – just a bit more low key – think piano bar (there is one at the Cancun property as well) - it's definitely more of a relaxed, chill kind of vibe.
And I must relate that one of my favorite places on this property is the coffee shop which is absolutely outstanding and features every kind of coffee you can imagine along with in-house handmade pastries, desserts and painted chocolates! Yup and all of those pastries are not pre-packaged or shipped to them from anywhere else. They have bread ovens that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week meaning all of their goodies are made fresh daily on property.
Now as you will find at many resorts in Cabo - the beaches at Le Blanc are not swimmable - however – if you walk down the beach past two other properties you will come across a swimmable beach within walking distance. And of course if you are more about looking at and listening to the ocean you can certainly get that at Le Blanc Los Cabos - including a magnificent infinity pool that overlooks the ocean. It really is such a relaxing experience to hang out in the pool and listen to the waves. And bonus – if you visit between December and April you get to do a little whale watching. Natalie mused that the first time she was there during whale watching season she thought maybe she would get to see one or two whales during the week, but it turned out to be one or two whales every 30 minutes! There are whale watching experiences from the property - for instance they will bring a telescope to your room so you can watch from your balcony or there are lounges and watch areas on the beach so you can watch from there as well.
And as far as décor – Natalie describes it as very Gatsby-esque - it's very modern meets traditional décor. And I agree!
Destination Weddings: Whether it’s a religious ceremony, a civil ceremony, an LGBT wedding or vow renewals - it can all be done at either property and you know your Travel Guru is more than happy help you arrange it! Note: The only thing to remember is that both properties are adult only so no one under the age of 18 can attend the ceremony. Le Blanc does an outstanding job of really taking care of their brides and grooms – as well as honeymooning couples. And they have a lot to offer as far honeymoons are concerned including special upgraded packages which are complementary. They really strive tried to be above and beyond the competition when it comes to the decor and the wedding packages and take care to ensure they are like something from a fairy tale. Just the different spots at each property where the wedding can be held are fantasy like!
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing visitors arriving at Mexican airports may be subject to health screenings including temperature checks. A negative COVID-19 test is NOT required and US citizens are NOT required to quarantine.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date COVID protocols at Le Blanc Spa Resorts click here.
So? Are they not absolutely amazing luxury properties that are beyond the all-inclusive concept? I actually refer to them as simple luxury – filled with clean lines and a high level of service - it's not gaudy or anything along those lines it really is just zen. And oh, my goodness you guys are going to be ruined for regular life when you get home - you're not going to remember how to function without a butler once you return from a Le Blanc property!
And having been to these properties I have plenty of pictures on my phone that if you guys ever want to see I would be more than happy to share with you so you can see what my firsthand experience has been with them.
For more details on the fabulous Le Blanc Spa Resorts, their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
I am so extremely excited for today’s conversation because it involves one of my favorite all-inclusive brands – Palace Resorts.
My girl Natalie Rogers, the Business Development Manager for Palace Resorts recently joined me to share everything that makes Palace such an amazing brand. Both Natalie and I are very aware that you guys have a lot of different decisions to make when it comes to vacation planning and she wanted to make sure that you knew all of the fantastic reasons as to why you should choose Palace Resorts - which can be found in both Mexico and the Caribbean – Jamaica to be exact - for that above and beyond all-inclusive experience. -
So, without further ado let’s start our virtual tour of these popular properties!
What’s Included: Let’s start out with the all-inclusive features that every Palace Resort offers - regardless of whether you choose their least expensive room or their most expensive suite. Every single room at every single property is going to offer you the following:
So, you guys I need to tell you about their bath amenities - including shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion. They are Chi - which is a highly respected brand - and they aren’t those little, tiny containers – they are big bottles. Of course, I always want to bring them home with me but when I’m not checking my bags I can! Plus, they even have a Chi flat iron and a Chi hair dryer in every room so you know if you ladies only want to pack with a carry on you can leave your flat iron at home because they’re going to have one on property waiting for you.
Natalie assures us that as long as she’s been working with this brand, she has heard competitors give their spiel – i.e. - talk about their properties as well - and she has not found one property who lists any amazing free or complimentary amenities that Palace Resorts does not offer too – plus more.
