Author: Maria Diego

Rwanda

Rwanda

Rwanda

A Destination Guide for Your African Safari Vacation
MARIA DIEGO

Rwanda, a country no larger than the size of Maryland, is often referred to as the land of a thousand hills and is located in East Africa. Best known for its gorilla population, Rwanda has a lush terrain of rainforests and farmland, spotted with microclimates of misty haze that hang over the hills like a mystical dream until streams of sunlight break through the grey clouds, exposing a magnificently green landscape that can be viewed from its thousand hilltops. Rwanda shares a border with Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is the second safest country in all of Africa. Rwanda is a country with a painful past and colorful yet complicated history, and the people of Rwanda are deeply connected to each other, having lived through a trauma that left both visible and invisible wounds that will continue to be felt for generations to come. I’ll go into further detail about the Rwandan genocide when I cover things to do in Rwanda, but the most notable highlight of my experience in Rwanda was the joyful hope and resilience that exuded from every Rwandan’s infectious smile. With Micato Safaris, a leading tour operator in Africa for 30+ years and one of Diego Travel’s top travel partners, we are able to plan an unforgettable trip to Rwanda that will change the way you see the world.

Perfect For: Adventure & Thrill Seekers | Destination Weddings | Luxury Honeymoon | Couples Groups | Multi-Generational Families with Older Children | Anniversary Trips | Those Who Have Already Done Safari | Teens Ages 15+

Getting to Rwanda

Getting to Rwanda

Getting to Rwanda isn’t easy, and my total travel time from Miami exceeded 24 hours, but the trip is well worth it. Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, has several non-stop flights from major European airports.

Once in Kigali, I recommend a minimum one night in Kigali in order to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial and acclimate to the time change. Unless your time is seriously limited, then you could take a private helicopter from Kigali airport onto One and Only Nyungwe House. One & Only Resorts, a Diego Travel preferred partner, has the perfect pairing of resorts in Rwanda that I cannot recommend enough. You can find out more about my stays under Where To Stay in Rwanda. When you utilize Diego Travel’s trip planning service, we handle all of the logistics of travel to the Rwanda, taking into consideration the number of nights you have, your budget, and facts you may not even be aware of that might add a roadblock to your trip unless you utilize someone in-the-know.

Rwanda

-1.96357,30.1348

Kigali

Rwanda Chimpanzee

The Rwanda Luxury Travel Guide

What to do in Rwanda

Rwanda has four national parks including Volcanoes National Park, best known for its population of gorilla families, Gishwati-Mukura National Park, Nyungwe National Park, which crosses over into Uganda and is home to 4 different species of primates including chimpanzees, and Akagera National Park. The national parks of Rwanda make up nearly 9% of its land, and each national park in Rwanda has a slightly different biodiversity. Volcanoes National Park encompasses five of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains and is home to a growing gorilla population, all thanks to the work of Dian Fossey and continued conservation work of her foundation. If you’re after more than just gorilla and primate trekking, you can find the Big Five in Akagera National Park, making Rwanda a destination in and of itself. Many people make the mistake of tacking Rwanda onto the end of a larger safari trip as a sort of addendum to quickly see the gorillas, but it’s much more deserving of a minimum 8 nights to properly experience the country.
  • The Ellen Degeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

    Dian Fossey was a leading researcher of gorillas and conservationist who spent two decades studying and protecting the gorillas, until her death in 1985.  Her research and activism against the poaching of gorillas was what led to their continued growth, and to this day, Rwanda has the strictest rules in place to protect the gorilla population.  The Ellen Degeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is made up of three buildings – an interactive museum for the general public where you can learn about gorillas, their behaviors and habitat, and also learn about the life of Dian Fossey.  

    The second building is home to a cafeteria for the many schools of children who come through to learn about gorillas, as well as classrooms and lecture halls where future generations can participate in the continued conservation of the species.

  • ELLEN DEGENERES CAMPUS OF THE DIAN FOSSEY GORILLA FUND INTERIOR

  • ELLEN DEGENERES CAMPUS OF THE DIAN FOSSEY GORILLA FUND

  • The final building on campus houses labs and office space for primatologists and university research students, who study things such as gorilla stressors which they are able to do by measuring cortisol levels in fecal samples, knowing exactly what the gorillas were doing at the moment the fecal sample was collected.  When I asked if exposure to tourists affects the gorillas stress level, Veronica, the modern day Dian Fossey and director of the campus who has spent the last 30 years of her life with the gorillas, smiled and replied, Happily not.  They are unaffected by tourism because we maintain tight control of their exposure.“

    As a Diego Travel client, you can get an insiders tour of the areas that arent open to the public, as well as access to the rooftop viewing deck, where you can sip cocktails and munch on canapés with gorgeous volcano vistas in the background.  The campus also has meeting space, so if your company is thinking of a destination for a small work retreat, Rwanda is ideal and Diego Travel can help you plan it.

  • Gorilla Trekking

    Following the tour of the campus, the main highlight and life-changing experience of your trip to Rwanda will be the gorilla trekking.  There are currently 12 gorilla families that you can observe, all named after the leading silverback gorilla of the group.  Permits to see the gorillas cost $1500 USD per person, with a minimum age of 15 years old.  There is a daily maximum of 90 tourists allowed to enter the national park, broken up into groups of 6 people or less, and accompanied by 1-2 guides.  Once the gorillas are spotted, the group has exactly 60 minutes to observe them.  This guarantees that each gorilla family is exposed to humans for no more than 1 hour on any given day.  

    Gorilla trackers who sleep in the national park forest communicate with the guides via walkie-talkie, providing an estimated location of each gorilla family.  Given the gorillaslocation at time of the tourist groups departure, they can predict whether a trek will be easy, medium or hard, allowing you to choose your difficulty level.  However, because gorillas can quickly change course, it is oftentimes unpredictable, as was the case on one of my treks.  

  • Gorilla Trecking in Rwanda

  • Gorilla Baby

  • Porters will also accompany each group, providing someone to carry your backpack and help you climb what can be a very steep incline.  The guides will lead the group with machetes, creating a hiking path as you cut through what can be thick bush full of stinging nettles.  I highly recommend wearing thicker canvas-type pants, knee-high hiking socks, and ankle hiking boots, and the hotels I recommend for my clients provide gators to protect the lower part of your legs. Even if you feel that you dont need a porter, for just $10, youre providing a salary and supporting the community by utilizing them.  Many of todays porters are also ex-poachers, who have been retrained to earn a living in a sustainable way that supports wildlife instead of harming it.

    Ill discuss my personal experience of the gorilla trekking under the summary of my trip, but going just once wasnt enough for me.  After falling in love with the experience, I returned the following day for a second trek.  Each trek experience was completely different from the other, and Im so grateful that I had the chance to do two gorilla treks.

  • Chimpanzee and Monkey Trekking

    Chimpanzee trekking means a 4 AM wakeup call because catching the chimps just as theyre waking up is key to a good experience.  The chimpanzees were my first foray into seeing the true wildlife in Africa, and to describe the sound of the rainforest at sunrise, with heavy rains falling around us, would be fruitless.  You just have to experience it. 

    As a city girl, I was very poorly equipped to hike in heavy rainfall.  At 4:30 AM, I groggily stumbled into the hotels reception to grab a to-go breakfast and a cup of coffee from the beautifully set up station, only to be given the up and down from a gorgeous South African woman, dressed appropriately in head-to-toe Patagonia gear.  Dont you have any other pants? Those are awfully baggy and will be soaked within minutes,she told me.  I shook my head and self-consciously nibbled on my gluten-free lemon poppyseed muffin as I silently pondered how in the world I got it all wrong.

  • Chimp

  • Rwanda Artisan Community

  • Local Artisan Communities

    Because the majority of the land in Rwanda is farmland, a highlight of your trip will be the farm-to-table dining.  Aside from food, the artisans of Rwanda gather and build co-ops or communities where they sell handwoven baskets, hand-carved gorilla statues, and Imigongo painted traditional artwork, using terracotta, black and earthy color tones with the primary ingredient being cow dung.  We had a chance to create our own, and lets just say Im not going to quit my day job.  I did, however, do enough shopping to fill the handy Tumi Just In Case bag I always pack.

  • KIGALI GENOCIDE MEMORIAL

    The genocide of Rwanda was a mass ethnic killing of an estimated 1 million Tutsi.  The division of ethnicities within Rwanda was not based on facts, but rather an invention of the Belgian colonialists since the 1940s, who divided the Rwandans into three groups based on physical traits.  Their plan to divide the population and ultimately rule over them was a slowly seeping process of infiltrating hatred amongst Rwandans.  In 1994, following a series of events that created a perfect storm, there was a 3-month period in which neighbors and friends turned on each other and brutally murdered the entire population of the Tutsi people, or anyone who was associated with them. 

  • Rwanda Genocide Museum

A visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial is a crucial first stop on your trip to Rwanda.  It creates context for your entire vacation, and will allow you to have a 360 degree understanding of who the Rwandan people are, where they came from, and how far they have come.  

While not easy, I am definitely going to recommend a visit to all of my clients at the start of their trip.  The memorial was set up as a place to honorably bury about 250,000 Rwandans who died during the genocide, but also allows families a place to visit and reflect, and honor those who died during this tragedy.  

A Note About Security in Rwanda

While the 1994 genocide is a stain on Rwandas history, present-day Rwanda is a state of security and unity.  I have never felt so safe while traveling, as hotels require several security checkpoints, and even to enter the airport area requires everyone to get out of the vehicle while it is driven through a security scanner.  All the hotels and national forests were patrolled by armed security, making a stay in Rwanda very safe.

One&Only Gorilla’s Nest

Where to Stay in Rwanda

One of the best destinations in Africa for a truly luxury and exclusive experience is in Rwanda.  While there are many beautiful properties around the world and luxury hotels and accommodations, it is the staff at the One and Only hotels and resorts that will make your stay so special.

One&Only Nyungwe House

One and Only Nyungwe House

One and Only Nyungwe House, pronounced young-way with an non the front, is perfect for honeymooners, anniversary trips, bucket list trips, and even great for families.  The property allows children about 10 years and older, but keep in mind that they will not be able to visit the chimps and gorillas until 15-years-old.  One and Only Nyungwe House is 23 rooms and suites set on a 10 hectare working tea plantation.

When we arrived after a 30-minute commercial flight from Kigali, and about a 45-minute safari jeep ride to the property, we were greeted by drummers and dancers, and just like the song of the chimpanzees in the rainforest, their song brought on a wave of emotion that instantly filled my heart with joy and my eyes with tears.  I cannot describe the experience in any other way, but I know that I never wanted it to end.

Dee, the propertys South African general manager, greeted us with a hand held over her heart, as the rest of the staff lined up with the same gesture and handing us a damp hotel towel and welcome ginger tea.  Dee welcomed us into their homewhere she explained that between our two stays, Nyungwe House is the heart, whereas Gorillas Nest is the arms and legs.”  

As we were led on a tour of the propertys spa, library, pool, and rooms, Dees infectious laugh was sprinkled between stories as she described the Nyungwe experience.  This unique gem of a property certainly felt like a peaceful sanctuary of treehouses nestled into the edge of the forest, where you commonly see Colobus and Mangobee monkeys visiting your terrace.  

Ill discuss some activities we did on property in the summary of our stay, but as a general rule, I would recommend a minimum of 3-nights at Nyungwe House, especially if you plan on doing the chimpanzee tour and really relaxing on the property.  For more time for relaxation after your long journey, youll really need 4 nights for the adventure + relaxation pieces.

Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following One&Only Preferred Partner Amenities:

  • Exclusive One&Only Offers
  • Daily Full American breakfast for up to two people per bedroom
  • USD $100 food and beverage credit
  • Welcome note and amenity
  • Priority Upgrade if Available
  • Priority Early Check-In/Late Check-Out
  • VIP Status
  • Diego Travel Welcome Box when Using the Travel Planning Service

Diego Travel Recommends One&Only Nyungwe House For: Honeymooners | Small Destination Weddings | Couples Groups | Multi-Generational Families with Older Children | Anniversary Trips | Adventure Seekers | Incentive Trips

One&Only Gorilla’s Nest

One and Only Gorillas Nest

One and Only Gorillas Nest is my favorite hotel in the world.  There, I said it!  Everyone always asks me that question and before visiting this property, I truly didnt have a favorite.  Well, it depends on what style,Id say.  Or Id ask, For a boutique hotel or a resort?”  For One and Only Gorillas Nest, it doesnt matter who you are or what your taste is, I can pretty much guarantee youre going to love it and never want to leave.  

We landed by helicopter on the propertys helipad after a 40-minute helicopter ride from One and Only Nyungwe House, again greeted by tear-inducing African dancers and drummers with the staff impeccably dressed in suits with their hands held over their hearts.  If there ever was a moment when I felt like a celebrity or the President of the United States, this was it.  Speaking of celebrities, Bill Gates was one of the propertys first guests, which speaks to the calibre and privacy that the resort offers.  

The owner of One and Only Gorillas Nest is from Dubai and literally spared no expense to perfect every detail in a way that I have never seen before.   Craig, the area manager who oversees both Rwandan properties, gave us a tour of the locker rooms at Club One, the main pool, gym, and spa amenities area, and I commented how even the mens locker room used dark wood while the ladieslocker room was white and bright.  He paused and raised an eyebrow, saying, Funny you should mention that.  Theres a story behind it actually.”  He went on to tell us that after the installation of the locker rooms was complete, the owner was visiting and realized that the location of the ladiesroom would require them to walk on a pathway with no overhang (for a total distance of about 15 feet).  He didnt like the idea of the ladies getting wet in the rain, so swapped the mens and womens rooms, which required a complete de-installation of cabinetry from each room.  

