Posts Tagged ‘getaway’

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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Glamping with Wilderness Safaris at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia

Desert glamping in Namibia at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

My recent trip to Namibia was the first time I traveled with Wilderness Safaris and I was truly impressed with everything about Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp. It’s brand new, having opened in August 2014.

Twilight outside tent #2 at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

Impressive, elevated tents at Hoanib

Namibia doesn’t allow permanent camps, instead they grant land concessions for a number of years. So everything about Hoanib will be able to disappear without a trace to help conserve Namibia’s natural environment.

Visiting the Roaring Dunes was one of the highlights of my stay at Hoanib

While the tents may be temporary, the camp is still amazingly stylish and comfortable. The guest tents have a genius design. They are built on platforms elevated over the sand, which helps keep their interiors at a comfortable temperature both day and night.

The Hoanib Staff waits to greet you with cool towels and fresh lemonade

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is run with Wilderness Safari’s ethos and commitment to the 4Cs – Commerce, Conservation, Community and Culture. The staff is committed to contributing meaningfully to the wildlife and the people of Africa. The staff is great and this attitude makes you feel really good about spending money here.

Bella, the resident cat at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

General Manager Clement Lawrence and his team are all warm, personable, and take very good care of you. The service style is laid-back and unobtrusive. This is perfect for the modern luxury travelers who don’t want to feel like a Colonial with a staff fawning over you all the time.

The pool is perfect for cooling off on hot days in the Namib desert

Emms, our guide and tracker was incredible. He was friendly and warm and just plain fun to hang out with and have a chat. Fatima keeps things the ship running tight back at camp. There are only 10 tents, so the camp feels intimate.

Looking from the pool into the dining pavilion

Located in the private the Hoanib River Valley in the Private Palmwag Concession, the property is remote and way off the grid. It’s luxurious for sure, but you’re glamping.

The living room in the

There is no wifi, phone service, or television. With your days filled with game drives and wildlife walking through the camp serving as “Namibian television.” I did not miss being connected. That being said, we did pack our own satellite phone for emergencies. 

Left: The main tent looks gorgeous against the desert landscape Right: Zulu baskets

Clement let me know I could send an email from the office if it was necessary.

Table in the dining tent facing the gorgeous rocky landscape

Left: the communal living room Right: The fresh lemonade was my personal favorite beverage

You’re not exactly roughing it here. The bathrooms were spacious, chic and had plenty of hot water heated by the solar panels that surround the camp.

I loved the modern safari chic vibe of Hoanib’s communal living room

Your days are filled with Game Drives and wildlife viewing (the elephants were my personal favorite), and adventures like visiting the Roaring Dunes along the Skeleton Coast.

A club sandwich & chips for lunch

Hoanib is one of Wilderness Safaris Classic Camps, which is their second tier of luxury. It felt plenty luxurious to both me and my husband.

Left: A view of the lunch buffet Right: a pastry at lunch

This means there are fewer selections for entrees at lunch and dinner than you’d find at one of the Premier Camps,  but we felt well fed and still had plenty of options and never went hungry.

Pops of cornflower blue looked fantastic against the desert backdrop

Your days are filled with Game Drives and wildlife viewing (the elephants were my personal favorite), and adventures like visiting the Roaring Dunes and seal colony along the Skeleton Coast.

Left: Local handicrafts on display at camp Right: I loved these these cool bar stools

A rare rainy morning before a game drive

On a rare rainy morning in December, it was chilly when we left for our morning game drive. Emms, our guide, made sure we had blankets and ponchos to keep us warm and toasty.

Sundowners were my favorite daily ritual

Emms also delivered us to a great spot for sundowners every evening, and it became my favorite daily ritual.

Not a bad place for a sundowner

Namibia’s dramatic skies are as spectacular as it’s landscape

Nambia’s rugged and dramatic landscape is matched by it’s crazy beautiful skies. The clouds are ever-changing.