The Spas: You will find a fabulous spa at every Palace resort and they range in size depending on the property. Their spas are branded as Awe Spa and boy do they ever come through with that whole revitalization of mind, body and spirit aspect of your vacation – trust me – I have been to them! Here’s what you will find at each of them:
As Natalie noted – they do put a ton of effort into ensuring that guests will have an amazing experience and a lot of the products are made in house. Among these are massage lotions and essential oils – which they also offer for the diffusers in your hotel room - as well as in the spa. As for me – I can attest to that amazing experience – from the hydrotherapy pool to the massage – to the ambiance and the top-notch staff.
Gastronomy: In addition to making their own spa products they also use a lot of the food products - i.e. - herbs and vegetables and more - grown on property - in their restaurants as they make their way to becoming more of a garden to table type resort. In fact, at the Moon Palace Cancun – which is a massive property they even have tours of the gardens so that you are able to see all of the extensive efforts they are putting into becoming a self-sufficient resort. They also pride themselves on not doing the whole prepackaged foods coming in from other companies. In fact – they have bread ovens on their properties that are at work 24 hours a day, seven days a week so you're going to see a lot of freshly made, high quality cuisine.
For my steak lovers – Palace recently entered an agreement with Certified Angus Beef! And Natalie warned that you're probably going to hear a lot of their competitors touting that they offer Certified Angus Beef too - but here's a good question to ask them - is that part of the all-inclusive experience or is an additional charge? At Palace Resorts they use Certified Angus Beef across the board regardless of whether you're eating a beef product from the buffet or whether you are eating a fancy steak from their nicest steakhouse – and it is all included and is not an upcharge.
Another new partnership? They recently signed an agreement with Robert Mondavi wines, so Robert Mondavi is now the house wine meaning there is no upcharge for them. And there's going to be a welcome bottle when you arrive in your room! I’m sold!
As for that the exquisite dining and drink experience – although they do have some buffets which were a mainstay at all-inclusives for years – they genuinely focus on the a la carte dining experience. How? They hire authentic chefs designated for each type of cuisine they offer – such as the authentic Indian chefs that run their Indian restaurant at Moon Palace Cancun as well as Mediterranean chefs that specialize in Mediterranean cuisine and of course at the Japanese restaurants that are hibachi style tables where you can sit down for a dinner show by a talented - and entertaining - hibachi chef.
Natalie noted that very few of their a la carte restaurants require reservations as they do try to offer an all-inclusive experience where you can just walk straight up and eat whenever you feel like. That being said - while the majority do not require reservations there are a very few that do – and there’s always a reason for it – such as maybe they only seat 45 people in that venue and don’t want guests having to wait for hours to get seated.
Destinations: You have plenty of options with the Palace Resorts my friends as there are seven properties throughout Mexico and one in Jamaica.
As for restaurants – there are 13 – and you can eat at a different restaurant every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Side Note: There are 13 bars too! Moon Palace gives you plenty of nightlife options - i.e. – bars, dance clubs and nightly entertainment - it’s all there. And let me tell you – the nightclub on the Moon Palace side is not like what you would expect from a typical night club at a resort. They start hopping around 11:00 o'clock and the party goes until it goes! There are different guest DJ’s brought in and the guests just love it. And you guys - it does have a lot of space and the nighttime options that I personally experienced were amazing. Even though it's a larger property it never feels like people are on top of you - so nobody ever feels crowded. There is also plenty of entertainment throughout the day.
Water activities? Check! There is the super cool FlowRider Double Wave Simulator – which I did not dare do - but Natalie did and said it is an amazing experience. And the best part about it is that there is no additional charge – you just sign a release waiver, hop on and start trying to learn how to surf! For those that aren’t that adventurous though there are tons of other activities. You can swim at a different pool every single day, splash around in a water park or take advantage of the numerous non-motorized water sports activities. And for my golfers – there is an award winning 27-hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf course on property that consists of three different courses.
And of course, the room decor is just absolutely beautiful and regardless of what room category you select - your room and your amenities will be the same - it’s just the views that are different - and your bedding - so if you want a king size bed versus two double beds.
