Monday, June 27, 2011

Have You Made Time for Europe?

With so much attention being paid to adventurous summer getaways and island resorts, it becomes fairly easy to forget a first love: in this case, Europe. Drenched in history, with convenient transportation and many luxury hotels, Europe provides what other destinations simply can't – a gorgeous experience with all the convenience you could need, plus the option of exploring the ancient and modern side of a single city. We recap some of our favorites here.

The Le Royal Monceau is one of the hottest places to stay in Paris after an incredible renovation took over the spot. Two years of renovation ended last fall, and the hotel opened its doors amongst much fanfare—with good reason. The complicated history of Le Royale Monceau only makes it more enjoyable to stay there – the hotel was even requisitioned during WWII – and the current interiors are sophisticated and opulent enough to give any other French hotel a run for its money.

Our Note? “The collection of hotel suites and private apartments is flanked by restaurants, bars, a kids room, a spa, and a 3D cinema, and the hotel is once again one of the best hotels in Paris.”

Speaking of Paris, it is considered one of the best places to shop in the world. The retail industry in Paris is a delicate combination of luxury shop and boutique stops, and coupled with a thriving cafe and bar culture, you could easily spend your days on the same few blocks, alternately browsing for gifts and grazing. Don't! There's much more in store for you in Paris, particularly in the way of museums.

Our Note? “Set yourself up at a cafe to plot your retail attack, and then visit the shopping spot near Place des Vogses, which is home to shops and galleries. The 'can't miss' place in Paris is certainly the 8th arrondissement, with haute couture and fashion houses lining the streets.”

If the city isn't your thing, then the English countryside is definitely what you need to get a jump-start on life in the slow lane. CNN's profiled the countryside in the past, citing its delicate balance of straw-thatched roofs and stunning luxury accommodations for every person's taste. Since England is a compact spot to explore, you don't even need to that far away from a major city.

Our Note? "While things have become more convenient and more accessible, the British countryside is still an oasis of calm. Maintaining the look of the past, English getaway destinations are more than simply manicured manor houses--they’re a balance of the past and present."

There is, of course, a runner-up for anyone who can't dedicate the time required to jet off to Europe. With tough schedules and a family to manage, a cross-continental flight could be out of the equation. While that might be the case, rest assured that you can also scoop up a European-style vacation right here at home. “America's Riviera” is located in Miami, and luxury hotels that line the beach are absolutely magnificent. When you stretch out on a chaise by a semi-private strip of sand, you'll be transported to a world of Riviera-like calm. Enjoy it.

Our Note? “Even if you live in Florida--or in Miami, for that matter--there are places to explore. Hop in a SoBe rickshaw, take an Art Deco tour, sit alongside Ocean Drive bathed in neon light... that’s just the start of the leisure options. America’s Riviera is one of the most inspiring destinations for boating and yacht enthusiasts, providing snaking canals and wide-open bay cruising for sailboats, yachts, dinghies, and even kayaks.”

This is, of course, only a bite of luxury options in Europe. Don't forget Eastern Europe, with its opulent squares and achingly-luxurious, centrally-located hotels, and then traverse back along the coast to take in rural southern Italy and Spain. Rediscovering Europe could be one of the best vacations you've had in years.

Stunning Suites and Villas Around the World

There are getaways, and there are getaways. These hotel suites and villas around the world aren't just luxury destinations, but luxury experiences for travelers in-the-know. We've rounded up some of our favorite hotels and suites of the week to show you what we've been browsing. Just when you thought you knew where you wanted to stay, here comes with more suggestions.

1. Hit the beach in Jamaica.

Round Hill Hotel & Villas
Marveling at the sunset, soaking in the infinity pool, and playing tennis with all your friends can only be topped by the magnificent experience of staying at the Round Hill Hotel & Villas. These villas are private and secluded, and you can complement the whole experience with a healthy break, learning yoga and eating fresh, delicious foods.

2. Practice your Spanish in Madrid.

Hotel Villa Real
The five-star Hotel Villa Real has all the resort-worthy advantages you look for, and you'll never expect to get spoiled to this degree right in the city. The Restaurant and Bar East 47 is a hot Madrid eatery, and the spacious meeting rooms accommodate business travelers as well.

3. Go for a different Californian experience.

Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village
Villas aren't much if that's the only thing drawing you to a hotel. The Westlake is an ideal locale for total meditation and concentration, with the presence of the Health & Longevity Institute. This special property's luxury spa and wellness facility is suited for the healthy living-dedicated and those who want to jump-start a health and wellness focus. No more loafing.

4. Play Hollywood star on vacation at Lake Como.

Grand Hotel Villa Serbollini
Re-opening on November 7th, the Grand Villa Serbollini is one of the best hotels in the Lake Como area, not to mention one of the most elegant. You can head back to nature on a private tour of the historic gardens, or you can take in the countryside by bicycle. Delightful barely scratches the surface of a stay spent at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbollini.

5. Combine business and pleasure in Spain.

Hotel Villa Magna
This classic hotel offers rooms and suites that have open-air terraces and include spacious work stations for business travelers. Lest you think that this is all for the pavement-pounder, the sweet scent of “Sierra perfume” and the fabulous dining opportunities remind you that you're here to relax, at least part of the time.

6. Plan on visiting Colorado's Rockies in the summer.

Viceroy Snowmass
This year-round resort is ready for mountainous adventure at the base of one of the best ski spots in the world. The Viceroy Snowmass's great dining options and stunning views of the Colorado high country sweeten your stay, not to mention the presence of all the outdoor diversions you could want. This luxury ski resort is one of the newest on the mountain and is sure to surprise.

