Tag Archives: resorts

covered gazebo dock stretching into lake in tennessee at Blackberry Farm resort

How One Family Is Doing Multigenerational Travel During Covid

This traveler got this trip by starting with The WOW List. For a safe, smart, extraordinary trip, go to The WOW List, find the best destination specialist for you, then click his/her CONTACT button to reach Wendy’s questionnaire.


In pre-Covid times, Susan and David Nethero traveled about once a month, both for pleasure and for work. They’d usually fly: India, Africa, the Caribbean. But in these times, the Atlanta-based couple has switched to locations reachable by car, as a safer alternative and so that they can spend time outside the stress of the city with their grown children and young grandkids. Until now, Mrs. Nethero told us over the phone, “The number of times we’ve taken road trips in the last ten years is maybe four or five—not many.” That M.O. has changed this summer. She and her extended family recently returned from two getaways that they tried to make as safe as possible. We were curious how they did it and what their experience was like.

First, a note: While we at WendyPerrin.com do not encourage travel at this time, we believe it is possible to travel responsibly during this pandemic. We have done so ourselves—and we trust our community of global citizens to make smart choices for themselves and the people they’ll encounter. While most travelers want to wait until there is a vaccine for their next trip, some have asked us to help them travel safely and responsibly now—and we are happy to provide the intel and support they seek. We answer their questions every day at Ask Wendy. And we request their post-trip feedback as part of our effort to provide you with a realistic and useful view of the travel landscape right now. Thank you to Susan Nethero for talking to us about her family trips and sharing information we know will be useful to other travelers.

Why did you want to travel now?

Eight of us were supposed to go skiing in March in Salt Lake, and that had to be canceled. Then we were supposed to go to the Turks and Caicos in May, and that had to be canceled too. So everyone was chomping at the bit to go somewhere. That’s why we went to Blackberry Farm in Tennessee in June. They had just opened back up again, so there were a few restrictions on services, but it was a great experience, and they accommodated us in every way. [Editor’s note: In fact, the Netheros enjoyed it so much that Susan and David are headed to its sister property, Blackberry Mountain, at the end of August.]

What did you enjoy most at Blackberry Farm?

I thought this was extraordinary: They arranged for private counselors for our grandkids because their usual camp was suspended—and they did that for free. The kids made tie-dye shirts and milkshakes and did really fun things. And at night, Blackberry Farm arranged for babysitters so the kids didn’t have to sit through a long dinner and drive their parents crazy. The babysitter took them out in a golf cart, introduced them to the cooks and everyone in the kitchen, and they made cookies.

And we did two experiences. First, we did a farm experience where we fed the goats and lambs and picked eggs out of the chicken hut. Blackberry Farm raises high-end dogs too, and they had a whole litter, so we got see these amazing puppies. We also did a nature experience, and that was even more fun: We put on tennis shoes and went in a stream with a naturalist. We saw baby trout and had little nets to catch crawdads and fish. Then we walked up the stream and they showed us wildlife all around the stream. Those kinds of nature experiences are always really illuminating.

They kept surprising us. For instance, when they brought our car back to us, it was washed and all vacuumed out.

When we came back from that trip, we thought: What are we going to do for Fourth of July?

Were you looking for another place you could drive to?

Yes. We reached out to a travel specialist whom Wendy had recommended to us to see if there were some attractive driving trips we could take on the Southeast Coast.

Within minutes we received about five different ideas. They recommended a place in the Florida Panhandle, but we had been seeing pictures of all these kids on the beach and we thought that looked scary. We wanted privacy. Another option was Sea Island in Georgia, but we’d been there before. Another idea was The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, in South Carolina, but they didn’t have our dates available, housekeeping won’t come into the room to clean during your stay, and they were giving people time slots at the pool.

Then we remembered we had stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, one time, so we asked about it. And even though it was Fourth of July and it was last minute, they were able to get us an oceanfront suite.

Were you worried about going to Florida?

If you looked at where the coronavirus issues were in Florida, it was more in the south, west coast, and Panhandle, so we were isolating ourselves a bit.

Who traveled with you to Florida?

Eight total: David and me; David’s brother and his wife; our adult children; and two grandchildren (ages 5 and 1).

“The people at the Ritz can’t do enough for you,” said Susan Nethero. Photo: The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

What was the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island like?

You would have thought the whole place would be filled, given it was Fourth of July weekend, but it was not full.

