Unique Island Escapes

And now… for Small Luxury Hotels unique island escapes!

Fiji Best Hotels

Kokomo Island: Kadavu Islands, Fiji

Kokomo Island: Kadavu Islands, Fiji

Combining luxury, sustainably and unspoilt beauty, Kokomo Island is Fiji’s newest and most exclusive private island resort, situated on the edge of the celestial Kadavu Island group. Kokomo Island opened in March 2017 and is the first SLH hotel in Fiji. The boutique property is encircled by the untouched Great Astrolabe Reef so ideal for diving enthusiasts (the hotel has its own Dive Centre for guests). The 21 villas, owner’s beachfront residence and five hilltop residences are designed for privacy and comfort, featuring sustainable design and traditional Fijian touches, all alive with character. Guests can enjoy fresh, sustainably-sourced produce at the resort’s three restaurants, as well as a number of dining experiences including a chef BBQ and private island picnic. The Kokomo Island spa blends world-class Sodashi products with rejuvenating indigenous Fijian beauty rituals to create signature treatments. The hotel is a personal passion project for Australian billionaire property developer, Lang Walker, who, together with his family, has brought his vision for an island paradise like no other to life.

SLH Insider Tip:  Visit the nearby manta ray cleaning station, where manta rays come to get freshened up by wrasse fish, and take the opportunity to swim with the rays.

Rates: $1,795/night

www.slh.com/kokomo

Greek villas

Naxian Collection Luxury Villas and Suites: Naxos, Greece

Naxian Collection Luxury Villas and Suites: Naxos, Greece

Rates: $288/night

www.slh.com/naxian

Situated on the lesser known Greek island of Naxos, Naxian Collection is a chic hill-top retreat with ten sugar cube white villas and suites providing a serene sanctuary. The cave-like rooms are decked out with minimalist interiors, cream walls, bamboo screens and giant bathtubs. Each room offers stunning views over landscaped gardens, lagoons and nearby Naxos town, which is just two miles away. Pretty Agios Prokopios beach is just a ten minute walk from the property and there are plenty of walking or horse-riding trails to keep outdoorsy guests busy. The hotel’s kitchen boasts plenty of local organic ingredients and traditional Naxian recipes from the property’s own organic field, free-range chicken coop, nearby olive groves and the family vineyards. It also has its own wine cellar which is home to a formidable selection of local wine.

SLH Insider Tip: Try and time your stay with a classical music concert or violin recital at the Venetian Museum of Naxos in the Kastro which offers live entertainment year round.

Sikelia Pantelleria, Italy

Sikelia: Pantelleria, Italy

Sikelia: Pantelleria, Italy

Known as the ‘Black pearl of the Mediterranean’, Pantelleria is a perfect escape for adventurous travellers willing to voyage a little further to be rewarded by natural volcanic hot springs, a rugged coastline, spectacular caves surrounded by the bluest of seas and warm volcanic waters to swim in. The enigmatic owner, Giulia Pazienz, ensures all the service is personal, friendly and sincere. Built out of an ancient dammuso, designed by the island’s most famous resident architect – Gabriella Guintoli, the wild beauty of the island is reflected in the hotel itself. Ancient pottery, glazed painted tiles and predominantly dark shades throughout lend an air of drama to the property. The 20 rooms are unique yet share a stylish design with meticulous attention to the finer details, with Frette linens and Hermés products in every bathroom. At the hotel’s restaurant, Themá, the chef combines fresh fish and shellfish with vegetables grown in Sikelia’s own garden, serving bold flavours from Arabia, Africa and Southern Italy. This is all served with intense, aromatic wine from the owner’s estate, made from the Zibibbo grape, indigenous of the island.

SLH Insider Tip: For a more informal dining experience, guests can head to the owner’s Coste Ghirlanda Wine Laboratory which is flooded with candles and offers a rustic cosy vibe where guests eat under the stars on communal kitchen tables.

Rates: $360/night

www.slh.com/sikelia

To make a booking visit www.slh.com or call 1-877-234-7033

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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

Beautiful Bali: Monkey Mayhem and Filthy Gorgeousness

Last week, I ventured off to Bali for a little R&R and, accordingly, I must share a few photos with the highlights. It was a whirlwind trip (just a weekend in Bali, folks), but I managed to pack in both Jimbaran Bay and Ubud and monkeys, of course, lots of devilishly cute, but don’t mess with ’em monkeys. I look forward to spending more time in this fascinating Goddess filled land of rice and Ganesha!

Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali

Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali 

We arrived late in the evening to gracious staff who had us beat a gong three times to announce our entrance. Although it was pitch black, the grounds were more impressive than we could imagine. After making reservations the very day we were to arrive through one of my new favorite websites for Asia, Agoda, we booked garden rooms at the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali for approximately $350 USD and, to our amazing surprise, they had overbooked those rooms so we were upgraded to villa rooms. And, when I say villa rooms, I mean, one bedroom villas, each with it’s own private pool and a separate sitting area with enough space for three people as the sofa was large enough to nap comfortably.

A quick photo of my private villa pool

A quick photo of my private villa pool

Needless to say, when we each awoke to see the villas in daylight, we were blown away. We were very close to staying at the Four Seasons or InterContinental, but Agoda showed that the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali had last minute availability (and a better price), so we were thrilled. We were also keen to stay somewhere that felt authentically Balinese and this did the trick. With offerings and statues scattered around the lush grounds, along with a massive common pool and beachfront dining, it was really a no brainer.

Complete with entertainment in the evenings…

Firedancers at the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali

Fire Dancers at the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali

Next up, we took a quick (way too quick, but we were short on time) jaunt to Ubud, where we dined amid rice fields and visited the Ubud Market. I am still kicking myself for not having enough time to visit all the cool shops in Ubud, but my wallet is probably thanking me.

Dining in the rice field on satay and smoked fish

Dining in the rice field on satay and smoked fish

When we ordered Smoked Fish, I’ll admit, I thought it would be smoked like Whitefish or Salmon, but it was more like Steamed Fish. A tasty melange of garlic and subtle curry flavors rounded out this impressive looking snapper.

Balinese Smoked Fish

Balinese Smoked Fish with a salad of cooked bean sprouts and green beans, and a sugar cane covered fish cake on the side

But wait… I forgot to mention Monkey Forest in Ubud! How could I forget? This hanging forest meets monkey haven is an experience worth flying 20 hours to see. Monkeys and little monkey babies run wild and have no shame! You buy bananas at the entrance without realizing that once the monkeys see you they will jump on top of you and go, quite literally, bananas.

This little mom and her baby stole my heart (I was out of bananas).

Monkey Forest - Ubud, Bali

Monkey Forest – Ubud, Bali

We finished our day trip with a stop at Tanah Lot, a Hindu temple sitting on a rock formation on the coast, along the beach. It was quite interesting in that it felt as if we had stepped back in time (complete with a Holy Snake you could pay a small donation to touch). That said, it was quite crowded which hampered the allure a bit.

Tanah Lot Hindu Guardian

Tanah Lot Hindu Guardian

However, I did manage to capture one nice sunset, even if the actual temple view was obscured by too many tourists.

The sunset from Tanah Lot Temple

The sunset from Tanah Lot Temple

I finished the outing off with a massage at the hotel and a promise to always make the most of life’s brief moments. Even if it means a very rushed weekend trip to Bali after a crazy turbulent flight. In this case, my 60 minute moments equalled a very powerful Balinese massage where I was covered in the most delicious smelling orange bergamot oil.

The Belmond's beachfront outdoor spa

The Belmond’s beachfront outdoor spa

Because like life, and this storefront in Ubud, it’s filthy and it’s gorgeous and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

ubud stores

Layla Revis, Editor-in-Chief

Layla Revis, Editor-in-Chief

Passionate traveller, blogger, journalist, mother, and friend. Revis loves almost every type of food, but she won’t eat organs… or water chestnuts.

When she’s not flying to Asia for work as Senior Vice President – Global Digital Strategy Director at Leo Burnett, she can be found shamelessly watching trash television or reading Foucault. High/Low with rarely an ‘in between,’ her recent motto is:

“Live large… and love always.”

5 Top Design Hotels To Check In… and Out

11 Mirrors - Kiev, Ukraine (c) Design Hotels

11 Mirrors – Kiev, Ukraine (c) Design Hotels

There’s more than one thing that we love about hotel stays when we travel (spa, spa, spa, room service, room service, room service), but at the top of that list of “Pros” is the opportunity for us to discover, examine, and fully experience the many facets of art and design that go into creating a property. The idea that we can be transported to another world, inside a new world, thrills us. Design Hotels™ has been a part of our own travel story for years. Created by a global community for passionate travelers who love design, architecture, and culture, today, through it’s collaborators and community, these innovators, designers, and dreamers are behind some of the most original hospitality experiences around the globe.

