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

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

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

Hotel Review: Nihi Sumba

Hotel Review

Nihi Sumba

A Luxury Indonesian Retreat at The Edge of Wildness
MARIA DIEGO

Nihi Sumba was the highlight of our 3-week trip to Indonesia. After almost two weeks in Bali, we spent 7 nights in Nihi, a perfect way to end any vacation in Indonesia, and definitely the grand finale, so save it for last. Nihi Sumba is an off-the-beaten-path remote resort that provides unique experiences that you cannot find anywhere else. The breathtaking landscape at this resort is indescribable, with a sign that greets you as you enter the property that reads “Nihi Sumba: At the Edge of Wildness.”

Perfect For: Families | Honeymooners | Romantic Getaways | Surfers and Adventure Seekers | A Quiet Escape | Those Who Want to Give Back to Communities

Nihi Sumba Location

The remote location of the Indonesian island of Sumba makes the destination hard to get to, but worth the trek.

Getting to Nihi Sumba

Getting There: A 1.5 hour flight from Denpasar (Bali) to Tambolaka, the main airport on Sumba, and then a 1.5 hour drive to the resort. We booked our flights directly with Nihi, which I highly recommend as these are small Indonesian airlines that we can’t book in the GDS, so they handle all the logistics. They provide VIP arrival service upon landing in Denpasar and even though we arrived to Bali long before our trip to Nihi, they still provided the VIP arrival service, which was amazing. After the 1.5 hour drive through the villages of Sumba, arriving here will feel like you’ve arrived to a slice of heaven on earth, making the trek to get here well worth it.

-9.7530,-240.8156

Nihi Sumba

Nihi Vibe

Vibe: Nihi is all about the experiences they provide, from picking you up in an open air jeep with coconuts as your welcome drinks (and coconut holders in the jeep to boot) + handmade granola bar snacks wrapped in banana leaf pouches. They have a nightly themed dinner from the the white party to the Sumba Foundation dinner. Nihi is the ultimate in barefoot luxury. It’s not fancy, but service is another level. Each villa has a private butler or “captain” that tends to your every need. Our kids roamed free while we were there. It’s that kind of place. Our captain would magically appear when needed or follow the kids from behind when they wandered on their own, but never felt imposing.

Accomodations: 23 villas make up the property and they’re all unique. The nicest entry level villas are Kanatar 1, perfect for honeymooners, and Lumba. Many of their villas can be 2, 3 or 4 BR villas as they’ll close off rooms. As each villa is privately owned, it’s best to consult with me in order to hand-select the right option for you. Mandaka is the owner’s 4 BR and is the nicest, and can also be made into a 2 BR.

Nihi Sumba Villas

We stayed in Raja Kanatar 2, and it was perfect for us as we had all 3 kids in the downstairs bedroom and had privacy with the upstairs bedroom. Bathrooms are outdoors but completely private, though some villas have indoor bathrooms, so if you prefer that, just let me know and I can match you to the proper villa.

Raja Kanatar 2

Food & Beverage: 

There is a wide variety of food and beverage and they are very accommodating for every type of diet. I was shocked to have so many choices on a remote island, but after a week stay, I didn’t begin to feel bored by the menus. My favorite was the poke bowl for lunch each day, which was served with fresh-caught tuna and the most delicious ingredients – with the perfect amount of spice! Dinners each night changed, and if you ever have any request, they are sure to prepare it for you.

  • Nihi Restaurant

  • Nihi Restaurant

Nihi Spa

Wellness: Don’t miss the spa safari – best spa experience I’ve ever had. They take you to a separate location 10-15 minutes drive away, or you can hike in which takes about an hour (they charge $75 to hike in because you have to go with a guide). They have oceanfront villas set up and they serve breakfast or lunch, depending at what time your service is, and you can do either half or full day. The spa menu is on a chalkboard, which you select 4 services and then you’re literally transported to heaven.

The experience is indescribable and other-worldly. As a fellow traveler told me, “It felt like I floated out of my body…” For days that you don’t want to take a full day to treat yourself to magic, you can also opt for a massage in a smaller spa area next to the main pool, or in your cabin. We did both! And in fact, pricing on massages was so fair that I treated myself to a daily massage while we were there. They were the best I have ever had in my life.

  • Nihi Spa Menu

  • Nihi Spa Menu

Nihi Surfing

Other experiences we loved were Lololupu Waterfall, chocolate making, sunset horseback rides, swimming with the horses, and releasing sea turtles, which we got to do 3 times in a week – and given that there’s never more than about 80 guests on property, it’s pretty spectacular.

Things to Do in Nihi Sumba: Nihi Sumba is an iconic surfing destination. Directly in front of the resort sits a perfect reef break known as “God’s Left” offering up to 300 meter exhilirating rides through hollow sections and rippable walls. Beginers can take surfing lessons directly infront of Nihi Sumba when the swell is small or take a short drive to Nihi’s Coconut Cove, where guests can spend half a day with breakfast or lunch tended by Nihi’s staff. There are not many places where a empty world class surf spot sits infront of a luxury resort.

  • Golf at San Ysidro Ranch

  • Golf at San Ysidro Ranch

  • Golf at San Ysidro Ranch

  • Golf at San Ysidro Ranch

Sumba Foundation One of the highlights for me was the way Nihi resort supports the community and the owner, Christopher Burch, founded the Sumba Foundation which provides resources that go directly back to the community. They aren’t pushy about it and request your participation in a very tasteful way. They provide a twice weekly visit to the Sumba Foundation school and medical clinic where you participate with about 100-200 kids. For us, it was a life-changing experience and so well done, not just for us but for our kids as well. They also have the weekly Sumba Foundation dinner that shows a short video on where the Sumbanese were 20 years ago to how far they have come. In large part to the Sumba Foundation, the island is thriving and the community’s happiness is contagious.

Sumba Foundation

What  Sets  It  Apart: We never go back to the same place twice, but before we checked out, I was already working to book our return visit. The majority of people who go to Nihi Sumba become annual visitors. It’s hard not to want to return, the place is truly that special. I don’t get emotional about leaving many places, but Nihi was one place where I teared up when we had to leave.

I would say the people are what truly distinguishes Nihi Sumba into its own category. Our captain, Sarney, felt like family by the end of our stay, and we connected through social media and still keep in touch. We have already requested her for our next visit, and our kids are safe wandering under her watchful eye. Everyone from the manager, to the bartender, and the guests who visit, had a similar energy of peace and gratitude for the slower pace and the majestic beauty of the island. It felt like being on sacred ground, and the commonality of sharing that experience with strangers creates a bond that is indescribable.

Bouganvillea at Rancho San Ysidro
Bouganvillea at Rancho San Ysidro

How Much Does Nihi Sumba Cost? Rates vary greatly depending on the room category and whether you are visiting in dry or wet season, or during wave season. Entry level villas, which are still incredibly spacious, start at about $1,083 per couple per day, with full board – meaning meals are already included!

Diego Travel Loves: When it comes to sustainability, which seems to be a big buzz word in travel now, many properties talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.. At Nihi Sumba, they truly deliver on the goal of practiced sustainability without sacrificing the luxury comforts you might be used to while traveling.

I also love that each day included two organized activities for our kids that were included with the rates. Every day at around 10 AM and 3 PM, the kids had the chance to go for about 2 hours to paint, hike, make chocolate at the on-property chocolate factory, or do something with the horses. While they don’t typically love kids clubs, this felt different and was immersive in island culture and also allowed them to interact with other kids from around the world. 

San Ysidro Ranch California
San Ysidro Montecito California

Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:

  • Priority upgrade at time of arrival
  • Daily full breakfast for two guests per bedroom 
  • $100 USD resort credit
  • One 60-minute massage for 1 person
  • Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

    Nihi Sumba Insider Tips:

    Nihi Sumba Insider Tips:  The most important thing to know about Nihi is that each villa is unique and varies on location, view, proximity to the main pool/restaurants, number of stairs required to reach it, etc.  Please reach out to us at Diego Travel to guide you to make the right choice on the villa that will be right for you and your party. We can also assist with combining Nihi with the rest of your Asian vacation, no matter where you plan on traveling to beforehand.

    Nihi Sumba

    Summary

    If you have any questions about visiting Nihi Sumba or Indonesia in general, I’d be happy to answer any questions or help book your stay so that you get all the added value mentioned above. Plus, we make an intimidating trip to Indonesia worry-free and take all the stress out of your planning by including assistance with international and domestic flights, pre- or post-travel, and answering any questions you might have about entry requirements or in-the-know details. Contact me at maria@diegotravel.com or complete our Trip Design form in order to get started planning.

    San Ysidro Ranch Dinning

    Let’s Get Planning!

    Nihi Sumba


    Related Posts


    Continue reading

    Hotel Review: El Encanto, a Belmond Hotel

    Hotel Review

    El Encanto, a Belmond Hotel

    Classic luxury combined with Hollywood Glamour offering views of the American Riviera
    MARIA DIEGO

    El Encanto became a hotel in 1918 and as a 105-year-old property, it manages to effortlessly combine historic charm with a touch of Hollywood, perched high in the Santa Barbara Hills of California. Offering unparalleled views of the American Riviera as well as exclusive additions available with Diego Travel as a Belmond Bellini preferred partner, you can be sure of a luxury getaway to remember.

    Perfect For: Groups of Couples | Large Groups of Friends | Families with Older Children | Destination Weddings | Romantic Getaways | Special Occasions

    34.4391,-119.7043

    Belmond El Encanto

    Belmond El Encanto location: Located high in the Santa Barbara Hills.

    Getting There: Fly direct to Santa Barbara Airport SBA or just over a 1 hour and 30 minutes drive from LAX, this is a great option for a weekend escape from the city or as a stop on part of a longer California road trip.

    Vibe Belmond El encanto

    Vibe: El Encanto prides itself on being a modern classic, combining the glamour of Hollywood with the rustic charm of the region and coastal influences from the American Riviera.

    The hotel promises rooms that combine Spanish colonial style with laidback California craft. The resort effortlessly manages to exude glitz and glamour, while giving you the relaxed coastal California vibe as you unwind poolside at the zero-edge pool, enjoy the local wine and cuisine or stroll in their seven acres of secluded gardens. Views of the American Riviera from high in the hills, adds to that feeling of luxury and exclusivity that Belmond achieves to effortlessly.

    Accomodations:

    The property offers 92 rooms and bungalow-style suites across its seven acres. Superior Rooms are the entry level option at 350-400sq ft, while the Deluxe King offers 350-630 sq ft.

    Terrace and Premier rooms are 500-700sq ft and promise ocean view rooms as well as poolside access. While the terrace rooms also offer your own private, furnished patio and premier rooms include a deep-soak bathtub, walk-in shower and a fireplace.

    El Encanto Santa Barbara Rooms

    There are four Specialty Suites available and these offer the option to connect two suites together for a 2-bedroom suite that can sleep up to 6 people. As does the Camilla Suite which also offers views. All Specialty Suites are located for maximum privacy and offer a separate living area with a fireplace.

    The Oak Tree Suite is the largest and also comes with its own kitchenette and enclosed patio area.

    Belmond El Encanto Rooms

    All room options come with hardwood floors and underfloor heating while the suites and bungalows have marble floor with underfloor heating.

    Belmond El Encanto Santa Barbara California Rooms

    Food & Beverage: 

    The hotel itself offers The Dining Room Terrace with stunning views of the American Riviera and Californian cuisine. Reservation is required.

    The resort also recommends a range of preferred choices for food and drink in the nearby area. 

    Belmond El Encanto Restaurant Outdoor

    Rare Society is one of the newest additions to Santa Barbara as an upscale steakhouse reminiscent of the retro steakhouses of Las Vegas but with a twist of modernity, fine dining and locally sourced ingredients.

    Santa Barbara is also home to a fantastic range of drinking experiences including the Tasting Room at Paradise Springs, Test Pilot cocktail bar and Figueroa Mountain Brewery.