At the hotel everybody wore masks. We felt completely safe, even though we were using the elevators. They had a spa and we walked in one morning and they were able to accommodate us, and we had one of the best facials we’ve ever had. Their adult hot tub and sauna were not open, but we understood that. They were just trying to be safe.

They had activities for the kids that were really cute, and overall we felt like the social distancing was pretty good, except it was hard at the pool. At the pool there were tons of kids and dogs—a lot of dogs; we were surprised. We used the beach quite a bit, and if we said we needed five lounge chairs, they’d have it all set up waiting for us, and they put a good amount of distance between groups. Even when we went in the water, we had space. They did room service and the rooms were immaculate. We did bike rides and there was no extra charge for the bikes.

They have a five-star restaurant, and it had a limited schedule, but they were able to get us in for a five-course tasting meal that felt like ten courses because they kept bringing us more stuff.

We had chocolate on our pillow every night, and another time the GM came over and talked to us about what it’s been like for them. The people at the Ritz can’t do enough for you. There wasn’t anything we asked where they weren’t like, “Sure, we can work that out.”

Did the dining and social-distancing measures feel safe?

For breakfast, they had a buffet set out, but they had people serving it to you, so that was a nice way to do it. They opened up an area so that more people could sit outside. On the Fourth of July, they attempted an outdoor BBQ, but when they got some weather reports and thought they might not be able to manage the flow of traffic, they canceled that. Instead, they set up a BBQ you could order from the table.

Every night they had s’mores down at the beach. It was not very crowded. There were a lot of children there too. I will say—and we experienced this at Blackberry too—that guests moved up the time of their eating because they ran out of things to do.

Guests wore masks at the Ritz. At Blackberry Farm they didn’t, but that was back in June, and we were outside and distanced so much there. At Blackberry, they had a family pool and spa pool. And whenever you walked into a building you put on a mask. The rooms at Blackberry are cottages—not attached to anything. So we took two side-by-side cottages that were joined in the middle for our daughters, and my husband and I took a separate cottage.

What are you thinking about next?

We did ask our WOW List specialist if she could look into the new Aman resort in Nevada. My husband and I are not worried about flying—although we certainly wouldn’t go to a hot spot like Los Angeles—but the Aman is another three-hour drive from either Phoenix or Las Vegas.

We would be glad to travel to the Caribbean islands, but they have restrictions and testing, and God forbid you end up there and you get tested and it turns out you have it. Do we want to get quarantined and stuck there? But it’s problematic in the U.S. too. Like, we even thought, let’s drive to New York—but it’s a long way, and they’re clamping down on visitors.



We can help you figure out how to safely plan your own trip and direct you to the right travel specialist for your needs. Write to us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka

This Beach Resort Figured Out How to Connect with Local Culture

The beach is only a small slice of the experience at Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka.
The beach is only a small slice of the experience at Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka.
fishing boat at Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Local fishermen deliver fresh-caught fish to the beach daily. Hotel guests help pull in the boat.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The hotel has a “coconut guru” whose job is to climb to the tops of 100-foot-tall swaying palms, prune them, and cut the coconuts down. It’s like watching a circus act. He does it daily. He’s the most physically fit 57-year-old I’ve ever seen.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The “coconut guru” brings his haul to the pool, where the coconuts are chopped open and served with straws as poolside drinks.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The zoo comes to you. Monkeys roam freely—and they’re very entertaining. One night we left our balcony door open while we were out, and a monkey broke in and filched the bananas from our fruit basket. (The other fruit was left strewn all over the floor.)
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The hotel has a fleet of tuk-tuks for taking guests wherever they want to go in and around Tangalle.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
One of the resort’s chefs took us to the pier in Tangalle to show us the fish market where he shops for seafood.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The boats here are extremely heavy. My sons were drafted into helping the fishermen at the pier haul their boat ashore.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
On the roads it’s not unusual to encounter a herd of water buffalo, or a flock of ducks, or sleeping dogs, or an entire family on a motorcycle.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The chef took us to rice paddies and vegetable markets so we could pick up supplies for a cooking class. He picked fruit off roadside trees so I could taste it and try to guess what it was. This was tamarind (which I never would have guessed). It was pretty tart.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Back at the hotel, with the ingredients we’d bought at the markets, we had our cooking class and learned how to whip up lunch Sri Lankan-style. The number of spices they use in each dish is impressive.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Coconuts are a big part of Sri Lankan cuisine, and this is how you grind one.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
We loved Kanishka, our resort’s resident “experience guru.” He’s thoughtful, caring, and very proud of his country. He knows everyone in the area, so he was able to introduce us to the variety of people we asked to meet.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Kanishka took us to temples so Doug could get info for a school project on Buddhism that was due about a week after our trip.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
This is how you get to the 3rd-century temple that sits atop a 670-foot-tall rock.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Atop the sacred rock temple, Doug received a blessing.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
In one village, Kanishka introduced us to a family who invited us into their home so we could see how they live. We left them with a few dollars (enough, it turns out, for rice for their family for a month) and a couple of Luci Lights—inflatable, solar-powered, re-usable lights that last a long time and never need batteries.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Bath time at the lake.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
When we were curious to see how the local ceramic pots are made, Kanishka took us to visit a family of pottery makers. These women demonstrated how to throw a pot and showed us their kiln. We asked to buy this pot with a broken lid. They begged us to take one with a perfect lid, but we preferred this one with character.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
There were a lot of kids in the pottery makers’ family compound. Charlie brought smiles when he picked up their hula hoop.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
After long days of adventuring, it was nice to come back to our hotel beach for things like this private candlelit dinner.



