Top Kid Friendly All Inclusive Island Resort

We’ve been hearing about Sirenis Hotels and Resorts’ family-friendly, all-inclusive resorts for awhile and we hear they’ve just done a great renovation at the new Grand Sirenis Punta Cana Resort. A $30 million dollar renovation and repositioning. Home to one of Punta Cana’s largest water parks (what?!), the all-new resort welcomed guests in December to experience the reimagined hotel just in time for those looking for a last minute winter getaway.

The transformation includes a complete renovation of guestrooms, lobby, common areas and restaurants, in addition to improvements of its amenities.

As part of the big reveal, Grand Sirenis Punta Cana Resort will unveil two new buildings that are home to a kids club, fitness center, medical center, pharmacy, beauty salon, local craft shops, and more. They’re also introducing a 7,000 sq ft spa, upgraded pool, and beach area featuring a 120-seat picnic table section.

The upgraded resort has also elevated its all-inclusive dining options with the introduction of new restaurant concepts including Tex Mex and La Gira Rodizio, a Brazilian steakhouse where foodies can dine on traditional Brazilian fare. In addition to new restaurants, there’s a health bar, sports bar, ice cream & coffee shop.

On the majestic Uvero Alto beach, Grand Sirenis Punta Cana is the ultimate playground for the entire family. Children can spend time at the all new Sirenios Kids Club which features a range of activities including a Lego building zone, “master chef” section, arts & crafts activities and more. Adults can test their luck in the casino, have a drink at a swim up bar, or dance the night away at El Bonche lounge. Families can slide into fun together at the Aquagames Water Park which features water towers and slides. With 7 themed restaurants, 3 buffets, 11 cocktail bars, 2 pools with beach-style access, and watersports. What more do you need?

February rates: For the month of February, guests can save up to 35% off average nightly rates of $318, based on double occupancy.

For more information or to book a stay at the new Grand Sirenis Punta Cana, visit www.sirenishotels.com

Small Luxury Hotel’s Top Caribbean Picks 2017

This just in from Small Luxury Hotels for 2017…

A Caribbean hotel round up! Check it out, swoon, and book (if you’re anything like me and really need a vacation… STAT).

the_manoah_anguilla_hotels

The Manoah – Anguilla

The Manoah Boutique Hotel: Shoal Bay, Anguilla

Every aspect of the brand new Manoah Boutique Hotel has been designed to celebrate its stunning location on the shores of Shoal Bay.  Opened in December 2016, the 25 bedrooms and suites are decorated in cool neutral shades and each room has a private glass-fronted veranda overlooking the beach. The resort boasts an Olympic-sized swimming pool surrounded by lush tropical gardens plus two tropical beach bars. Guests can opt to spend their days at the tranquil Manoah Spa, or relax on the powdery white sands of Shoal Bay taking in the view. Water sports such as paddle boarding, kayaking or scuba diving can also be arranged. Inspired by a delicious mix of global cuisines, chefs at the Ocean Beach Club Restaurant have created a unique menu using fresh seasonal produce, best enjoyed accompanied by the sound and sights of the sea.

SLH Insider Tip: With local stables nearby, spend an evening on horse-back with a sunset beach ride on Cove Bay.

www.slh.com/manoah

Rates: $350/night

anguilla best hotels

The Reef by CuisinArt: Anguilla

The Reef by CuisinArt: Anguilla

Desirably situated on Merrywing Bay on the tranquil island of Anguilla, The Reef by CuisinArt debuted in November 2016, revealing a beachfront contemporary oasis featuring 80 suites, directly on the Caribbean Sea. The hotel offers an array of accommodation, some with sea views and others that are right on the white sand beach with dramatic outdoor Jacuzzis. Fresh locally sourced ingredients from the on-property hydroponic farm and fresh seafood fill the menu at the nautical inspired fine dining restaurant, The Yacht Club, and the casual cool beach front bar and restaurant, Breezes. The architecture and design of the hotel is fresh and modern, with touches of colour and the sea brought inside and ocean views from almost every window.