The interior decorator, Hurburtus Feit, who lives in Paris and primarily does residential projects, incorporated different patterns and textures throughout the hotel and purposely gave it the residential feel for which he is so well-known, creating a cozy retreat that makes you feel like youll never want to leave.

Initially the idea for the resort was to build 42 rooms, but after considering that the property lends itself to privacy and exclusivity, they decided to build just 21, allowing for a sense of place within each space.  The entry level room cannot even be considered entry level, as all rooms have a sitting area with fireplace, great outdoor deck, and outdoor shower.  Some of my favorite details about the Forest View Lodge, where I stayed, was the view, the best bed sheets Ive ever slept in (I looked at the tag and unfortunately they are made exclusively for Gorillas Nest) and the design details like the gorilla doorstop and hand-carved pen, the gluten-free snacks especially made for me and left at the self-serve bar, fully stocked with the finest china and glassware, and the heated bathroom floors.  They even have a Dyson hairdryer in the bathrooms, and speaking from experience, I know that many of my clients will love that!  

Aside from the Forest Lodge, they also have a Double Queen room, which is essentially a 2-bedroom with shared bathroom and living room.  The second bedroom has a powder room off it as well, which would be perfect for older kids.  The property has 5 Virunga suites, with one being in a cluster of 3 rooms, perfect for a family or group traveling together.  The Virunga Suites are gorgeous, and would be a better option if you need more common space.  Finally, the Silverback Suite is the top suite on property, with a full outdoor pool looking over the best view on property.  It also has a kitchen that can accommodate a kosher diet, or for someone who needs to eat their meals in villa, a private chef can prepare their food there.  

What makes One&Only Gorillas Nest so special though is not the property itself, but rather the people and the experiences that they provide.  Everyone is so kind and genuinely happy for you to be there, that every moment, word and action is made with such heartfelt intention.  The staff addresses you by name, and offers a subtle bow with the signature hand over heart as they smile and ask if you need anything.  When the sun goes down and the chilly evening settles in, they pick you up in a golf cart, a heated water bottle wrapped in beautiful African fabric is placed over your lap as they wrap your shoulders in a soft wool blanket.  Post-trek youll be met at the reception as they seat you on a bench where they remove your boots and dirty socks to replace them with your choice of African slides or white flip-flops.  By that evening, your hiking boots magically appear in your room, looking as clean as the day that you bought them.  

One final note about One and Only Gorillas Nest: we stayed 3 nights but I secretly inquired with Micato Safaris about staying on a 4th night.  There are commercial flights that run to Kigali, but unfortunately there wasnt any running the day that I needed it; 3 nights was not enough, especially considering that I did two gorilla treks, so when we plan your vacation to Rwanda, I highly recommend staying on 4 nights if you plan on doing the second gorilla trek.  

 

Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following One&Only Preferred Partner Amenities:

  • Exclusive One&Only Offers
  • Daily Full American breakfast for up to two people per bedroom
  • USD $100 food and beverage credit
  • Welcome note and amenity
  • Priority Upgrade if Available
  • Priority Early Check-In/Late Check-Out
  • VIP Status
  • Diego Travel Welcome Box when Using theTravel Planning Service

The Retreat Kigali

The Retreat Kigali

One of my favorite hidden gems of the trip was The Retreat in Kigali, a boutique hotel built by two American ex-pats, Alisa and Josh Ruxin, who work with local non-profits and started this project to create a hospitality training program for organizations such as Orphans of Rwanda.  They currently employ a staff of 145 for just 20 rooms, that range from an entry-level Deluxe Room to a Luxury Pool Villa, with rates starting around $300 USD per night.  This quaint property is the 5 star version of its sister hotel next door called Heaven.  A restaurant with excellent food and some more 3.5-4 star accommodations, Heaven is a great option for the more budget-minded traveler.

Rwanda Traditions

Summary of Our Stay

Upon arrival to Rwanda, we had to undergo a PCR Covid test per the current regulations. Diego Travel clients can be set up with VIP Fast Track arrival service to whisk you through customs and have the PCR testing done. Our flight arrived into Kigali at night, so we stayed 2 nights in Kigali upon arrival, visiting both the Genocide Memorial and having lunch at Heaven, located next to The Retreat. While it may seem excessive, we needed additional negative Covid tests to enter the national parks, in order to protect the primates as they are highly susceptible to human diseases. It’s astonishing that we share 98% of the same DNA, so given their small population, we need to protect them from any danger, such as coronavirus, as much as we can.

One&Only Evening

The commercial flight into Nyungwe was not as easy as I would have thought. The Rwandan processing is slow, whether it’s through security checkpoints or checking into hotels. As we were traveling with Micato Safaris, they did a fantastic job of keeping our documents in order and because they provided each destination with our documentation in advance, there was less wait time than what one would typically experience. Some things are unpredictable though, such as our bags taking an hour to get unloaded from the plane upon arrival into Nyungwe, so my advice is to pack your patience when traveling to Africa.

Rwanda

Arriving to this part of the country was the first time experiencing the ‘authentic’ Rwanda, seeing women balancing baskets on their heads and men pushing bicycles loaded up with kilos of potatoes. Seeing little children running behind their older siblings on a tea plantation, and frantically waving at us as our green safari jeep sped by. “Canesa, canesa,” they’d yell in Rwandese. “Wishing you health and happiness,” the greeting Rwandans use. Mothers carrying babies wrapped on their backs, and women and men bent over to pick tea leaves in the fields. The endless hills are astonishing and climb higher and higher as you make your way to Nyungwe House.

Arriving at One&Only Nyungwe House

I already spoke about the arrival to Nyungwe House, but the emotion that overcame me I can neither put into words or ever forget it. The sense of being in Rwanda makes you somehow feel at home, even though you are worlds away.

Much of your stay will be had around the dining table or around a fire. While I started off the trip a complete stranger to all of my travel industry companions, I left feeling more connected to them because of this. We shared conversation, we shared great food, but most importantly we shared the unique experience of witnessing these magnificent animals in the wild together.

One&Only Nyungwe House

To return to the experience of the gorilla trek, since that is the sole reason why most people visit Rwanda, I would like to explain a little bit more about the process so you know what to expect. The allowed hour felt like a blip, and Craig recommend to us, over the glow of the fireplace the night before, to allow ourselves 15 minutes to take photos and video, but then to just set it aside and be present with the animals. This was the best advice I could have gotten, even though it was definitely hard to do. While the permit cost is very expensive, it’s important to note that it’s meant to keep the number of tourists to a minimum and a portion of the proceeds goes toward the conservation of the national parks and the gorillas. For example, 5% goes toward the farmers who surround the national park, as sometimes the gorillas will escape the wall of the national forest and destroy the bamboo or farm crops. This 5% covers that cost to maintain or repair any damage, so that locals are incentivized not to harm them.

Rwanda Gorilla Safari Guide

As I mentioned I did two treks, and while I don’t want to go into huge detail about them, as it was such a special experience that I want to selfishly keep some things for myself, I will say that the two treks were completely different. The first was about a 3 hour hike up steep inclines of thick mud and stinging nettles. When we arrived to the Sabinyo gorilla family, we were in tight quarters with them, all huddled together on the side of the mountain. The proximity was so close that a baby, a mother and the silverback, Sabinyo, all brushed beside me as they made their way through. On my second trek, it could not have been more different. The gorilla family this time was Mahowza, and as we were approaching the national park, the family was migrating down directly toward us. We took about 20 steps inside the wall and there they were. The guides told us to hand over our backpacks and walking sticks to the porters, as poachers used to beat them with sticks and so the sight of them still makes them defensive. Since the backpacks contain food, you keep that away from them as well. We then followed them as they formed a line of about 18 gorillas, who proceeded to walk out of the national park and onto the farmland, where they happily destroyed a field of bamboo, clawing and gnawing and licking it as they rolled, climbed, and played with each other.

Commodore Perry Estate Austin Texas

Aside from the gorilla trekking, the properties arranged other activities so that we could experience it all, such as archery, drum circle, and spear throwing. Have you ever thrown an African spear? It’s not as easy as it looks, and God knows how they ever killed any animals using that method. We painted, we took a course on tea picking and tasting, we had yoga class and massages. While both places were amazing, Delice at One and Only Gorillas Nest was the best massage I’ve ever had in my life, so much so that I asked her if I could take her home with me.

  • Food at One&Only Rwanda

There was one waiter, Jean, at One and Only Nyungwe House whose excitement and happiness was so contagious, you couldn’t help but fall in love with him. Josh, a travel companion, asked him, “Do you love your job?” He beamed ear-to-ear with his wide vibrant smile and said, “I love it too much!” Being there with people like that just made your heart melt, and made me realize that while they have so little, they have more than we will ever know. The key to happiness, or that sense of being that all of us eternally long for yet never attain, belongs to the people of Rwanda. Jean, the Patricks, Esperanz, T, and so many more, have kept a piece of my heart with them. Someday I’ll return to experience it again.

If you are ready for your trip to Rwanda, please contact me here to begin planning your incredible life-changing journey. Book your next Micato Safari with Diego Travel to receive a $200 per person gift credit to the Micato online safari store towards the purchase of  apparel and gear.

Let’s Get Planning!

Rwanda Landscape

Continue reading

Chable Yucatan

Hotel Review: Chablé Yucatan Resort

Hotel Review

Chable Yucatan Resort

A beautifully modernized historic hacienda
MARIA DIEGO

Chable Yucatan is a masterfully restored archeological masterpiece and little-known health, wellness and spa retreat tucked away in the Mayan jungle of Mexico. The team at this luxury resort’s mission is to not only offer a luxury hotel stay, but to elevate your mind, body and soul by creating luxury experiences in a way that you have never experienced. A stay here will unequivocally connect you with nature and balance your being to embrace the spirit of this enchanting property.

Chable Yucatan

Chablé Yucatan is located about 30-minutes from Merida airport in the Yucatan Peninsula.  Merida has non-stop flights from Miami…

If you’re flying into Cancun, you can still plan a split-stay visit between Chablé Yucatan and Chablé Maroma, as they are about a 3-4 hour drive between them, and the hotels can arrange for transfers.

20.7571,-89.8690

Chable Yucatan Location: Chable Yucatan is located about 30-minutes from Merida airport in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Merida has non-stop flights from Miami.

If you’re flying into Cancun, you can still plan a split-stay visit between Chable Yucatan and Chable Maroma, as they are about a 3-4 hour drive between them, and the hotels can arrange for transfers.

Bicycle at Chable Yucatan

Vibe: A beautifully modernized historic Mexican hacienda, Chable Yucatan, has been a pet-project of a renowned architecture and design team who took 15 years to lovingly restore this property to its current splendor. You may find yourself completely disconnected and elatedly riding a bike through the luxury resort’s winding paths to the soundtrack of chirping birds and jungle wildlife.

Accommodations: Chablé Yucatan consists of 40 casitas, family villas, a presidential villa and a royal villa.  All accommodations have their own private pool, with family villas being a two bedroom with adjoining living room.  The presidential and royal villas are both three bedrooms and offer complete privacy.

  • Chable Yucatan Room Exterior

  • Chable Rooms

  • Chable Yucatan Bathroom

  • Chable Plunge Pool

Ixi’im Restaurant at Chable Yucatan
Wellness Restaurant at Chable Yucatan

Food  &  Beverage: One of the highlights of Chablé Yucatan is the food. It is authentic Yucatecan gourmet food prepared in a fresh way than your typical tacos and guacamole that you’ll find elsewhere in the Riviera Maya and Cancun. Each morning, they deliver your preferred choice of coffee or tea with breakfast pastries that you can enjoy at the hour you indicate upon your arrival. Post wake-up coffee, you’ll have a poolside breakfast and/or lunch at Ki’ol, which translates to healthy in Mayan and has an ever-changing menu of fresh selections from the gardens.  

The Wellness Restaurant next to the spa and fitness center is another healthy option offering vegan, gluten-free, and fresh juices and smoothies. At Ixi’im, which means corn in the Mayan language, is an impressive display of 3,475 bottles of tequila that is as jaw-dropping as it seems. Illuminated by fire and candlelight, this restaurant was a highlight of the trip. 

While I don’t drink tequila, I was definitely tempted to at both nights we had dinner here. Sikar is an after-dinner stop to taste the finest selection in whiskey, cognac, brandy and hand-made cigars.  Perhaps my favorite of all the culinary options at ChabléYucatan was the Casita Maya, where you’ll experience an extended course authentically Mayan and Yucatecan meal prepared right in front of you by two women. It was such a special experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who visits!

Wellness: The focus of wellness at Chablé Yucatan surrounds the sacred cenote found on property, and every treatment room has its own private balcony overlooking the water. Prior to your treatment, you’re welcome to make use of the circuit, carefully guided by a personal attendant through a series of Mayan rituals that alternate between heat and cold, from sauna and steam room, to ice plunge pool and showers. Each treatment begins with a shamanic ceremony performed inside a large conch shell-like structure, as your therapist describes the 7 elements and their significance. Following this beautiful ceremony, you’ll be guided to your treatment room where you’ll begin with a foot bath and served a rice drink, meant to nourish the mind, body and soul.

