There’s a new hotel that is hot on my radar, and if you love hideaway luxury hotels in the Caribbean, this one is for you. Amanresorts has just announced that Amanera will be opening in the the Dominican Republic later this year, the second Amanresort to open in the Caribbean after the ever-successful Amanyara in Turks and Caicos.
Overlooking the north coast’s Playa Grande Beach and surrounded by 2,000 acres of virtually untouched verdant jungle and a dramatic mountain range, Amanera will be the first fully integrated Aman golf experience with the 7,085-yard Playa Grande Golf Course. The resort, designed by John Heah, sits atop 60-foot cliffs and is set between the beach and golf course amongst landscaped gardens. It offers extensive dining, spa and recreational facilities, and 25 Casitas showcasing raw, organic design that is complementary to the natural surroundings.
The resort, soon to be the Dominican Republic’s most luxurious destination, will be home to 25 casitas featuring green rooftops and all-natural local materials, blending seamlessly into the Hispaniola landscape.
Every Casita is accessed via a winding pathway through a private garden and 13 Casitas feature their own 10-metre private swimming pools.
The resort’s informal beach club, the Club de Playa, is tucked into a sandy cove on Playa Grande beach, the island’s most beautiful, prized for its broad golden sands and clear, azure seas.
You will be able to dine with your feet-in-the-sand, relax in a hammock under the coconut palms or enjoy the variety of water sports. Families will enjoy the children’s club for outdoor adventure.
An aptly named resort, Aman is the Sanskrit word for ‘peace” and era is the Taino word for ‘water’ – an appropriately named resort for its peaceful oceanfront location and specular setting along Playa Grande beach.
I’ve just returned from the new Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Porto Heli, Greece, and it’s clear nobody does “white hot” quite like Nikki Beach. Located only 2.5 hours by car from Athens, Nikki Beach is Mediterranean chic at its best surrounding you in its ethereal décor, pulsating tunes and sexy vibe. Originally built in the 1970’s, Nikki Beach has now transformed into a glamorous 66 room and suite boutique hotel with two exceptional restaurants Beach Club and spa. Days are spending chilling at the iconic Nikki Beach Club overlooking the glistening Aegean Sea, noshing on innovative sushi and resting your soul at the intimate spa. You’ll feel instantly cool just by being here.
In today’s fast paced world, it seems that time has become the greatest luxury we can have. We are pressed to find time to relax, time to sleep, time to spend with friends and family and time to just be. I have discovered a place that allows you to indulge in this sought after luxury at the beautiful and charming Ponta dos Ganchos in Santa Catarina, Brazil.
This exclusive hideaway in Governador Celso Ramos, a quaint fishing village community, instantly seduces you into a state of calm and serenity. The resort is hidden away on a privately owned peninsula with only 25 bungalows where you are completely secluded into its natural rainforest and ocean view setting.
Even the dining experience is about regaining time. There are no schedules and meals are taken at a leisurely pace. Menus of fresh organic cuisine and local seafood change daily, and even breakfast is to be enjoyed in a special way. Each morning guests are surprised with a new tasting menu of different small plates to awaken the palate. It’s highly unique and after a few plates, you realize the concept is quite nice over a traditional over-indulgent breakfast. A trip to Ponta dos Ganchos and the region wouldn’t be complete without sampling the Degustação de Ostras, a selection of the region’s freshest oysters.
Luxury is also about experiences. From dinner on the island reserved exclusively for one couple per night to fisherman boat trips, you can do as little or as much as you like. After an afternoon relaxing by your bungalow’s private pool or at the beach, indulge at the spa overlooking the sapphire colored sea. Water lovers will enjoy exploring the coast on stand up paddle boards or finding new adventures on a canoe along the Emerald Coast. Relax on the sandy beach or soar above in a private helicopter tour from the resort’s own helipad.
