Posts Tagged ‘eco resort’

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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Almost a Private Island: A Stay at Tiamo Resort South Andros, Bahamas

The view from the dock when you arrive at Tiamo Resort on South Andros Island

My recent stay at Tiamo Resort felt like I was on a private island, without the crazy price tag. Located on South Andros, one of the Out Islands in the Bahamas, Tiamo is remote. I got there via a flight to Nassau, and then a 20 minute hop on a puddle jumper, a short drive in a taxi, and finally a 10 boat ride before pulling up to Tiamo’s private dock and catching a glimpse of the uncrowded beach, floating loungers, and crystal clear Caribbean water. It was worth the multiple forms of transportation.

Eco chic and simple Bahamian cottages at Tiamo

Tiamo is a perfect example of the difference between nice and fancy. It’s hella nice, but not overdone to the point where the facilities are competing the gorgeous environment. I stayed in a Pool Villa (room #2) which was a very nice version of a typical Bahamian cottage. It was super comfortable with a king sized bed, writing desk, large walk in closet and screened in sitting area and small plunge pool. But it wasn’t over the top– the bathroom was located at the back of the villa under a thatched roof. This made it feel authentic rather than an architect’s showplace.

The island chic bar at Tiamo is a nice place to relax before sunset

Tiamo also has a 3 bedroom house called the Bird’s Nest that I will cover in a separate post. The point of Tiamo is to enjoy the unspoiled beaches and chillax. There are lots of water activities to keep you busy– snorkeling, scuba, paddle boarding among others, and South Andros is a major spot for bone fishing (which is a fly fishing technique where you are propelled on a boat with a tower). 

Dining tables set around the pool also have a view of the beach

After less than 24 hours here, my traveling companion, Zan, dubbed Tiamo “Chill Island.” This is truly a place to get away from the stresses of everyday life. You’re not going to have to get up at dawn to claim two lounge chairs because your villa already has them waiting for you. With only ten villas, and one private house, crowds are never a problem.

Waffles in paradise

Meals are included in the room rates and activities are scheduled around them. There is a cooked to order breakfast in addition to a buffet, lunch is served between 12-2pm. At around 5 pm Happy Hour begins in the bar and the friendly staff will get you some snacks if you’d like to nibble on something (or feed the on-property iguanas) while taking in the spectacular sunset.

Caprese salad on the deck for lunch at Tiamo

Portion size isn’t huge (which I appreciated) and the staff could make alterations for allergies and dislikes, etc.

Chic, simple and not overdone interiors at Tiamo

The other guests on the island were all friendly, but you rarely see them at other than meal times because they might be off bone fishing while you’re paddle boarding. The staff is super friendly. Both the Marine Master, Lee, and Nick, who worked with him, made sure that our snorkel times and activities worked with both tides and meal times.

Left: The thached roof shower and glass tile in the bathroom Right: side by side sinks in my pool villa

The resort has free wifi throughout, and the mini-fridge in our villa was filled with Bahamian sands beer. There is some incredible snorkeling in the area and scuba diving as well. Or you can rent a boat by the hour and go waterskiing or sailing or deep sea fishing. Or just laze in a hammock and read.

Algotherm amenities in bathroom at Tiamo

Paddle boarding quickly became my favorite because you could glide effortlessly over graceful stingrays and lemon sharks in the shallow water just off Tiamo’s dock.

A friendly Andros iguana (Cyclura cychlura cychlura) basking in the sun at Tiamo

The entire resort can be rented out for events like reunions or weddings, but there really doesn’t seem to be a need to do it. With only 11 rooms, it’s far from crowded. At one point, Zan looked down at the deserted stretch of white sand beach and yelled “Wilson!” a la Tom Hanks in Castaway.

Welcome drinks at Tiamo

Since the resort is remote, staff (and supplies) are all brought in by boat. So meal times are fixed and there isn’t 24 hour room service. But it wasn’t a problem. Julien, who runs the front office, made sure we had coffee delivered to our villa before dawn on the morning we had to depart.

A Caribbean blue cocktail at Tiamo

At Tiamo the food is good, but not haute cuisine. If you need a celebrity chef, you’d be better off staying in Nassau.

Sands Bahamian beer and a killer South Andros sunset at Tiamo

I also appreciated that cocktail prices were reasonable ($12 for a margarita– or 2 during Happy Hour) since there aren’t a lot of options other than those in-house.

Tiamo’s private dock

Tiamo is chic and relaxed luxurious Caribbean getaway and a great option for honeymooners or those who don’t need a night life scene while they are on vacation. Due to the remote and relaxed authentic style of the resort, children under 12 are not allowed unless they stay in the Bird’s Nest.

Uncrowded beaches had Zan yelling “Wilson!” a la Tom Hanks in Castaway

There is a spa and small gift shop as well, but I was so relaxed and enjoying the natural beauty of South Andros, spa treatments seemed unnecessary.