So, take a journey through five inspirational properties, handpicked by Design Hotels™’s very own travel experts.

Incheon, Korea - nest hotel

Incheon, Korea – nest hotel

nest hotel, Incheon, South Korea recommended by Carsten Lima, Area Director, APAC, Design Hotels™

Located on the island of Yeongjongdo, the setting of nest hotel is absolutely spectacular with views overlooking the Yellow Sea and neighboring islands. Perfection is sitting on one’s balcony and being surrounded by pine trees and reed fields, a nesting ground for the local bird population and the inspiration for the hotel’s name. The reeds sway with the sea breeze and when the sun catches the landscape, it produces the most exquisite kaleidoscope of colors. The sense of tranquility is continued through the simple and sleek interiors of the 360 rooms, all of which feature diagonally placed windows designed to optimize the amount of sunlight streaming through.

Hotel Hotel - Canberra, Australia

Hotel Hotel – Canberra, Australia

Hotel Hotel, Canberra, Australia recommended by Brandon Chan, Director of Sales & Marketing, APAC, Design Hotels™

Housed in a Japanese-inspired building, at first glance Hotel Hotel would seem to be entirely removed from its location. However, the functional and minimalist interiors of the 68 guestrooms have been created using humble, locally-sourced materials such as natural clay, recycled oak and aged cork. Hotel Hotel’s program of thoughtful sustainability is evident at almost every level: from the off-form concrete structure, to the repurposed furnishings and central staircase fashioned from salvaged timber. Taken as a whole, this breathing cornerstone of the Australian capital is a “vertical village” that contains the Palace Electric cinema, cafés and bars. The hotel’s public lounge is a series of nested spaces formed by rough-formed concrete, home to two large fireplaces and a library thoughtfully stocked with independent magazines and vintage books.

Sir Albert Hotel - Amsterdam, Holland

Sir Albert Hotel – Amsterdam, Holland

Sir Albert Hotel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands recommended by Henning Schaub, Sales Manager, Central & Eastern Europe, Design Hotels™

The building was once a diamond factory but there’s no doubt that Sir Albert Hotel is shining at its brightest right now. Amsterdam’s cool and creative crowd is flocking to the hotel’s IZAKAYA Asian Kitchen & Bar, created by Yossi Eliyahoo, and the restaurant’s adjoining private terrace with sweeping city views is the perfect spot for sundowners. For those staying in one of the 90 stylish guestrooms once the party winds down, Sir Albert’s unique brand of ‘bedside burger’ room service comes courtesy of De Pijp foodie hotspot The Butcher. Wait… BEDSIDE BURGER ROOM SERVICE? I think I’m in love.

Vertigo Hotel Spa - Dijon, France

Vertigo Hotel Spa – Dijon, France

Vertigo Hotel, Dijon, France recommended by Samantha Schellhase, Head of Portfolio Development, EMEA, Design Hotels™

Set in the historic heart of Dijon, the capital of Burgundy and one of the four official French cities of gastronomy, Vertigo Hotel is intrinsically linked with world-class food and wine. This may be reason alone to visit for us and the hotel has fully embraced this culinary heritage, starting with the chic retro bar which serves a wide selection of vintage burgundy wines, alongside classic French cocktails. Quite possibly my favorite. For the best and most unique sampling of the region, the mini bars in each of the 42 rooms are sourced strictly with products from Burgundy. Bedside wine tastings come in the form of single-serving ‘test tubes’, a personal favorite and a great way to sample the region.

The Gate Hotel - Tokyo, Japan

The Gate Hotel – Tokyo, Japan

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon, Tokyo, Japan recommended by Aik Wee Ong, Director of Account and Revenue Management, APAC, Design Hotels™

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon and its 136 rooms is nestled in the culturally-rich neighborhood of Asakusa, steps from the main temple gate of Kaminarimon and surrounded by independent shops and restaurants oozing with the charm of old Japan. Far from being stuck in the past, the district is constantly evolving by embracing innovative art and design, and The Gate Hotel with its clean, contemporary vibe is playing a considerable role in this evolution. The sweeping panoramic views from the hotel’s lobby and restaurant offer guests a birdseye view of the shifting and contrasting landscape of one of Tokyo’s most exciting destinations.