    Belmond El Encanto Restaurant

    Tre Lune is a relaxed Italian restaurant with wine pairings and cocktails. Toma is also a great choice for authentic Italian food with a fine-dining feel.

    Bouchon is a top choice in Santa Barbara with passionate owners, Amy and Mitchell, catering for any dietary requirements and producing spectacular dishes.

    Stonehouse is a unique experience at the nearby exclusive property, San Ysidro Ranch. Located in a historic 19th-century citrus packhouse, the stone terrace, open fires and spanish guitar brings a rustic element to this local, award-winning cuisine.

    Belmond EL Encanto Bar

    Wellness: The Spa at El Encanto is a luxurious escape that immerses you in the coastal vibe of the California location with luxury skincare products and treatments available.

    San Ysidro Boutique

    Santa Barbara California

    Things to Do: There is no shortage of activities available at El Encanto and their concierge team is all too happy to assist in making your trip even more memorable.

    Horseback riding can be arranged, a private guided wine tour of local vineyards and producers, or a private sailing charter are just a small selection of the luxury experiences on offer in the area.

    Explore the SantaBarbara Botanical Gardens, go whale watching in the Pacific for a once-in-a-lifetime experience or play golf at the Sandpiper Golf Club or Glen Annie Golf Club, both offering views of the ocean from the course.

    Electric bikes, a picnic lunch and a bottle of wine can also be arranged for you if you want to escape into the countryside for a hike with a romantic touch.

    What  Sets  It  Apart: The Belmond El Encanto team is passionate about helping you to experience the perfect luxury escape in the Santa Barbara Hills. Whether that’s dining with them, or finding you the perfect dining or excursion experience with one of their preferred partners in town.

    Despite the size of the resort, the luxurious feel of the bungalow-style suites help you feel at home while also exuding glamour and elegance.

    Bouganvillea at Rancho San Ysidro
    Bouganvillea at Rancho San Ysidro

    How Much Does it Cost?

    Superior rooms start from $900 per night, with deluxe, terrace and premier rooms all being upgrades from there. 

    Suites and Bungalows start from $1,400 per night while the four Specialty Suites start from $2,399 per night.

    Diego Travel Loves: The resort offers a great amount of flexibility for groups such as families or small wedding parties, with rooms and suites able to be adapted depending on your group and the number of bedrooms needed. The Oak Tree suite is perfect with its large terrace, kitchenette and multiple rooms.

    San Ysidro Ranch California
    San Ysidro Montecito California

    Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:

    • Diego Travel is a Belmond Bellini preferred partner and we get our clients access to exclusive promotions that can’t be booked online
    • Additional Belmond Bellini amenities
    • Priority upgrade
    • Daily breakfast included
    • Resort Credit
    • When you book your stay with a minimum spend, you’ll receive a $500 gift card toward a future Belmond Hotels stay
    • Guests who purchase a luxury experience with Belmond worth a minimum of $5,000 USD will receive a $500 USD gift voucher per booking to be used on a future stay at any other Belmond Property

      El Encanto Insider Tips:

      Don’t miss the locally sourced delicacies at The Dining Room Terrace at the resort, the seafood is a particular highlight, with Morro Bay oysters, freshly-shucked all year round.

      Diego Travel Review of El Encanto

      Summary of Our Stay at El Encanto

      As a Belmond Bellini preferred partner, I’m always confident of having a spectacular experience at Belmond properties, and El Encanto is no exception.

      From the welcome email from the concierge before arrival offering additional details and assistance to personalize my trip, to the exceptional service throughout the resort, El Encanto embodies the relaxation of the California Coast with glamour and sophistication.

      Belmond El Encanto Santa Barbara

      The range of luxury activities on offer and the proximity of plenty more options in Santa Barbara town makes this an easy vacation that’s a real joy to experience and immerse yourself in.

      Belmond El Encanto Pool

      Let’s Get Planning!

      Belmond El Encanto Santa Barbara


      Related Posts


      Continue reading

      Hotel Review: San Ysidro Ranch

      Hotel Review

      San Ysidro Ranch

      An exclusive hideaway in the foothills of Santa Barbara
      MARIA DIEGO

      Tucked away in the tranquil setting of the Santa Barbara foothills, San Ysidro Ranch is a luxury escape like no other. With 38 unique cottages set on 550 acres of a leafy ranch with citrus groves, miles of hiking trails and a running creek and waterfall, the privacy and luxury of this boutique property is one of Santa Barbara’s best kept secrets.

      Perfect For: Couples | Small Weddings | Honeymoon | Anniversary | A Tranquil Escape from the City | Privacy & Exclusivity | Romantic Getaways

      34.4467,-119.6229

      Rancho San Ysidro

      San Ysidro Ranch location: Located in Montecito in the foothills of Santa Barbara.

      Getting There: Fly direct to Santa Barbara Airport SBA or drive 2 hours north from Los Angeles.

      San Ysidro Ranch

      Vibe: As a property that doesn’t do any advertising and is focused so much on privacy, San Ysidro Ranch exudes understated exclusivity, privacy and intimacy. With just 38 individual accommodation options all with private entrances, luxury and impeccable service is the reputation that precedes San Ysidro Ranch, making it a favorite for romantic getaways, discreet city escapes and luxury stays in Santa Barbara.

      Accomodations: All 38 cottages boast sunken hot tubs, large four-poster beds, an outdoor shower, indoor shower and tub, a large stone fireplace, air conditioning and three meals a day included. The luxurious nature of this property promises no hidden resort fees or parking charges, the only additional costs at check out are excursions and alcohol.

      Half the cottages are standalone, and the rest share just one wall. But with private, gated entrances and enclosed gardens for each, the privacy of each cabin is never sacrificed.

      Rooms at San Ysidro Ranch

      Every cottage is uniquely decorated with an understated homely feel. While the patio for each cabin is intended to help guests get reacquainted with their senses as they immerse themselves in the tranquillity of nature.

      If you’re looking for a slightly bigger space, the Hibiscus, Orange, Kennedy and Terrace cottages are all 2 bedroom properties. While the Ivy Cottage is a 1 bedroom suite and the Warner Cottage is a presidential suite with a private pool, jacuzzi and kitchen.

      San Ysidro Ranch Bathroom

      The historic Churchill Cottage is a favorite for history and book lovers as Winston Churchill once stayed there and the library decor is a stunning English history aesthetic.

      As well as their own private entrance, all 38 cottages on the property come with their own parking space with electric car chargers for each. Every property is also pet-friendly.

      San Ysidro Ranch Cottages

      Food & Beverage: 

      Head Chef, Matt Johnson, has been at San Ysidro Ranch for 18 years and his passion for food is reflected in the incredibly high standard of dining at the property.

      San Ysidro boasts two restaurant options with an additional option for private dining also available.

      The Stonehouse is located in the historic 19th-century citrus packing house, with creek views and a dining experience that feels as if you’ve stepped into the vineyards of Italy.

      Rancho San Ysidro Food

      Aside from the award-winning dining experience, San Ysidro also stands out thanks to its world-renowned wine cellar which is the only property to hold a Grand Wine Award and is also the only place in the world that has two vertices of Pertruce from Bordeaux. The 12,000-bottle wine cellar houses an extremely rare collection of wine and spirits, perfect for any oenophiles.

      For those in search of food offerings in nearby Santa Barbara or Montecito, Bouchon offers a spectacular menu with wine pairings. Lucky’s is also a popular option for a white linen dining experience offering a steakhouse menu with an old Hollywood feel, located on the Coast Road in Montecito.

      Also located in Santa Barbara is Paradise Springs, the first bi-coastal winery in the US, offering wines from its California and Virginia locations.

      Rancho San Ysidro Restaurants

      The unique take on American style cuisine is award-winning and consistently voted the top dining experience in Santa Barbara. With open fires and an ocean-view terrace, this is a truly romantic dining experience.

      The Plow & Angel is all about delicious comfort food, located in a cosy stone cottage with fireplaces and wooden fixtures and fittings.

      Private dining is available in the Old Adobe, a historic California landmark dating back to 1825 and one of only three of its kind remaining. The Old Adobe can be rented for an evening with prices starting at $750.

      Lunch at Rancho San Ysidro, Santa Barbara, CA

      Wellness: The story behind the spa at San Ysidro is a testament to the impeccable service that goes above and beyond in every sense.

      The full service spa was only built during the pandemic because so many women were traveling to Montecito to see hair stylists after their usual salons in Santa Barbara were closed. The owner wanted to provide the best possible experience for the locals, so he built the full-service luxury spa which now guests can enjoy too.

      From massages and facials to hair services, the salon and spa is focused on continuing the theme of tranquillity and rejuvenation.

      San Ysidro Boutique

      Golf at San Ysidro Ranch

      Things to Do in San Ysidro Ranch: A stay at San Ysidro means the opportunity to build your own luxury escape, whether you’re looking for daily hikes, sunset cruises or horseback riding in the foothills.

      Horseback riding with a picnic lunch or boating cruises at sunset are a favorite for couples on a romantic getaway.

      And if you don’t want to leave the property, San Ysidro still offers onsite events daily, such as the Belvedere cocktails and live music 3-7pm each day or 17 miles of hiking trails with ocean views

      What  Sets  It  Apart: The first thing that should be mentioned that sets San Ysidro apart from the rest is the impeccable service. Not only are privacy and discretion constantly maintained, but the staff go above and beyond to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

      Housekeepers have just four rooms each to clean, meaning the attention to detail is of the highest standard, as well as staff turnover being incredibly low, thanks to the property’s great incentives for staff.

      The owner is onsite and oversees everything, ensuring the standards remain at the absolute highest, while the guard house maintains security on the property at all times.

      Morning yoga, access to the Montecito Country Club, exquisite dining and exclusive excursions are all details that the property provides that sets it apart from other luxury properties in the area.

      Bouganvillea at Rancho San Ysidro
      Bouganvillea at Rancho San Ysidro

      How Much Does San Ysidro Ranch Cost? Rates start at $2495 with meals included.

      Diego Travel Loves: The uniquely designed accommodation, stellar service and emphasis on privacy is what puts this in the top 5 properties I’ve ever experienced.

      The owner is passionate about ensuring everything at the property is impeccable, the staff are committed to your comfort and privacy, while the dining, spa and excursion options are really the details that go above and beyond any other California luxury boutique hotel experience!  

      San Ysidro Ranch California
      San Ysidro Montecito California

      Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:

      • Personalized selection of the right cottage for you, thanks to my personal relationship with the team at San Ysidro Ranch
      • $100 bonus when you book with Diego Travel

        Rancho San Ysidro Insider Tips:

        Book at creekside cottage to guarantee creek view rooms.

        San Ysidro Ranch

        Summary of Our Stay at San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, California

        It is rare for me to feel so completely blown away by a property, but San Ysidro Ranch achieved exactly that.

        Everything about the property is a special experience and you feel so catered for and cared for as a guest, from the rooms to the dining experiences and activities offered.

        San Ysidro Ranch Dinning

        The property radiates exclusivity and luxury but in the most understated way, making you feel at home but also a word away in the peace and calm of this retreat into the foothills.

        A stay at San Ysidro is a very special experience.

        Todos Santos Mexico

        Let’s Get Planning!

        San Ysidro Ranch


        Related Posts


        Waldorf Astoria Pedregal Los Cabos

        Continue reading

        The best luxury hotels and resorts in Park City/ Deer Valley, Utah

        Park City/ Deer Valley, Utah

        The Diego Travel guide to the best luxury hotels in Park City & Deer Valley, Utah

        MARIA DIEGO

        Located in the mountains less than 1 hour east of Salt Lake City, Utah, Park City/ Deer Valley is a mountain town which is popular for outdoor activities. With a population of fewer than 10,000 people, Park City is a thriving resort town for skiers in the winter months and a haven for hikers and outdoor adventure in the summer.

        Tucked into the valley and surrounded by mountain terrain, Park City/ Deer Valley Utah is four-season destination dating back to 1868 when prospecting soldiers discovered silver in the surrounding mountains.

