Whether you prefer basking on beaches in Jamaica, Florida, or Colombia; exploring the Arizona desert; or embarking on a grand ocean cruise, we’ve got the getaway you need.
Enchantment in Red Rock Country
Nestled at the foot of Boynton Canyon
525 Boynton Canyon Rd, Sedona, AZ
(928) 282-2900; enchantmentresort.com
There’s a maxim in real estate that proclaims that what really matters when it comes to the value of any property is “location, location, location.” Been to Enchantment Resort, a 218-room hotel and spa that sits smack dab in the middle of breathtakingly beautiful red rock formations that look as if they could be on the surface of Mars? This Southwest resort, set on 70 acres of majestic terrain, is actually located in the Coconino National Forest in Arizona, right at the gateway of Boynton Canyon. The natives call it “red rock country.” The rest of us call it spectacular.
No doubt, Enchantment could rest on the laurels of its location (and, frankly, that would be more than enough for most of us; panoramic views of otherworldly topography aren’t an everyday sight). But, as luck would have it, the setting is just one arrow in its quiver. Among the others: its charming accommodations (adobe-style, terra-cotta-colored cottages, aka “casitas,” some with fireplaces and big soaking tubs); its main dining room with dazzling 180-degree views of the canyon (location, location…again); its gorgeous spa (frequently ranked by Travel & Leisure readers as the “world’s best destination spa”); its many activities (there’s tennis, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, etc.); and its delightful staff. We were tempted to ask our chirpy receptionist what it is that made her so darned happy when we first checked in, but then, of course, it should have been obvious: she works in one of the most beautiful settings on earth.
Each staffer wears a nametag revealing not only his or her name, but place of origin (and it’s clear that the friendly staff hails from far and wide—Toronto, Michigan, California, Tennessee) to “show how international we are,” one said. The guests are, too. A group of women from Tennessee told us that they come to Enchantment often for “the setting and the vibe.”
Yes, the vibe is another arrow in Enchantment’s quiver, at least for those who see it as a place of healing, a place to “inspire the mind, body, and spirit.” The luxurious spa not only has a fitness center, a library, indoor and outdoor pools, and lots of classes (we enjoyed the restorative yoga class and the “back-on-track” class designed for those with back “issues”), but its own café (where you can enjoy low-cal, low-fat meals) as well as a meditation room with a “worry box,” into which you are encouraged to drop your “worries.”
On one two-and-a-half-hour hike through Boynton Canyon (highly recommended), we happened upon one man practicing his downward-facing dog on the path and glimpsed another at the very top of a spire saluting the sun. Enchantment’s setting apparently brings this kind of behavior out in people. But, hey, if this isn’t your kind of thing, no worry: order a prickly pear martini and enjoy the view.
The Nitty-Gritty: Prices start at $350 per night, double occupancy.
An Up-and-Coming Hot Spot
One of seven luxury rooms in the restored 250-year-old mansion
Tcherassi Hotel & Spa
Calle Del Sargento Mayor N. 6-21
Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
+57 (5) 664-4445; tcherassihotels.com
If you haven’t yet heard, Colombia, the once too-dangerous-to-visit South American country, is emerging as an ideal destination. And Cartagena, the country’s most popular city, is not only safe, it’s enthralling.
When we first arrived in Cartagena, we were, admittedly, taken aback. Perhaps we had chosen to travel to Colombia solely for its off-the-beaten-path-ness. Before we left, we had relished our friends’ raised eyebrows when we told them our intentions. “The country?” they’d ask. We were thrilled to have found what we believed was an undiscovered tourist destination.
But Cartagena is hardly undiscovered. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones to choose the majestic city as a vacation spot. The city’s narrow streets, lined with vibrant façades, were teeming with tourists—not what adventure travelers are particularly fond of. However, we realized that the city’s popularity was to our advantage. Would we have known where to devour unconventional ceviches had Anthony Bourdain not sampled some himself at La Cevicheria? Would we have enjoyed a worthy-of-plate-licking (and affordable!) lunch at La Mulata had other tourists not raved about the restaurant to us?
And, when it came to lodging, boy did we benefit from Cartagena’s status as an up-and-coming travel destination. After only minutes at Tcherrasi Hotel & Spa, a modern oasis in Old-World Cartagena, we were bathed in a deep sense of relaxation. Opened in 2009, the hotel is owned—and was designed—by Silvia Tcherrasi, an acclaimed Colombian fashion designer. Each of the seven rooms in the restored 250-year-old Colonial mansion is uniquely decorated, yet they share common elements: high ceilings; textured, mostly white and gold, fabrics; open-style bathrooms; and rich wood floors, all of which help make the hotel bright and airy. The atmosphere is enhanced by the lobby’s waterfalls, small pools, vertical garden, and white-on-white decor.