Mexico: Swanky Deals to Spa For at Mexico Velas Resorts

Hotel Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo. Mexico

The Sultry Spa at Hotel Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo. Mexico

This just in! Mexico’s Velas Resorts are celebrating summer by showcasing a selection of special spa treatments for $99 each at their world-class destination spas, a savings up to 50%. Guests are invited to indulge in popular treatments ranging from a rejuvenating Radiance of Pearls Facial to an innovative Velas Fish Therapy Pedicure. The spa promotions are available from June through October at the four resorts, which include: Casa Velas, Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit and Velas Vallarta.

At Casa Velas, a highlight of the spa treatments offered is the Dead Sea Mud Wrap, which utilizes mud from the richest waters in the world, providing an ideal concentration of essential salts and minerals. A unique therapy at Grand Velas Riviera Maya is its Velas Fish Therapy, which incorporates the famous Gara Rufa fish, small fish from Asia that produce an enzyme in their mouths that eat dead skin cells and help repair minor skin lesions. The treatment is complete with a relaxing pedicure to polish the nails.

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Spatasticness

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Spatasticness

The Spa at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit will be showcasing three 25-minute spa specials: Back Massage, Tired Legs Massage, and a Face and Head Acupressure Treatment. At Velas Vallarta, guests are invited to enjoy its Seaweed Salt Scrub and Foot Massage, which uses seaweed salt to eliminate dead cells and improve circulation with a relaxing foot massage.

We’re already planning our trip now as The Spas at Velas Resorts have won numerous industry awards, including Most Excellent Spa Hotel by Condé Nast Johansens, Virtuoso’s Best Spa in the World, Trip Advisor Traveler’s Choice Award for Best Spa Hotel, a SpaFinder Readers’ Choice, and Travel + Leisure’s Best Spas, to name just a few.

Treatment options vary by location and month, but have a look and, who knows? Maybe you can get your feet properly cleaned and pampered by little fish too!

www.velasresorts.com

New York: Jumeriah Essex House

Oh, fond memories of the Essex House. I spent the first days of first love on this very street. I can remember the smell of Springtime in Central Park. It was just like a movie with Sandra Bullock… with brown hair, before the bad news.

Anyone who’s anyone knows all about it. It’s right next door to the St. Regis Club and it’s famous among native New Yorkers for hosting some of the swankiest homegrown city dwellers around. And the weddings there… don’t get me started. So, with Central Park bursting into bloom and New York City springing back to life, Jumeirah Essex House is celebrating the power of spring.

Enjoy all the season has to offer for an invigorating retreat with their brand spanking new ‘Eternal Spring Package.’ Get pampered in The Spa, explore Central Park (it’s right across the street, baby), enjoy a delectable greenmarket meal at South Gate (their onsite tip top restaurant) and leave with a special gift to inspire… positive change. Seasons… they’re all about change, you know. Here are the deets. Again, you pay for luxury, but in this case, it’s worth it.

Eternal Spring Package: Starting at $554 through June 21st

– overnight accommodations at the iconic Jumeirah Essex House

– luxurious room upgrade upon arrival

– an hour-long reviving treatment in The Spa, including a facial and 30 minute massage

– three-course greenmarket meal for two at South Gate, the award-winning on-site restaurant designed by top NYC designer, Tony Chi.

South Gate opened to rave reviews in 2008 and stands as one of the city’s newest “must try” dining destinations. Seasonally-inspired modern American menu created by renowned Executive Chef Kerry Hefferna features fresh, contemporary fare including Flan of English Peas and Butter Poached Lobster in a warm, sleek interior with a fireplace underneath a massive skylight, inverted mirror wall design, and a wine selection of 1,200 bottles (don’t let me near ’em!). It was also recently given top marks by MICHELIN Guide and Zagat Survey for its standout cuisine, gracious service and gratifying dining experience.

– cocktails for two: the Flower Sour, our most popular drink

– a complimentary mp3 walking tour and map of Central Park

– a copy of “The Real You Diet” by Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom

The Eternal Spring Package at the Jumeirah Essex House starts at $554 per night.