Villas, suites, and more await all over the world. It's hard to choose a spot, but don't forget that your runner-ups can always be scheduled for next year.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Your Island Guide

We all dream of heading to a near-private island someday, perhaps with a drink in hand, and letting the stress melt away. Unlike some countries in the world, we're lucky enough to have island resort options quite close to our home base. If you don't know where to stay, but you know that you want to grab a vacation by sand and sea, these tips will prove invaluable. Luxury resorts truly are for everyone, and here's why.

It's not all about the mega-resort.
Many people think of a supersized resort experience when planning their vacations, but staying on an island doesn't guarantee the stereotypical all-inclusive experience, if that's not your thing. Lizard Island, for example, maintains Exclusive Complimentary Perks via, but it has unparalleled exclusivity when it comes to your accommodations. You'll feel like you're the only person on the beach, and your privacy is guaranteed.

You can get cultural.
Staying at an island resort does not mean you'll be setting yourself up to avoid learning at all costs. Some luxury resorts have combined cultural aspects into their décor, like art galleries and native notes, and that means you soak up the atmosphere while still not leaving your luxe zone. Consider the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman for starters.

You can do more than lie by the beach or pool.
Don't get too lazy, because vacationing at a resort only means that you can have access to a great number of local, expert guides and special perks built into your stay. Swimming with the dolphins is a definite possibility when it comes to your vacation, if you choose the right spot, and we recommend The Kahala Resort in Hawaii if you're interested.

You don't need to bring the family.
Island vacation destinations are well-known for being popular family choices. You don't need to be trailed by the kids to enjoy your stay, and you don't need to be on your honeymoon, either. While some resorts have tons of kid-friendly diversions and daycare, other resorts are intended just for grownups. Caneel Bay, a Rosewood Resort, is a great spot to book if you want to hang solo or do a couples-vacation thing.

Your Travel Highlights

* Everyone needs to take a break from travel guides and apps while on vacation, and this "Fun Travel Tips” list is your best option. Even if you're not traveling somewhere on their list, knowing that Mexico is sinking faster than Venice could give you a hand during Trivial Pursuit.

* Don't forget that it's never too early to find perfect cities to visit on upcoming trips. Our list of European Must-Sees links hotels and special spots for the perfect degree of inspiration. London's getting a lot of press, with the 2012 Olympics coming up, but there is also Barcelona, Rome, and Berlin, for starters.

* Have a delayed flight or minor travel-related setback? Amuse yourself with the Spending the Night in Unusual Places feature on our blog, which lists cool spots to bed down the world over. Even if you're sitting in Las Vegas with a view of the strip, you can think about spending a night in a windmill after your next casino win.

Which island resort will it be for you?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Secret Roads in Rome

If you've traveled to Rome before, you probably noticed that it's difficult to take in much at first pass. The streets are bustling, ruins are hidden (and yet in plain sight when you're not looking for them), and there's so much to do. Travel expert Abigail Hole took to the streets in Rome to highlight four separate streets in the city, all with distinct attractions.

Via Margutta, an Artists' Street
This area feels like a village, but it's actually in the center of Rome. Artists still work on handcrafted accessories, sculptures, and art right off the thoroughfare, and there are plenty of art galleries in the area, too.

“The street’s creative life extended beyond the visual arts,” author Abigail Hole notes. “As Rome became an essential stop on every 19th-century Grand Tour, thanks to its wealth of ancient wonders, musicians and composers came too. Debussy, Liszt and Wagner all worked in studios in the Via Margutta.”

Via Appia Antica, The Gateway
Hulking Roman structures (including tombs) line this road, which is as straight as can be and was previously intended for military use. In fact, the road leading to Rome is so straight that it's almost a wonder to behold: Engineers toiled to create Via Appia Antica.

Via del Pigneto, Bohemian Central
Graffiti and small boutiques form the background of Via del Pigneto, a real bohemian enclave. The environment smacks of another offbeat paradise, London's Shoreditch area, and you'll find the funky offerings too tempting if you like independent shops, bakeries, and intellectual hangouts.

“In a neighborhood pizzeria, hard-as-nails pizza makers banter with the late-night crowd,” Hole described. “Students talk earnestly at spindly tables, groups of friends share beers on doorsteps. Everyone’s wearing black. They’re artists, intellectuals, communists and poseurs, and sometimes all the above.”

Via Di San Giovanni in Laterano, Street of Secrets
This street is known for harboring “extraordinary treasure,” writes Hole, and that's enough to get us planning. One of Rome's most notable Catholic sites is near the Via Di San Giovanni, the Scala Santa, which is where Jesus is thought to have climbed before meeting Pontius Pilate.

Hotel Bernini Bristol
Don't have time to go to the museums? No matter, you'll have one outside your window if you pick Hotel Bernini Bristol. The hotel sits right beside the Triton fountain and the Spanish steps, and 18th-century furnishings inside your guestroom only make the experience more delightful. Some of the 127 rooms and suites have balconies for an even better view.

Hotel de Russie
The luxury five-star Hotel de Russie is found within easy walking distance to the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. A unique luxury hotel, the Hotel de Russie features a hidden secret garden for dining and strolling. A top-ranked health club on premises gives you a chance to really unwind.

Hotel Eden
Overlooking the Seven Hills of Rome, Hotel Eden is positioned in a bustling area that will never leave you wondering what it is you should do next. In the heart of the business district, Hotel Eden has a great rooftop dining spot and plenty of cultural charm in décor and service. Don't forget to contact your concierge to learn more about memorable and entertaining diversions in one of the most culture-filled cities in the world.

