Exploring Hawaii: Things to Do in Maui

Hawaii is our top-selling destination each year and Maui is the most popular island. So, what do we recommend for our clients who just can’t get enough of the Aloha vibes? We’ve gathered a list of our favorite things to do in Maui!

Things to Do in Maui

Maui Brewing Company: This is a great way to get “off-property” from your hotel and mingle with some locals, our most favorite of all the things to do in Maui! The Maui Brewing Company brewery is located just 10-15 minutes from the Wailea area resorts. It offers a brewery tour, tasting flights, a restaurant with a fun Hawaiian pub-style menu, and live music. They also have a brewpub in Lahaina.

Things to do in Maui

Shopping and BBQ in Paia: A cute little town that serves as the gateway to the road to Hana and worth a visit even if you don’t want to do the full scenic drive to Hana. The town has a nice mix of kitschy tourist shops and higher-end boutiques and art galleries. Willie Nelson is a local resident and he fits right in with the vibe of this town. I like to go for some window shopping and BBQ lunch at Charley’s Saloon.

Dine at Mama’s Fish House: This is a long-standing favorite restaurant on Maui. The menu at Mama’s Fish House features fresh catch local seafood and the decor is a classic tiki bar style. It makes for a really fun night out! Or, go for lunch and stop by the neighboring Ho’okipa Lookout where you can often spot seals and turtles resting on the beach.

Things to Do in Maui

Day trip to Lahaina: This is a historic village just south of the Kaanapali beach resort area (about a 45-minute drive from Wailea). The Old Lahaina Courthouse features a small museum that highlights the island’s British history and a town park famous for its dramatic banyan tree. The marina is still pretty active with local fishing and you can sometimes see market stalls selling fresh-caught mahi-mahi; this is also where you can catch the Ferry to Lanai so there’s always plenty of traffic, perfect for good people watching. If you’re looking for a good variety of things to do in Maui with a good dose of convenience, Lahaina has shopping, cafes, lunch spots, and a little bit of nightlife – a little something for everybody.

Sunrise at Haleakala: You can do this on your own with a rental car or join a tour. I recommend the downhill bike tours – they bus you up to the peak for sunrise viewing and then you bike your way down with a stop for a breakfast picnic along the way. Pre-booking is now required by the National Park Service so plan ahead for this one!

Luau in Lahaina: Dedicated to upholding and showcasing Hawaii’s traditional music, dance, and food, Old Lahaina Luau provides the opportunity to experience just that. You’ll want to make a reservation in advance, as they book to capacity nearly year-round. But, Old Lahaina’s dedication to hookipa (hospitality) in allotting 1 employee per 12 guests, provides a special and unforgettable experience.

Makawao: Stroll through Makawao, a Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town that shows a new side of historic Hawaii. You’re sure to see at least one of these cowboys, and if you’re lucky you might find one riding down the street on a longhorn bull! Aside from people watching, you can visit any of the local shops, the “Rodeo General Store,” or T. Komoda Store & Bakery, a legendary bakery throughout Maui and beyond. They usually sell out early in the day – think before 10am – so you’ll want to get there early.

Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm: This 13.5-acre farm is home to thousands of lavender plants as well as hydrangea, olive trees, succulents, and other flora. Ali’i Kula also sells a variety of products made with the lavender grown onsite, from organic lavender spritzer to culinary grade lavender.

Surfing Goat Dairy: Located in Kula near the Haleakala Crater, the Surfing Goat Dairy Farm is known for its award-winning goat cheeses and more. You can stop by for a variety of tours, ranging from a quick half-hour casual tour of the farm to the more hands-on “evening chores & milking tour,” or simply stop by the shop and sample cheeses, peruse soaps, and see what else the farm is producing.

Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery: Made with organic sugar cane and deep ocean mineral water, Maui’s own distillery prides itself on utilizing local resources to create quality spirits. You can reserve a tour of the Ocean Vodka facility, which includes a sampling of their vodka, or stop by the gift shop any day of the week.

Maui Wine: Settled on the slopes of the Haleakala volcano in Paia, Maui Wine highlights the history of Hawaiian culture as they showcase classic wine varieties, as well as some unique to the island. You can enjoy their famous pineapple wine and Ulupalakua staples in various luxury tasting rooms or outside overlooking the island landscape, and you can also take a tour of the vineyard any day of the week, no reservations required.

A FEW HOTEL-SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS:

Things to Do in Maui

Four Seasons Maui at Wailea: Spring for a cabana! This is the perfect solution when your not looking for things to do in Maui! The pool cabanas at the adults-only pool at the Four Seasons Maui make for a special treat; there are only 6 of them so they can sell out. The experience includes a comfortable poolside cabana with reserved lounge chairs and shady lounge under the cabana with a mini fridge and TV. The cost is $780 for a full day an includes a bottle of prosecco with mixers for tropical fruit mimosas (you can also exchange for cocktails) and light snacks served throughout the day. If you don’t want to pay full price, you can always check with the cabana staff that day and if a cabana hasn’t been rented out by noon, you can get it at a discount for the afternoon.

Andaz Maui at Wailea: Visit the Apothecary! Included in your spa experience, the Apothecary Room at Andaz Maui Wailea offers the unique opportunity to use local ingredients and create your own personal scent to be used during your treatment. You can also purchase extra to take home as a souvenir. Borrow from the Ourisman Travel Signature Scent recipe if you’re looking for some inspiration!