Wellness Chable Yucatan

  • Nature Walk at Chable Yucatan

  • Melipona Bees at Chable Yucatan

  • Cenote

  • Uxmal

  • Celestún

Activities: I was surprised by the number of activities available at Chablé Yucatan, having visited the majority of the haciendas in the Yucatan region before and expecting a similar experience. However, Chablé Yucatan offers a 9-course golf course, pickle ball, tennis, miles of nature paths to either walk, run or ride.  

There is a melipona bee sanctuary, one of very few of its kind, meant to preserve this sacred bee and its honey of healing properties. They have a temezcal, used to perform ancient Mayan ceremonies, which I highly recommend. There’s a main pool, a spa pool for adults only, and the private pools that each villa offers. If you’re looking to just relax, eat and drink, then you might enjoy the cigar bar for a post-dinner treat.

Finally, there a multitude of excursions that you can easily do from Chable Yucatan, from enjoying the charm of the colonial city of Merida, to taking a refreshing dip at a one of the nearby cenotes (underground rivers), to visiting flamingos at nearby Celestún to exploring Uxmal, one of the most important prehispanic Mayan cities. 

Perfect For: Honeymooners, anniversary trips, destination wedding, culture enthusiasts, adult groups, and even family trips. Our kids loved it, but they are used to a more adult-friendly vibe and tend to refuse any kids club.  Small business conferences or incentive trips would be amazing here. The property has a convention center with two meeting rooms, one with a maximum capacity for 50 and the other for 100 people, but they can easily combine to host groups up to 150.  

Chable Yucatan Horse Stable
Chable Yucatan Bar

What Sets It Apart:  The setting of the Mayan jungle is truly spectacular, but the way Chablé Yucatan was designed is truly what sets it apart.  The resort could be at full capacity, but you’ll still feel complete privacy.  We felt safe enough to let the kids wander on their own, and the service by every team member was at another level.

How Much Does Chablé Yucatan Cost? The high season for Chablé Yucatan and Merida in general is November through April. The low season will be hotter with periods of rain, which brings more bugs. Rates will really be season-dependent.

Shopping at Chable
Hacienda Chable

Diego  Travel  Loves: Every aspect of Chablé Yucatan was thoughtfully planned, from the soundtrack of chic background music, to the pristine landscape architecture. And the landscape lighting at night! It creates a whole new magical experience that transforms the property into a magical wonderland of illuminated trees under a vast sky of twinkling stars and fireflies. I cannot think of another resort that pairs current and hip design while still maintaining the integrity of a historic restoration quite like Chablé Yucatan.  

Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Full Breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom, served in restaurant
  • $100 USD equivalent Resort/Hotel credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Paletas at the pool of Chable Yucatan

Chablé Yucatan Insider Tips:

  • Chablé Yucatan lovingly supports local communities by carrying Mexican-made and hand-crafted products in its boutique.  Try to pick up something while you’re there to support Mexico’s artisans, along with a bottle of melapina honey.  
  • I also highly recommend the Mayan dining experience at Casa Puebla, where you’ll be treated to 4-5 courses of authentic Mayan dishes by two women who prepare the meal right in front of your eyes.  We weren’t able to finish the last course, but oh my, was it worth it!  
  • For a large family or group, rent the Royal Suite, which incorporates ruins found on the property in its own private pool.  You’ll be the only ones able to see these ruins, as the villa is completely private to you.

Chablé Yucatan Pool

Summary of Our Stay at Chablé Yucatan:

While visiting Mexico and working remotely for a month, we wanted to do something special for our daughter’s 10th birthday. After the 3+ hour drive from the Riviera Maya, we were greeted with fresh Lima juice, a fragrant blend between lemon and lime, only grown in this region of Merida. There’s no translation in English for this particular fruit, but when you taste it, you’ll know. Upon check-in, we were asked to fill out a form asking our preferences for morning coffee and pastries, preferred activities and dining times, and any dietary restrictions. I’m always curious, as a travel advisor, if this information gets relayed to every staff member, and I can say with certainty that it did.

Let’s get a drink

As they gave us a tour of the property and finally our private villa, the feeling of having arrived overcame us. This is the life! The kids fell instantly in love with the idea of running off on their own to explore by bike, and we felt safe enough to let them do so. On my daughter’s actual birthday, we surprised them with the Ruta Verde tour, which is a guided tour starting at the gardens, where we picked the lettuce, herbs, and vegetables that they would prepare for us at our Mayan lunch. Then we visited the deer, as they foster about 30-40 on property at any given time, before sending them to a deer sanctuary or back into the wild.  After the deer we had a private tour of the bee sanctuary, where we learned about the melipona honeybees and how they were regarded in ancient Mayan times to hold medicinal powers. Our last stop of La Ruta Verde was at an area of trees, where we were each handed a ribbon to tie onto a tree to set an intention. It was such a beautiful and unforgettable experience for all of us.

Chable Yucatan Gardens

We planned to stay at Chablé Yucatan for two nights, but shortly after arrival, we extended our stay another night.  As a travel advisor and seeing so many hotels and resorts around the world, I have to admit that I rarely do this. A 2-night stay at any given property is pretty normal, but it just wasn’t enough for this hotel. I fell madly in love and I think you will too. It really is one of my favorite resorts in the world, and when you book your stay with me, you’ll have access to special promotions like 3rd night free plus your Virtuoso amenities mentioned above. So it’s always worth it to reach out to find out how Diego Travel can help elevate your stay. Contact us now to get started planning your next getaway.

Let’s Get Planning!

Chable Yucatan Night


Related Posts


CHABLE YUCATAN

Continue reading

Blackberry Mountain

Hotel Review: Blackberry Mountain

Hotel Review

Blackberry Mountain

A Wellness Retreat at a Luxury Mountain Resort
MARIA DIEGO

Blackberry Mountain, the sister property of the Tennessee resort, Blackberry Farm, is located in the Great Smoky Mountains just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. This luxury American hotel is the perfect fusion of a wellness retreat, outdoor adventure hub, and gastronomic delight. Whether you’re visiting for a special celebration like an anniversary or honeymoon, enjoying a family vacation, or need a solo getaway to disconnect, this All-American boutique resort is a soon-to-be staple in travel. So dust off your hiking boots and pack your bags because now is the time to visit before its popularity spreads like wildfire. 

Perfect For: Active couples | Fitness-oriented travelers | Adventure-seekers | Family vacation with kids young and old | Wellness retreat | Honeymoons

  • 35.7305,-83.8162

    Blackberry Mountain

    Blackberry Mountain is located less than 30 minutes from Knoxville, Tennessee and McGhee Tyson Airport.  Between Blackberry Mountain and Blackberry Farm, you’ll have about a 30-minute drive if you’re doing a split stay.  You can also fly into Nashville and take a 3-hour drive east.

  • 35.6955,-83.8488

    Blackberry Farm

    Blackberry  Farm is a 4,200  acre  estate located on  the  Great  Smoky  Mountains,  30  minutes  outside  of  Knoxville, Tennessee. 

  • 35.8096,-83.9966

    Mc Ghee Tyson Airport (TYS)

    Blackberry Farm is easy to get to with direct flights to Knoxville from more than 25 cities and a 25 minute drive fromMc Ghee Tyson Airport (TYS) airport.

Blackberry Mountain Location: Blackberry Mountain is located less than 30 minutes from Knoxville, Tennessee and McGhee Tyson Airport.  Between Blackberry Mountain and Blackberry Farm, you’ll have about a 30-minute drive if you’re doing a split stay. You can also fly into Nashville and take a 3-hour drive east.

Vibe: Blackberry Mountain is all about wellness activities, outdoor adventures, and holistic wellness.  While you could certainly visit this luxury Relais & Chateaux hotel just to eat well, visit the spa, and enjoy the mountain views, you’ll make the most out of your stay at Blackberry Mountain by taking advantage of its endless on-site activities.  Even though it is the ultimate in luxury travel, the vibe is casual with friendly service and a down-to-earth attitude with guests dressed the part for mountain hikes, not really dressed to impress.

Accommodations: Blackberry Mountain consists of 23 cottages, 6 cabins, 12 two to five-bedroom homes, with an additional 14 tree houses being added by September 2021.

Food  &  Beverage: Three Sisters, named for the Great Smoky Mountain’s three peaks and site of Blackberry Mountain, is the luxury resort’s main restaurant and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It is located in the main building of Blackberry Mountain, along with the reception, Nest spa and the main pool that overlook the vast mountain views.  Three Sisters’ most popular menu items are the avocado toast for breakfast, and the mouth-watering burger with the local Blackberry Farm cheese is the most popular lunch item.  The Firetower is located nearly 2,000 feet further up the mountain at Blackberry Mountain’s highest peak that overlooks the horizon and the town of Knoxville.  Menus change daily at both restaurants and are based on Tennessee’s seasonal ingredients.  During warmer months, you can also take a bag lunch or picnic down to The Valley, or pick up a quick drink or snack inside The Outfitter, Blackberry’s Mountain’s retail shop.

Wellness: The focus of Blackberry Mountain is on wellness and in my opinion, it’s program far exceeds other wellness resorts I have visited. If you want to turn inward, the most recommended activity (trust me, I ask everyone!) was the soundbathing in the yoga loft.  You can attend lectures and workshops that include foundations of health, holistic nutrition, create calm, herbal tea blending, and movement workshops.  Creative presence classes like meditative watercolors, mandala stone painting, mindful clay sculpting, mala making, and guided journaling.  They also have a holistic doctor onsite that can reprogram your nervous system and provide acupuncture therapy.  Yoga classes range from Vinyasa, aerial, aromatherapy, Pranayama, hot flow yoga, and ropes wall yoga.  Convinced yet?  I want to go back!

Activities:  There is something for everyone at Blackberry Mountain, from tennis and pickleball to hiking trails, indoor basketball and rock climbing, a yoga loft and a holistic studio called Embodiment Lab. One of your first stops at the property should be to The Outfitter located at The Hub, where you can pick up food and beverages to-go and map out your day with Blackberry Mountain’s concierge team. Blackberry Mountain’s newest addition is The Valley, where you’ll find a swimming pond with two water slides, the option for waterskiing, a family pool, and an arbor adventure course that will test your fear of heights and have you zip lining through the Great Smoky Mountain’s trees. Sadly, my fear of heights overcame me, but I happily snapped photos of my husband going through the course with both of my feet planted firmly on the ground. For the less adventurous, there is an art studio with pottery and painting classes, different workshops for the culinary arts and writing and of course, there is Camp Blackberry for the kids.

What  Sets  It  Apart:  Blackberry Mountain is defined by the people and the level of service and warm hospitality that they offer.  You won’t find anything like it anywhere else, besides Blackberry Farm.


How Much Does Blackberry Mountain Cost? It’s a common question, and a lot of people might be curious about the cost of Blackberry Mountain and Blackberry Farm.  First off, both properties are almost entirely all-inclusive (save for lunch at Blackberry Mountain, and alcoholic drinks and some activities at both properties).  Prices vary greatly depending on the time of year you plan to go, with October, Thanksgiving, and summer months being peak season.  The most economical time to go is a mid-week stay in early December, late January, or the month of February, with nightly rates starting at $695 plus taxes and fees per couple.

Diego  Travel  Loves: The homes at Blackberry Mountain are a great value and an excellent option if you’re traveling with more than two people.  I have toured nearly all the homes and can point you in the right direction based on your interior design style and room configuration needs.  There are two 4-bedroom homes that sit side-by-side with great views, so if you’re traveling with a large group, these are often the preferred pick. Both 2-bedroom homes, Wild Crab Apple and Linden, actually have an additional 2-bunk (4 twins) room, which allows for two families to comfortably fit into these smaller homes.  If you’re looking for a bit more fun, book Outasite for its downstairs game room with a shuffle board and the only house with a hot tub.


Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:

  • 5% off published rates
  • $50 spa credit
  • Upgrade at time of check-in, subject to availability
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Blackberry MountainInsider Tips:

  • Goats Hill has the best sunset views and is a little-known spot that is popular for proposals.  As a Diego Travel client, the team at Blackberry Mountain can work with me to set up these private moments that will make your stay all the more special.  
  • Most of Blackberry Mountain’s morning wellness and fitness classes are included with your stay, so get up with the sunrise and take advantage!
  • Hike Cats Paw Ridge and you’ll be in for a surprise!  Allow for two hours to take this beautiful hike.
  • While we didn’t get a chance to do it, sign up for the sound bathing.  It was recommended to us by multiple staff members while we were there, so we’ll take their word for it and sign upnext time.

Summary of Our Stay at Blackberry Mountain:

Ever since my trip to Blackberry Farm last year, I have been dreaming of a visit to Blackberry Mountain.  My clients oftenask me to explain the difference between Blackberry Mountain and Blackberry Farm, so the only way to truly know how to answer this question was to experience it for myself.  Since Blackberry Mountain’s opening in February 2019, it has become increasingly popular with the Blackberry Farm fans, and as it turns out, a popular hot spot for celebrities looking for a private mountain retreat.  I knew we were off to a good start when our driver entertained us for the thirty-minute drive with stories of transporting celebrities accompanied with a deep and contagious laugh that would put anyone in a good mood, even after the longest of travel days.