SLH Insider Tip: Head to the other end of the island and take a boat out to tiny coral island, Scilly Cay, for live music, delicious lobster and for what many hail as the best rum punch on the island.

Rates: $500/night

www.slh.com/thereef

st barts best hotels

Le Barthelemy Hotel and Spa: St Barths

Le Barthélemy Hotel and Spa: St Barthélemy

This exclusive oceanfront resort is SLH’s first property in St Barth’s. The hotel opened its doors in November 2016, welcoming guests to its 46 rooms and suites with interiors by celebrated designer Sybille de Margerie and cuisine by Michelin-starred French chef, Guy Martin. The elegant boutique hotel perfectly captures the laid-back luxury of St Barth’s, with light airy interiors and genuine island hospitality. The bright and airy rooms and suites are decorated to reflect the white sands and turquoise blue of the ocean and each one opens out onto a private terrace with ocean or garden views and private swimming pool. Aux Amis, the resort’s restaurant serves a light menu during the day and in the evening the space opens onto a beachfront terrace where guests can enjoy French and international cuisine overlooking the bay. The hotel’s spa has partnered with luxury French skin care brand La Mer and offers a wide array of treatments in its open-air atrium.

SLH Insider Tip: On the south-east tip of the island sits Anse de Columbiere – this undeveloped bay is only accessible by foot or by boat and is a peaceful haven for those seeking somewhere secluded to swim and sunbathe.

Rates: $648/night

www.slh.com/barthelemy

nevis luxury hotels and villas paradise beach nevis

The pool at Paradise Beach Nevis

Paradise Beach: St Kitts and Nevis

Exclusivity, intimacy and personal service are key at this beachfront resort on the utopian island of St Kitts and Nevis. Boasting an idyllic location – nestled into a glorious white-sand beach and overlooking St Kitts and Mount Nevis – Paradise Beach Nevis has the distinction of being the only villa resort on the Caribbean island of Nevis. The resort is child friendly and the villas for up to eight people make it a great option for a family getaway. Each of the seven villas is its own personal palace with a marble or limestone bath, king beds, a sound system which allows guest to stream their own music, fitness studio, dining rooms for private meals, a private pool, a sea view and kitted out with Hermés bath products. The hand woven, palm roofs were designed to mirror the Nevis Peak, which, combined with lush gardens and an amazing beach, provide a paradise of luxury and tranquillity. 

SLH Insider Tip:  Probably one of the more well-known attractions but still well worth the hype is the Sugar train –the last scenic railway in the West Indies. The double decker carriages have open sided top decks for guests to enjoy the breeze along with their rum punch and the sounds of the trains own choir.

Rates: $876/night

www.slh.com/paradisebeach

turks and caicos hotels

Point Grace Resort and Spa: Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

Point Grace Resort and Spa: Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

An all-suite hideaway surrounded by perfect sandy beaches as far as the eye can see, Point Grace Resort and Spa overlooks the stunning Grace Bay and is SLH’s first hotel in Turks and Caicos. The tropical resort is turn-of the-century style with a contemporary twist and consists of 25 suites all spanning over 1,000 square feet, two restaurants and the Thalasso Spa, where treatments are inspired by the ocean. Grace’s Cottage, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant is an architectural gem featuring picturesque outdoor seating where old world elegance meets modern gourmet cuisine. Guests can also enjoy lunch and breakfast at Hutchings, which is nestled in a tropical garden and serves casual food with a Caribbean influence. A unique collection of African tribal crafts and artwork can be found dotted around the hotel, most of which are locally sourced from the island and lend an insight into the culture and travel experience of the turn of the century West Indian traveler.

