Exotic Getaways Closer to Home

Many travelers want to experience adventure while discovering a remote, exotic destination. But the hassle of long flights and extensive travel can often be a deterrent. For those who want to explore the world without wasting a huge chunk of time on travel, here are some exotic getaways closer to the U.S.

Want Bali?
Try Belize.

For those who want Bali’s ancient ruins, pristine jungles, tranquil seascapes and laid-back lifestyle, try Belize. Located along the tranquil Caribbean Sea, travelers will be able to experience preserved Mayan Temples, lush jungles, rainforest canopies, archaeological sites including the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, and the second largest barrier reef in the world and ultimate world-class destination – The Great Blue Hole. 

Photos courtesy of Belize Tourism Board

Want Ibiza?
Try Cancún.

For those who want Ibiza’s ultimate party scene and beach retreat with world-class DJs, try Cancún. Cancún has long been considered one of the top beach quick getaway vacation destinations in the world with sparkling, turquoise blue water, Ancient Mayan sites, mouthwatering cuisine and a pulsing nightlife. 

 

 

Photos courtesy of Melody Maker Cancun

Want Barcelona?
Try Mexico City.

For those who want Barcelona’s historic streets, world-class museums and mouth-watering culinary offerings, try Mexico City. Cosmopolitan and cultured, Mexico’s largest city boasts a flourishing culinary scene and a cultural renaissance with similar vibes to the Catalan capital. Explore the mysterious Teotihuacan pyramids, become immersed in Mexico city’s vibrant culture, taste local bites and visit Michoacán’s craft workshops.

 

Photos courtesy of Original Travel

Want the Galapagos Islands?
Try Kauai Island.

Known as Hawaii’s “Garden Island,” Kauai Island is filled with tropical rainforests, emerald valleys, and unbelievable mountains. Perfect for adventurists and foodies, Kauai has all the activities and restaurants that guests can ask for. Go ziplining through Kauai’s lush valleys, surf along the heavenly Hanalei Bay, or hike Waimea Canyon aka The Grand Canyon of the Pacific. 

Photo courtesy of Aqua-Aston Hospitality

Want Siquijor, Philippines?
Try Miches, Dominican Republic.

Those seeking a vacation destination with stunning waterfalls, lush palm groves, secluded beaches and Insta-famous swing sets without 24 hours of travel time can head to Miches, Dominican Republic instead of Siquijor, Philippines. 

Photos courtesy of Club Med

With the guidance of experts, travelers are able to experience more than simple sightseeing.

Spanning across Africa, Europe and The United States, these expert-led trips — curated by Architectural Adventures — blend world-class vacations with a deep appreciation for culture, history and architecture. Serving as the official travel program of The American Institute of Architects, Architectural Adventures plans each trip alongside knowledgeable architectural experts — unlocking the historical, cultural, and aesthetic significance behind the world’s most notable architecture.

©istockphoto / Daniel_Keuck

©istockphoto / TomasSereda

“In both Barcelona and Rome, we stay in the same city, and each day discover more about it. Staying in one place affords developing a more intimate look at the architecture and culture of the city.”

Sophia Gruzdys

Barcelona, Spain

Whether she’s embracing the local language, indulging in local cuisine, or exploring historic architecture, Sophia Gruzdys — an Architectural Adventures expert since 2017 — brings her own perspective to each tour she plans.

The licensed architect and educator has led tours in Barcelona and Rome, and will lead two Barcelona tours in 2019. “In both Barcelona and Rome, we stay in the same city, and each day discover more about it. Staying in one place affords developing a more intimate look at the architecture and culture of the city,” Gruzdys explains.

In Rome, travelers explore a wide range of architectural styles — including Contemporary, Fascist-style, Art Deco, and Renaissance. Meanwhile in Barcelona, travelers visit Antoni Gaudí’s iconic Sagrada Família and recently opened Casa Vicens, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famed Bareclona Pavillion, and the modern urbanism of the @22 District. “It’s fascinating to compare the styles that emerged in our culture in different periods of history in different cities,” Gruzdys says.

