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Beach Cities Sustainable Travel

10 Remarkable Floating Hotels to Add to Your Bucket List

Forget overwater bungalows. Floating hotels, or “floatels,” are the latest innovative and Insta-worthy accommodations that should be on your radar.

Ocean House in Haida Gwaii, Canada

[st_content_ad]Located in a secluded inlet on the west coast of Haida Gwaii is Ocean House, a unique floating hotel that complements the natural beauty you’ll experience on the “Island of the People.” There are just 12 rooms at this remote wilderness lodge, and it’s only accessible via air. But don’t worry: Packages include airfare from Vancouver, helicopter transfers, daily meals, use of kayaks and paddleboards, and a spa treatment—as well as local transfers and access to an on-site cultural interpreter and resident artist.

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Les Cabanes des Grands Cepages in Sorgues, France

Located close to the city of Avignon in France’s Provence region are these eco-friendly floating cabins. On-site activities include dining, fishing, bike rentals, a natural pool, and a spa. Enjoy the tranquility of floating on a still pond and the romance of the surrounding French vineyards.

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River Kwai Jungle Rafts in Sai Yok, Thailand

Float your way to sleep in your private room attached to a bamboo raft (yes, you have a private bathroom, too). Rooms have an outdoor deck with hammock and use lamp light instead of electricity for a truly off-the-grid experience. Located in Sai Yok National Park, the hotel helps with activity planning like hiking, mountain biking, and river canoeing.

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4 Rivers Floating Lodge on Koh Andet Island, Cambodia

Imagine stepping out of your villa onto a private terrace that looks out to the Cardamom Mountains. Discover this and more at 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, located between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. The floating hotel can arrange excursions to a nearby waterfall and mangrove. But if you’d rather not leave, you can relax in the on-site spa or take a lazy kayak ride down the surrounding river.

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Gili Lankanfushi in Male, Maldives

Go one step beyond an overwater bungalow in the Maldives and instead splurge on a floating hotel villa located on a private island. Just 20 minutes by speedboat from the Male airport, Gili Lankanfushi is the definition of luxury. From glass-paneled floors to an Underground Chocolate Cave (you’ll have to find out what this is for yourself) you might as well go all out if you’re headed to the Maldives. Other noteworthy amenities include free Wi-Fi (if you’re not looking to unplug), direct access to the Indian Ocean, two restaurants, a spa, and organized activities like island day trips and scuba diving.

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The Good Hotel in London, United Kingdom

This floating hotel is located just outside London (about two miles from Canary Wharf) on a platform in the Royal Victoria Dock. The Good Hotel does just that, promote good—not only does it serve locally sourced food and drinks, but the hotel reinvests its profits to train unemployed locals for jobs in the hospitality industry. The hotel itself has small but smartly designed rooms, as well as a popular rooftop terrace and lots of common spaces.

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Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, India

The Taj Lake Palace is likely one of the oldest floating hotels in the world. Built in 1746 as a pleasure palace, it was restored as a hotel in 1963. With spectacular views of the City Palace and the Machla Magra Hills, the hotel is nothing short of luxurious. Think butler service, a spa, astrology sessions, a shopping arcade, and a rooftop restaurant. Stroll through the gardens, take a heritage walk, or just simply enjoy the panoramic views.

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ArkaBarka Floating Hostel in Belgrade, Serbia

For an affordable floating hotel option, check out a floating hostel right on the Danube in Serbia. With a central location in Belgrade, it’s just minutes from the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Palace of Serbia. Amenities at the hostel include large windows, shared or private bathrooms, complimentary bikes, BBQ facilities, and free Wi-Fi. Boat tours can also be arranged.

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Hotel OFF Paris Seine in Paris, France

If you’re looking for a different type of stay in Paris, then book a night or two at the Hotel OFF Paris Seine. While it might not look like it with its modern decor, plunge pool, and on-site bar and restaurant, the hotel is actually a floating barge. Popular with younger travelers, the hotel offers a Sunday brunch and theme parties. The hotel is moored near the Austerlitz Metro station between the Left and Right Banks of the city.

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Arctic Bath in Harads, Sweden

The buzzed-about Arctic Bath was seen on travel sites everywhere when it first announced plans to open in 2018, and now it’s here (according to the website bookings will open in January 2020). Located in true isolation on the Lule River in northern Sweden, the floating hotel is open year-round, offering views of the northern lights in the winter and sunbathing in the summer at the outdoor pool. You can stay in a floating double room cabin on the water complete with a wood deck, pellet stove, and heated flooring.

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Beach Luxury Travel Romantic Travel

The 12 Best All-Inclusive Resorts in the United States for 2020

Mexico and the Caribbean are famous for having some of the most luxurious all-inclusive resorts in the world, but what many people don’t realize is that some of the best all-inclusive hotels are actually located in the United States.

The Best All-Inclusive Resorts in the United States

From tropical resorts with all-inclusive rates to rustic ranches, Victorian hotels, and mountain lodges, the all-inclusive resorts in the United States are as diverse as the landscape of the country itself. Below is a list of 12 U.S. resorts that either are fully inclusive or offer special packages and promotions that include many of the features associated with all-inclusive resorts.

Bungalows Key Largo in Key Largo, Florida

bungalows key largo pool.

This adults-only all-inclusive resort in the Florida Keys is the ultimate romantic getaway. Each spacious bungalow includes a private verandah with a soaking tub, as well as a flat-screen smart TV and a comfy bed with a pillowtop mattress. Dine at one of six on-site restaurants, take a yoga class on the beach, or float out on the bay in a private tiki boat.

Amenities: Bicycles for guest use, daily group yoga classes, multiple pools and Jacuzzis, and on-site spa (cost for treatments is additional).

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Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan

Grand hotel on mackinac island, michigan - all inclusive in usa

Perched atop a bluff on historic Mackinac Island, where there are no cars permitted and the main form of transportation is horse-drawn carriage, the Grand Hotel is a true American gem. Steeped in history and home to the world’s longest porch, it’s truly an idyllic all-inclusive resort getaway.

Amenities: Individually decorated rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, nightly dancing, lawn games, and daily afternoon tea.

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Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Clark, Colorado

Vista verde guest ranch in clark, colorado - all inclusive resort the us

At the Vista Verde Guest Ranch, guests can immerse themselves in a rustic life without giving up wonderful and indulgent luxuries. Providing people with an opportunity to unplug, this authentic ranch does not have phones, TVs, or internet in the guest rooms.

Amenities: Swimming pool, common lounge area with panoramic views, fitness center, indoor riding arena, and kids’ area with ropes course.

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Woodloch Pines Resort in Hawley, Pennsylvania

Woodloch pines resort in hawley, pennsylvania - all inclusive usa

This family-owned resort provides visitors with a warm and welcoming greeting as well as ample opportunities to have good, old-fashioned fun together. This resort is famous for its extensive activities program, which has a little something for everyone. Woodloch Pine Resort also boasts a championship golf course and a world-class spa.

Amenities: Indoor and outdoor swimming pools, rock climbing wall, kayaking, snowshoeing, and nightly entertainment.

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Lodge on Little St. Simons Island on Little St. Simons Island, Georgia

Lodge on little st. simons island island, georgia - all inclusive

Those seeking peace, privacy, and natural beauty will feel right at home at the all-inclusive Lodge on Little Saint Simons Island resort. It offers more than 11,000 acres of space and more than seven miles of private beaches, yet only 32 people can stay at any given time. Personalized service in a charming setting makes this the perfect place for those looking to enjoy a slower pace.

Amenities: Meals prepared by on-site chef, boat transfers to and from the island, and naturalist-led excursions offered twice each day.

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Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Port St. Lucie, Florida

Club med sandpiper bay in port st. lucie, florida - all inclusive resort usa

Best described as one of the premier all-inclusive resorts in the United States for families who love to stay active, this resort has a little bit of everything. Similar to many of the Caribbean all-inclusive resorts, Club Med Sandpiper Bay lets guests enjoy days by the pool, water activities and plenty of food as well as drinks.

Amenities: Sports facilities with professional instructors, kids clubs, and outdoor pools.

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White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona

White stallion ranch in tucson, arizona - all inclusive hotel usa

For a vacation that offers an authentic taste of western American culture, the White Stallion Ranch is the best place to stay. Offering all-inclusive packages for its guests, this hotel is often described as a blend between a dude ranch and a luxury resort.

Amenities: Heated pool and hot tub, recreation room, movie theater, petting zoo, nightly entertainment, and a schedule of children’s activities.

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Skytop Lodge in Skytop, Pennsylvania

Skytop lodge in skytop, pennsylvania - all inclusive resort usa

Nestled in the heart of the Poconos Mountains, the Skytop Lodge transports guests to an era gone by. Built in 1928, this historic lodge offers guests an atmospheric, luxury destination where they have access to the rugged outdoor terrain. On this 5,500-acre property, there’s no shortage of things to do.

Amenities: Spa facilities, outdoor adventure activities, and culinary dining experiences.

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Travaasa Hana in Maui, Hawaii

coastal-horseback-riding-travaasana-hana.

Voted Best Boutique Hotel and Number 1 Experiential Retreat in Maui by Hawai’i Magazine readers and a winner of the Certificate in Excellence Award in 2018 from TripAdvisor, SmarterTravel’s parent site, the Travaasa Hana resort offers travelers all-inclusive and a la carte booking options. Opt for a package and select from what Travaasa Hana is hailed for: authentic Hawaiian experiences in adventure, food, fitness, culture, or spa and wellness. Each all-inclusive package immerses the guest in their preferred experiential option during their stay, from seaside horseback riding to bamboo spear fishing to spa pampering.

Amenities: Seaside luxury accommodations on Maui’s famed Road to Hana, signature experiential all-inclusive packages, and authentic Hawaiian culture.

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Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee

Blackberry farm in walland, tennessee - all inclusive resort usa

This pastoral family-owned farm estate invites guests from around the world to enjoy its intimate, luxurious accommodations set against a magnificent backdrop in the Great Smoky Mountains. While not a true all-inclusive (alcohol, in-room dining, retail purchases, and some activities are not included in the nightly rate), we couldn’t leave the 4,200-square-foot Blackberry Farm resort off the list. Consider it nearly all-inclusive.

Amenities: Farm activities, culinary tastings, carriage rides, outdoor activities, spa facilities, and historic rooms.

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Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona

Miraval arizona resort & spa in tucson, - all inclusive usa

Striking a balance between dramatic mountain views and restorative desert air, the Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa is the premier destination for a wellness vacation. Offering all-inclusive rates as well as a variety of rejuvenating spa services, this resort is ideal for adults who need to take some time for themselves.