All too often, big beach resorts wall travelers off from their country’s culture. That’s why many of us opt for small inns and guest houses, assuming they’ll make it easier to dive into the local scene.

When I was headed to Sri Lanka, though, small inns were not going to cut it. Not with teens in tow and Wi-Fi for work a necessity. We needed a pool, a beach, easy food options, and other conveniences and facilities that are hard to find in a developing country—unless you’re at a big luxury resort. At the same time, we refused to be trapped in a bubble; we planned to spend most of each day adventuring around Sri Lanka and immersing ourselves in the culture.

Luckily, we ended up with the best of both worlds—on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, at the Anantara Peace Haven Resort, built on a former coconut plantation in Tangalle. It was such an unusual blend of comfort and authenticity, in fact, that I’m writing this article in hopes that other beach resorts will take note and get inspired.

Opened in December 2015, the Anantara in Tangalle is one of the first big beach hotels ever to be built in Sri Lanka, a still-unspoiled tropical-island nation that has suddenly become hot and, consequently, suddenly has plans for a wave of hotel construction over the next few years. That’s why I wanted to go now—before the country gets overbuilt. Our goal was to see lush landscapes, taste exotic flavors, get close to wildlife, visit villages and temples, and meet as many interesting people as possible—all during my children’s one-week school break.

Anantara made all of this happen and more—because it’s on a mission to serve as a gateway to the local culture. To see how, click through the slide show above and on the videos below. And if you’re thinking about a trip to Sri Lanka yourself and looking for advice, click to Ask Wendy.

Every morning local fishermen arrive on the beach at the Anantara Peace Haven Resort to deliver their catch. Guests help pull in the boat and choose the fish they’d like the chef to prepare for them later that day.

Since the kids love wildlife, the resort arranged an excursion to an elephant orphanage and to Udawalawa National Park. Check out this elephant who gave himself a bath mere feet from us.

This colorful vegetable market sits on the road between Tangalle and Udawalawa National Park. Note the absence of other tourists—something we experienced a lot in Sri Lanka. I’m glad we went when we did!


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

pool view at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort mexico

Where Was the WendyPerrin.com Team Last Week?

This year’s Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit was held at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort, a beachfront all-inclusive in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The large complex consists of three sections (Zen, Ambassador, and the adults-only Grand Class), and we got to experience all of them, along with the resort’s eight restaurants and its spa. Lest you think we were slacking off amid all these palm trees and decadent meals, rest assured that we didn’t spend more than a few minutes at the beach. Contrary to the vacation vibe of the photos below we actually spent all our time working with the Trusted Travel Experts of the newly announced 2017 WOW List to make your next trips even better. But thanks to invigorating panel discussions with our extended team, and the hospitality of the Grand Velas staff, this busy weekend was still a lot of fun.

Here’s a tour of what Wendy, Brook, Jill, and I saw, did, and ate while we were there.