Hotel Majestic Roma
Built in 1889, the Hotel Majestic Roma is an elegant jewel of a hotel positioned just steps from the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. The hotel, with its 85 guestrooms and gorgeous 13 suites, are ready for the lazy traveler who might need to be pried from her art deco-inspired room and its amenities. With Carrara marble baths and luxurious Italian furnishings, it's understandable.

Rome Cavalieri
Rome's Cavaliere hotel overlooks Rome and is situated very close to the lush Mediterranean parklands. A retreat in the city, the hotel was the first to achieve the distinction of a Waldorf-Astoria level property. This-five star destination is a stunning example of the fine accommodations waiting for you in Rome.

With all these options in Rome, you could probably plan four separate trips to this magnificent city. Why not start with the first of four this year?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Best of, Part II

We've got enough recommendations to keep you busy for a while, so it seems like the perfect time to introduce the second part of our luxury hotel list. It's not easy to decide where to go when you have a world map in front of you -- and a lot of options at -- but we're directing you towards some of our best recommendations to help you make up your mind.

Feature I
New York Times travel writers are enamored with what summertime in St. Petersburg has to offer: long evenings of light for months. While you're in St. Petersburg, why not make a trip of it and visit Moscow, too? There are plenty of high-class luxury hotels in Russia that can offer the services you require as a discerning visitor.

"Russian entrepreneurs have poured money into new bars, restaurants and hotels. Growing numbers of visitors from abroad, along with well-heeled Russian tourists — their wallets fat with petrodollars — and members of the increasingly mobile Russian middle class head here for summer vacations."

Feature II
Years of distinction haven't left this venerable vacation spot stale. The top property with views to spare is actually a cluster of separate accommodation experiences, including private villas tucked near the golf course and seaside suites with views of the ocean. A shuttle will take you to all the brand-new spots around the resort.

"The Boca Raton Resort and Club effortlessly combines the old ways with the new, a combination of modern accommodation with service from bygone days. In February 1926, the Cloister Inn was opened as the most expensive resort in North America, and two years later, it was purchased by Clarence Geist and combined with a new golf course and cabana club."

Feature III
Celebrities love to spend their money, but only when it's for the best. This hush-hush feature details some hotels that cater to the most famous people in the world, but that never offer any secrets about their guests. The Aman Resorts chain is one example, which is rumored to have planned Katy Perry's wedding to Russell Brand in India.

"Being catered to like a celebrity isn't an everyday thing for we non-movie stars, but a top hotel is one of the best ways to evoke that sense of ultra-luxury. The best service, the most beautiful accommodations, and the most varied amenities await for you at these hush-hush hotels."

Feature IV
The City of Love has a ton of options when it comes to wining and dining. We give tips in this piece about selecting the best lodging in Paris -- for one, check if your room has undergone renovation -- and then go from there. One of our top recommendations is Le Meurice, which has been providing stunning lodging for guests since 1835.

"The first thing to do when booking any venerable city hotel in Paris is to double-check that your booked room has been renovated. Many luxury hotels have undergone stunning transformations in the lobby area and restaurants, but there's also the chance that sections of the hotel haven't yet been retouched. By confirming your room's renovation state, you guarantee your money's worth."

Feature V
Have kids, will travel? Conde Nast raved about some hotel chains (like the Four Seasons) that are perfect for families traveling with children. Booking a villa instead of a guestroom will also afford you some extra space when you need it most.

"Getting a villa to call your home-away-from-home can reduce much of the vacationing stress you normally experience when traveling with children. With another atmosphere and more space, a villa allows kids to have the run of their surroundings, comfortably, while still give parents space to breathe."

Feature VI
Asia could seem too far away for those of us who prefer a shorter plane trip, but for an extended vacation, you can't beat the sights, sounds, and tastes of its complex and quickly-changing cities. From the Philippines to Japan, there are recommendations given that can open your eyes to a new standard of service.

"Of all the places to travel, Asia is still one of the most mysterious destinations. It's a challenge to get to some of the smaller towns in China, Japan, and Korea, but the feeling of discovering a little-known source of tranquility and mystery is one of the things luxe-minded travelers crave."

Feature VII
It's nice to have visited somewhere your friends haven't. This Uruguay feature entitled A Hideaway in Uruguay, Even in the City features beach towns and top-ranked hotels in this often-overlooked South American city. Don't forget that you can branch out and travel in a few other South American countries as well.

"While you're planning your trip, take advantage of closeby countries that can also boost your relaxation factor. Skiing in Chile, eating in Argentina, and horseback riding in Uruguay should get you ready to face the daily grind again."

Feature VIII
Grab a yummy pie at the market in Portland and start planning the rest of your trip. When you have a luxe hotel to use as your home base when you are on vacation, the rest of your trip comes a lot easier. Top hotels include The Heathman and the Sunriver Resort, and top attractions include the Vera Katz Esplanade and Pittock Mansion.

"Portland certainly is a must-visit for anyone visiting the Northwest, and its charm is surpassed only by its touristic offerings for the casual traveler. With great rest to be had at ranked luxury hotels, you'll be able to take in more of what Portland has to offer—and that's a lot."

You're probably not feeling lost about your vacation, but you are spoiled for choice. We're sure a lot of people would love to be in the same situation! Your luxury hotel awaits in whatever destination you select as your next getaway, and it's bound to be an experience of a lifetime.

