Entries in ‘Resorts’ Journal

Eco-Friendly Hotels that Make Travelers Happy

Wednesday April 16, 2014 at 11:11 AM | 0 Comments

Even though Earth Day reminds us to think about our environmental footprint each April, some hotels make an earth friendly commitment year round. Here are a sampling of eco-friendly hotels worthy of a shout out. One of my favorite hotels — Boone Tavern, made it on Booking.com’s eco-friendly hotel list.

Historic and eco-friendly Boone Tavern, Berea Kentucky

Historic and eco-friendly Boone Tavern, Berea Kentucky

Boone Tavern in Berea, Kentucky is proof that history can meet modern times. Built in 1909, this beauty that’s also a Historic Hotel of America, is part of Berea College and a showcase for its culinary and hotel management programs. The hotel and tavern’s renovations include: energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, energy star lighting, solar tubes and skylights, heat recovery coils, and low VOC paints and adhesives. Guest rooms and common areas feature handcrafted furniture that represent Kentucky’s craft heritage, as well as, Berea’s fame as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky.

Boone Tavern rooms feature hand-crafted furniture

Boone Tavern rooms feature hand-crafted furniture

Along with the environmentally friendly building that earned Boone Tavern its LEED Gold Certification, Boone Tavern’s restaurant is another reason to visit. The restaurant’s traditional American cuisine features locally grown ingredients. Signature dishes like “Chicken Flakes in a Bird’s Nest” and “Spoonbread” are the don’t miss, although I can vouch that anything on the menu is splendid. Still, the spoonbread is what you will talk about years later.

ecofriendly Bardessono-Courtyard

The eco-friendly Bardessono courtyard has a stunning view

If you go, take time to browse in Boone Tavern’s gift shop and the other shops that line Berea’s streets. There’s a reason why this is the folk art capital. The hotel’s shop includes items made by the college’s students. Hand-woven items and hand-crafted furniture are part of the bounty.

One of Nancy’s favorites also made it on the eco-friendly hotel list. Bardessono Hotel and Spa in Yountville, California is a perfect pairing for a trip to Napa Valley and wine tasting. As Nancy discovered during her stay at Bardessono, one of three LEED Platinum-certified hotels in the United States, “it is easy to be green while looking stunningly chic.”

Cavallo Point where almost every room has a stunning view

Cavallo Point where almost every room has a stunning view

Cavallo Point in Sausalito is another California hotel with LEED Certification. The reuse of historic materials and landscaping with native plants are just part of Cavallo Point’s dedication to achieving the Green Seal Environment Standard for U.S. Lodging Properties. The hotel’s energy-efficient appliances that automatically switch to sleep mode when not in use and the programmable thermostats and motion sensors that reduce heating and cooling costs are some reasons why Cavallo Point is an eco-friendly hotel. The property doesn’t use Styrofoam containers and it recycles plastic. Refillable soap dispensers and cloth napkins are other environmentally friendly practices within the hotel.

At Cavallo Point, going green comes with a view. Most of the resort’s guest rooms have views of San Francisco, the bay or the Golden Gate Bridge.

City Flats Hotel, Grand Rapids--a resuse of a landmark jewelry building

City Flats Hotel, Grand Rapids–a resuse of a landmark jewelry building

Michigan is another state with two eco-friendly hotels that deserve applause. City Flats Hotel in Holland was the first hotel in the Midwest to achieve LEED Gold status. Step inside for proof that eco-friendly, luxury and creativity go hand in hand. Each of the hotel guest rooms has its own unique flair. Each hotel room’s green decor includes: cork flooring installed with low-VOC adhesives, naturally hypoallergenic bamboo linens, curtains lined with a black-out fabric to reduce energy needed to heat and cool room, light fixtures with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, and countertops made from Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified recycled glass and concrete. Also, hotel furnishings are locally made.

The CityFlats Hotel in Grand Rapids is another Michigan hotel with LEED Gold Certification. Its eco-friendly combo includes the unique features of the City Flats Hotel in Holland and is an example of turning a city landmark into a new use. The building was once Fox Jewelers.

Along with booking at any of the hotel’s websites, check out Booking.com.

Post courtesy of Jamie Rhein of Midwest Travel Writers Association.  All photos except Bardessono courtesy of Booking.com. Bardessono photo by Nancy D. Brown.

Review: Secrets the Vine, Cancun, Mexico

Friday April 11, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 9 Comments

champagne, "Secrets The Vine"

Guests receive champagne upon arrival at Secrets The Vine Cancun

Wine tasting in Mexico? Yes, ma’am. While most people associate Tequila, Corona and guacamole with Mexico, I’m going to let you in on a secret – Mexico makes some good wines. Mexico is staking a claim in the vineyards of Baja California. I learned about the wines of Mexico will staying at Secrets the Vine Cancun, an adults-only resort with a wine theme woven throughout the luxury property.
 
 

 
Secrets the Vine – honeymooners to baby boomers

"Secrets the Vine" pool

Fan coral designed by Artist Jan Hendrix blends into the hotel facade at Secrets The Vine Cancun, Mexico.

