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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Montage Palmetto Bluff: A Southern Paradise

Montage Palmetto Bluff oozes southern charm and hospitality and transports you to a place where time stands still and relaxation is the only thing that matters.

After passing through the gates into the ultra-exclusive community of Palmetto Bluff, you’ll travel the quaint, winding road lined with old oaks dripping in Spanish Moss. The main building at Montage Palmetto Bluff greets you with a large porch complete with rocking chairs and smiling bellmen at the ready to collect your luggage and direct you to the front desk. The main building is stunning and it is hard to believe that is was built only 3 years ago; the historical integrity of the design is that good.

Check in is quick and seamless with a canoe-shaped wagon at the ready for little guests to select a stuffed animal to kick off their stay.

Canoe Wagon filled with stuffed animals for little guests at the Montage Palmetto Bluff

The Montage Palmetto Bluff has 200 rooms which include 30 stand-alone cottages nestled throughout the property. I was lucky enough to enjoy two nights in a Lagoon View Inn room, which was decorated impeccably with bright bedding and artwork, a comfy loveseat and outfitted with all the comforts of home. The bathroom was a winner, featuring a gorgeous claw-foot tub and a steam shower complete with organic & clean scented toiletries. The balcony was, by far, the best part of the room. With a lovely view of the lagoon, the pool, and one of the several fire pits on site it was the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee and a delicious breakfast.

Late morning view from the Lagoon View Inn Room

The Montage Palmetto Bluff has no shortage of activities on site for guests; there is a bike for every guest and plenty of paved paths to pedal about. Each room also has the option of renting a golf cart for guests who want a more expedient way to explore the expansive property and the extending neighborhood of Palmetto Bluff. Small shops line the pathways opposite the various docks where clients can fish, swim, rent a kayak or even charter a boat with a captain for the day, which is a must! Zipping through the waterways with a seasoned low-country captain is a true South Carolina experience. Our captain, who goes by Boo, drove us through the many creeks that wind through the shoreline, showing us the various wildlife to appreciate in the area. Most notably, we were lucky enough to spot a mother dolphin teaching her baby how to strand; a unique method of hunting fish specific to dolphins that live along to 200 miles of coastline from Charleston to Savannah.

The gorgeous & lush low country

We took a break from boating to explore the area’s diving dock, where guests are encouraged to take part in the local tradition of jumping from 30-foot docks into the warm Carolina waters. Across from the dock is an amazing adventure area guests can rent out complete with an open-air kitchen, picnic tables, hammocks and pathways that wind through the picturesque low-country.

The Montage Palmetto Bluff also offers skeet shooting to its guests to test their skills. The shooting guides took us to one of the blinds and taught us the basics of gun safety, ensuring that we all understood the proper procedure for enjoying this fun and energizing pastime. Incredibly skilled shooters themselves, they were patient in their instruction and helped everyone feel secure in taking their shots. It was my first time shooting skeet and I truly loved every moment of it – going so far as to proclaim it my new hobby! Guests can rent out a time slot and go through the entire circuit with a guide/instructor or they can simply camp out at a blind that accommodates everyone in their party.

Signage denoting the designated skeet shooting area on site

There are 6 restaurants and 2 bars on property, ranging from the fine dining at the Canoe Club to classic, southern fair at Cole’s. Of course, reservations made through Ourisman Travel will include Virtuoso amenities with complimentary breakfast, which can be enjoyed at the Octagon Porch or, treat your self to breakfast in bed and order through in-room dining!

The property also has 3 fire pits that feature a nightly s’mores bar with homemade marshmallows ranging in flavors from classic marshmallow to mocha, crème brulé and key lime pie just to name a few.

S’mores station featuring an array of marshmallow flavors!

Although there are so many things about the Montage Palmetto Bluff that make it special, the biggest takeaway is how family friendly the property is. Kids can be seen biking along the pathways in big groups, having met each other on their own family vacations and enjoying the freedom of running free in a safe environment. It harkens back to the days of coming home when the streetlights come on. Strangers become friends here, enjoying the southern tradition of porch sitting while their children explore the various playgrounds and tree houses that litter Palmetto Bluff. With the weather being warm year-round and a great many activities to keep everyone occupied, the Montage Palmetto Bluff is a fantastic option for a family trip. The nearest airport is located a 20-minute drive in nearby Savannah and though it is tucked away in the countryside it is still easily accessible.

I cannot say enough positive things about this amazing property. To learn more about my experience at the Montage Palmetto Bluff and to book your own visit to this Southern paradise, fill out our Travel Request Form or email the Team at team@ourismantravel.com

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Inn at Perry Cabin: a Getaway Spot on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Inn at Perry Cabin on the Eastern Shore in Maryland makes for a perfect east coast getaway with a good mix of Americana Charm, sense of history and place, a little sporting and activity, delicious local seafood, and plenty of downtime for relaxing.