We arrived to Blackberry Mountain with an appetite, and were the only ones in Three Sisters restaurant, named for the three Great Smoky Mountain peaks and site of the resort.  At Blackberry Mountain, the only thing not included in your stay are the lunches, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments, and certain activities.  All the morning activities are included in your stay, so take advantage of this and sign up for your activities of choice prior to your arrival to ensure availability.  We signed up for the Stretch and Release: Hips class because I have chronic hip pain thanks to carrying around three babies for the last decade and a lot of sitting at my desk.  Our private class wasn’t intended to be so, but we got lucky and it allowed us to gain a lot of useful information from our knowledgeable instructor and learn about their holistic and complete health and wellness program.

While a typical stay at Blackberry Mountain is meant to disconnect from your device and reconnect with your loved ones and nature, working while traveling is part of the deal for me, so we spent our first afternoon comfortable in our spacious yet cozy Thunderhead Cottage before heading up to the Firetowerrestaurant to catch the sunset and dinner.  The wind was biting, and there had been a somewhat rare snowfall prior to our arrival, so the stairwell was closed off to the tower, but we still enjoyed 360-degree views from the highest point, nearly 2,000 feet above the main area of Blackberry Mountain.  If you like a perfect sunset view and want a more remote and romantic lumberjack-cabin-in-the-woods vibe, then I would recommend the Watchman cabins.  

The following day we explored the nature trails, ate delicious uninterrupted meals, stopped into The Hub where we chatted with staff about different things to do around the Blackberry Mountain property for those looking for high-energy activity and adventure-enthusiasts, but also those seeking a restorative, peaceful, and restful stay geared toward wellness and health.  Blackberry Mountain seems to marry these two orders seamlessly.  In the afternoon, we took some time in the spa, which felt like a year of Covid-angst and worry melted away with each strong stroke of a hand.  By the time we met each other back in the spa’s waiting area overlooking gorgeous mountain views, we felt like we’d finally disconnected and settled in and could have stayed for another week.

Dinner on our final night was back at the Three Sisters, which does a masterful job of switching up the menu on a daily basis and making things fun and exciting each meal.  When the dessert menu came along and three options were gluten-free (unheard of in the GF world!), I just had to order all three.  And why not?  It’s included in the stay…so indulge we did, just confirming that the Relais and Chateaux status of Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain is well-deserved.

On our final morning we made the most of every moment and woke up with the sun, going for a short hike before breakfast and then taking the golf cart down to The Valley, the newly developed area of the resort offering a swimming pond in the summer with two slides, pickle ball and tennis ball, a swimming pool, and a brand new arbor course.  While I’ve always been afraid of heights, it had been awhile since I’d challenged this fear and though that this would be a great time to do so. The highest point of the course was only 40 feet, and the minimum age requirement is only 8-years-old to participate, so how hard could it be?  I found out once I got up to the first post, after having gone through a 15-minute training on safely harnessing and using the gear. As it turns out, a phobia only gets worse with age (who knew!?) and my phobia of heights is a real thing.  Our guide, Hall, was nice enough to lie to me and told me I was not the first person who had to back down at the last-minute.  Not only was he an expert naturalist, climber, and adventurer, he was a fantastic psychologist as well, who kindly assisted me down without crushing my confidence.


Once my husband bravely completed the course, albeit winded and admitting how challenging it was, we had a full 15 minutes to spare so Hall pointed us toward a hidden waterfall, where we had just enough time to hike down and bask in its beauty.  As we stood there watching the beauty of the relentless flow of water, I couldn’t help but think about the next time we’d return.  Maybe in the summer months with our kids, when the mountains are green and summer activities change the whole experience.  Regardless of the time of year you go, it’ll be worth it to reach out to me to help you plan your trip, not just for the discounted rate and added amenities you’ll get with your stay, but for the insight we can now provide having experienced both properties.

Design My Trip!


Related Posts


Continue reading

Four Seasons Orlando

Hotel Review: Four Seasons Orlando

Hotel Review

Four Seasons Orlando

The best resort in Orlando
MARIA DIEGO

The Four Seasons Orlando is the best resort in Orlando and a destination in and of itself. When you stay in this luxury Orlando hotel, you may never want to leave to the Disney parks like Magic Kingdom. You’ll find the magic right there in the resort, whether you’re traveling for a family vacation or an adults-only getaway.

The Four Seasons in Orlando offers the best luxury hotel stay with incredible amenities that make you feel like you’re truly visiting the Happiest Place on Earth! As a Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Diego Travel clients will enjoy additional amenities to their stay like added resort credit and complimentary breakfast.

Perfect For: Family fun adventures | Multi-generational family trips | Weekend getaways | Even couples trips

Four Seasons Orlando

Location: In the heart of Orlando, Four Seasons Orlando is a 26-acre lakeside paradise located within a gated residential community and conveniently located close to Walt Disney World and the rest of the parks.

28.3974,-81.5426

Location: In the heart of Orlando, Four Seasons Orlando is a 26-acre lakeside paradise located within a gated residential community and conveniently located close to Walt Disney World and the rest of the parks.

Little Palm Island 4

Vibe: Four Seasons Orlando is a happy, welcoming luxury hotel with elegant finishings.  Whether you’re traveling as a couple, or with your family, there is a space within this large resort that will make you feel at ease.  Their adults-only pool, spa area and large gym, paired with their fine dining options are a great option if you’re traveling sans kids.  But the resort itself, particularly the 5-acre on-site waterpark, is a family-friendly paradise.

Accommodations: 359 rooms and 68 suites ranging from the Golden Oak View Suite to the Royal Suite

Food & Beverage: Four Seasons Orlando Resort has 4 restaurants and 3 lounges.  Capa is the 17th-floor rooftop steakhouse and bar.  PB&G is the lakefront and poolside bar and grill.  Plancha is at the golf clubhouse and the perfect Cuban American eatery.  Finally, Ravello is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and site of the Disney character breakfast that you’ll want to take advantage of if you’re traveling with the kiddos.

Wellness: The spa has 18 treatment rooms to get a massage after a long day of walking at the parks.  My favorite part of the spa?  The fact that they offer the Bippity Boppity Boo boutique experience for your young daughters if they’re in need of the complete princess treatment, but you don’t want to wait in the lines at Magic Kingdom for it.


Activities: An on-site 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed course will keep Dad happy while the kids are running around the 5-acre water park and Mom gets to rest poolside.  In addition to the 18-holes, you’ll have a 16-acre $2.5 million practice facility featuring undulating target greens, an 18-hole putting course, and more.  As mentioned, the on-site gym is huge and offers state-of-the-art fitness equipment. Best of all, the complimentary Kids Camp is available daily from 10 AM to 6 PM, keeping the kids entertained with a variety of indoor and outdoor activities and games.  You literally don’t need to leave this resort to go to the parks if you don’t want to!

What Sets It Apart:  The facilities!  This property is, by far, the best resort option in Orlando.  Oftentimes, clients will ask me why such a big price difference compared to the other hotels in Orlando.  Once you stay here, and utilize all that it has to offer, you’ll realize that the price difference is worth it and the value is there.

 


Diego Travel Loves: The Four Seasons Lead With Care safety protocols were the best I have seen for a hotel.  Upon arrival, our children were given their own Four Seasons backpack filled with treasures and a scavenger hunt map, that kept them entertained throughout their stay.  As a Preferred Partner of Four Seasons, the VIP welcome amenity our clients receive is over-the-top impressive!  And of course, the non-stop entertainment for the kids keeps them happy and never asking once to visit a theme park throughout our stay!

Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel: 

  • Exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner Rates (excluding character breakfast)

  • Daily full American breakfast for 2

  • $100 spa credit

  • Upgrade of one category at time of check-in, subject to availability

  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

  • VIP welcome amenity

  • Diego Travel welcome box for first-time clients

 

 

Insider Tip: The Four Seasons Orlando concierge can assist with park tickets, fast passes and more. You can utilize these services free of charge to have your trip run smoothly and make sure you don’t miss out on anything you might need.  

BOOK NOW

Summary of Our Stay

I planned a 2-night getaway to Four Seasons Orlando during a difficult time in our lives. After many months at home during the pandemic, my father-in-law was hospitalized with Covid for many weeks. While we were nervous about leaving Miami, there was not much we could do anyway, so we purchased travel insurance and hit the road for the Happiest Place on Earth (Ask me about insuring your trip! I recommend it every time). We needed some laughter and a place that would get our minds off the current situation, and our weekend escape did just that.

While we had taken many family vacations to Orlando prior to this trip, we never wanted to splurge on the Four Seasons Orlando because the price tag is usually much higher than the other Orlando resorts. However, I can assure you that after our stay, the hefty price tag is justified, particularly if you don’t plan to visit parks all day, every day. The resort itself is so enjoyable, from its many restaurants to in-house entertainment like kids club and activities program, the water park with water slides and lazy river, and the golfing, that there’s really no need to leave the resort to have fun.

Upon arrival, the lobby is equipped with body thermal scanners with signs reminding guests to maintain social distancing. There are also hand sanitizing stations throughout the resort, that just made us feel more assured. Our children were greeted with Four Seasons backpacks with their scavenger hunt maps inside, that would keep them busy throughout their stay. Upon arriving to our room, we were welcomed by three gigantic bags of candy for the kids, a Preferred Partner welcome amenity that is customized for each my clients.

Long day at Disney

One thing I love most about my job and working with our industry partners is being able to customize the welcome amenity for my clients, and I love Four Seasons properties because they’re always willing to make each arrival extra special. For our kids, there’s nothing better than their own bag of candy (no sharing!) and a child-size plush Four Seasons bathrobe. They changed into their swimsuits and bathrobes faster than we could say, “Mickey Mouse,” and we were down at the water park in a flash.

Because of Covid, the hotel was kept at a maximum occupancy of 50% occupancy, so it felt almost empty and the kids must have gone down the slides a dozen times before we ordered a poolside dinner. The sunset over the water park was a beautiful mixture of fiery oranges and sorbet pinks, the perfect setting where I could finally relax while my kids were happily entertained.

From the next morning’s Disney character breakfast, to enjoying the water park all day, to our youngest getting the princess royal treatment at the Four Seasons salon, it was overall just a really amazing weekend. We enjoyed a more formal dinner at Capa, overlooking the entire property and skyline, which was the icing on the cake of the sweetest family vacation that we so desperately needed. If you’re like me and don’t think that the words “Orlando” and “relaxing” can go together in the same sentence, then you should try staying at the Four Seasons Orlando on your next visit. It truly is a destination on its own and well worth the investment, especially when you book with us! Who doesn’t love getting the Preferred Partner VIP treatment throughout their stay at any of the Four Seasons?!

Let’s Get Planning!

Four Seasons Orlando

Sea Island Cottages

Staying in Georgia’s Sea Island Vacation Rentals and Cottages

Vacation Rental Review

Staying in Georgia’s Sea Island Vacation Rentals and Cottages

Where to Stay on Sea Island
MARIA DIEGO

If you’re planning a trip to Sea Island, Georgia, and you’re looking for a more relaxed vibe, you like to avoid staying in large hotel resorts, or you’re travelling as part of a bigger group, then staying at one of the Sea Island cottage rentals could be perfect for you.

Perfect For: Families | Traditional Family Gatherings 

31.1997,-81.3333

Sea Island, Georgia

Sea Island, on the coast of Georgia: Less than 1.5 hours by car from Jacksonville (JAX) or Savannah (SAV) International Airports, 20 minutes from Brunswick (BQK) regional airport or only 10 minutes from St Simons Airport (SSI) if flying private.

Sea Island, on the coast of Georgia: Less than 1.5 hours by car from Jacksonville (JAX) or Savannah (SAV) International Airports, 20 minutes from Brunswick (BQK) regional airport or only 10 minutes from St Simons Airport (SSI) if flying private.

Sea Island Cottages: Sea Island vacation rentals and cottages are a great alternative to the main Cloisters building or the Sea Island Beach Club because they offer much more space and give the feel of exclusivity being located a short distance away from the main Sea Island resort buildings. This is perfect for large or multi-generational families on vacation together and also a great option if you’d like to bring your pets along too (select cottages are pet-friendly)!

Location:  A Sea Island cottage rental also allows you to decide how far you would like to be from the main resort. Sea Island cloister cottages are right by the main building, oceanfront rentals are just a short walk from the resort or vacation houses which are a bike or golf buggy ride away. You can be as near or as far as you like from all the action!


Amenities: The self-catering facilities at Sea Island cottages give you complete flexibility for your trip, with their fully equipped kitchen and amenities in each property. The Sea Island house rentals or condos come in sizes, styles, locations and budgets to suit any vacation, and we are happy to advise you on which one is right for you and your trip.

Quality and Cleanliness Standards: A great feature of the cottages Sea Island has to offer is that they are all owned and rented through Sea Island resort itself. This means no scrolling VRBO listings or worrying about the hygiene standards of an Airbnb. Instead, all the Sea Island rentals are prepared to the same high quality standards, safety regulations and hygiene regulations as the main Sea Island Resort and Beach Club. This also means the standard of service you can expect is the same as staying at a hotel and significantly higher than you would receive at a vacation rental listing property.