Amenities: Award-winning spa with expert services, such as body renewal rituals, hair care, skin care, and energy healing options.

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Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge, Alaska

lodge-bay-kachemak-bay-wilderness.

The Alaskan setting is rustic but the luxury accommodations, gourmet dining, and personalized adventure packages are anything but at the all-inclusive Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge.

Amenities: Gourmet dining, luxe accommodations in a pristine setting, and individualized attention with 10 guides and naturalists to every 12 guests.

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For more ideas, see The Top Travel Destinations for 2020.

What to Pack

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Booking Strategy Health & Wellness Senior Travel

The 10 Best Wheelchair-Accessible Hotels and Resorts Around the World

Many handicap-accessible hotels and resorts around the world offer accommodations for travelers with disabilities, but that doesn’t ensure that all of your room’s features or the property’s amenities and venues will be fully accessible.[st_content_ad]

In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires by law that people with disabilities have access to public buildings, hotels, transportation, and other facilities. In the European Union, the European Accessibility Act is in place, but it’s not as wide-reaching as the ADA, and other countries have no official programs requiring accessibility at all. However, that should not discourage a traveler with a disability from visiting those destinations.

No matter where you’re traveling, global brands like Marriott, Hilton, and IHG tend to have the best options when booking hotels for the disabled. Still, it’s always best to call ahead to your chosen hotel to get specifics about the width of the doorway, shower and tub set-up, grab rails, bed height, and other details so there are no surprises when you arrive. If you need rental equipment at your destination, such as a wheelchair or scooter, companies like Special Needs at Sea will deliver equipment to hotels in 68 countries around the world.

This list of handicap-accessible hotels and resorts highlights many of the best amenities for disabled travelers in North America and abroad.

Noelle: Nashville, Tennessee

Noelle: nashville, tennessee.

This 224-room experiential boutique hotel is located in the heart of downtown Nashville adjacent to Printer’s Alley. The historic luxury property features 10 fully accessible modern guest rooms with 32-inch doorways, roll-in showers, bathroom and bathtub grab bars, remote-control-operated lights and blinds, doorbells, and other useful amenities. It also offers hearing-accessible rooms and/or kits, and the property is pet-friendly. The fitness center, art gallery, boutique, and all restaurants and lounges, including the Hidden Bar beneath Noelle, are accessible during a stay at one of Music City’s most unique handicap-accessible hotels.

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Resort at Squaw Creek: Olympic Valley, California

Resort at squaw creek: olympic valley, california.

This resort property is one of the most impressive handicap-accessible hotels, thanks to its Disabled Access Ambassador, who assists disabled guests with navigating the property and planning their time in the North Lake Tahoe region. The hotel features 14 ADA-compliant rooms with features such as accessible peepholes and lower climate controls and closet poles. The sink and vanity are wheelchair accessible, and the bathrooms have roll-in showers. The rooms also offer audio-visual smoke detectors, close-captioned television decoders, telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD), and a telephone and front door alerting device. This wheelchair-accessible hotel offers ramps and elevator access to restaurants and other resort amenities.

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Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz: Berlin, Germany

Scandic berlin potsdamer platz: berlin, germany.

This centrally located property is one of the best hotels for the disabled in Berlin. Its 60 handicap-accessible hotel rooms feature adjustable-height beds and plenty of space for maneuverability. The bathrooms are also spacious with accessible amenities and roll-in showers; wheelchairs can also fit under the sinks. The corridors of the hotel are extra wide, and the restaurant is barrier-free, so wheelchair users can serve themselves at the breakfast buffet. A unique feature is the property’s barrier-free representative, who provides training to the staff so they can better assist their guests with special needs.

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Halekulani: Honolulu, Hawaii

Halekulani: honolulu, hawaii.

Located on Waikiki Beach, this luxury resort affords stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and nearby Diamond Head. The handicap-accessible hotel offers 14 ADA-compliant rooms specifically designed for travelers with wheelchairs. These accommodations feature modified bathrooms, lower closet rods, and accessible door peepholes and air conditioner control panels. There are wheelchair ramps throughout the property, and all of the restaurants and facilities are accessible. The hotel also has a pool lift for guests and ADA-compliant parking stalls. Hearing-impaired kits are available upon request.

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Grand Velas Riviera Maya: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Grand velas riviera maya: playa del carmen, mexico.

This luxurious, handicap-accessible all-inclusive resort is located on the Caribbean coast, adjacent to the Yucatan Jungle in Playa Del Carmen. There are three distinct experiences offered at Grand Velas Riviera Maya: the romantic oceanfront Grand Class resort, family-friendly accommodations at The Ambassador, and the secluded Zen Grand surrounded by the Mayan Jungle. Each experience offers two ground-floor suites that are accessible, with wide door entrances and roll-in showers. The restaurants and bars have ramps, and there is a ramp with access to the beach. The resort also has wheelchairs on site. Zen Grand and Grand Class offer electric wheelchairs to guests at no additional charge.

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Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa: Lake Placid, New York

Mirror lake inn resort & spa: placid, new york.

This beautiful resort property is picturesquely situated on Mirror Lake overlooking the Adirondack High Peaks. The handicap-accessible hotel offers five ADA-compliant guest accommodations in two different room categories, with six accessible parking spaces. Two dining venues are wheelchair accessible, including AAA Four Diamond-rated The View Restaurant and the property’s casual option, Taste Bar & Bistro. All of the property’s meeting rooms, as well as its main lobby, library, living room, spa, and fitness room, are accessible. The indoor pool also has an individual pool lift, and there is a transfer wall for whirlpool access.

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InterContinental David: Tel Aviv, Israel

InterContinental david: tel aviv, israel.

Guests of this centrally located hotel in Tel Aviv will appreciate the property’s impressive views of the Mediterranean Sea and accommodations at one of the city’s best hotels for the disabled. The InterContinental David boasts 10 fully accessible rooms featuring bedside and bathroom grab bars, roll-in showers, wheelchair-accessible closets, panic buttons, and other amenities. Hearing-impaired devices and ionizers for respiratory conditions are available on request. The hotel also has wheelchair-accessible parking and easy access to restaurants and other on-site facilities. Service dogs are permitted.

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Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate: Orlando, Florida

Omni orlando resort at championsgate: orlando, florida.

This 15-acre handicap-accessible resort stands out for its proximity to Orlando’s theme parks and attractions but offers a great escape at the end of the day. The property’s 42 ADA-compliant rooms feature many amenities, including lower light switches, peepholes, deadbolts, and closet rods. They also have roll-in showers and accessible toilets, sinks, and grab bars. Visual alarm notifications are available for the hotel alarm, door, and phone. The entire property is wheelchair accessible, including the pool area with a lift and hot tub area with a transfer station.

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Sandals Barbados: St. Lawrence Gap, Barbados

Sandals barbados: st. lawrence gap, barbados.

This new adults-only, handicap-accessible all-inclusive resort features a long list of included amenities, plus three luxurious accessible rooms. Two are in Sandals‘ LX category with a private balcony and soaking tub, and one is an SLX suite. This swim-up suite features a large private patio and soaking tub with zero-entry access to the resort’s Crystal Lagoon pool. All three accommodations boast accessible showers with grab bars, a lowered magnifying mirror, a 34-inch vanity, and a grab bar in the toilet area. Eleven of the resort’s restaurants are wheelchair friendly, and the beach is accessible. The property also has one beach wheelchair and two standard wheelchairs for guest use.

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Novotel Melbourne on Collins: Melbourne, Australia

Novotel melbourne on collins: melbourne, australia.

Melbourne is a wheelchair-friendly city that offers visitors an accessible metro and various activities for people with disabilities, including surfing. (Yes, surfing.) Novotel Melbourne on Collins is one of Australia’s best handicap-accessible hotels, boasting seven accessible rooms that are some of the largest in the city. The property is centrally located on Collins Street, directly above the upscale St. Collins Lane shops. Its spacious standard queen and deluxe king rooms are bright with large windows, and have extra living space and wider doorways. The bathrooms are also generous in size with roll-in showers that have fold-down seats and handrails. All hotel venues are wheelchair accessible. The hotel’s pool is currently under renovation and will become handicap accessible, including a pool lift, by mid-December 2019.

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Gwen Pratesi is a James Beard Award Finalist in journalism and an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer. Her work has appeared in U.S. News & World Report, USA TODAY, Cruise Critic, Reader’s Digest, Forbes Travel Guide, TripAdvisor, and Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles. Follow her on PratesiLiving.com and on Twitter and Instagram.

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Beach Food & Drink Health & Wellness

SmarterTravel Spotlight: Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit

Travelers love the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, and for good reason. This popular all-inclusive resort in Mexico’s up-and-coming Riviera Nayarit region has won countless awards from TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company), including the most popular all-inclusive in Mexico and one of the most popular all-inclusive resorts in the world.

The Location

infinity pool leading to ocean.

[st_content_ad]This Grand Velas is located in Nuevo Vallarta, and the property hugs Banderas Bay. It’s about a 15- to 20-minute drive from the Puerto Vallarta airport, which is accessible via many North American hubs. Nuevo Vallarta is a popular resort area with family-friendly activities and a beautiful coastline; there are plenty of nearby day excursions that the resort will organize, so you can explore the rest of the region and the ocean.

The 267-room all-inclusive resort has a massive infinity pool, an adults-only pool, and beach cabanas and chairs. It also has epic views of one of the most amazing sunsets you can get on the coastline.

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The Rooms

Depending on your budget and the number of people in your party, you can take your pick from a suite style that fits your needs. One-, two-, and three-bedroom suites are available as well as specialty suites for families and even a spa suite. I stayed in the spacious, two-floor wellness suite (pictured), which included a private Jacuzzi, exercise bike, one personal trainer session, custom diffusers, and daily juices.

Each suite comes with Grand Velas’ “Beyond All-Inclusive, Beyond Compare” features, like a fully stocked minibar with local specialties like agave beer and aloe water. All meals and drinks are included as well as pool, beach, and room service, access to the fitness center, exercise programs, live music, tips, taxes, and more.

Dining

You’ll find four gourmet restaurants on site: Piaf (French gourmet), Frida (Mexican), Lucca (Italian/Mediterranean), and Sen Lin (Asian fusion). These can all be booked on Open Table, and priority is given to guests.

There are also plenty of options for beach and poolside dining at the swim-up pool bar, buffet stations, and outdoor restaurants, plus beach service at the chairs and cabanas.