The Best Holes in Golf

You might be an enthusiastic leisure golfer, but do you keep track of the best holes on each course you visit? The good news is that the pros have created a run-down of the best options for you, all around the world. The tough part is picking out which resort you'll book when you do your tour.

1st Hole
Doonbeg Golf Club, Ireland

What Experts Say: “The most beautiful opening hole in the world, a gentle par five that plays slightly downhill to a green surrounded on three sides by towering dunes. From the fairway the Atlantic Ocean can be glimpsed through gaps in the dunes.”

Where to Stay: The Kildare Hotel is a AA 5 Red Star hotel, which guarantees you one of the most luxurious stays in all of Ireland. The Kildare features two championship golf courses and a fantastic river for fishing during your break from the course -- plus a spa for winding down.

5th Hole
The Abaco Club, Bahamas

What Experts Say: “Every course needs a drivable par four and this one, with the turquoise waters of Winding Bay all along the left-hand side, is a classic. Don't let the heavenly setting distract you from your game.”

Where to Stay: Stay at The Abaco Club and experience a beautiful, tranquil stop at a leading Bahamas hotel. A 534-acre oceanfront estate stretches as far as the eye can see, and it certainly features more than just golf: A European spa and fitness center, watersports lessons, and lauded dining options are just some of the interesting options.

13th Hole
Trump International Golf Club, Grenadines

What Experts Say: “The jewel in any golfing crown, this hole provides 360-degree views of the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the neighboring Grenadine Islands. Never mind the golf, this one is perfect in all sorts of ways.”

Where to Stay: The Canouan Resort at Carenage Bay features beachfront suites and private villas for the pampered visitor. Signature bars and restaurants provide exemplary dining and happy hour options post-exploration, and on your days off from golfing, spend time on the white sand beach on the 300-acre resort.

13th Hole
Canyon Course, Blue Canyon Country Club, Thailand

What Experts Say: “Teeing off over water, this hole then doglegs sharp right around a canyon uphill to a shallow green. With a forest along the left of the fairway, beauty and danger are everywhere.”

Where to Stay: Banyon Tree Bangkok provides an excellent complement to your stay at the country club. Located in Bangkok's business district, it's still perfectly situated for shopping and dining. Listed on the Gold List as one of the best places to stay in the world, the Banyon Tree Bangkok won't disappoint.

7th Hole
Pebble Beach Golf Links, California, United States

What Experts Say: “The shortest par three in Major championship golf, with the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean pounding onto the rocks behind.”

Where to Stay
: Hyatt Regency Monterey Resort & Spa is a quiet, calming location not far from Pebble Beach, and it's an excellent place to unwind. Renovated accommodations have a certain peaceful appeal that can soothe the body and mind after a day out exploring.

19th Hole
Turnberry Golf Club, Scotland

What Experts Say: “With a professional tee perched 50 feet above breaking Irish Sea waves and a famous lighthouse to the left, the raw beauty of this hole represents the very best that links golf has to offer.”

Where to Stay: The Gleneagles Hotel is located on an 850-acres estate in Perthshire, and it's been awarded the AAA Five Red Star. One of the Great Golf Resorts of the World, the top-tier hotel offers superior service with Exclusive Complimentary Perks via your booking.

You've got the list and the hotel, but don't forget to check the season you're booking to stay. Who wants to plan for golf in the rainy season, or in the hottest month of the year?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Best of 2011:'s Top Recommendations

Everybody needs a round-up sometimes, and today's that day here at We paged through some of the best articles in the first half of 2011 to show you what you missed -- these are our top hotel recommendations so far.

Feature I
We take a look at island vacations, from Honolulu to the Seychelles, and invite you to pick your top choice. All hotels featured on our master list feature Exclusive Complimentary Perks via your booking. Cocoa Island sounds particularly bewitching, doesn't it?

Feature II
With all the talk of spas, exercise studios, and kicking back by the pool, a mancation post was essential.'s mancation-friendly destinations spread across the United States and include desert spots like Arizona and Texas, plus big-city spots for cosmopolitan (yet manly) breaks from the daily grind.

Feature III
If you're not such of a tropical vacationer, but you want to enjoy the fruity drinks and new cocktails, then you should make a beeline for these hotel bars. The Clift Hotel, The Carlyle, and the Palazzo Sasso are some top picks for the stylish cocktail aficionado or for the amateur bartender in your life.

Feature IV
What does Travel + Leisure have to say about some of the best hotels in the world? Many of the magazine's highest-ranking picks are featured on, and that means you can maximize your booking perks at resorts and hotels even ranking in the top 10. Number 4 on their list, for example, was San Ysidro Ranch.

Feature V
Need a good view? While having a top-ranked view from your patio might be a clincher when it comes to booking your suite, why stop there? You can also get a great view from the hotel bathroom if you choose the right destination -- plus a fantastic shower, a private pool or deep tub, and all the cozy robes you could want.

Feature VI
Vacationing like a president might even be better than the real thing: After all, you can roam without the Secret Service trailing you. Presidents with a like for real-deal vacations included Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, and you can get more info about their top spots in this feature article.

Feature VII
These rare and top-ranked hotels from AAA really are the best of the best, and they span the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. With only 3% of resorts and hotels getting this special distinction, it's worth checking out and booking one for a once-in-a-lifetime treat.

Feature VIII
We covered top bars in the States before, but you need a Barcelona version, too. This "Bars of Barcelona" list provides a list of watering holes perfect for honeymooners, solo travelers, and adventure junkies. Try one of the best bars in the world, according to leading experts in the travel field. There's also a hotel round-up included, so you know where to stay in Spain.