Gruzdys, who encourages travelers to engage with local languages and embrace local culture, values the importance of hands-on experience. “It’s so rewarding to travel with people who are interested in the architecture — and to share their enjoyment. Each time I visit the sites, I’ll notice something new, and continue to learn from the experiences of others,” she says.

©istockphoto / TomasSereda

“I have traveled all over the world, but traveling back to San Antonio makes me more aware of its architectural history, and its many layers and textures.”

Jane Martin

San Antonio, Texas, United States

First discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1600s, San Antonio’s identity has always been strongly rooted in Mexican culture, history, art and architecture. From exploring the city’s Spanish colonial past at the Alamo and other UNESCO World Heritage Missions to cruising along the San Antonio Riverwalk, those who travel to San Antonio will be deeply immersed in local culture.

Jane Martin — architecture educator, historian and resident of San Antonio — will lead her first trip with Architectural Adventures in 2019 in her hometown. “I have traveled all over the world, but traveling back to San Antonio makes me more aware of its architectural history, and its many layers and textures,” she says. “There is a lot to see in San Antonio, and I am constantly discovering new things. There are a great variety of architectural styles — with everything from Spanish Colonial, all the way to International Modern.”

Travelers will also visit Sir David Adjaye’s cutting-edge Ruby City, the newest of the city’s world-class museums, and learn about historic Pearl Brewery, now a 22-acre complex with housing, retail and fine dining. “I hope this trip helps to bring San Antonio to the world, encourages people to sign up for the tour and enjoy the city,” Martin says.

©istockphoto / Marco_Bonfanti

Milan, Italy

From marveling at Milan Cathedral, touring Santa Maria delle Grazie (home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper), to visiting the UniCredit Tower, those who travel to Milan will surely learn a great deal from Architecture Adventures expert David Rifkind.

Leading a nine-day tour in 2019, the architectural history professor and practicing architect will explore the city’s range of historic architecture, as well as its recent cultural renaissance — which led to the creation of new museums, sustainable architecture, and Contemporary art exhibits. “I was surprised to learn that architects tend to be very interested in Contemporary architecture,” notes Rifkind, who also finds that non-architects tend to be more interested in historic structures.

Rifkind’s trip to Milan will bring together a unique group of travelers, consisting of both architects and non-architects from around the globe. “The dynamic of the people on the trip really does impact the experience in a really positive way,” Rifkind says. “Experiencing architecture first-hand is a unique pleasure, and alongside a group of diverse people who share your passion is truly magical. It has been rewarding to learn how travelers experience places that I thought I understood.”

While Rifkind understands the importance of an informative lecture, he also highly values hands-on learning. “It is really fascinating when a relatively small group of people experience a city together,” says Rifkind, who made unique contributions for this trip to contrast classroom learning.

“Experiencing architecture first-hand is a unique pleasure, and alongside a group of diverse people who share your passion is truly magical.”

David Rifkind

©istockphoto / Daniel_Keuck

“Although my studies will be very helpful, leading an Architectural Adventures tour will be a new experience for me. It will be very interesting to give tours to travelers who are already immersed in architecture.”

Stanley Ira
Hallet

Morocco

From volunteering in Tunisia for the Peace Corp to lecturing at the University of Kabul in Afghanistan, Architectural Adventures expert Stanley Ira Hallet’s range of cultural experiences has prepared him to lead a tour throughout Morocco in 2019.

“Although my studies will be very helpful, leading an Architectural Adventures tour will be a new experience for me. It will be very interesting to give tours to travelers who are already immersed in architecture,” says Hallet. The trip will include visits to the Hassan II Mosque, the French-designed Habous Quarter, and the Majorelle Garden (a two-and-a-half-acre botanical garden).

Whether travelers are exploring the ancient capital of Mauretania, Volubilis, visiting the medieval school of Bouanania (which was built in the 1300s), or marveling at the Sahara Desert, Hallet says they will partake in a “completely different urban experience.”

