Posts Tagged ‘Caribbean’

Exploring the Riviera Maya: Andaz Mayakoba, Mexico

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The Cenote-inspired lobby of the Andaz Mayakoba

I recently spent a few days at the brand new Andaz Mayakoba just north of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The chic beach resort, located within the Mayakoba Eco-Resort, opened in December 2016.

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Birds of Paradise in the Andaz Mayakoba Lobby

Located about 45 minutes from the Cancun International Airport (CUN), It’s the just the sort of spot on Mexico’s Riviera Maya that appeals to luxury travelers who want the golden sand of Caribbean beaches without the spring break vibe of a mega resort.

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One of the three pools at the Andaz Mayakoba

I was suprised to find that Cancun was only 4 1/2 hours from Los Angeles by plane, and my flight had tail winds and landed thirty minutes early. The user-friendly nature of Mayakoba makes the resort geographically desirable from both US coasts, since Miami is only 90 minutes away by plane.

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Colorful octopus mural by Senkoeat the Andaz Mayakoba

I was amazed by how well-oiled the resort Andaz Mayakoba ran after being open less than a month. The service was surprisingly seemless. We were the first guests to occupy our suite. The only “tell” I could find of the property’s newness was trying to find out how to adjust the fan in my suite’s bedroom. Matainance showed up and we figured it out together in less than a minute.

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Fun floaty toys at the Andaz Mayakoba

All the construction on the property was finished and there are a few murals that were not yet complete, but that also allowed guests to have a chance to spot Playa del Carmen-based street artist Senkoe on the property.

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Left: Pool side at the Andaz Mayakoba Right: Colorful patio furniture on the suite’s patio

Keeping with the clean, contemporary, and cool vibe of the Andaz brand, the Andaz Mayakoba also has some cool Mexican touches. There are some local snacks in the complementary mini-bar.

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The Mayakoba Resort is technically located in Playa del Carmen, but it’s a destination unto itself. Mayakoba features luxury hotels from Fairmont, Banyan Tree, and Rosewood and now the Andaz. It’s less than 15 minutes to the main drag of Playa del Carmen, but you won’t want for anything if you never leave the resort.

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Rainbow in paradise at Mayakoba 

Mayakoba also has a Greg Norman-designed golf course, El Camaleón, a tennis center, and a nature trail and bike path that connects all the individual hotel properties. This helps the resort feel big but not overwhelming. It’s not a mega-resort and it’s low profile makes it feel more connected to lush mangrove jungles and Mexican landscape.

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Ferry service at the Andaz Mayakoba Resort

There is even a ferry service connecting all the properties, making it easy for guests to stay at one property and dine at another. Complimentary bikes are available for guests to cruise from the Andaz to the any of the other Mayakoba properties. There is even a cenote, or water-filled sink hole, right on the Mayakoba property.

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Guest rooms at the Andaz Mayakoba

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In-room tequila set up at the Andaz Mayakoba

The rooms at the Andaz are contemporary Mexican chic with lots of light and colorful accents. Each building of the resort boast colorful bird murals painted by Senkoe.

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Interior of a bedroom at the Andaz Mayakoba

Our suite was spacious with a huge bedroom, walk in closet, bathroom, living room, two balconies and plunge pool.

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Mayan whimsical touches in the interior of the Andaz Mayakoba

I really like the laid back luxury of the Andaz brand. Service is top notch but not intrusive. The staff at the Andaz Mayakoba is very friendly. Jorge, who was in charge of taking care of us at the property, introduced himself to me as “your new best friend.”

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Another view of the Andaz suite living room

The Andaz has 214 guest rooms, 41 of which are suites. It is a family-friendly resort and has a kids club called Kimbo that hosts a killer movie night under the stars that adults are known to crash.

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Set up for movie night at Kimbo, the Andaz Mayakoba’s kids club

With three pools and generous stretch of white-sand beach, the resort doesn’t feel cramped. Of course there is also bright and airy spa with outdoor rooms that I did not have time to visit during my brief stay at the property.

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Margarita with lemon at OllaTaco

There are four restaurants on the Andaz property, with my favorites being the seafood-centric OllaCeviche. I was also delighted to lear that OllaTaco serves tacos for breakfast on extremely cute Mexican wrestler plates.

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Patron tequila at OllaCeviche

OllaCeviche also has a nice cocktail menu featuring Mezcal and tequila-based cocktails. It’s patio boasts a nice view of the beach.