The Spa

One of my favorite features at Grand Velas was the exceptional spa area and service offerings. Before each treatment, you have the option to be guided through hydrotherapy stations. Choose from traditional spa offerings like facials and massages, or add on a specialty treatment like mole or tequila. I had a mole treatment done where you help mix the chocolate-based exfoliator beforehand and then relax throughout the body wrap and massage treatment. 

Extras and All-Inclusive Features

What really sets the Grand Velas apart is its attention to detail and service. For example, instead of waiting in a line for check-in, you are greeted in the lobby with a cold towel, refreshment, and a head, shoulder, and neck massage.

If you’re staying in one of the wellness suites, you even have your own concierge to specify room details and arrange workouts for you. For all guests, there is a state-of-the-art gym for use as well as group fitness classes like aerial yoga.

The property also has a kids’ and teens’ club, making it a great resort for families. The resort app makes it easy to plan out daily activities and see what’s going on at the resort that day. The concierge can help you plan and book off-resort activities in the area. The property also hosts events, weddings, and conferences.

The Grand Velas has a bilingual staff and has won countless awards, including AAA’s Five Diamond ranking.

Price and How to Book: Nightly rates start around $500 (all-inclusive) and can be booked on TripAdvisor or Grand Velas’ website.

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Ashley Rossi stayed as a guest of Riviera Nayarit. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

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Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Beach Family Travel Food & Drink Island Weekend Getaways Women's Travel

Why Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit Is the New Cancun

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Throughout the 30-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta to the brightly colored surfer town of Sayulita, there was one thing, besides the ocean views, that remained constant: New construction. The region of Riviera Nayarit, which got its name from Mexico’s tourism board of the same name, has a “made up” label of sorts, created in hope of differentiating this section of Mexico’s Pacific coast from its more popular neighbor, Puerto Vallarta.

The new construction, however, is about the only thing in common between each of the 23 distinct communities on this stretch of coastline. A vacation to Riviera Nayarit means experiencing different cultures, beaches, and activities, depending on which part you stay in.

Later this year the Conrad Playa Mita hotel is opening, and renovations are finishing at the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita. Also new this year is the Marival Armony Punta de Mita. Come 2020, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will open the Rosewood Mandarina. One&Only Mandarina Resort and One&Only Mandarina Private Homes will also open next year, at a location with breathtaking ocean views, cliffside bungalows, an ocean-fed pool, all on a long strip of a pristine and remote beach.

AMResorts’ Dreams Punta de Mita Resort & Spa and Secrets Punta de Mita Resort & Spa are also both slated to open in 2020. Coming in 2021 is Auberge Resorts Collection’s Susurros del Corazon. In 2022, a new development called Costa Canuva will open featuring a Fairmont and Ritz-Carlton Reserve.

And 2019 visitor numbers support the hotel expansion projects. According to the tourism board, the region saw a five-percent increase in North American travelers compared to last year, and the average occupancy rate was 82 percent in the southern part of the region: the Bay of Banderas.

Interested in seeing this up-and-coming slice of Mexico before the crowds arrive? Here are the best ways to experience Riviera Nayarit.

Best Places to Visit in Riviera Nayarit  

colorful banners in mexico town.

Puerto Vallarta, the closest airport, is only 15 minutes away from the start of the Riviera Nayarit. And the farthest part of the region where most tourists visit, San Blas, is about three hours away from Puerto Vallarta. Riviera Nayarit’s close proximity to Puerto Vallarta makes it accessible via many North American hubs: Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego, Toronto, and Calgary. And for those who want to explore more of Mexico, there’s a new toll road being developed between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta which will be about a three-hour drive. Within the region, there are also new roads being constructed to connect the towns along the Bay of Banderas.

Here are the best places in Riviera Nayarit to visit, in order of closest to farthest from Puerto Vallarta and the airport:

  • Nuevo Vallarta: A community of all-inclusive and family-friendly resorts on the Bay of Banderas; many properties have beach access.
  • Punta de Mita: A luxury development area where celebrities vacation.
  • Sayulita: A surfer-town made (in)famous by the reality show Bachelor in Paradise. It’s about 30 minutes to this section of the region, and the town is a popular place for surfing, shopping, and hanging out by the beach. It’s also one of Mexico’s famed pueblos magicos, a government designation for culturally significant towns.
  • San Francisco (San Pancho): San Pancho is what Sayulita was 10 years ago before the crowds found it. The sleepy town—about 15-minutes north of Sayulita—has a new eco-boutique hotel, remote beaches, and local charm.
  • San Blas: This is the northern-most point of Riviera Nayarit and a popular area for bird-watching. Back in the late 1700s, this was the most important port on the coastline and you can learn about its history as a fishing village. 

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Getting off the Resort in Riviera Nayarit

hidden cave beach in mexico.

While many come to the area to enjoy time at resorts, the region offers plenty of activities to enjoy off-resort as well.

For nature and water lovers, there are islands and national parks; Isla Marietas is the most famous one for its “Hidden Beach”. There are also two biosphere reserves: Isla Jaguar-Marismas and Isla Isabel National Park. And no matter what area you stay in, you’ll have opportunities to deep-sea fish, jet-ski, kayak, scuba dive, paddleboard, and more. During May through September whale sharks are spotted throughout the area, and the whale-watching season for blue whales, orcas, humpbacks, sperm whales, and more begins mid-December and ends in May.

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Birdwatching is a popular activity along the water, and there are also plenty of interior hiking trails and jungle walks to take that have gorgeous views of the coastline. It’s recommended to book an experience with a local guide, and you can learn more about Riviera Nayarit hikes here.

For culture visit the small towns along the coastline, like San Pancho. While perusing the towns, try a mezcal tasting class at a local mezcaleria like La Baba del Diablo. Isla de Mexcaltitan, which is often referred to as the “Venice of Nayarit” for its urban canals, is also a worthy day trip. And while resort dining is convenient and tasty, try at least one local meal off-site; the region is famous for pescado zarandeado (grilled fish) and aguachile (shrimp ceviche).

[st_related]10 Ways to Have an Authentic Trip to Mexico[/st_related]

Lastly, there’s plenty of golfing. The Punta Mita area especially is a popular vacation destination for golfers, home to two courses designed by famous golfer Jack Nicklaus. In total, the region has eight courses and is home to the only green in the world that’s on a natural island.

Best Hotels in Riviera Nayarit

stretch of beach on mexicos pacific coast.

From family-friendly properties to affordable hotels, there are plenty of hotels in Riviera Nayarit for every type of traveler.

All-Inclusive Resorts in Riviera Nayarit

All-inclusive resorts are the way to go if you want to check-in and forget about planning. The Nuevo Vallarta area and Punta Mita have concentrated sections of all-inclusive resorts. Here are three well-reviewed options:

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Luxury Hotels in Riviera Nayarit

Celebrities have flocked to the Punta Mita area of Riviera Nayarit for years. Here are two of the most famous luxury hotels:

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Boutique Hotels in Riviera Nayarit

Up-and-coming sections of the region are home to quaint, smaller, boutique hotels. Here are options in Sayulita and San Francisco:

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Family-Friendly Hotels in Riviera Nayarit

Riviera Nayarit is a haven for families on vacation. Here are three well-known, family-friendly hotels in the Nuevo Vallarta area:

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Affordable Hotels in Riviera Nayarit

Budget-conscious travelers will be happy to know that there are plenty of options for them as well; check out these three affordable hotels in the region:

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What to Wear in Riviera Nayarit

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Ashley Rossi was hosted by Riviera Nayarit. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

Categories
Booking Strategy Money

What Is a Resort Fee, and How Can You Avoid It?

When traveling to popular vacation destinations, you might find an extra charge tacked on to your hotel room bill, labeled as a “resort fee.” What exactly is this charge, what do you get for it, and do you really have to pay it? Read on to find out.[st_content_ad]

What Is a Resort Fee?

Say a hotel targets $125 a night in room revenue. But it also wants to appear to be a good deal, especially with high competition on third-parting booking sites. So, instead of $125, the hotel lists its rate as $100, but it still gets the targeted $125 by adding a mandatory $25 fee, which guests pay when they check out of the hotel. To make this fee seem reasonable, hotels come up a laundry list of services that they say the fee covers, such as access to the pool, Wi-Fi, parking, a fancy fitness center, or whatever else sounds plausible.

And if one hotel starts tacking on resort fees in a certain destination, other hotels will follow.

Many hotels have different names for these charges such as “amenity fee,” “housekeeping fee,” or “concierge fee,” but they operate in the same way as resort fees. Unfortunately, not using the “amenities” doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay for them … so if you’re looking to avoid resort fees, it’s best to find a hotel or property that doesn’t charge one.

The Federal Trade Commission conducted an analysis of hotel resort fees in 2017 and stated that “separating mandatory resort fees from posted room rates without first disclosing the total price is likely to harm consumers by increasing the search costs and cognitive costs of finding and choosing hotel accommodations.” And yet they’re still the norm in many destinations.

Recently, there has been a crackdown on resort fees as deceptive advertising, with the first real action taken by Washington, D.C. against Marriott. The state of Nebraska has also filed a lawsuit against Hilton for the same reason.

The best news for consumers would be that the industry abandons these types of fees and that the actual total price is reflected in advertised rates both on the hotel’s website and on third-party booking sites. Earlier in 2019, Britain banned these types of hidden charges and now requires hotels and booking sites to include all mandatory charges, i.e. resort fees, in the listed price. Additionally, Booking.com now charges commission for resort fees in Europe and plans to do so in the U.S. starting in 2020, according to the Los Angeles Times, claiming that it hopes hotels start providing more transparency to consumers.

[st_related]Are All-Inclusive Resorts Really Worth It?[/st_related]

Which Destinations Have Resort Fees?

In general, hotels that charge resort fees tend to be concentrated in beach, ski, and entertainment destinations, although some urban areas, like New York City, are starting to charge extra for things like an “amenity fee.” According the American Hotel & Lodging Association, about seven percent of hotels charge a resort fee. But how much does that add up to? Hospitality expert Bjorn Hanson, an adjunct professor at New York University School of Professional Studies, estimated that hotels made over $2.9 billion in revenue generated by these extra fees last year.

The website ResortFeeChecker tracks more than 2,000 hotels with resort fees. According to the site, the average hotel charges over $30 per night in resort fees. You can search by city or specific property to find out if it charges a resort fee.

Note that ResortFeeChecker does not cover a lot of properties in the Caribbean islands or Mexico, but resort fees are typical in these areas as well as in some European coastal and island destinations.