Hallet, who also has a passion for photography, hopes the trip will offer travelers a more complete story of Morocco.

Upon entering Puerta Cortés — a 500-plus-acre property in La Paz, Baja California, I was immediately intrigued by its essentially untouched landscape and its proximity to the marvelous Sea of Cortez.

Puerta Cortés, is surrounded by the world’s richest body of water — home to rare sea life such as whale sharks, dolphins, grey whales, humpbacks, orcas, sea lions and more. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s sea life is represented in the Sea of Cortez, making it a prime destination for snorkeling, scuba diving, and sea life exploration.

With seven marinas, Puerta Cortés demanded that I spent a day out on the water to discover Isla Espiritu Santo, swim with whale sharks, and explore sea lions habitats. I followed my day-long boating excursion with an ocean-view dinner as the sun set on the water.

Vista Mar

El Cortés Golf Club

Only two hours from Cabo San Lucas, La Paz offers an experience that heavily contrasts the bustle of a major city. Downtown La Paz offers an authentic Mexican city experience, while Puerta Cortés exudes an unparalleled feeling of privacy, serenity and comfort.

“I love the fact that even though you are in the city, you have this feeling that you are not really in a city,” says President of Ascendancy Antonio Davila, who admires the small town feel of La Paz.

El Cortés Golf Club, boasting sweeping views of the Sea of Cortez from 17 of its 18 holes, is accompanied by a cliffside Clubhouse with views unlike any other. The perfect destination for a Mexican-style breakfast, the Clubhouse evokes a peaceful atmosphere — complete with a calming morning breeze coming off the sea, views of the course’s lush greenery and the crystal blue Sea of Cortez, and an assortment of growing cacti to complete the mountainous desert landscape.

Las Colinas

After spending a morning at the golf course, I headed to Blue Cortés — the signature beach club at Puerta Cortés — to enjoy an afternoon soaking in the sun, relaxing in the infinity pool, and indulging in fine international cuisine while poolside. 

Located only two hours from Cabo San Lucas, La Paz offers an experience that heavily contrasts the bustle of a major city. Downtown La Paz offers an authentic Mexican city experience, while Puerta Cortés exudes an unparalleled feeling of privacy, serenity and comfort.

“I love the fact that even though you are in the city, you have this feeling that you are not really in a city,” says President of Ascendancy Antonio Davila, who admires the authentic, comfortable and small town feel of La Paz. 

When Davila visited the property with his wife six years ago, he immediately fell in love with the serene landscape of La Paz. 

“My wife and I were amazed by the fact that La Paz wasn’t better known, because we just found it to be the most beautiful place we’d ever seen,” he says. “I was mesmerized by its beauty, spectacular scenery and extraordinary amenities.”

Last year, Ascendancy — a Mexican-based family office and asset management firm — purchased the property and launched a $5 million renovation, which should be complete within the next 12 to 18 months. 

Currently the property offers two residential options — Las Colinas and Vista Mar, and Ascendancy is negotiating the construction of two, five-star hotels. The property will also soon sell cliffside, ocean-view lots. Other upgrades will include additional restaurants, an expanded on-site market, and a complete face lift for the beachfront.

“Puerta Cortés is an exclusive hideaway for those seeking unparalleled, coastal living and adventure in one of the most privileged locations in the world. I have met so many well-traveled visitors and residents who have seen and experienced some of the most incredible destinations in the world and have decided Puerta Cortés is where they want to be,” Davila says. 

The biggest draw of Puerta Cortes “to me is the gateway to the Sea of Cortez, its beautiful colors and wonderful sea life.” Davila says his favorite thing about living in La Paz is “being about to go out on the water with my family and experience all of the beautiful sea life. I love the quality of life that my family gets living here.”

Photos courtesy Puerta Cortés

This editorial appeared in the Unique Homes Ultimate ’19 Issue.

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

By Mark Moffa

Each bedroom enjoys oceanfront balconies.

The view from the living room.

An oceanside deck has steps directly into the ocean.