Additional Value when You Book Sea Island with Diego Travel

Another bonus when you book a Sea Island cottage rental through Diego Travel is the $100 per day resort credit that you’ll receive. If you do the math, that comes to $700 for a week-long stay or $1400 for two weeks! This offer is exclusively for booking Sea Island, Georgia rentals and cottages with Diego Travel and comes at no added cost to you. Plus, you will get the knowledge of a professional to help you book the best Sea Island cottage for you and your family.  Should you want additional travel planning help with scheduling activities or dining reservations, we also offer that service for an additional fee.  

With the extra resort credit to look forward to, why not treat yourself to a few extras? Sea Island cottages all offer daily housekeeping at an additional cost. You can even request that the kitchen and fridge be fully stocked in preparation for your arrival so you can get that high quality service, without having to stay in the main hotel.

Let’s Get Planning Your Vacation to Sea Island

Whether you’re planning a long weekend or a two-week vacation at Sea Island, Georgia, house rentals are a great option for that home-away-from-home feeling but with all the perks of staying at a resort. Reach out today to see how Diego Travel can help you plan the perfect island getaway for you.

Design My Trip!


Related Posts


Continue reading

Austin Texas

Austin, Texas: The Best Hotels and Resorts

Austin, Texas

The Best Hotels and Resorts

MARIA DIEGO

As a home-schooling against my will mom of three, while simultaneously working-from-home travel agent slash advisor, I had been dreaming of a solo vacation by myself since we were all ordered to stay at home in March.  I needed to enjoy the glorious sound of silence and treat myself to a spa and wellness retreat since my kids had seemingly not stopped bickering for months.  I had never been on vacation alone before, but with so many state closures, required testing, and limited flights, I was looking for something accessible and safe.  I landed on Austin, Texas.  There were several excellent hotel and resort choices, so I chose three and went off on my own to explore the best of what Austin, Texas had to offer.  So long, kiddos!  Sorry, husband.

Perfect For: Music Lovers | Foodies | Couples Weekend Getaway | Bachelor/Bachelorette party | Wellness Retreat | Spa

 

About Austin Texas

When most people think of the things to do in Austin, Texas, they might think of its official slogan The Live Music Capital of the World.  With festivals like SXSW music festival (pronounced South by Southwest for those of you who live under a rock) and Austin City Limits, there’s never a shortage of live music and unique venues to be found year-round.  And speaking of year-round, Austin boasts amazing weather for most of the year, which allows you to enjoy everything it has to offer, no matter the time of year.

The other unofficial slogan of Keep Austin Weird refers to its residents’ strong support of small local businesses and desire to keep out massive corporations.  This is apparent as soon as you step off the airplane in AUS, where there’s no Starbucks or Burger King in sight within the terminal, but rather small local restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops.  Aside from the music scene and small shop scene, Austin is known for its foodie and restaurant scene.  You’ll find tons of amazing restaurants, so in combination with the music scene, makes for the perfect pairing for a couple’s weekend getaway or friends and family reunion.

The lesser known of top things to do in Austin is the health, wellness and spa scene.  Lake Austin is home to two of the country’s best wellness resorts, Lake Austin Spa Resort and Miraval Austin Wellness Resort & Spa.  These two resorts are destinations in and of themselves, and I can’t wait to share more about my stays there.

Getting to Austin, Texas

While not quite like DFW International, Austin has plenty of non-stop flights and is easily accessible from all over the country.  My non-stop flight from Miami was only $90 and left in the morning and returned at night, which is ideal for a weekend trip anywhere.  Driving to Austin from Dallas takes 3 hours, and a 2.5 hour drive from Houston, so setting up a multi-city tour through Texas is also a great trip option if you have the time.  I love planning trips for clients who want to discover the best things to do in Texas, combining city options with ranches that lie just beyond city limits.

  • 30.4371,-97.8729

    Miraval Austin Resort & Spa

  • 30.3001,-97.7223

    Commodore Perry Estate

  • 30.3271,-97.9255

    Lake Austin Resort & Spa

The Best Hotels in Austin Texas

While I didn’t have a chance to see some other fantastic hotels like Four Seasons Resort or Austin Proper Hotel, I’m going to cover three of the best hotels in Austin.  When live music returns, I’ll be sure to be back with my husband and visit the other hotels I missed on Round #1.

Lake Austin Spa Resort

Perhaps the resort that most exceeded my expectations was Lake Austin Spa Resort, which just underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation.  I didn’t know much about this adults-only, dog-friendly, all-inclusive hotel, as most of my clients are coastal and didn’t travel domestically quite like they are now after the pandemic.  What struck me most about this 40-room boutique resort on the edge of Lake Austin that sits opposite a protected bird sanctuary, is its European feel.  It is truly the best kept secret in Texas, and its high-profile clients like the Bush family, Matthew McConaughey, and Drew Barrymore probably prefer to keep it that way.

On the lake, they offer wakeboarding, water skiing, wake surfing, hydro-bikes, and stand-up paddle boards.  They also have an included daily afternoon cruise and a sunset wine cruise for an additional cost.  Magnolia Beach is the perfect setting to enjoy the soft breeze under an embracing Magnolia tree with a good book and southern sweet tea or glass of Rosé in hand.  In addition to the water sports, they have a daily roster of about 25 classes throughout the property, from hiking part of its 22 miles of hiking trails, to fossil hunting, to gardening and culinary events that feature guest speakers coverings topics such as the journey through death, cancer, or divorce to birding and culinary classes.

The rooms range from the entry-level signature rooms that don’t have a view to the lake to the lakeview rooms.  Perhaps my favorite was the Lady Bird Johnson suite, where its namesake stayed many times during her travels to this intimate resort.  It offers a private garden patio and is located on the quieter end of the resort that doesn’t have views of the lake, but experiences less foot traffic.  So, if you’re trying to fly under the radar and avoiding the paparazzi, I recommend this suite most of all. 

The 25,000-square-foot spa has 20 private treatment rooms with over 100 treatment choices including myofascial and craniosacral treatments.  The Bamboo Suite spa package includes a 3-hour private experience in a private outdoor patio with 2 hours of treatments and 1 hour of alone time to enjoy the space.  As an ex-competitive swimmer myself, I really loved the indoor 2-lane 25-yard pool.  There are also two different outdoor pools – one lakefront pool perfect for enjoying the views and sunlight and one spa pool, which offers more shade and an organic shape.

In addition to being the ideal getaway for a wellness and spa retreat, this Austin resort is ideal for larger corporate incentive or family events.  The resort is equipped with plenty of spaces that allow for outdoor events, team building activities, conference rooms, and more.  Even the dock can be converted into a covered outdoor dining space under the stars.  Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway for just you and your partner, or needing a venue for your next corporate event, I can handle all of the details to make your stay personalized for you.  It’s important to note that Lake Austin Spa Resort has a 3-night minimum stay for most of the year.

Book Lake Austin Spa Resort with Diego Travel to receive the following:

  • Priority upgrade upon arrival if available
  • $100 resort credit
  • VIP welcome amenity
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Diego Travel welcome box for first-time clients

We recommend Lake Austin Spa Resort for:

  • Honeymoon
  • Anniversary Trips
  • Couples Getaway
  • Bachelorette Parties
  • Girls Weekend Getaway
  • Mother/Daughter Trips
  • Solo Female Traveler
  • Corporate Incentive Trips
  • Small Weddings

Book Now

Miraval Austin Wellness Resort & Spa

I was really looking forward to my stay at Miraval Austin Wellness Resort & Spa because I felt like I was on the brink of insanity, a sentiment shared by every single mom who survived the challenges of educating kids at home while they can’t play with their friends.  I expected a soulful experience (after all, my company slogan is Curating travel that speaks to your soul), but the delivery fell short.I wavered on how I wanted to present this resort, as their sales team was amazing to work with and I think that for the right person, this resort would be a perfect fit.  It just wasn’t what I was expecting, and here’s why I didn’t like it:

The location: Perched up on a hillside, overlooking Lake Austin, I was expecting expansive views of the lake.  Instead, you can catch a glimpse of the lake from only limited spots on property.  There is a somewhat busy road running between the property and lake as well, which disrupts the feeling of being one with nature, as the sound of whirring vehicles interrupts the ohm of your yoga class.

The classes: While this resort is all-inclusive, many of the classes offered are an additional cost.  I sought out classes geared toward mental health as opposed to physical health, because I had just lost a family member and as I mentioned, I was going through some stuff after being stuck inside with kids for months on-end.  While I thought these classes would be more interactive and therapeutic, my experience was that there was a lead instructor that gave a lecture for an hour where the guests listened and took notes.  Hardly soulful and hardly effective, in my opinion.  Having said that, there was a myriad of physical fitness classes, and I witnessed many small groups of friends enjoying these together.  So, if you want to sign up for every fitness class under the sun and are the type that likes boot camps or a rigorous exercise itinerary, then Miraval Austin would be a great fit for you.

The food: After a flight delay, I arrived later than expected with ravenous hunger.  The main restaurant was closed, so my only option was the grab-and-go pre-packaged options at the smoothie bar next door.  I grabbed a salad, an avocado chocolate gluten free cookie, and a drink and sat down outdoors, overlooking that little sliver of Lake Austin.  The salad was mediocre at best, but I was hungry so I wolfed it down anyway.  That evening my meal was undercooked and did not contain the ingredients that were listed on the menu.  I mentioned it to my waiter and was told that menu items can vary slightly.  However, that was my experience at every meal.  The menu contained mouth-watering descriptions of Michelin-level options, but the delivery was plain and simple food that lacked flavor or variety.  Sorry, Miraval.  I was hungry for a good meal after I left, and I do not consider myself a picky eater.

The vibe: Miraval was recently bought by Hyatt Hotel group, so I did feel that there was a somewhat corporate vibe throughout the hotel.  The rooms felt like any other Hyatt and the service was more standardized and less personable, if you will.  This would be an excellent hotel for corporate retreats, looking for team-building and a property that can accommodate a large group.  As I mentioned, I also think that this is a great property for larger groups of friends who want the most amount of class options available.  As a side note, I have heard from many fellow agents who have been to both Miraval Arizona and Miraval Austin, and it is generally said that the Austin location pales in comparison.  Diego Travel, which is a proud independent affiliate of McCabe World Travel, is also a Hyatt Privé member, which translates to exclusive offers and rates for our clients at both Miraval properties.

Book Miraval Austin Wellness Resort & Spa with Diego Travel to receive the following:

  • Priority upgrade upon arrival if available
  • $100 resort credit
  • Hyatt Privé welcome amenity
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Diego Travel welcome box for first-time clients

We recommend Miraval Austin for:

  • Corporate Groups
  • Large Groups of Girlfriends
  • Bachelorette Parties
  • Fitness Junkies
  • Incentive Groups

Book Now

Commodore Perry Estate, an Auberge Resort

The hotel I was most excited about seeing is the newest addition to the Auberge Resort portfolio, the Commodore Perry Estate.  If you’ve ever stayed at an Auberge hotel, you’ll understand its level of excellence.  I’m also a sucker for quirky and eccentric boutique resorts, so when I had seen photos of Ken Fulk’s past work featured in Architectural Digest, I was looking forward to see what this interior design visionary came up with for his latest project to restore this historical mansion and treasured landmark that sits on a 10-acre parcel in the center of Austin.

Pulling into the gravel driveway to the welcoming smile of an eager attendant was the first indication that you’ve just left one world to enter another.  Stepping into the reception area, with a wall mural painted by a local Austinite, feels like a mix between a Tuscan villa and an eclectic lounge in hues of deep blue and burnt orange that invite you to sit down by the fire and get lost in a good book.  Your eye can’t help but wander from floor to ceiling, stopping at every detail that Fulk masterfully pairs together in ways one would never think of doing.   As I walked down a long corridor to my room, which is opened by a large brass key, the sales manager led me into the room where I was met with a fully-stocked bar cart and large plate of artisan cheeses and ice-cold grapes drizzled in honey.  “It’s on the honor system,” she casually told me.  “The liquor will be charged on consumption.”  In other words, fix yourself a cocktail and make yourself at home.

The original building of the Estate, where Commodore Perry lived with his family, is five suites in total and done in a different style than the rest of the hotel, which are all new surrounding buildings.  The five suites that make up the Mansion are whimsically appointed and charmingly distinct, named for each of the Perry family members.  The LaVerne Suite is perhaps the most popular, combining the total envelopment of pink floral over the walls, ceiling and curtains with a pink stripe and pink vintage bathroom tiles.  Some might call it tacky.  Most would call it delightful – and it’s Fulk’s whimsy at his finest.   

So how did I spend my alone time at this European-style retreat?  Finishing a book poolside as I sipped on a mocktail, eating a delectable room service dinner in a plush bathrobe and sprawled across fluffy pillows, and people watching at the mansion while I relished in the notable absence of three very needy children.  What I missed: conversation with friends over the punch bowl at the Mansion’s living room bar, a mystical palm reading in the property chapel, live music on weekend evenings, a yoga session or picnic on the grassy green lawn, or lunch at the larger restaurant, Lutie’s, which was not yet open due to the pandemic.  Will I be going back?  Yes.  And if you know me, you know that I will only return to properties I really love.  And I really, really loved the Commodore Perry Estate.