Hotels Without Resort Fees in Hawaii

The average resort fee in Hawaii is $27 per night with more than 100 island resorts charging additional fees (based on a study by Travel Hawaii). Here are three properties where you can avoid resort fees in Hawaii.

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Hotels Without Resort Fees in Las Vegas

The average resort fee in Las Vegas is about $28 with more than 122 resorts charging fees (based on information from Las Vegas Jaunt). Here are three properties where you can avoid resort fees in Las Vegas.

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[st_related]7 Deceptive Hidden Hotel Fees to Avoid[/st_related]

Hotels Without Resort Fees in Florida

There are numerous popular destinations in Florida where resort fees are common. Fees average $24 per night in the Florida Keys, $25 per night in Miami, and $14 per night in Orlando, according to ResortFeeChecker. Miami alone has close to 200 properties with resort fees. Here are three properties where you can avoid resort fees in Florida.

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Hotels Without Resort Fees in Arizona

The average resort fee in Phoenix is $24 with more than 70 properties charging an extra fee (based on information from ResortFeeChecker). Here are three properties where you can avoid resort fees in Arizona.

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Hotels Without Resort Fees in Puerto Rico

The average resort fee in Puerto Rico is $34 per night with more than 28 resorts charging fees in San Juan (based on search results from ResortFeeChecker). Here are two properties where you can avoid resort fees in Puerto Rico.

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Editor’s note: Ed Perkins contributed to this article.

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Categories
Beach Booking Strategy Family Travel Island Romantic Travel

Are All-Inclusive Resorts Really Worth It?

They claim to save you time and, most importantly, money, but are even the best bang-for-your-buck all-inclusive resorts really worth it? The answer depends on your vacation style. Discover what all-inclusive resorts actually include—and don’t include—to help you figure out whether this popular vacation option is right for you.

What Does All-Inclusive Mean?

All-inclusive resorts come in all shapes and sizes, and despite the name, they don’t necessarily include every conceivable vacation expense. Some let you book airfare along with your accommodations, so you only pay once for the entire vacation. Many include things like meals, drinks, airport transfers, gratuities, entertainment, and activities, but not airfare. Common exclusions include spa treatments, purchases at the resort shop, off-site excursions, and some premium activities.

Read the fine print of your package before booking and find out what’s included. If you’re paying for unlimited scuba diving (an activity quite pricey on its own), take advantage of it—you’re paying for it anyway. The same goes for food and drink. Don’t book an all-inclusive if you’re not planning on eating or drinking your way through the week. If all-you-can-eat buffets and top-shelf liquors are key to a good time, make sure your package includes them. If not, they can increase your price considerably.

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Who Should Book an All-Inclusive Resort?

Certain types of travelers benefit from all-inclusive resorts as opposed to other vacation options, particularly those who want to set a budget and stick to it, or those who are looking for an adults-only all-inclusive experience on the beach. Unlike many other types of vacations, an all-inclusive resort rolls the vast majority of your trip costs into a single up-front price. There are relatively few hidden fees, and you may not even have to worry about tipping. Quite literally, you could leave your wallet at home and still live like a king.

Even if penny-pinching isn’t on your agenda, this type of worry-free spending has a certain appeal. After all, you’re on vacation and you shouldn’t have to think about anything stressful, least of all money.

Others who benefit from all-inclusives are people who like to stay busy. In addition to accommodations and meals, all-inclusive resorts typically include a slew of on-site activities ranging from fitness classes to tennis and beach volleyball. If you’re not going to take advantage of them, this vacation option might not be worth it.

All-inclusive vacations typically will not save you money if you want to spend most of your time exploring the destination, eating in local restaurants, and otherwise spending time off-resort. Travelers interested in this type of vacation experience should consider staying in a hotel or rental property instead, as most all-inclusives don’t allow you to experience much outside the confines of the resort unless you pay extra.

[st_related]What Is a Resort Fee, and How Can You Avoid It?[/st_related]

Finding the Best All-Inclusive Vacation Packages

So where do you look for all-inclusive packages? All-inclusive chains like Sandals, Barcelo, Beaches, Iberostar, Couples, and Club Med offer their own packages, but most are land-based (some include the option of air for an extra cost). Online travel agencies like Expedia, CheapCaribbean.com, and Apple Vacations offer good deals as well as the opportunity to incorporate air travel into the price. Booking all-inclusive vacation packages through one of these online agencies is easy, convenient, and often not much more expensive than booking the air and hotel elements individually.

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Choosing an All-Inclusive Resort

There seems to be a limitless array of all-inclusive resorts, so while booking may be easy, deciding which is best suited for your needs can be bewildering. All seem to offer quality accommodations, endless activities, and great food. But there are differences.

In general, couples looking for romance and quality time together will want to consider adults-only chains like Sandals, Secrets, or Couples. Families will be interested in Beaches, Grand Velas, or Sunscape, while fun-seeking singles can party till dawn at the clothing-optional Hedonism II or at certain Club Med properties. Chains like Riu, Club Med, and Iberostar offer a range of options for all ages.

For a good rundown of your options, see The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for All-Inclusive Brands from Oyster, SmarterTravel’s sister site.

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What’s Included at Five Popular All-Inclusive Resorts

To help you answer the question “What do all-inclusive resorts include?” I’ve gathered details on five highly rated all-inclusive resorts in beachfront locations. Read on for a sampling of what all-inclusive resorts offer—and what they don’t.

Sandals Montego Bay

This adults-only all-inclusive property in Jamaica was Sandals’ first resort.

What’s included: Accommodations, meals and snacks at 12 on-site restaurants, unlimited drinks, airport transfers, scuba diving for PADI-certified guests, various watersports including snorkeling and kayaking, various land activities including tennis and beach volleyball, entertainment and live shows, Wi-Fi, gratuities and taxes, and even a free wedding (with three-night stay).

What’s not included: Spa treatments, gift shop purchases, optional tours, phone calls, scuba certification courses, and medical treatment.

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Club Med Columbus Isle

Located in the Bahamas, this resort from Club Med, a pioneer of the all-inclusive experience, caters to couples and families alike.

What’s included: Accommodations, airfare, meals and snacks, drinks, snorkeling, windsurfing lessons, sailing lessons, water skiing and wakeboarding lessons, kayaking, paddleboarding, beach volleyball, bocce ball, table tennis, fitness classes, access to weight room, swimming pool activities, tennis lessons, children’s club, Wi-Fi, Club Med membership fee, taxes, and gratuities.

What’s not included: Spa treatments, local excursions, fishing, cycling, kitesurfing, and scuba diving.

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Beaches Negril

This family-focused resort in Jamaica has just about everything, from a kids’ program to a water park.

What’s included: Accommodations, meals and snacks at nine on-site restaurants, unlimited drinks, airport transfers, kids’ camp program, scuba diving for PADI-certified guests, various watersports including snorkeling and kayaking, various land activities including beach volleyball and tennis, access to Pirates Island water park, teen club, Xbox play lounge, entertainment and live shows, access to Certified Autism Center, gratuities, and taxes.

What’s not included: Spa treatments, optional tours, gift shop purchases, phone calls, scuba certification courses, golf caddies, medical treatment, and transportation anywhere besides the airport and neighboring partner resorts.

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Iberostar Selection Playa Mita

This resort on the Pacific Coast of Mexico caters to guests of all ages.

What’s included: Accommodations, meals and snacks, unlimited drinks, entertainment and live shows, non-motorized watersports, taxes, Wi-Fi, and tennis.

What’s not included: Transfers, golf, scuba diving, off-site tours, and babysitting.

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Secrets Papagayo

This luxurious, adults-only resort is located in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

What’s included: Accommodations, meals and snacks, unlimited drinks, 24-hour room service, pool and beach wait service, fitness classes and facilities, a variety of land activities and non-motorized watersports, entertainment and live shows, Wi-Fi, calls to U.S./Canada/Mexico, taxes, and gratuities.

What’s not included: Off-site excursions, golf, casino, spa treatments, dinner for two on the beach, and romantic extras such as premium Champagne or chocolate-covered strawberries.

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Tips for Booking an All-Inclusive Resort

Here are a few final things to keep in mind before booking your vacation:

  • Price is often relative to quality. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Read reviews of the resort by past guests on sites such as TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent site) so you know what to expect. However, it’s possible to get an amazing—and legitimate—deal, especially if you’re traveling at a less popular time of year, such as Caribbean hurricane season.
  • Look for deals. Most resort websites have a “specials” or “deals” section that includes promotions such as free nights, credit toward flights or resort spending, or discounts for military personnel.
  • Know what you’re getting into. Check to see what’s included in the price, so you don’t incur any additional costs that you’re not prepared to pay for.
  • Don’t go for the filet mignon if you really just want the hot dogs. There’s no point in paying for things you won’t use or do, so take that into consideration when evaluating packages.
  • Always have a way out. Ask about cancellation policies, and look into travel insurance, especially if you are booking through an online agency.

Whatever you do, enjoy yourself. It’s vacation—and you’ve earned it.

What to Wear at an All-Inclusive Resort

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2008. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Sarah Schlichter contributed to this story.

Categories
Beach Booking Strategy Entertainment Health & Wellness

7 Things You Should Never Do in the Caribbean

Don’t be that obnoxious, sunburned, and disrespectful tourist that everyone makes fun of. Avoid making these seven common mistakes the next time you travel to the Caribbean.

Swim with Dolphins

Yes, a photo with Flipper would be adorable. Until you learn the truth behind swimming with dolphins, and then it’s just a sad memento. A joint report released by The Humane Society of the United States and the World Society for the Protection of Animals strongly condemns keeping marine mammals in captivity. Even places that bill themselves as rehabilitation centers for stranded whales and dolphins aren’t as good for the animals as they seem.

The report states: “Public display facilities often promote themselves as stranding and research centers. In fact, most stranded marine mammals, especially whales and dolphins, die after they are rescued; few survive rehabilitation to be released to the wild; many releases are not monitored for success; and some animals, despite their suitability for release, are retained for public display….

“With any marine mammal exhibit, the needs of the visiting public come before the needs of the animals. Enclosures are designed to make the animals readily visible, not necessarily comfortable. Human-dolphin interactions such as swim-with-the-dolphins encounters and so-called petting pools do not always allow the animals to choose the levels of interaction and rest they prefer or need.”

Read this tragic testimony from a former dolphin trainer in the Caribbean to understand the issue further and to see what conditions are really like behind the scenes, and then decide if you really want to swim with dolphins.