In my 13 years with Unique Homes, I’ve been fortunate to travel to so many amazing places for this On Location feature. Yet a recent visit to the Wymara Villas in Turks and Caicos provided the most luxurious accommodations I’ve experienced yet.

 

What are the truly affluent seeking in a Caribbean property? Seclusion. Safety. Sophistication. Convenience. High-end finishes, amenities and technology. And on-site personnel who provide an unsurpassed level of service. You’ll find it all here.

 

After a less-than-four-hour direct flight to Providenciales from New York City, we arrived midday Friday for lunch on the pure, white sand of Grace Bay beach at the Wymara Turks and Caicos (a Wymara Resort). Once settled on the other side of the island at our $4.75 million Atlantic Ocean-front villa — only a short, 10-minute shuttle ride away — we felt at home.

 

A Maldives-inspired design with Greek island architectural elements is both modern and timeless, breathtaking and comforting. Part of an exclusive six-villa site designed to take advantage of unique topography and stunning elevated sea views, the indoor/outdoor feel is exhilarating and the high ceilings are invigorating. We didn’t want to leave the infinity pool or multiple decks — one with steps directly into the ocean — but Brendan O’Neill of The Agency insisted on touring us around the island.

 

“We don’t have really high density. We’ve managed to find this niche. People really want to come here. There’s a real brand for Turks and Caicos,” he says as he shows us how manageable the island is. “No nightclubs stay open late. The people who are here embrace what is great about the place.”

 

The Turks and Caicos brand is one that can’t compete with Jamaica or the Dominican Republic for volume or lower-spending clientele — nor does it want to. The island uses U.S. currency, has no limitation on foreign ownership (unlike the Bahamas), and has no limitation on how long you can work in residence (unlike the Caymans and the Bahamas). Private schools, private jet FBOs and a population of less than 40,000 add to the draw for the likes of Bruce Willis, Donna Karan, Dick Clark and Prince, all of whom have owned property or spent significant time on the islands.

 

Before returning to the U.S. on Monday, we experienced an array of memorable moments: blissful beach time, the most relaxing massages ever at the resort’s Spa (and we have had our share of great massages), snorkeling at the third largest barrier reef in the world, and unique encounters on Iguana Island (Little Water Cay) chief among them. But without a doubt, the most romantic and unimaginably indelible aspect of our escape was the villa itself. Impressive.

Photos courtesy of The Agency

Whether you choose to discover the surrounding Caribbean culture, observe the exotic wildlife, visit one of the many new restaurants, or experience all three, it’s evident that Belize should be on your itinerary for 2019.

While Belize was once a best-kept secret among travelers, it has quickly become one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean as tourism arrivals continue to skyrocket. During the first half of 2018, Belize registered a 17.1-percent increase in overnight arrivals, according to Ambergris Today. In the past three years, Belize has also added eight new flights and five major airlines servicing the country.

 

Harvest Caye unveiled its newly built, multi-million-dollar pier in 2017, allowing the country to receive large passenger vessels and cruises. In addition to its new pier, Belize is welcoming a number of resorts that appeal to a broad set of travelers — including the Itz’ana Resort and Residencies in Placencia with its 50 sustainably designed rooms; Blackadore Caye, Leonardo DiCaprio’s eco-resort; and Alaia Belize, a boutique community resort and residential property expected to open in 2020.

 

If you’re not yet convinced, here are some of the most popular — and most exciting — ways to spend time in Belize:

Enjoy Endless Festivities

A melting pot of cultures, Belize is home to endless celebrations — including Belize Carnival, Cashew Fest, Lobsterfest, Costa Maya Festival, Chocolate Festival, the San Pedro Town Love FM Christmas Parade, and more.

Sitting at the ocean’s edge with a vivid view of the Caribbean seascape, Pier 366 Seafood House was recently transformed to offer visitors a distinctive gastronomic experience.

Embrace Diverse Food Options

Recently, the dining scene options have become more diverse with the establishment of restaurants like Tap Room, Midtown and Wok & Wine. Now, there are more options with the opening of three eateries, including Martha’s Cafe, Lerisi Garifuna Restaurant and Mimi’s Bistro. 