A room in the Zen building of Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

A room in the Zen building of Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Photo: Billie Cohen

The first night, we all stayed in the Zen building, which has no beach access and is set amid the mangroves. Even though Zen has the smallest rooms of the resort, they are still quite large, have big bathrooms, and boast outdoor patios overlooking plenty of greenery. Tip for families: There are more connecting rooms in this building, and the kids’ club is here (a teen club is located in the Ambassador section).

Grand Velas Riviera Maya hat and basket Mexico

A big floppy sunhat and a pretty woven beach basket. Now if only I had time to lay out on the beach. Photo: Billie Cohen

The resort has plenty of the usuals when it comes to amenities: L’Occitane soaps and shampoos, loofahs, and a free mini bar (this is an all-inclusive after all). But the perks I was most surprised by were the beautiful woven sun hats and beach bags. Handmade nearby in Leon, Mexico, out of 100% cotton coated with resins and enamels, the glam hat has a super wide and wavy brim—very helpful for keeping the sun out of your eyes and any paparazzi at bay. The hats are complimentary for VIP guests and those staying in Presidential Suites; the bags are in every room and are free to use during your stay. Both are available for purchase at the resort’s boutiques.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya cenote Mexico

A real cenote was incorporated into the hotel’s grounds. It’s now fed by an irrigation system and swimming is not allowed. Photo: Billie Cohen

The rooms are accessed via a raised, covered wooden walkway that makes you feel like you’re deep in the quiet jungle. There’s even a restored ancient cenote (though you can’t swim in it).

The Zen pool at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

The Zen pool at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Photo: Billie Cohen

You’re not too remote from the resort’s amenities, of course—a few minutes’ walk takes you to a very pretty multi-level pool, the casual restaurant Chaká, or the spa. A shuttle van zooms guests over to the beach (maybe four minutes away), and it was our experience that we never had to wait more than a minute or two for a ride.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya herb garden in Mexico

Mint, verbana, and other herbs for the resort’s restaurants are grown right here. Photo: Billie Cohen

The hotel grows its own herbs for use in its various restaurants. Stroll along a path that winds past the Zen pool and you’ll find a miniature-golf course and a greenhouse.

Trusted Travel Experts share their best practices for helping guests have extraordinary trips.

Trusted Travel Experts share their best practices for helping guests have extraordinary trips. Photo: Tim Baker

Zen is also where the conference center is located and where we spent most of our time. The resort hosts many weddings too.

grand class suite at the grand velas riviera maya mexico

Wendy’s Grand Class suite. Photo: Wendy Perrin

A Grand Class suite terrace at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort

A Grand Class suite terrace at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort. Photo: Wendy Perrin

pool view at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort mexico

The view beyond Wendy’s laptop, at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort. Photo: Wendy Perrin

Ambassador and Grand Class are the resort’s two beachfront buildings; the main difference is that Grand Class is adults-only and the rooms are slightly bigger and have private plunge pools. But the Ambassador pool is the largest pool; it has many chaise longues, some in the sun and some comfortably under palapas. White-shirted servers wander around making sure you have drinks and snacks, and the Azul restaurant (which hosts a huge breakfast buffet) is on the left in the above photo.

colored rice in shape of WendyPerrin.com logo at grand velas riviera maya hotel Mexico

I came back to my room one night to find our website’s logo, made out of rice! Photo: Billie Cohen

Knowing who we were and why were there, the resort staff went out of their way to make us happy, with surprises like this one: our logo made out of colored rice that showed up on the beds one evening, and our logo on the telephone screens. But even random staffers I passed in random hallways stopped what they were doing to say “buenos dias” or help me figure out where I was going.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya Bistro food, Mexico

Even a simple vegetarian sandwich with fries was delivered to our table like a work of art. Photo: Billie Cohen

Guests can eat at any of the eight restaurants on site, ranging from the casual buffet of Azul to the AAA four-diamond, French-influenced menu of Piaf. Tip: Wine and cocktails are included in your room rate (though some wines and liquors cost extra), and so is room service…which tastes even better when eaten on your beachfront terrace.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya Frida restaurant Mexico

Named after the artist Frida Kahlo, the Mexican-themed restaurant Frida does pretty well in the art department itself. Photo: Billie Cohen