Apply Too Little Sunscreen

At home, you rarely burn, so before you head out of your Caribbean hotel in the morning, you slap on some sunscreen and then promptly forget about it. You’re likely to be in pain by the end of the day, which will put a damper on your vacation. The sun is stronger in the Caribbean than you’re probably used to, especially if you’re out on the water (water reflects UV rays, making them more powerful). Keep your skin safe by reapplying throughout the day, avoiding the sun between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., and wearing a swim shirt while snorkeling or swimming. Don’t forget to use reef-safe sunscreen to protect the region’s fragile coral.

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Ignore Beach Warning Signs and Local Advice

You might be so delighted to stumble across an empty beach all to yourself that you fail to notice a warning flag or sign. There could be strong currents or dangerous animals lurking below an otherwise placid-looking surface, so make sure you heed any posted warnings. Remember that not all beaches in the Caribbean have lifeguards or warning flags, so always follow any local advice on where to swim safely.

Forget Bug Spray

Although Zika is waning in the Caribbean, travelers still need to protect themselves against other bug-borne diseases such as chikungunya. If you’ve ever sat outside at dusk on the beach, you know mosquitoes and other bugs can be a big problem on many islands. Pack some travel-sized bug spray and take it with you if you’re heading out into wooded areas or near the water in the evening.

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Travel During Hurricane Season Without Insurance

Travel insurance is a good idea for most trips, but it’s even more important if you’re planning a visit to the Caribbean during hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30. Buy it as soon as you book your flight, especially if you’re traveling during peak hurricane season (mid-August through late October). Remember, if you wait until a hurricane is in the forecast, it’s already too late to be insured, and you could lose out on a lot of money if you have to cancel or delay your trip.

Never Leave Your Resort

All-inclusive resorts can be incredibly fun and relaxing, but what’s the point of traveling to a new country if you’re not going to get out and see any of it? Make sure you dedicate some time on your trip to leaving your hotel and seeing what the country is really about. Mingle with the locals, try some cuisine not cooked by your hotel chef, and see the scenery beyond the resort beach—your vacation will be much richer for it.

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Over-Generalize the Caribbean

When planning your trip, don’t generalize “the Caribbean” into one conglomerate (as I did for this article). There are dozens of countries and dependent territories within the Caribbean region, all with their own distinct cultures, cuisines, traditions, and laws. Make sure you do your research before you go, and don’t expect one nation to be the same as its neighbor.

What to Wear in the Caribbean

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world.

Categories
Beach Island Luxury Travel

The 7 Best All-Inclusive Resorts in Europe

When you’re think about booking an all-inclusive resort vacation, going all the way to Europe might seem a little far-fetched. There are plenty of sunny all-inclusive resorts closer to home, so why travel across the pond for your vacation? Well, when you stay close to home, it’s much harder to find a resort that hasn’t been Americanized, a.k.a. optimized for the typical U.S. traveler. These are resorts that have all the comforts of home contained in one property, with little ways for guests to get out and experience the surrounding culture.

However, there’s little reason for European resorts to appeal to American sensibilities with so many of their own vacationers to please. In this way, you can make a stay at a European resort a cultural experience of its own.

Here are some of the best all-inclusive resorts in Europe, where you can vacation like a European, on and off the beach.

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Club Med Opio in Provence, France

There’s a lot to explore in Provence, a coastal region that spans from the Riviera to the Alps and is famous for wine, lavender, and beaches. Not far from Cannes you’ll find a uniquely located all-inclusive resort: the Club Med Opio. It’s just an hour’s drive from both Cannes and Nice, so you can easily make a day trip to the beach. However, with a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, and CREACTIVE, an on-site circus school where kids and adults alike can learn the arts of trapeze, aerial silks, and juggling, the resort’s activities program also makes a compelling reason to stay. Not sure if it’s right for you? See 10 Things to Know Before Booking a Club Med Vacation.

Book it: Get prices for Club Med Opio

Vila Gale in Lagos, Portugal

In Lagos, a 16th-century port town complete with cobblestones and squares, Vila Gale is a sleek and buzzing resort in the heart of Portugal’s scenic Algarve region. With fashion-conscious design elements and a location that’s just steps from the beach, this affordable resort is a steal. Plus, according to the Vila Gale website, children under the age of 12 stay and eat free when you spring for an all-inclusive package.

Book it: Get prices for Vila Gale 

Grecotel Meli Palace in Crete, Greece

On the largest island in Greece, you’ll find an all-inclusive resort that offers action and relaxation for one all-inclusive price. For active vacationers, Crete’s Grecotel Meli Palace includes tennis courts, canoes, and beach amenities, like these dreamy cabanas, that are free of charge. The resort has one main restaurant that mostly serves American-style food, but you can also take a short trip to acclaimed restaurants like Agreco Farm to try its famous honey and Cretan olive oil.

Book it: Get prices for Grecotel Meli Palace

La Cucina Sabina in Tuscany, Italy

Did someone tell you an all-inclusive resort can’t be an authentic experience? Well, feel free to send them to La Cucina Sabina. In the Sabine Valley, just north of Rome, this all-inclusive villa offers a culinary-focused vacation with cooking classes, unlimited wine, and exclusive tours. Your stay includes transports from the airport or train station, all your meals and wine, walking tours of the property, and even cooking classes with the chefs. Plus, with a large pool, 50 acres of property, and luxe rooms, this agriturismo has everything you could possibly want on your Italian escape.

Book it: Get prices for La Cucina Sabina

Club Med Palmiye in Bodrum, Turkey

For an extremely affordable all-inclusive resort in Europe, set your sights on the Turkish side of the Mediterranean. At the Club Med Bodrum Palmiye, nightly rates start at $139 per night for a seaside resort at the foot of Mount Taurus. With four restaurants, watersports, and proximity to the historic city of Bodrum, there’s plenty to do, and the views from the resort, which is sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, are worth going out of your way for.

Book it: Get prices for Club Med Bodrum Palmiye

Sensimar Aguait Resort & Spa in Mallorca, Spain

On the other side of the Mediterranean, you can have a blissful and exciting vacation with the all-inclusive package at the Sensimar Aguait Resort & Spa. This adults-only resort situated on the rocks of Mallorca, one of the Spanish Balearic Islands, is the perfect place to call home during a week of adventure and relaxation on the island. With a well-designed spa and solarium, plus a large pool area, this resort offers a sophisticated atmosphere and private beach access.

Book it: Get prices for Sensimar Aguait

Club Med Valmorel in Valmorel, France

Who said an all-inclusive vacation shouldn’t involve a little snow? In the French Alps, the Club Med Valmorel offers 93 miles of ski slopes and views of the famous Mont Blanc. Perfect for families, with ski lessons available for young children, this resort also offers lots of excursions, from skiing and snowshoeing in the winter to hiking school in the summer. For a large family retreat, consider booking one of the resort’s chalets, which offer extra space and privacy in your own little alpine abode.

What to Wear at a European All-Inclusive Resort

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Book it: Get prices for Club Med Valmorel

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

Categories
Adventure Travel Beach Family Travel Romantic Travel Weekend Getaways

The 10 Best All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico

Whether you’re planning a family vacation or a spring break trip to Mexico, all-inclusive resorts take a lot of the planning and guesswork out of vacationing since you know that everything’s included upfront. But some hotels with all-inclusive packages can serve mediocre food, compromise on the quality (and quantity) of liquor, and have hidden fees for extra amenities or activities.

Here are the 10 best all-inclusive resorts in Mexico for every type of traveler—each has been expertly vetted for food, price, activity offerings, and location.

Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun All-Inclusive

exterior view of hotel in mexico

The Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun is a reasonably priced beachfront property located in the main section of the hotel zone in Cancun. It’s one of the best all-inclusive resorts in Cancun for families since family-friendly accommodations, dining, drinks, entertainment, culture, recreational, and sporting activities are all included. Fiesta Americana properties include more cultural elements than most resorts, and the Condesa has authentic architecture, palapas, and even an arts and crafts program that showcases Maya culture.

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Grand Sirenis Matlali Hills Resort & Spa

resort in mexico cliffs

The Grand Sirenis Matlali Hills all-inclusive resort in Mexico is located in the trendy Riviera Nayarit near Puerto Vallarta. The adults-only (18 and up) property recently added 140 suites to its property, which already includes an award-winning spa, a private beach club at Banderas Bay (less than 10-minutes away) with shuttle service, five pools, plus plenty of on-site culinary offerings—the property has four restaurants, three buffets, and three bars. Rooms overlook the Sierra Madre Mountains and Riviera Nayarit coastline. 

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The Explorean Kohunlich by Fiesta Americana

mexico resort pool view

If you’re looking for something different than a beachside resort in the Cancun area, but still want to stay at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, then book a stay at Explorean Kohunlich. The property is located in the heart of the Maya jungle in Quintana Roo, less than a mile away from ancient ruins. Your rate includes your room, gourmet food, and beverages, plus a daily activity like snorkeling, kayaking, or a visit to an archaeological site.

Bonus Pick: Explorean Kohunlich has a sister property on Cozumel that offers a similar aesthetic and the same all-inclusive resort experience but with a beachside location.

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The Fives Azul Beach Resort Playa del Carmen

hotel pool with beach view and palm trees

This beachside group- and family-friendly resort is just 10 minutes from Playa del Carmen. All-inclusive features include the brand’s “Gourmet Inclusive” concept, which offers flexible meal plan options to suit all types of travelers. Guests love the kids’ club, rooms with rooftop decks, and activity offerings like scuba diving, beach volleyball, and yoga on the beach.

Bonus Pick: If you’re looking for an adults-only resort in Playa del Carmen, check out Live Aqua Boutique Resort Playa del Carmen. While it doesn’t have beachfront access, this boutique all-inclusive does have a rooftop infinity pool and central location on La Quinta Avenida. 

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Beloved Playa Mujeres

mexico beach resort

Beloved Playa Mujeres adults-only resort in Mexico is an all-inclusive, beachside, five-star boutique property. With resort features like an on-site spa, golf course, boating and fishing excursions, four different gourmet restaurants, and beachside dining, you’ll never want to leave. But if you do, car-free Isla Mujeres is just off the coast and accessible by boat.

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Grand Velas Los Cabos

mexico resort with pools and beach in cabo

You’ll find this luxury all-inclusive resort in Mexico on the coastline between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Three infinity pools, oceanfront yoga, a kids’ and teens’ program, as well as a spa and themed gourmet restaurants make this the place to be if you’re looking for an all-inclusive resort in Los Cabos. Panoramic views of the Sea of Cortez from your balcony await (and private plunge pool if you feel like really indulging).