Experience Unrivaled Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

Belize is home to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the ultimate world-class destination, The Great Blue Hole. Travelers can experience over 100 different coral species, more than 500 endangered and rare marine species, giant stalactites, dripstone sheets, columns and atolls.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve isthe world’s second largest barrier reef in the world.

Discover Local Culture

 

Belize is home to endless historic offerings — including 200 cayes (pronounced “keys,” Belize’s islands) filled with several preserved Mayan Temples, lush jungles, rainforest canopies, and archaeological sites.

For those looking to take a deeper dive and explore the beauty of Belize’s natural underwater locations, the country is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, several wrecked ships, and The Great Blue Hole. 

Observe Exotic Wildlife

Home to the rehabilitated, orphaned and rescued wildlife of Belize, the Belize Zoo is home to exotic wildlife — including tapirs, black jaguars, manatees, spider monkeys, keel-billed toucans, scarlet macaws, and very inquisitive keel billed toucan (Belize’s national bird).

Brand New Resorts & Residences

Belize is welcoming a number of resorts that appeal to a broad set of travelers.

Alaia Belize
 This resort and residential property, expected to open in 2020, was conceived by visionary developer Andrew Ashcroft to embrace the Belizean spirit. The idyllic beachfront property will feature a hotel, 56 two-and-three-bedroom condominiums and eight oceanfront villas with infinity pools.

*pictured right*

Itz’ana Resort and Residencies in Placencia
Recently opened, the complex includes 50 sustainably designed rooms and suite.

 

Blackadore Caye 
Expected to open in early 2019, this is the world’s first truly restorative island development, completely powered by renewable energy and designed to increase the biological health of species on the island and in the waters around it.

 

Unscripted Belize and Dream Belize
The first of two Dream Hotel Group properties planned for Placencia, Unscripted Belize, will debut with 24 beachfront cabanas.

 

Four Seasons Caye Chapel
This resort is slated to open in 2021 with 30 to 40 overwater bungalows on a private island.

All other photos courtesy of the Belize Tourism Board

According to The Global Wellness Institute in 2017, travelers took 830 million wellness trips — 139 million more than in 2015. As one of the fastest-growing travel trends, wellness travel currently represents 17 percent of total tourism expenditures.​ As people worldwide embrace their own health and wellness destinies, Health and Fitness Travel (a company that specializes in wellness-based vacations) predicts that Nature Immersion Getaways will be an emerging trend in 2019.

 

From Belize, Canada to Japan, here are a few of the top destinations across the world that allow visitors the chance to focus on their health and wellness — whether it’s reducing stress, staying active, connecting with their emotions, or indulging on the thrill of a lifetime.

Ambergris Caye, Belize

 

Banyan Bay Suites

Home to the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, Ambergris Caye is a perfect destination for scuba diving and snorkeling. The Great Blue Hole allows visitors the chance to witness offshore atolls, several hundred sand cays, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons and endangered species. Travelers who would like to stay above water can visit the ancient caves, zipline through the Mayflower Bocawina National Park, or visit the stunning Mayan temples.

Where to Stay:

 

 Travelers who would like to explore Belize’s natural underwater beauty, can stay at Banyan Bay Suites or Grand Colony Island Villas — before the highly anticipated opening of Alaia Belize.

Alaia Belize

Bristol, Virginia

Just moments from the world’s most sought-after adventure destinations, Bristol is a go-to destination for nature-loving travelers. For those looking to go off the grid for a bit, the scenic small town is in close proximity to the Appalachian Trail, where visitors can enjoy a day hike on one of the trail’s challenging paths or a rugged adventure through the ancient Bristol Caverns.

Where to Stay:

 

After a long adventurous day in the outdoors, guest can kick back and relax at the recently opened The Bristol Hotel.

Asheville, North Carolina

 

Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a hip, thriving mountain city offering a near-perfect blend of natural beauty and quirky culture in the heart of Southern Appalachia.