When you're talking about amenities it has everything you can think of and more – really taking an already incredible all-inclusive experience up a notch! There is mini golf, there are bumper cars, there is a rope course, a bowling alley, a water park, a lazy river, another FlowRider on this side of the property, a wave simulator pool - whew – just incredible – everything you can possibly imagine! And I have to say I love the bowling alley - it’s so cute - it’s not like a bowling alley you would find in the US - it’s only six lanes and so you are highly encouraged to make a reservation just because it is so small, and this property is so large – just to make sure you get the opportunity to try it out. Now the water park – that is full size water park like you would find here in Texas – and so much fun!
For food and drink there are 11 restaurants and 13 bars for you to frequent and The Awe Spa here is the largest Awe Spa in the Palace collection and touts over 60 different treatment rooms, a beautiful hydrotherapy experience and more.
Now you may have heard me boast about it before but only because it’s true – the Hotel Zone is super amazing, and it is one of my favorite places in Cancun. One of the reasons I love it so much is because you can actually get off of the property and take the local bus into town for some cultural immersion. And while you are in town there is so much to take in. There is a flea market for some great bargains and for those of you who have issues with your prescription drugs here in the US the Cancun Hotel Zone is a great place to get them for a lot less than what we pay here. Then you also have La Isla Cancun Shopping Village which is an amazing outdoor mall featuring a Ferris wheel, an aquarium and my favorite – a chocolate factory! There is also a multi-level indoor mall across from the Hard Rock Café - Kukulcan Plaza should you want to escape the heat while you shop.
And Natalie added that both Palace properties in the Hotel Zone – the Beach Palace and the Sun Palace - have the convenience of having a bus station right at the end of the driveway. And no need to worry about figuring out the bus routes as it is super easy. It travels in one direction and then it travels back in the opposite direction and you pay a dollar each direction. Not only that but it is really safe to not only take the bus but also to walk down the entire Hotel Zone.
So, of the two Palace resorts that are in the in the middle of the Hotel Zone the Beach Palace is the family friendly option. One of its coolest amenities is a giant drop down screen over one of the pools where they hold activities like children's Wi tournaments on the humongous screen and play movies on it in the evenings.
Another benefit of being in the Hotel Zone is the view. I mean the Beach Palace is called the Beach Palace for reason. You’re talking about gorgeous beach or ocean views from all of the rooms which remember - feature that double whirlpool tub that's available in every room - and regardless of whether you book the least expensive room or most expensive suite. And since all of the rooms have ocean views you can’t go wrong!
The Sun Palace features an awesome infinity pool that overlooks the ocean for absolutely gorgeous views. Here you also have four restaurants and four bars to choose from each day. And don’t forget the fabulous Awe Spa to relax and get pampered in!
Natalie also noted that since it is the most recently remodeled property in the brand it's essentially their newest and brightest right now.
Fun Fact: There is a cool video on Natalie’s Facebook page where you'll find a link to the remodel video that shows what the lobby looked like before the remodel then during the remodel and then after the remodel.
Cozumel is located on the Palancar Reef - one of the largest natural reefs in the world - and is a magnificent diving and snorkeling destination. Cozumel Palace is a great option for my scuba divers out there who are looking for an amazing scuba experience thanks to the fabulous scuba amenities on property. They have their own dive shop, their own boats and you can get certified here if you haven’t already been. And for those avid scuba divers two tanks are less than $80.00! Bonus - don't have to lug all of your gear onto a transfer bus and then be driven out to the ocean - you simply walk down to the end of the dock where your scuba diving instructor already has everything waiting for you and step right onto the boat! Plus, there are three different boats and numerous different dive options available. If you aren’t into scuba diving but still want to see the reefs and their aquatic life no problem! Since the reefs are right off the end of the dock, you can head over to the complementary non-motorized water sports area, pick up snorkel gear and just dive right off of the edge of the dock and see it all.
As for the décor Cozumel Palace definitely has a little more of that old world classic Mexico charm – which doesn’t mean it’s not up to date – it is. It’s just not among one of their most recently remodeled properties that feature more of a new era type of décor.