From jet-setters to baby boomers, Secrets the Vine Cancun caters to a wide range of travelers. I couldn’t help notice the honeymoon and birthday banners draped across the doors of a select few hotel rooms. This 495 room all-suite property appeals not only to special occasion celebrations, it’s also for the art and wine lover.

 
Secrets the Vine wine theme

Secrets the Vine Cancun features contemporary design elements from the fan coral by Artist Jan Hendrix in the hotel’s exterior facade, to murals painted by Marta Ramirez and wine art on display throughout the hotel.

A bottle of Mexico’s tinto vino (red wine) was waiting for me when I checked into my Junior Suite in Cancun. Don’t miss Secrets The Vine Bar. Outside the 4,500 bottle wine cellar is where Master Sommeliers lead daily complimentary wine tastings at 1:00 & 3:00 p.m. If you wait until 5:00 p.m. the price moved from free to $20.

 

"Secrets the Vine Cancun" Vine bar

4,500 bottle Vine Bar at Secrets The Vine Cancun

 

Secrets the Vine Preferred Club status

For a luxury vacation, it’s a good idea to upgrade to Preferred Club status.  It’s not much more expensive and offers a good return on investment including access to Concierge service, daily continental breakfast, cold and hot hors d’oeuvres and private bar in the private lounge level and your own butler.

All rooms are ocean view, offering Caribbean Sea or Nichupte lagoon vistas. Sunsets are best viewed from the Hard Rock Hotel side, while more shade is available on the balcony next to Sandals resort. My Preferred Junior Suite #2618 looked out to the ocean and lagoon and rented for $700 per night during March. Check the website for current hotel rates.

While I’m not a big drinker, I do love the fact that I have access to the mini bar and won’t be charged for a small tin of Pringles chips or small bag of peanut M&M’s. The mini fridge is loaded with beer, juice, soda and water. Of course, your butler will stock it with all your favorite goodies if you ask.

More perks, free phone calls to the United States and Canada when placed from your hotel room. Insider tip – make sure to call to a land line, as calls to mobile phones are charged at higher rates. All rooms offer free WiFi and preferred guests receive two complimentary items ironed, unpacking and packing service and complimentary shoe shine is available.

 

"Secrets the Vine" junior suite

Secrets The Vine Cancun Preferred Junior Suite

 

Secrets Spa by Pevonia

What beach vacation is complete without a trip to the spa? A day pass to Secrets Spa by Pevonia is $75 if you feel tired and jet-lagged from travel. If money is no object, indulge in a wine therapy treatment. Arrive early to your spa appointment and soak in the hydrotheraphy pool after steaming in the sauna. Follow this with a Pinot Noir Escape exfoliation ($105) d’vine wine massage ($175) and d’vine wine facial ($99) Heaven!

"Secrets Spa by Pevonia" spa

Relax at Secrets Spa by Pevonia

Secrets the Vine dining

If beach and pool time trump spa time, there are several pools and hot tubs to keep you happy, as well as seven restaurants at Secrets The Vine. I sampled crab rangoon, spring rolls and shrimp pad Thai at Dragons Oriental Dining, an Asian fusion restaurant. Bluewater Grill is popular with steak lovers (try the shortbread cookie with caramel filling and ice cream for dessert.) Olio features Mediterranean cuisine and is open to all resort guests for lunch, while dinner is reserved for preferred club level guests. For the seafood lovers and those wanting a bite poolside, Sea Salt Grill offers a tasty shrimp cocktail with a view of the ocean.

"Sea Salt Grill" shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail at Sea Salt Grill Secrets The Vine

Check in: 3:00 p.m.

Check out: 12:00 p.m.

Insider tip

While all-inclusive resorts are not necessarily known for fine dining, Secrets the Vine is an exception to the rule. If you find yourself in Cancun in March don’t miss the Wine & Food Festival Cancun – Riviera Maya.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow SecretsTheVine on Twitter.
If You Go:

Secrets The Vine Cancun +52 (998) 848-9400

Cancun, Qintana Ro

Mexico 77500

Article written by and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Secrets the Vine Cancun. All opinions are my own.

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Four Seasons Lanai Manele Bay, Hawaii: Luxury Hotel Review

Friday October 18, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 6 Comments

Four Seasons Lānaʻi, Manele Bay pool

Four Seasons Lānaʻi, Manele Bay hotel review

I can’t tell you how many times I have looked across the water from Maui and wondered about that “other island” in the distance. A few miles west of Maui, the island of Lānaʻi was once home to Hawaii’s largest pineapple plantation.

While the island no longer exports pineapple, it does support 3,000+ residents and three hotels. Two of the hotels are run by Four Seasons Resorts.

I had the pleasure of staying at both the Four Seasons Lodge at Ko’ele and Four Seasons Lānaʻi, Manele Bay in Hawaii as a guest of Lanai Visitors Bureau. Manele Bay, with its 236 hotel rooms is a five star resort. The hotel is divided into nine buildings. Five of the buildings are named after flowers and four buildings carry the names of fish.
 

