Chileno Bay Resort Cabo San Lucas – Lots to Offer with a Swimmable Beach

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I recently enjoyed a short stay at Chileno Bay Resort.  The property has many room categories from king rooms up to large 2, 3 & 4-bedroom residence suites which I will detail more below.

The landscaping and property décor are fantastic with a warm contemporary vibe using lots of natural woods and marble as design elements.  The pool area is huge with 3 separate pools, with the one nearest to the ocean being adult only.  The furthest from the ocean is a shallow family pool which is flanked by a grassy lawn that hosts a dozen outdoor games to keep kids from tots to teens engaged.  Immediately next to that pool is both a teens room with billiards, Ping-Pong, gaming devices, foos ball and several board games and small movie theatre.  The kids club is also great with staff willing to entertain and care for your kids.   The proximity of the kids/teens club and the game lawn to the central pool areas is certainly an upside if you are traveling with kids.

The pools have something for everyone and all the pool and beach areas have luxurious lounge chairs to match the luxurious service.  Staff ratios are very high and while they are always there and aware of your needs you hardly notice their bustling around you.  The Chileno Bay has one of the few swimmable beaches in Cabo so if beach side is important you will get it there.   There is also a water sports center on the beach which offers paddle boards, kayaks, etc. a rare find in any resort in Cabo San Lucas.

There are 2 restaurants at Chileno Bay.  The signature restaurant, Comal, is perched over the beach with fantastic views,  serves to a very high standard.  Food quality was fabulous, and service was excellent.  There is also a lunchtime taqueria with burgers, salads and sandwiches sprinkled in.  Food here was authentic high-end Mexican with other choices to keep everyone happy.  While the kid’s menu had the standard pizza/burger/chicken fingers I was pleasantly surprised to see healthy options as well.

We enjoyed a garden view king room (entry level) which far exceeded expectations.   The room is more akin to a junior suite in most other resorts at 588 square feet.   The combined bedroom and sitting area are very generous along with a walk-in closet, large free-standing tub and two showers (one indoor and one outdoor) in the bathroom.  Our son slept on a roll away and there was plenty of space and it did not feel as though it was in the way.   We also had a nice outdoor patio facing the pool and gardens.

In addition to just chillin’ at Chileno I spent a couple of hours doing a site inspection and was treated to seeing some of the high roller gems that exist on this property.  There is an oceanfront six-bedroom villa with private pool, indoor and outdoor kitchens, fire pits and everything short of the helicopter pad that any high roller might need.

We also toured 2- and 3-bedroom residence suites and Sky Suites which were stunning.  Some had private pools, and all had indoor and outdoor kitchens.

The hotel offers a plethora on the activities.  Chileno Bay has a joint venture with one of the best golf courses in Cabo as well as complementary water toys (kayaks etc) and a huge gym.  The gym has around 12 cardio stations, 10 or so weight machines, stretching areas and complementary fitness classes.   The spa is large and impressive and has a magnificent water and relaxation area.   I would point you to the properties website which is comprehensive and can give you an idea of the many options available.

Chileno Bay totally lives up to the high end tranquil ultra-service-oriented reputation that they have worked hard to earn.    And while this is a high-end resort I would consider the price point to offer good value.  I highly endorse this property for both family and adult only vacations.   We hope to go back soon.  As a side note as of this writing in February 2019 the hotel has started its last phase of buildings and there is construction going on which is slated to be complete within the next year.

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Grand Velas Cabo San Lucas- A Five Star All Inclusive

grand velas

Grand Velas is a true five-star accommodation option for anyone interested in upsides of hassle-free hotel accommodation without the downsides typically associated with all-inclusive accommodation.   If you enjoy pulling your wallet out 6 times a day for every coffee, drink, lunch, activity, this may not be the place for you.   No all-inclusive bracelets here and the hotel requires you to sign a check, just in case you want to feel like you are NOT in an all-inclusive.

The property opened roughly two years ago.  Everything is fresh, modern and well equipped.  The rooms are very spacious, and all face the ocean.  Beds, linens, towels, and amenities are all top of the line.  The rooms are a contemporary modern décor with marble floors softened by large carpets and plush furniture.  We enjoyed a Governors One Bedroom Suite and more space than needed.   We had a large walk in closet and an outdoor balcony facing the ocean, a perfect spot for ideal whale watching.