  •  macadamia nut body butter
  • marigold (heals skin irritation; great after a day in the sun!)(3 portions)
  • helichrysum & maitake mushroom (reduces stress in tissue) (2 portions)
  • a blend of pikake, mango, and amber scented oils

Things to do in Maui

Montage Kapalua: Toast to the sun at the Champagne Hale! This Veuve Clicquot pop-up bar is the perfect spot for an “après-sun” treat. “Hale” in Hawaiian means house or home, which is a perfect description of the little hideaway perched on the cliff-side with incredible sunset views. The Champagne Hale isn’t available every day, so plan ahead and let us help you coordinate your plans with the hotel concierge.

 

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Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht

Amsterdam is one of those classic European destinations that never gets old. You can visit a million times over and never tire of the city’s personality and you could visit for 2 days or 12 and always find something new to do! I recently traveled to Amsterdam with our partners from Hyatt to see the quirky and colorful Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht.

While it was a short stay, it was a whirlwind of exploring! Our itinerary struck a balance of culture, art, great food, fresh air, and delightful company.

Andaz Amsterdam

Arrival & Location of Andaz Amsterdam

Upon arrival into AMS, while you could easily take the Tram, I highly recommend arranging your transfer through the concierge in their exclusive Mercedes Benz Maybach for 125 EUR. Your private transfer includes personal arrival gate pick-up, luggage assistance, and in my particular instance – a complimentary iced coffee! The Mercedes Benz Maybach is truly one of a kind, and Andaz Amsterdam is proud to own one of the three Maybach’s in Amsterdam. It’s loaded with over-the-top luxury features like massage seats and complimentary wifi. Not a bad way to land after an 8-hour overseas flight…

The location of this property is perfect – right in the heart of Amsterdam and walkable to any tourist attraction, restaurant or local pub.

Andaz Amsterdam

Design & Accommodations

Formerly the Public Library of Amsterdam, the hotel interior is inspired by the Dutch golden age and designer, Marcel Wanders, creating a fairytale Alice in Wonderland atmosphere.

The accommodations are some of the largest in Amsterdam, featuring an open-floor room concept, with views of the atrium, enchanted garden, or iconic canal. The Dutch wit and history come to life through the room decor with small custom details, making this hotel particularly unique.

Andaz Amsterdam

Pro-tip: remember, luxury hotels are never “one size fits all” and the Andaz Amsterdam is no different; the open floor plan room layout is not for everyone. Part of our job is to help you find the right place to stay to meet your needs and tastes, so talk to our team before selecting your hotel!

Food & Beverage

The hotel’s very own Bluespoon Restaurant and Bar features upscale farm-to-table delicacies, and award-winning Alice in Wonderland inspired craft cocktails. In the morning, should you decide to forgo room service, you can dine at Bluespoon for a full buffet (complimentary as a Prive guest), plus the option to add specialty a la carte items off the menu. Before dinner, be sure to enjoy the complimentary wine reception in the hotel’s “living room” by the lobby from 6-8pm!

Andaz Amsterdam

Pro-tip: After dining at Bluespoon, don’t forget to venture out into the city for some more incredible dining experiences. We highly recommend Graham’s Kitchen in the De Pijp neighborhood. This intimate dining room features an incredible menu highlighting local produce and expertly composed dishes. Read more Amsterdam dining highlights here!

Wellness

After checking in, my first order of business was a jetlag massage! Just past the lobby are red stairs resembling Amsterdam’s famous red-light district that lead down to the fitness center and spa. The 24-hour fitness center and sauna facilities also come in handy if you struggle to get on local time

Andaz Amsterdam

Activities

You can explore Amsterdam by bike or boat! Ride through the city on your Andaz bike like a local, or slow down and take in all that the city has to offer on a canal cruise on Andaz’s very own vintage salon boat. Feeling artsy? Explore the Rock Stars of Art at Moco Museum as an Andaz VIP as you’re welcomed with a glass of Champagne in the salon, followed by a private tour of art pieces by Banksy, Andy Warhol, and more contemporary art pieces.

Hyatt Privé

The Andaz Amsterdam is a participant in the Hyatt Privé program, which allows us to get you the best value. Your reservation through Ourisman Travel will include:

  • $100 USD property credit
  • Room upgrade, subject to availability
  • Daily complimentary full breakfast for two at a hotel restaurant
  • Early check-in, subject to availability

Privé Signature Suite Offer (through December 31, 2019):

  • Complimentary one-way airport transfer
  • Guaranteed late check-out till 2 pm
  • Beautiful fresh flowers in the room
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Touring Singapore Without Feeling Like a Tourist

It can be hard to be a tourist in Singapore. So much of what you find on the surface feels overproduced and generic. The best thing to do in Singapore is to forget that you are a tourist and pretend you are a local (and you won’t go wrong if you follow your stomach)!

Singapore_Touring without feeling like a tourist

Top highlights from my recent attempt at being a local in Singapore:

SINGAPORE SLINGS AT LANTERN BAR

singapore_Lantern Bar

Admittedly, this is 100% a tourist activity, so get it out of your system early on and then move on to the more genuine Singaporean experiences. Lantern Bar is on the rooftop of the Fullerton Bay Hotel with amazing views of the Marina Bay. It definitely felt “westernized” and catering to tourists, but the views and atmosphere make it worth a visit, even just for one drink. And  you might as well go all-in; embrace being a tourist and order a Singapore Sling! If you want to double-down on the touristy activities, definitely also head to the famous Long Bar at the Raffles hotel, where the cocktail was invented. The hotel is reopening August 2019 after extensive renovations.

Side Note: You know that famous building that looks like it has a ship on top? That’s the Marina Bay Sands hotel & casino. We really don’t recommend staying there, it is just too big and impersonal, but going up to the rooftop viewing deck is a classic tourist activity in Singapore. Go if you must, but I wasn’t a fan. It is expensive and crowded and not worth the effort. If you go to the bar and order drinks, you can get free access to the rooftop but you won’t be able to get up to the edge of the viewing deck.

NEON PIGEON

Singapore_Neon Pigeon

There are far better cocktails to be found so please branch out from the Singapore Sling after the first obligatory drink! I suggest heading to Neon Pigeon in Chinatown, home of the friendliest bartender I’ve ever met! Cocktails served here look too good even for Instagram! I was suspicious of the trappings of fancy, hipster glassware, but the cocktails were delicious!

CHINATOWN & DUXTON HILL

Singapore: Chinatown & Duxton Hill

The Marina Bay is the traditional focal point for tourists visiting Singapore, but Chinatown is so much more interesting to me. Chinatown runs into nearby Duxton Hill and the two neighborhoods have become one in my mind. This is where the “cool kids” hang out! We found so many great bars & restaurants, cute boutique shops, and incredible historic architecture. The neighborhood is modernizing, but the historic highlights and local neighborhood aesthetic remains strong. I recommend spending as much time in Chinatown as possible. If you’re looking for a good meal, head to the Coconut Club for a heaping plate of Nasi Lemak, which includes coconut rice, a chicken leg, peanuts, fried egg, cucumber, and sambal curry… it sounded strange to this novice of Asian food, but I am glad I gave it a try!

The new Six Senses Maxwell and Duxton hotels are very charming and put you in the center of everything you want to see in Chinatown, but beware of tiny entry-level room sizes – yikes!

HAWKER CENTERS

These open air food halls are a must for any Singapore visit, no matter how many times you’ve been. For beginners, this is the best way to try different regional dishes and the pros will always find a favorite dish to keep them coming back. If you aren’t familiar with Asian cuisine, I recommend taking a guide along for your first visit so you can have a translator and interpreter to help you find dishes that you will like.

Lau Pa Sat is my favorite Hawker Center; it is a beautiful structure architecturally and offers a great variety of food. It is located in the CBD so the best time to go to really feel like a local is lunch on a weekday, but be prepared for a crowd. Grab a table and claim your territory first, then go in shifts to get your food. Start with Chicken Rice and don’t be afraid to sample the different sauces! For a refreshing drink, try the calamansi “lime juice.”

PERANAKAN TOUR

Singapore: Peranakan Tile

If you’re going to invest in a private tour, this is the one I suggest. My understanding of Singapore’s history was fuzzy at best and I am so glad I took the time to learn more during our visit. This tour highlighted the interesting history and perspective on the regional history and relationships between different cultures and ethnicities in Singapore. The Peranakan Museum is small and easy to digest. I appreciated the exhibits on genetics as well as the cultural fashion display and the ceramics collection. The highlight of the tour was seeing the traditional houses with intricate exterior designs. My favorites were the homes that had been tastefully modernized & updated with more geometric motifs & simplified color schemes. Our tour also introduced us to some yummy Peranakan desserts and treats; my favorites were the pandan love letters and a very large tub of these crispy, flaky wafers made it home with me as a perfect souvenir!

CHILI CRAB

Singapore: Chili Crab

You can get famous Singapore-style chili crab in many places around the city and if you ask a local, they will each have their own favorite spot. We ventured out to East Coast Park for dinner at Jumbo Seafood on the waterfront. Advance reservations are a must! The delicious crab and prime people-watching opportunities made it worth the trek!

 CAPELLA SINGAPORE & CENTOSA ISLAND

Singapore: Capella Sentosa

Sentosa Island is not for everyone, but this urban resort is perfect if you’re just stopping through Singapore on your way to a beachy vacation. Get those vacation vibes started early! The Capella Singapore features inventive architecture with a great “old meets new” vibe. Highlights include: private plunge pools, a creative rum bar, Cantonese fine dining, a lush garden setting, and old world charm. After a full day of touring in the Singapore heat and humidity, I really appreciated the opportunity to escape from the city and relax in my own oasis. Read more about our love for Capella Hotels here! 

I was only in Singapore for 3 days and I covered a lot of ground but it only feels like I scraped the surface and just got a peek at what Singapore is really like for a local resident. I can’t wait to go back and discover more and I hope these tips have inspired you to add Singapore to your next Asia itinerary! If you’re ready to visit Singapore, let us help you plan your trip!

More reading on Singapore:

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Is a Luxury Villa Vacation Right For You?

While the 5-star hotel is still the luxury experience that we all crave, we are also finding that our clients are looking for new, ultra-personalized experiences that allow for even more relaxation, a deeper focus on wellness, and a greater sense of independence and privacy. The solution is a luxury villa vacation.

A lot of people hear “We rented a villa in the Caribbean/Tuscany/etc. for our vacation” and they think cha-ching $$$! But, that may not be the case. Villa vacations can be great alternatives for several types of travelers adding extra value and convenience to their trips! Villas are great options for multi-generational families, a group of several families with kids, or a group of friends celebrating a special occasion. Basically, you should consider a villa vacation anytime you are going to need 2 or more bedrooms. 

Luxury Villa Vacation

Our top villa choices offer exotic locations, private beach access, and personal chefs.  When you stay at a villa you have the whole property to yourself; think guaranteed peace and serenity.  It’s so nice to experience the exclusivity of your own residence. You can choose a cozy 1 or 2 bedroom option for an intimate getaway or a 5+ bedroom mansion to host all of your friends and family. Most of our favorite villas come with full staff including a private chef, butler, and maid so your every need can be met with as little stress or worry as possible.

Booking a luxury villa ensures you can travel to the beat of your own drum. Looking to work out? Find a villa with a state of the art gym. Traveling to unwind? Choose a secluded location with an en-suite spa or outdoor bathtub/shower. Booking a family trip? Choose something with bunk beds, game rooms, and a cinema.

Some of our favorite villa options around the world include:

Related Reading: 5 Reasons to Plan a Villa Vacation From Virtuoso Traveler, April 2019

  1. Bring the Generations Together
  2. Celebrate Good Times
  3. Seek Maximum Privacy
  4. Get the Best of Both Worlds
  5. Let the Butler Do It

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Luxury Villas in Los Cabos, Mexico

Villa vacations are the perfect solution for anyone looking for the ultra-personalized luxury travel experience. While we can find you a villa nearly anywhere around the world, some of the most popular options can be found just a short flight away in Mexico. Los Cabos has become a mainstay as a luxury destination and it is bursting with amazing villa options. Read on for our top picks for luxury villas in Los Cabos.

Luxury Villas in Los Cabos

Las Ventanas Al Paraíso- A Rosewood Property

One of our favorite resorts in in the area also offers some of the best luxury villas in Los Cabos, Las Ventanas Al Paraiso. With room categories ranging from junior suites to three bedroom residences this property is great for a luxurious stay in Cabo for couple or a small family.

The one bedroom oceanfront villa has an expansive patio with a private infinity pool and Jacuzzi making this one of the ultimate Los Cabos villas. Inside there is 1,600 sq. ft. of luxurious living space including a large living room, pantry and outdoor dining area. The master bedroom has a king bed, walk-in closet and bathroom with Jacuzzi bathtub plus indoor and outdoor showers. Authentic artistry – colorful Mexican tiles, intricately carved cabinets and adobe fireplaces – adorns every villa.

Residences at Montage Los Cabos

The new residences at Montage Los Cabos were designed to meet your every need. Each residence offers 1-to-3 bedrooms in an open floor plan with gourmet kitchens. On the exterior, the properties offer expansive terraces with breathtaking views of Santa Maria Bay, fire pits and artful details that encourage indoor-outdoor living. Ground floor residences also feature plunge-pools. Private garages with room for one vehicle and ample storage encourage you to stay longer and explore the Baja Peninsula on your own schedule.

Read more about the Montage Los Cabos in our hotel site-inspection report here.

Chileno Bay Vacation Rentals

Chileno Bay offers spacious two, three, four and six bedroom villas with a full gourmet kitchen and expansive private terrace, most with plunge pool or jacuzzi. Enjoy the resort’s three-tiered infinity-edge pool, state-of-the-art fitness facilities and spa, kids’ program, and restaurants overseen by a French Laundry alum, plus gain access to the members-only Chileno Bay Club golf course.

A dedicated staff at your fingertips, including personal concierge, access to a private chef, housekeeping and valet, plus 24-hour butler for specialty villas. Unparalleled luxury living in the heart of Baja, with the highest-quality contemporary finishes and touches including walls of floor-to-ceiling windows for bringing the outdoors in, and custom materials inspired by the local aesthetic.

Villas of Distinction

Our partners at Villas of Distinction call Cabo the jewel of the Baja Peninsula because of the gorgeous scenery, exhilarating water sports, and a staggering 360 days of sunshine per year. Villas of distinction offer 80 villas over 12 different locations in the Cabo area. They offer a range of 3 to 8 bedroom luxury villas in Los Cabos. They are able to accommodate just about any group size for your vacation.

With over 25 years of experience of providing luxury villas vacations, Villas of Distinction knowledge is unmatched. All of their villas are handpicked to meet heir strict standards. Offering only the best of the best properties in Cabo. Whether you are planning a wedding or just a family vacation they are able to tailor the experience down to the last details.

Journey Mexico

A villa vacation is like no other, and with Journey Mexico we will help you find not only the perfect villa, but we will help you create the ultimate villa vacation experience. Together, let us plan your dream stay in Mexico.

Casa Bahia Rocas in Los Cabos is a perfect example of the Journey Mexico villa portfolio. Set on the sands of Palmilla Bay in the ultra-exclusive Palmilla Community, Casa Bahia Rocas is a nine-bedroom luxury rental home set over 12,000 square foot, plenty of space for a Mexico vacation with the family. Indoors, guests will find a large living room with a fireplace to gather together around while outside there is a  free-form infinity pool that overlooks the Sea of Cortez. This family-friendly villa also features a full-time butler and a personal chef.

If you’re traveling with a group of people or booking an extended stay, you’ll probably find that few hotels can compete with the value and flexibility you get from renting a luxury villa. Book now and experience the latest craze in luxury travel!

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Four Seasons Costa Rica: Hotel Site Inspection

Nestled in between two beaches, Four Seasons Costa Rica is a getaway dream for all who travel there. The resort perfectly blends the classic luxury that the Four Seasons is known for, with the cultural vibrancy and scenery of the beautiful area of Papagayo.

For more on our recommendations for planning your next trip: Discover Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Four Seasons Costa Rica

During my educational trip around Costa Rica with our partners at Swiss Travel Service, we saved the best for last and spent our final nights of the trip at this property. The Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo is located about 45 minutes from the Liberia airport and about 4 hours from the airport in San Jose. Most travelers fly into San Jose because they plan to check out a few other spots in Costa Rica first, as we did on our trip. If you are looking to stay solely at the Four Seasons, buy your roundtrip ticket to the Liberia airport instead.

FOUR SEASONS COSTA RICA ROOMS AND AMENITIES:

When you arrive at the Four Seasons complex, any golf lover will notice the beautiful 18 hole course framing both sides of your drive in. The course is called the Ocean Course at Peninsula Papagayo and is an Arnold Palmer Signature course.  The course is ranked as one of the top 100 courses outside of the United States.

Upon your entrance into the lobby, you are greeted by the Four Seasons staff with a small coconut welcome drink, along with the option to spike it with Costa Rican rum. The light and airy lobby makes check-in an extension of your trip to paradise before you even arrive at your room.

Four Seasons Costa Rica: Rooms

There are a variety of room category options ranging from guest rooms to private residences. The three guest room options of Terraza, Brisa, or Cielo, are relatively the same room, with the only change being the view/floor location.

I stayed in one of the suite options, the one bedroom Canopy Plunge Pool suite. These suites are built into a hillside overlooking the ocean and are surrounded by the jungle. The Four Seasons encourages anyone staying in these suites to utilize their complementary golf cart service, however, the walk to the main pool/beach area is very manageable at no more than a 5-minute walk. When walking into the residence, it felt like a vacation. The room was very large (1206 sq ft.) and is able to accommodate 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children. The room is perfect for a family of four, as the room is actually split into two rooms with each offering a bathroom.

Four Seasons Costa Rica: Plunge Pool

Private residences are starting to become a big part of the Four Seasons Costa Rica’s plan, as they already offer eight residences and are currently building more. All private residences are fully-inclusive. Yes, you heard that right, all of your golf, spa, food, and drinks are included in the pricing (only available for “residence estates” categories). We were lucky enough to inspect the largest private residence, Casa Del Cielo, which can accommodate 10 adults and four children, or eight adults and six children. The property has wrap-around ocean views with a heated infinity pool and private butler.

FOUR SEASONS COSTA RICA DINING:

Bahia is a buffet and restaurant that is open all day. We had breakfast here, and they make an amazing omelet. For dinner, they have a catch of the day which local fisherman provide from right off of the coast of the property.

We did not try Pesce on this trip, unfortunately; it is an Italian cuisine restaurant that specializes in seafood. Both Pesce and Bahia are located right below the lobby area.

Nemare is a Latin steakhouse where we enjoyed dinner. This restaurant is actually located up the hill at the Peninsula Papagayo Gold clubhouse. Nemare recently just rebranded and reopened. This is a must-do dining experience, as it was one of the best steaks I have ever had.

Four Seasons Costa Rica: Rum Bar

La Reserva might have been my favorite part of the whole Four Seasons experience. La Reserva is a small rum room in which you are able to partake in a free rum and chocolate tasting. A rum expert will walk you through how Costa Rican rum is made and why each one tastes different.

Four Seasons Costa Rica: Rum Tasting

FOUR SEASONS COSTA RICA ACTIVITIES:

The Four Seasons Costa Rica prides itself on being an active and adventurous resort, much like the rest of the country. On any given day there are 20-25 complementary activities for the whole family. These activities range from a scavenger hunt at the kids club to a kayaking tour. One activity that seems to be a crowd favorite is the Trail of Giants. On the Trail of Giants tour, you get your own golf cart and have a staff member guide you around the golf course and property, while they speak about the natural wildlife in the area.

After all of your activities, if you are looking to relax, the Four Seasons offers a full-service world-class spa. The spa was just recently renovated and is inspired by the healing traditions of Central America.

In 2018, The Four Season Costa Rica was the number one selling Four Season property worldwide for Brownell Travel. I loved my time at the Four Seasons Costa Rica and was fully able to understand why this resort is so popular with our clients. Ourisman Travel is a top seller of Four Seasons hotels and our clients enjoy the best VIP treatment and complimentary perks. Contact us to learn more and book your next vacation!

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Discover Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Thinking about planning a trip to Costa Rica? Start Here! We’ve rounded up all of our blog posts to help you explore the best luxury travel options in this diverse and exotic (yet surprisingly convenient) destination. 

Explore your wild side in the country of Costa Rica. Costa Rica offers tourists a variety of different experiences. I was just lucky enough to travel the country and find out the true meaning of the country’s motto, Pura Vida.

Pura Vida perfectly describes the vibe you will immediately feel when you touch down in Costa Rica.  Pura Vida means “simple life” or “pure life”. In Costa Rica, the term has taken on a bigger meaning and is used for just about anything. If you are saying hello or goodbye or just want to wish someone a good day, you will hear Pura Vida. Pura Vida is engrained in the culture now and is the best way to describe the Costa Rican way of life.

see the interactive map of our favorite hotels here.

GEOGRAPHY

Costa Rica is located in Central America between Panama and Nicaragua. Its location provides some of the most unique biodiversity in the world. Although Costa Rica is quite a small country, you can find a huge variety of natural destinations right next to each other. In fact, in one day you might visit a beach, waterfall, nature reserve, cloud forest, wildlife refuge, volcano, and tropical rainforest! What makes Costa Rica so amazing, though, is its abundance of tropical rainforests that make up a majority of the country. 

The beaches are varied an offer something for everybody. From surfing to snorkeling, you can find unique experiences to enjoy Costa Rica’s coastal regions. We recommend beginning your trip in the tropical rainforests and then extending your trip to spend some time on the gorgeous beaches of Guanacaste.

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM

Costa Rica is a beautiful country and its citizens and government intend to keep it that way. I think one of my biggest takeaways from the trip was how each resort or tour company is trying to showcase their country, but also giving back to the environment. Although Costa Rica covers a relatively small geographic area, it makes up about 5% of the earth’s biodiversity. Fortunately, this natural treasure is protected by the National System of Conservation Areas, preserving a total of 25% of the national territory.

Visitors can enjoy the country’s majestic volcanoes, Pacific and Caribbean beaches, tropical dry, wet, and rain forests, as well as exhilarating jungle landscapes, all without traveling long distances between each. Costa Rica’s version of ecotourism aims to provide beautiful natural experiences for tourists, but also to educate visitors about the importance of protecting natural resources.

Our preferred partner in Costa Rica, Swiss Travel, has been operating in Costa Rica for over 47 years and they are a pillar in the Costa Rica travel community. They are extremely knowledgable on the area and can make just about any request happen in the country.

To start our trip, we flew into the San Jose airport. San Jose is the biggest and busiest airport in Costa Rica. The airport is centrally located within the country, so it is a great starting point if you are looking to explore multiple locations in Costa Rica. Our itinerary was designed with 2-parts to allow us to experience both the lush green “jungle” environment as well as the northern, coastal/dry forest regions of Costa Rica.

Read on for more on our experiences in Costa Rica:

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Explore Your Wild Side in the Arenal Region of Costa Rica

Just outside the city of La Fortuna, you will find mountain valleys filled with coffee farms, lush jungles filled with unique wildlife, natural hot springs warmed by volcanic lava, and picturesque views of the famous Arenal Volcano.

For more on our recommendations for planning your next trip: Discover Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Arenal, Costa Rica

We recommend three resorts in this region; they are all relatively close to one another and convenient to both the town and the nearby sights. The small town is a great escape from the resort life and you can really experience Costa Rican culture. This is a spot to grab some souvenirs and dine outside of the resort. We tried the restaurant Don Rufino and would recommend it to anyone in town.

Arenal, Costa Rica: Nayara Springs

NAYARA SPRINGS AND NAYARA GARDENS

Our group was split up in staying in the Nayara Resort and Nayara Spring. Both hotels are on the same property but have different accommodations and rules for each property.

Nayara Springs is a luxury boutique hotel for travelers wishing to experience the natural beauty of the rainforest. The location is surely unique: a secluded hill encircled by emerald forests, tropical gardens and unspoiled hills and a view of the Arenal Volcano. Nayara Spring is adults-only and is the more upscale hotel on the property. In 2018 Nayara Springs was listed as the number 1 hotel in Central America and in the top 10 hotels in the world according to Travel + Leisure.

Nayara Gardens Resort, the sister property to Nayara Springs, shares the same beautiful landscape but is able to accommodate all members of the family. The Nayara resort combines first-class facilities, amenities and seamlessly blends in with the tropical surroundings so that you may experience a profound immersion with nature without sacrificing the quality and comfort you deserve.

Ourisman Travel Tip: Check out the small coffee shop Mi Cafecito. This lounge offers some of the best coffee in Costa Rica. You can also enjoy this coffee as part of the complimentary buffet breakfast (2 per room) included with all Virtuoso reservations.

David visited Nayara back in 2014; read his blog to see how things have changed (and stayed just the same!)

Arenal, Costa Rica: Springs Resort

THE SPRINGS RESORT & SPA

The Springs Resort and Spa is just a few minutes from Nayara, but offers the best views of the Arenal Volcano. The resort was ranked one of the top seven hotels with the best views in the world, according to CNN. The Springs Resort is a large complex but still has a small boutique feel with only 75 rooms. Each room has a volcano view.

Besides the amazing views, the pools are the best part of the property as they have 28 pools spread across the resort. All of the pools are mineral laden, artesian Hot Springs created by the nearby Volcano. If you are looking for activity, the hotel just launched Club Rio. Club Rio is an outdoor adventure center located on property. You can kayak, tube, rock wall climb, participate in nature hikes and so much more right on property.

Ourisman Travel Tip: During our site inspection, the hotel announced they had just become a member of the Virtuoso brand that day. The amenities offered through Virtuoso will include one on-site tour per person, which is a great value!

Arenal, Costa Rica: Tabacon

TABACON THERMAL RESORT & SPA

At the base of the volcano lays the Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa. The resort was built to be a place of harmony and well being around the natural hot springs. Tabacon is set on more than 900 acres of lush tropical reserve, home to Costa Rica’s largest network of naturally flowing hot springs. Tabacon offers 103 luxurious guest rooms and suites, two restaurants, four bars and a world-class spa. Each guest receives a pass to the hot springs for the duration of their stay. The hot springs themselves are about a 2 minute drive from the hotel.

Ourisman Travel Tip: Hotel guests receive exclusive access to the Shangri-La Garden club at the Hot Springs. Virtuoso guests also receive $100 USD equivalent spa credit.

Each resort brings something little different to the table, but in terms of recommendations, Nayara Springs should be a resort on your bucket list. The Springs Resort does have the best view in the area and Tabacon is great if you are looking to spend some time at the Hot Springs.

WHAT TO DO: ACTIVITIES IN THE ARENAL REGION

Arenal, Costa Rica: Volcanic Hot Springs

ARENAL VOLCANIC HOT SPRINGS

Discover Costa Rica´s largest network of naturally flowing thermal mineral springs in Arenal’s largest and most beautiful private rainforest reserve. There are five main springs of highly mineralized water that is heated underground by the Arenal Volcano’s magma. Thousands of gallons of this perfect water naturally emanate every minute. You will find dozens of cascading waterfalls and warm pools along the riverbed, of varying temperatures, water flows and degree of privacy. The springs experience is extremely relaxing especially after a long day of doing other activities in the area.

Arenal, Costa Rica: 1968 Lava Trail

ARENAL 1968 LAVA TRAIL

The trail gets its name from the Arenal Volcano eruption of 1968. The eruption blew large volcanic rocks and lava down the mountainside. Now the site is a great area to take in some great views of the volcano and Lake Arenal. There are a few different trip routes, with the longest being around 3 miles and shortest about 1 mile. During your guided hike, you will take in the surrounding wildlife while hearing the story of the Arenal volcano. You will walk past large boulders that were part of the initial eruption. The whole trail is made up of molten lava so walking sticks are strongly encouraged. No one is allowed to hike the actual volcano as it is now a protected National park. The 1968 trail ends up at a gorgeous viewpoint area where you can take in the sights of the massive volcano and the largest lake in Costa Rica behind it.

Arenal, Costa Rica: Mistico Hanging Bridges

MISTICO HANGING BRIDGES

Venture across six hanging bridges, some over 50 feet in the air, as you take in all the biodiversity Costa Rica has to offer. At the Mistico Hanging Bridges, you have the option of doing a self-guided or guided tour through the park. I would recommend a guided tour as the guides are experts in spotting wildlife you might have just walked past and never noticed. During the tour you will see monkeys, countless birds, beautiful wild flowers, trees over 100 years old and a few waterfalls. The whole trail is about 2 miles and can take 1-2 hours, but there are options to take a shorter route.

If you are still looking for other activities in the Arenal area, you can always try Costa Rica’s world-famous Canopy Zip-line tours. Some other popular activities include canyoning, white water rafting, night hikes, and safari floats down the Penas Blancas River.

When you’re ready to add a little beach time to your itinerary, check out our recommendations for Guanacaste, our favorite beach region in Costa Rica.

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The Luxury Hotels of Guanacaste, Costa Rica

With so many options for luxury hotels of Guanacaste to choose from, how can you know which option is right for you? Read on for our top 5 picks in this popular region of Costa Rica.

For more on our recommendations for planning your next trip: Discover Pura Vida in Costa Ricaluxury hotels of Guanacaste, Costa Rica

As one of the most popular provinces in Costa Rica, Guanacaste has gained a name for itself as a tropical paradise with a pristine shoreline, beautiful mountain ranges, and a number of volcanoes. Visitors are drawn to the long summer days, active culture and unparalleled wildlife. Located in the far northwest corner of Costa Rica, Guanacaste’s geographical features are diverse and exotic. With endless options for recreation, there are countless reasons why locals and international visitors alike travel to Guanacaste and why you have so many choices for luxury hotels of Guanacaste. Here are our top 5 picks:

Luxury Hotels of Guanacaste: W Costa Rica

W COSTA RICA

When you think of the W Costa Rica, think bold. This resort is located in Guanacaste about 30 minutes from the Liberia airport. The W combines all the color and flare of Costa Rica with a 5-star hotel experience. Every aspect of the hotel was designed with something Costa Rican in mind. For example, the main lobby is designed to look like you are in a forest of Guanacaste trees. 

The W has 150 rooms with almost all rooms having some kind of an ocean view. The hotel offers two restaurants and three bar areas. The W is right on the beach and offers an amazing beach club experience. The hotel has a fun vibe and would be great for any girls trip or for couples that are looking to let their hair down.

Ourisman Travel Tip: Be sure to check out Latitud 10 Norte. Costa Rica shares the same latitude as Thailand, and this restaurant combines Thailand style cooking with Costa Rican ingredients.

luxury hotels of Guanacaste: Las Catalinas

LAS CATALINAS SANTERENA HOTEL

Las Catalinas is one of the most unique properties I have ever visited and my favorite of the properties I was able to visit in Costa Rica. Las Catalinas in a small beach town that popped up around 2008. The idea was to build vacation rentals along a beautiful stretch of beach in Guanacaste. Since 2008, a small town has grown to become a destination with luxury vacation rentals, shops, restaurants, and its own 5 star hotel. All why trying to stay true to their mission of creating a way of life that is healthy, sustainable, fulfilling, and fun. 

At Las Catalinas you have the ability to stay in either the 5 star hotel called the Santarena Hotel or in one of the private homes. The private homes are perfect for any size group or family, as many properties have 3+ bedrooms. Santarena Hotel is great for couples looking to get away and enjoy some beach time.