Feature IX
Do you feel like you need to escape? Join the club and start packing for a vacation you'll never forget. Africa, Australia, Thailand, Kenya ... it's all there on our list of some bucket list-ready destinations around the world. Exclusive spots in corners of the world give you luxury, sans crowds.

Feature X
A lot of us have a soft spot for island getaways, and we all would like to vacation more if given the chance. If you can carve away a comfortable vacation break, why spend it camping if you can spend it on the beach instead?

Now that we've got our first list ready for 2011, we can't wait to zing through the second half of the year to give you another round-up. Vacation plans are already buzzing for the winter season, and if that's when you'll be planning your next vacation, check out our island-centric hotel posts above.

Far-flung Vacation Destinations

Stumped on where to go for your next vacation? Here are some suggestions if you are interested in a far-flung destination with luxury hotels & resorts.

For a Middle East treat, try Lebanon.
Four Seasons Hotel Beirut
The Mediterranean provides the perfect setting for a mysterious vacation in another corner of the world. A 360-degree view of Beirut allows you to view quality sunsets while in one of the most beautiful suites Lebanon hotels offer. There's even a "relaxation room" at the hotel to help you unwind. Exclusive Perks via a make your booking even sweeter.

Head to the beach in an unexpected setting -- Vietnam.
The Nam Hai
The award-winning Nam Hai is an uncluttered gift of a resort to the world-weary traveler looking for a break. This Vietnam resort set off the coast of the East Sea stretches along a half-mile expanse of white sand, and its signature dining room offers refined feasts in the Asian fusion world. Yummy doesn't begin to describe the offerings at the Nam Hai.

Go to the "South American Paris" in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Caesar Park Buenos Aires
This fabulous hotel has been highlighted in Travel and Leisure magazine as one of the top 100 best Latin American hotels. Located near the top spots in Buenos Aires, Caesar Park is also situated in a prime spot for cafe stops. Even workout buffs will be able to find the perfect place in the Caesar Park Buenos Aires, where you can arrange personal training sessions to tone while vacationing.

Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
This 1932 palace is a must-book if you're looking for traditional, European-inspired palaces tucked away in Buenos Aires. In a residential area with upper-class homes and lots of places to shop, you'll feel right at home. Be sure to take your camera with you when you are exploring the nearby highlights: The refined, white building is near MALBA and Puerto Madero.

Take a drive to the Irish countryside.
Kildare Hotel, Spa Country Club
Sprawling and absolutely luxurious, the Kildare Hotel, Spa Country Club has some of the highest standards of luxury in the entire country. A 40-minute drive from Dublin and yet positioned in the unforgettable Irish countryside, the Kildare Hotel, Spa Country Club features the K Spa and Ryder Cup Palmer Course for guests. For an unforgettable stay, this is the place.

Visit the canals and go to Amsterdam.
The Dylan Amsterdam
This 17th-century landmark is positioned near one of Amsterdam's most famous canals, the Keizersgracht. This particular hotel features an intimate atmosphere and great service, coupled with top-notch shopping just steps away from your door. Book a table at the hotel restaurant, Restaurant Vinkeles, which is award-winning.

If you're still stumped, you can always pick one of these great destinations randomly. At least you know that your selection will be high-class and luxury-minded no matter where you decide to go.

M. Sawyer

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Catching the Best Waves Near Bali

Are you interested in surfing? Even if you've never grabbed a longboard before, it's better to invest in a spot that will provide the right environment for a proper lesson. Big waves, rocky surf, and wide-open beaches are all part of the surfing experience, and they are part of a top hotel visit, too -- when you choose the right place, of course.

One of the most popular places to vacation in the world, Bali still maintains mystery and exclusivity.

What the Experts Say: “Bali, with its glut of world class surf spots, is the epicentre of Indonesian surfing. Any surf trip here almost invariably begins at Kuta, the original Indonesian beach resort. The waves here offer something for everyone.”

===Hot Hotel===
St. Regis Bali: The Garden of Bali awaits. Perfect, pristine beaches outside the St. Regis Bali only heighten its lavish interior decor. This hotel offers personalized service and a top-rated spa far away from the worries of "real life." 121 suites and villas are decked out in tasteful Balinese art, and your accommodations feature a balcony and large marble bathroom.

Culture and beauty collide in Java, an intriguing vacation spot with plenty of clues to ancient life in the East.

What the Experts Say: “The most famous wave on Java, Bali’s northern neighbour, is G-Land (also known as Grajagan). This is one of those freak of nature waves which all other waves are measured against. Endlessly long, flawlessly perfect and super consistent, G-Land is most commonly reached via boat charter from Bali.”

===Hot Hotel===
Como Shambhala Estate: Next door to a hot surfing spot, the Como Shambhala Estate features blended east-west accommodations and careful detailing. With each room individually furnished according to a specific theme, you can return and have an entirely fresh experience with each visit. A Personal Assistant assigned to you during your stay ensures that everything you need is delivered.

Breathtaking views and bustling city life give you a chance to experience it all in Sumatra.

What the Experts Say: “An almost hypnotically perfect righthander, this wave has always been considered perfect, but following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, the wave actually improved dramatically. The reef rose upward by around a metre and made the wave faster and much more consistent.”

===Hot Hotel===
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan: If you have little ones who are interested in starting their careers as pro surfers early, then you might want to try booking a stay at the Four Seasons. This kid-friendly luxury chain is a perfect choice for the traveler looking for ocean views, adventurous travel, and children-positive perks in the same place.