Book the Commodore Perry Estate, an Auberge Resort with Diego Travel to receive the following:

  • Priority upgrade upon arrival if available
  • Daily breakfast credit for two guests per bedroom ($70 per day, per room)
  • $100 food and beverage credit
  • VIP welcome amenity
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Diego Travel welcome box for first-time clients

We recommend the Commodore Perry Estate for:

  • Honeymooners
  • Anniversary Trips
  • Couples Getaway
  • Bachelorette Parties
  • Girls Weekend Getaway
  • Interior Design Junkies
  • Live Music Aficionados
  • Small Unique Weddings
  • Cocktail Lovers

Book Now

Austin in a Nutshell

To summarize, whether you’re planning a 2-night couples getaway or a week-long stay to explore and attend Austin City Limits (no pun intended), Austin is a great option for a weekend celebration like bachelor/bachelorette weekend or birthday bash, or couples trip to reconnect for an anniversary.  It’s also an incredible destination for wellness and spa retreats, as we covered at both Lake Austin Spa Resort and Miraval Austin.  I spent three nights total, but felt like I could have spent a lot more, and didn’t even leave the hotels to explore around town.  When you book your vacation with Diego Travel, an independent affiliate of McCabe World Travel, and member of Virtuoso, we provide all the above listed amenities at no extra charge to our clients.  Direct hotel bookings are always complimentary, and when trip planning or concierge service is involved, there is a minimal custom trip planning fee.  Next time you’re planning to travel to Austin, feel free to reach out to see how we can enhance your travel experience.

Design My Trip!

Continue reading

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach – The Best Hotels and Resorts

Laguna Beach

The Best Hotels and Resorts

MARIA DIEGO

My family lives in Southern California, spread out between the cities of Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. We try to visit at least twice a year for a family vacation, and no matter how long we go for, it never feels like enough time. There are so many kid-friendly things to do in Southern California like outdoor parks, hiking, farms with petting zoos, fresh fruits and vegetables, horseback riding, museums and of course, the beaches. One area that had always evaded us was Laguna Beach, which was left for us to discover over our summer vacation.

As most of the country was just reopening and still dealing with restrictions, we planned a long weekend trip to Laguna Beach to discover three new luxury hotels in this Southern California area, known for its beautiful cliffs, great restaurants and shopping, and tons of outdoor activities like surfing and hiking. In this blog, I’m going to highlight where to stay, what hotel will be right for your family vacation, and break down the differences between Montage Laguna Beach, the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, and the Monarch Beach Resort.

Perfect For: Romantic Getaways | Honeymoons & Anniversaries | Families | Surfing | Golfers | Shopping

About Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is 7 miles of coastline located between San Diego and Los Angeles, with more oceanfront hotel properties than any other area of California.  The topography of Laguna Beach includes coves, tide pools, unique beaches, sea caves and oceanside bluffs, making it one of the coolest regions to explore with kids.  Laguna Beach is home to some of the world’s most famous surf breaks, making it a favorite of surfers and stand up paddle boarders.  It’s also home to a fun arts and culture scene that includes year-round festivals, galleries, public art exhibits, and fun educational programs for kids.

Getting to Laguna Beach, California

Whether you are planning a honeymoon, a family vacation, or just a beach weekend getaway, Laguna Beach is a great option as a sole destination, or a stopover while visiting the entire California coast.  Laguna Beach is easily accessible by flying into John Wayne Airport (SNA), which is the closest but smallest of the airport options.  Alternatively, you could fly into either San Diego International (SAN) or Los Angeles International (LAX) and make the approximately 1.5 hour drive from either direction, depending on traffic.  If you have never visited California, I would recommend either starting in San Diego or San Francisco and driving the entire coast, if you want to make a fun family road trip and experience the best of California.  However you choose to explore California, we always recommend a rental car so that you can see and do as much as possible.

  • 33.5159,-117.758

    Montage Laguna Beach

  • 33.4822,-117.715

    Monarch Beach Resort

  • 33.4747,-117.7204

    The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel

Sign me up!

For travel trends, personalized family vacation ideas, or unbelievable offers from our global partners, drop us your info below.  We promise to limit all correspondence to the once a week good stuff and won’t overload your inbox with clutter.

[formidable id=4]

The Best Hotels in Laguna Beach

While Laguna Beach has a ton of great hotels and resorts for honeymooners, couples getaways, or family vacations, I selected the top three luxury resorts in Laguna Beach that I wanted to compare for my clients.  I am going to break down the differences and pros and cons of my top three resorts in Laguna Beach and let you know which one is right for you.  Without further ado, here are the best hotels in Laguna Beach.

 

The Monarch Beach Resort

This 400-room Monarch Beach Resort is a massive 175 acre property set further back from the beach, but offering gorgeous views of both green hills and ocean.  The 18-hole golf course runs perpendicular and slightly downhill to the beach, which makes it an ideal beach and golf resort.  In 2019, they completed Laguna Beach’s only beach club, which offers a beachside restaurant and private beach access with chair setup and service.  This beach club is only open to hotel guests and club members, which is a nice bonus of staying at Monarch Beach Resort.

For me, the downside was the commute to the beach.  You have to arrive by golf or shuttle cart, which takes about 10-15 minutes, plus the wait time when you’re ready to go.  It’s not a huge deal if you plan to go to the beach and stay put, but if you have little ones and need to go back and forth to the room, it would be a challenge. 

Other important features of this resort is that it is very kid-friendly and dog-friendly.  Dogs have designated run zones and and trails around the property.  Monarch Beach Resort does have a kids club, though it was not open during our visit.  They created outdoor kids activities and even relocated the gym equipment to an outdoor tented area to allow guests the continued use of the ‘gym.’ 

The resort has 3 pools – the 2 main ones are nearly side-by-side, separated by a restaurant and gates with one being the family pool and the other being the adults-only pool.  I did feel the pools were on the smaller side for being such a large resort.  The third pool is located in the Miraval spa, which is also adults-only.

While they have many different types of accommodations, a resort favorite is the fireside junior suites for their ground floor easy access to the outdoor spaces and fire pits that are nice and cozy in the colder months of the year. 

Book Monarch Beach Resort with Diego Travel to Receive the Following:

  • Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for two guests per bedroom in AVEO Table + Bar or via room service ($80 credit per day)
  • $100 USD Resort credit, to be utilized during stay (Cannot be used for room, tax, valet or resort charge, not combinable, not valid on retail items, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

We Recommend Monarch Beach Resort For:

  • Large families or family reunions
  • Golfers
  • Corporate or incentive travel
  • Large weddings
  • Large reunions that require large outdoor spaces
  • Those looking for a more lively scene

Read more

The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel

Last, but not least, was our stay at The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, the southernmost hotel of the three.  Just in front of Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point, this spot is a favorite to surfers from around the world.  The team at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel made us feel like rock stars, with a VIP welcome and amazing amenity for our kids that made it feel like Christmas morning.  As an independent affiliate of McCabe World Travel, our clients get the privilege of receiving STARS perks at any Ritz Carlton property worldwide.  What does this mean?  It means VIP treatment, priority upgrades, extras throughout, and white glove “Guardian Angel” service throughout your stay.  Why would you ever book direct, when you can book with us and receive all of the above?

During our visit, California restrictions required any indoor restaurants to remain completely closed.  Due to this, dining options on property were extremely limited, with only 180 Blue, a small outdoor patio with, you guessed it, 180 degree views of the ocean and sunset.  So, this small venue was always to capacity and only allowed for high table seating, which proved challenging with a small 3-year-old.  However, during “normal” times, you would have plenty of indoor dining options.

Here’s a cool fact about this luxury hotel: Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel is the only Ritz Carlton in the world that overlooks a natural surf break.  So, if you have a surfer in the family (like we do!), then the Ritz Carlton would be a great choice for you.  It is a hike down to the beach, and once there, the hotel does not provide any chairs or beach service like towels or beverage service.  So, keep that in mind when planning your trip.

The hotel has 396 rooms and suites, with suites recently renovated with beds that have a direct line of vision to the ocean.  Not a bad way to wake up in the morning!  The lobby was renovated in 2018, and standard guest rooms have a planned renovation underway over the next couple of years. 

For kids and adult activities, the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel provides an eco adventure tour, night crawler hike, and whale watching tours to name a few.  They also provide a complimentary 45 minute photography session if you want to get your holiday card photos taken during your stay.  Personally, the downside to the hotel was the pool.  Located in a courtyard, with zero views to the ocean, I felt it was enclosed and for being on a beach vacation, it would be nice to spend time at the pool feeling the ocean breeze.  I also didn’t like that there is no beachside service or chairs.  However, if those aren’t your priorities and you just want the best spot for easiest access to surf, or the closest hotel to Dana Point, or the hotel with the best views from your room, then Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel is the best choice.  Just be sure to ask us which room category would ensure you have the ocean view you’re craving. 

Book Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel with Diego Travel to Receive the Ritz Carlton STARS Exclusive Amenities:

  • Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability
  • The Ultimate Family Beach Vacation Amenity
  • Daily Breakfast for Two at Raya, In-Room Dining, or The Market Place
  • $100 Hotel Credit
  • VIP Status with In-Person Warm Welcome and Note from General Manager
  • First Priority on Wait Lists in Sold-Out Situations
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

We Recommend Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel For: 

  • Surfers- The Ritz Carlton is located directly above Salt Creek, one of Southern California’s iconic surf spots. 
  • Those who love an ocean view but don’t plan to spend much time at the beach or the pool
  • Corporate or incentive travel
  • Ritz Carlton loyalists or Marriott Bonvoy members

 

Montage Laguna Beach

Montage Laguna Beach resort is the Montage brand’s premiere property, the first in its portfolio and the pinnacle in Pacific coastal luxury.  From the moment you arrive to the lobby, the floor to ceiling views of the Pacific Ocean are jaw-dropping.  Throughout the pandemic, Montage Laguna Beach never closed, remaining open for locals and clients who were in-the-know to the property’s standards and exclusive access to the beach. 

This hotel offers 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom suites with three different views.  While all rooms have views of the ocean, the entry level rooms are on the ground floor, or “horizon views.”  One of the advantages of booking your stay with Diego Travel, is you’ll receive an automatic view upgrade at time of booking.  In total, the resort has 258 rooms and suites that underwent a complete renovation in 2019.  The hotel room decor is a soft, neutral, coastal blue palette that feels straight out of the pages of Elle Decor magazine. 

The biggest highlight of the property is the easy access directly down to the beach, albeit down some pretty steep stairs.  Montage Laguna Beach offers beachside service with chairs and towels, so if the beach is your thing and is high on your priority list, then Montage Laguna Beach should be your first choice.

Other highlights, especially if you’re traveling with kids, is the amazing kids club and activities menu they offer.  While it’s not included in your hotel stay, they offer half and full-day programs for kids ages 5-12 years old.  While the kids are enjoying their fun outdoor activities like swimming in the pool with mermaid tails on, you can go enjoy one of the 20 spa treatment rooms or the adults-only spa pool. 

With the option of multiple bedroom units, I love Montage Laguna Beach for family or multi-generational family trips who are looking for the best in service, highest quality accommodations, and al fresco dining with oceanfront views.  It’s also a great options for honeymooners or adults looking to get away for a weekend because you can use the spa pool which also sits in front of the ocean. 

Book Montage Laguna Beach with Diego Travel to Receive the Following:

  • View upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability (applicable to Ocean Coastal & above)
  • Welcome Amenity
  • $60 daily breakfast credit per bedroom at The Loft or Room Service
  • $100 USD Spa Services credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in, subject to availability
  • 4pm guaranteed late check-out
  • Complimentary VIP Access to South Coast Plaza, Southern California’s Premier Shopping Destination and exclusive shopping offers/discounts at select luxury retailers.
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

*for suite stays of 2 nights or more, spa credit is $200.00

We Recommend Montage Laguna Beach For:

  • Families
  • Multi-generational families
  • Honeymooners
  • Celebration Travel
  • Small, intimate, and luxury weddings

Laguna Beach in a Nutshell

To summarize, whether you’re planning a 2-night stay as a stopover or a week-long summer vacation, Laguna Beach is a great option for a honeymoon, family vacation, or couples trip.  We spent three nights, but felt like we could have spent a lot more, and didn’t even leave the hotels to explore around town.  When you book your vacation with Diego Travel, we provide all the above listed amenities at no extra charge to our clients.  Direct hotel bookings are always complimentary, and when planning or concierge service is involved, there is a minimal custom trip planning fee.  Next time you’re planning to travel worldwide, feel free to reach out to see how we can enhance your travel experience.


Related Posts


Laguna Beach- Best hotels and resorts guide

Continue reading

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys

Why Your Next Vacation Should Be in The Florida Keys
MARIA DIEGO

The Florida Keys are made up of 5 main keys that start at Key Largo, then Islamorada, then Marathon, then the Lower Keys and finally Key West. To drive from Miami to Key West takes about 3 hours, so all the Keys can be covered in one trip.

Perfect For: Romantic Getaways | Honeymoons & Anniversaries | Fishermen | Scuba Divers

The Florida Keys Family Travel Guide

What to do

The biggest misconception about the Florida Keys is that there are plenty of sandy beaches. I hate to break it to you, but there’s not! The Keys are all about getting out on a boat for fishing, snorkeling, cruises and exploring marine and wildlife. The nightlife can be pretty great too, if you visit at the right times of the year.

  • Snorkeling

    From Key Largo to Key West, the dive spots in the Florida Keys are numerous and plentiful with fish and protected sea life. With dive spots like Hens and Chickens or Looe Key, your best bet is to go with a guide that can take you to a spot where you will see the most fish while snorkeling. Also, there are spots better suited for children if you’re traveling as a family. We also like taking stand up paddle boards with a few masks and snorkels and swimming in shallow areas in the bayside.