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Chilaquiles + Mexican wrestler plates = win

Two days was not enough time to stress test all three pools and the beach. I did make a point of taking the nature hike and cenote tour, which is offered daily. It’s a cool way to check out one of the natural limestone sink holes and learn about their lore without too much effort.

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Left: a spicy Mezcal cocktail at OllaCeviche Right: broiled lobster tail for lunch

After spending a few days at the property my husband told me that he could “stay here a week.” This is high praise coming from a notoriously fical guest who usually gets sick of every property’s food after three days.

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Portrait of Jorge, my new best friend at the Andaz Mayakoba

One thing I especially liked about the Andaz Mayakoba experience was that while it had all the bells and whistles one needs in a Mexican luxury beach resort, it wasn’t isolated. You can easily head to a different hotel for lunch or dinner without requiring a taxi.

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The chapel interior in El Pueblito

The resort has El Pueblito, a small traditionally inspired Mexican village, complete with a cooking school, a church, art gallery, and a coffee shop that Jorge told me had the best coffee in the area. He was right!
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Left: exterior of the Chapel Right: a statue in the Chapel

The chapel hosts a Catholic mass on Sundays that is attended by guests as well as employees.

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Dappled light in the Mayakoba cenote

Two days wasn’t enough to fully explore all the Andaz has to offer and I’m certain I’ll be back soon to check out that spa. Room rates start at about $450.

ANDAZ MAYAKOBA RESORT RIVIERA MAYA

Carretera Federal Cancun-Playa Del Carmen Km. 298

Playa del Carmen-Solidaridad, Quintana Roo, Mexico, 77710

Tel: +52 984 1491234

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Exploring the Riviera Maya: Tulum, Mexico

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Bohemian chic vibes at Be Tulum

Tulum, a small resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, has been a much buzzed about destination for a while. It’s developed enough to have great food and some chic eco-resorts, but still intentionally off the grid and understated to keep the vibe low key.

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Gorgeous pool at Be Tulum

For those who want a dose of Mayan culture with their vacation, it’s even got the Tulum Ruins, right on the beach.

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Sandy white beach of Tulum

My husband and I recently visited Tulum for a  couple of days, and two nights wasn’t really enough to explore the area and chill out. Confession– I did not even get to explore the ruins on this trip. But I loved the area so much I’m planning a return visit as soon as possible.

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Bicycles are the preferred form of transport in Tulum

For luxury travelers like me, wifi access is a necessity and not a privilege and many of the resorts in Tulum are intentionally devoid of it. We chose to stay at Be Tulum, a luxury eco-resort that had strong wifi and great reviews.

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Interior of a suite at Be Tulum

While not a true business hotel, I was impressed that the wifi signal worked all the way to the white sand beach.

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Interior of a suite at Be tulum

Be Tulum also has next level margaritas, chic rooms, and a lovely beach with multiple daybeds. It’s not a business hotel so you won’t find a proper desk in your room, but if you can handle the distracting ocean views while checking email, it’s a lovely place to spend a few days.

Greetings from #Tulum is today's virtualvacay #Mexico

Sunhat in Tulum

Friends of mine have also spoken highly of the rustic chic Azulik and all-inclusive luxury resort Kore Resort Tulum, although I did not get a chance to check them out for myself.

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Morning walk on the beach in Tulum

My favorite places to visit are those with a vibe or spirit. Tulum definitely has a vibe. There is a effortlessly chic thing going on that is sort of hard to describe but easy to spot.

Cloudy morning time lapse from Tulum

Watching the sun rise one morning, I saw a lot of toned legs and dogs get walked on the beach. You can’t help but notice that there are a lot of beautiful people in Tulum. It’s a gorgeous spot where pretty people gather. I enjoyed people watching here and would like to spend a few more days doing that.

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Cloudy sunrise in Tulum

Located about an hour and forty five minutes by car from the Cancun airport, Tulum is fabulous destination on it’s own or combined with another spot on the Mayan Riviera. I split by time in Mexico between Mayakoba and Tulum.

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 Day beds on the beach

NOTE: I’ll cover my stay at the new Andaz Mayakoba in a future post.

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 Vacation vibes at Be Tulum

As relaxed as Tulum is, you still need reservations if you want to get dinner at some of the interesting restaurants. We got to Hartwood before 6 pm and did not manage to get a table.

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The chilled out bar at Be Tulum

According to the concierge at Be Tulum, Hartwood only take reservations by email and it usually takes a few days to get a response so if you wan to eat there be sure to book ahead.

