Monday, November 30, 2009

PURE News, Part 2...

As promised, here's the inside scoop on a few more cool, very unique travel experiences I discovered on my recent visit to Marrakech for the 1st annual PURE Life Experiences travel show:

One of the hottest hotel openings this year, hands down, will be The Ranch at Rock Creek, near Philipsburg, Montana. Set for a soft opening this Dec. 17, the all-inclusive, 6,000-acre resort (shown) offers luxe accommodations in heated signature tents, main lodge rooms as well as plush 3- to 5-bedroom log homes. Pricing includes all meals, drinks, airport transfers and most activities, which run the gamut from horseback riding and fly fishing to hiking, biking, clay shooting, archery, river rafting--even bowling at the on-site 4-lane alley! A gorgeous spa plus close proximity to golfing, skiing at Discovery Hill & local attractions (ie, ghost towns, live theater, historical sites) are additional unique selling points. The property is perfect for a destination wedding, a corporate retreat, a family vacation or an active yet relaxing getaway for, well, just about anyone!

In a totally different corner of the world is yet another favorite find of mine: the Saadani Safari Lodge. Billed as a "Safari Lodge on a Beach", this intimate oceanfront property was named "Chic Shack" of the year in 2008 by Elle Magazine and is located just 15 minutes by air from Zanzibar. Activities include both riverboat and walking safaris as well as game drives, which can be followed by a relaxing afternoon at the swimming pool or a walk on the beach (possibly following the footprints of a lion who lives nearby!). Accommodations are tented oceanview cottages swathed in Zanzibar netting, some feature al fresco (screened in) beds for full effect of the amazing natural setting. Also an option: the luxurious Siri Suite, complete with private kitchen, private pool, private beach access, private safaris, al fresco shower & butler service. Coming soon: Saadani River Lodge. Opening next summer, the Lodge's sister property is a 18-room gem that will feature hidden treehouse-style rooms, ideal for those seeking a truly secluded retreat!

Another very cool option for an active, outdoorsy-style getaway is Sonora Resort, an 88-room retreat located in British Columbia, 45 minutes from Vancouver by helicopter. Following an $80 million renovation, the property now features everything from indoor tennis courts to a 12-seat movie theater, a heated oceanview ppol, a putting green, virtual golf, kayaking, world-famous fly fishing and even Grizzly Bear tours! Gourmet meals (prepared by one of the Top Foodies Under 40 according to Western Living) and all drinks, activities, wireless internet, phone service in North America are included in the rates, which range from about $600-$800 (per room, double) depending on the season.

For more information on these incredibly cool properties or to discuss your next getaway, contact Elite Travel International at 310.979.9036 or via email at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

PURE News, Part One...

I just returned from a week in Marrakech where I, along with 700 leading travel industry buyers and sellers, attended the first annual, invitation-only PURE Life Experiences global travel trade show. This wasn't just any travel trade show. Over a course of five days, I had the chance to meet & mingle--in Morocco!--with the owners & operators of some of the coolest travel companies in the world.

Here's the first of several posts highlighting some of my favorite PURE discoveries:

One of my favorite new companies is AquaExpeditions , a two-year-old Peru-based soft-adventure specialist run by CEO/owner Francesco Galli Zugaro. Set to debut a sister ship to its 24-passenger, 130-foot custom-built MV Aqua next year, Aqua Expeditions allows guests to enjoy the most unspoiled reaches of the Peruvian Amazon--in comfort--for three, four or seven nights. According to National Geographic Traveler Editor Keith Bellows: "If you want to see the real Amazon, the Aqua is the way to do it." All-inclusive rates run from $2,250 (3 nights) to $5,250 (7 nights) per person.