SLH Insider Tip: If you’re a wildlife lover visit the Leeward settlement, an uninhabited islet known as ‘Iguana Island’ – a sanctuary for the endangered Turks & Caicos Rock Iguana.

Rates: $460/night

www.slh.com/pointgrace

LuxeFIT: Get Fit While You Travel

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Founder, Loren Ann Mayo

Two young businesswomen have found a way to combine their passion for travel and healthy lifestyles through a brand-new venture, luxeFIT. The company offers week-long luxury fitness retreats to exotic destinations, arranging workout sessions and activities, nutritious cuisine prepared by a private chef and opportunities for socializing and fun – all in a luxurious private beachfront estate setting.

LuxeFIT blends fitness, nutrition, adventure and the opportunity to explore new and exciting destinations worldwide. Our fitness adventure experts coordinate all-inclusive, week-long luxury fitness retreats to exotic destinations, offering workout sessions and activities, healthy food prepared by a private chef and opportunities for socializing and fun – all in luxurious villa settings.

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Co-Founder, Holly Morris

LuxeFIT blends fitness, adventure and nutrition with the opportunity to explore new and exciting destinations worldwide. The first retreat is slated for April 30 – May 6, in Barbados.

Activities will include yoga, paddleboarding, snorkeling, surfing and water-skiing, with numerous social opportunities — as well as free time — throughout. Excursions will be available to explore Harrison’s Caves, tour Mt. Gay Rum Distillery, shop in Holetown and more. It’s a great group for people who want to sweat it out every day and meet like-minded people and have fun in some of the most beautiful places on earth!” luxeFIT co-founder Loren Mayo says, “Retreats aim to be a place where guests feast on delicious, healthy cuisine, exercise in spirited and challenging sessions with top trainers, experience the sights and sounds of the area and, ultimately, return home looking and feeling better than when they left.”

Just as food typically plays a central role in any travel experience, healthy eating is at the core of a luxeFIT adventure. One of the founding principles of luxeFIT is to provide wholesome, delectable, locally produced meals for guests to enjoy. The accommodations feature a private chef, who will offer meals that meet guests’ nutritional needs, while taking great care to develop menus reflecting the culture of the destination. 

The two launched luxeFIT in November 2016, engaging Mia Duval, an Orangetheory fitness instructor in Sarasota, FL, as head trainer for the venture. Beyond the Barbados retreat, the duo is exploring additional options in the Caribbean and Mexico.

“From invigorating workouts to gourmet fare, this program is designed to nourish and energize our guests on every level, offering the perfect blend of cardio, rest and relaxation,” said Morris. “It’s paradise with a purpose — a better, more balanced you, in less than a week!”

Retreats are all-inclusive — all but airfare is included. Guests will enjoy six-nights in either a 5-Star villa or luxury condo, freshly prepared meals with an emphasis on local cuisine, fitness and yoga sessions, the ability to work out with a first-rate fitness instructor and round-trip transportation to group activities.

luxefit.co

Club Med, Cancun Yucatan: Have Kids, Must Travel

Club Med

Saar Harel – International Traveller, Father, Lover of Global Cuisine, and Water Sports

Saar Harel, international traveller, amateur chef, IT consultant extraordinaire, and father of Little Zeus, takes our readers on his first no-nonsense trip to all inclusive resort.

If you have kids and want to travel, an all-inclusive resort might be the right ticket for you.

My wife, one and a half year old son, and I travelled to Club Med Cancun Yucatan for our first all inclusive family trip to see if all-inclusive (and Club Med) was as easy and fun as it’s made out to be.

Getting There

Getting to Cancun is likely one of the biggest draws. Almost every city has a direct flight and it’s often only 3-4 hours away, no matter where you’re located in the United States. That’s fantastic. From Chicago, our flight was direct, 3.5 hours, and smooth as fresh jar of Jiffy.