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Shrimp tacos at Be Tulum

But there are plenty of good dining options in the area. Be Tulum’s restaurant had a great menu for breakfast and lunch, with the shrimp tacos being a standout item.

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Mezcal cocktail at Gitano

Foodie friends suggested Gitano. It’s a gorgeous space and has the prettiest cocktails in town.

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Basil guacamole with jicama at Gitano

Gitano’s menu of modern Mexican food, includes small plates with nice touches. Like the basil guacamole with jicama served with roasted corn tortillas. Their Sopa de Lima and ceviche were also delicious. 4v1c5961

Laid back romantic atmosphere at Gitano

Be sure to have cash on hand when going out to eat in Tulum. Many of the small restaurants only take cash. Both pesos and US dollars were accepted.

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Gitano exterior in Tulum

The food scene is getting more exciting in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera and I’m sure there are more small spots to check out in Tulum.

 

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Come with cash!

For those who can only spend an afternoon in Tulum, local institution Ziggy’s Beach Club  allows diners to use their sun loungers and amenities for $25 USD per person per day. Ziggy’s also has wifi.

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Magic hour in Tulum

Tulum is a place I look forward to getting to know better. I think I’m going to be coming back here soon.

Be Tulum

Address: Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km.10, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Ziggy’s Beach Bar

Address: Carretera Tulum – Boca Paila Km 7,5, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Gitano Tulum

Address: Beach Road Km. 7, Boca Paila, QRO, Mexico

reservations@gitanotulum.com

Hartwood

Address: Carretera Tulum Boca Paila 7.6Km, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

open for dinner only, 6-11pm closed Monday and Tuesday

 

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A Stay at Ladera Resort, St. Lucia

When your room is missing a wall, it definitely qualifies as Glamping

On my recent trip to St. Lucia, I stayed at two different properties, both in the Soufriere area of the Island. First up was Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort.

Next, I stayed at Ladera Resort for 3 nights, which I covered in detail for the Glamping.com blog (Arrival and Day 1, Day 2, Day 3).

Ladera’s pool sits below it’s bar and Dasheene Restaurant

The two hotels are located close to each other. Ladera even sends guests via shuttle a few times a day to Sugar Beach, since the resort is located in the lush hills between the Pitons, and not right on the ocean.

Not surprisingly, we bumped into some of the same couples we met at Sugar Beach. It makes sense to move around if you’re spending more than a few days on St. Lucia, and the combo gives a nice mix of beach and rainforest and two very different vibes.

Left: Swing over the pool in our room  Right: The indoor “living room” of PR 3 had Piton views

Ladera is the more unique of the two resorts. Since the rooms are all missing a wall, guests are truly getting a 5 star glamping experience. You’re at one with the elements, be it sun, rain, or stars. You’re not exactly roughing it though, the wooden rooms have all the necessary creature comforts (including wifi). But if you’re the type who is going to freak out if you see a gecko in you’re room, then Ladera probably isn’t for you.

Cool in-room amenity: a star chart and binoculars

I love resorts with a non-generic vibe and personality, so I adored Ladera. I also thought the food at Dasheene, their on-site restaurant, was the best of the hotel restaurants I tried. The Caribbean kingfish and jerked shrimp on sugar cane skewers were standouts, and cocktails were a few dollars less expensive than those I drank at nearby resorts.

The mosquito netting is sexy– and helpful when your room is missing one wall

Left: Colorful tiles in the rainforest themed Rainshower Right: The rainshower could easily fit two people… or maybe five

St. Lucia is definitely a couples destination. There were a lot of honeymooners at Ladera, and the hotel is situated for maximum privacy. Missing a wall does mean that you hear the nature outside, the cicadas at night, and the occasional couple in the throes of ecstasy in the next room (good for them!).

Side by side sinks in the wooden bathroom of PR3

Ladera has a top notch staff that can help arrange sightseeing, tours, or any other needs you might have. Their spa is very basic, but the technicians are great (I got a very reasonably priced deep tissue massage that hit the spot).

Ladera’s vibe is eco-chic: wood, boulders, and exposed to the elements

Funky pots and sexy shadows are part of Ladera’s organic charm

Ladera’s social center is the pool, bar, and restaurant area. The bar has spectacular sunset views and saves the best front-row seats for in-house guests. Non hotel guests have to pay a cover fee just to check it out. Local musicians play during brunch and dinner, and the vibe is casual Caribbean elegance and divinely laid back.