All of the restaurants have two things in common. First, as soon as you sit down, a server will ask about any food allergies so that the chefs can customize your meal (and they did a good job of this; I am vegetarian with several food sensitivities, and I ate pretty well). Second, all of the food presentation is just beautiful. The chefs here take the “eat with your eyes first” mantra very seriously, and plates were artfully composed and then decorated with swoops, drizzles, and dots. Not that any of that beauty kept us from eating. The food was sometimes fussy (and the multi-course, molecular-gastronomy tasting menu of Cocina de Autor was hit or miss) but, for the most part, the food was very good.

taco and tequila tasting on the beach at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

Right around sunset, the hotel arranged a tequila and taco tasting on the beach. It was a nice way to end our summit. Photo: Billie Cohen

Over the course of the weekend, we had the chance to experience a few special activities that the resort can arrange for guests or groups. One was what they call “Picnic in Paradise,” a gourmet lunch on the beach—but it rained the day ours was scheduled, so all the charcuterie, sandwiches, and cakes were moved to a presidential suite. We did get to experience a taco-and-tequila tasting on the beach, however: a sprawling buffet of savory Mexican treats, including grasshoppers, and a table each of tequilas and mezcals. This was a hit.

spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya is designed to look like a cenote. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

Brook tested out the spa. She reported back that the private men’s and women’s sections of the spa were designed to look like a cenote, the water-filled sinkholes that this part of Mexico is known for.

spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico. Photo: Brook Wilkinson Photo: Brook Wilkinson

She took the spa’s signature “water journey.” Recommended as a complimentary service before any spa treatment, starts with a circuit of showers, saunas, and steam rooms.

The spa hot tubs at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

“The water journey ends with plunges in the side-by-side hot and cold jetted tubs,” Brook reported back. “The better to get your muscles primed for that massage.”

ocean view from a suite at the grand velas riviera maya mexico

View from Wendy’s balcony. Photo: Wendy Perrin

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Rosewood Mayakoba

The Resort I Chose for My Working Vacation: Rosewood Mayakoba

We’d all like to spend our vacations blissfully unplugged, but the reality is that most of us can’t. TripAdvisor’s just-released Working on Vacation Survey found that 77% of U.S. respondents have worked on vacation in the past year, with 91% checking email and 42% creating and editing documents while on vacation.  I’m one of that overworked group, and that’s why I’m forever on the look-out for that holy grail of the 21st century:  An exotic yet close-to-home escape where I can accomplish two conflicting goals—work and vacation—simultaneously. When every second with your loved ones counts, you want a resort that enables you to be so efficient that your work cuts into your precious bonding time as little as possible. And, so that you don’t resent being tied to email, you need a desk with a view and a beach with Wi-Fi.

That’s why I chose Rosewood Mayakoba—on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, a 40-minute drive from the Cancun airport—for my family vacation this summer.  We just got back and, in fact, this was my third trip to Rosewood Mayakoba.  I’d gone twice alone on business for Condé Nast Traveler—see My New Favorite Tropical Beach Resort and 7 Special Touches That Every Hotel Should Have—and each time I could tell that the resort would fit my family’s needs perfectly. I finally made it back with Tim and the kids, and I was right: The combination of tropical jungle setting, wildlife, water sports, and a complimentary supervised kids’ club–all just a four-hour non-stop flight from home—meant that they could get a vacation they loved while I got what I needed as well.

Rosewood Mayakoba Beach Club pool

My 10-year-old playing (while I was working) at one of Rosewood Mayakoba’s three pools.

Here’s why Rosewood Mayakoba is a resort to consider when you’ve got no choice but to work on vacation:

* You’ll find free, fast Wi-Fi on the beach, at the pool, and everywhere else.

Cocktail while working

Deadlines go down better with fruity cocktails.

I’ve been to a lot of tropical resorts and have spent untold hours wrestling with tech hassles.  But at Rosewood Mayakoba there’s Wi-Fi throughout the property, indoors and out. You need log in only once, upon arrival, and you need never enter a password. It just works, wherever you go. (The resort’s butlers carry iPads and use the Wi-Fi system too.)


* There’s even Wi-Fi in the car that picks you up at the airport.

This means that upon landing in Mexico, during that dead time between airport and hotel, you can use your phone to check email without worrying about expensive roaming charges. (To avoid such charges throughout your stay at Rosewood Mayakoba, keep your phone in airplane mode and keep your Wi-Fi turned on.)


* When you’re too busy to leave your room, you can still enjoy a pool.

plunge pool laptop

Each room is a freestanding suite-style bungalow that comes with a private plunge pool.