  • Fishing

    There are seasons for catching lobster and certain types of fish, and they have to meet size criteria prior to catching them. The local Coast Guard will pull you over and check your cooler, measuring each and every fish – it’s happened to us on more than one occasion – so unless you’re an experienced fisherman with a boat in the Keys, it’s best to leave it to the professionals and hire a company that specializes in fishing while you visit. An expert fishing captain will be able to take you to the right spot whether bottom fishing or trolling, and the Keys is a whole lot of water to take a shot in the dark.

  • Sunset Cruises and Sailing

    Another option if you’re not a huge fan of fishing is sailing or a sunset cruise. I am the black sheep in my family because I am the only one who isn’t a huge fan of spear fishing, free diving and line fishing. I usually stick to the boat, unless the water is over 80 degrees or I’m getting too sea sick from rough seas to stay on the boat. Then I go in for a swim. What I love most about boats is riding at sunset, especially on a calm day. If there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss while in the Florida Keys, is catching a sunset from either a boat or the view at Pierre’s or Morada Bay (more on that later).

  • Marine & Wildlife Sanctuaries

    If you love animals or are traveling with children, youre not going to want to miss a visit to a Wildlife Sanctuary.  While there are too many to count, the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area offers a hammock forest, coastal rock and mangroves with hiking, cycling and paddling trails.  The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in Key Largo and the Turtle Hospital in Marathon are two other must-sees and personal favorites.  Plus, each time you visit one of these places, the entry fee goes toward their maintenance costs so that you can help continue their mission.

Getting around Sea Island Georgia

Getting There

Fly: From 1.5-3 hours by car from Miami International Airport MIA) or fly into Key West International (EYW). Alternatively all of the keys are accesible by private yacht or sailboat..

Recommended Stay: Weekend getaway to one week.

Elevation: 0 feet

Best Time of Year to Visit: March to November

The Florida Keys
  • 24.9780,-80.5497

    Isla Morada

  • 24.7110,-81.0897

    Marathon

  • 24.6237,-81.4007

    Little Palm Island

Where to Stay in The Florida Keys

The Cloister at Sea Island

Little Palm Island

I wrote a whole blog on Little Palm Island because it’s just that special of a place. Little Palm Island is the only private island resort in the United States and an adults-only hotel, perfect for a weekend getaway, a honeymoon, or to celebrate an anniversary. With 30 suites that dot the perimeter of the island, every suite has a gorgeous ocean view. The resort just underwent a massive post-hurricane renovation and now features all-new cozy, romantic suites. The impeccable attention to every detail in its design is reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway and his era.

What you get when you book with Diego Travel:

  • A suite upgrade if available (the honeymoon suites have outdoor hot tubs on the terrace)
  • Daily complimentary breakfast for 2
  • $100 resort credit (use it toward an unbelievable massage in their quaint yet impressive spa)
  • Early check-in/late check-out

The Cloister at Sea Island

The Islands of Islamorada

The Islands of Islamorada are in the heart of downtown Islamorada, close to the best restaurants and shops. I toured them prior to completion and let me tell you, these luxury private villas are guaranteed to be the place to stay in the Florida Keys. Each 3-story private villa has 3 spacious king bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms plus a fourth bunk or twin room. 11 of the villas come with an elevator and the open floor plan with full kitchen, dining and living room look out to the ocean. Swoon!

The Palm Beach area owners were thoughtful in not only the interior design, but the exterior design and landscape architecture. Each villa has privacy from the others, while all guests can enjoy communal spaces like an open beach, pool, and the Ocean House bar. Soon to be completed will be a restaurant and a new area of smaller 1-bedroom beach villas. I can also help coordinate docking your boat at their private marina during your stay. You’ll have direct ocean access to get out there fishing early each morning!

This is the perfect chic destination to come with the whole multi-generational family, for an extended family vacation. Each unit has a two car garage and wash machine/dryer, so it’d be easy to stay for a month or longer. Heck, I think I might just move in.

Ocean residences

Cheeca Lodge & Spa

Cheeca Lodge & Spa is one of the better known resorts in the Florida Keys and with good reason.  With an expansive ocean view, a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, spa and now 5 pools, they make it easy and convenient.  The rooms vary widely from golf course view rooms to ocean-front suites, so tread with care and definitely use a travel advisor (that’s me!).  The in-the-know professionals know which rooms to ask for, with one suite in particular that stands out from the rest.  And no, I’ll never tell!  I reserve that suite for Diego Travel clients.  It’s also important to know that only the golf course view rooms are pet-friendly, so if you are planning on traveling with your furry family member, be sure to book this room. 

Cheeca Lodge & Spa recently purchased oceanfront casitas and bungalows, formerly part of The Moorings property.  These exclusive villas have their own pool, tennis court and beach (yes, actual beach!  On of the few real beaches in The Florida Keys and private too).  Two of these two-bedroom villas are beachfront, while the others are set back further on the property.  The great thing about these casitas is that guests have access to all of the amenities and restaurants at Cheeca, but guests at Cheeca do not have access to this area.  So, think of it as your semi-private VIP area but with additional resort amenities to enjoy like more pool options, golf, restaurants and of course the spa.

What you get when you book with Diego Travel:

  • Upgrade upon arrival if available
  • Daily complimentary breakfast for 2
  • $100 resort credit
  • Early check-in/late check-out

Sea Island Cottages

Isla Bella Resort

Isla Bella Resort is a new property featuring 199 oceanfront suites. It’s very rare to find a resort with all ocean views, but Isla Bella did it beautifully. With a name meaning Beautiful Island, what more would you expect? The rooms and suites are spacious and airy, decorated bright white with accents of coastal blue. They come in a variety of options, from one and two-bedroom guest rooms to suites with a kitchenette, making an extended stay very practical. What I love most are the first floor rooms that have direct access to the oceanfront sand and pools. You have your own oceanfront porch where you can sit outside, read a book, and watch guests ride back and forth on the property bicycles. These ground floor options also allow for social-distancing, as you wouldn’t need to enter through common areas like the hallways or elevators.

Isla Bella’s property is large, with a “town square” area that consists of a large marketplace with a cafe, the spa, conference space, and retail shopping with the cutest beach and resort wear and any pool toys and floaties your kids might need. One of the coolest things about Isla Bella is its Watersports Activity Center. Like I mentioned earlier in the blog, if you haven’t gotten out on the water, then you haven’t experienced the Keys. Isla Bella offers all the water sports right there for your convenience with brand new boats, fishing equipment and even jet ski and kayak rentals. They are top-notch professionals and I highly recommend a stay here just to make use of this amazing water sports center.

What you get when you book with Diego Travel:

  • Upgrade upon arrival if available
  • Daily complimentary breakfast for 2
  • $100 resort credit
  • Early check-in/late check-out

The Georgian Room

Where to eat?

  • Key Lime Pie

    Let’s not beat around the bush and get straight to the good stuff – what the Florida Keys is best known for – key lime pie!  You may even want to taste-test your way down the Keys.  My kids and I are gluten-free, so I’d start my list with Key West Key Lime Pie Co.  They ship too!  Other Key West notables are Pepe’s Cafe and Old Town Bakery. 

    Further up the Keys is a locals’ favorite at the Green Turtle Inn, and whether you’re getting the key lime pie on the menu or anything else, you just can’t go wrong.  They are the same owners of the nearby Kayo Grill and SushiKayo Grill and Sushi, that has The best sushi I have had in the Florida.  Back to key lime pie though…A final mention is either of Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen’s two locations near Key Largo.  The key lime pie is to die for!

  • Fresh Fish and Seafood

    When you’re not eating dessert first, you may want to choose the catch of the day off of every menu.  Atlantic’s Edge at Cheeca for a fancier dinner with killer views or Islamorada Fish Company are two favorites for a fresh catch.  Some more casual, only-the-locals-go spots can be found at the Cuban restaurant Habano’s on the Creek (when you’re starving and coming back in from a fishing trip), Made 2 Order Cafe (another pull-up-in-your-boat for a quick lunch), or the Galley Grill between Key West and Little Palm Island. 

  • Restaurants With a View

    If the view is what you’re after, which you should be in the Keys, then you can’t miss these spots.  Hit Morada Bay or Pierre’s for their monthly Full Moon party – it falls on the Saturday nearest to the full moon of each month.  With a sunset view and an area of sand to party post-dinner, you can’t miss this monthly event.  Latitudes at the Westin in Key West has beautiful sunset views as well.

Design My Trip!

A Few of My Favorite Things

The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys is different for everyone. Depending on if you want a resort that you land at and never leave, or your prefer to venture out and spend little time at your hotel, will determine the area that is right for you. My family has had a home in the Florida Keys for 15+ years, so the amount of time I’ve spend exploring each Key gives me an advantage while planning travel that is perfect for you.

Islamorada of The Florida Keys

My family’s home is located just north of Islamorada, in Tavernier. Islamorada happens to be my favorite spot in the Keys, just because I like the combination of bayside and oceanside boating there, and the array of top-notch restaurants and fun little shops. I’ll never forget bumping into Martha Stewart at Ocean Gardens where you can find Hemingway-era nautical antiques and a vast collection of hard-to-find shells. My dad wasn’t shy and struck up a conversation with her about the Florida Keys and what she loves about visiting. She told us that Ocean Gardens is always a must-see, so there you go!

Location

Key Largo is about one hour south of the southern most part of Miami, while Key West takes a full 3 hours to reach. So to drive from the northern-most key to the southern-most key takes about 2-2.5 hours, depending on traffic. The roadway is a 2-way lane, so holiday weekends can see traffic back up for hours. Locations are described by the locals as being at Mile Marker “__”, with the Key West starting at Mile Marker 0 and working its way up. So when you stop to ask for directions and you’re told, it’s at MM 87, you’ll know in which direction you need to head. It’s only North or South in the Keys!

Activities

Aside from the daytime activities I already listed, you can’t miss watching a sunset with a live band playing in the background. The Keys food is known for being fried, unhealthy, and yummy, and the drink menu plentiful. So plop yourself down at a bayside restaurant somewhere along the strip (my favorite is Pierre’s, at MM 82), order a drink, and relax. It’s also the perfect spot for a small destination wedding, which I can help you plan! Other activities I love to do with the kids is feeding the tarpon at Robbie’s, visiting the Turtle Hospital in Marathon  and Theater of the Sea for swimming with the dolphins and educating them about marine biology.

Beyond The Keys

Because of our network, Diego Travel clients get added amenities to many of the Florida Keys hotels and resorts. Depending on whether it’s your first time or tenth time to the Keys, we’ll make sure to plan your stay based on your needs. We love to combine a trip to the Florida Keys with Miami, the west coast of Florida with stops at places like Marco Island, Naples, or Captiva, or even a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth at Disney World in Orlando. Contact us to help plan your next Florida vacation to elevate your experience, VIP your travel, and make the most of your time at each destination.
 

Florida Keys family travel guide

Related Posts


Continue reading

Little Palm Island

Hotel Review: Little Palm Island

Hotel Review

Little Palm Island

The only private island resort in the United States
MARIA DIEGO

Little Palm Island, the only private island resort in the United States, is newly renovated with nautical elegance reminiscent of the Ernest Hemingway era and quintessentially Floridian.

Perfect For: Boutique Hotel Lovers | Romantic Getaways | Honeymoons & Anniversaries

24.6363,-81.3946

Little Palm Island

Little Palm Island Location:Lower Florida Keys, 28 miles north of Key West and 133 miles south of Miami International Airport

Little Palm Island Location: Lower Florida Keys, 28 miles north of Key West and 133 miles south of Miami International Airport

  • Little Palm Island 4

  • Little Palm Island Beach

Vibe: Little Palm Island, the only private island resort in the United States, is newly renovated with nautical elegance reminiscent of the Ernest Hemingway era and quintessentially Floridian. You can arrive by car, in which case they transport guests on a small wooden vessel named Truman, another nod and step back in time to the golden age. You can arrive by mega-yacht, or at least be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one docked gleamingly in front of the island. Or you can arrive by sea-plane. No matter how you arrive, it will be in style and you’ll feel like a glamorous movie star stepping down onto your own private island resort. Little Palm Island is truly an oasis with hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.

History: The five-acre island had its first inhabitant, Newton Munson, over 65 years ago who was responsible for planting an abundance of over 28 varieties of palm trees. He also built the original “Storm House” shelter to protect again hurricane-force winds. The island became known as Sheriff’s Island when it was purchased by then state senator and county sheriff, John Spottswood. A friend of the Trumans, the President and his wife would spend winters there and invite many notables as guests. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the state of Florida ran electric and water lines to the island. In 1995, Mr. Patrick Colee purchased the island and the combination of his creative vision and financial investment has made the island into what you will find there today.

Accommodations: 30 private luxury bungalows. Inspired by nature, each thatched-roof bungalow is aptly named after the island residents like Owl, Green Heron, and Ibis.

Food & Beverage: The Dining Room at Little Palm Island was recognized as Florida’s Best Hotel Dining Experience in the restaurant’s earlier days. Private dining experiences can also be set up in different locations throughout the island, including the beach to watch the sunset over the ocean, or the dock.