Tired from sightseeing? The hotel offers several lovely areas in which to unwind. But the winner has got to be the roof deck, home to a gorgeous pool, and 360-degree views of the historic city and sea. Or, of course, you could always avail yourself to a soothing treatment in the hotel’s full-service spa.
Tcherassi’s lobby houses Vera, a 40-seat Italian restaurant whose chef, Daniel Castaño, is a Mario Batali protégé (talk about a small world). At night, the restaurant fills with an international crowd. In the morning, Vera is the source of a five-course breakfast, when the choice of fresh juices—Watermelon? Papaya? Tamarind?—can seem overwhelming. You can’t go wrong—they’re all delicious—but we suggest that, at least one morning, you request juice from the lulo, a tart, citrus-flavored fruit that is found only in the northwest of the continent.
And may we make one more suggestion? Hurry there—while eyebrows can still be raised.
The Nitty-Gritty: Prices begin at $360 per night for rooms.
Elegance, Style, and Class—All the Way
|The Queen Mary 2 transatlantic crossing is a spectacle to behold.|
There are cruises geared toward every special-interest group—singles, gays, partiers, families with kids. But for travelers looking for the grand ocean liner experience, the Cunard Line, which has been carrying generations of British—and Hollywood—royalty across the pond since 1840, is the only way to go.
Conjure up memories of your favorite five-star resort: the great restaurants, impeccable service, lavish amenities. Then put it out to sea and you’ve got the idea of the Queens: Elizabeth, Victoria, and Mary 2. Imagine sipping a 1998 La Grande Dame Veuve Clicquot and nibbling on foie gras and smoked duck before dining at Todd English. Or gliding across the ballroom floor in formal attire, dancing to big-band tunes; attending lectures by professors from Oxford or a concert by the National Symphony Orchestra; or settling down with a good book in the two-story floating library. (You can park Fifi in the on-board kennel; the kids in playrooms staffed by certified British nannies.)
|The Grand Lobby on the Queen Elizabeth is the perfect place to make a grand entrance before a formal dinner dance.|
Of course, the ships have all the requisite pools, sports, casinos, and shopping; the behemoth Queen Mary 2 also has a planetarium and a 20,000-square-foot Canyon Ranch spa (rough seas in their Thalassatherapy pool—basically, a giant Jacuzzi on steroids—is quite the experience. Hang on tight!).
High rollers can stay in the duplex apartments in the lavish Queens Grill accomodations, where they can dine at their leisure in their own gourmet venue with private lounge. Passengers in junior suites dine in the Princess Grill, a more intimate restaurant, also with access to the private lounge. The rest of the passengers dine in the impressive two-deck-high Britannia Restaurant. All ships also have casual eateries and specialty restaurants (plus “alternative restaurants,” which incur an additional fee).
The Nitty-Gritty: For the Queen Victoria Americas Season cruises, which return in late 2011 and early 2012 and include itineraries through the Panama Canal and to the Hawaiian Islands, fares start at $1,294 pp, based on double occupancy. For the Queen Elizabeth, a 12-night Mediterranean cruise starts at $2,395.For the Queen Mary 2, a seven-night transatlantic crossings between Southampton, England and NYC in November starts at $799 pp for a standard inside room, no window; $1,399 pp for a Princess Grill suite; $1,999 pp for a Queens Grill suite; and $23,299 pp for the Grand Duplex.
A Charming, Laid-Back Retreat
Accommodations at Sunset Key Guest Cottages all have wrap-around porches.
Sunset Key Guest Cottages
245 Front St, Key West, FL
(305) 292-5300; westinsunsetkeycottages.com
It may not be The Ritz—the towels aren’t Frette, and the trays aren’t sterling silver—but, honestly, who cares? Sunset Key Guest Cottages, located on a secluded, 27-acre island just off of Key West, is a charming Westin franchise resort where guests are treated, pampered, and spoiled as well as at any hoity-toity resort but without all that potential hoity-toity formality and ’tude. But, don’t worry—it’s got all the amenities anyone might desire.
Sunset Key—an enchanting, laid-back retreat with unspoiled beaches, swaying palms, old-fashioned charm, and up-to-date creature comforts—is less than a 10-minute ferry ride away from bustling, busy Key West. But, once there, you may feel as if you’re a million miles away. Indeed, even when locals and tourists hop over to lunch or dine at its Latitudes restaurant, the atmosphere is free and easy. After all, what’s there to worry about?