 

Hike through the Great Smoky Mountains, take a day trip to the legendary Biltmore Estate or walk through Asheville’s Botanical Gardens.

 

Where to Stay:

 

Guests looking for a serene retreat after a thrilling hike can book a room at The Foundry Hotel, the city’s newest boutique hotel.

Where to Stay:

 

At any of the three elevated camping options in the safari tents at Seneca Sol, in the tents with hardwood floors and covered porches at Firelight Camps, and in the Sioux style teepees at Mountain Horse Farm.

Finger Lakes Region, New York

 

Travelers can hike or hot air balloon over the “Grand Canyon of the East,” stroll past 19-plus waterfalls, book a silent retreat at a monastery, take Wilderness Survival Training, engage in cow cuddling and horse therapy sessions, zip line and ride a mountain coaster through the wild, or air glide over vineyard-dotted valleys.

Nova Scotia, Canada

 

Whale watching reigns supreme in this Canadian region, and guests of Whale Cove Campground in Digby are afforded the luxury of discounts on nearby whale watching boat excursions. For visitors who want to be totally immersed in nature, there are plenty of beaches and birdwatching in the area as well, along with the natural phenomenon Balancing Rock, which appears to defy gravity and “float” above the natural rock formations that line the sea.

Where to Stay:

 

Whale Cove Campground, a stunning seaside campsite.

Montego Bay, Jamaica

 

Home to breathtaking natural wonders like Mystic Mountain, Dunn’s River Falls and the Martha Brae River, wellness seekers can hike, raft, zip line and even bobsled their way through Jamaica’s stunning northeast coast.

Where to Stay:

Combining local island ingredients with ancient Jamaican healing rituals, guests may choose to stay at Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa.

Islamorada, Florida

 

Nicknamed the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World,” Islamorada is the epicenter of Florida’s most vibrant ocean activities, as diving and snorkeling enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Islamorada to explore the dynamic reef line.

Where to Stay:

 

Situated on a former coconut plantation with one of the largest private white sand beaches in the region, The Moorings Village is a luxury resort with 18 West Indies-style villas.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

 

Visitors will have access to the underground tunnels at Iguabonita Cave, a Zip Line Eco Adventure, the secluded Juanillo Beach, the Sunshine Cruise catamaran, the sinkhole at Cenote Indigena Las Ondas, horseback riding and Sanctuary Spa’s new ZEN garden.

Where to Stay:

 

The newly reimagined, adults-only Sanctuary Cap Cana resort, which offers 20 tropical acres.

Iya Valley in the Setouchi Region of Japan

Travelers who need a quiet escape from their busy lives can immerse themselves in the Iya Valley. Known for its stunning landscapes and outdoor wonders, the Iya Valley offers quiet yet dramatic mountain valleys and gorges, sometimes called “Japan’s Grand Canyon.”

Where to Stay:

 

The Togenkyo Iya Farmhouses offer private accommodations and offer a way for travelers to experience traditional life in the Iya Valley.

These two stunning peninsulas make for perfect travel destinations this winter. Both have recently announced transformations, which means both destinations are completely reimagined just in time for the cool weather.

Peninsula Papagayo — Costa Rica’s Exclusive 1,400 private Peninsula

Tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, Peninsula Papagayo commands 1,400 acres of lush landscape in the Guanacaste province on Costa Rica’s north Pacific coast near Nicaragua. The peninsula features two luxury resorts, the Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo and the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica.
New ownership has recently announced a $100 million re-imagination of the entire Peninsula Papagayo. Beginning in December 2017, the 1,400-acre Peninsula Papagayo will wrap Phase 1 of a more than $100 million capital improvements project toward the creation of the premier luxury vacation and residential destination across the Latin America region. The major metamorphosis of Peninsula Papagayo will bring an unprecedented new level of meaningful eco-luxury to the Latin America region of the Americas while connecting the peninsula from end to end for the first time.
Guests and homeowners will experience the natural beauty and wonders of the peninsula’s 1,400 acres through a combination of new builds, major enhancements to existing spaces, and a collection of new peninsula amenities, adventures and experiences that encourage people to connect with nature, the rich local culture and pura vida lifestyle, and each other.

