Friday, January 29, 2010

Love is in the Air: Hotel Vday Packages

There’s something about luxury hotels that brings out the romantic in all of us. So, with Valentine’s Day just weeks away, now’s the perfect time to book a romantic trip to a fabulous spot from Mexico to Manhattan. Here are a few ideas:

Hacienda San Angel, an intimate boutique hotel overlooking Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico offers a 2-night “Heavenly Escape” including a couples’ massage, sparkling wine, evening margaritas, breakfast in bed & airport transfers for $845 per couple.

Twin Farms, (pictured), a stunning restored farmhouse-turned-luxe-resort in Vermont features a three-night Valentine’s weekend package including all gourmet meals, drinks, hand-dipped chocolates, a bottle of Dom Perignon & a couples’ massage. All-inclusive price of $7,400 per couple includes accommodations in a cozy, plush Farmhouse room.

Plaza Athenee in the heart of NYC, pulls out all stops on Valentine’s Day with the booking of a deluxe balcony suite ($1,795/night). The one-night package includes a romantic dinner for two on private glass-enclosed terrace, a La Perla gift bag, V-day breakfast in bed, rose petal turndown, Champagne, roses, chocolate dipped strawberries & other special treats.

Dunton Hot Springs, tucked away in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, features a three-night Valentine’s Day getaway inclusive of three daily gourmet meals, a spa treatment of your choice, Champagne, flowers, chocolate-covered strawberries, and accommodations in a luxury cabin surrounded by Dunton’s mineral hot springs. Priced at $2,140 per couple, the weekend package also includes activities from snowshoeing to ice skating to cross-country skiing.

Cabo Azul, an all-villa luxury hotel in Los Cabos, Mexico, features a five-night Romance Package for $1,759, inclusive of accommodations in a stunning 1,200 square-foot villa, a couples’ massage, chocolate strawberries, sparkling wine, and a romantic dinner for two.

For the ultimate in romance, Paris is the place to be! We love the chic blend of classic style with modern design at Le Meurice, and the hotel’s “Pretty in Pink” package is made for Valentine’s Day. Priced from 580 euros/night, the package is filled with fanciful gifts like a bouquet of roses, pink petit fours, rose Champagne on arrival and upgraded accommodations.

To book any of the above, or for additional ideas on luxury hotels offering romance-inspiring packages, contact Elite Travel International at 310.979.9036 or via email

Saturday, January 16, 2010


As we criss-crossed the globe in 2009, my colleagues & I checked into luxury hotels we loved from Mexico to Peru, Italy to England, Bali to China & beyond. There are way more than 10 that we recommend, but we'll start with a Top 10 list of Where To Stay in 2010:

1) SONEVA GILI, THE MALDIVES: In addition to being visually spectacular & one of swankiest over-water-style island resorts in the world, the 45-villa, private-island property prides itself on having a staff that fully understand over-the-top. Just ask my client who proposed to his girlfriend here, in a seaplane circling a private beach where "Will You Marry Me?" was spelled out in coconut shells. Awesome spot for a honeymoon or any sort of romantic getaway.

2) AMAN AT SUMMER PALACE, CHINA: A must visit for anyone wanting the best of Beijing but in a setting different than a city business hotel. A peaceful retreat on the outskirts of the city, Aman at Summer Palace is a series of historic historic dwellings--some 100-years-plus--sitting next to the East Gate of Summer Palace. An incredible spa and a design inspired by the Ming Dynasty era are other reasons to stay here when Beijing bound.

3) Four Seasons Hampshire: This country-style estate just 30 minutes from Heathrow Airport has been on my "to visit" list for years. The style is pure traditional English countryside, while the service, food, setting and spa are five-star modern all the way. The presidential suite is a study in style with a blend of high-tech touches and classic yet ultra-tasteful furnishings. The just-outside-London property is truly the perfect spot for an authentic taste of English hospitality (and of course, be sure to book time at the Spa).

4) LAS CASITAS DEL COLCA, PERU: To say this is a special place is an over-exaggerated understatement. Located in Southern Peru, the stunning Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world (yet it sits high above sea level in the Andes). On a river bank in the Canyon, the 20-casita Orient-Express resort property offers a serious glimpse into true Andean life--from the farm-fresh cuisine to the unique culture. Combining this property with a visit to Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco and Hotel Miraflores in Lima is definitely the way to go. There's just nothing quite like waking up in the Colca Canyon to find baby alpaca strolling outside your private Peruvian casita.

5) AMANKILA, BALI: One of my all-time favorite beachside resorts in the world, I've been hard-pressed to find a prettier spot throughout my travels. Cliffside suites, three infinity swimming pools overlooking the Indian Ocean and the private Beach Club stand out as memorable features of an ultra-romantic property that's a must-visit in combination with Amandari in Ubud & Amanjiwo (just a short flight away in Java minutes from Borobudur, the world's largest Buddhist temple).

6) THE SURREY, NYC: Opened just since last fall, the new version of this newly redone classic Upper Eastside hotel is winning raves for its no-expense-spared style and accoutrements including Duxiana mattresses, Sferra bedding and Pratesi robes. The hotel's 190 salons and suites & white marble baths are luxe to say the least, and room service catered by Cafe Boulud is certainly a nice touch.

7) MAROMA RESORT & SPA, MEXICO: Located in a quiet corner of the Yucatan jungle on the Riviera Maya, Maroma Resort is just 45 minutes from Cancun. The traditional Mayan, residential-style property boasts one of best beaches in the region, and sits on a 25-acre jungle preserve where privacy is a given. All rooms have a distinct Mexican flavor,and we love the junior suites which offer fab thatched-roof terraces and both jungle & ocean views. The Kinan Spa, plus incredible food & a warmth felt property-wide are reasons to book a special getaway here in 2010.