Need a quiet space for a conference call?  You can seal yourself off from noisy kids by closing the door to the living room or bedroom, or you can move to your terrace or even your plunge pool.


* You get a desk with a view.

Should you opt for working in the air-conditioned indoors, the only thing separating you from a water-and-palms view is floor-to-ceiling glass.


* There’s a never-ending supply of complimentary coffee and fruit to sustain you.

Rosewood Mayakoba fruit

Every room comes with a bowl of fruit that is replenished daily.

Each room has a Nespresso machine too—and unlimited complimentary bottles of water.


* The supervised kids’ club is free and open every day from 9 to 5.

Rose Buds

My boys loved the counselors in the Rose Buds kids’ club.

Yes, there’s someone to watch your kids so your spouse can get a well-deserved break. My boys are now 10 and 12 and, even though the Rose Buds children’s program is used mainly by younger children, they enjoyed it enough to spend quite a bit of time with the group, taking ecotours in the lagoon, painting ceramics in the clubhouse, etc.  After signing them in to Rose Buds once—at the start of our stay—I never had to leave my desk to sign them in or out again. They could come and go as they pleased—and, of course, they were old enough to wander around the resort on their own.


* Each guest gets a bike.

bike path

My 12-year-old heading to breakfast.

Each bungalow on the sprawling property is connected by winding “roads” designed for walking, biking, or riding in golf carts. This means you live in serene seclusion, yet there’s no long walk to wherever you need to go (e.g., the beach club, the spa, the sushi restaurant) because you can zip there by bike. Even when I had to work all day, I still got precious family time during our morning family bike rides to and from breakfast.


* The resort’s app saves you time. 

Wherever you are on the property, you can use it to check the menus in the restaurants, order room service to be delivered at a particular time, or ask your butler (yes, butler) for help with whatever you need.


Now, I’m the first to acknowledge that Rosewood Mayakoba is a splurge. The price of an entry-level “room” (again, a freestanding bungalow with a view of water and palms) ranges from $465 in low season (July–September) to $675 in high season (approx. December 15–April 15).  My family went in low season—specifically, August, when the weather was surprisingly lovely (breezy, with little rain, and not much hotter or more humid than New York City). The resort was kind enough to provide complimentary accommodations to my family; I paid our airfare, meals, activities, and other expenses.  In keeping with my standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on Rosewood’s part, nor was anything promised on mine. This truly is one of my favorite resorts—for either a family or a romantic couple (it works equally well for either)—which is why I’m writing about it: I want to make sure you’re in the know.  As mentioned, this was my third trip to the resort, so I feel confident I can give you a fair evaluation of the experience.

I have a lot more advice to share based on my trip, including why going in August is a smart idea (hint: it’s the perfect moment to swim and snorkel with whale sharks), so stay tuned, but meanwhile, if you have any questions, feel free to ask below.


InterContinental Hotel Hong Kong

Wendy Reveals Her Favorite Hotel Suite. What’s Yours?

In case you missed it, Wendy revealed her favorite hotel suite last week, in an article in Elite Traveler. Though she’s stayed in over-the-top rooms in hotels all over the world, Wendy is most impressed by the InterContinental Deluxe Suites at the InterContinental Hong Kong. “The colorful ships and traditional junks crisscrossing Victoria Harbour sail so close to your suite’s glass walls that you can practically reach out and touch them,” she told the magazine. “It’s one of those rare hotels where you can do the best sightseeing without even leaving your room.”

Wendy was one of many globetrotting VIPs interviewed by Elite Traveler for their picks (including Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul and travel expert Peter Greenberg), and, not surprisingly, the selections included some impressive properties and rooms all around the world.

But we wanted to know what you think are the best hotel suites around, so we posted the question on Facebook and collected some of our fans’ answers and comments below. Several of the folks who responded are frequent world travelers and in the travel business themselves, so we were fascinated to find out their faves. If your top pick isn’t on this list yet, click over to our Facebook page and weigh in. We’d love to hear from you!


Paris Le Bristol Hotel Elysee Suite

The Prestige Elysée Suites at Le Bristol are the largest rooms in the Paris hotel.  Photo courtesy Le Bristol

The Prestige Elysée Suites at Le Bristol, Paris, were the top pick for Vicky McGlynn, Bermuda specialist with Vicky Bell Bermuda Travel. “I dream of our stay there and the living room filled with flowers,” she says.