Sunset Key’s outdoor pool fits with the tranquil vibe.
The accommodations are spacious. Our cottage—and all guests stay in white wood cottages with near wraparound porches—could have accommodated at least one more couple: two big bedrooms, three bathrooms, one living room, three TVs, a CD player, and an eat-in kitchen. And, should you want to dine in, a grocery shopping service is offered (for an extra charge). Every morning, a big picnic basket with baked goods, freshly squeezed juice, and fresh fruits is delivered to your cottage (with a newspaper).
After breakfast, spend your day lounging by the pool or curled up with a book on your clapboard veranda. Or, perhaps you’d rather while away the hours at the heavenly three-room spa. (Highly recommended: the warm sipping chocolate served in the waiting room—yum.)
What if you’re the type who can’t sit still? Again, not to worry. You can: go for a swim in the ocean—or the pool; play a few rounds of tennis on one of the property’s two tennis courts; go parasailing or kayaking on the main island; explore the island, which—this surprises many—was built in the 1960s as a military refueling station (there’s no trace of that now: just a compact wonderland of manicured lawns, paths, beaches, and tasteful cottages and suites); or, hop on a ferry (there’s one every half-hour) and go into town—Key West’s Duval Street, has lots of cool bars, live music, and outdoor dancing. Come evening, dine at Latitudes, which specializes in cooking freshly caught local seafood (try Sunset Key’s signature jumbo shrimp stuffed with crabmeat and wrapped in bacon).
The sun sets, as viewed from Key West, more or less over lovely Sunset Key. And yes, it has—as a mostly new island off an island—an almost magical charm. Relax and enjoy it.
The Nitty-Gritty: Rates begin at $595 double occupancy per night for a one-bedroom cottage.
A Caribbean Adventure
Half Moon boasts a stunning 54 pools.
Half Moon, a RockResort
Rose Hall, Jamaica
(876) 953-2211; halfmoon.rockresorts.com
You won’t be faulted if, when you arrive at Jamaica’s famous Half Moon, a RockResort, you suspect that there’s been some mistake: has the cab driver dropped you off in a small Caribbean town? A town that is immaculately groomed, beautifully landscaped, and expertly maintained? Yes, the place looks luxurious, with enchanting whitewashed cottages and villas, rows upon rows of palm trees, darling airy gazebos, and ribbons of charming brick paths—but it’s huge: 400-acres huge. Indeed, Half Moon may be Jamaica’s most extensive resort—which means that you could practically live here, if only work and reality didn’t get in the way.
You see, Half Moon, nestled on crescent-shaped Montego Bay, has practically everything a resident, ahem, guest out for a great time may want—has it in spades. Let’s see: there are six restaurants; eight bars; 13 tennis courts; 54(!) pools; four squash courts; two miles of sandy beach; an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed golf course; a health and fitness center; an equestrian centre; a shopping village; and a 68,000-square-foot spa. Whew. A veritable mini-city designed strictly for fun and relaxation.
Can’t beat that view.
And, speaking of fun…ever gone swimming with a horse? Half Moon’s equestrian center takes guests on rides through its 25-acre Nature Preserve and onto its white sand beach before the horse, with a guide very much in charge, walks into the water and begins swimming, with you hanging on to its tail. It’s an experience that one guest declared “bizarre,” but all agree is unforgettable. Or, would you prefer to go swimming with a dolphin? In Half Moon’s natural dolphin lagoon, you can pet, swim, and get kissed (or splashed) by a dolphin. Half Moon is one of the only resorts in the Caribbean that offers this experience. It is also one of the only resorts that offers spinning (if that’s your thing) on its 10 spanking new covered bikes.
And to think it all began in 1954 when a group of rich folk decided to build an exclusive hideaway on a half-moon-shaped bay with 17 little cottages and 30 beachfront homes. Among those who thought it a good place to visit: Clark Gable, Jacqueline Kennedy, Joan Crawford, Princess Margaret, and Queen Elizabeth II. Today the resort has nearly 400 rooms (which includes 11 of the original cottages), and, while bold-face names may still flock to it—among its more recent visitors: George H. W. Bush, when he was vice president—you don’t have to be a celebrity or a United States president to visit Half Moon. All you need is a passport and a taste for both Caribbean adventure and style.
The Nitty-Gritty: Superior Rooms start at $250, Junior Suites at $420, Royal Suites at $750. The five-bedroom Royal Villa, which has a garden view, begins at $1,250. Additional fees apply.