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One of the things that makes Casa de Campo appealing is that it has everything from nicely-designed rooms that start at $187, villas that start at around $850 and go up from there, and truly extravagant owned properties. This makes it not just a hotel or resort, but a community – granted, a pretty wealthy community. But no matter where you find yourself in that rich and fabulous scale you still get to experience everything the resort’s got going on.
The sugar-baron owners of Casa de Campo started out with sugar cane fields, then added a rum distillery (which produces a very nice sipping rum, Atlantico, which is a crime to hide in a sweet sissy cocktail so make sure to try some straight), then purchased and expanded the hotel in order to house their visiting business colleagues. From there, the Fanjul family started adding things as they saw a need or which friends and guests started asking for.
What that means is that today the resort has a horse ranch, a shooting center, a marina and even a small town. This is, of course, in addition to the family-owned La Romana Airport and a cruise ship port that was recently built. Holy mega wealth.
Although this contributing editor would have been pretty happy simply putt-putting around in her golf cart (one comes with each room and villa) looking at all the lush and lovely scenery, I recognize that this might not be everyone's idea of a trip to the tropics. So in the spirit of sharing, check out what else you can do below.
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We recently had the chance to have a look at the luxe 7,000-acre Casa de Campo in the DR so that we could sus out exactly why celebs like Beyoncé and Jay-Z, The Kardashians, Michael Jordan and the Clintons – even the final two episodes of The Bachelorette last season were filmed here – choose this resort as their tropical home-away-from-home.
We think that the answer is this: When you close your eyes and imagine a chic West Indies design idyll – dark mahogany wood, stone flooring (the native Coralina stone with a distinctive mottled pattern), sandy taupe furnishings, crisp white sun shades and linens to match – this is the place where it actually exists. Add to that rooms that are over 600 sq ft and villas that can be bought or rented and sleep up to 14 people (or more if you’re creative), and it’s quite the set-up.
Lots of room and villa pics below!
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It's not often that you hear of a Marriott Hotel being design-forward. Unless, perhaps the word EDITION is attached. Which is why the recent $16-million renovation of the Grand Cayman Marriott is such a breath of fresh (seabreeze) air.
Just look at how welcoming that new entrance is. And doesn't it feel like it's a portal to a lifestyle or boutique hotel? Some beach-chic, independent, pretty young thing? We haven't seen the results of the overhaul in person but the photos and the accompanying brochures have a fresh, modern look that we have not typically associated with Marriott's main brand.
That's because the team at Grand Cayman have created their own concept, The Beach House Experience, complete with its own branding from the typography all the way to the tacos.
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The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch
If you find yourself in the middle of planning a family vacation right now, you are not alone. July is National Family Reunion Month and, apparently, many families are getting on the trip train.
If you want to jump in on this multi-generational trip trend here are five hotels that have things ready to go for the kids, the parents and the grandparents.
Getting In Touch With Nature
The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch sits in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, with plenty of room for the kids to romp and enough flora and fauna to make you breathe a sigh of relief that you're finally on vacation.
For the Kiddies: The hotel just announced their new signature Ritz Kids program so little ones aged 5-12 will not be bored from a lack of activity: they can pan for gold, make mountainside ice cream (with a former Park Ranger no less), paint a masterpiece and hunt down treasure.
Days are themed around Nature, Mountains Around the World, the Art of Colorado, Western Day, Wild Animals, Leave No Stone Unturned, and Sports and Wellness. You can choose to sign the kids up for a full-day ($115), half-day ($65) or an evening ($85) but get this – if you’re a guest of the hotel, a half-day per kid, per day, is included in your resort fee.
For Mom and Dad: With the kids fully occupied, the day (or evening) really is yours to do with it as you will. Have dinner at Spago – just the two of you with wine and everything – or take a pizza-making class there instead, have a spa treatment and then relax in the rock-lined watery grotto, or go on a personalized Perfectly Paired Picnic for two ($225).
For Grandma and Grandpa: Have some of your own quiet time during a Stargazing Hike ($115 for two) or get in a game of golf at the championship Beaver Creek Golf Course. When it’s family time, keep the memories of this trip alive by enlisting one of the photography concierges to memorialize it in pictures (the photo session and one 8” x 10” print is free, we repeat, free).
Rates start at $319.
Keep reading for city hotels and Caribbean escapes!
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Luxury Master Suite
While the northerner mass exodus to the Caribbean may be behind us, it doesn’t mean that hotels are now closed for the season. Oh no. In fact, the new AlSol Tiara Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic opened its doors for the first time yesterday, all ready for the family fun summer vacay.