You come out of immigration, look for the Club Med sign, and a coordinator and a driver will be waiting to take you to the resort. The ride is only 10-15 minutes so that, too, was incredibly easy. In fact, my wife was such a huge fan of how convenient the travel was with a baby that she’s hesitant to take another connecting flight, or a flight over 3.5 hours, with the baby again!

Club Med Cancun

A view from our 2 bedroom family room at Aquamarine

Picking Your Accommodations

Option 1: Jade – Jade is an exclusive 18 suites, 37 deluxe rooms with a lounge and their own infinity pool. They also have their own concierges which only Jade residents have access.

Option 2: Main Area – These are the original buildings and they have a beautiful view of the lagoon and main beach.

Option 3: “Family” Area – On the other side of the property where the tennis courts are located, this area is less “happening” so families can have a little more space. The beach in this area is less luxurious.

Option 4: Under renovation when we arrived. It is basically between Jade and the main beach.

We stayed Option 3, the “Family” area, particularly in the Aguamarina rooms. To be honest, they are all the same for me as you can reach anywhere within a 5 minute brisk walk and they have golf carts to drive you from one side to the other, if you don’t feel like walking. You just need to wait 5-10 minutes.

Rooms
We had a fridge and everything inside was well laid out. We were also on ground floor, so we had a small ocean front yard. You won’t be spending much time in your room anyway.

club med cancun map

Club Med Cancun Yucatan Map I revised so that you can cross-reference alongside this review

Beaches

Main Beach – This beach has the best view of Cancun’s strip and was, very likely, the best beach for those with children in all of Cancun. Highly recommend. A+

This beach is also next to the bar and there are servers who walk around refilling your never-ending drinks. As new parents, this was one of the best features. Also, in Club Med you don’t tip, so, you can leverage them all day and avoid the annoyance of tipping each time. The water is crystal clear and turquoise, and fish will swim all around you. The waves are non-existent {at least for us}, so it was very safe with our toddler and enjoyable, no waves breaking on your head. The beach is also fine nice sand and there are no rocks.

Snorkeling Beach – On the east side of the resort, there is a protected park where you can dive. No need to bring gear as they will give it to you. This was a big highlight for me as I saw barracudas, plenty of colorful fish, and even a stingray and turtle. They have some chairs laid out for your partner so they can get a tan while you catch the sights.

Las Cazuelas Beach – I call it that because it is next to Las Cazuelas restaurant. It is somewhat rocky. However, it’s far from the crowd, so, if you want to relax without seeing many people, it’s perfect. As it’s next to Las Cazuelas, you have the added bonus of being close to the restaurant buffet (which is also less crowded than the main buffet) and it feels like a ‘real’ restaurant.

Sailing Beach – I call this sailing beach since the sailing is done in this area. The beach is ok for tanning. You can also watch your partner sailing away. There is an underwater weed in the water, so this won’t be much fun to be in. However you can swim to your heart’s content and tan to a crisp. There is no bar here. So prep in advance.

Las Cazulas View Club Med

The view from Las Cazuelas while dining

Classes

At Club Med, you can take classes. This is great for kids and some adults. For example, you haven’t played tennis. Well, take the 10 AM class and a pro will teach you. This is like getting a free lesson and people were definitely taking advantage of this.

Sailing – Unfortunately, we came when there was no wind, so we didn’t get to sail. A bummer for us, but that’s not Club Med’s fault and we still loved the idea that it was so conveniently located next to Cazuelas and our room.

Water Skiing – Water ski runs all year round inside the lagoon. You come in, wait a turn. Then start performing. If you don’t know how, then the beginner lessons are easily available.

Trapeze – They have trapeze lessons, they are not too daunting. You basically work on being able to use your muscles and core to swing and keep swinging. Easy peasy just make sure you arrive dry and clothed. My wife thought being in a wet bathing suit wouldn’t be an issue and didn’t want to have to go all the way back to the room so just a small detail to know.