Nusa Tenggara
A "travel secret" of Indonesia, Nusa Tenggara is home to extremely friendly people and fantastic waves.

What the Experts Say: “Lombok, the closest island to Bali, is the most visited by surfers and the jewel in the surf crown here is the legendry Desert Point, possibly the best wave in the world. It is a highly fickle wave but when all the elements come together, this near endless, freight train lefthander offers tube rides of up to 20 seconds.”

===Hot Hotel===
Four Season Resort at Jimbaran Bay: A great view from your plunge pool; terrific oceanside dining. It's hard not to enjoy the atmosphere and spirituality of this peaceful, romantic land. Plus, it's a nice contrast from bashing around in the waves as you learn how to surf.

Even if you're not the surfer in the family, these hotels won't do you wrong. Sinking into a luxury suite at night, waking to see the sun rise over the ocean, and basking under a palm tree certainly doesn't sound bad -- and then you can let the athletic ones in the family have all the lessons they want.

St. Petersburg's White Nights

St. Petersburg's beauty hasn't been waxed about as often as Venice's intrigue or Paris's romantic side, but that doesn't mean it's not alluring. And in summer? Even more so. A jewel in Eastern Europe and one that's rough-cut in comparison to its companions in the west, the city captured NYT travel writers this summer, who recommend visiting to experience Russia's “White Nights.”

A love affair with Russia can even start with a slight scent of gasoline in the air and the view of a gold-tipped cathedral in the distance. Despite a slightly rocky start to his journey, journalist Joshua Hammer with the New York Times muses:

"You’ll find celebrations of St. Petersburg’s White Nights in virtually every corner of this sprawling, watery metropolis. Dance clubs and 'beach clubs' — including the most exclusive, the Royal Beach Club on Krestovsky Island, a forested park that draws many of the city’s affluent young people — stay open until at least 6 a.m. on White Nights weekends."

Had you heard of the White Nights in St. Petersburg? They sound dizzying, stunning, and altogether mysterious to those of us who don't give much thought to daylight hours in places farther up north. Around 80 summer nights in St. Petersburg will be characterized by near 24-hour sunlight: The biggest draw isn't the natural phenomenon, however, it's the atmosphere that makes it particularly enticing.

"Russia’s booming economy has rejuvenated St. Petersburg, and the White Nights have become more and more lively," Hammer notes.

"Russian entrepreneurs have poured money into new bars, restaurants and hotels. Growing numbers of visitors from abroad, along with well-heeled Russian tourists — their wallets fat with petrodollars — and members of the increasingly mobile Russian middle class head here for summer vacations."

Planning a trip to St. Petersburg gets even easier when you already have leads on where to stay.

Booking Suggestions for Your Stay in Russia: St. Petersburg and Moscow

Grand Hotel Europe

The Grand Hotel Europe is a cultural and historical landmark for travelers, and it has been for an incredible 135 years. This hotel features charming Russian hospitality, complete with special amenities and nearby cultural gems in the city. Visit the Russian Museum and the theatre before retiring to your splendid room or suite

Rocco Forte Hotel Astoria

The Rocco Forte Hotel Astoria in St. Petersburg is a five-star wonder. Positioned in St. Isaac's Square close to the action, the hotel has 42 suites with contemporary facilities for your vacationing comfort. Authentic Russian cuisine can be had at the Davidov Restaurant on-site.

Arayat Park Hyatt Moscow

Why not surround yourself with beauty when you're enjoying the brighter summer nights in Russia? The Arayat Park Hyatt is located in the center of Moscow and is within the immediate vicinity of such grand city highlights at the Bolshoi Theatre, the Red Square, and the Kremlin. Views from the hotel can be of either courtyard or city, and the amenities within are top-notch, of course.

Ritz Carlton Moscow

This particular hotel is so perfectly positioned in Moscow that you can enjoy its beauty at any time of the year: Imagine what it's like to get the best at this hotel during the lazy days of summer. Ask a personal butler to help you plan a picture-perfect evening, or do it yourself--Moscow is laid out at your feet at the Ritz Carlton Moscow. This unforgettable hotel is situated just steps from the Red Square.

I don't know about you, but it sounds like these White Nights are a Bucket List-worthy addendum. Why not combine the wonders of St. Petersburg with a whirlwind trip around Russia this summer?

Visiting the Hottest Vacation Spots

When you're planning an island vacation, with these great vacationing spots for beach bums and resort lovers, you can skip past the planning and move right to the enjoying.

1. Honolulu
While Honolulu certainly is a paradise, Hawaii is also closer to home than many exotic destinations.

Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach
The beauty of the Hyatt Regency is hardly paralleled, and this hotel also comes from a chain that's well-known for its luxurious settings and its top-notch service. The hotel spa has been featured in many top magazines, and the view is absolutely unforgettable. The rooms are some of the largest in Honolulu, too, so you're definitely getting your money's worth.

Outrigger Reef on the Beach
$110 million can really pep up a guestroom. A huge TV and a whirlpool bathtub complete your stunning hotel room, and the warm decor complements the glittering ocean beyond the resort. Excellent hospitality and Exclusive Complimentary Perks at sweeten your vacation deal to make it even more unforgettable.

2. Philippines
 Let the magic of the Philippines take the stress out of your life in just a few days.

The Peninsula Manila
Located in the heart of Makati, The Peninsula Manila flaunts a staggering 497 rooms and suites. Sprawling and technologically-advanced, this hotel can comfortably accommodate business travelers along with pleasure-seekers. Just a 30-minute drive from the international airport, you'll be whisked away to your personal paradise in a flash. Be sure to take advantage of the butler service.