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Kore Tulum Retreat and Spa Resort

tulum beach resort at night

For trendy jetsetters, the Kore Tulum Retreat and Spa Resort is the only adults-only all-inclusive resort in the Tulum area. Known for its bohemian decor and Instagram-worthy food dishes, Kore Tulum is a hot destination for millennials (and the millennial at heart). The property has rooms with Jacuzzis, an impressive spa, access to the beach club “El Paraiso,” an infinity pool, and plenty of on-site dining options. Travelers appreciate the good value this all-inclusive resort offers. Bonus: The daily rate includes unlimited drinks brought to your room via room service.

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Villas HM Paraiso del Mar

isla holbox beach resort

Looking for the next up-and-coming hot spot in Mexico? Welcome to Isla Holbox. And while the area isn’t known for its all-inclusive resorts, beachfront Villas HM Paraiso del Mar has exceptional reviews on TripAdvisor and does offer two all-inclusive packages. These include food, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and access to the kayaks and bicycles; the premium option also includes a seafood beachfront dinner option as well as paddleboard rentals and even a pillow menu. 

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Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta

ocean hotel room view in mexico with pool

The Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta is an all-ages, oceanfront, all-inclusive resort that has the exclusivity of its own private cove. Rates include unlimited drinks and dining, non-motorized water sports, daily fitness classes, some of the best swim-up suites in the world, cooking classes, Wi-Fi, and in-room dining. The property has six restaurants, five bars and lounges, five infinity pools (one is adults-only), oceanfront dining, a kids’ club, and live entertainment.

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Occidental at Xcaret Destination

mexico resort in cove

For travelers looking for adventure and to maximize their time, Occidental at Xcaret Destination is the ideal all-inclusive resort. Located right at the Xcaret eco-archaeological park—there’s even a package with included admission—in Playa del Carmen, there’s plenty to do off the resort (if you do ever want to leave). On-site amenities include an impressive seven swimming pools, 10 bars, 11 restaurants, a club, a dolphinarium, and a private bay and beach area, as well as natural river formations that flow through the property.

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What to Wear at the Best All Inclusive Resorts in Mexico

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Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the location of Beloved Playa Mujeres. It has been corrected.

Categories
Active Travel Beach Booking Strategy Island

Which Caribbean Island Is Right for You?

If your mental picture of the Caribbean is a stereotypical stock image of a palm tree arching over a pristine white beach, it may be time to revisit the region. The Caribbean is dotted with dozens of island nations, each with its own unique offerings for travelers. Are you drawn to historic forts, cobblestone streets, and colorful Spanish architecture? What about lushly forested hiking trails that snake past tumbling waterfalls and bromeliads dripping with rain? Or would you rather explore multi-hued coral reefs teeming with rays, turtles, and tropical fish?

There’s an ideal Caribbean island for just about every type of traveler, from foodies to families (and, yes, beach bums too). Read on to find out which Caribbean island is right for you.

Dominica: Haven for Hikers

dominica waterfall and hiker

The unspoiled rainforests and waterfalls of Dominica, often called “the Nature Isle,” provide endless opportunities for hikers. The island’s most famous trek—and one of its most challenging—is the day-long sojourn to Boiling Lake. The flooded fumarole at the end of the trail is one of the world’s largest hot springs, and it’s typically shrouded in steam. Shorter hikes include a trip to the towering Middleham Falls or a jaunt around scenic Freshwater Lake.

Where to stay: The Fort Young Hotel in Roseau, Dominica’s capital city, offers access to shops and restaurants and is a good jumping-off point for hikes and other adventures.

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St. Barthelemy: Gourmet Dining

dining at le tamarin st barthelemy

Prices are high, but the quality of cuisine is even higher on luxe St. Barthelemy. This island offers a little slice of Europe in the center of the Caribbean, and menus here are dominated by French dishes with a Creole twist. One of the best culinary experiences on the island is fine dining in the lush tropical garden at Le Tamarin. If your budget needs a break, treat yourself to a picnic lunch from a gourmet deli or local market.

Where to stay: With colorful rooms and cottages, most of which feature panoramic views of St. Jean Bay, Le Village is one of the island’s most popular spots to stay.

Turks and Caicos: Wild About Watersports

kayaker grace bay turks and caicos

Home to one of the Caribbean’s longest barrier reefs, Turks and Caicos is an ideal spot to explore the underwater world. You can even swim with stingrays on Grand Turk. The island’s calm mangrove forests are perfect for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, while Long Bay Beach (on the island of Providenciales) is a popular place to try your hand at kiteboarding. Windsurfing, sailing, and fishing are other options around the islands.

Where to stay: The Windsong Resort overlooks spectacular Grace Bay. All rooms feature kitchenettes or full kitchens.

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Saba: Off the Beaten Path

saba landscape

With a friendly population of about 2,000, the tiny Dutch island of Saba is the perfect spot for travelers looking to truly get away from it all. The five-square-mile island is actually a dormant volcano, surrounded on all sides by a well-preserved marine park where divers can explore pristine coral reefs. For stunning views, climb the aptly named Mount Scenery; at 2,910 feet it’s the highest point on the island. Looking for a souvenir? Delicate Saba lace is handmade by local women and sold in a number of boutiques on the island. One caveat: This is not the island to visit if you love beaches. Saba has very few, and one is a “wandering beach” that’s only visible under the right conditions.

Where to stay: Every one of the 10 comfortable cottages at The Cottage Club has a full kitchen and a private balcony overlooking the sea.

Curacao: Number One for Nightlife

curacao cocktail

After the sun goes down, the action starts to heat up in Curacao. After all, the island is famous for Blue Curacao Liqueur. Casinos, beach clubs, annual festivals, and famous international DJ appearances are all a part of a typical night out in Curacao. Whether you’re visiting for a festival like Carnival or The Flying Dutch, or just looking to enjoy a night out on vacation, Curacao is the best island for you. Jazz clubs, lounges, and hipster bars line the trendy Pietermaai area, or you can enjoy live music and DJs at beach clubs like Cabana Beach or Zanzibar. But don’t worry if nightlife isn’t for you; it’s not too in-your-face. Curacao is also known for its famous blue water and dive sites.

Where to stay: If you’re looking for a city stay, try the hip BijBlauw in the Pietermaai district of Willemstad.

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Puerto Rico: History and Culture

cobblestone street in old san juan

The cobblestone streets and brightly colored colonial buildings of Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan are a must-visit for travelers seeking cultural attractions to complement a beach getaway. The city is home to two historic forts, including El Morro, which dates back to 1539. Old San Juan also boasts a lovely cathedral and a museum devoted to Spanish cellist Pablo Casals. Other attractions include dozens of art galleries and antique shops, as well as a vibrant restaurant scene.

Where to stay: Housed in a 19th-century building, the Decanter Hotel offers elegant rooms in the heart of Old San Juan.

St. Lucia: The Ultimate in Romance

st lucia twin pitons with pink flowers

There’s a reason St. Lucia is one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean for honeymoons. For sheer beauty and romance, you can’t beat its famous Twin Pitons, lush rainforests, and wide white beaches. And there are a variety of indulgent all-inclusive resorts here in every price point, from the stunning Jade Mountain (complete with infinity pools and open-air views of the Pitons) to the several couples-only Sandals Resorts scattered around the island.

Where to stay: The adults-only, all-inclusive Sandals Grande St. Lucian offers a dozen restaurants, six bars, and plenty of activity options.

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Aruba: Best for Beach Bums

aruba beach umbrellas

Pristine white sands and crystal-clear waters await travelers to the beaches of Aruba. The most popular strip of sand is two-mile Palm Beach, which offers calm seas for swimming and other watersports, as well as plenty of restaurants, beach bars, and hotels—so you don’t have to stray far from your towel to refill your fruity drink or grab a snack. If you’re looking for a quieter, more private experience, try Arashi Beach, a favorite with locals, or Malmok Beach, a top spot for snorkeling.

Where to stay: Playa Linda Beach Resort is located right on Palm Beach and offers a range of accommodations from studios and suites to townhomes.

Martinique: The Caribbean in Miniature

martinique landscape

For travelers who love variety, Martinique offers a little taste of everything that makes the Caribbean special—rolling cane fields and lush banana plantations, cascading waterfalls and rainforest trails, beautiful beaches and stylish shops, fascinating history and fresh local seafood—all in one French-flavored island. Spend some time strolling and shopping in Fort-de-France, the capital city, before heading out of town to St.-Pierre, a town shadowed by a nearby volcano that killed 30,000 residents when it erupted back in 1902. (Learn all about it at the town’s Musee Volcanologique.) Relax on the beaches of Pointe du Bout or go canyoning down a river to one of the island’s many waterfalls.

Where to stay: Treat yourself to a luxury stay at French Coco, where each suite comes with its own private swimming pool and terrace.

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Bahamas: Family Fun

father and child on beach in bahamas

Clean, safe, and just a short plane ride from the United States, the Bahamas offer a variety of choices for travelers with kids. Many families flock to Nassau and neighboring Paradise Island, where you’ll find the biggest and glitziest hotels (including the famous Atlantis mega-resort), as well as the best boutique shopping and the greatest variety of activities. Grand Bahama Island, with its main town of Freeport, is another good bet for miles of wide white beaches paired with hotels, restaurants, and casinos. If your family prefers a quieter experience, head to the Out Islands—including Andros and the Exumas—where the hotels are smaller, the beaches practically deserted, and the scenery pristine and untouched.

Where to stay: Hideaways is a family-friendly resort on Great Exuma, offering multi-bedroom suites and cottages.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Beach Booking Strategy Island Outdoors Romantic Travel Sustainable Travel

4 Amazing Off-Resort Things to Do in Punta Cana

The best antidotes to cold weather blues are warm waves and fine-sand beaches. And some of the best beaches in the world ring the Dominican Republic’s easternmost tip, Punta Cana. The sugar-sand beaches of the Bavaro area are why so many global visitors (from Americans and Canadians to Germans and Russians) flock year-round to Punta Cana resorts to frolic where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Indulging at a resort—whether you’re beachside, pool-hopping, or at a spa treatment—is a must-do in Punta Cana. But equally important is getting off the resort to experience the D.R.’s natural and cultural wonders. And you might be surprised to find that the hotel wants to help you see them: Many Bavaro and Punta Cana resorts offer excursions to some of the most incredible places to go and best things to do in Punta Cana and beyond.

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Here’s how one hotel showed me the way off the resort and made returning after each adventure worthwhile.

