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View from oceanfront master suite at Grand Residences Riviera Cancun
The Grand Residences Riviera Cancun in Puerto Morelos, Mexico has one of those lobbies that have you at hello. Its wow factor includes a historic bar from the United Kingdom circa 1860, vibrant Mexican accent pieces, an airy feel and stained glass structures representing the mangrove prevalent throughout the Yucatan. Those features coupled with views of the ocean in the distance make for a grand entrance:
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It’s partly housed in a 19th-century UNESCO-listed building that was once the British consulate. It sits on Shangani beach on the Indian Ocean. And it has an ocean-facing infinity pool.
Those are the stats for Park Hyatt Zanzibar, the brand’s first hotel on the island, which just opened. It’s taken over the historic Mambo Msiige mansion – a typical Zanzibari mansion set around a courtyard – and built another connecting building, the Zamani Residence.
Bodrum is one of Turkey’s best loved beach resorts. As such, it’s full of hotels – sleek hotels. Remember the Mandarin Oriental that opened last summer? Those dreamy pics are burned on the back of our eyeballs. And now Jumeirah is jumping into the mix.
The hotel that’s currently the Golden Savoy will become the Jumeirah Bodrum Palace Hotel on May 1 this year. There will be 135 rooms – or, rather, suites and villas rather than rooms. All have views over the Aegean Sea – the resort is laid out in a semicircle around headland 10 minutes from Bodrum proper. (Probably not a bad thing, since Bodrum proper is a busy place.) No pictures yet, but this is going to be a place that’s all about the views. Oh, and the pools – all 57 of them. Though “the majority” are private ones for the villas.
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While the average American consumer may have never heard of Aruba’s Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, those in the sustainability segment of the hotel industry will certainly recognize the name. Despite existing and competing in a market traditionally scorned for its boundless consumption of local resources, this Caribbean island resort will receive a Green Globe certification for the 15th year in a row in 2015.
The success all starts with owner Ewald Biemans, who has been recognized with more than two dozen environmental awards and certifications. That resume was further garnished earlier this year when he was named the “Green Hotelier of the Year” in the Caribbean Journal’s Caribbean Travel Awards.
To be honest, I was surprised to learn all that, because when you're at the hotel, you wouldn't know it unless someone told you. That's because Biemans’ approach to environmental friendliness is mostly done behind the scenes, without consequence to the consumer. It's a long list: Waste water is reused for irrigation, beach cleanups occur monthly, energy-saving appliances do their thing in the administrative offices, and so forth. The only things felt by the guest are minor. The soap is put in dispensers, for example, and in-room motion detectors automatically turn off the lights when you're out of the room.
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Does the phrase “all inclusive” make you come out in hives? Do you shudder at the idea of ugly wristbands? Does your stomach heave when imagining a “five star buffet” three times a day?
Us too. But it’s always good to challenge one’s demons and confront one’s prejudices, so we’re intrigued by the idea of Ikos Resorts, a new upmarket all-inclusive group – or “Infinite Lifestyle”, as they call it.
Ikos is kicking off in Greece, with two beachside properties opening in Halkidiki next year: the Ikos Oceania in March, and the Ikos Olivia in May. They promise to “redefine the all-inclusive experience”, keeping the good side of all-inclusive (no extra bills to pay) and jettisoning the bad part (everything else). So instead of grubby buffets and poolside rubdowns, you’ll get Michelin-starred chefs overseeing four a la carte restaurants per property. No need for rainbow-colored cocktails, either – there will even be sommeliers!
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Is it Robinson Crusoe’s island? A previously undiscovered atoll in some warm ocean we just found on Google Earth?
No, it’s better than either of those. It’s the brand new Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort & Spa. Just that island. Just that hotel.
The hotel and its 1km-long, 300m wide private island form part of the Quirimbas archipelago off Mozambique. That’s a 45 minute flight from Pemba for you and the inhabitants of the other 11 thatched villas on the island. (And if you’re wondering, there are 32 islands in the archipelago, along with coral reefs and an aquatic national park (think dolphins and turtles as well as neon fish.)
The villas have private hammocks and pools, even though they’re bang on the beach. The design is posh rustic – nicely understated. You won’t want to move from your private space, of course, but if you do, there’s also a main pool, bar, lounge bar, spa and restaurant.