The moon was still visible in the morning

Clear skies mean star spotting and a visible moon

Moon framed in by the ties of a tent at Hoanib

My stay at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp was so memorable and impressive, I’m now very curious about visiting more of Wilderness Safaris properties. Perhaps I’ll go see the gorillas in the Congo next.

Safari chic bathroom selfie, Namibia

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Rates start at $484 USD – low season (11 January 2015  to 14 June 2015, 01 November 2015 to 19 December 2015)

From $720 – high season (15 June 2015  to 31 October 2015, 20 December 2015 to 10 January 2016)

Booking Inquiries:

Wilderness Safaris

Johannesburg

+27 ­11 ­807 ­1800
Mon-Fri 08:00 – 17:00 GMT+2

Cape Town

+27 ­21 ­702 ­7500
Mon-Fri 08:00 – 17:00 GMT+2

enquiry@wilderness.co.za

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Hotel Review: A Stay at GeeJam in Port Antonio, Jamaica

Soaking tub with a view in Drum & Bass at GeeJam

After falling hard for Port Antonio, my friend Zan and I decided to extend our vacation by an extra night. After shuffling our flights home, we headed to GeeJam (which is managed by the same great staff as the Trident) and checked into the Drum & Bass suite, which is located directly under the GeeJam’s onsite Recording Studio.

Chic island simplicity in Drum & Bass

With only seven rooms– five of which are stand alone cabins and one three bedroom villa, GeeJam is intimate and cozy and feels like a five star glamping experience in the jungles of Jamaica. It’s more rough luxe than the sleek and chic Trident, but the experience is just as fantastic.

All the rooms at GeeJam are named after different styles of Jamaican music

Drum & Bass had a killer deck with a hot tub that we didn’t have time to use and chic island white decor. The glass paneled walls opened up, making the whole place be about indoor/outdoor living. GeeJam has killer public spaces– including the BushBar restaurant where bands perform live almost every night. Even if you don’t stay at GeeJam, I highly recommend coming for dinner at BushBar when their de facto in house band, the Jolly Boys, are performing. 

Love the Flintstones chic paver stones near exterior of Rock Steady at GeeJam

The Jolly Boys are Jamaica’s answer to Menudo– except all the “boys” are over the age of 70. They perform great mento music as well as some killer cover songs I’m particularly fond of their mondern mento cover of New Order’s Blue Monday.

Green grounds at GeeJam at the Jungle luxury

GeeJam is built into the side of a hill, and that might be an issue for people with mobility issues or small children (in that case, the Trident might be a better choice for you). Down the hill, there is also a private beach club complete with loungers, a bar, and paddleboards. If you want more of a local beach experience, the staff will happily drive you to nearby Winnefred Beach or Boston Bay Beach.

Comfy lounging area in Drum & Bass

In addition to wifi, GeeJam (like the Trident) gives guests a mobile phone so they can contact the staff wherever they are on property or in the area.

Left: the soaking tub at Drum & Bass Right: the hairdryer

The bathroom was modern with a HUGE soaking tub and enormous steam shower that I didn’t stay long enough to enjoy.

I slept exceptionally well in the comfy all-white bed in Drum & Bass

Musicians often stay on site here when recording in GeeJam’s studio (like Amy Winehouse and No Doubt).

Banana pancakes for breakfast at GeeJam

I loved the friendly and laid back luxury of GeeJam. The staff was top notch and made sure we were well taken care of. Room rates include breakfast which is a nice touch.

Jamaican swag on GeeJam’s chef’s uniform

The staff at GeeJam had no problem with my food allergies and was friendly to boot.

The exterior of GeeJam’s Recording Studio

GeeJam’s rates start at $395 per night, and you can find specials here.

The outdoor pool table at BushBar

Left: cozy lounge seating at BushBar Right: the view from the deck of Drum & Bass

Zan exploring the Beach Club at GeeJam

On the walk to GeeJam’s private beach, you can take a detour and explore nearby Drapers– which has some great hole in the wall bars and is very atmospheric. You’ll pay $2 for a Red Stripe.