The Resort: Occidental Punta Cana

Occidental punta cana things to do

Located in Bavaro, the Occidental Punta Cana resort is a sprawling all-inclusive property that has something for every type of traveler. Families can enjoy the several huge pools and on-site child care; honeymooning couples can upgrade to the Royal Club level for a balcony whirlpool and a more exclusive beach area complete with beachside hot tubs; fitness gurus can do free water activities like kayaking, windsurfing, and snorkeling, or book parasailing or a yoga class. And all guests break for the resort’s vast and idyllic beach, which has a volleyball net, beachside bar, and lounge chairs.

The Occidental Punta Cana has 11 restaurants to choose from, plus affordable romantic add-ons like a private dinner for two on the beach for about $180 (total). Entertainment like traditional dancing and live music are hosted nightly on the property’s main stage. All Occidental Punta Cana resort activities, services, and all-inclusive levels can be found here.

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Punta Cana Things to Do

Hotel excursions are some of the best things to do in Punta Cana because they continue the all-inclusive theme; early-morning pick up plus admission, a local guide, lunch, and drinks are typically included, so you don’t need to worry about driving or finding places to eat. The Occidental Punta Cana offers excursions to all of the below activities—but they’re not the only resort that does: Ask the resort you book with about any specific excursions you’d like to do to make sure they’re available.

Here are four incredible ways to get off your Punta Cana resort for a taste of Dominican culture and nature beyond the beach.

Zip Line and Cave Swim at Scape Park

Scape park pools in punta cana things to do

Once you’ve had your fill of the resort’s sandy beaches, head to nearby Cap Cana’s Scape Park for another way to cool off that includes a serious adrenaline rush. Scape Park is a massive natural water park built around jungle cenotes (or sinkholes), giving the term “waterpark” new meaning. A trip to Punta Cana isn’t complete without venturing off the resort to Scape Park, where you’ll have a blast while also learning about your surroundings.

Thrills like a canopy and into-the-water zip lines draw visitors of all ages. There’s also an underground swimming cave, a cenote waterfall pool, a bat cave for spelunking, and a swimming hole called Hoyo Azul—making it easy to spend a half day exploring. The park also puts visitors in touch with local wildlife like monkeys, parrots, and ranch horses. Plus there’s a Cultural Route between attractions that covers the area’s history, from ancient Taino Indians to Spanish colonialization, the African slave-trade, and modern Dominican history.

Full admission includes lunch at the park and all activities, transport from your Punta Cana resort (choose from dozens of hotel pick-up options when booking here), and afternoon transportation to Scape Park’s nearby white-sand beach—which you’ll want to relax on after hours of hiking and swimming. The beach has free lounge chairs plus a bar and restaurant (food and drinks here are not included).

Tip: Sturdy water shoes or trail-appropriate sandals like Tevas are recommended since there’s a lot of trekking from one water adventure to the next.

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Visit Altos de Chavon

One of the most unexpected things to do in Punta Cana is to head to a replica Italian-style village perched high above the Chavon River valley. Altos de Chavon is an arts and culture project that includes a Roman amphitheater, cultural center, archaeological museum, and a renowned design school. Altos de Chavon’s unique brick-and-coral architecture makes it perfect for some easy walking through archways and gardens, and the view of the river valley in itself is well worth the one-hour journey from Punta Cana.

Because Altos de Chavon is home to design students, you’ll also find artisan workshops and art galleries here. Traditional live music and dancers in colorful skirts also mill about the attraction, and big-name acts from Frank Sinatra to Gloria Estefan have played concerts at the amphitheater.

Tip: Altos de Chavon only takes a few hours round-trip to fully experience, so most Punta Cana resort excursions here will include another activity as well.

Sail to Saona Island

Saona island things to do in punta cana

It’s hard to believe that Dominican beaches can get much better than the warm waters of Punta Cana, but Saona Island, part of a protected area called East National Park, is a next-level paradise. Catamaran tours are the best way to get here, and you’ll make some memorable stops along the way. Before arriving at Saona you’ll stop at shallow ocean natural pools, which are a hotspot for guide-led visitors to stop and wade around looking for sea life, typically with a drink in hand. The turquoise water here signals you’ve arrived at the Caribbean Sea.

Natural Pool Bayahibe is one of the most popular spots off Saona—it’s known for its stingrays and enormous pink starfish, which you can easily spot under the surface. But an influx of tourists to the area isn’t without its problems: Be a good visitor and opt for biodegradable sunscreen so you won’t harm the wildlife, and never pick up the starfish. Any good local guide here will tell you that the starfish population has dwindled at the hands of excited visitors who remove them from the water.

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Once you’re on Saona, Bayahibe Beach has a Caribbean barbecue (included in most guided tours) and there are snorkeling and palm-shaded lounge chairs to pass the time. Because the island is protected, most visiting by charter boats depart before sunset. Getting to and from the island from departure points in La Romana (where Altos de Chavon is located) takes about 45 minutes by boat (not including stops), so you can easily spend a few hours at sea and at Saona.

Tip: Staying at the Occidental Punta Cana resort, I visited both Altos de Chavon and Saona Island with stops at the natural pools in a single day. It’s a day-long journey from Punta Cana to Altos de Chavon and Saona and back, but the two-in-one excursion is easily one of the most popular and best things to do in Punta Cana. The comforts of your resort will be waiting for you on return, after all.

Uncover Cap Cana

If you’re looking for a shorter and more relaxed excursion than these day-long adventures, one little-known area of the Dominican Republic that’s very close to Punta Cana is perfect for getting off the resort. Cap Cana is a residential and hotel area adjacent to Scape Park and is home to some of the world’s biggest celebrities—including former Red Sox player David Ortiz, former Yankee Alex Rodriguez, and superstars Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, to name a few. Scape Park offers boat cruises here as an add-on to admission, but there are also other charters that can take you out on the water. Most beaches are open to the public, like Juanillo Beach. Also, check out the Marina at Cap Cana.

Tip: A 20-minute taxi ride away from Punta Cana, Cap Cana is also known for its golf courses, where you might run into a certain pair of friendly retired MLB players.

What to Wear in Punta Cana

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon visited the Dominican Republic as a guest of the Occidental Punta Cana resort. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Categories
Beach Luxury Travel

The 9 Best Florida Beach Resorts

Florida may be synonymous with sun and sand, but only a few resorts actually put you right on the beach. From a top-notch spa to a secluded island, here are the very best Florida beach resorts based on beach access, amenities, and ratings from past guests on TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company).

Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach

acqualina resort

Situated on 4.5 acres of blissful beachside property in Sunny Isles Beach (between Fort Lauderdale and Miami), Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach gives new meaning to fun in the sun. The Mediterranean-style villa sits directly overlooking the ocean, without any barriers between guests and its 400 feet of Atlantic shoreline.

A recipient of the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Award and the AAA Five Diamond Award, Acqualina doesn’t disappoint when it comes to service and amenities. The resort features three outdoor swimming pools, beachfront yoga, a world-class oceanfront spa, and three on-site restaurants.

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Southernmost Beach Resort

southernmost beach resort

Key West may not be known for its beaches—Duval Street always steals the spotlight—but there are plenty of places to dig your feet in the sand. Southernmost Beach Resort is just such a spot, with two beaches, three pools, a poolside bar, and a private pier perfect for sunset viewing.

Many of the rooms have ocean views, and all come with access to South Beach and use of rental beach chairs and umbrellas. Located a stone’s throw from the historic Old Town, Southernmost Beach Resort delivers the best of both worlds when it comes to Key West vacations.

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Lago Mar Beach Resort and Club

lago mar resort

With a 500-foot private beach and a secluded location in Fort Lauderdale, Lago Mar Beach Resort and Club feels like a true escape from the everyday. Cabanas, chaise lounges, steamer chairs, and umbrellas are provided to take lounging to the next level. Lago Mar also features two swimming pools—one is a 9,000-foot lagoon-inspired area with its very own island—and plenty of on-site activities, such as four tennis courts, a resort shop, and a spa. Six on-site eateries offer a range of cuisines and dining options, including a soda shop (ice cream fanatics rejoice) and a wine cellar lounge.

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Pink Shell Beach Resort

pink shell beach resort guest room

Located on the northern tip of Fort Myers Beach, Pink Shell Beach Resort boasts sweeping beachfront views. Amenities include a wide range of water activities, including sailing lessons, WaveRunner rentals, parasailing, dolphin adventure tours, and free use of kayaks and paddleboards.

Three swimming pools also provide plenty of entertainment, and one even comes with a large waterfall. As for the sandier side of things, the Pink Shell Beach Resort provides yoga on the beach and free use of beach chairs and umbrellas, as well as cabana and fire-pit rentals. There’s also a full-service spa, kids’ activities, and two on-site eateries.

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The Breakers

the breakers

Situated on 140 acres of pristine oceanfront property in the heart of Palm Beach, a stay at The Breakers is a tropical experience unlike any other in Florida. The Italian Renaissance-style resort provides a half-mile of private beach, four oceanfront pools, five whirlpool spas, and poolside bungalows. Outdoor enthusiasts can partake in the Breakers’ many activities, such as scuba diving, sunset cruises, kayaking, snorkeling, tennis, and golf. There’s also a spa and eight on-site restaurants.

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Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

ponte vedra inn and club

Located 20 miles southeast of Jacksonville in northeast Florida, the 300-acre Ponte Vedra Inn & Club lures travelers with amenities such as seaside golf, tennis, sailing, and cycling. It doesn’t end there, however, as the resort also features miles of beaches, four swimming pools, a full-service spa, and numerous dining options.

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Tranquility Bay Beach House Resort

tranquility bay beachfront resort guest room

Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in the heart of the Florida Keys, Tranquility Bay Beach House Resort is known for its white sandy beaches, tropical swimming pools, and lush gardens. Tranquility Bay also offers on-site diving, snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, and paddleboarding.

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The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort

carillon miami wellness resort pool

Formerly Canyon Ranch Miami Beach, the Carillon Miami Wellness Resort combines a dramatic setting overlooking the water with southern Florida’s largest spa. Numerous activities are offered each day, ranging from yoga and meditation classes to boot camps and boxing workouts. Four pools and the beach, only steps from the hotel, make it easy to soak up the sun.

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Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa

costa d'este beach resort guest room

Gloria and Emilio Estefan founded Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa in Central Florida’s Treasure Coast as the ultimate escape from the ordinary. The beachfront haven provides ocean views alongside locally grown dishes served at the Wave Kitchen & Bar or the Beachside Cabana Bar. Guests can take a dip in the beachfront pool or enjoy water activities on Vero Beach, such as snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking.