There are many other classes, from gym to sports like beach volleyball, which all offer you an opportunity to perform an activity with others and a chance to bond about it and hopefully create an enduring friendship or just have fun while on the resort.

Club Med Children

Little Zeus knows how to chillax

Excursions
Day Trips – Every day, Club Med organizes and you can join a different trip. The trips change daily and are an excellent way to see Mexico in a safe, organized fashion. You wake up, you board a bus, it takes you to a site, for example the Pyramids, then it stops for food, another site, and you’re back. This is excellent when you have children or want a break from being on a break and can’t take another cocktail on the beach with the sun beating on your head #firstworldproblems. This sure beats getting a rental, getting lost, planning, drama, etc.

Diving – Club Med is famous for being a resort that caters to divers, they have a diving office and can easily arrange excellent, safe trips with vetted instructors who are proficient in your language. They can also match the trip to your experience level, so you enjoy yourself and not struggle against the current the whole time. They also can arrange classes if you want to get going and intro dives if you’ve never done it before.

Kids, kids

This place is perfect for kids. When they are small, they’re clingy. By the time they hit 5-10, they can barely stand you, and when they hit the teen years, they are too cool to be with you. So, this place is perfect. Safe, as this is a compound, plenty of activities for them, they can go play soccer, swim, hang, sit at the teen bar, and sip some juice, etc.

If they are 2 and above there is also “Petit Club Med” where incredibly kid-friendly instructors will take care of them for you. Trust me, at the end of the day, they will be exhausted and, during the day, they won’t ask you to build sand castles. So, you and your partner can enjoy “vacation” and not feel like scout instructors.

If they are less than 2, you can ask for a vetted baby sitter who can watch your baby while you charge your batteries.

Food at Club Med Cancun Yucatan

Gotta love the carved fruit

Food

Club Med has some set hours:

  • La Hacienda

A Baby corner is available during regular open hours.

  • Breakfast                                        7:00-10:30
  • Lunch                                             12:00-14:15
  • Dinner                                            19:00-22:00
  • Las Cazuelas
    • Breakfast                              7:00-10:30
    • Lunch                                   13:00-16:00
    • Dinner                                  19:00-21:30
  • La Estancia (Steak house at night)
    • Late Breakfast                     10:30-12:00
    • Snack                                    16:00-18:30
    • Dinner (Steak House)       19:00-21:30
    • Snack                                    22:00-00:30

Note: these hours are note set in stone and may vary. However, they also offer you the ability to eat outside those hours. You can simply head over to the La Estancia during  “Snack” hours and they will give you a menu and you can order like a restaurant.

Most meals are a huge buffet with a very wide selection including local cuisine and international one. So, you won’t be stuck eating Mexican rice and beans and can have your pasta, if so inclined.

Dinners are the best, there are two locations. La Estancia which is now an Argentinian grill and La Cazuela which is a Mexican themed restaurant. Both require a booking and then you can eat in them like a regular restaurant with your selection in the menu. If you don’t care for that, you can go to the Main restaurant and eat buffet for dinner.

Club Med Food

If you’re hungry and looking for a nibble in between drinks, they often serve appetizers like this near the main bar. Score.

All in all, there is a lot of fish near Cancun, so the selection mirrors that and you can get extremely good fish dishes.  The chicken is also very good. You won’t find lamb and the steaks won’t be Texas grade but everything was good and we would take seconds and thirds.

As a word of warning, sometimes in buffets some things can be a miss. For example, on Day 2 the rice was undercooked. However, there is such a huge selection you can just pick something else. So I recommend putting “mini” tasters on your plate in round one. Then come back for what you liked in round two.

Wine/beer

If you love wine but don’t know exactly how to describe a pinot grigio vs a pinot gris  then they offer a good basic red or white. If you are more discerning, try the Rosato {rose wine}. It was better than the standard free house red or white, I would rate it as a C. If you are very picky, ask for the wine menu, it’s an extra cost, but the prices are the same as you would pay at a resort. Their selection is quite good.