        Being a mountain town just 32 miles from downtown Salt Lake City, Park City and Deer Valley are the perfect option for a luxury ski vacation in Utah or a weekend mountain getaway in the US. With plenty of Park City & Deer Valley ski resorts and luxury hotels to choose from, you can go from spa to ski slope in an afternoon, as well as spend time discovering the charms of this Utah mountain town.

        Perfect For: Families | Adventure Seekers | Luxury Vacations | Couples Groups | Weekend Getaways | Small Groups of Friends | Romantic Getaways

        Getting to the BVI

        Getting to Park City/ Deer Valley, Utah

        There are direct domestic and international flight options into Salt Lake City International Airport which is a 45-minute drive from Park City/ Deer Valley.

        Traveling by car is the easiest way to reach Park City/ Deer Valley if you’re traveling independently, however make sure to check with your hotel or resort as many offer transfers with your stay.

        Park City/ Deer Valley
        • 40.6468,-111.4968

          Park City

        • 40.6371,-111.4772

          Deer Valley

        Park City, Utah- Main Street

        What to do in Park City/ Deer Valley

        • Skiing

          The winter months bring the most people to Park City/ Deer Valley to take to the slopes and visit America’s largest ski resort in the country, Park City Mountain and Deer Valley. With 300 inches of snowfall annually, Park City/ Deer Valley offer everything from ski classes for beginners, to some of the most challenging double black diamond runs in the US.

          Park City Mountain and Deer Valley feature terrain parks for those wanting to practise their jumps and freestyle, or over 7,000 skiable acres for those who prefer to stick to the slopes or go cross-country.

        • Skiing at Park City Utah

        • Hiking

          Don’t be fooled into thinking that Park City/ Deer Valley is just a winter destination. The mountain town is a real hidden gem in the summer months, with hundreds of miles of trails. There are trail options suitable for families through to seasoned hikers, whether you’re looking for canyon trails or summiting the peaks around Park City/ Deer Valley for the most spectacular views.

        • Visit Main Street

          Park City’s historic Main Street is a thriving hub of activity all year round, from street performers to festivals to art galleries. Visit the famous Silly Market running from June through September. Ride the free Main Street Trolley and discover specialty shops, distilleries, microbreweries, museums, boutiques and bookstores in the historic heart of Park City.

        • Shopping Park City Utah

        • BVI Scuba

        • Utah Olympic Park

          Park City is most well-known internationally for being the host of some of the ski events at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games held in Salt Lake City. 

          Just outside of downtown Park City, the Utah Olympic Park is still a winter sports training venue, but now visitors can visit the venue, learn about its sporting history in the museum, and see choreographed freestyle flying shows where winter sports athletes show off their tricks. Or you can get your own taste of exhilaration, with a Tubing Experience down one of the slopes, reaching speeds of 50mph, or the ziplining experience.

        • The Alpine Coaster

          As well as skiing, ice skating, mountain biking, water rafting, dog-sledding, snowmobiling, tubing and horseback riding, the exhilarating outdoor activities don’t end there. Park City is home to one of the world’s longest alpine coasters at over 3,000ft in length. Reaching up to 30mph, the track winds through over 1 mile of trees, fields, mountains and spectacular views, with space for up to 2 people per coaster.

        • Scenic drives

          Whether you’re visiting in winter or summer, the mountains, passes and parks around Park City/ Deer Valley are perfect for scenic drives, a slower pace after a day on the slopes or simply a romantic evening drive.

          Guardsman Pass is popular for spring wildflowers and fall colors, Mirror Lake Scenic Byway takes you through Utah’s highest mountain range, taking in meadows, waterfalls, mountain views and lakes. Weber Canyon is perfect for an easy summer or fall scenic drive from Park City or drive the historic Emigration Canyon which is open year-round. Some of these routes are closed over winter due to snowfall, check the route access before you drive.

        • Luna Boutique BVI

        Goldener Hirsch Park City

        Where to Stay in Park City/ Deer Valley

        Being such a popular skiing destination, it’s no surprise that there are a variety of luxury Park City and Deer Valley hotels and resorts to choose from based on your budget, trip type, needs and travel party. I was able to visit seven of the properties in Park City and Deer Valley and while each has its own unique features, I’ve summarized the selection below with my honest experiences and my job is to determine the best fit for you and your trip.

        Montage Deer Valley

        Montage Deer Valley

        This stunning resort goes above and beyond in every aspect. With 220 guest rooms, 174 suites and 81 residences, this 1 million sq ft. property is a resort within a resort that caters impeccably for adults and kids. With a shuttle to take kids to ski schoo,l a Compass Explorers Program for kids, family pool hours, Park City’s only bowling alley and family friendly restaurants, this is a great option for family vacations. Large groups and multi-generational families are not forgotten too with the option to connect rooms and suites to allow up to 10 people to stay together.

        Rooms are available with resort view, slope view or peak view, with the third floor being best for peak views. 

        For couples or adult group trips, you can also enjoy full access to the spa for a $50 nightly resort fee, a serenity suite which is a couples treatment room but can also be used for Bridal Parties to get ready. The Yama Sushi Bar, Après Lounge, spa facilities and even a wine tasting tour are all available at the resort, making this a special trip for couples.

        The resort also offers a casual pub restaurant, Burgers and Bourbon for classic burgers, a breakfast buffet or grab-and-go breakfast option. and s’mores on the Apex Patio every day from 5.30pm.

        Lift passes and lessons, private instructors, history tours, a full ski shop, transfers, mountain bike rental and once in a lifetime trips such as private plane tours over the park, can all be arranged with the hotel to create the ultimate memorable trip.

        Book with Diego Travel to receive the following Virtuoso Amenities:

        • Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability (view catagory & applicable to hotel inventory only. Residences are eligible for an upgrade upon arrival, based on availability)
        • A daily breakfast credit up to US $60 per bedroom, per night (credit may be used in restaurants, Buzz Coffee shop, or through room service.)
        • $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay, applicable towards food & beverage, spa services, or activities and rentals in Compass Sports. (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

        Diego Travel recommends Montage Deer Valley: Families wanting a Kids Club | Couples | Large Families or Multi-Generational Families | Destination Weddings | Groups of Friends

        GOLDENER HIRSCH DEER VALLEY

        Goldener Hirsch

        For true luxury, the Goldener Hirsch luxury hotel in Park City is the perfect mix of old world Alpine chalet charm with modern architecture and amenities. The residences building was opened in 2020 and the hotel flawlessly combines a modern European feel with luxurious alpine chalet decor and first-class amenities with incredibly attentive staff.

        Located just a 1 minute walk from the ski lifts, Goldener Hirsch is also the best option if you’re planning a Park City ski vacation and you want to prioritize location and maximize time on the slopes. 

        Guests are given the option to stay in the modern building or the traditional chalet style building, but all guests have access to the rooftop sky pool and hot tub for the ultimate après ski experience. The rooftop also hosts live music every Thursday evening and a summer market on Saturdays with Bavarian food samples and wine tasting.

        The only downside to Goldener Hirsch is that there are no spa facilities. However guests can avail of free access to the spa at the Stein Eriksen Lodge next door.

        Book with Diego Travel to receive the following Virtuoso Amenities:

        • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
        • Daily breakfast for up to two guests per bedroom
        • $100 USD Resort 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

          Diego Travel recommends Goldener Hirsch: Honeymooners | Skiers and Adventure Seekers | Groups of Friends | Anniversary Trip


          Pendry Park City

          Pendry Park City

          We were very impressed by Pendry Park City, Park City’s newest luxury hotel resort. With a great layout and space with 153 units particularly suited to large groups and multi-room units. In fact, you can reach out to the hotel and discuss the best room configuration for you and your party because there are so many options available. They can guarantee your room type upon booking.

          All 1 bedroom or larger units come with a washer-dryer, 4 bedroom units have a mixture of king and double beds and have close access to Canyon Village. 

          There’s a strong focus on wellbeing, from the fresh, clean decor and design, to the pool and spa, Wellness Lounge Oxygen Therapy, rooftop pool and even IV therapy.

          The slopes are just a 2 minute walk with ski rental available, bike rental available and a ski in-and-out format. 

          Although the rooftop area is small, there’s a full range of events and activities from live music Thursday through Sunday and it’s the only hotel in Park City with a rooftop bar. 

          For family vacations, there is also a daily kids club and babysitting available. The hotel is also building out a larger complex, so more shops and restaurants will soon be available.

          Book with Diego Travel to receive the following Virtuoso Amenities:

          • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
          • Daily breakfast for up to two guests per bedroom
          • $100 USD Resort or 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

          Diego Travel recommends Pendry Park City: Families | Multi-generational Families | Large Groups | Wellness Vacation | Outdoor Enthusiasts

          Stein Eriksen Lodge

          Stein Eriksen Lodge

          For those looking for Park City ski resorts, Skein Eriksen Lodge is the only true ski-in/ski-out ski resort in Park City.

          Renovated in 2021, with 172 rooms, 44 condos and 4 residences with pools, Stein Eriksen can cater for families and most party sizes, with 1-4 bedroom units available. The condo units have the largest balconies and also come with hot tubs for an extra après ski touch of luxury.

          Stein Eriksen also boasts the only lift that runs throughout the summer months too, the Sterling Express, making it perfect for those wanting to explore the mountain trails for summer hikes and mountain biking.

          The 16-room spa is a Forbes 5-star spa as well as the longest running spa in the state of Utah. 

          The hotel has a distinctly European feel with true ski in and out, full valet service, ski shop and rental and it is a major hub for the whole mountain.

          While amenities are good, some parts of the hotel such as the restaurant are still undergoing renovation. It’s also worth bearing in mind that room access is outdoors so it feels less like a hotel and more of a resort village – something to bear in mind particularly if you’re booking during the winter months!

          Book with Diego Travel to receive the following Virtuoso Amenities:

          • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
          • Breakfast during the winter time period will be a buffet breakfast and during the summer time period will be a la carte ($60 Breakfast Credit)
          • $100USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit 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

            Diego Travel recommends Stein Eriksen: Avid skiers | Adventure Seekers | Summer vacations to Park City | Families | Multi-generational Families | Weddings | Incentive Trips

            Lodge at Blue Sky

            Lodge at Blue Sky

            Arriving at the Lodge at Blue Sky, you feel completely immersed in the landscape and natural resources of the area because owners, Mike and Barb Philips have ensured everything is locally sourced, from the locally sourced wood, to the limestone from a local quarry and the 60 rescue horses they keep on the property.

            They’ve created a substantial experience which is blended in with the landscape, with 46 rooms, 16 Earth Suites which have outdoor showers and the 5 premium Creek Houses have open air rooms, outdoor balconies and indoor fireplaces. The expansive views and rooftop all add to the experience of being immersed in the surrounding nature.

            Although located 25 minutes from Park City Mountain Resort, most guests stay here 4-5 nights thanks to the incredible amenities on offer. Extensive spa treatment menu, an exclusive ski lounge and complimentary ski shuttle, mountain biking, helicopter excursions, hiking, a covered and heated shooting pavilion, fly fishing and horseback riding excursions and more, all on the hotel’s 3,500 acres of property.

            Their kids club, Little Vaqueros Club, follows a different theme every day with exciting excursions included. 

            An all inclusive stay here covers absolutely everything, from meals and snacks to one activity per day and return transfers. Mercedes Benz courtesy vehicles can also be used for up to 5 hours at a time.

            For the ultimate romantic escape, their Sky Suite offers spectacular views of the valley. There are also two mountain top yurts where private experiences can be arranged with an optional private chef. 

            Book with Diego Travel to receive the following exclusive promos:

            • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
            • Breakfast credit for two per bedroom daily ($50 maximum per person, per day, excludes alcohol)
            • $100USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit 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

            Diego Travel recommends Lodge at Blue Sky: Romantic Getaways | Honeymooners | Anniversary Trips | Outdoor enthusiasts | Small Groups 

            Waldorf Astoria Park City

            Waldorf Astoria Park City

            A stay at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Park City is more suited to those looking for a luxury hotel stay on a budget. 