Being right next to Quinta Avenida - which is akin to the Hotel Zone in Cancun - you've got a whole array of things to see, do and enjoy here outside this particular property. And the property itself is stunning. Palace says each of their properties has its own personality and I would definitely dub Playacar Palace a boho chic property. It’s got that breezy open-air lobby and has also been recently remodeled - right before Sun Palace was. It’s just got a very bohemian vibe to it and it is right in the middle of everything including 5th and 12th which is where all of the shopping and bars and restaurants are. If you want to go into town you literally walk out the front door and you hang a right and you're in the middle of everything. No need for a bus here - everything is walkable – it’s even walkable to the ferry.
Natalie confided that the beach here is one of her favorite beaches out of all of their properties with white sand and crystal blue water its absolutely picturesque. Speaking of the gorgeous beach - how about booking a Governor Suite at Playacar Palace? It is a walk out suite which actually leads directly to the beach! Just go out the sliding glass door – onto the patio area and the right beyond the patio is the beach! And of course, the sliding glass door locks and you can use your room key - which by the way is your wristband - so you don't have to carry around an extra room key.
For those of you who really want to just kind of hideaway and get lost in in the Caribbean Sea this is an awesome location. Speaking to the different personalities of each of the Palace Resorts – they have Playacar Palace that's in the middle of everything but here is where I would send someone who wants to feel like they've gone to a deserted island and they have the entire place to themselves. Of course, there is still full connectivity - such as Apple TV's in the rooms and full complimentary Wi-Fi and you can make phone calls – but it does have that deserted island feel. And no worries – there is plenty of entertainment here too!
Here you will find a very lovely pool that is shaped like a big L – so that it feels like it's two different pool areas. There is a small dive shop here as well for you scuba divers, great snorkeling off the beach and plenty of other non-motorized water sports activities that are complementary. There are actually more non-motorized water sports at this property that you won’t find at the other properties – like paddle boarding - because of the size and location of the beach here.
Natalie also shared that another thing that's so fun about the island is that since it’s a little tiny island – about five miles long - the majority of people ride their golf carts or mopeds here. There are very few vehicles other than the taxis on this island – so what the heck - rent a golf cart right at the property and ride into town for a neat little adventure.
For you folks that are bringing the family there are there are plenty of activities for all ages so certainly your kids will be taken care of here. If you are a large family, there are also two-bedroom accommodations available which is a great option so keep that in mind when we are deciding which property may be best for you. Bonus - kids and teens stay free! And Natalie explained that while they do call it a promotion it really doesn't have an end date, so this is a program that's going to stick around. She also noted that some of their competitors do it for 12 and under but at Palace it applies to age 17 and under. It’s good for two kids per room and it can be a single occupancy - so if you are a single parent who's traveling, we can have book the single occupancy rate and you can bring up to two kids with you.
As for activities here you will find that oh so popular FlowRider Double Wave Simulator, the Playroom Kids Club and Wired Lounge, daily and nightly entertainment, five restaurants and six bars. It is also close to the area's top attractions.
The Awe Spa here is the largest spa on the entire island of Jamaica which they are immensely proud of and that is thanks to the fact that when they purchased this property, they took what used to be the ballroom and transformed it into the spa.
One of the things that I really liked about the Moon Palace Jamaica is that actually for the size of the property it was really easy to get around. And as per Natalie even though it is indeed their second largest property don't let that scare you off if you're looking for a small intimate property because this property has a very intimate feel about it. Honestly, it takes less than two minutes to walk from one end of the property to the other and the way they were able to accomplish that is because all of the rooms are housed in the two high rises.
Fun Fact: For you James Bond buffs we're going to go way, way back to Doctor No. In the scene where the helicopters are landing on the beach – they are landing on the beach at this property!
Moon Palace boasts of gorgeous views of the ocean which is kind of protected by a peninsula there that pops out to the water making the water very calm on this beach. The beach was also redone not that long ago so it is tons of white sand as far as the eye can see. And since it is protected when you're laying out on the beach or playing in the water, you're not going to get hit by four-foot waves like you would in Cabo - it's a very relaxed and tranquil ocean experience on this property.