Waterskiing is just one of the water activities to choose from at Tiamo

Unforgettable Sunsets on a chilled out island

Tiamo Resort & Spa

Driggs Hill – South Andros Island, The Bahamas

Phone: (1) 786 374-2442 (from USA)

Fax: (1) 242 369-2335

reservations@tiamoresorts.com

Rates start at $903.60 (per villa for two people, including food, transportation to/from the airport and most activities) note* alcoholic beverages and some activities are additional

Tiamo Resort is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World

 

Disclosure* This post would not be possible without SLH Hotels and Tiamo Resorts, who arranged for the resort to hosting me for two nights

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Glamping in Morocco: La Pause Eco-Resort, Marrakech

Nomadic chic is the vibe at La Pause

Marrakech is one of my favorite cities to visit, but the madness of the medina can often be overwhelming. On my recent trip to Morocco, I took a day trip to check out La Pause Eco-Resort, which is only 30 kilometers outside of town in the Agafay desert, but an entire world away. There is no electricity or wifi, but there is an organic garden and olive trees. I only came for a few hours for a camel trek and lunch, but I liked it so much that next time I plan on staying the night… or three.

Left: Outdoor seating areas at La Pause Right: Shady dining table under a Berber style tent

La Pause has a variety of activities beyond camel treks. You ride horses, donkeys and bicycles and take a visit to nearby Berber village. There is also some thing called “cross golf”, a new form of cross country golf. Guests who stay overnight can sleep in one of the six restored traditional Berber pisé huts made with mud and straw or sleep under the stars in one of the nomadic tents.

Drinking mint tea in the arbor at La Pause

Upon arrival we were shown to a shady olive grove near the pool and served traditional mint tea. Then came our rather pleasant camel trek. The camels were rather charming  and scent free compared to those I met in Jordan.  Lunch was served under one of the nomadic chic tents around the property.

Camels at La Pause

Produce from La Pause’s own garden and olive oil pressed from their own trees are part of the menu. It was fresh, light and delicious and paired well with both white and red Moroccan wine. It was rather nice to visit this desert oasis and enjoy some gorgeous desert scenery so close to central Marrakech.

Lunch under a shady tent at La Pause

Lunch at La Pause cost 35 Euros per person and a one hour camel trek cost 50 Euros.

Left: Produce is from La Pause’s own Garden Right: Moroccan wine was rather delightful

One of the friendly locals joined us for lunch at La Pause

The interior of one of the traditional pisé huts with mud & straw walls

Since there is no electricity, there are candles galore.

Windowsill still life in a traditional Berber hut

Here’s a bit of video from my camel ride:

Rates at La Pause run from 1,000 – 1,500 dhm ($122- $184 USD) including full board.

La Pause

Douar Lmih Laroussiere, Commune Agafay

Marrakech, Morocco

email: lapause1@gmail.com

phone 06 61 30 64 94

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Virtual Vacay Video Post and Hotel Review: Mexico’s Exclusive Imanta Punta Mita

 A panorama from the deck of the Pacific ocean, the beach, and the Mexican jungle- such a diverse property

Panorama view from the deck of Tukipa restaurant- overlooking Banderas Bay, the beach, and the jungle.

It’s impossible to do a standard hotel review of Imanta Punta Mita because this top Mexican beach resort is anything but standard. Instead, Imanta sets the bar for tropical eco-luxury resorts. It’s almost Fantasy Island, except it’s not an an island. Instead of Mr. Rourke, you get Miguel, the GM, and his wonderful staff. They will do everything they can to dote on you during your time at Imanta.

My husband realized he forgot his swim trunks when unpacked. After letting the staff know, within a two hours he had a selection to choose from brought to him (and at various price points– including reasonable).

I’ve been lucky enough to stay at this unique beach resort twice. It’s set on the northern end of Banderas Bay (also known as Bahía de Banderas)  and it’s really a special place. How can you review a hotel “room” when it’s a 2,500 square foot Ocean Casa named after an eagle “werika”?

Located in the Riviera Nayarit, Imanta is specifically designed to be place to relax and revive and connect with the amazing natural setting. I immediately fell in love with the  golden sandy beach, warm ocean water with gentle waves, rainforest, and jungle which the staff sometimes charmingly calls the “yungle.” I fell in love with Imanta on my first visit back in October, 2011 and whenever you return to place you loved you wonder if it’s going to live up to your memories. Fortunately, Imanta did. That’s when I realized, Imanta is the sort of place that memories are made.

The property is large (250 acres) and has a diverse eco-system. While the grounds are immense the hotel itself is small, with only 7 casas, with a high staff-to-guest ratio. The lush green jungle is filled with amazing white butterflies, gorgeous birds, and there are now horses on the property …and moonlight horseback rides!

 Having a golden sandy beach like this to yourself is the norm at Imanta

Vacation by the beach, Imanta-style. Having a golden sandy stretch of playa to yourself is the norm at Imanta

 Groovy art on the beachStairs to the beach

The stairs to the beach.

Beach bathroom facilities

Bathroom palapa at the playa: even the toilet facilities have character

 Beach bed in mirror Imanta beach chairs beds

Left: The beach beds reflected in the mirror of the beach bathroom palapa. Right: Take your pick: beach bed or chaise lounge chair?

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