            The hotel offers a gondola-out, ski-in style resort with a shuttle also running in a loop through the valley so guests can access various slopes and ski schools. They also offer an onsite excursion specialist, Expert Active, which offers transfers, bike rental, ATVs, kayaking, distillery whiskey tasting, rafting, rock climbing, city tours and more.

            Unfortunately there is no longer a kids club at the Waldorf Astoria, but the hotel does offer 1 bedroom suites which can fit up to a family of five.

            The hotel also offers a heated pool and two hot tubs, live DJ on weekends, lawn games, a great selection of restaurants and bars, fitness centre and spa and gondola access right across the street.

            Book with Diego Travel to receive the following Virtuoso Amenities:

            • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
            • Daily full breakfast to be used in our restaurant, Powder, for two guests per bedroom
            • $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay. Resort Credit may be used for In Room Dining, in our Restaurant, Powder, at our Pool Bar and Grill (Summer only), and Spa services. Not applicable at Palette or Spa Gift Shop (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

            Diego Travel recommends Waldorf Astoria Park City: Those on a Budget | Anniversary Trips | Small Group Trips | Incentive Trips

            St Regis Deer Valley

            St Regis Deer Valley

            With 183 rooms and spacious suites that can be connected to create 3-bedroom suites perfect for families, this would be a great option for multi-generational families and larger groups to be able to stay together. Unfortunately the St Regis Deer Valley has discontinued its kids club which is a shame as their proximity to the ski school is fantastic.

            Located on the lower base of the mountains with three restaurants and a cafe offering a grab and go breakfast and a ski rental shop in the basement, this is a great option if you just want to get out and hit the slopes.

            The hotel also offers a 24-hour fitness centre, spa with 11 treatment rooms, oxygen treatment and nail salon, plus a huge steam room and jacuzzi covering 14,000 sq ft.

            With a wine vault catering for private dinners and the space for weddings up to 108 guests, there’s plenty of options for larger groups, although current staffing shortages are temporarily making that more challenging.

            Book with Diego Travel to receive the following STARS exclusive promos:

            • Local Scones and Honey Amenity. Did you know that Utah is the Beehive State? This amenity offers:
                • Freshly-made, local Huckleberry Scones
                • Local Honey from Keeper of the B Farms
                • Local Lavender Devonshire Cream

              Daily Breakfast for 2 

                • $40 daily breakfast credit, per person for up to two people ($80 in total). Reedeemable at RIME – Seafood & Steak, located on the third floor of the resort. Hours of operations are 7:00 AM – 11:00 AM daily.
              • $100 food and beverage credit
              • Complimentary WiFi daily
              • First priority on waitlists in sold-out situations
              • Early Check-in/late Check-out, based on availability
              • First priority for requested room category, bed type, rollaways and connecting rooms
              • VIP status granted with in-person warm welcome
              • Priority for complimentary room upgrade (based on availability upon arrival)
              • Welcome note from General Manager (or Hotel Management)

              Diego Travel recommends St Regis Deer Valley: | Large Families or Groups | Multi-generational Families | Destination Weddings | Incentive Trips | Skiing Beginners | Parents Traveling with Older Children

              A Few of My Favorite Things

              Park City/ Deer Valley, Utah

              The variety of Park City Utah Luxury Hotels

              There’s a great selection of luxury Park City/ Deer resorts and the best hotels in Park City offer an spectacular experience which is above and beyond many other ski resort towns in the country. 

              We loved the ultimate luxury experience at the Goldener Hirsch with the old world chalet style and the option to choose between old world or modern when you stay as a guest. Newer Park City Utah lodgings like Pendry Park City or the immersive experience at the Lodge at Blue Sky makes this an even more special experience, beyond that of just a winter ski vacation.

              The range of outdoor activities on offer

              Park City and Deer Valley are not just about skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. There are so many amazing excursions offered by hotels, with outdoor adventure activities for everyone from outdoors people to thrill seekers to kids looking for some fun. You can’t run out of things to do when you’re staying at one of these Park City/ Deer Valley Hotels and you can create a trip that really is a once in a lifetime experience.

              Design My Trip!


              Related Posts


              Continue reading

              Marrakech

              Marrakech

              Luxury Hotel Guide for Your Morrocan Vacation
              MARIA DIEGO

              Morocco lies in the North Western part of Africa, its name meaning Land of God. Its main industry is agriculture, and with a climate similar to California, everything from olive trees to figs to citrus is grown in abundance. Morocco is home to 56 million people and of those, about half live in the country side in small villages. It’s a diverse country where you have everything from beach resorts on the coast, to desert camps in the Sahara, to Ryads in countryside and to luxury hotels in Marrakech and everything in between.

              Fez was the first Medina of Morocco and used to be the capital, but Casablanca has since become the capital and is the industrial and financial capital of the country. This guide will cover Marrakech, which in my opinion is the heart of Morocco and should be the focal point of your trip.

              Marrakech is an ancient city in the center of Morocco and has plenty of options for luxury resorts with grand pools, spas, delicious food and impeccable service. Beyond relaxing at your resort, there is a lot to do not only in the city of Marrakech that includes history, culture. If staying over a few days, there are also many amazing places to discover on a day trip excursion.

              Perfect For: Families | Destination Weddings | Luxury Honeymoon | Couples Groups | Multi-Generational Families | Incentive Trips | Corporate Groups | Adventure Seekers

              Getting to Morocco

              Getting to Marrakech

              Marrakech used to have non-stop flight options from major US hubs, but because of the pandemic, flights are somewhat limited and connect through either Cassablanca or Europe. We connected through Madrid Barajas International Airport to Marrakech. Hopefully, a non-stop option to Marrakech will be introduced in the near future. For domestic options, flights can also be somewhat limited to certain days of the week, especially when visiting the smaller towns, so it is best to work with a travel advisor like me who takes care of all the logistical details..

              Marrakech

              31.6258,-7.98916

              Marrakech

              Moroccan Spices

              Marrakech Luxury Travel Guide

              What to do in Marrakech

              • The Medina

                The old city, also referred to as the Medina, is the walled in section of Marrakech filled with the market (the souk), two notable resorts built by the Moroccan royalty, La Mamounia and Royal Mansour, as well as many plazas, shops, restaurants, museums and private riads. In Moroccan culture, most homes look exactly the same from the outside, as they don’t care to share their status on the exterior of the home. Once you step inside, it can either be simple or extravagant. A great way to experience this is to visit Majorelle Gardens next to the Ives Saint Laurent’s museum. The Medina is the heart of Marrakech, and where the hustle and bustle is.

              • Souk Marrakech Morocco

              • Moroccan Spices

              • The Souk

                Within the Medina lies the Souk, which is the marketplace where you can find everything from handcrafts to food, spices, jewelry, and shoes. The Souk also has sections, one area for the metalworkers, while another area is for leather. It’s helpful to go with a local guide to quickly lead you in the right direction and to the right vendor, as it’s easy to get sucked in and not find your way out, and it can be quite chaotic, with motorcycles and carts constantly running through. We traveled with our three kids and my mom, and we each gripped tightly to a little hand. One of my favorite stops in the Souk was to a pharmacy/herbalist, where the shop owner explained how to tell the difference between quality Argan oil and imitation Argan oil, and showed us ancient Moroccan remedies for ailments.

              • Shopping

                The vibrantly colorful city of Marrakech has long been a source of inspiration for fashion designers like Yves Saint Laurent.  Today, along with his famous museum, you can find his fashion boutiques around the city along with other well-known designer brands and smaller up-and-coming labels such as Topolina a French couture pattern maker who made Morocco her home to highlight its bold and bright colors and incredible textiles through fashion.  While we were in Marrakech, we hit Pacha Gallery, on the hunt for antique doors and custom lighting for a residential project we are working on back home. For natural herbs and health remedies, don’t miss Herboriste la Sagesse, where they’ll mesmerize you with a very quick and impressive overview of every potion available.  Finally, don’t forget to visit the shops inside La Mamounia, featuring a perfect blend of fashion with Moroccan sweets and treats that you can bring home as gifts.

              • Marrakech Shopping

              • Atlas Mountains Morocco

              • The Atlas Mountains

                The Atlas Mountains are divided into three areas – the High Atlas, Mid- Atlas and the Anti-Atlas in the South. Beginning about one hour outside of Marrakech, it is worthwhile to explore the Atlas Mountains to experience the countryside of Morocco. There are many villages  and valleys that are worth a visit and when you plan your trip with Diego Travel, we will make recommendations based on the routing and logistics of your trip to experience the Atlas with a a day tour or immerse yourself in a multi-day itinerary.

              • The Coast

                The two coastal towns that worth visiting as a day trip from Marrakech are Tagazhout, to the southwest, and Essouria to the west. These coastal hubs come alive in the summer with European travelers but are worth a day visit any time of the year. Tagazhout is lined with beach resorts and is a famous surfing destination, while Essouaria is a charming walled coastal town.

              • Essaouira

              • AIT-BEN-HADDOU

              • Ait-Ben-Haddou
                One of my favorite experiences from our trip to Morocco was our visit the Unesco World Heritage site of Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou. A 3.5 hour drive through the Atlas Mountains from Marrakech where we experienced the Morrocan countriside and take a peek into the Berber tribes that live in the Atlas Mountains. Ait-Ben-Haddou is an incredible example of traditional Morrocan architecture and an unforgetable sight that has been used a s backdrop in many hollywood films including Gladiator, the Mummy and Babel as well as one of the backdrops for Game of Thrones. While it is posible to do a day trip from Marrakech, I highly suggest an overnight trip combining it with a visit to Ouzarate and Skoura, the land of 1,001 casbahs and staying at the 19th-century Kasbah turned luxury boutique hotel of Dar Ahlam for an unforgetable experience.

              Diego Travel Marrakech Luxury Hotel Guide

              Where to Stay in Marrakech

              Marrakech is home to as many luxury hotels and resorts as you would find in a destination like Paris, France. In fact, the British and French are Morocco’s top markets in tourism, behind Americans. There were so many amazing resorts in Marrakech, it was hard to decide where to stay, but I’m happy to report that I was able to stay at and visit most of the below options. While each is unique, there is something for everyone, and it is my job to speak with you and determine the right fit based on your style, travel tastes, and needs. I’m also including an option in the Atlas Mountains, Dar Ahlam, which I highly recommend. And while we didn’t get to see it, Kasbah Tamadot, Richard Branson’s luxury villa at the base of the Atlas Mountains and just one hour outside of Marrakech, is worthy of a stay.

              Oberoi Marrakech

              The Oberoi Marrakech

              This 28-acre estate with 84 rooms is set just 25 minutes outside of Marrakech, on an estate filled with olive trees and soaring emerald cypress trees that line extensive fountains and pools. The service at The Oberoi in Marrakech is what set it apart and was beyond exceptional, so much so that I was nearly crying when we had to leave. Owned in part by a local aluminum family and in part by the Oberoi

              family, the property was built over 3 years with no expense spared. 200 artisans took years to hand carve the wood and stone domed ceiling of the lobby, and the property is complete with several restaurants, a huge spa, a kids club, a teen club, and even a vloggers room equipped with as many outlets and high powered wifi connection. I could envision myself staying here for a full week, to just disconnect, read good books, and enjoy the property with day trips into the center of Marrakech.

              Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following Virtuoso Amenities:

              • Complimentary one category upgrade upon arrival or at time of booking, based on availability
              • Daily Continental breakfast for up to two people per bedroom
              • Welcome note and amenity
              • Priority Early Check-In/Late Check-Out
              • VIP Status
              • Complimentary 50-minute massage for up to two guests
              • Diego Travel Welcome Box when Using the Travel Planning Service

              Diego Travel Recommends Oberoi Marrakech For: Honeymooners | Destination Weddings | Couples Groups | Multi- Generational Families | Anniversary Trips | Families | Incentive Groups

              Royal Mansour

              Royal Mansour

              We arrived to the grand entry of Royal Mansour, where guards stand in regal uniforms as if their guarding the true royal palace. Entering into the courtyard will have your eyes unable to settle, as there is so much going on everywhere. The palace was built in 2010 by the king, as no expense was spared to make it as grand as possible. While I had an appointment for a site inspection (full disclosure: we didn’t sleep here), we waited for about 10 minutes until we were greeted. Not the warm and personable welcome that we received at other properties, and overall, that was the feeling I had here.
              There are 53 riads in total, all offering total privacy, in large part to the underground tunnels built for the property so that staff remain out of sight from the guests. The staff are discreet, and tend to not speak unless spoken to, make less eye contact, and are generally there ready

              to serve but not over-imposing. The scene here was to see and be seen, and the guests dressed to the nines.
              The resort has 4 restaurants, excluding The Nest, which is a private area that can be specially set up for dinner, accommodating from 2-10 guests. There are 2 pools – an enormous outdoor one with pool cabanas that can be rented, and an indoor pool at the spa. The kids club serves children ages 4-10 and they can provide nanny service for younger kids.
              Aside from the multi-bedroom riads with full kitchens and private rooftop pools that would be perfect for groups or larger families, my favorite part of this property were the gardens. In my opinion, Royal Mansour has the most beautiful gardens in all of Marrakech. While you’ll see long lines waiting to get into the YSL museum and gardens, this garden was much more beautiful and worth at least a lunch reservation in order to go and see them. They were built in 2020 when the curfew imposed due to the pandemic, inspired the king to build an area of the property where guests could continue enjoy the outdoors beyond the curfew.

              Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following Virtuoso Amenities:

              •  Upgrade upon arrival, subject to availability (from Superior 1 BR to Premiere 1 BR)
              • Daily full breakfast for up to two people per bedroom, provided via room service
              • $100 USD Food & Beverage Credit
              • Complimentary Round-Trip Private Airport Transfers
              • Priority Early Check-In/Late Check-Out
              • VIP Status
              • Diego Travel Welcome Box when Using the Travel Planning Service

              Diego Travel Recommends Royal Mansour: Honeymooners | Spa-Focused Trips | Multi-Generational Families | Families wanting Kids Club | Incentive Groups

              La Mamounia

              La Mamounia

              La Mamounia is the nickname for the prince who was gifted this property by his father, the king. La Mamounia is conveniently located next door to Royal Mansour, and inside of the walled Medina in the old city. If you’re looking for a central location, an ambience of chic well-

              traveled Europeans, a selection of fine dining and shopping options in the common areas, than La Mamounia would be an excellent choice. It definitely has the “in-the-know” vibe with high-brow shops like Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior mixed with elegant boutiques carrying local designer wares you won’t find anywhere else. All the restaurants were renovated in 2020, and I loved the pale pink and jungle green hues combined with brass decor in one. The grounds have beautiful gardens, which you can walk freely, even if you are just dining in one of the restaurants. However, unless you are a guest of the hotel, you cannot access the impressive hotel pool and cabanas, which are heavily guarded with security, as is most of the property.
              While I only toured the suites and the presidential La Mamounia Suite, the actual 2-bedroom apartment for the prince himself, the rooms are spacious, airy and well appointed without feeling stuffy and pretentious. It is an older hotel, but rooms and grounds are maintained impeccably, and definitely have the royal feel.
              The hotel has a small spa, but no kids club or kid-friendly amenities. However, if you don’t need those amenities, my kids enjoyed running around the grounds and would have had no issue with a short stay here. However, it is less of a family-friendly resort than many other options in Morocco. The hotel can arrange for babysitting services, but again, there are really no facilities to entertain the kids.
              Insider Tip: Reserve a sushi dinner followed by a private movie screening in their secret cinema. This bespoke experience can be enjoyed by any hotel guest with advanced reservations, but most people don’t even know that the opportunity exists.

              Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following Virtuoso Amenities:
              • Upgrade upon arrival, subject to availability (for suites, upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability)
              • Daily full breakfast for up to two people per bedroom
              • $100 USD Food & Beverage Credit
              • Priority Early Check-In/Late Check-Out
              • VIP Status
              • Diego Travel Welcome Box when Using theTravel Planning Service 

              Diego Travel Recommends La Mamounia Marrakech For:
              Honeymooners | Groups of Friends | Anniversary Trip | Mother/Daughter Shopping Trips | Incentive Groups | Destination Wedding

              La Villa des Orangers

              Villa des Orangers

              We started off the trip at this luxury boutique Relais & Chateaux property and I immediately fell in love. One of the few options inside of the walled Medina, a stay at Villa des Orangers feels like you’re walking into someone’s very elegant private home. After a very long and delayed journey to arrive to Marrakech, the staff welcomed us in a seated area, as we were served the best mint tea of our trip while we filled out paperwork. It was late at night at the full moon was glowing through the tree branches, lighting up the courtyard and over the pristine lap pool. Once that brief welcome was complete, they welcomed us into what felt like a living room, with the fire lit and dinner immediately served around a coffee table, the perfect set up for tired and hungry kids.
              Each room at Villa des Orangers is uniquely appointed, and we were staying in two bi-level suites that were perfect for our large family. They were decorated with antiques, and every detail from the handrails to the lighting to bathtub were simply stunning. From a design standpoint, Villa des Orangers might have been my favorite just because it felt so homey and is centrally located right in the heart of the Medina. I have a preference for these boutique-style hotels over the grand opulence of some larger brand-name 5 star hotels. However, as a caveat, the building is ancient, so there were some quirks to the building that might not be perceived as luxurious to many travelers.

              Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following Virtuoso Amenities:
              • Upgrade to next room category, based upon availability at check-in
              • 100 USD hotel credit per room, per stay (2 night minimum, valid towards incidentals)
              • Guaranteed 2pm late check-out
              • Complimentary welcome drink per guest, per stay

              • VIP Status
              • Diego Travel Welcome Box when Using the Travel Planning Service

              Diego Travel Recommends Villa des Orangers For: Honeymooners | Groups of Friends | Anniversary Trip | Mother/Daughter Shopping Trips | Small Groups

              Amanjena, Morocco

              Amanjena

              I was very excited to stay at Amanjena, as Aman Hotels are always at the top of my list when it comes to guaranteed luxury and over-the-top service. Amanjena did not disappoint, and has the wow factor that would make any trip extra special. The grounds are stunning, with expansive pools and fountains throughout. The entrance has two lobbies on either side, with a bar on one side and restaurants on the other. The food was incredible, and for our first dinner, there was a trio of musicians playing traditional Moroccan music while we dined under the high glass-domed ceilings in a candlelit room that could not have been more romantic. Well, had we removed our three tired kids, it might have been.
              The 40 villas on property are stunning and offer lavish accommodations with incredible amenities. What is included here sets Aman properties apart from your typical hotel stay – from welcome amenities to nightly treats placed on your pillow. There are only 4 room categories at Amanjena, with the first three all having the exact same floor plan with the differentiating factor being the outdoor space. You can consult with me on season you’ll be there to determine best fit.
              On property there are two pools, one adults-only and one family- friendly. To be honest, the family-friendly pool felt like an after-thought, stuck behind the spa building and next to the golf course, in a way that doesn’t seem like it would be enjoyable. From what I was told, most families will stay in the 2-bedroom villas, the Alhambra Suite, that have a full-size private pool in their own “backyard,” which makes a lot more sense.
              The spa is small but offers an extensive menu of treatments, and the separate men’s and women’s hammers offer different masks that you can apply as a complimentary service during your stay. While there’s not a ton to do, per se, at Amanjena, they do offer a small selection of kids activities such as calligraphy, story time, and a cooking class, and can arrange for nearby camel rides. While Amanjena does have families that stay here, especially during the peak seasons of December and April, the majority of travelers here are couples seeking privacy, romance and a nice getaway from major European cities.

              Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following Virtuoso Amenities:
              • Upgrade upon arrival, subject to availability
              • Daily continental breakfast for two guests per bedroom
              • $100 USD Food & Beverage Credit
              • Priority Early Check-In/Late Check-Out
              • VIP Status
              • Diego Travel Welcome Box when Using the Travel Planning Service

              Diego Travel Recommends Amanjena For: Honeymooners | Groups of Friends | Anniversary Trip | Parents Traveling with Older Children | Small Groups

              Mandarin Oriental Marrakech

              Mandarin Oriental Marrakech

              The sleek and modern Mandarin Oriental Marrakech was designed by the same designer responsible for the Baccarat Hotel in New York City and the newly redesigned Mandarin Oriental in Madrid. The property is best known for its open air gardens and two golf courses, and comes with many accommodation options with villas that are perfect for families.

              The hotel is often site to high-profile events such as runway shows for Moncler and Yves Saint Laurent.

              Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following Virtuoso Amenities:
              • Upgrade upon arrival, subject to availability (for suites, upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability)
              • Daily full breakfast for up to two people per bedroom
              • $100 USD Food & Beverage Credit
              • Priority Early Check-In/Late Check-Out
              • VIP Status
              • Diego Travel Welcome Box when Using the Travel Planning Service 

              Diego Travel Recommends Mandarin Oriental Marrakech For:
              Honeymooners | Groups of Friends | Anniversary Trip | Mother/Daughter Shopping Trips | Incentive Groups | Destination Wedding

              A Few of My Favorite Things

              Marrakech

              Combining Ancient Culture with Luxury Accommodations

              We loved learning about ancient Moorish culture and visiting the Dar el Bacha Museum of the Confluences before wandering through the narrow streets of the Souk. We also loved driving through the Atlas Mountains and seeing how the Berbers live and visiting the Unesco World Heritage site of Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, in Ouarzazate Provence.

              The Service

              Morocco is a destination where you get a lot of value and high level of service for a fraction of what it would cost in Europe. Service, food, shopping and culture were all phenomenal. If you have questions about which property to choose or how to plan your trip, you can fill out our Trip Design Form to get started and we will reach out with more information!

              Design My Trip!


              Related Posts


              Continue reading

              Best Family Vacations in the USA

              Diego Travel Destination Guide

              Best Luxury Family Vacations in the USA

              MARIA DIEGO

              Are you searching for the best family vacation spots in the US? There’s no shortage of family destinations in the USA, but there are some hotels and top family resorts in the US that really stand out from the rest.

              Whether you’re looking for the best beach resorts in the USA for families, luxury family vacation ideas or the best family vacation summer destinations, we’ve selected our favorite family vacations in the US from the past couple of years. These are hotels and destinations that are perfect for the whole family to enjoy, escape the routine and spend some quality family time together.

              As a Virtuoso travel agency, Diego Travel adds value and additional amenities to your stay every time. Contact us here to get started planning your next family vacation!

              6 Ideas for your next Family Vacations in the US

              Sea Island Vacation Rentals

              1. Sea Island, Georgia

              Located off the coast of Georgia, Sea Island is the ultimate East Coast family vacation spot. We loved it so much we came back twice in one year, take my word – it’s the best family vacation in Georgia!

              With beautiful beaches and a huge range of family-friendly activities from dolphin watching tours, falconry or arts and crafts to bike riding or boat rental, the list of activities is enough to keep the kids occupied for the entire trip.

              For the adults, there’s a spa, fitness centre, hot tub, golfing, horseback riding and a range of eateries from casual pubs to formal dining, including the only Forbes 5-Star restaurant in Georgia.

              The Sea Island cottages and vacation rentals are also perfect if you’re looking for large family vacation rentals or multi family vacation spots, or even if you just prefer to have your own space.

              Sea Island also offers The Cloisters, Ocean Residence, Beach Club, The Inn and The Lodge, so there’s plenty of accommodation options to suit you and your family’s vacation.

              When You Book with Diego Travel, You’ll Receive:
              • $100 per day resort credit when you book a Sea Island cottage rental
              • $100 one-time resort credit + daily complimentary breakfast when you book a Sea Island hotel room

              Blackberry Mountain Sunset

              2. Blackberry Mountain, Tennessee

              If you’re looking for the best luxury resorts for families in the US, this mountain retreat in the Great Smoky Mountains is the perfect property.

              With a focus on wellbeing, outdoor adventure and delightful cuisine, Blackberry Mountain is ideal for active families who are looking for the top family vacation spots in the US that provide a holistic accommodation and hospitality experience.

              Spend the day out on the hiking trails, water skiing on the pond or zip lining through the arbor treetops adventure course, followed by hot yoga, sound baths in the loft, clay sculpting or relaxing in the spa.

              Blackberry Mountain offers a range of accommodation types including 2-5 bedroom homes – perfect for large groups and one of the best places for a family vacation in Tennessee.

              When You Book with Diego Travel, You’ll Receive:
              • 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

              Laguna Beach Coves

              3. Laguna Beach, California

              With so many outdoor activities in the area like hiking, horseback riding, museums, farms and beaches, plus plenty of restaurants, shops and attractions, Laguna Beach is the perfect base if you’re looking for all inclusive California family resorts for your next US vacation.

              My three favorite hotels in this area of Southern California are Montage Laguna Beach, the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, and the Monarch Beach Resort. Their locations in Laguna Beach are perfect for weekend getaways or longer family vacations to enjoy everything this beautiful coastline has to offer.

              The Monarch Beach Resort is a golf and beach resort that’s both kid-friendly and dog-friendly. With 3 pools, a kids club and Laguna’s only beach club, this is a great option for the whole family to enjoy.

              The Ritz Carlton is further south and a must-stay for any surfers in the family! With plenty of restaurant options and fun activities such as whale watching tours organized by the hotel.

              Montage Laguna Beach is the ultimate luxury destination for family vacation spots in the US. With 1,2,3 and 4 bedroom suites, ocean views, a kids club and kids programme, adults-only spa and exclusive beach access, the whole family is treated like a VIP when you stay here.

              This coastal stretch of California is one of the best family vacation destinations in the US and perfect if you’re looking for summer vacation ideas.

              When You Book with Diego Travel, You’ll Receive:
              • Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability
              • Daily full breakfast for two 
              • $100 USD resort credit
              • Early check-in/Late check-out, subject to availability
              • Complimentary Wifi

              Diego_Travel_Hotel_Review-Montage_Palmetto_Bluff

              4. Montage Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina

              Just 30 minutes outside of Savannah, Georgia, you find yourself in this tranquil and picturesque setting at the Montage Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina.

              Our favorite hotel for the best family vacation in South Carolina, the Montage Palmetto Bluff feels like a true escape and a step back in time with tree lined avenues and gas-lit laps on this 20,000 acre estate.

              And with so much space, it’s no wonder that this resort is full of family friendly activities – tennis courts and lessons, golfing, bike rental, boating, shooting club, bowling alley, kids club, 3 different pools and a spa for the adults to enjoy too.

              You can arrange a golf cart or bikes to move around the property,which has seven restaurants spread out over the whole resort area ranging from casual to formal dining which I suggest booking in advance of your stay. You can also take a boat tour on a guided day trip to Daufuskie Island and learn so much about the history and culture.

              When You Book with Diego Travel, You’ll Receive:
              • $100+ resort credit
              • Daily breakfast credit
              • Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability
              • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

              Rosewood Miramar Beach

              5. Rosewood Miramar Beach, California

              Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel might just be the number one option for best family beach vacations in the US. This beachfront hotel is the perfect combination of luxury and laid back beach style.

              The Rosewood Miramar is located just 15 minutes from Santa Barbara. But being the only oceanfront property in Montecito, you feel the stress wash away in this calm, easygoing, beachfront setting.

              With family-friendly beach yoga, falconry experiences, family movie nights, a range of accommodation types, six restaurants and the only 5-star Forbes spa in Santa Barbara, there’s fun for the whole family at this beachfront hotel.

              The resort embraces outdoor living too, with kayak rental, boat charters, hiking excursions, surf lessons and the beach on your doorstep.

              Whether you’re looking for active family vacation ideas in California or slower paced, all inclusive US beach resorts for families, the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel managed both effortlessly.

              When You Book with Diego Travel, You’ll Receive:
              • Complimentary one category upgrade upon arrival, based on availability
              • Daily USD30 breakfast credit for up to two people per bedroom
              • $125 Sense Spa credit per stay
              • Welcome note and amenity from the Managing Director on behalf of Diego Travel
              • Diego Travel Welcome Box for First-Time Clients

              Four Seasons Orlando

              6. Four Seasons Orlando, Florida

              A family-favorite among our clients, whether it’s a weekend getaway for the family or a once-in-a-lifetime trip to this Florida destination, Orlando is one of the best family trips in the US.

              I always say that not only is the Four Seasons Orlando the best family hotel in Orlando, it’s a destination in and of itself: your entire stay feels magical, for adults as well as the kids.

              The non-stop entertainment for the kids goes above and beyond at Four Seasons Orlando, with complimentary kids camp available daily, a 5-acre water park, 18-hole putting course, four restaurants, three lounges and the Disney character breakfast – a must-do for kids.

              Even the spa has a Bippity Boppity Boo boutique experience for girls looking for the princess experience without the wait in line at the Magic Kingdom.

              The Four Seasons Orlando concierge can assist with park tickets, fast passes and any other park queries to make sure your trip runs smoothly from start to finish.

              The Four Seasons Orlando is without a doubt, the best place to stay in Orlando for families.

              When You Book with Diego Travel, You’ll Receive:
              • 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 Tips at Montage Palmetto Bluff

              6 Ideas for your next Family Vacations in the US

              Hopefully our guide to the best family vacations in the US has given you plenty of inspiration for your next family trip. Whether you prefer a laid back beach vacation or an action-packed family-fun resort, here at Diego Travel we know family vacations are extra special and deserve to be perfect. 

              If you’re still undecided, feel free to schedule a call with me, so that I can match you with an ideal destination that fits both your family and budget.


              Related Posts


               

              Continue reading

              William Silver/Shutterstock

              Travel planners share 9 places in the US everyone will want to visit this year

              INSIDER
              March 4, 2022
              By Alyssa Towns Swantkoski

              Insider asked travel planners to share which US destinations they believe will be popular in 2022

              Sea Island offers 5 miles of private beach, luxury resorts and accommodations, and several outdoor activities, including golf, with PGA tournaments having been held on the island.

              Maria Diego of Diego Travel agency has seen this location grow in popularity and expects to see more of the same.

              “One of my best-selling destinations throughout the pandemic has been Sea Island, Georgia. Located between Jacksonville, Florida, and Savannah, Georgia, it’s an easy drive from Miami/South Florida and the East Coast,” she said.

              Sea Island has hotel accommodations and cottage rentals, plus it’s dog-friendly. 

              “Since people are looking for extended vacations, this is a great option that offers so many activities for families,” Diego said. There are plenty of golf courses and tennis courts, too. 

              Read the INSIDER Article

              Continue reading

              British Virgin Islands

              The British Virgin Islands

              A Destination Guide for Your Luxury Caribbean Vacation
              MARIA DIEGO

              The British Virgin Islands, made up of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, and Scrub Island, along with many other smaller islands is one of the best destinations in the Caribbean for luxury travel. I was invited on a FAM trip (the travel industry’s term for familiarization trip) hosted by the British Virgin Islands Tourism Board, where we got to see the top luxury hotels, resorts, private islands, and villas and many different islands. They also introduced us to many different experiences that are possible on the British Virgin Islands, including chartering private yachts, sail boats, and catamarans, renting Moke cars to ride around the islands, exploring The Baths National Park, and all the other fun you can have on the BVI. If you love beautiful beaches, perfect weather, luxury hotels and villas at a great price point, and the best rum cocktails in the world, then you will love the British Virgin Islands!

              Perfect For: Families | Destination Weddings | Luxury Honeymoon | Couples Groups | Multi-Generational Families | Scuba Divers | Snorkelers | Adventure Seekers

              Getting to the BVI

              Getting to the British Virgin Islands

              Getting to BVI isn’t easy, which is why it is perhaps such a popular spot for the jet setters who want a more exclusive experience and privacy. For ease of flights, it’s sometimes better to fly into STT (St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands) because it is a direct flight from many major US cities. From St. Thomas, you can take a boat over to British Virgin Islands, even though you will need to stop by boat to clear customs.

              Otherwise, you can fly into the British Virgin Island’s main airport in Tortola, the Terrence B. Lettsome airport (EIS), which you will need to connect through Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, or Antigua. You have additional smaller airports at Virgin Gorda (VIJ) and Anegada (NGD), and other smaller landing sites for private aviation. When you utilize Diego Travel’s trip planning service, we handle all of the logistics of travel to the US Virgin Island and British Virgin Islands so you don’t have to worry about any of it.

              BVI
              • 18.4223,-64.6192

                Tortola

              • 18.4461,-64.4341

                Virgin Gorda

              The Baths Virgin Gorda

              The British Virgin Islands Luxury Travel Guide

              What to do in the BVI

              • The Baths National Park

                The most visited site in the British Virgin Islands is 7-acres of coastline called The Baths National Park, an iconic location of large boulders and white sand located at Devil’s Bay on Virgin Gorda. Instagram has catapulted its popularity, with influencers getting their obligatory shot between or on these impressive boulders. You can crouch down through narrow passage ways to snorkel or scuba dive your way around them from the water. If you’re visiting the BVI, you cannot miss The Baths.

              • Yacht Charter in the BVI

              • Yacht & Catamaran Charters

                As I discussed in my guide to the US Virgin Islands, the Caribbean just might be the Yacht Charter Capital of the World, and you will find many luxury boats, yachts and catamarans to rent in the region. The problem is, where can you find one of these that fit your budget?

                I’ll let you in on a secret. The yacht charter with crew experience is more affordable than you think, especially when traveling with a group of family or friends. I have worked with one of the boating industry’s top yacht brokers for over a decade, and she has 30+ years in the industry. Together, at no additional cost to the client, we are able to pair Diego Travel clients to the best boat and crew at your budget.

                Whether you opt for a live-on boat charter experience, or opt for a day charter to experience the ocean from your hotel or private villa, we have the best contacts to ensure you’re getting the most value for your budget while boating around Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, or Jost Van Dyke.

              • Diving

                My husband and I started out in the travel industry operating a marina with boat charters and ground transfers, and many people are surprised to know that I have never scuba dived before because I feel like I learned everything there is to know about it. A health condition prevents me from scuba diving, so I stick to snorkeling in shallow reef area. Despite my inability to scuba dive, I can tell you that the British Virgin Islands is perfect for both scuba diving and snorkeling, especially at islands like Anegada, the only flat coral island in the BVI. The island is surrounded by a series of reef mazes and tunnels and are full of interesting types of sea life that you won’t find any many other places. In Virgin Gorda, don’t miss visits to Savannah Bay, Pond Bay, Devil’s Bay (where The Baths are located), Mahoe Bay and Spring Bay.

              • BVI Catamaran Charter

              • BVI Scuba

              • Sailing

                The BVI has consistent trade winds that makes it ideal for constant sailing, whether you are a novice or experienced sailor. Similar to the boat charters, sailing deserves its own category in things to do in the British Virgin Islands because you can take sailing classes on a small sail boat or even a Hobie cat or wind surf. When we visited Moskito Island, where Richard Branson owns an estate and is right next to Necker Island, a skipper took us out on a Hobie cat, so we could just sit back and relax while she transferred us on the water to the private beach club of Moskito Island. It was one of the most adventurous, wet and funny moments of our trip!

              • Shopping

                Along with luxury accommodations usually comes luxury shops that pop up that caters for the high-end clientele that frequents these islands. My first stop to the British Virgin Islands was at Oil Nut Bay, and we popped into Luna Boutique BVI at the marina next to Nova Restaurant. A chic boutique that carries unique and well-known brands and a great range of items from swimsuits and coverups to straw bags and candles. Even if you’re not staying on Oil Nut Bay, I highly recommend a visit to the restaurant and the few shops around it here. At Rosewood Little Dix Bay, you can also visit their boutique that is also full of beautiful clothes and souvenirs to take home. And while we didn’t have a lot of time to shop, a departing gift from our lovely hostess from the Tourism Board was a set of spices and teas, all local products that are typical products you can buy on your trip to the British Virgin Islands (and of course, don’t forget to bring home some alcohol, distilled there on the islands).

              • BVI Drinks

              • Luna Boutique BVI

              • Drinking

                I would be remiss to skip the importance of drinking on the British Virgin Islands – cocktails and the on-island distilleries are a huge part of BVI island life, and will definitely make your vacation more fun and unforgettable (or forgettable, depending on how much is consumed). I’ll discuss bars and places to visit for the best cocktails in the BVI under restaurants.

              Oil nut bay

              Where to Stay in The British Virgin Islands

              One of the best destinations in the Caribbean for luxury private villas and homes is the British Virgin Islands. The Rosewood Little Dix Bay Resort on Virgin Gorda is probably the best hotel in the British Virgin Islands, and underwent a massive renovation in 2019, only to reopen just at the start of the pandemic.

              Rosewood Little Dix Bay

              Rosewood Little Dix Bay

              The Rosewood Little Dix Bay is perfect for honeymooners, anniversary trips, and even great for families. The hotel is located on a wide crescent bay with a very long beach for walking that is completely private for the resort. This makes it ideal if you want privacy and a beautiful sandy beach. Little Dix Bay has a long history and has had return visitors for years, and when I asked the general manager what he loved most about the resort, he said that the returning guests who celebrate their honeymoon and then their 25th wedding anniversary 25 years later is one of the things that makes the property so special. The main pool is nothing to write home about, but is a nice distance from the main restaurant and beach that it is quiet. There is another pool at the spa that overlooks the open ocean on the opposite side of the property, and I almost preferred this pool to the other. One thing that is worthy of writing home about is the tennis courts, pickle ball courts, and huge gym with fitness equipment. For guests who want to stay active and play sports on property, there are definitely many options. Finally, another advantage of staying at Little Dix Bay is its proximity to The Baths National Park in Virgin Gorda.

              Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following Rosewood Elite Amenities:

              • Exclusive Rosewood Elite Offers
              • Complimentary one category upgrade upon arrival, based on availability
              • Daily Full American breakfast for up to two people per bedroom
              • USD125 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 ServiceTravel Planning Service

              Diego Travel Recommends Rosewood Little Dix Bay For: Honeymooners | Destination Weddings | Couples Groups | Multi- Generational Families | Anniversary Trips | Romantic Getaways | Incentive Trips

              Moskito Island

              Moskito Island

              Moskito Island was perhaps my favorite destination in British Virgin Islands and is an exclusive experience that not many people will ever get to experience. There are only a handful of homes on the entire island, owned by Richard Branson and his billionaire friends. Fortunately, you too can have this experience, and rent out one of the homes that is between 7 and 11 bedrooms in each estate. The island itself has its own communal beach club, beachside pool and outdoor living area, tennis courts, gym, and water sports center, all for your own private use. Each estate has its own team of friendly staff that make the experience of staying on Moskito Island so exceptional.

              I was lucky enough to stay at the Branson Estate and slept in the bedroom next to Richard Branson’s at the Headland House, which is a perfect setup for a family with children or teens. The home has its own kitchen and communal areas, but then there are two other stand alone buildings that make the Branson Estate ideal for multiple families traveling together, or even 11 couples who want to gather at night for gourmet meals and karaoke at night. That evening, we kicked it off with a private rum tasting with rum expert at Branson team member, Goran. This rum tasting comes included with your stay when you book with Diego Travel.

              Later, we enjoyed one of the best meals of my life, followed by a night of karaoke that lasted well into the night, joined by fun staff who made the entire experience. The next day, we were whisked to the beach for a captained experience on a Hobie cat, where they took us around the island and dropped us off at the communal beach club, where we enjoyed cocktails and a beautiful beachside meal. It was heaven, and I still pinch myself that I got to have this experience.

              The other estates are The Oasis, where Paris Hilton recently honeymooned, and modeled after a cruise ship, which sleeps 18 with 6 family rooms close together and 3 separated villas for invited staff or friends. The Point is the closest to the beach and has 8 rooms that are completely separated bungalows, so likely not ideal for young kids but a great experience for couples. The Point sleeps 22 people.

              Summer 2022 will see the opening of The Village to the Moskito Island rental program, which will be the premiere party house with a water slide, full light display and a DJ booth that comes up from the floor. There are 8 rooms total, with 7 separated pods. Again, this estate is ideal for the ultimate party and for the huge celebration you won’t be able to have anywhere else. So how much does it cost to stay on Moskito Island? Well, considering all food and house drinks are included, as well as full staff that provides housekeeping, entertainment, gourmet meals, and even around the clock babysitting for your little ones, the nightly rate in low season is around $22,000 plus taxes and fees. Whether you rent out each estate for just you and your plus one, or a large group of friends, the nightly rate remains the same.

              The most unique element of Moskito Island are the experiences that they can create to really wow their guests, which is why the price is completely accessible when considering what you get. They create events like family style Olympic Games, bonfires, BBQ and s’mores, will have pizza night at the beach house, and create romantic dinner setups for parents to enjoy time on their own, while they set up a kids table for a kid-friendly dinner with babysitters down at The Cove.

              Doesn’t it sound like paradise? It is. And when you book your stay with Diego Travel, I work with the island manager directly to make sure every detail is accounted for and can pair you with the estate that matches your needs.

              Oil Nut Bay

              Oil Nut Bay

              Oil Nut Bay is another hybrid private island experience set up with resort amenities, with a beautiful beach club with private villas, both beachfront and perched up on the hills overlooking the bay. You need a golf cart to get around this expansive island, and homes vary in both size and decor. You can also visit as a couple only, which would be ideal for a honeymoon, with a base suite starting at just $600/night in low season. Homes are new and well-designed, with most offering private pools and full kitchens.

              Whale peak season is March and April, when I highly recommend renting a villa on Whale Point; in fact, one of my favorite villas is called Whale Point and is a brand new 2-bedroom villa with pool and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. In low season, rates start at $1700/night+ + which makes it very affordable to go with another couple.

              My favorite large home that would be perfect for a group of adults or traveling with teenagers, is Maranti, a 5-bedroom villa with separated en-suite rooms. All homes can provide provisions and a chef is available to prepare dinner each night, or you can enjoy dinner at the restaurant down at the pool and beach club.

              They are currently building a spa, and currently have a gym and kids club, so Oil Nut Bay is one of my top picks for multi-generational trips that want privacy, quiet, and a beautiful setting for extended stays. It’s not uncommon for guests to rent these homes for a month-long stay, and with rates being so accessible, it might be worthwhile to consider an extended vacation.

              BVI Villas

              Private Villas

              While in the British Virgin Islands, I met the “Queen of BVI” and owner/ founder of a destination management company that covers all of the islands. After working 30+ years in the hospitality industry, from her role as general manager at Rosewood Little Dix Bay to president of the tourism board, she now runs her own company and works exclusively with travel advisors. I was lucky enough to spend half a day with her, where she gave us tours of some of her favorite private villas at a range of prices. Villas ran from beachfront from $6,000/week for a 4-Bedroom home to upwards of $40,000/week. What is great about working with this person is that she literally knows every single villa and boat rental on the islands, and is able to match my clients to the perfect vacation rental and works with me to build an itinerary that is perfect for your needs. Need a babysitter? She has the contact. Want an in-house private chef and your kitchen fully stocked before arrival? We have you covered.

              Two of my favorite villas that we toured and had lunch and dinner at were Baraka Point and Aquamare Villas. Both are beachfront and excellent options for families. Baraka Point is up on a cliff and has beach access that is just a couple minutes walk to get there. Both of these villas are very close to Sugar Cane restaurant, which I will cover in the next section.

              Guana Island is 850 acres of private island with seven beaches, mountains, gardens and hiking and private villas that offer first-class luxury service as well. Guana Island is completely private, with gorgeous white sand beaches and an ideal destination when you want to get away from it all. At any of the above villas, when you book your BVI vacation with Diego Travel, we will make sure you are paired with the perfect match to fit your needs.

              Moskito Island Dinning

              Where to eat in the British Virgin Islands?

              Some British Virgin Islands favorites, and very unique to the BVI dining options:

              • Nova on Oil Nut Bay – Built on a dock that extends out over the ocean, Nova is the perfect spot to spend a leisurely afternoon enjoying fresh sushi or local fish and sipping on fancy cocktails from their extensive and modern bar. It’s fun to people watch and check out the yachts at this marina restaurant.

                CocoMaya Restaurant – Just minutes from the iconic Baths in Virgin Gorda, Cocomaya is an iconic beach club and bar that is a must-see when visiting the British Virgin Islands. Plan to reserve a day bed and spend at least a few hours here, whether for lunch or into the night for dinner.

              • Nova on Oil Nut Bay

              • Sugarcane Restaurant – Sugarcane is located in Nail Bay on Virgin Gorda, walkable to Baraka Point and very close to Aquamare Villas. This fun spot perched up on a hill overlooking the water has delicious food, drinks and even a sports club that includes pool and tennis club. When you’re a guest a Baraka Point, you even get free access to their sport club and gym.

                Reef House at Little Dix Bay – You can make dining reservations here even if you’re not a guest at Rosewood Little Dix Bay. This beachfront restaurant is worth a stop, whether you’re visiting the islands by land or by private yacht. Reserve in advance if you’re not staying at the hotel.

              • Willy T at Cooper Island Beach Club – The legendary floating bar of the BVI’s where all you need to know is “what happens at Willy T’s stays at Willy T’s.”

                Did you know that when you utilize Diego Travel’s trip planning service, we make all your dining and activity reservations for you? Find out how you can implement our concierge service into your travel plans to make planning your trip to BVI as easy and seamless as possible.

              A Few of My Favorite Things

              The British Virgin Islands

              Private Islands Galore

              If you can swing it, the British Virgin Islands is worth the splurge on a private island experience. There are several to choose from, ranging from Necker Island to Moskito Island (the more famous due to Richard Branson’s famous name), to Aerial Island Resort and Guana Island. Whatever your budget and reason for celebration may be, I am happy to walk you through the different options and help you select which private island escape will be right for you and your occasion.

              The Privacy and Exclusivity

              After having visited both British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands all within two weeks of each other, I can say that what is notably different about British Virgin Islands is the element of exclusivity about it. While less buzzy and pretentious than its fellow Jetsetter Caribbean competition over at St. Barths, British Virgin Islands is no doubt a playground and hot spot for the rich and famous who are looking to vacation in private at some of the best beaches in the world. While many places come with a hefty price tag, the good news is that the average person can still experience the luxury element of BVI without spending a small fortune.

              The Service

              I didn’t experience a single bad meal while visiting the BVI, but what stood out most was the level of service at all the places we stayed, most notably at Moskito Island. Many people come to work seasonally at British Virgin Islands and never leave, while others are native to the islands and have such a happy disposition about life. It makes you feel like family by the time it’s time to leave, and you’ll never want to go home.

              If you’re interested in a chartering a yacht or catamaran in the British Virgin Islands, or book the Rosewood Little Dix Bay or any other private villa or vacation rental, I would be happy to provide you my guidance and match you with the perfect boat + crew or hotel accommodation. You can contact me directly to inquire.

              Design My Trip!


              Related Posts


              Continue reading

              US Virgin Islands

              US Virgin Islands

              A Destination Guide for Your Caribbean Vacation
              MARIA DIEGO

              The US Virgin Islands, made up of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, is a boater and diver’s paradise of many islands, beautiful beaches, and plenty of dive spots to explore. We were looking for a remote region to charter a private catamaran with crew to spend a week of bonding and adventure with our kids, and settled on the USVI as the perfect destination. Private yachts, sail boats, and catamarans are available throughout the US Virgin Islands and Diego Travel works with the best yacht broker for our clients’ needs.

              Perfect For: Families | Destination Weddings | Honeymoon | Couples Groups | Multi-Generational Families | Scuba Divers | Snorkelers | Scuba Divers

              Long Bay Marina-Charlotte Amalie

              Getting to US Virgin Islands

              Getting to USVI is perhaps one of its biggest draws, since there are so many direct flights into St. Thomas (STT) from major cities like Chicago, Dulles, Newark and Miami. From St. Thomas, it’s an easy boat ride to St. John, and a full day boat ride to St. Croix, so most people visiting St. Croix will take the direct flight from Miami. US Virgin Islands is extremely close to British Virgin Islands. Before Covid, visitors could visit the islands interchangeably pretty easily, but now the restrictions make it more difficult. For ease of flights, it’s sometimes better to fly into STT and take a boat over to British Virgin Islands, even though you will need to stop by boat to clear customs. When you utilize Diego Travel’s trip planning service, we handle all of the logistics of travel to the US Virgin Island and British Virgin Islands so you don’t have to worry about any of it.

              USVI
              • 18.3411,-64.9328

                St Thomas

              • 18.3308,-64.7945

                St John

              United States Virgin Islands Catamaran Charter

              Catamaran Charter

              YACHT AND CATAMARAN CHARTERS

              The Caribbean just might be the Yacht Charter Capital of the World, and you will find many luxury boats, yachts and catamarans in the region. The problem is, where can you find one of these that fit your budget? I’ll let you in on a secret. The yacht charter with crew experience is more affordable than you think, especially when traveling with a group of family or friends. I have worked with one of the boating industry’s top yacht brokers for over a decade, and she has 30+ years in the industry. Together, at no additional cost to the client, we are able to pair Diego Travel clients to the best boat and crew at your budget. When I reached out to her for our personal vacation, we were considering two boats in our price range, and she told me one crew would be better than the other with our young kids. She was right! And whether you’re looking for a charter in Greece, Italy, or the Caribbean, she knows the boats and crew and directs me to the right choice once we have a discussion about you and what your needs are.

              The US Virgin Islands are so popular for yacht charters because there are so many islands and protected bays for mooring at night, with not much distance or rough seas in between destinations. You can go for a full week or two without touching land, just exploring different waters, with each beach and bay being extremely unique. We spent our seven nights in Monde Bay, Little Lameshur Bay, Long Bay, Francis Bay, Caneel Bay, and finally Brewers Bay. The cool thing about our captain, who had 10 years experience, was that he knew to get us one bay ahead of the rest, so at each stop, due to our timing, we had each bay essentially to ourselves.

              USVI Catamaran Charters

              While we opted for a catamaran charter with crew, there are also bareboat catamaran and sailboat charters available (meaning less cost without crew). If you are the do-it-yourself type and want to man your own boat, you have this option available in the USVI. For those that want to learn how to sail, the USVI also affords a variety of options to get ASA certified during on your crewed charter.  Keep in mind that boat charters are regularly 7 nights.

              • Scuba Diving

                Scuba diving and snorkeling are the number 1 attraction of the US Virgin Islands, with so many reef dives, wreck dives, drift dives, and rocky islets that are home to a myriad of fish and sea life. Our 11-year-old daughter tried scuba diving for the first time, and on her second attempt stayed underwater for 25 minutes.

                The USVI is full of national wildlife reserves like Buck Island and the Virgin Islands National Park & Coral Reef National Monument. Because of the amount of protection surrounding the islands, the water is full of sea life, making the perfect paradise for both scuba divers and snorkelers.

              • Watersports USVI

              • It’s worthwhile to mention the amount of sea life we saw off our boat. From constant fish, sting rays and octopus, our favorite was swimming with the sea turtles, where there is a bay with hundreds of them. My 4- and 6-year-olds swam on their own as we patiently followed a little sea turtle as he would slowly surface for a breath every few minutes, where we’d get an up close look and then watch him plunge back to the sand. The fine of touching any turtle starts at $5,000, so this ensures these beautiful creatures can remain unharmed and explore freely in their natural habitat for years to come.

              • Watersports and Day charters

                For those who prefer to be landbased instead of chartering a yacht or catamaran, the US Virgin Islands offers plenty of oportunities to experience the natural beauty of these islands.

                There are a wide range of activities available directly from the beach like taking sailing classes on a small sail boat or a Hobie cat. The USVI is a great introduction to sailing for kids if they are interested in learning to sail. There are also many otions to go kayaking or stand up paddleboarding or even learning to windsurf or kiteboard

                Fishing charters offer an unique oportunity to fish the Puerto Rico Trench where you can find some of the best offshore fishing in the Caribbean, located only six miles from shore.

                Many operators offer snorkeling tours, day sailing catamaran trips and sunset sailing experiences. Private day charters are also available aboard both sail boats and powerboats.

              • USVI Bars

              • Shopping

                Charlotte Amalie is the main cruise ship port where the large cruise ships arrive and depart. In St. Thomas, you don’t pay sales tax, so it’s the perfect place to buy a luxury watch or jewelry. Charlotte Amalie is full of your more touristy shops that cater to the cruise ships, while St. John has some more boutique shopping with local shops that sell everything from board shorts and rash guards for men to swim suits and cover ups for women. In the USVI, you won’t wear or need much more than that, as even in the winter time, the evenings rarely get cold enough to require a sweater.

                On our week-long charter, we only stopped twice for shopping and to walk around, and my favorite spot was Mongoose Junction in Cruz Bay in St. John. This small shopping center has a few bars and restaurants, but my favorite shop was Lulee, which carries all my favorite brands and where I bought a replacement pair of my favorite Agolde denim cut-offs.

              • Rum Tasting

                While we truthfully did not explore the USVI by land that much, we had been in the past when visiting by cruise ship and were told of the many rum distilleries on both St. Thomas and St. John. And just as any good Caribbean island should offer, a good bar and opportunity to taste a dozen rums abounds in the US Virgin Islands.

                One of country music’s most famous singers, Kenny Chesney, has a home on Cinnamon Bay in the USVI and often sings about island life and its plentiful drinks. Two of our favorite spots are the Windmill Bar on St. John, perched on a hilltop in an old sugar mill with live music and stunning views, and for a more refined wine tasting experience, try Kati Ligo in St. John, a cozy wine bar.

              • St John Shopping

              Ritz Carlton St Thomas Aerial View

              Where to Stay in the USVI

              The Ritz Carlton St Thomas

              The Ritz Carlton St. Thomas

              The Ritz Carlton St. Thomas is perfect for families, multi-generational families (we saw a ton of large family groups during Christmas week), and even great for couples during non-holiday travel times.  The hotel is located on a small bay with a somewhat short beach and two pools.  One pool was originally redesigned to be adult-only, but the sales director told me that families werent having it and that they eventually gave in and have kids welcome at both pools.  Having said that, families with young and noisy kids tend to gravitate to the pool located next to the winding water slide, a new addition from the renovation.  Right next to the water slide pool is a fantastic kids club, where both indoor and outdoor activities are completely complimentary for ages 5-12.  Cabanas incur an extra cost and are located around both pools.

               Aside from the pools and beach, you also have tennis courts and a huge brand new gym with state of the art equipment.  You have an amazing spa, and fun boutique, and four restaurants.  To really add to the experience, I highly recommend a private beach dinner, where theyll set your table up under a romantic sea grape tree that sits on the beach.  It is the perfect spot to celebrate an anniversary or have a proposal. 

              Lets talk about Club level at this Ritz Carlton hotel.  If youre a Marriott or Ritz Carlton loyalist, I am sure you are aware of club level by now.  The club level rooms give access to a special club lounge for its guests.  In my opinion, at some properties, this added benefit is well worth it and at other properties, its not worth the price difference.  At Ritz Carlton St. Thomas, the Club level is definitely worth it.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served buffet style with a wine and coffee bar, all complimentary to Club level guests.  They also have their own outdoor terrace space, so its almost like having access to your own exclusive restaurant that is completely free.

              The cost of meals at a resort like this can really add up, so we saw plenty of families eating all their meals in the Club lounge.  Finally, Diego Travel is a preferred partner to Marriott STARS program, which includes all Ritz Carltons, so even if youre Bonvoy Ambassador Elite, you will still get additional perks when booking your Marriott stays with Diego Travel.  The only time these perks dont apply is when youre booking your stay using points.  

              Book with Diego Travel to Receive the Following STARS Amenities:

              •  Welcome Amenity
              •  Complimentary Breakfast for 2 at Bleuwater Restaurant
              • $100 Hotel Credit
              • Complimentary Wi-FI
              • Priority Upgrade if Available
              • Priority Early Check-In/Late Check-Out
              • VIP Status with In-Person Warm Welcome
              • Diego Travel Welcome Box when Using the Travel Planning Service

              Diego Travel Recommends Ritz Carlton St. Thomas For: Families | Destination Weddings | Couples Groups | Multi-Generational Families Corporate Groups | Incentive Groups

              Where To Eat in US Virgin Islands?

              • Two US Virgin Islands favorites:

                Lime Out A floating taco bar based in Coral Bay, St. John.

                Pizza Pi A small boat with a pizza oven offering delivery by dinghy based in Christmas Cove, Little St. James.  They make gluten-free pizza too! Started by a couple who left their corporate world behind and covered a boat into a large pizza oven/delivery restaurant.  Talk about chasing your dreams!

              • Lovango Cay

              • Our favorite day and dinner experience:

                Lovango Cay A beach and pool club with limited daily memberships starting at $100 per person, private cabana rentals, and waterfront dining based off Lovango Cay.

              • Our other favorite food experiences:

                Dave and Jerry’s  Fine dining in St. John that offers excellent steaks and a ton of food.  We outdid ourselves!

                Prime Fine dining in St. Thomas, would recommend for a final evening on the dock if youre chartering a yacht or catamaran.  

                 ZoZos Waterfront dining in Caneel Bay, St. John and also a happy hour option with live music and a cute gift shop.

                Skinny Legs This is a very local hang in St. John serving up burgers and drinks.  The name says it all for appropriate dress attire.

              A Few of My Favorite Things

              USVI

              Beaches and Bays

              Don’t miss Turtle Bay and Cinnamon Beach on St. Johns. Even though there are more tourists here than other areas, it’s for good reason. It’s so neat to swim with so many sea turtles and a unique experience to the USVI. Cinnamon Beach is long and with soft, white sand, perfect for a long beach walk and located where you have many multi-million dollar villas that are available for rental. Diego Travel can assist you with these villa rentals too. Little Lamashur Bay was less crowded and we saw sea turtles and sting rays there too.

              Water Sports

              One of the best things about chartering a yacht or catamaran with crew, is the direct access to a lot of sea toys like tubing, stand up paddle boarding, eFoils (we saw tons of these), kite surfing and water skiing or wake boarding right off the back our catamaran. Our kids had so much fun doing all of these things, that you could never get bored. So between gourmet meals prepared by our chef, Erika, our captain, Tyler, would take us out for fun on the water in between. Although, I have to admit that sometimes I would let my husband take the kids while I stayed behind on the quiet boat to read a good book (and work remotely).

              The People

              The community of US Virgin Islands is a huge boating community who love the water and the easy way of life. Though after witnessing how hard our crew worked aboard the boat throughout our week stay, I realized that they work hard and likely play harder. The people are very friendly, easy-going, and work hard to provide excellent service when you charter a yacht or catamaran. They come from all over the world to work on boats in the Caribbean, and most of them are well-traveled and well-educated, spending part of the year working very hard and able to take time off in their off season to travel to other places. I learned a lot from our crew, a couple who has been married 5 years and in the yachting industry for 10, and hope to someday charter with them again.

              If you’re interested in a chartering a yacht or catamaran in the US Virgin Islands, or book the Ritz Carlton St. Thomas, I would be happy to provide you my guidance and match you with the perfect boat + crew or hotel accommodation. You can email me here to inquire.

               

              Continue reading

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

              © 2022 Diego Travel LLC

              Florida Seller of Travel #ST40923