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What to Wear at Florida Beach Resorts

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Booking Strategy Cities Historical Travel Luxury Travel Romantic Travel Weekend Getaways

8 Incredible American Mansion Hotels

We’d all love to live in a historic mansion, but that’s probably not a reality for most. You can pretend for a weekend, though, with a stay in one of these incredible mansion hotels.

The Chanler: Newport, Rhode Island

The chanler

[st_content_ad]The Chanler emerged in 1865 as a $30,000 summer “cottage” for New York Congressman John Winthrop Chanler and his wife. It was the first mansion built on Newport’s famous Cliff Walk, and was used as a school, Naval housing, and a museum before being turned into a hotel. In 2000, The Chanler underwent a three-year renovation and refurbishment that turned it into the 20-room luxury hotel that you can stay in today.

Book it: Get prices for The Chanler and other area hotels

Wentworth Mansion: Charleston, South Carolina

Wentworth mansion charleston

Successful cotton merchant Francis Silas Rodgers built his mansion in 1886 in the Second Empire style, with hand-carved marble fireplaces, custom-made crystal chandeliers, and opulent stained glass windows. In 1998, the Wentworth underwent an 18-month restoration that modernized the building (and thankfully added central air conditioning) but still preserved most of the original features of the mansion hotel. Each of the Wentworth’s 21 guest rooms feature historic touches like antique furnishings or an original fireplace, so guests can truly get a sense of the past while staying here.

Book it: Get prices for Wentworth Mansion and other area hotels

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The Ivy Hotel: Baltimore, Maryland

Commissioned in 1889 by banker and industrialist John Gilman, the Ivy was designed to be both a stately and impressive mansion, but also a cozy home with fireplaces and inviting rooms. The Ivy passed through a handful of owners before being gifted to the Baltimore Parks and Recreations Department, and eventually became one of Baltimore’s most famous mansion hotels. After undergoing luxurious updates in 2016, it became the first Relais & Châteaux property in Maryland. Today, you can book one of 18 uniquely designed guest rooms and suites—all of which include breakfast, unlimited access to the Mansion Bar, afternoon tea service, and car service anywhere within the city limits.

Book it: Get prices for The Ivy Hotel and other area hotels

Castle Hill Resort and Spa: Proctersville, Vermont

While it’s not a castle, Castle Hill Resort and Spa will still remind you of old-world Europe, as it was built in 1905 by European craftsmen. Allen Miller Fletcher, the Governor of Vermont from 1912-1915, had this summer home built out of hand-carved California redwood and locally sourced gneiss stone. Fletcher spared no expense, and even hired Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to design the property’s landscaping. Today, the mansion has been preserved and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.

Book it: Get prices for Castle Hill Resort and Spa and other area hotels

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Grace Vanderbilt: Newport, Rhode Island

The Vanderbilt name is a synonym for wealth, so it’s no surprise that the family had mansions in Newport. Built for Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt in 1909, this vintage mansion has been recommissioned as a 33-room hotel in the heart of Newport. Today, guests at the Grace Vanderbilt can customize their entire stay—choosing everything from their room fragrance to the toiletries they’d like to have stocked.

Book it: Get prices for the Grace Vanderbilt and other area hotels

Glenmere Mansion: Hudson Valley, New York

Once a private Gilded Age country mansion in the Hudson Valley, the Glenmere has since been revamped into a luxury boutique hotel. The mansion hotel features 18 guest accommodations, two restaurants, and a full-service spa with a hammam-style bath house—all less than 50 miles away from New York City.

Book it: Get prices for Glenmere Mansion and other area hotels

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Melrose Mansion: New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is a prime spot for checking out historic mansions, but there are only a few that you can actually overnight in (unless you have some very wealthy friends). Melrose Mansion is a gorgeous property that’s been turned into a small luxury hotel—yet still maintains its sense of history, and certainly has a good story to tell. Built as a single-family home for a wealthy merchant in 1885 and sold in 1900s, it’s rumored that the mansion served as a secret bordello from around 1917-1960s. Melrose Mansion was then bought by a burlesque performer and her husband and turned into apartments for dancers. In 2011, the house was eventually purchased and renovated into the luxury hotel that it is today.

Book it: Get prices for Melrose Mansion and other area hotels

The Hayes Mansion: San Jose, California

After this family-owned original Queen Anne-style home burned down in 1899, they built the 41,000 square-foot Mediterranean Villa Hayes Mansion as a replacement. The estate was completely self-sustaining at the time, with its own power plant, post office, railroad station, and chapel. The property was sold in the 1950s, and in 1994 it was refurbished into an environmentally friendly luxury hotel.

Book it: Get prices for Hayes Mansion and other area hotels

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Caroline Morse Teel wants to stay in all of these mansion hotels. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world.  

Categories
Beach Island Luxury Travel Sustainable Travel

The 10 Best Kauai Hotels for Every Budget

Looking for a big oceanfront resort where your kids can build sandcastles on the beach and splash in the pool all week? Kauai has that. Or would you prefer a secluded B&B where you can sip your morning coffee on a private lanai overlooking a lush tropical valley? Kauai has that, too. From glitzy resorts and luxury condos to oceanfront cottages and intimate inns, Kauai hotels span the gamut of travel styles and amenities.

Below are 10 of the best hotels in Kauai, with options for every price point. When evaluating the properties below, keep in mind that Hawaii is an expensive place to visit, and Kauai is no exception: At busy times of year, even a “budget” property will cost nearly $200 a night.

Where to Stay in Kauai

[st_content_ad]The South Shore is the sunniest part of the island and has some of the best beaches and biggest Kauai resorts, especially in the area around Poipu. Meanwhile, the spectacular beauty of the North Shore makes up for its slightly rainier weather. You’ll find many of the more affordable Kauai hotels on the busy eastern coast, which has plenty of restaurants and shops, and makes a good base to explore the island’s many attractions.

Can’t find a hotel you like? Consider vacation rentals instead.

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Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

Grand hyatt kauai resort & spa

If your vacation philosophy is that “bigger is better”—and you don’t mind “bigger” also applying to the price tag—you’ll love the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. Stretching over 50 beachfront acres on the sunny south side of the island, the resort boasts more than 600 rooms, a spacious spa, 10 restaurants, two tennis courts, and an 18-hole golf course with views of the ocean. But the showstopper is the property’s sprawling network of gardens and pools, which includes a saltwater lagoon, an adult-only pool, a lazy river, and multiple family-friendly freshwater pools, all fringed with colorful tropical landscaping.

Book it: Get prices for Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

Garden Island Inn Hotel

Garden island inn hotel

The family-owned Garden Island Inn Hotel in Lihue is one of Kauai’s best bargains. Each of the 21 rooms includes a kitchenette, free Wi-Fi, artwork by a local artist, and freshly cut flowers from the hotel’s own garden. The hotel also has free beach chairs and towels, snorkel gear, boogie boards, and other gear available for guest use. Kalapaki Beach is within walking distance, and the airport is a short drive away.

Book it: Get prices for Garden Island Inn Hotel

Makai Club Resort

For a mid-priced option on the North Shore, consider the Makai Club Resort. Located right next to an award-winning golf course and just a short drive from the beach, the resort offers one-bedroom condos and two-bedroom cottages, all with full kitchens, laundry facilities, and private balconies overlooking gardens or the mountains. The resort also has a pool and hot tub for guests to use.

Book it: Get prices for Makai Club Resort

Whalers Cove

Whalers cove

Every one of the luxe condo units at Whalers Cove offers a full or partial ocean view, which you can enjoy from your own private balcony. Units also feature full-size kitchens and laundry facilities, ideal for long-term stays. Upgrade to a deluxe condo for perks like a Jacuzzi in the master bath and sweeping ocean views from the living and dining rooms. All guests can enjoy the on-site pool, hot tub, and BBQ area. Poipu’s shops and restaurants are a short walk away.

Book it: Get prices for Whalers Cove

The Palmwood

The palmwood

If your idea of luxury involves seclusion, gorgeous views, good food, and attention to detail, give The Palmwood a try. This intimate guesthouse is located on a hill overlooking the mountains of Kauai’s North Shore and offers three airy rooms with private hot tubs and balconies. Past guests rave about the homecooked breakfasts, which feature local and organic ingredients.

Book it: Get prices for The Palmwood

Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy

Kauai coast resort at the beachboy

The moderately priced studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom condos at the Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy overlook the ocean along Kauai’s east coast. The rocky shoreline here isn’t ideal for swimming, but the views are beautiful (especially at sunrise), and the resort has a pool area and sun deck where you can relax and go for a swim. The property is located next door to the Coconut Marketplace’s shops, restaurants, and farmers’ market.

Book it: Get prices for Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy

Marjorie’s Kauai Inn

Odds are you won’t miss the ocean when you’re marveling over the views of the lush, green Lawai Valley from the balcony of your room at Marjorie’s Kauai Inn. But if you do have a hankering for the beach, Poipu is just a short drive away. The breakfast menu changes daily but might include frittata with roasted potatoes, puff-pastry quiche with blueberry muffin bites, or eggs Benedict with Canadian bacon—alongside plenty of fresh fruit from the B&B’s own garden. Each of the three moderately priced rooms has air-conditioning and a comfy queen-sized bed.

Book it: Get prices for Marjorie’s Kauai Inn

St. Regis Princeville Resort

St regis princeville resort

One of the most luxurious Kauai hotels, the St. Regis Princeville offers dramatic views over Hanalei Bay and the jagged green cliffs of the North Shore. Upscale amenities include the Halele’a Spa and an infinity pool overlooking the sea. There are five on-site dining options at this Kauai beach resort, as well as 24-hour room service. The hotel has its own stretch of sand, but there are numerous other beaches within easy driving distance that are well worth exploring.

Book it: Get prices for St. Regis Princeville Resort

Inn Waimea

Inn waimea

A historic parsonage converted into a guesthouse, Inn Waimea is a good option for budget travelers looking for no-frills accommodation in the southwestern part of Kauai. Within easy walking distance are a beach and the restaurants and shops of Waimea town. Just a short drive away are the hiking trails and dramatic lookout points of Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park.

Book it: Get prices for Inn Waimea

Hotel Coral Reef

Hotel coral reef

A small, laid-back property in the historic town of Kapaa on Kauai’s east coast, Hotel Coral Reef is a convenient and moderately priced base for exploring the island. The hotel offers complimentary bikes for use on a nearby path that runs along the ocean. A waterfall spills into one end of the pool, which overlooks the sea. For less street noise and a better view, upgrade to an oceanfront room.

Book it: Get prices for Hotel Coral Reef

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Sarah Schlichter traveled to Hawaii as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines and Barclays. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.