For beer, the tap was Dos Equis which was fine by me.

For cocktails, they are excellently done and not strong, but just strong enough. So, you can glue the cocktail glass to your hand and have them all day without passing out or embarrassing your kids. My wife recommends the caipirinha and was happy that they tasted good, had a decent amount of alcohol, but weren’t so strong to give her a hangover. I had never been to an inclusive and pretty much swore myself off of ever going this route, but once I had a baby, I was open to trying anything that was easy.

All in all, Club Med was an excellent way to vacation, without breaking the bank.  It is also extremely safe and well laid out so you can enjoy your time and your kids can enjoy their time without you hovering above them.

This place offers a lot of options. Coordinate with another family and enjoy a joint vacation, go out and see Mexico, take some diving, polish your tennis, try that water ski you always see on TV, relax with some bocce ball, try some trapeze, you get to choose and the staff was excellent.

Club Med Yucatan

A storm looked like it was moving in, but after a nighttime drizzle, the sky was clear and the weather was perfect. Beautiful colored canopies and ambient lightening make parents feel like they’re in a more hip version of a family establishment.

Big Positives

  1. No Tipping allowed – so no need to lug cash!
  2. Safe – this place is a compound, you can pretty much leave your phone on the chair and no one will steal it.
  3. Nice – staff are the nicest, they are recruited from all over the world, so they can speak French, Italian, Spanish, German, and English. We found them to be friendly genuine people. They are especially good with the kids as kids can tell a phony from 100 yards away.

Things to Know

  1. Make sure you bring Deet bug spray. The resort is surrounded by a mangrove and, at night, the mosquitos can be annoying. They don’t sell Deet, they only sell Citronella, which did not work for us.
    So, bring your Deet and you will have a perfect vacation.
  2. If you plan on learning to dive, there are pre-requisites. Like a medical exam, etc. So call them and make sure you bring all the paper work. Like I said, they are methodical and safe and won’t let you go without the requirements being met. I can respect that.

Grade: A-/B+

Club Med Cancun Yucatan

Aruba, Adults Only

Bucuti's Romantic Beachside Huts

Bucuti’s Romantic Beachside Huts

Normally, we don’t write about Adult’s Only properties because it always makes us think of nudist colonies, but, sometimes, when we go on vacation, we do want some peace and quiet. Enter: Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts, one of Aruba’s premier boutique resort for couples. The award winning, owner managed resort caters to adults only and has earned a number of awards and honors. Most recently, Bucuti was named number one in the top 25 hotels in the Caribbean by TripAdvisor and is the only resort in Aruba to be honored in this category. Additionally, Bucuti was named number two in the top 25 hotels for romance in the Caribbean, number four in the top 25 hotels for service in the Caribbean and was honored among the top hotels for romance in the world. Bucuti has also appeared on Condé Nast Traveler’s prestigious Gold List, recognizing the world’s best places to stay.

A chic standard room at Bucuti

A chic standard room at Bucuti

Located on the white-powder sands of Eagle Beach, designated as one of the “Dream Beaches of the World,” Bucuti’s 104 guest rooms and suites, freshwater infinity pool, and Day Spa, make it recognized as a Five Star Diamond Resort by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences.

We also like the property because it’s certified Green Globe 21, ISO 14001 and ISO 9001, and is a leader in sustainable tourism throughout the world, earning the Green Globe High Achievement Award. If vegging on the beach isn’t the only thing you’re after, Bucuti supports the local community with  monthly beach clean-ups, the Turtugaruba sea turtle protection group, and Donkey Sanctuary Aruba.

Eagle Beach, Aruba

Eagle Beach, Aruba

Did we mention that the resort is also TAG Approved® as a gay friendly hotel?

So, you can have an all around relaxing time on one of the best beaches in the world AND feel good about it.

From around $300/night

www.bucuti.com