As for rooms the Partial Ocean View room – for instance - has two beds so for you guys with two adults and two children or four women in a room that can certainly be done – however I do recommend the older you are the less adults in the room. Natalie also boasted that their Partial Ocean View room is one which a lot of their competitors would call a full ocean view - meaning they are very stingy when it comes to handing out full ocean view room categories.
Types of Traveler: So, singles, couples, families, girls’ trips, guys trips – you name it! And for those companies that want to have an offsite - these properties are great options, and this is a great way to get in some team bonding after everyone has worked from home for so long. And since they are situated on beautiful beaches, you’re going to be working hard but you're going to play hard as well.
And all of the properties offer some type of group benefit – whether it be a business group, a family reunion or something else – as they have very ample group space. Per Natalie they can handle everything from a small group of ten rooms all the way up to - 1000 room nights per night for five nights!
Miscellaneous: Don’t just take it from us – the guests have spoken! All eight of the Palace Resort properties throughout the Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres and Jamaica are in the Top Ten and Top 20 on TripAdvisor. So, you know brand wise - regardless of which property you choose you're going to find an award-winning resort to rest your head at night.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As each property resides in a different destination please check with the Office of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Health in the destination you are interested in visiting for up-to-date entry requirements.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date COVID protocols at Palace Resorts click here.
What do you say – are you ready to feel like a king, queen, prince or princess? Let’s connect and discuss which of these awesome Palace Resorts is going to be the right fit for you and your travel companions!
For more details on the fabulous Palace Resorts, their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
On this particular Wanderlust Wednesday, I was joined by Ismael Bravo, the Business Development Manager for the US and Canada for Ocean by H10 Hotels which consists of seven all-inclusive properties located in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
The Ocean Hotels are five-star resorts that feature both family friendly and adult only properties on some of the most spectacular beaches in Mexico and the Caribbean and are filled with everything you could ask for – and more – to enjoy a perfect getaway whether it be for the weekend or an entire week!
Now – hands up - who’s ready to join me on some hotel inspections in the Riviera Maya, Punta Cana and Trelawney? I thought so – let’s begin the tour!
About the Brand: The Ocean Brand of the H10 Hotel family is a brand that you will currently only find in the Caribbean and Mexico. As I noted above – but is always worth mentioning again – they are all five-star resorts. Each one is all-inclusive offering unlimited a la carte dining with no reservations necessary or required and features themed bars and restaurants including Route 66 - which is American, Blue Moon - which is adults only, Mikes Coffee Shop and a piano bar - which also is adults only.
Every family property also has that all important exclusive adults only area because as Ismael noted - sometimes you just need that quiet area where you can go and dine or enjoy a drink without the kids around.
Destinations: The Ocean collection consists of three properties in Mexico, two in Jamaica and two in the Dominican Republic.
Although the property is very spread out giving you that much needed elbow room as well as that all important social distancing, Ismael assured us that you can easily walk wherever you want with no need for golf cart transportation. They have also created it so that it is separated into areas – that are horseshoe shaped – each for a different purpose. One area is all about families and includes the aquatic park and kid’s club. Another is where you will find the activity pool and a pool bar and typically young people looking for fun - think music, DJ's and activities. And the third would be the more laid-back adult only area.
Maya Royal is very small property. For instance - you can be from the lobby to the ocean or to the main pool in about five minutes so once again no transportation around the grounds needed! That being said – there is plenty of outdoor spaces so again you really aren't going to be on top of anybody.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As each property resides in a different destination please check with the Office of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Health in the destination you are interested in visiting for up-to-date entry requirements.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date COVID protocols at Ocean by H10 Hotels click here.
And there you have it - you guys have some great open spaces to think about in three great countries where you can relax and rejuvenate without having to deal with crowds. Contact me and let’s get started on finding the perfect property for you!
For more details on the fabulous Ocean Hotels by H10 Hotels, their price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
*NOTE: Starting April 1st all international visitors over age 15 to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum, will have to pay a new tourism tax of 224 pesos.
During the shutdown of Covid19, Loulu Lima began interviewing many tourism boards, destination management companies and suppliers whom BHGH works with in the curation of your itineraries.
Here you will find the videos as well as written summary of each. Summaries are transcribed by Carole A. Peck.
Video post production managed by MotionDash.Media
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