Posts Tagged ‘hotel review’

Exploring Minneapolis: Celebrating the Legacy of Prince on The Official Paisley Park VIP Tour

 

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Prince art decorating the Performer Suite at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel

Last week I spent a few days in Minneapolis, Minnesota and used the opportunity to take the Official Paisley Park VIP Tour. I have always been a music fan and Prince has been an essential part of the soundtrack of my life. My brother and nephews live in Minneapolis and were game to join me on our trip to the suburb of Chanhassen where rock icon and musician Prince built his multipurpose estate and production compound in 1987.

Note: Paisley Park has a strict “no photos” policy, and asks guests to power off their phones when on the grounds. There is a photo opportunity available for purchase, where guests can have their picture taken next to a 10 foot high mural of Prince and get the image files on a Paisley Park flash drive. I bought this opportunity but my flash drive does not work, and I am attempting to get the image files from the staff at Paisley Park.

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The dining room in the Performer Suite of the Loews Minneapolis

Prince died without a will, but while taking the tour it seems clear that he had thought about his legacy and had always had plans for Paisley Park to ultimately become a museum. The other guests on the VIP Paisley Park tour enhanced our experience immensely. They were all die hard Prince fans, most wearing purple clothing. All came from out of town and one said the ticket price to her first Prince show cost $7.99. The tour of the creative bubble universe Prince created at Paisley Park was fascinating, moving and at times surprising.

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The living room of the Performer Suite 

Prince was very private and his living quarters at Paisley Park are not among the spaces guests are allowed to explore. Some of the highlights of the tour included seeing Prince’s office, complete with coffee table books and personal photos and listening to unreleased jazz tracks Prince was working on in Studio A, where they were recorded.

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The bedroom of the Performer Suite at the Loews Minneapolis

Even those only slightly familiar with Prince’s music will be impressed by the collection of gold and platinum records on display. The Academy Award Prince for Purple Rain was front and center in the Purple Rain room, as well as several Grammys (a few of which could use a polish).

The tone and seriousness our tour guide used was respectful and very human. It’s clear that Paisley Park staffers were Prince’s de facto family and those working there seemed reverential without coming off as fanboys. Several guests were moved to tears when they found themselves in front of Prince’s urn, a replica of Paisley Park that is kept in the atrium of the complex, near where a trio of doves live in decorative cages.

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Waiting for the elevator at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel

Exploring the various rooms of Paisley Park many of Prince’s costumes and shoes are on display and they do not disappoint. I felt like the tour fee was easily justified when the other guests on our tour spontaneously broke into song and dance in the Graffiti Bridge room. Even my high school and college age nephews understood how deeply Prince’s work affected his fans.

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The baby grand piano in the Performer Suite at the Loews

Paisley Park’s colorful Prince-centric murals and on-site night club further show how the musician created his own pocket universe. We even got a chance to paddle away on Prince’s in-studio ping pong table. Video and audio clips are presented in the same spaces they where they were created. Many of Prince’s musical instruments including multiple cloud guitars and custom pianos are sprinkled throughout the tour.

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Prince art in the Performer Suite at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel

There is gift shop on the tour, complete with a cafe where guests can order the pancakes Prince was so fond of that have been immortalized in this David Chapelle skit.

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Fan Tributes at Paisley Park after Prince died in 2016

If you’re visiting Minneapolis and want to further pay homage to Prince, I suggest staying at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel, where I stayed in the Performer Suite, which is decorated in muted grays and purples, complete with Prince art and and a baby grand piano.
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Prince Tributes put up at Paisley Park after the artist’s death in 2016

The Loews Minneapolis also close to First Avenue, the legendary club that Prince performed at since 1981 and where several scenes of Purple Rain were filmed.

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A purple symbol created by a fan at Paisley Park in 2016

LOEWS MINNEAPOLIS HOTEL
601 1st Avenue North Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55403
Phone: 612-677-1100
Reservations: 1-877-880-8918

Paisley Park

Address: 7801 Audubon Rd, Chanhassen, MN 55317, USA

Paisley Park hours operation are as follows:

Monday and Tuesdays: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Thursday: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Friday : 9:00 am – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Paisley Park is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.

General Admission $38.50 (Additional $7.50 (service fee plus facility fee) per GA ticket )

VIP Tour $100.00 (Additional $11.75 (service fee plus facility fee) per ticket)

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Exploring Montenegro: A Stay at the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan

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A view of the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan and the Budva Coast

Montenegro has only been an independent country since 2006. This emerging Balkan destination seems like an unlikely location for an upscale Aman resort, but after spending a few days at the Aman Sveti Stefan, I totally get it. The vibe is chic European Bond villain lair, with the former island resort now connected to the mainland by a narrow narrow isthmus, with an active security detail making sure only guests get to the resort.

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One of the pools at the Aman Sveti Stefan

Sveti Stefan’s coastal location has been used as stronghold on the Adriatic coast since the 15th Century. It has a Game of Thrones luxury resort vibe that is highly unique.

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Stunning from every angle: the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan

During the communist era, Sveti Stefan was occupied by the Yugoslavian government and used as a posh resort for guests. In 1972, the hotel received a Golden Apple award for it’s exclusive upscale excellence. Now, as Montenegro gains traction as a bubbly destination for the European yachting set, the Aman Sveti Stefan is once again very well positioned.img_4194

Boats on the Adriatic

Since Montenegro gained independence it’s Adriatic coast has been an emerging destination. This Balkan country is beautiful. The Adriatic coastline is picturesque and stunning, and is not yet overcrowded. The Aman makeover of this former fishing village has restored the red-tiled roofs to perfection, and magically kept a few small churches intact (including one next to a swimming pool). They’ve even maintained some of the fortress-like elements so it feels as though the resort’s history is incorporated in it’s design.

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Balkan Zen at the Aman Sveti Stefan

The Aman brand of Zen goes Balkan in a way that keeps it luxe yet understated. But you still feel ancient bones of the resort. The water closet in my room was clearly located in what was once a closet. The stone walls and fortress windows don’t have the cross ventilation you would expect from a new build. But the curving streets are immaculate and the outdoor dining areas dotted with Olive trees and gorgeous infinity pools with stunning views of the Adriatic.

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A view from my room at the Aman Sveti Stefan

The understated vibe of the Aman Sveti Stefan is a nice counterpoint to the flashy Porto Montenegro, located 33 kilometers away, where the “more is more” asthetic reigns. The closest airport to the resort is Tivat, but that is only going to help you if you’re flying in from Kiev or Moscow. Most guests fly into Podgorica or Dubrovnik, which are are hour and 2 1/2 hour drive away. NOTE: The drive from Podogrica to Sveti Stefan is not great for those prone to car sickness. The stretch of road is beautiful but dizzying. I found this drive nauseating, and I am usually unfazed by car travel.

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Aman style bathtub

Like all Aman resorts, you never feel like Sveti Stefan is crowded. The resort has 58 rooms and is well laid out. There are gorgeous spaces for meals inside and out, a gorgeous spa I did not have time to check out, and some lovely public spaces and courtyards. The service is top notch. The food… well, there is a reason that Montenegrin cuisine is not yet “a thing.” The Aman’s restaurant was as good as any I tried during my time in Montenegro, but there was not a dish on it that I wanted to order twice.

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Pool and church next to the Adriatic

I am just not a fan of the cuisine in this part of the world. It’s vaguely Mediterranean but not and somehow the disconnect is especially jarring for me. I’ve had similar dining experiences in Croatia and just found the food underwhelming. This could be personal preference, but I did not get this feeling Montenegro is the next big foodie destination. Fortunately cocktails are delicious and the environment lends itself to an Aperol spritz (or three).

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A gorgeous spot for a cocktail at the Aman Sveti Stefan

Yet I am now more intrigued than ever by the Balkans. This is an interesting part of the world with some interesting not-so-ancient history. The new influx of money makes Montenegro kind of fascinating.

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Left: Linguine with clams Right: Adriatic oysters

The resort offers all sorts of interesting experiences (including several by boat). All come with the price tag one usually associates with Aman properties. Boat experiences are weather dependent and ours got cancelled due to rough seas.

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Spritz o’clock in Montenegro

The Aman Sveti Stefan is a great choice for travelers who are interested in exploring the Balkans and want to stay at a highly atmospheric and unique property. It is a logical extension of a trip to Croatia.

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The view towards Budva from the Aman Sveti Stefan

Montenegro is a great place to visit if you’ve already done the coast of France and Italy, but it’s not really a substitute. This destination is best suited for the more adventurous traveler. The scenery is just as stunning but the surrounding vibe still has some post-communist charm. Service outside the resort can be hit or miss.