The sharply dressed Albert Minott, lead singer of the Jolly Boys at BushBar

The Jolly Boys performing live at BushBar

Before things got hopping at BushBar

Left: BushBar has fab drinks Right: the outdoor pool table at night

GeeJam is a Jamaican gem and will appeal to those seeking a non-generic luxury experience. It’s part of the reason I am so crushing on Port Antonio (so much so, I’m already planning a return visit with my husband).

Night lights at GeeJam

GeeJam Hotel is located just east of Port Antonio in Drapers.

Skype reservations available on the GeeJam website

phone 1-888-4-GeeJam

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A Stay The Trident Villas in Port Antonio, Jamaica

The Trident’s infinity Pool stretches into the Caribbean

Port Antonio, Jamaica was the original hot spot on the Caribbean island. The marina is even named after Errol Flynn, who used to vacation here. After the depression, tourism dried up. When visitors started coming back, they did so by plane and the International airports a few hours away in Kingston and Montego Bay have kept those seeking convenience from discovering Jamaica’s true gem: Port Antonio.

Mid-century chic is the vibe at the Trident Villas in Port Antonio

But Portie (as it’s called) is having a moment right now and the cool kids are starting to come back… and stay at sexy and sleek  Trident Villas and Hotel. Recently renovated, this hotel has been the backdrop of multiple photo shoots for good reason– it has stunning lines, fantastic staff, delicious cuisine and great service.

Left: Lawn sheep at a touch of whimsy Right: manicured trees on the grounds of the Trident Villas & Hotel

Food and beverage costs are reasonable by resort standards you’d find on the more developed parts of the island. All this luxury doesn’t take away from all that is special about Port Antonio– the lack of major chains (no Starbucks) and package tourists. The Trident is run by the GeeJam Collection, who have a musical history far too deep to get into this post.

Wicker swing outside the Trident Lobby

As the poshest hotel in Port Antonio, the Trident is where Beyonce and her sister stayed during their girls getaway last winter before Beyonce’s secret album dropped. The location is ideal for privacy or those who want to escape the crowds. Port Antonio is easy to reach via a scenic 20 minute flight over the Blue Mountains to the Ken Jones Airport, which the front desk at the Trident can arrange. The drive from Kingston is about two hours and well worth it.

The modern chic decor of the sitting room in Villa 1 at the Trident

The hotel has it all– a gorgeous infinity pool, a private beach club in a cove, a gym, and great food served on the Veranda. After dark the action moves to the bar and Mike’s Supper Club, a modern speakeasy with top notch cuisine (jerked yellowtail= yum) and live music nightly.

Left: The Eames chair was perfect for reading Right: Orchids in the bedroom

I stayed in Villa 1 and loved it. It had every possible amenity: plunge pool, speedy wifi, huge closets, comfy reading chair, large living room and plush beds. The bathroom even feature a gorgeous outdoor bathtub with a peek-a-boo view of the Caribbean. Sunsets are particularly beautiful on the patio.

The Zen bedroom of Villa 1 a the Trident

The Trident is one of the few hotels where I was planning my return visit before I left– it’s that good. With only 13 villas, service is personalized and top notch. There is a spa and gym on property, as well as a playground for kids.

Villa 1’s outdoor has a peek-a-boo view

The Trident feels like the perfect choice for the destination wedding for founder of a start up that just went public. It has that off the beaten path charm, yet doesn’t sacrifice any of the comforts you’d expect in a luxury hotel.

The Trident’s veranda is perfect for breakfast

The food is delicious at the Veranda, where every morning you can try a different “Jamaican Breakfast of the Day.”

Left: fresh tropical fruit at breakfast Right: Mackerel + boiled banana =the Jamaican Breakfast of the Day

Left: Fish for breakfast Right: an omelette made to order

Waking up in Jamaica with Blue Mountain Coffee

There is no Starbucks, so Blue Mountain French Press coffee is the best way to wake up in Jamaica.