Operated by Mexican-based AlSol Hotels & Resorts, the 112-room AlSol Tiara Cap Cana is located in Punta Cana between the ocean and Marina Cap Cana, so you’ll see lots of pretty yachts as you gaze out of your suite’s panoramic windows. It falls under the company’s luxury, family-focused AlSol brand (they also have the Azalea collection – luxury adult-focused hotels; All Ritmo – four-star family properties; and the Urban Collection, which are five-star hotels in major city centers.
The hotel is going for a Mediterranean, laidback chic sort of feel with a crisp white façade accented with cobalt blue and coral complements.
Baha Mar might not be open in the Bahamas next month, but this hotel will be.
With only 30 rooms and in the upscale Lyford Cay on New Providence Island in the Bahamas, The Island House is shaping up for a spectacular debut next month. The rooms are generously sized, inside and out, at around 500 sq.ft., with a 120-sq.ft. balcony. Two cottages are also available with over 1,000-sq.ft. of space and a nearly 600-sq.ft. foot porch. Still not enough space for you? The Island House will also have six two- and three-bedroom apartments.
There will be a resort communal area equipped with WiFiand work stations, a coffee bar, the Bamford Spa and a "movement studio" that will offer Pilates, anti-gravity yoga and other classes. Perhaps the most unique aspect is its 48-seat on site cinema that promises to show feature films as well as artsy flicks.
As for dining on-property, guests can hit up the Mahogany House, which has been in operation since 2010.
Rates start at $650.
[Photos: The Island House]
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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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For travelers flying into Aruba's Queen Beatrix International Airport, the first glance of sand beach comes about 10 seconds before landing on the runway. The stripe of lush green mangroves in the middle of Caribbean-blue waters is the Renaissance Private Island, just off the coast, home to two beaches of pristine sand surrounded by palapas, and hammocks strung between the palms.
Entry to this island is completely free, from the water taxi to the use of the beaches, with one big exception: you absolutely must be a guest of the Renaissance Aruba Resort, either the family-friendly Ocean Suites or the adult-exclusive Marina Hotel.
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Remember that bright red phone that went straight to Batman’s cave, summoning him whenever crime was afoot and a superhero was required? Well, Viceroy Sugar Beach Resort in St. Lucia has one of those. Except it’s not red, necessarily. And it doesn't summon Batman, but rather, your butler.
But this one works from the beach. And if you find yourself in a dire champagne emergency — well, let’s just say that not all heroes wear capes.
We recently spent some time at Sugar Beach, a resort replete with amenities throughout its luxury villas--from infinity plunge pools overlooking the sea below, to full wet bars stocked with local beers and rum. (Also awesome: private terrace views of a spectacular Caribbean sunset flanked on each side by the lush Piton mountains.)
One of our favorites, though, is the handy provision of Firefly mobile phones. The brand is typically treated as a “starter cell” for kids, since the phones are restricted to dialing among a handful of pre-programmed numbers. Sugar Beach, however, cleverly repurposes them as service bells, basically.
Caribbean Hotels / Hotel Renovations / Renaissance Hotels / Adults-Only Hotels / Aruba Hotels / → All Tags
The Renaissance Aruba Resort is a tale of two hotels. Literally.
Although united under one name and one website, two very different booking options exist: the Marina Hotel or the Ocean Suites. It's confusing, sure, but luckily they're only two blocks apart and connected by a golf cart shuttle that zips across the harbor front.
Are you traveling without children and hoping for a more active location? That's the adults-only Marina Hotel. (pictured above)
Are you a family looking for an ocean view and lots of resort-style pools? Ocean Suites it is.
Both have pools as cool and blue as the Caribbean just outside; both give guests complimentary access to a water taxi to a nearby private island of beaches and flamingoes (more on that to come); and both recently completed renovations to rid the guest rooms of staid patterns and bring the beach indoors.
Actor/writer/director/Nobu hotelier Robert De Niro just got a new title--and a great big thank you-- from the government of Antigua and Barbuda. Prime Minister Gaston Browne has pronounced De Niro “special economic envoy” to the two-island Caribbean country for his commitment to reviving the ailing K Club Resort on Barbuda.
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One of the coolest and "greenest" new boutique hotels to surface in the Caribbean is on the popular island destination of Vieques, Puerto Rico. El Blok, located in the town of Esparanza, at the southern end of Vieques, is putting on its final touches and will be fully open by this weekend.
El Blok, designed by San Juan based Fuster+ Architects, goes for the softer side of modern minimalism, with a curvalineal shape that compliments the natural coastline and Esparanza's beachfront promenade. The hotel offers just 22 rooms, thus keeping its footprint small both literally (the hotel occupies the site of a former home) and environmentally (El Blok is LEED Gold Certified.) Virturally every aspect of the hotel's design has an environmental benefit.