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One can never have too many hotels on Phuket, and for Accor, nine just isn’t enough. Hence the arrival of Novotel Phuket Karon Beach, which opened three days ago on Karon Beach (not exactly an exclusive location, but good if you want the feel of a resort).
The fourth Novotel on Phuket, it’s newly built with 224 rooms, which look rather nice, if not groundbreakingly original. There are three restaurants, two bars, a fitness center and sauna, and an outdoor pool (this rendering on the Facebook page looks nice, though we’re a little suspicious there’s no photo on the website yet).
There’s even a “video games area” (shudder) and a kids club.
Hotel packages are, of course, only worth doing if they’re really good value for money. And hotel packages, of course, are notorious for not providing good value for money. But here’s one that is.
The very specific Taste of the Bay Winter 2014/2015 package at the trendy Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall costs £249 per person (in a double room) for three nights. For that you get a room and breakfast, two dinners and a lunch.
But this isn’t just any old dinner. Cornwall is these days one of the top places in the UK for food, and Watergate Bay is one of the county’s foodie hubs – Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen is on site, the Beach Hut is famous for being a hut on a beach that serves upmarket, organic food, and the hotel has just opened a third restaurant, Zacry’s, which “combines Cornish attitude with a classic brasserie”.
Here’s what you should be paying, were you to take all those things on the package separately:
That’s because it’s a separate entity – done by Infinite Luxury, a Phuket-based, English-started design company. Kata Rocks will open November 28 on the southern end of Kata Beach, with a slightly different feel than Ibiza and Mallorca Rocks – it’s for grown ups, for starters. Think a bunch of those modernist houses from the Hollywood Hills transplanted onto the hillside (and beachside) of Phuket. In fact, there's more than a hint of Malibu to it, too.
The aim at Kata Rocks, rather than to get blasted and dance like Leo DiCaprio, is to indulge in “effortless and luxurious relaxation” – now that’s something we can get behind. Accommodation is in 34 individual Sky Villas rather than rooms – and they look fantastic, with bright white, modern interiors, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea, TVs set into the ceiling and – get this – their own private pool.
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You can now stay warm while you chill out in front of your own personal fire pit at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel’s new Beachcomber Fire Pit Rooms and Suites, where temperatures December through February can plummet to a horrifying 50 F (that’s a shout-out to all of you tough northerners out there who can endure -20 F in January – we’re looking at you Fargo).
With direct access to the beach, these four stylin’ rooms all have terraces with private fire pits so that you can roast some wienies or pig out on s’mores in a more civilised way than backpacking with a tent in tow and searching for kindling (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
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Bali. Lombok. Mykonos. St Tropez. Isles of Scilly. WTF?
In what appears at first glance to be the most bizarre new opening on earth, Karma Resorts, which own three hotels on Bali, and one in each of Lombok, Mykonos and St Tropez, have just soft opened their newest property: Karma St Martin’s, in the Scilly Isles, with 30 rooms spread out in a row of little cottages, right on the beach.
If you don’t know where the Scillies are – and why should you? – they’re a tiny archipelago of islands 28 miles off the southwest tip of Cornwall – which is itself the southwest tip of England. There are 145 islands, but only five are inhabited. St Martin’s, which earned its Karma on 1 August, is the third highest populated island, with 142 people living on its two square-kilometer area. Karma is the former St Martin's on the Isle hotel, sitting plum on Tean Sound and overlooking another island, Tresco.
Of course, there are similarities with Bali – the Scillies have white sand beaches, their own microclimate, and are a bugger to get to (ferry or a tiny plane from various points in Cornwall). But Karma is gunning for the same clientele, too – according to big Karma man John Spence, who talked to Scilly Today, they’re going after “affluent adults” who backpacked their way around Bali etc a while back, but now want spectacular scenery, beaches and high standard accommodation closer to home.
No cute hotel doggy to share this week; instead we’ve got cute hotel sealions, the guests of honor at the Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach, where we stayed the week before last.
We’d been warned about the sealions before our arrival – apparently, it’s mating season at the moment, and they’re right outside the hotel – and LOUD. In fact, the hotel even provides earplugs to drown out their racket in every room: