We don’t know about you, but we love getting free stuff — especially on vacation. Most of us don’t spend our hard-earned money on a trip lightly, and there’s nothing worse than showing up at your carefully chosen resort only to get nickel-and-dimed. That’s why when a resort does the opposite, and hands out freebies for things you wouldn’t expect, it isn’t just refreshing — it can be what elevates your vacation from just okay to out of this world. Here are five freebies that will take your vacation to the next level.
Free Spa Treatments
This is the type of freebie that makes us think we’ve misunderstood something. A free spa treatment? But there’s no mistake: At Gaia Hotel and Reserve in Costa Rica, every guest gets one 20-minute spa treatment just for booking a stay. The options include a back relief Swedish massage, a mini facial, or Feet Renewal treatment. Now that is the kind of service that makes us want to come back. Read More »
Let’s face it: winters are tough. When it gets dark at 4:30 p.m. and there are sheets of freezing rain outside, it’s hard not to fantasize about getting out of dodge. But choosing where to escape to can be overwhelming; with so many options, where does one begin? Luckily for you, planning vacations is one of our favorite things. We’ve selected some of our favorite winter getaway destinations and shared what we love about them — as well as a top hotel pick for each.
Why We Love Kauai: Kauai is less developed than its more popular neighbors, Oahu and Maui — and arguably more beautiful. Its lush terrain, placid beaches, and dramatic cliffs provide the backdrop for numerous Hollywood visions of untamed, other-worldly paradises. Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Jurassic Park films, and the 2005 version of King Kong were all filmed here. The 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon, the lava-rock seawater pool at Queen’s Bath, and the remote, towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast are among the world’s most beautiful natural attractions.
Where to Stay: St. Regis Princeville
The 251-room St. Regis Princeville is considered by many to be the premier luxury option in Hawaii, and given the stunning setting overlooking Hanalei Bay, it’s hard to disagree. Guests can expect warm, sophisticated decor, suites with personal butler service, world-class golf, and a memorable breakfast buffet on a terrace with gorgeous ocean views. Read More »
Most of us have to stick to a budget when we plan a vacation, and we know that considering a hotel’s value is just as important as considering its rooms and features. It’s hard to enjoy a nice resort when you feel like you’ve been ripped off, and it’s hard to enjoy a cheap resort when you feel like a few extra bucks could have bought you a significantly better trip. For a hotel to be a great value, in our view, it’s got to offer the best of both worlds: It’s got to be a resort that’s cheaper than the competition but still objectively pretty great. So we scoured some of our favorite beach destinations to find seven resorts offering just that. Prepare yourself for some shockingly good deals.
This private, quiet property has large rooms, gorgeous sunrises over a rugged beach, a water slide and sand-bottom pool, and a romantic bar with live music. It’s a good choice for a quiet, relaxed stay. There may be more to do at the Kauai Marriott, but rates are typically better here. Read More »
If an all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink beach getaway with your honey sounds like your idea of a vacation, then we’ve got some great resort picks for you. These all-inclusive resorts are not only among the best in the Caribbean and Mexico, they’re also adults-only — so you can enjoy some R&R without getting interrupted by squealing tots. (And families, not to fear — we’ve got recommendations for you, too!)
Arguably Jamaica’s most romantic escape (for adults only), the Caves’ 12 unique, private cottages and suites are tucked along lush garden paths and dramatic seaside cliffs (there’s no beach). High-quality, locally focused cuisine, a top-shelf bar, and intimate, incredibly attentive service make it Jamaica’s best all-inclusive. Read More »
Traveling with the kids is hardly a picnic, and all too often parents don’t get to do a lot of vacationing on their vacations. If you’re hoping to tantrum-proof your family beach getaway this winter, we have some solutions for you: resorts so ridiculously awesome for kids that your little imps will likely be too busy (and too delighted) to cause you grief. No boredom, no tears — just lots and lots of good family fun.
Brimming with activities for kids and teens, Atlantis is a veritable Caribbean Disneyland. In addition to all the basics (babysitting, cribs, rollaway beds, kids club) the resort has 11 spectacular pools (including several kids’ pools), a 141-acre water park, a speedway for racing remote control cars, and a marine habitat with sharks, stingrays, and dolphins to swim alongside — and that’s just a sample of the attractions. In addition, for teens, Atlantis has an elaborate shopping center, a rock-climbing wall, a movie theater, and, on occasion, a pop-star concert (think Taylor Swift, Katy Perry). Read More »
When many of us dream of the beach, we’re not just dreaming of fine white sand and clear blue waters. (Well, sure, we are dreaming about that part quite a bit.) But we’re also imagining thatched roof bars, decks with hammocks, and rooms with lots of wood or stone. Resorts that blend modern luxuries with a rustic vibe help set just the right tone for relaxation and serenity. Take a look at our faves.
Aqua Wellness Resort, Nicaragua
Aqua Wellness Resort is a rustic-luxe retreat set into a hillside overlooking Redondo Bay on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. The resort has eco-friendly design, lush vegetation (expect to spot wildlife such as howler monkeys and iguanas), and rooms adorned with lots of natural wood; some units include plunge pools and stunning ocean views. The white-sand beach is secluded and beautiful, the restaurant serves simple but tasty local dishes, and group yoga classes on the ocean-view wooden platform are free. For a tranquil, unplugged getaway, this is one of Nicaragua’s premier options — just note that there’s no common pool (yet) and the climb from the beach to reception is extremely long and steep. Read More »
For outdoorsy types, a tiny basement fitness center at the hotel just isn’t going to cut it. For them, a great vacation is all about getting outdoors — and being in a stunning natural setting to boot. Luckily, there are plenty of fantastic resorts around the world offering a range of activities right on-site, from horseback riding to water sports to fishing to stargazing. Check out our faves.
Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort, Napa Valley
Calistoga Ranch was designed with Mother Nature in mind: All the modules for the property’s 48 exquisite private lodges were flown in by helicopter to minimize impact on surrounding trees and to maximize privacy. The 157-acre property offers abundant outdoor activities, including hiking (there are a number of trails on-site), outdoor yoga, a beautiful heated outdoor pool, a bocce court, and a fabulous fitness center. After all that exercise, there’s no need to feel guilty about indulging at one of the wine tasting seminars (this is Napa, after all). Read More »
If you want to plan a family vacation with wow factor, look no further: Picking a hotel with one of the following kid-friendly attractions will earn you major points with your kids. And with activities this fun, you just may end up acting like a kid yourself.
Water park at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa
Hundreds of resorts around the world feature a water slide or two in their pool complex, but a few exceptional properties take it to a whole new level. For example, the Aquaventure water park at the Atlantis features two slides with vertical drops over 50 feet, a mile-long lazy-river pool, a tube that gushes past sharks, and a plethora of other scenic slides. The Grand Wailea water park in Hawaii includes four waterslides, whitewater rapids, caves, a lazy-river pool, rope swings, and a “water elevator” inside a man-made volcano.
Fashion Week has arrived to New York City, and we’re getting the fashion bug — but it’s not haute couture that’s getting us excited. It’s haute hotels, of course! Rather than envisioning ourselves in what’s on the runway, we’re dreaming about how we’d look in these fashion-forward spots, and what personal styles they’d pair best with. Go on — try them on for size. What hotel would you wear?
Tortuga Bay, Dominican Republic
What to Wear: Oscar De La Renta Swimwear
Oscar de la Renta may be most famous for his evening wear, but he’s designed some super-chic swimwear as well — and there’s no better place to flaunt it than Tortuga Bay, which the famous fashion icon also designed. The 30-room Tortuga Bay hotel offers amazing service (including preferential treatment at Punta Cana Airport), an on-site nature reserve, several superb restaurants, and three world-class golf courses. Read More »
The marriage of travel and food has been a long and happy one. For foodies, a destination isn’t going to rank as a favorite unless its cuisine — be it Mexican food in San Diego, seafood in Seattle, or the hodgepodge of deliciousness that is New York – is something special. For us, that logic applies equally to the hotels where you stay within a city: not just hotels with great restaurants, but places that incorporate gourmet treats into the overall hotel experience. These hotels we love offer awesome foodie freebies, from decadent a la carte breafkasts to free nightly wine hours. Talk about tasty extras.
A la carte breakfast
The free a la carte breakfast at Costa Rica's Gaia Hotel and Reserve is worth writing home about.
Spotlight On: Gaia Hotel and Reserve, Costa Rica
Free hotel breakfasts aren’t exactly a rarity, but they are usually comprised of cereals, fruit, and, if you’re lucky, some moderately edible scrambled eggs. Not so at Gaia Hotel and Reserve, where the free breakfast is a gourmet a la carte affair. Menu items include Eggs Benedict, Belgian Waffles, Italian Egg White Frittata, Vanilla and Mango Pancakes, a Costa Rican Breafkast, and more. And the freebies don’t stop there: The room rate also includes a short spa treatment.