Call: 1-888-645-5697 or visit www.jumeirahessexhouse.com

The Four Seasons Punta Mita, Mexico

When one of our favorite journalists/artists/friends, Elliot V. Kotek, informed us of his recent jaunt to the Four Seasons Punta Mita, we had to hear the skinny. Kotek is the founder of The Nation of Artists (www.thenationofartists.com), the entertainment correspondent for ABC Radio, the former Editor-in-Chief of Moving Pictures magazine, and has served on film festival juries worldwide. He’s written for a slew of publications including C, The Book LA, DistinctionSanta Barbara, GQ, Style.com, and his stellar photography has been exhibited at galleries internationally.  This month, he’s here to tell us just why The Four Seasons Punta Mita in Mexico is a must.

A month ago, I headed down to the Four Seasons Punta Mita (Mexico) located on an idyllic stretch of peninsula just outside Puerto Vallarta.  The resort’s simply stunning and serene nature, coupled with the everything’s-easy hospitality that the Four Seasons staff is famous for, makes this a destination not only worth visiting, but worth re-visiting time and time again. There is no reason why a trip to the Punta Mita property shouldn’t become your family’s tradition.

The layout of the Four Season’s luxurious lodgings distinguishes itself from other modern resort properties that offer everything under the sun, by coupling the amazing amenities with less relaxing walks linking the facilities. Somehow, despite offering everything, nothing here seems too far away, and each destination delivers a welcoming statement of refreshment upon arrival, whether that be a small smoothie shot, a cupful of chilled tropical fruit wedges, or a complimentary foot massage. Mmmmmm… foot massages.

As with most other first class facilities, the spas at Punta Mita are GORGEOUS (and their signature treatment has two massage therapists working your knots out simultaneously – yep, that’s four hands!). For those preferring a walk around to a lie down, the five-star property also boasts a championship golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus with a dramatic water feature, a picture perfect green situated on its own tiny whale’s tail-shaped island just off the coast.

This signature Four Seasons property offers unique treats like, in addition to running cooking classes for guests at Bahia, a beachside grill that takes full viewing advantage of the sculpted rocks jutting out of the peninsula (bordered by sandy shorelines below and water-fed sunsets above), the resort’s chefs also run a “Catch of the Day” experience that actively engages resort residents in an educational culinary encounter.

Gathering on the beach, the chefs display the morning’s haul – parrot fish, mahi mahi, several types of snapper, Pacific spiny lobsters – and tout each species’ specific tastes and textures, tempting guests to choose the time and place (“I’ll take it on the balcony of my suite at seven,” for example) for their fantastically-fresh feast.

While the ocean life is vivid and vibrant, and iguanas can be spotted warming a rock or two, the most dangerous life-force on the resort is clearly Raymundo Vasquez. Vasquez is an accredited tequila sommelier and his tastings will have you appreciating the alcoholic agave in a whole new way.

Throughout the grounds, gorgeous sculptures punctuate the landscape. Complementing the artistic focus, the Four Seasons Punta Mita has its own cultural center showcasing regional Nayarit art and artisans.

In a smart move, the Four Seasons also caters to couples and cavorting parents, addressing their needs with an adults-only pool and cabana corrale (with its own menu and distinctive music mix) to provide peace, privacy and romance away from the fray. Oh, and there’s a Four Seasons yacht available for charter, too.

Testament to the complete package this resort provides is that I’ve managed to highlight so many facets of the place without yet touching upon the magic infinity pool set overlooking the beaches, without mentioning the individual plunge pools that privately service each of the suites, and without spotlighting the kid-friendly lazy river rides and childcare facilities with activities that adults would be proud to partake in.

Like I said, this is one place that could easily become a Christmas tradition.

Why else Mexico makes sense:

1. The US dollar is at lows against a deluge of currencies but delivers a whopping 13 pesos for each piece of the little green monster. Taking in fresh coconuts or local tacos (at 10 pesos a piece), means Mexican deliciousness can be delivered for less than a dollar.

2. The rate of incidence of swine flu is preoccupying more physician hours outside of Mexico than in the country of the flu’s origin. With shortages of vaccine causing queues and confusion in the pending winter cold, you couldn’t be smarter than to the warm seas of the Pacific.

3. A direct three hour flight from LAX to Puerto Vallarta’s international port d’air makes flying to 75-degree humidity-free paradise way too easy. In fact, flying to Chicago, or spending an extra couple of hours on a plane to Manhattan just to experience the piercing chill of east coast Christmas season seems downright illogical!

http://www.fourseasons.com/puntamita/