3. Maldives
Islands, crystal-clear waters, and expansive huts form the basis of a true getaway stay in the Maldives.

Cocoa Island
If you're into diving, then you must experience Cocoa Island. The private resort caters to anyone from the most basic of beginning divers to the experts. Watersports also include deep-sea fishing, dolphin and sunset cruises, and catamaran sailing for those who either want to take a break from diving or try something new.

Four Seasons Resort Maldives
This green and luxurious resort in the Maldives is an example of one you can find in an idyllic, paradise-like setting. While a top-rated resort and highly praised for its setting and service, the Four Seasons Resort Maldives provides an intimate setting that makes this resort feel like a private, tiny village.

4. Seychelles
You could vacation in the Seychelles for years and never grow tired of what they have to offer.

Banyon Tree Seychelles
The particular bay where the Banyon Tree is located is considered one of the very best in the world. Intendance Bay gives the entire vacationing experience a unique, exclusive feel from the second you see it -- even before you check in. Try the villas with private pools for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

5. Caribbean
Close to the States and full of soft-sand beaches, the Caribbean features many great top luxury hotels and resorts for visitors.

Viceroy Anguilla Resort and Residences
35 incredible acres make the Viceroy Anguilla Resort and Residences a fantastic place to visit, particularly with its relaxed Caribbean feel and romantic decor. Barnes and Meads Bay provide picture-perfect views, while two white sand beaches and a pool await for those lazy vacation afternoons.

La Samanna
La Samanna enjoys sky-high rankings and word-class design on the island of St. Martin. Top cuisine and stunning surroundings complement elegant rooms and perfect service. With easy accessibility via direct flights and only a short seasonal closing (September and October), it's a grand place to book for beachy dreams.

Views of the ocean, accessibility, and great service characterize all these top beach getaways. We know it's hard to choose, but which one will it be for you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What a Multi-Million Dollar Facelift can do for a Grand Old Dame

We often highlight resorts and hotels that we've visited in the past, or ones in cities that we love. Other times, we talk about locations that are part of a renown chain that we like, or special spots that have gotten a nod from Conde Nast or Shermans. And sometimes we personally get "wowed" by a stay at a top resort that  just so happens to be part of our collection on and part of the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.

Such was the case after completing a stay at the Boca Raton Resort and Club . As such, I wanted to report how this resort is even better than described. A “see it to believe it” spot, the Boca Raton Resort and Club provides several accommodation levels, including very nice garden bungalows that are ideal for families which is the part of the resort where I stayed..

About the Resort
The Boca Raton Resort and Club effortlessly combines the old ways with the new, a combination of modern accommodation with service from bygone days. In February 1926, the Cloister Inn was opened as the most expensive resort in North America, and two years later, it was purchased by Clarence Geist and combined with a new golf course and cabana club. A spa and yacht club both opened within the past decade, and the hotel has undergone extensive refurbishments of the lobby, rooms, and bungalows. The Boca Raton Resort and Club has been named one of the Top Tennis Resorts, the Meetings Gold Key Award (over 20 consecutive years), the Successful Meetings Pinnacle Award, the Association Meetings Inner Circle Award, and more.

Accommodation Options
One of the best features of the Boca Raton Resort and Club is an expansive list of accommodation options. Thanks to the grand history of the location, the Boca Raton Resort and Club has been able to expand and mold to its guest's needs over time. Plus, when you have over 300 acres of land to work with, it's a lot easier.
===Our Bungalow Stay===
Boca Bungalows: This is where we stayed during our recent experience. The first-class hotel luxury of these particular accommodations is combined with the utter exclusivity of a private club. The fully-furnished, designer bungalows are offered in one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites, plus the classic bungalow room. The tranquility of these residential bungalows is only maximized by garden views in a unique section of the golf course. Tucked away from the main resort, the Boca Bungalows have shuttles leaving at 15-minute intervals to allow guests to take in the other activities, diversions, and guest buildings on the 356-acre resort. Features include a private residence concierge, complimentary private parking, a swimming pool, daily housekeeping, and complimentary shuttle service.

===Other Accommodation Options===

The Cloister: You can stay in the original hotel accommodations completed in 1926, perfect for history buffs and those who appreciate some Spanish-Mediterranean charm on their hotel stay.

Boca Beach Club: The Beach Club is made up of 203 deluxe guest rooms and nine suites, and it is situated on a half-mile stretch of private beach. You'll be just footsteps from the sand when booking accommodation at the Boca Beach Club.

Yacht Club: This has been described as a “grand Venetian palace,” and you can't deny that that sounds very tempting. The exclusive yacht club has 112 luxury guestrooms, seven suites, and an exclusive concierge-level lounge.

Tower: Spectacular views of the grounds and golf course make the extra-large sized guestrooms seem even more special.

After writing all this about the Boca Raton Resort and Club, it's obvious that the we truly enjoyed our stay away from home. Not only are the bungalows pristine and relaxing, they are a treat that's not so far away if you live in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. You'll feel like you're staying on an exclusive enclave miles away from home, but you're really just in a special spot in Boca Raton.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Where in the World to Go This Summer

Got plans to travel this summer? If you want to go somewhere either this year or plan in advance for 2012, these hotels are some of the hottest picks out there for the traveling set. Have yourself a browse and know that every one on this list allows exclusive perks for the plucking via

Lizard Island

Lizard Island is a particularly special location, a limited-access island retreat that's set like a shimmering jewel along a marvelous sea. Beautiful and completely in its element, Lizard Island doesn't take from the environment without giving back. Private villas and suites sit on powdery white sand and look like they've sprouted right up out of the beach. There's a two-night minimum stay, but that's a cinch once you step foot on the island. No matter how many nights you've booked, you'll want to stay longer.