Amankila Resort Bali

You’ll get your own private pool and a personal butler in the Amankila Suite at Amankila in Bali.  Photo courtesy Amanresorts

Pretty much everything in Bali is gorgeous, but Christy Camren over at Hager’s Journeys says her favorite suite for soaking up all that beauty is the Amankila Suite at Amankila. And her reasons are pretty convincing: “Stunning views, private pool with sunbeds and covered lounge areas, a butler… It’s like having your very own private compound in Bali.”


Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane Terrace Suite

The Terrace Suite in London’s Four Seasons at Park Lane opens onto a landscaped terrace.  Photo courtesy Four Seasons

Travel agent Linda Terrill named the Terrace Suite at the Four Seasons at Park Lane, saying “It’s fabulous and has an added benefit: It’s in London.”


Jumeirah Dhevanafushi resort Maldives

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi’s Ocean Sanctuary is its own private villa, with a pool, 24-hour butler service, and that beautiful Maldives view. Photo courtesy Jumeirah Group

Wendy first met Facebook fan Wanwisa Posner when Wanwisa won Condé Nast Traveler’s Dream Trip contest in 2008, after submitting a beautiful photo of Bhutan. Wendy planned that trip of a lifetime with the help of Maldives expert Lindsey Wallace of Linara Travel. So we weren’t surprised that Wanwisa’s favorite suite is in the Maldives: the Ocean Sanctuary Villa at Jumeirah Dhevanafushi (pictured). Back on land, Wanwisa also has a soft spot for Singita Lebombo Lodge in Kruger National Park, and who wouldn’t? The glass-enclosed lofts look out over the landscape (and game!) of a 33,000-acre park on South Africa’s border with Mozambique.


Singita Boulders Lodge South Africa

Singita Boulders Lodge is set in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Reserve, and the accommodations are like personal mini safari lodges. Photo courtesy Singita

Cookbook author Robyn Webb agreed with Wendy’s pick, but added “My fave, if it counts as a suite—well two, they are like houses!—are Singita Boulders in South Africa (pictured) and Qualia in the Great Barrier Reef area.”


Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris

The Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons George V in Paris is decked out with artworks, crystal chandeliers, fresh flowers and French chocolates.  Photo courtesy Four Seasons

The Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons George V in Paris earned the nod from marketing maven and former Robb Report editor Debbi Kickham for three good reasons. As Debi commented on Facebook, “It’s like Versailles, and it even has its own gym. And they restock the kitchen with French chocolates every day!”


Viceroy Anguilla Hotel Suite

The suites in the Viceroy Anguilla have ocean views and private plunge pools outside, and lots of space and clean design inside. Photo courtesy Christian Horan

Reader Marisa Chieco Christmas fell for the Viceroy Anguilla suites. And it’s easy to see why. An ocean view, a huge marble tub, a private plunge pool, and oh yeah, all of Anguilla surrounding you. Gorgeous.


Savoy Hotel London Staff in 1904

London’s Savoy hotel staff (seen here in 1904) have been hosting celebrities for more than a century. Star guests have included Katharine Hepburn, Winston Churchill, and Charlie Chaplin, all of whom have suites named after them.  Photo courtesy Fairmont

Author, blogger and global shopper Sarah Lahey agreed with Wendy’s nod to InterContinental Hong Kong and Peter Greenberg’s choice of the Peninsula Shanghai, but added “I also loved the Katharine Hepburn suite at The Savoy in London (even though her name was misspelled on the plaque outside the door!).”


What’s your favorite hotel suite? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook.


Sandpearl Resort Clearwater Beach Florida

Score Exclusive Savings at 22 Hotels and Resorts

Don’t you love an empty white-sand beach? My family loved this one at the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida, February 2012. 

Starting at midnight tonight Eastern Time, and continuing throughout the day on Saturday, June 21st, 22 hotels and resorts in Florida, the Caribbean, and Latin America will offer exclusive reduced rates in a Cyber Summer Travel sale. Five-star beach resorts will have suites available at half price, four-diamond resorts will cost just $99/night, and more. You can check out the special offers right now.  They are valid throughout the summer and, in some cases, through the end of the year. But the booking window is one day only: June 21st (the summer solstice).