Left: nothing says “vacation” like a paper umbrella in a drink Right: Refreshing Jamaican lemonade

Red Stripe by the in-villa pool at The Trident

While the Trident Port Antonio has everything you could want right on the property, there is a lot to see and do in Port Antonio– from rafting down the Rio Grande to exploring the Blue Lagoon. You can even go surfing at nearby Boston Beach.

The poolside vibe was gorgeous and modern

The Trident is an exceptional blend of modern luxury and old school Port Antonio cool. It’s a great pick for honeymooners who want a refined experience and some interesting surroundings (and options for interesting and cool cultural excursions).

Splashes above the infinity pool at the Trident

The Trident is pure #luxuryrealness.

Left: Photo shoot action at the Trident Right: Killer coastline on the grounds of the Trident reminds me of Big Sur

You can walk to the Trident Castle next door, and Sunday brunch is sometimes served there.

Jamaican sunset as seen from Villa 1 at the Trident

Pool table in the Trident’s Explorers Lounge

The Trident has screening room and conference facilities should you be looking for a hip destination for a corporate retreat or conference.

Left: Trident Bar Right: Art in the Explorer’s Lounge

Jerk hamachi at Mike’s Supper Club

Live Jazz at Mike’s Supper Club

Night lights at the Trident Villas

Trident Hotel

http://www.tridentportantonio.com/

Address: Anchovy STP, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Phone:+1 876-633-7000

Rates start at $675.60

You can find special deals at the Trident here.

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A Peek Inside Jamaica’s Trident Castle

Flowers outside the Trident Castle

What do Arcade Fire and Snoop Lion have in common? The answer is  the Trident Castle, and atmospheric 1970s Caribbean vacation residence  built for a European baroness in Port Antonio, Jamaica. The Trident Castle is now in it’s prime pre-restoration glory and serves as a location for events as well as photo and video shoots.

Left: cantilevered windows are a trademark of the Jamaican Style Right: curved rails and peaked roofs

Arcade Fire rented out the entire castle and stayed here while they were in Jamaica recording Reflektor. Here Comes the Night was in heavy rotation on my mind’s soundtrack when I wandered over to explore the Trident Castle.

The Trident Castle is highly atmospheric

Located right next door to the glamorous Trident Hotel and Villas, the Trident Castle has an amazing rocky coastline views (think Jamaica’s answer to Big Sur) and pastel sunsets. The furnishings are glamorous and just long in the tooth enough to give the place a highly atmospheric vibe that is cool but a little bit creepy.

Left: Circular staircase with Chandelier Right: A piano at the Castle

The castle was pretty empty when I explored it and it’s location is just isolated enough that you can easily imagine a band making an album here. Props to the cool kids from Montreal for dealing with the 70s era bathrooms (slated to be refurbished) for music’s sake.

The glamorous yet creepy bedroom

The Trident Castle has exceptional bones and it’s easy to see why artists and photographers frequent book it as a location for photo and video shoots.

Left: The dramatic checkerboard floor in the Trident Castle entry Right: Foosball in the rec room

The grand yet empty and worn vibe of the rec room made the castle feel a bit like a glamorous sanatorium from the days that you could call a rehab center a “sanatorium.” There is also a small chapel on the property.

Moody pool at the Trident Castle

The Trident Castle sometimes offers brunch on Sundays (check with the staff at the Trident or GeeJam Hotel for details).

Pastel sunset in Port Antonio

Hipstamatic view of Trident Castle

Snoop Lion shot a videos for Here Comes The King at the Castle. Check out below.

Trident Castle
Anchovy, Port Antonio P.O. Box 7312
Portland, Jamaica, West Indies

Toll-free: 1-888 4 Geejam (433 526) – USA & Canada
Telephone: +1876 633 7000 | +1876 993 7000
Fax: +1876 620 0045
Email: reservations@geejam.com

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