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Vertiginous views at the Aman Sveti Stefan

Like all Balkan supermodels, the Aman Sveti Stefan has great bones, and no bad angles.

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The atmospheric streets of the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan

May’s weather was temperamental, and cooler than I would require to lounge at the beach. But Budva had plenty of beachgoers that found the Adriatic warm enough. The resort would be especially appealing during the peak summer months.

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Gorgeous details on a small church on Sveti Stefan

Without doubt, the Aman Sveti Stefan is one of the most atmospheric luxury properties I’ve ever experienced. But I don’t think it’s for everyone.

View of @Amanresorts Sveti Stefan from Budva is today's virtualvacay #Montenegro

Adriatic coast framed by the old fortress of Sveti Stefan

This property is slightly edgier than other Amans I’ve visited… but that is also it’s appeal. It’s unique and isolated and wildly historic. You can’t help but feel like you’re wandering through the streets of King’s Landing as you find your way to dinner.

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Luggage cart still life at the Aman Sveti Stefan

This is the Aman of choice for GOT fans and intrepid travelers looking for someplace a bit different.

Sveti Stefan 85315
Montenegro
Tel: (382) 33 420 000
Fax: (382) 33 420 222
Email: amansvetistefan@aman.com

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Exploring France: A Stay at the Newly Renovated Hôtel Ritz Paris

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Classic fluffy bed goodness at the The Hôtel Ritz Paris

On my recent trip to Paris, I had the opportunity to stay at the Hôtel Ritz Paris for the first time. The iconic Parisian property located on the Place Vendome re-opened in 2016 after a four year renovation led by French architect Thierry W. Despont that is rumored to have cost over $400 million. Yet the property doesn’t shout “updated.” The upgrades are subtle and sublime, focused on adding more natural light to the hotel, updating the technology, and restoring it to a modern day version of Belle Époque glamour that would continue to lure today’s jet set, who care about things like speedy wifi, ample electrical outlets, indoor/outdoor dining and Black Mambo hairdryers.

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Looking up at the gorgeous main staircase at the Hôtel Ritz

While I have long been a customer (and fan) of the hotel’s Bar Hemingway (which seems strangely untouched by the renovations), this was the first time I actually spent the night at the property. I did not stay in the one of the hotel’s suites but in room 126, which was still all kinds of fancy.

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Ritzy stairs

The Ritz has an over-the-top traditional luxury vibe and excellent service. After being shown to my room, I was asked if I’d like to have someone unpack my suitcase for me. Since I like to keep it real, I passed on this service but appreciated how casually it was offered. While I’m not the traditional Ritz guest, I could not find a flaw with their service. It’s omnipresent and invisible. You are not going to spot an unattended housekeeping cart in the hallways of this hotel.

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The working desk at the Ritz

The 19th Century over-the-top traditional elegance of the Ritz is not usually the type of hotel I’d pick and I knew that before going. But it’s fun to mix it up at hotels. There was a moment around midnight at the hotel’s Ritz Bar when I realized I was the only woman in the room not wearing Chanel, unless my nail polish counts. This is not really surprising since designer Coco Chanel lived at the Ritz for decades, and the hotel has a Chanel Spa.

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An extremely comfortable chair in the corner of room 126 at the Ritz Paris

The famous guests of yore are name dropped throughout the property. There’s the previously mentioned Bar Hemingway (no longer accessible from the side entrance post-renovation) with it’s €30 cocktails and €18 mini hem burgers, and €1500 Ritz Side Car, which in 2001 was named the most expensive cocktail in the world.

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Left: a beautiful welcome amenity Right: Marie Antoinette would approve of the vomiting swan faucets

Tea is served in the gorgeous flower-filled Salon Proust. There are historic suites named after luminaries including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charlie Chaplin. I did not see any reference to Diana, Princess of Wales, who ate her last meal at the property with Dodi Fayed, son of the hotel’s current owner, Mohamed Al Fayed.

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The gorgeous Salon Proust

The hotel’s restaurant, L’Espadon, has a one Michelin star restaurant for lunch and two Michelin stars for dinner. I did not eat at either since I got sick and spent much of my time in the wonderfully fluffy bed and large marble bathroom. But I can vouch for the property’s room service. It was excellent and they honored my request for chicken soup (not on the menu) at all hours of the day. My room was blissfully quiet and my bed fluffy and comfortable. If you have to get sick while traveling abroad, the Ritz is a great place to do it.