Credit: Gencom

The Ultra Exclusive Punta Mita Peninsula in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Nestled on a 1,500-acre private peninsula on the southwest point of Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit region, Punta Mita is an unsurpassed luxury coastal enclave surrounded by lush landscape and pristine white sand beaches.
The residential community is home to 15 luxury real estate communities and two five-star resorts: the St. Regis Resort and the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, owned by tech billionaire, Bill Gates.
Launched this year, the Porta Fortuna is an ultra-luxurious resort enclave offering 4-to 6-bedroom, ocean view and oceanfront villas ranging from $2.8 million – $4 million.
The estates blend Italian, Mediterranean and Mexican architecture with a slightly contemporary flair. It offers an enviably luxurious lifestyle and vast ocean views across Banderas Bay, capturing the evening glimmer of Puerto Vallarta’s sparkling lights. Porta Fortuna is home to the acclaimed Sufi restaurant, a private owners’ beach club and the Punta Mita pier.

Credit: DINE

Visit 10 hotels famed for creating spectacular festive scenes on the Ultimate Christmas Decorations Trip.

VeryFirstTo exclusively presents the Ultimate Christmas Decorations Trip enabling travelers the opportunity to stay in 10 of the world’s finest hotels and witness their famous decorations over the course of a whirlwind 18-day trip.
The first stop is the Plaza in New York City, a hotel that has played host to many a Christmas movies including Home Alone 2. With its enormous tree, the hotel really embodies Christmas magic.
From there it is off the to The Mission Inn in Riverside California. This iconic, AAA Four Diamond award-winning hotel is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Lights this year with a whopping 5 million lights.
The next stop on the tour is the Fairmont Princess in Arizona, considered one of the best and brightest places to celebrate the holiday season. This year is set to be more magical and more spectacular than ever. The AAA Five Diamond resort is transformed into a winter wonderland with a glistening, 4-story tree, Desert Ice skating rink, Princess Express trains, Lagoon Lights, holiday characters, shows and attractions and Santa’s Secret Headquarters.
Dallas’ Hotel Crescent Court plays host to an annual Gingerbread Extravaganza Workshop, which features more than 20 varieties of colorful candy and icing. Kids and adults alike can see, make and taste their very own confectionary cookie-castles.

Each hotel is world renowned for having the boldest, brightest and most impressive Christmas Decorations. This is a trip for those who want to immerse themselves in the joyful decorations of Christmas.

 
To round up the U.S. leg of the tour, travelers will head to Amelia Island Ritz Carlton. The hotel features a Gingerbread Pirate Ship with pirate characters sculpted from chocolate. A holiday icon, the Gingerbread Pirate Ship provides the perfect backdrop for your holiday picture.
While the Cayman Islands may not have snow, it does offer plenty of holiday cheer. Enjoy stunning beach and pool side views as well as stunning decorations and fun activities for the family.
 

 
Jetting into London, the famous Claridge’s Christmas Tree awaits. The tree, this year designed by Karl Lagerfeld, has long been a seasonal landmark and symbolizes the start of the festive season in the capital.
Other highlights of the journey in Europe include a visit to George V Paris, one of Paris’ oldest hotels with legendary decorations. In Zurich, The Dolder Grand recreates the magical, fairy-tale atmosphere of a winter wonderland. Finally, the holiday comes to an end in Prague at the über stylish Hotel Josef.
The exceptional vacation is organized by award-winning, luxury travel specialists Hurlingham Travel.

 

For more details on this one-of-a-kind trip, visit VeryFirstTo.com

Photos courtesy of VeryFirstTo

From unlimited scuba diving to a luxurious treasure hunt, this one-of-a-kind vacation to Calala Island will allow a group of 10 guests the chance to indulge for 7 days.