The service at Ponta dos Ganchos is quietly attentive and tailored to your needs. From your culinary preferences to experience requests, it’s a very personalized experience; you will feel completely renewed and recharged after a few days in this Brazilian haven. You might even finish that book you’ve been meaning to for so long.
Getting here: After a one hour flight from Sao Paulo (GRU) to Florianopólis (FLN), the resort is 40 km (approx. 25 miles) from on a scenic drive by car to the private peninsula.
One thing I have quickly learned about Africa is that once you visit, it steals your heart. It’s not a “once in a lifetime experience” as there are so many things to see and do, you’ll want to come back again and again. I had the pleasure of returning to South Africa this month to experience the Golden Triangle with Sunlux International, starting my journey with The Palace of The Lost City in Sun City, two hours west of Johannesburg.
First Impression: Upon arrival to The Palace of The Lost City, the grand entrance makes you feel like you’ve arrived to a palatial hotel, perhaps even a bit of Las Vegas meets Africa. I noticed immediately the majestic lobby complete with its beautiful grand dome, impressive columns and exquisite mosaic tiles was an near replica in architectural design of the Atlantis in the Bahamas. This is no coincidence as the resort once had the same owners. It was not Africa as I had ever experienced, but I was open to new experiences.
The Vibe: The rooms and décor can feel a bit kitschy but fun with an excess of African décor, zebra hides and leopard prints. My room was comfortable and handsome in décor. Once you relax and have fun with the highly African themed rooms and hotel grounds, you feel like you are in South Africa’s playground. The likes of Oprah and the King of Pop have all been guests of The Palace.
Wow Factor: This was African hospitality at its finest. Every staff member I encountered was warm, service-oriented and hospitable. I was blown away at just how welcoming everyone was and for me, this made the experience a memorable one.
Food For Thought: Enjoy a romantic dinner at Plume showcasing some of the best Afro-French fusion cuisine. While the resort has a large feel, this intimate setting makes for a special evening for couples and the service was unobtrusive yet attentive. Those in the know book a private dinner at the top of the Royal Tower overlooking Sun City. It’s the pinnacle of romance.
Perfect For: Families. There are so many things to do from safari, wave pools, bird sanctuary, world’s longest zip-line, Gary Player designed Lost City Golf Course, and The Maze of the Lost City. Couples will feel like big kids experiencing all the activities and can unwind at The Royal Salon Health Spa. My husband felt like Superman on the World’s Tallest and Fastest Zipline within the resort grounds.
What to Skip: Avoid excursions that take you to lion breeding centers nearby to pet cubs and walk with lions. There is much controversy that surrounds such reserves as to how the animals are acquired and where they are then sold, and it’s best to see the animals in their natural habitat. Get your fix of lions and the Big Five on a true African safari in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
Fun Fact: The Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler movie “Blended” was filmed here, but don’t expect it to be anything like the movie. It’s much more sophisticated than portrayed as the hotel is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. You’ll recognize an elephant like this from the movie.
Out of Africa Moment: Seeing a mother and baby hippo on the side of the road, a group or “crash” of rhino and other African animals was a highlight on the afternoon game drive on the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Schedule a Balloon Safari (weather permitting) for the ultimate view of the Big Five.
Getting There: Fly to Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) – 11 hours from London Heathrow (LHR). It’s then a two hour car drive to The Palace in Sun City. En route you’ll notice a plethora of platinum and chrome mines, the largest producers of these metals in the world.
As if its location steps from Harrods and Harvey Nichols wasn’t enough to lure fashionistas to the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, the luxury hotel has just announced an exclusive partnership French high-end luxury Maison Chloé, just in time for London Fashion Week.
Your taste buds will feel every bit luxe when you indulge in the limited-edition Afternoon Tea at The Rosebery, complete with cakes inspired by Chloé’s French fashion designs. A bevy of coveted Spring Summer 2015 Drew handbags will be on display, even a Chloé style mannequin in the lobby, enough to tempt you for a personalized visit to purchase one at the exclusive Sloane Street store.