Service at the hotel was far beyond our expectations.  Front desk, bellman, concierge and food service people were plentiful and very eager to please.   I can’t recall we had to ask more than once for anything.  I would rate the service a 9.5 out of 10.

Food quality was also excellent.  There are 7 restaurants and a few bars and a café.  A lot of thought has gone into the décor of each restaurant.    The house wine and alcohol selection were top notch and most of the premium brands were on offer without an up charge. In the minibar you will find a similar selection of wine, beer and alcohol plus a few treats if you find yourself hungry in the middle of the night.

The gym is a fraction smaller than a private club gym in most cities and a major step up from many hotels. It is large with many cardio and weight machines and free weights.

There are three pools with one being adult only.  And, unlike almost all other inclusive’s, Grand Velas does not find it is necessary to crank up the club music around the pool at 12 noon or have those lying by the pool must endure water aerobics classes going on nearby. The pools are large with and abundance of big comfy lounge chairs. Plush towels and again, great food and drink service at your disposal.  A large cabana located by one of the pools offers ping pong tables and other entertainment for kids and adults.  The beach is beautiful and perfect for walking and enjoying the scenery however this is definitely a non-swimmable beach (read my other reviews for hotels with swimmable beaches in Cabo).  The hotel does have lounge chairs and service on the beach for those who enjoy the sound and scenery of lying by the ocean.

The hotel offers a substantial kids and teens club that are open into the evening and the staff could not be more accommodating.  We took advantage of adult only dinners while our son enjoyed dinner in the teens club and hanging out with friends. I can guarantee Your children will not be disappointed!

Grand Velas Cabo is an exceptional family destination and I would argue that it is also a great destination for adults especially if you are traveling with others.  If  you don’t want to be fretting over who is buying rounds and how to split the dinner bill it is a fabulous stress free experience.  We met a number of couples without kids who also loved the property and felt like they were not at a family resort because of the adult pool and a few of the restaurants were adult only.

All in all, a great property at a good price point.  There are cheaper all inclusive’s out there but this one didn’t present like an all-inclusive in any way other than your disregard for your wallet till check out.

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Montage Los Cabos- A Beautiful “Swimmable” Beach in Cabo!

montage los cabos

Montage Los Cabos- The best swimmable beach in Cabo Hands Down!

One of the latest and greatest of new hotels in Los Cabos the Montage is located on probably the most beautiful swimmable beach in Cabo San Lucas.  The property is contemporary with a homey comfortable feel.   The layout of the property wraps around what is without doubt the best beach in Cabo…. hands down.  Not only is the beach swimmable with white sand but it is a massive semi – circle shape bay beach with desert and coastal views on all sides.

There are two pools at the Montage both overlooking the ocean.  The one nearest to the beach is an adult only with the second and larger pool for families.

There are many areas with various elevations to lounge around the pool, so it does not feel crowded.  There are also cabanas for rent, should you want your own Private Idaho.  And just in case you tire of the pools, there is, of course, the beautiful beach where you can escape to the beautiful blue waters and white sand.

The rooms are spacious and most have some glimpse of the ocean while others have full coastal views.  The décor is a mix of beautiful stone and rich wood with plush beds and upholstered furniture to make you feel at home.  The hotel offers a variety of room categories from which to choose. From a standard king room to a standard room with two queen beds to 1-2- & 3-bedroom residence suites. Rooms are located within small low rise 2 story buildings on slight elevations in a semi-circle surrounding the bay.  This is not a high rise. There are a couple of direct oceanfront specialty suites.

There are two restaurants at the Montage.  One on the water called Marea and the other Mezcal.  In both instances the décor was fresh, modern and tasteful.  Food was a 10 out of 10 and the setting is a perfect combo of trendy and comfy.

The Montage Hotel is a great new addition to Cabo San Lucas.  I highly recommend a visit.

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Paradisus Los Cabos -A Smaller All Inclusive

paradisus

My family recently enjoyed 4 nights at The Los Cabos Paradisus during Presidents Week.  The Paradisus Los Cabos offers great value as a first-class all-inclusive resort.   This being a smaller more manageable all-inclusive resort with only 350 rooms vs. most other all-inclusive resorts which will usually have in excess of 1000 rooms. In addition, the Paradisus is a member of Leading Hotels of the World.