Just off the coast of Nicaragua, the Calala Islands is a stunning, secluded island, which will be made additionally private with the guarantee of a week-long no-fly zone.
The week-long trip offered by VeryFirstTo, houses guests in four luxurious villas while they enjoy access to a plethora of enriching activities, such as scuba diving or motorized water sports.

Participants of this luxurious getaway will fly to Nicaragua on an Embraer Legacy wide bodied private jet from any U.S. city of their choice. Upon landing, the group will be whisked off to the paradise island in two Bell helicopters.
Calala Island was historically a pirate’s playground, so participants of the trip will be invited to step back in time and embark on a specially curated treasure hunt. With a hidden treasure chest containing gold bars and coins worth at least $150,000, the stakes are certainly high.
Guests will indulge in a remarkable sushi experience when they see fish go from the ocean to plate within minutes. In this activity the group will head out on the island’s fishing boat to catch their supper. The freshly-caught fish will be prepared onboard the boat by the island’s Itamae Sushi chef and guests will be lavished with a spectacular spread of the world’s freshest sashimi and maki rolls.

Another exclusive Calala Island experience includes a caviar tasting and cooking master class. The final culinary offering on the paradise island is a 12-course gala dinner for all 10 guests. This exquisite banqueting experience will be prepared by Calala Island’s executive chef. The food throughout the stay will be complimented with unlimited fine wines and Dom Pérignon champagne.
In addition, $100,000 of the $1 million will be donated toward the building of a Nicaraguan school, built to the purchaser’s specifications and named after them for generations to come. The lead guest will also be invited to meet with the President and Mayor of the region to unveil the new school.

Here are only a few of the activities included:
  • Exclusive hire of the island for only you and your guests
  • A no-fly zone created for the duration of your stay
  • A treasure hunt with a hidden treasure chest containing gold bars and coins equaling $150,000
  • Unlimited fine wines and Dom Pérignon champagne
  • A 12-course gala dinner for all 10 guests
  • A fishing trip and sushi tasting on the Island’s fishing boat
  • A Caviar tasting and cooking master class
  • A firework display
  • The chance to design your own cigar brand with Nicaragua’s world-class cigar maker, Joya de Nicaragua

The experience is priced at $1 million U.S. dollars for 7 nights and accommodates up to 8 adults and 2 children.

Photos courtesy of VeryFirstTo. Visit here to find out more about this luxurious trip. 

VeryFirstTo.com presents the perfect gift for your father, an action-packed 16-day journey throughout Europe and the U.S.

From flying a WWII plane to cage diving with sharks, this trip will test your father’s imagination and adventurous spirit.
The trip will begin in Las Vegas at the world famous luxury Wynn hotel and casino.
Then, it will jet you up to San Francisco to cage dive with one of the world’s most feared predators, Great White Sharks. An instructor will lead the way as your father gets up close and personal with the sea creatures.
Also in San Francisco, your dad can enjoy a day tour in tech mecca, Silicon Valley, including the opportunity to test out unreleased products from Android and see the full Apple product line-up.
Then, head off to Nappa for a private luxury wine tour and tasting at the most famous vineyards in America.
“This exceptional fortnight allows one to dispel the myth that mums get the best gifts. Amongst the amazing experiences, you will give dad the gift of flight, firstly allowing him to pilot a T6 Texan WWII plane in Florida, then watch him channel his inner Bond with a Jet Pack flight at the famed Kitty Hawke in Carolina,” says Marcel Knobil, founder of VeryFirstTo, Superbrands and Cool BrandLeaders.
This luxurious Father’s Day trip is organized by the luxury travel company, Hurlingham Travel.
Other highlights of the 16-day voyage include driving a supercar on Germany’s speed-limitless Autobahn, perfecting his BBQ skills at the Grill Academy in London, Whisky Tasting in Edinburgh and a luxurious massage at Asofya Hammam.
The trip, which totals $80,490 per couple, may be taken at anytime during the year. Depending on the month, alternate arrangements may be made.

To view the full itinerary or to find out more, click here.

Photos courtesy of VeryFirstTo

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