Wellness: SpaTerre, the signature brand of Noble House Hotels & Resorts, provides a wellness retreat within a retreat. While the bungalows dot the perimeter of Little Palm Island, the common areas make up the center. The spa is a two-story building and utilizes the cult- and personal favorite Biologique Recherche for facial treatments.

Activities: The Florida Keys have not truly been seen until you’ve experienced them from the water. Whatever might float your boat, whether it’s fishing, sailing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, Hobie cats, scuba diving or snorkeling, the point is, you’ll want to get out on the water. They have Boston Whalers that you can drive out on your own to snorkel at the reef. During our stay, another adventurous couple was going out to sky dive and back within a couple of hours, elated about their experience. Little Palm Island also offers backcountry island hopping, a day trip to Dry Tortugas by seaplane, wakeboarding, dolphin encounters and eco-tours. The gym on Little Palm Island is particularly large for a small island with only 30 rooms, and offers a locker room for changing as the resort welcomes you to stay on-island past check-out time to make the most of the day. What you won’t find are televisions, loud music, night life, or kids – and I’m not mad about that.


What  Sets  It  Apart:    Little Palm Island is literally the only private island resort in the country, so that is the biggest feature that sets this exclusive resort apart.  With only 30 villas, you could literally go a week without seeing anyone if you wish, which offers the ultimate privacy for those that want to get away from it all.

Diego  Travel  Loves:  The ease and accessibility, yet the remoteness and feeling of being a million miles away. You can fly private into Marathon, or it’s just a 2 hour drive from Miami International Airport or a short drive from Key West International Airport. It feels like you are being transported back in time, while having all the modern luxury amenities at your fingertips. 


Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel: 

  • $100 resort credit

  • $50 per person daily breakfast credit

  • Upgrade at time of check-in, subject to availability

  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Insider Tip:

Within three miles of the island, you’ll find Loggerhead Key, once home to over 2000 Rhesus monkeys and Looe Key Reef, named for the ship that sank there in 1744 and has since created a world-renowned snorkeler’s haven.  

Summary of Our Stay:

Our visit to Little Palm Island was our first opportunity to break away from our children for a weekend escape after the period of crisis that we all experienced in the first quarter of 2020.  I had heard great things about the private island, but was especially excited to see the results of the complete renovation they underwent for years following the destruction of Hurricane Irma.

My parents have lived in Islamorada for nearly 15 years, which is a little over an hour north of Little Palm Island.  Our experience of the Florida Keys had been pretty limited to the Northern Keys and days exploring the ocean by boat were endless.  In a sense, my kids had a small part of their childhood in the Keys, and if you ask anyone who grows up there, the way you spend your time is out on the water.

Little Palm Island is no different.  From the moment you drive up to the lobby, you feel like you’re stepping into a time machine that transports you into a golden era of the past.  The lobby is a stand-alone building and pristinely landscaped, purposefully done to hide the space where you’ll leave your car for your journey by boat.  The Truman, the elegantly old-fashioned, yet sparkling new wooden boat whisks you away while the friendly captain and skipper outline the lay of the land for you.

I’m not sure which was more notable – the sparkling island with its stretch of sand bar peeking out from the shallow sea or the gleaming white mega-yacht stationed at the dock.  As we were greeted by a cheerful concierge hostess who showed us around the island, she casually explained that mega-yachts and celebrities are the norm, not the exception.  The island, after all, is the only private island resort in the entire country.  And now more than ever with travel restrictions limiting people’s ability to travel, those who can afford the luxury of exclusivity are looking for places such as Little Palm Island.

The interior of the island houses all the communal amenities like the gorgeous 2 story spa, an impressive fitness center, and a boutique whose merchandise rivaled the chicest boutique in St. Barths.  Seriously, I need a return trip just to shop!  The perimeter of the island is reserved for the 30 bungalows, each with an idyllic view of the sea and sunrise or sunset.

Just as we were finishing up with our guided tour, a sea plane landed at the special dock made just for sea planes that greets passengers coming in from all over South Florida.  So whether you arrive by private plane, private yacht, or by car, you are sure to have a VIP welcome here on the island.  With the guided tour over, we didn’t waste any time and got out on the water by stand up paddle board.  While the ocean was like glass, the current was extremely strong, so we didn’t get very far – but it made for a great photo op!

Dinner was fresh yellowtail caught that day with a side of gorgeous sunset views.  After dinner we walked the beach lined with tiki torches and found two private Adirondack chairs on the dock to talk until the sun went down.  It was the first time in months that we had uninterrupted conversation where we could dream of where we’ll travel to next.  This seems to be a favorite conversation topic whenever we are on vacation.  The life of a travel advisor!

Parting was truly such sweet sorrow from Little Palm Island and I would have been happy staying an extra night or two.  From reconnecting with my husband to finishing the book that had been collecting dust on my nightstand for the last two months, I was in heaven.  Chatting with the friendly people at the pool – from a distance of course! – was also a highlight as I love meeting people from all over the world.

When you plan your trip, reach out to us and we will take care of all the details while getting you all the added amenities.

Design My Trip!


Related Posts


LITTLE PALM ISLAND

Continue reading

Blackberry Farm

Hotel Review: Blackberry Farm

Hotel Review

Blackberry Farm

Luxury Retreat in The Great Smoky Mountains
MARIA DIEGO

Situated on a 4,200-acre estate in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Blackberry Farm is one of America’s most celebrated intimate luxury hotels, offering discerning guests an ideal escape from the stresses of modern-day life.

Perfect For: Epicurean Adventures | Traditional Family Gatherings | Romantic Getaways

  • 35.6955,-83.8488

    Blackberry Farm

    Blackberry  Farm Location:  4,200  acre  estate  on  the  Great  Smoky  Mountains,  30  minutes  outside  of  Knoxville, Tennessee. 

  • 35.8096,-83.9966

    Mc Ghee Tyson Airport (TYS)

    Blackberry Farm is easy to get to with direct flights to Knoxville from more than 25 cities and a 25 minute drive fromMc Ghee Tyson Airport (TYS) airport.

Blackberry Farm Location: Blackberry Farm is easy to get to with direct flights to Knoxville from more than 25 cities and a 25 minute drive from TYS airport.

Vibe:  Blackberry  Farm  has  a  long,  rich  history  full  of  heart  and  soul,  being  one  of  America’s leading  luxury  hotels  and  a  favored  destination  for  our  most  discerning  travelers.   

Accommodations: 80  accommodations  range  from  estate  rooms  to  private  homes,  each uniquely  appointed  and  varying  locations  throughout  the  property.    We  have  had  a  sneak  peek into  most  of  them,  so  will  be  happy  to  guide  you  toward  the  one  that  is  just  right  for  you.

  • Blackberry Farm Room

  • Blackberry Farm Room Exterior

  • Blackberry Farm Room

  • Blackberry Farm Room

Food  &  Beverage:  The  Main  House  dining  room,  The  Dogwood,  and  The  Barn  (James  Beard Award-winning  wine  and  dining  experience).    A  private  dining  experience  can  be  arranged  in  the wine  cellar  at  the  Barn,  along  with  a  private  guided  tour.

Wellness:  The  Wellhouse  at  Blackberry  Farm  is  a  welcoming,  cozy  two-story  farmhouse  spa that  invites  you  to  get  cozy  and  stay  all  day.    Their  wellness  focus  is  on  re-centering  the  mind, body  and  spirit.

Activities:  9  miles  of  hiking  trails,  cycling,  music  events  with  celebrated  artists,  inspired  wine  and food  events,  photography,  garden  experiences,  horseback  riding,  boating,  water  and  paddle sports,  fly-fishing,  bird-watching,  sporting  clays,  carriage  rides,  and  archery.


What  Sets  It  Apart:    The  people!    The  staff  at  Blackberry  Farm  are  genuinely  interested  in getting  to  know  you  and  ensuring  your  stay  exceeds  your  expectations.    It  truly  is  a  family-run business  and  you  feel  that  in  the  warmth  of  the  staff,  who  take  pride  in  how  long  they  have  been at  the  property.   

Diego  Travel  Loves:  The  Carriage  House  at  Blackberry  Farm  is  a  preferred  accommodation  for its  preferential  view  over  the  famous  pond  and  Smoky  Mountain  backdrop.    You  can’t  miss  doing the  Farmstead  Tour,  which  involves  a  stop  to  see  the  truffle  puppies.    If  you’re  curious,  the  wait list  to  buy  one  is  6  years.   


Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel: 

  • 5% off published rates
  • $50 spa credit, upgrade  at  time  of  check-in, subject to availability, early check-in, late check-out, subject to availability 

Insider Tip: Blackberry  Farm  is  the  ideal  destination  for  large  family  reunions,  girlfriend  getaways,  or  multifamily  gatherings.    When  you  book  with  us,  we  arrange  the  activities  for  all  of  your  guests,  and coordinate  with  the  hotel  for  private  meals  when  you’re  a  group  of  15  or  more.   

Summary  of  Our  Stay:

I  planned  a  2-night  getaway  girls  trip  to  Blackberry Farm  for  a  group  of  my  closest  mom  friends.   From  the  moment  we  arrived  to  the  Knoxville  airport,  our  driver  was  waiting  to  whisk  us  off  in  a shiny  new  van,  perfect  for  the  15  of  us. Arrival  was  smooth  and  easy  –  and  my  friends  were thrilled  to  receive  their  $100  spa  credit  and  suite  upgrades.

We had  decided  to  go  glam  for  our  private  dinner  in  the  wine  cellar  at  The  Barn,  so  dress  up  we did!    Sequins,  leather  and  lace  met  up  around  the  fireside  lounge  at  The  Barn  for  a  round  of glamorous  pre-dinner  cocktails,  with  a  lot  of  oohing  and  awing  over  the  insane  beauty  of  the property.    This  was  literally  the  first  girls  trip  I  had  ever  done  for  myself,  so  I  was  happy  to  pull out  all  the  stops  for  my  friends,  and  nobody  could  have  done  it  better  than  the  team  at Blackberry  Farm.

After  lots  of  uninterrupted  dinner  conversation  (Yay!    No  kids!),  the  sommelier  gave  us  a  private guided  tour  of  the  extensive  wine  collection  and  envious  display  of  Jamón  Serrano.    Some ladies  lingered  late  into  the  night,  but  I  personally  could  not  wait  to  head  back  to  my  Holly  Glade Cottage  to  take  a  luxurious  bath  in  a  bathtub  fit  for  a  queen  with  an  herbal  soak  made  straight from  the  farm.

The  following  day  was  a  semi-guided  flow  of  a  few  activities  that  the  ladies  could  opt  in  or  opt out.    We  all  seemed  to  gather  for  the  Farmstead  tour,  which  I  highly  recommend  to  thoroughly enjoy  and  see  the  entire  property.    The  beauty  of  using  a  travel  advisor  to  set  up  your  group  trip is  that  you  leave  the  logistics  and  details  in  the  hands  of  a  professional,  so  that  you’re  left  with  a curated  itinerary  where  everyone  can  just  show  up  and  have  fun!

Our  final  dinner  was  in  the  main  dining  room  of  the  Barn,  and  let  me  tell  you,  we  shut  the  place down.    Endless  conversation  among  girlfriends  is  apparently  what  we  all  needed,  and  not  one, but  two  women  who  were  not  a  part  of  our  group  stopped  to  linger  at  our  table  and  join  in  on  the chatter.    It  may  sound  cliché,  but  Blackberry  Farm  is  truly  the  perfect  setting  to  reconnect  and relish  in  conversation.  

In  the  afternoon,  the  friendly  and  bubbly  sales  manager  whisked  me  around  on  a  golf  cart  to show  me  every  possible  category  of  room  and  meeting  space.    Yes,  I  know  them  all.      So  if you’re  unsure  of  where  to  stay  on  Blackberry  Farm,  you  can  reach  out  for  an  unbiased  opinion and  an  analysis  of  what  will  work  best  for  you.    The  meeting  spaces  are  perfectly  suited  for  that corporate  or  incentive  trip  you’ve  been  planning  for  your  business,  or  the  wedding  of  your dreams.    I  truly  couldn’t  think  of  a  more  magical  place  for  a  large  group  to  gather.

When  the  time  drew  near  to  collect  our  bags  and  reluctantly  head  home,  the  unexpected happened  which  made  me  fall  in  love  with  Blackberry  Farm  even  more.    Our  flight  was  delayed!   Not  once,  but  three  times.    And  guess  what?    The  whole  team  bent  over  backwards  to accommodate  us  like  royalty.    God  forbid  we  would  have  to  wait  in  the  airport.    Our  luggage  was loaded  so  that  we  didn’t  have  to  lift  a  pinky,  and  our  driver  patiently  waited  for  us  as  we  lounged in  the  Farmstead,  shopping  the  boutique,  assembling  the  amazing  Stave  puzzles,  and  laughing as the movie, Magic Mike, played on the tv while we waited.  It was truly bittersweet to have come to an end, but it was the perfect refresh button we all needed as mamas and a time to spoil ourselves and reconnect our friendships.  If you haven’t done this for yourself, what are you waiting for?  Call us to see how we can get started by putting together the perfect stay for you and those you love at Blackberry Farm.

Design My Trip!


Related Posts


Continue reading

Diego Travel LLC is an independent affiliate of Departure Lounge, a proud member of Virtuoso.

© 2021 Diego Travel LLC

Florida Seller of Travel #ST40923