The rooms are simple décor, mostly white and well-kept with nice linens and amenities and very comfortable.   The property has numerous restaurants that offer a la carte dining with a variety of food offerings including sushi, Italian and of course Mexican.  There is also always a buffet restaurant option available. Service is excellent at all the restaurants and reservations are required for restaurants other than the buffet.  If you are interested in experiencing dining other than at the hotel, I would encourage you to visit one of many great restaurants nearby rather than Gusto on property which is not included in your rate.  Gusto is sort of like “fine dining” that you negotiate with a used car salesman.  Our understanding of menu and drinks pricing changed 3 or 4 times between being seated and walking out of the restaurant 15 minutes later. Cabo has some great dining options (try Acre or Flora Farms) rather.

The pool area is large with lots of lounger chairs and wait staff to serve you.  There is an adult section that you can enjoy if you pay extra for the Royal Service or Family Concierge however there is no escaping the stereo that kicks in at 12:01 to accompany the water aerobics class.  The fall back if you don’t want the music pool side is a short stroll to a beautiful swimmable beach (which is rare in Cabo) where there are lounge chairs and a beautiful view.

The work out area is decent with about 6 cardio machines and another 6 or 8 weight machines.  The spa is on the smaller side but has steam and dry sauna and a half dozen treatment rooms.

All in all, this is a great value as an all-inclusive.  Room quality, food and dining options, service and beach offered great bang for your buck.

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Iceland- An Adventure in the Land of Fire and Ice

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My husband, 10-year-old son and I visited Iceland for 4 marvelous days this October.  The flight from JFK is very simple with limited customs and immigration hassle upon arrival.  At 5 1/2 hours fly time the flight is a bit shorter (yes you heard right) than you might like as it really doesn’t offer enough time to get a good night’s sleep.  Saying that, the time change is only 4 hours, so we adjusted after the first day.   I recommend visiting Iceland between the months of April to October as during winter months there is limited day light.   I might also recommend staying away from June to August if you can, as this is PEAK PEAK season and can get busy but also has the upside of extended daylight hours which allows for more time to see the sights. April, May, September and October might be the best months to travel.   I have created for my clients a detailed day by day itinerary including hotel reservations at the newest and best located hotels and links to pre book tours (which do sell out) to ensure your trip is perfectly planned. Please reach out to me if you are interested in having me plan your adventure.

The entire country has a population of only 330,000 people with about 40% of the population in Reykjavik and an expanse of scenery to be seen.  Reykjavik is a beautiful and vibrant little city with lots of interesting restaurants, coffee shops, shopping and interesting architecture.  Most of the new downtown hotels are walking distance from restaurants so no need for taxis.  I strongly recommend renting a car and self-driving if you want to truly explore and see the country.  It is very easy to get around, the roads are excellent, and everything is well signed and combined with google map’s getting around is simple.  If you hate to drive you might investigate a private car and driver or tours that will pick up at your hotel however that will come at a premium cost. I would not recommend the larger bus tours.

Our first day we landed around 6:00 am and picked up our car rental. From there we drove about 30 minutes to The Blue Lagoon, a massive thermal outdoor bath.  It’s a great way to “ease” into your Iceland Adventure and arriving early to beat the rush worked out well especially since our hotel check in time was later in the day.  We spent the remainder of day 1 exploring Reykjavik.

Day 2 was up early for a drive called the “Golden Circle” which as implied is a driving tour that goes in a big circle and hits a half dozen prominent waterfalls/geysers/historical sites with a myriad of stops on the way with crazy scenery.  On that point, be sure to take a decent camera as the photo ops are unlike anything you may see again in your lifetime.  The total drive time is around 4 to 5 hours (all beautiful scenery) plus whatever time you spend at the various sites.

Our day 3 and 4 was an exploration outside the city with overnights to Vik and Jokarlsalon with a glacier hike and stops at along the way of numerous beautiful natural sights.

There is no shortage of things to see and do in Iceland and if you google “tours in Iceland” there are hundreds of options for walks, climbs, snowmobile, back country jeep tours, plane rides, lagoon tours by boat etc. and it can become overwhelming.  I would recommend a glacier hike, the lava tubes, and a zodiac tour at the Jokulsarlon Glacier all educational and interesting.  We also heard great things about snowmobiling on the glacier however it didn’t fit into our action packed schedule.   Some of the more popular tours require a bit of pre planning as Iceland has become a popular destination and these tours do book out in advance.