You can explain to your spouse (and point to the mannequin) that “she made me do it” when you saunter back to the hotel with your designer bags. Either that or you can blame it on the buzz-worthy Chloé Fizz cocktails being served in the evenings at The Rosebery’s champagne bar.
The Chloé Debuts accommodation package is available from Thursday 12th February 2015 to Monday 9th March 2015. Starts at GBP1,722 and includes:
- One night’s accommodation for two in a Knightsbridge Turret Suite with sweeping views of the UK’s fashion capital
- À la carte breakfast for two people overlooking Hyde Park
- Personalised service at Chloé on Sloane Street to purchase the Drew handbag
- Chloé Love Story perfume
- Chloé-inspired afternoon tea for two people in the enchanting tea room, The Rosebery
Traveling First Class or Business on American Airlines this month? Get ready for a new retro chic perk for the luxury traveler. American Airlines is introducing new, limited-edition heritage amenity kits that pay tribute to American Airlines heritage airlines. The collectors’ items will revive the colors and logos of nine airlines, past and present with retro-branding including: American Airlines, AirCal, Allegheny, America West, Piedmont, PSA, Reno Air, Trans World Airways (TWA) and US Airways.
Inside each will be the eco-friendly “red flower” amenities from New York used in some of the world’s most famous spas. The heritage amenity kits in international Business Class contain fabric lining, a pair of socks and an eye mask styled with the colors of a specific airline, a toothbrush and toothpaste, Scope® mouthwash, covers for Bose® QuietComfort® Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headsets provided with each seat, earplugs, a pen, tissues and hand lotion, lip balm and wipes by red flower.
What’s even cooler is the felt case inspired designer bags can be sized specifically to be re-used as a mini-tablet computer case. Customers can experience the retro-themed heritage amenity kits through January 2016 when they travel in international Business Class or transcontinental First Class. Frequent travelers will have the chance to collect them all as the legacy themes will debut in batches every three to four months.
One more reason I’m loving the “new” American!
If you are a spa maven and want to have an entirely luxe experience, head to the Vanderbilt Spa at the new Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan for the authentic Vanderbilt Ritual of the Hamman, the very first in Puerto Rico. Popular in Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, this was my first experience in a Hammam. I have been to many spas that boast Hammans, however, many are just hydrotherapy treatments with vichy showers — today’s experience at The Vanderbilt Spa was the real deal.
The spectacular Italian marble Hamman with domed starlit ceiling is a visually stunning setting reportedly costing over $400,000 to build and every bit aristocratic in design. The treatment is 80 minutes of total bliss performed in a spectacular marble room where you relax on a goebek tas (a marble table heated to 108 degree.)
I must admit, laying on the majestic marble table in my pestemal (large fringed cloth draped over me) and waiting to be exfoliated to release stress, impurities and tension, I couldn’t help but feel like I was either an Arabian princess ready to experience the royal treatment or being prepped as a sacrificial lamb.
After the scrub with a kessa (a rough cloth mitt made from natural plant fibers), a copper tas (copper shallow pan) is used to warm the body in a water dance poured over you to rinse away the toxins and dead skin cells.
Then a cotton torba (muslin or cotton pillow case to aerate and create bubbles) is used to aerate olive oil soap to create magical bubbles in a kazan (ornate silver bucket that is filled with warm water and used with the torba to create the bubbles that are massaged onto you.)
The room gets quite warm, so Alicia, my therapist, kept draping my head in icy cold cloths, a welcome relief. I swear I lost a few pounds from the soothing cocoon like warmth of the marble room.
The finale of the treatment was a rain shower rinse in the hydro-shower with various aromas and sounds to complete the Hammam experience. Within a push of a button, I was under a polar mist, in a Caribbean storm with sounds of thunder crashing and then blasted in a summer monsoon. I felt like a kid who wanted to push the buttons six more times but knew my wonderful treatment had come to an end as refreshing mint tea awaited me. It’s a totally regal experience at the hottest new hotel in San Juan.