Ourisman Travel Tip: If you are staying in one of the vacation houses, you can have the staff order your food for the week or you can visit the grocery store that is on-site.

luxury hotels of Guanacaste: Kasiiya Tented Camp

KASIIYA PAPAGAYO

If you are looking for a safari-like experience but may not have the budget or time to visit Africa, the Kaiiya Papagayo offers a cost-effective alternative. This 5 star resort is truly off the beaten path, as the hotel staff has to come pick you up where the road ends to take you to the resort. 

Once you arrive at the resort, it is so peaceful and you truly do feel as if you are one with nature at the start. The hotel is made up of only 5 tented camps. The staff all live on-site to provide you with the 5 star service you are looking for. The property is located directly on one secluded beach, but you will also access to an even more private beach with great opportunities for snorkeling. Wildlife is plentiful: there are monkeys in the trees at all times, and, if you are lucky, they say you might even catch a glimpse of an anteater in action.

Ourisman Travel Tip: Make sure you take advantage of the free snorkeling with one of the expert staff members as your guide.

luxury hotels of Guanacaste: Andaz Papagayo

ANDAZ PAPAGAYO

The Andaz Papagayo’s motto is: relax, reconnect, recharge. You will be able to check off all of those boxes as you stimulate your senses at one of our favorite luxury hotels of Guanacaste. The hotel offers two beaches, a world-class golf course, a first-class spa, an extensive activity program, and distinctive dining experiences.

Rooms are a good size with floor-to-ceiling windows and folding glass doors that invite the magic of the tropical forest into your living space. 

This is the perfect resort if you are looking for a luxury experience in Papagayo but might not have the budget for the Four Seasons.

Ourisman Travel Tip: Get serenaded by birds and ocean waves as you receive a couples massage up in the trees at the Onda Spa.

luxury hotels of Guanacaste: Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo

FOUR SEASONS AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO

Between two beaches on the Pacific Ocean sits the amazing Four Seasons Costa Rica. This resort brings ultra luxury with a flare of Costa Rican culture. Read our in-depth site inspection blog for all of the details on our top pick of the luxury hotels of Guanacaste

Ourisman Travel Tip: The Four Seasons offers a free Costa Rican rum tasting several times throughout the day.

 

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Luxury Ranch Vacations

The team at Ourisman Travel has luxury ranch vacations on our minds lately. We’ve been tuning into our best ranch options so we can bring you the most intriguing and homey places from around the world. Read on to discover some new ranches on the radar…

Ranch vacations incorporate the idea of glamorous, yet rustic hotel accommodations with the “cowboy lifestyle” of horseback riding, fly fishing, and lounging around a campfire under the stars. A luxury ranch vacation adds polish with unique touches including gourmet dining, fine wines, special access to local artists and sportsmen, and, most importantly, top-notch services.

With a luxury ranch vacation, everyone in your family can feel as adventurous or as pampered as they want. Ranching is specifically geared towards accommodating everyone in the family, regardless of age; grandma can kick back and relax at the spa while you go wine tasting and the kids learn archery! Then, everyone gathers around the fire at the end of the day to look for shooting stars, share a s’more, and share their days’ adventures.

luxury ranch: Lodge at Blue Sky, Utah

The Lodge At Blue Sky
Feel as if you are a world away at the Lodge At Blue Sky, nestled in the Wasatch Mountain Range near Salt Lake City Utah. Privacy and Exclusivity were the priority factors when developing this new retreat and it is the perfect spot for anyone looking for a little extra personal space. Experience horseback riding, take part in a wellness retreat or simply relax, sit back and disconnect from busy day-to-day life.

The Lodge at Blue Sky is part of the Auberge Collection, one of our top partners for luxury boutique hotels. It is also a member of Virtuoso and our reservations include the following, amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Breakfast credit for two daily for duration of the stay ($50 maximum per person, per day, excludes alcohol)
  • $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

luxury ranch: Brush Creek, Wyoming

Brush Creek Luxury Ranch Collection
Find tranquility on the range. Brush Creek Ranch is a hideaway curated for couples and families. Brush Creek Ranch is an all-inclusive luxury resort, with three locations in stunning Saratoga, Wyoming. Here, you’ll be able to soak in 30,000 acres of views of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range as well as the Medicine Bow National Forest, all while you fly fish, ride horses, enjoy wine tastings, rock climb, do yoga and so much more!

Brush Creek is another Virtuoso property with a plethora of activities perfect for any member of the family. Complimentary amenities include:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Full breakfast for up to 2 in-room guests, served in Trailhead Lodge Great Room Dining Hall (included in rates)
  • $150.00 per person (up to 2 paying adults per room) towards ANY premium activity of his/her choice (No cash value/non-transferable)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
    Complimentary Wi-Fi

Other luxury ranching options:
Triple Creek Ranch (adults only), Montana
The Resort at Paws Up, Montana
Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana
Sorrel River Ranch, Utah

And for an international flair, look to Central and South America:
Hacienda AltaGracia, Costa Rica
Estancia Vik Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
Estancia La Bamba de Areco, Argentina
Tipiliuke Lodge, Argentina

This transformational style of travel will enrich your life and, ultimately, leave an impression that lasts much longer than the journey itself. There’s a ranch for everyone; Don’t wanna be a cowboy? No problem. Don’t like horses? That’s fine! Crave space and peace? You got it. Up for activities and adventures? Done! Pack your bags and check out the latest travel trend. It’s time to go RANCHING!

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