The only drawback of Iceland is the sticker shock for food and tours.  Restaurant pricing can be upwards of 50% more than NYC pricing…although there is no tipping expected.  Saying that, Iceland can be taken in with a 3 to 5 night stay, so your wallet only opens for about 8 or 10 meals.   Most of the hotels include buffet breakfast in the room rate.   On a separate note, the quality of the food in Iceland far exceeded my expectations this time around. This is my third visit to Iceland (15 and 30 years prior) and the quality and variety of food options has changed dramatically in a very positive way.

When packing make sure to take good hiking boots, a pair of sturdy runners and layers of clothing including a top rain/wind layer.  Rain gear is a must.  The sun comes and goes, and you layer up and delayer as the day progresses.  No Gucci loafers or Channel handbags in Reykjavik!  You don’t need much but you do need the right stuff if you are getting out into the landscape.

We loved Iceland.  The people couldn’t be nicer, everyone speaks perfect English, and the scenery is off the charts breathtaking.  This is a fantastic highly recommend family adventure.   I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with a short excursion to this country.

 

 

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The Ritz Arts Barcelona – Now I know what all the fan fare is about

ritz arts

In short, I would highly recommend the Hotel Arts (as the locals call it).  The rooms are generous in size, very nicely appointed with large bathrooms and top end linens and bath products.  If you are a family traveling I would certainly recommend this property due to the larger size one and two bedroom suites which you can reserve for a reasonable rate if booked in advance.   The rooms have spectacular city and/or ocean views and while we had a majestic ocean view it would not be a hardship to overlook the city of Barcelona, particularly as you can view down the expansive boulevards.   Personally, I thought that the city view was more interesting than the sea view and comes at a better price point.

Breakfasts were indulging and are included if booked through Protravel and there is both indoor and outdoor sitting.   The swimming pool is on the 2nd floor rooftop overlooking the beach and sea and proved a great mid -afternoon hangout in between our morning and late afternoon or evening tourist excursions (especially if you are traveling with children).  The hotel has a good gym with cardio and free weights in addition to a well-regarded Spa.

The Hotel Arts has everything you would expect from a top luxury hotel with excellent service.  At all the common areas of the hotel there was an abundance of staff helping with check in, bags, taxis and directions.  We never felt we had to chase down information as it was always in front of us.

 

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San Sebastian – Your Next Destination when visiting Spain

san sebastian

San Sebastian, Spain a great destination for walking, dining, surfing and shopping.

I recently spent 4 nights at the end of August in San Sebastian.  The town is tucked in the North West Corner of Spain roughly and hour south of the French border.  The terrain is semi mountainous yet set against the ocean so both the topography and architecture were unique from much of other destinations in Spain.   We originally decided to visit this city to experience the amazing dining that they are known for however we were taken away by the beauty of the landscape, the old world feel for the town and the great beaches.

Dining options are endless and there are a host of Michelin rated restaurants with both local and fusion cuisines.  Needless to say, if you are a “foodie” you probably know about San Sebastian.  This is a must visit destination for anyone driven by cuisine and particularly if you have an adventurous palate.  (Pigs feet, boars ear, sardine prepped 20 different ways, spider crab pies….it’s all there).  They also have Pizza, burgers, sushi, pasta and more mainstream dishes beautifully prepared if you are not so adventurous.   One of the best experiences we had was doing a walking food tour where you stop in various restaurant/bars for a small tasting portion called De Pintxos paired with a glass of wine.  There are a number of tours and guides that help tune you in to the best offerings at each place.  It’s a fun and interesting way to dine and I suggest you do it early in your trip as you may just dine that way each and every night.

We sort of heard about surfing in San Sebastian before we arrived but it is a bigger component of the local vibe than we thought.  There are dozens of surf schools (very affordable) with waves for all levels of surfers.  My 10 year old son took three days of 90 minute private surf lessons (70 Euro for the session) and was catching waves and getting up within a half hour of his first lesson.   The school generously allowed him to sign out a board and wet suit for free when he was not working with their instructors.   The beaches are expansive but unlike most other destinations in Spain don’t really offer lounge chair and umbrella rental.  But don’t let that deter you from a day at the beach.

All in all San Sebastian exceeded my expectations and I highly recommend as a “go to” destination when considering Spain.

 

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