8) TWIN FARMS, VERMONT: Where else can you possibly enjoy a solid dose of Vermont/New England hospitality in posh, beautifully decorated luxury cottages with food so good it's almost reason alone to book a stay at Twin Farms, a private country estate set on 300 acres just 10 miles from Woodstock, VT. Any time of year, the picturesque, garden-filled setting is spectacular, whether you prefer fall foliage, a white Christmas or a summertime adventure.

9) BAGLIONI ROME, ITALY: What can I say about one of my favorite Rome hotels other than it's better than ever after a massive (and much-needed) redo last year. The city center location on Via Veneto is as perfect as it gets for a serious shopping/dining/cultural escape, and the new suites are stunning Art Deco gems. Beautiful furnishings & artwork line the newly expanded lobby lounge while the on-site Brunello restaurant rivals some of the best spots citywide.

10) FOUR SEASONS COSTA RICA at PENINSULA PAPAGAYO, COSTA RICA: Add this property (pictured) to my list of favorite all-time warm-weather beach resorts. The lush setting, featuring a mix of low-rise buildings that blend into the natural background and stunning suites and private homes, is flanked by two serene beaches and features multiple swimming pools (including my fave, a quiet one). It's probably the best family resort in North America, with lots of connecting rooms/large suites plus separate kids' and teens' centers as well as plenty of off-site activities on offer. That said, couples should book their stays during non-holiday periods,as it's a very romantic setting and those who golf & spa will especially love it here. It's hard to top the incredible, genuine, high level of service and foodies like me will rave about the delicious options--everything from Latin to sushi to Italian and even a fabulous steakhouse. Most notable: the service and food both rate many notches above any luxury Caribbean resort competitors.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Happy New Year! Am just back from a fabulous week in Bali--with a sidetrip to Central Java thrown in for fun. Well that, and to experience Amanjiwo--one of the most unique properties in AmanResorts' collection--and of course, to see the sun rise at Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Suffice it to say this was a memorable trip (how could it not be with stays at 4 of the 5 AmanResorts properties in Indonesia?).

Bali's changed a lot since I last visited seven years ago--there's now a total of 51,000 hotel rooms island-wide, and plenty more traffic as well--but the culture, beauty and friendliness of the Balinese people truly sets the destination apart. From the beaches of Amanusa and East Bali , where Amanusa & Amankila are located respectively, to historical Ubud (home to Amandari), the diversity of Bali is highly underrated.

Beyond the beaches and beautiful resorts, there is plenty of trekking and biking for the active set, yoga teachers & healers island-wide, hand-crafted furniture, art galleries & temples nearly everywhere you look. Amazing cuisine (lots of fresh seafood, fresh fruits and Indonesian specialties like Nasi Goreng & Gado Gado), handmade clothing, jewelry and home furnishings are found throughout the island as well.

I only wish I'd had more time to enjoy all of the above, but being the luxury hotel junkie I am, much of my time was spent visiting many of the top properties on Bali. I loved each of the AmanResorts we stayed at, including Amankila (pictured), for its stunning Indian Ocean setting; Amanjiwo, for its gorgeous design and overall uniqueness (including views of Borobudur); Amandari for its authentic sense of place in the middle of Ubud; and Amanusa for its peaceful setting and beautiful suites. We loved the food at each of the properties, as well as the spas and the oversized swimming pools (especially the three with oceanviews at Amankila). The genuine warmth & consistent high level of service experienced at each of the Aman properties is something every luxury hotel worldwide should emulate.

A few other hotels I really liked for various reasons include The Bale, a chic Small Luxury Hotel located nearly next door to Amanusa. Beautiful spacious suites with private pools, a "Wellness" menu, yoga programs, a gorgeous swimming pool and terrific GM make this property one I'd definitely recommend to my yoga/health-minded clients. Those who want to enjoy the healthy living concept in the Ubud area should also consider Como Shambhala (formerly known as Begawan Giri). Here, guests stay in one of Como Shambhala's four main residences (each is nearly a hotel within the hotel)or a spa retreat villa and can enjoy a full program of health/wellness/yoga & spa treatments along with healthy cuisine on the grounds of a beautiful private Estate. Sister property Uma Ubud, a few minutes away, is a great option at a great price. Rooms are good sized, the property intimate and pretty, the food terrific and the location ideal.

Those who love glitz & glamour will find it (and ultra-high prices) at Bulgari Bali, a sophisticated blend of Italian style with Balinese beauty. The views from the "inclinator" leading to the resort's Beach Club are to die for, and service here is also over the top. Four Seasons Sayan, the Ubud property where Julia Roberts stayed during the filming of Eat, Pray, Love, is a good option for travelers who enjoy the high level of comfort (often geared to Americans) that's standard at all Four Seasons properties worldwide.

Highlights of my trip? Here goes: Waking up at 4 am to see the sun rise over the mountains at Borobudur in Central Java; private yoga classes at Amanusa's Beach Club and overlooking the river at Amandari; massages by the best masseuses I've experienced in the world at Amanjiwo & Amandari; Celebrating New Year's Eve with great friends over a fantastic dinner at Amankila (16 hours ahead of my friends in LA!); meeting amazing people at Bali's best resorts. No matter how pretty a property is, it's the people, the culture and the service you remember long after the vacation ends.

For more information or to chat with me about an upcoming visit to Bali, one of my all-time favorite destinations, email me at or call 310-979-9036.