The deals that really caught my eye are 50% off beachfront suites at Anguilla’s CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa; three nights free if you book four at St. Kitts Marriott Resort; and $129 nightly rates at the Lord Balfour in Miami’s South Beach. Even one of my children’s favorite beach resorts is included:  The Sandpearl, in Clearwater Beach, Florida (near Tampa), where we enjoyed a fabulously kid-friendly vacation two years ago.

Hope you scoop up something great!

Sandpearl Resort Florida beach volleyball

My kids played volleyball for days on the Sandpearl’s beach. It felt like playing on baby powder. Clearwater Beach, Florida, February 2012


Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda

Now’s the Time to Look For Caribbean and Mexico Beach Resort Deals

It’s June—the month when resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico look ahead at their low-season bookings, from now until just before Christmas, and announce offers of up to 50% off to entice travelers during the summer and fall.  June is also when airlines lower their late-summer fares to these destinations, hoping to get travelers past their hurricane jitters and fill seats during a slow period.  Whether you’re seeking an August family trip before the kids go back to school (and if you are, you should read my post for TripAdvisor on  family beach vacations that won’t break the bank) or a romantic tropical getaway this fall, now’s the time when you can find substantial room availability at highly reduced prices.

While August through October is hurricane season, the chance of a hurricane hitting your destination while you’re there is pretty rare (and you can buy travel insurance that protects you). You’re far more likely just to see a few showers. As a native New Yorker who has been to Mexico and the Caribbean several times in August, September, and October, I am here to tell you that August heat and humidity are worse in midtown Manhattan than they are on breezy Caribbean beaches, and that a couple of rain storms shouldn’t spoil a vacation at a big resort where there’s plenty to do.

To help you pinpoint the best summer and fall values for your dollar right now, I reached out to Mexico travel specialist Zachary Rabinor, who lives in Puerto Vallarta and takes his wife and kids to resorts all over the country, and to our WOW List specialists for the Caribbean.  Here are a few of their picks at this moment:

1. Viceroy Zihuatanejo, 10 miles from the Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Airport, Mexico  

This is a resort for romance-seeking couples who want to luxuriate on a 600-foot stretch of beach.  It’s offering 50% off rates that start at $176 for a deluxe split-level room and include daily complimentary breakfast for two. Available through December 21, 2014.

Viceroy Zihuatanejo Mexico

The pool at the Viceroy Zihuatanejo in Mexico

2. Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

A two-bedroom, 3,229-square-foot Panorama Suite here is a great option for families, says Rabinor: Each suite has a kitchen, dining room, living room, and private terrace with Jacuzzi. It’s virtually 50% off, as every second night costs only $1. The rate with the discount equates to $400 per night, and that includes all meals and snacks, non-motorized water sports, taxes, and gratuities. Book before July 1, 2014. Available until December 22.

3. Dream Sands Cancun Resort, Cancun, Mexico

This property doesn’t open till September 1st, but prices start at just $99 per person, per night, and kids stay and eat for free (that is, two kids staying in the same room as two paying adults). Given everything that’s included in your room rate (all gourmet meals, top-shelf spirits, and a supervised kids’ club open from 9 am till 10 pm), this deal seems like a gift to parents in need of a break and a few “date nights.”  Book by June 30 for stays from September 1, 2014 to April 10, 2015.

4. Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

A 45-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta airport,  this property offers activities as varied as surfing, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, and horseback riding, and it’s got a supervised–and complimentary–children’s program, not to mention a lazy river for family floats in inner tubes.  The resort is offering a third night free (during certain blocks of time, and based on availability), with rooms starting at $507 per  night. Available until December 23.

Four Seasons Punta Mita golf course

The Four Seasons Punta Mita’s golf course

5. Rosewood Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Located on a small  island of undeveloped white-sand beaches and secluded coves, this resort suits both couples in need of tropical tranquility and parents looking for a child-friendly vacation. There’s a complimentary Rose Buds supervised children’s program available from 9 am to 4 pm (closed Thursdays and Sundays). If you pay for five nights—starting at a rate of $415 per night—you get two additional nights free.  Available until December 18, 2014.

Little Dix Bay Beach Grill

The Beach Grill at Rosewood Little Dix Bay

6. The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, the Ritz-Carlton Aruba, and the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas

If you stay seven nights at any of these properties, you receive 40% off your bill. Doubles start at $175 per night in Cancun (where the deal is valid through December 24), $269 per night in Aruba (valid through December 19), and $299 in St. Thomas (valid through December 22). Book before June 30, 2014.