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers

Staying on an amazing 6,000 acres is an experience of a lifetime in itself, and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers makes the experience even sweeter with luxury lodge buildings. The accommodations feature a large-scale gym, a wine tasting room, and a fantastic golf course, and if you have a romantic getaway or holiday planned, then you'll be ecstatic about your stay at Cape Kidnappers.

Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua

Rolling hills and a beachfront location make the Ritz Carlton, Kapalua, a special place. The resort is located on a century-old pineapple plantation, and it gives you a chance to experience the feeling of unspoiled Hawaii prior to development. The Ritz-Carlton actually benefited from a shocking $180 million renovation. This hotel has been called the “quintessential Hawaiian vacation,” and you have to see it to believe it.

Hotel das Catarafas

This is the only hotel located in the Iguassu National Park, and it'll get you right into the depth of the forest. 275 waterfalls make up Iguassu Falls and are breathtaking on their own—why travel far to see them? Make a master list of activities to check out, like rafting, helicopter flights, nature walks, and jeep safaris.

One and Only Palmilla

Soft-sand beaches and a hidden cove make the One and Only Palmilla a special spot. Several top restaurants are available for your perusal, and you can book an appointment for a Hummer-driven tour along the lush coasts. A 700+ wine cellar is excellent to explore and compliment fine foods enjoyed at the One and Only Palmilla. Los Cabos is a treat for the eyes at any time of the year, and it's only eclipsed by the views of the towering Sierra Nevada.

St. Regis Resort Punta Mita

This experience is completely unique from the second you set foot on the grounds of the St. Regis Resort Punta Mita. Sprawling over 22 acres of land, the St. Regis Resort lies only 50 minutes from the Puerta Vallarta International Airport, despite its tucked-away feel. Elegant and exquisitely appointed, the St. Regis Resort Punta Mita is a lovely spot to enjoy to the fullest.

If you've been to a top hotel in summer, and you want to share where it was, we always want to hear good reviews! Give your fellow readers a few tips and hints of your own.

Where to Spend the 4th of July

The Fourth of July is one of the best holidays to head out on a fun trip in the States. The country is festive, there are fireworks a'plenty, and the weather is amazing. Whether you have a big family or it's just you and a friend hitting the road, there are lots of places to visit this year.

Twin Farms

Why It's Worth Visiting: This 300-acre estate is located just 10 miles north of picturesque Woodstock, Vermont, which has a Rockefeller estate, art galleries, and plenty of historical properties to explore. The farmhouse on the Twins Farms property was built in 1795, and the estate has been open to the public since 1993.

Nashville, Tennessee
Loews Vanderbilt Hotel Nashville

Why It's Worth Visiting: Nashville, Tennessee has a certain homegrown vibe that's great on the 4th, and a Vanderbilt-linked property is completely apropos to visit over one of our most patriotic holidays. Fine art, two restaurants, and two bars complete this stunning hotel's offerings. You can get a room with a view of Vanderbilt University, too.

The Lodge at Woodloch

Why It's Worth Visiting: Do you live somewhere that gets absolutely swamped in the summertime? Head to the spa to unwind. The Lodge at Woodloch is considered Pennsylvania's most luxurious spa destination, and you'll be able to relax the right way at this glamorous, tucked-away spot. Fresh and innovative dining options complete the hearty feel.

Boston Harbor Hotel

Why It's Worth Visiting: The Harbor Hotel is located at one of the oldest wharfs in the United States, so you're getting a slice of history right there. The hotel's snapped up Conde Nast's "Best Places to Stay" distinction and is a top place in the city to take in Boston's incredible fireworks display. Add this to your must-visit list!

Taj Boston

Why It's Worth Visiting: To celebrate its 75th anniversary, the Taj Boston underwent an extensive renovation. The hotel is right across the street from the Public Harden--another slice of Boston history--and it is surrounded by galleries and restaurants for the picking, not to mention the theatre district.

Fifteen Beacon Hotel

Why It's Worth Visiting: Celebrating the nation's history seems even more appropriate when you stay in a hotel built in 1903. The Fifteen Beacon Hotel is sleek and restful, which will provide a good foil to a rousing night of fireworks and dining al fresco. If you have extra time, consider spending a night in Cape Cod, too.

Chatham Bars Inn

Why It's Worth Visiting: New England-style cottages are dotted along this pretty resort, and they are perfect if you're traveling with family over the holidays. The Chatham Bars Inn should be on your list someday, and visiting this area over the summer, then it's even more of a must-book.

South Seas Island Resort

Why It's Worth Visiting: Get away from the craziness of the Fourth of July and head to Florida's South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island. This is one of Parents Magazine's Top 10 Beach Resorts for Families, and it is situated on a fantastic 330 acres. South Village and North Pointe, located in the same resort, provide different accommodation options.

You probably noticed that we included a few extra Boston luxury hotels. Boston's a great place to visit on the 4th, since the Boston Harborfest and Pops Spectactular are some of the best Fourth of July celebrations in the nation. If you want to steep yourself in some old-fashioned, Revolutionary culture, Boston's the place to be. It helps that they have great historically-themed ice cream, candy, and snacks, too.