Waiting in the bar at Ladera

Lush green landscaping and fun tiled ponds add to the resort’s charm

The Spa might not look fancy, but the treatments are fantastic

The gym is good for working off the rum-based cocktails and fabulous breads served at breakfast

A friendly local in the bar

Peg, a local bird, joined me for breakfast

What I liked most about Ladera was how fun it was. The food was fine-dining quality, but there are just enough local touches that keep it unpretentious and decidedly not stuffy. The guests were also low key and chill. Tables are adorned with madras napkins, and squirt guns meant for fending off local birds who invite themselves to your meals and want in on your tasty bread basket at breakfast.

Left: Drinking a coconut in the bar Right: an omelette made to order for breakfast

Ladera isn’t cookie cutter or generic, and neither are it’s guests. It’s an unforgettable place to spend a few days for a special occasion like a romantic weekend away, an anniversary, or a honeymoon.

A jerked fish wrap for lunch in the bar

Ladera’s bar menu had killer chicken satay, and rum and lime cocktails

Caribbean kingfish for lunch at Dasheene Restaurant at Ladera

The band sets up before dinner in Ladera’s Bar Area

Guests gather poolside to take in the spectacular Piton sunsets

Guests thinking about Ladera should know that it’s not located right on the beach, and while their is shuttle service available, I didn’t even use it as I spend my days at the pool or exploring the surrounding area. There are plenty of taxis available should you miss scheduled shuttle service to Sugar Beach.

Paradise Ridge at night

Ladera Resort

Soufrière,

St. Lucia, West Indies

Resort Reservations: 866-290-0978

reservations@ladera.com

Rates start at $475.00

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Where to Eat in St. Lucia: Waterfront De Belle View Creole Restaurant

Creole Breakfast on a colorful table cloth at De Belle View

Some Caribbean restaurants are so atmospheric, they are worth visiting based on that alone. But when my driver in St. Lucia said his favorite place to eat in Soufriere was De Belle View Creole Restaurant, I knew I had to try it. De Belle View is open for breakfast, and we came after wandering around the local Soufriere market on a Saturday morning.

Morning at De Belle View Creole Restaurant

Breakfast isn’t my favorite meal, and I don’t think it is De Belle View Creole Restaurant’s strongest. But it was the time I had available so I checked it out. The restaurant’s interior is pure St. Lucian– and I loved it.

We were the first customers of the day at De Belle View

Located on the second story, with open slatted windows and fans circulating the air, De Belle View felt very authentic and catered to a mix of locals and tourists.

The typical Creole breakfast

My husband ordered the creole breakfast– which included salted mackerel and vegetables cooked in creole spices and was served with bread and cocoa tea.

Cocoa tea at Waterfront De Belle View Creole Restaurant

Cocoa tea, which tastes like unsweetened hot chocolate, is the local breakfast drink and rather enjoyable. It’s definitely worth trying. St. Lucia grows a lot of cocoa (so much that they export to American chocolate companies). Tasting how the locals enjoy it was a real treat.

 

The Exterior of  Waterfront De Belle View Creole Restaurant

If I were coming to St. Lucia, I’d try this place for lunch instead of breakfast, since the menu options and Creole-ness are limited during the morning hours.

Waterfront De Belle View Creole Restaurant

Maurice Mason Street

St. Lucia

Phone +1-758-712-36-63

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Landscapes of St. Lucia: a #FriFotos Photo & Video Essay

A view of Gros Piton from Ladera Resort

I just returned from my first trip to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. St. Lucia is all lush rainforest and curvy mountains. If islands were supermodels, I’d say St. Lucia is the Kate Upton equivalent. In honor of #FriFotos, I thought I’d share a few landscapes from St. Lucia.

iPhone panorama shot from the deck of Ladera Resort

Diamond Falls, St. Lucia

The Piton Mountains are no doubt the island’s most notable geography– they are an UNESCO  World Heritage Site– but St. Lucia has many other charms. The island has beaches, rainforest, volcanos and waterfalls (especially the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens) are all beautiful and worth visiting.

St Lucia’s Diamond Falls

Peak a book Piton view from the pool at Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort

If you’re into cloud porn, then St. Lucia is for you. Here’s a timelapse I shot from the deck of room 709 at Sugar Beach.

Cloud Time Lapse from Room 709 at Sugar Beach

Beautiful landscapes are one thing, but Lucians, as the locals call themselves, are lovely people. And it was nice to leave the hotels and go into Soufriere and dine with the locals while taking in another spectacular sunset.

Sunset at Soufriere Harbor, St. Lucia

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