 

Ocean front terrace room

I was staying in the Ginger wing, with lovely landscaped grounds and an ocean front terrace view on ground level. My room, #2503, rented for $759, depending on the season, and included a king bed, desk and chair, a lounge chair, with ottoman and patio furniture on the small terrace. A well manicured lawn unfurled in front of my room, which looked out to the Pacific ocean.

The bathroom featured a large combination bath and shower. One of the highlights walking into the bathroom; smelling the full-sized L’ Occitane French-milled soaps. Yes, I admit; my dirty clothes bag was filled with the scent of verbena from these natural soaps.

Manele Bay, waterfall

The grounds at Four Seasons Lanai, Manele Bay in Hawaii

Family-friendly Manele Bay

Having not yet adjusted to the California time change, I got up early one morning and caught a tender moment between a father and his new baby, watching the sun come up. While our children are now young adults, this precious scene immediately brought back fond memories of one of our kids staggering across the grass as she learned to walk in Hawaii.

Will Lānaʻi is certainly a popular island for celebrating weddings, babymoons and anniversaries, Lānaʻi at Manele Bay is very family-friendly with kid’s programs, kid’s menus and family-friendly hotel rooms.

Nine junior suites, with prime ocean front views, are family-friendly with king bed and sofa in room. For more value-oriented hotel rooms, ask for a garden terrace.

Hulopo'e Bay beach chairs

Hulopo’e Bay beach in Lanai, Hawaii

Hulopo’e beach at Manele Bay

Beach lovers will appreciate that Hulopo’e beach is only a five minute walk from the resort. Hotel guests can expect clean restrooms, ice water, snorkel equipment, beach chairs and towels available for their use at the beach.  You’ll want to wear sandals for the walk down the paved path -it can get hot on the feet!

Manele Bay pool valet

When you are ready to go into “pool mode” slather on some sunscreen – you remember those sun safety tips – and don’t forget to grab your sunglasses.  Then sit back in a lounge chair and order the Lychee Rose Sangria from the bar. Feel good knowing that your Hawaiian island cocktail is 100% sustainable, with all ingredients found within 100 miles of Lānaʻi. (I know it’s a stretch, but I’m doing my part to keep Lānaʻi eco-friendly.

Manele Bay Lana'i

Four Seasons Manele Bay resort, Lana’i, Hawaii

If a friend is headed down from the Challenge Clubhouse restaurant, ask them to bring you a ginger ice cream sandwich. Afterall, you are on vacation, aren’t you?

Eventually, Dr. Shades and Dr. Lotion  will stop by to wipe your sunglasses, tighten the screws, and offer a sunscreen refresh. Those of you who like to stay connected while on vacation, or make your friends jealous with Hawaiian holiday pictures, will appreciate the charging stations at the pool.

Spa at Four Seasons Manele Bay

If you love being outdoors and hearing the sound of the ocean, you’ll want to line up a massage in an ocean hale with the Spa at Manele Bay. This tented cabana offers individual and couples massages overlooking Hulopo’e Bay. Need I say more?

hotel room, Manele Bay

Ocean Front Terrace Four Seasons Resorts Lanai, Manele Bay

Manele Bay dining options

If you are a sushi lover, make a reservation for Nobu Lanai. Personally, I’m not a fan of raw fish, but I did love their tempura battered shrimp with mushrooms and the Wagyu beef was fantastic. Make your dinner reservation for sunset, but if you are a baby boomer, bring your mini flashlight with you…the dim overhead lighting makes menu reading difficult at night.

One Forty Steak House offered one of my favorite meals and the service was attentive without being over-whelming.  My sunset supper started off with an Asian Pear Salad ($18) with macadamia nuts, blue cheese, papaya, mango and whole grain mustard-honey dressing. If the Kahuku corn soup is on the menu, give it a go, with its subtle butter poached lobster, hint of lemon cream and baby basil. My main course was the American Wagyu Snake River Farms 7 oz. flat iron steak ($45.) I also ordered the green bean casserole with Hamakua mushrooms as a side dish. My eyes were bigger than my stomach when I ordered the chocolate souffle ($8) but the few bites that I managed were warm, rich and creamy.

Lychee sangria Four Seasons Manele Bay, Lana'i

Lychee sangria Four Seasons Manele Bay, Lana’i

Insider tip

I’m not a golfer, but I do enjoy good food and a scenic, ocean front dining experience. That’s exactly what I got when I ate lunch at the Challenge  at Manele Clubhouse. Order the drink of the day (strawberry lemonade on my visit) and if you are a seafood lover, you can’t go wrong with the Makai Salad or fish tacos.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow @FSLanai on Twitter.

Check the website for package deals such as fourth night free.

Check in: 3:00 p.m.

Check out: 12:00 p.m.

If You Go

Four Seasons Lanai Manele Bay (808) 565-2000

One Manele Bay Road

Lānaʻi, Hawaii 96763

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of  Lānaʻi Visitors Bureau.

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