Individuals: 80 minutes $280 | For two: 80 minutes $560 USD
The 87th Academy Awards nominations were announced this morning, and I was thrilled to hear that my favorite film of the year, Wes Anderson’s Grand Hotel Budapest was nominated for Best Picture, leading the pack with nine nominations. For those of you who appreciate luxury hotels, Grand Hotel Budapest is a quirky trip through a grand hotel chronicling the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel.
If this movie has inspired to pack your bags and enjoy a grand escape of your own, here are three European luxury hotels where you can experience the glamour of a bygone era.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Lake Como, Italy
Set on breathtaking Lake Como, Grand Hotel Tremezzo is one of the oldest and loveliest family run luxury hotels in Italy. This Art Nouveau palace was originally built in the early 1900’s, and today it remains one of the most magnificent hotels in Europe with its grand historic suites overlooking Bellagio, a newly expanded T Spa and some of the best fine dining in Italy. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the Belle Epoque. No wonder it was a favorite of screen legend, Greta Garbo.
Hotel Adlon – Kempinski, Berlin, Germany
This hotel is a quintessential grand hotel in Europe located in the vibrant heart of Berlin next to the world Brandenburg Gate. Founded in 1907, Hotel Adlon Kempinski is legendary for its old world luxury, opulent rooms, four outstanding restaurants, and indulgent spa. You can picture the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Charlie Chaplin frequenting this glamorous hotel.
Corinthia Hotel Budapest, Hungary
If there ever was an inspiration for the Grand Hotel Budapest movie, look no further than the Corinthia Hotel Budapest in Hungary. It’s one of the grandest hotels in the city and perfectly situated to enjoy the vibrant art scene and nightlife of Budapest. This five star luxury hotel first opened in 1896 as the Grand Hotel Royal, and after a beautiful renovation, today it’s exudes modern elegance at its finest. A swim in the indoor 15-meter pool originally built in 1886 will feel like a royally romantic experience.
Whenever I visit The Eternal City, Rome, I can’t help but think of one of the most romantic film scenes ever: Swedish screen goddess Anita Ekberg gallivanting and bathing in the Trevi Fountain with Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.” It is the combination of recklessness, love, romance and desire in one of the world’s most romantic cities that still sweeps me off my feet.
Whether it be a James Bond 007 movie film set in the seductive Swiss Alps (Goldfinger) or the alluring Lake Como (Casino Royale), Hollywood’s ability to romanticize travel has been remarkable. Who doesn’t love a great Pink Panther movie with Peter Sellers or the more recent Midnight in Paris set in the City of Light to trigger your wanderlust? While today’s popular box office movies are often a combination of digital tech and epic explosions, films that take us traveling provide a beautiful escape, and you don’t even need to pack or find your passport.
What are some of your favorite films that make you want to travel?
Wouldn’t it feel great to spend your holiday in some of the world’s most incredible places knowing they are doing their part to preserve and protect the planet? National Geographic Society Unique Lodges of the World has just announced its 24 founding members, a collection of boutique hotels in extraordinary places around the world selected for their commitment to sustainability, authenticity and excellence. From French Polynesia to South Africa, sustainability meets splendor at hotels and resorts where the standard is set for responsible travel. Stir your wanderlust with the complete list below!
The complete list of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World charter members are:
- Fogo Island Inn, Canada
- Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
- Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru
- Kapari Natural Resort, Greece
- Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
- Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, Costa Rica
- Lizard Island, Australia
- Longitude 131°, Australia
- Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
- Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, Canada
- Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
- Rosalie Bay Resort, Dominica
- Rubondo Island Camp, Tanzania
- Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa
- Sayari Camp, Tanzania
- Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia
- Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysian Borneo
- The Brando, French Polynesia
- The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, United States
- Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia
- Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, Chile
- Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Chile
- Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
- Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Bhutan