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Flowers at reception

Breakfast was included in my room rate and it was as rich and over-the-top as one would expect. The hotel’s Place Vendome location is perfect for the fashion week and shop-til-you-drop set. I’m a woman who is more comfortable in Saint Germain than in the 1st Arrondissement, I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to stay here again. But if you have the chance, particularly on an expensive account, it’s divine.

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Left: French toast it’s native environs Right: Very rich Eggs Benedict

I will definitely return to the hotel’s Bar Hemingway, which remains of my favorite hotel bars of all time.

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Your syrup is served, Ritz style

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€30 Earl Grey martini at the Bar Hemingway 

Travelers who favor the gilded aesthetic of Emirates Airlines are the ones most likely to be comfortable at the revamped Ritz. It’s fabulous in every way.

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Ritz Paris
15 Place Vendôme 75001 Paris, France
1 800 745 8883

Rates from $1,098.10 USD

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Where to Stay in New York City: 1 Brooklyn Bridge

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A view of the Brooklyn Bridge from my Bridge View King room

I recently went to New York City for a quick trip and wanted to try staying someplace new. I’d heard good buzz about the new eco-luxury property 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, the third property from from the chic brand, 1 Hotels.

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Exterior of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

The 1 Hotels brand has the right kind of buzzwords attached to it… including a mission to be “nature led” and a core philosophy that states “The world around us is beautiful, and we want to keep it that way.” Sometimes having so many on point keywords can make a place feel “too Gwyneth” and preachy.

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The lobby cocktail area

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the vibe of the place is pretty chill. It’s only when you pay attention to the details that you discover how thoughtful they are.

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The 25 foot green wall in the lobby

Not to be shallow, but 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is a stunner. The property, which is the first ground up build from the brand, looks industrial chic and blends in perfectly with it’s DUMBO neighbors. The lobby features an impressive 25 food vertical garden and rustic yet warm eco-conscious design. But you’re not sacrificing comfort for style. All the small things work in this hotel. The upcycled wood chip room keys are clever and feel fresh. But when you discover to the repurposed pine flooring originally came from the Old Crow Distillery in Kentucky, you get the sense that 1 Hotels is the real deal. It’s chic, it’s cool… and it’s confidently laid back.

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A communal table in the lobby

Many NYC hotels have impressive lobbies and shoebox sized guest rooms. Fortunately that’s not the case at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. My Bridge View King Room was large enough to be comfortable for two people, and well-designed so that there was no wasted space. It also had a cool triple water filter so that guests can have tasty and clean water at their disposal without the clutter of plastic bottles. and the built-in dining area served double duty as a desk when it wasn’t occupied with a room service tray.

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Smart storage above the built-in dining area

The hotel also has a complimentary shuttle. It’s a Tesla that will drop guests off within a three mile radius and is available on a first-come, first served basis.

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Comfortable bed, excellent storage in the nightstand

Guest rooms are designed with comfort and usability in mind. The design packs a lot of storage punch, with enough closet space for a couple and bonus coat hooks.

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Fabulous robes at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

My stay was quick but I look forward to coming back to 1 Brooklyn Bridge to check out the hotel’s spa and 10th floor lounge, both set to open this summer. In the meantime, the cocktail service in the lobby was top-notch and included small plates from Neighbors, the minimalist chic Brooklyn-centric cafe off the lobby.

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Interior of Neighbors

Most guests might won’t notice that the property operates on 100% wind power energy or that the edgy/cool sculpture by Jarrod Beck was created from pieces of salvaged roofing found in aftermath of a tornado. But learning these details don’t make you like the property any less. They draw you in deeper. I’m curious what I’ll learn about the hotel on my next visit.

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Delicious crostini with lovely presentation in the hotel lobby

In addition to be comfortable, stylish, and well situated at Pier 1, 1 Brooklyn Bridge goes out of it’s way to be good with the ‘hood. I enjoyed getting my morning coffee at Neighbors next to locals using their neighborhood discount. The cafe’s menu had all sorts of locally sourced artisanal Brooklyn goodness one would expect. Mixing with the locals definitely added to the home-away-from-home attitude of the property, and added to the organic sensibility of the hotel.

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Cheers to 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

Wifi was speedy and easy to connect. Service was great and devoid of attitude.

My biggest complaint? The property doesn’t have gift shop and the fluffy terry robes were so comfy I wanted to take one home.

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Address: 60 Furman St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA
Phone: +1 347-696-2500

Rates from $509 per night (I paid a media rate).

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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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