If you do prefer a Peruvian land adventure, consider the 7-day/6-night Machu Picchu lodge-to-lodge run by Mountain Lodges of Peru. Priced from $2,010/person, this guided small group trip (no more than 12 people) includes 4 to 6 hours of guided walking per day, all meals and comfortable accommodations in four small lodges along the Inca Trail. I highly recommend extending your stay at the Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel, a 60-room luxury boutique hotel at the base of Machu Picchu town (20 minutes from the archaeological site). This chic two-year-old property features an outdoor restaurant w/stunning views, locally designed, Andean-style furnishings, a spa, yoga, cooking lessons & gourmet cuisine prepared by one of Peru's top chefs.

For a true respite, a week at one of the wellness retreats I discovered at PURE may be in order. Take your pick: Valencia, Spain or the Kenyan coast? In Spain (just outside Valencia), the Sha Wellness Clinic is a former country house-turned-wellness clinic. Built on the principals of prevention and well-being, Sha is "macrobiotics for modern times," according to its owners, who tell me: "You come here to change your life". The stylish accommodations and setting are just the backdrop for the true purpose of a week's stay at Sha, which include a personalized treatments/stress management program, macriobiotic meals, spa treatments, yoga & accommodations in a seaview suite.

I promised Sabina, the Italian-born, Kenya-based manager of Lion in the Sun Retreat, I will absolutely come visit her next year and I intend to live up to my word. Formerly a private house, this charming property owned by Italian doctor Henri Chenot is definitely where to head when detox + R&R are in order. Set across from a stunning private beach, the Kenyan retreat offers tailor-made wellness programs featuring a mix of Chinese & Western medicine, hydrotherapy, spa treatments, accommodations and delicious healthy meals. Who wants to join me on a Kenyan wellness retreat in 2010?

For more information on any of the companies mentioned, feel free to email or visit Look for additional EliteTravelGal posts this week highlighting other cool discoveries from PURE Life!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Lowdown on Luxury Hotels & Why to Book Now Not Later...

A few months ago, I wrote a post stating that I disagreed with MSNBC's article about how 2010 would be "the year of the travel deal". I commented that 2009 was indeed the year of the travel deal, and those who hadn't taken advantage of the deep discounts on offer would likely lose out on the lowest prices we've seen in years.

After spending all of today trying to find space over Xmas at a luxury resort for a family of 11 and nearly coming up empty (with the exception of $3,800/night suites, $2000/night rooms or a private home rental for $75,000/week), I hold fast to my original theory. And I'm not the only one. A report published today by states: "US airfares are increasing daily, and those who hold out in hopes of travel bargains this winter season are being punished. In fact, some routes are 50 percent more expensive now, compared with their price over the summer.

Does this mean don't travel? OF COURSE NOT. It simply means STOP waiting for the fares and rates to drop, as they already hit rock bottom earlier this year. And, if you're even thinking about taking a holiday vacation--or traveling to a warm weather destination anytime this winter, you'd best make plans sooner than later.

As I stated in this month's Cigar Aficionado article titled "Luxury For Less", we are in fact, still seeing offers for free nights & value adds at luxury hotels (including many that never offered such options in the past). But in order to enjoy them, book soon or risk finding no--or high-priced--airline seats to your resort of choice.

A few of the luxe properties offering post-holiday& high-season specials, including free nights with a minium four-night stay, are: Jade Mountain, St. Lucia; Caneel Bay, St. John; Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda; Pink Sands, Bahamas; Rosewood Mayakoba, Mexico; and Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos.

And, for those of you who've not yet made your XMAS/New Year's plans, contact us ASAP. Unlike this time last year, space IS limited but we DO have inside scoop on limited last-minute options on St. Barts, Anguilla, Turks & Caicos, Cabo & Punta Mita.

The BEST deal I've seen still on offer for XMAS/New Year's week is the 20 percent discount available at Capella Resorts--in both Cabo and Ixtapa, Mexico. The latter has amazing suites with private oceanview plunge pools priced from just $475 (pre-discount), including daily breakfast. This deal disappears on Nov 15, however, so heed the advice I gave months ago--and gave today. THIS is the year of the travel deal.

For more information on any of the resorts mentioned, or to book an upcoming holiday or winter trip, contact us via email or call 310.979.9036.