Inn At Perry Cabin

Sometimes what we need for the soul is something small, quaint and personal; a place where you can turn off your phone and listen to the ducks while enjoying a cup of coffee. East Coasters, especially those of us in the Mid-Atlantic region, are lucky to have just such a place right in our back yard!  As a Talbot County resident, I thought I knew the in’s and out’s on Maryland’s Eastern Shore; that all changed after my weekend of restoration at the Inn at Perry Cabin.

Located in St.Michaels, MD, the Inn at Perry Cabin has a true Americana essence, which fits perfectly in a town that takes pride in fooling the British during the War of 1812.  From the excellent spa services to a world-renowned Sailing experience “the inn” celebrates the natural beauty and magic of my home town.

Inn at Perry Cabin

With a total of 78 rooms and 30 suites, no room category is exactly alike. When I arrived, I was greeted by the aroma of Australian Sandalwood and my luggage was quickly relocated to my Deluxe Partial Water View room.  As I plopped onto my bed with its many layers of down feathers it did not take long to realize this was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever encountered.  A nice bath bomb amenity was the perfect treat to enjoy a very large soaking tub. Throughout my stay, the housekeeping services were excellent and my room always felt fresh and tidy.

The Inn at Perry Cabin is a perfect spot for a relaxing and romantic weekend getaway for couples and features a balanced blend of spa and sport.  I personally enjoyed an 80 min custom massage, private golf lesson, and four-hour sailing excursion.  Other activities on the property include tennis, kayaking, paddle boarding, garden tours and lounging by the pool. The location is also a major perk as you are within walking distance to downtown St. Michaels for additional shopping, dining, and even a Rum distillery visit.

Being a waterman’s daughter, farm/pier to table dining has always been important to me and Perry Cabin values the vast resources that Delmarva has to offer (for you non-residents, Delmarva stands for Delaware, Maryland, Virginia).  Dining at STARS, the inn’s main restaurant was excellent; the menu favors fresh local seafood and responsibly farmed cuts of meat, paired with seasonal vegetables and delightful deserts.  If you’re enjoying a getaway with friends, you must schedule a private dinner in The Miles Room for a truly unique experience of wine pairing and education over a family-style dishes of the chefs choice.  Breakfast was my favorite meal during my visit and I was drooling over the options of homemade pastries, smoked salmon and custom omelets. The beautiful view was the perfect way to start my day of sport on the water.  After my first night, the staff already knew my name and I truly felt at home.

Inn At Perry Cabin

The Inn at Perry Cabin has had its share of management and amenity changes over the years,  but I am so happy to report that something has finally “clicked” and the service was cohesive and very comfortable.  It’s exciting to see the rise of Perry Cabin especially for our beloved golfers.  “Links at Perry Cabin” is the latest addition and was the last design by the legendary Pete Dye.  The Inn is adding additional rooms on the course, which will eventually be known as the “Lodge at Perry Cabin” and are designed for golf trips, groups of friends, or wedding parties.  Apple trees have been planted along with wildflowers for guests to pick and beekeeping is now on the property.

Book with Ourisman Travel (or online with the Virtuoso booking tool) and enjoy the following complimentary amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast served in the restaurant for up to 2 in-room guests (maximum $30 per person, per day)
  • $100 USD Hotel/Resort 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

This historic landmark on the Eastern Shore is picking up momentum and the future for the Inn at Perry Cabin is bright!

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Bawah Reserve: A Private Island with a True Sense of Community

My visit to Bawah Reserve is one of the most incredible travel experiences I have ever had. Each moment of each day at Bawah brought me a sense of wonderment, exploration, serenity, and joy. I can’t shut up about it and I will tell anyone who will listen! I thought writing this particular trip report would be easy because I have so much to say, but I felt great pressure to get it just right. Please read on as I share more about my time at Bawah Reserve. I hope my passion for this special island will inspire you to seek your own incredible travel experiences! Please do not hesitate to reach out to me and the team if you want to learn more!

Bawah Reserve: Hotel Inspection Report

See more pictures from Bawah Reserve here

6 islands, 3 lagoons, 13 beaches

The real highlight of Bawah is the beautiful natural environment. While it isn’t a perfect direct comparison, I find myself likening a stay at Bawah Reserve similarly to an African safari. Instead of game drives, your taking boat rides; instead of a walking safari, you’re snorkeling, and instead of sundowner gin & tonics, your enjoying sunset mojitos at Jules Verne bar. This is a “choose your own adventure” type of format and you can do as much or as little as you want.

All of the facilities were built by hand using as much local materials as possible so the creation of the lodging would not harm the natural setting. This also gives all of the buildings a rustic, organic look – nothing looks out of place. There are so many options for how to spend your time whether it is enjoying the spa (1 complimentary treatment per person, per day included in your stay), hiking in the rain forest, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, oceanfront yoga, beach picnics, stargazing etc. etc.

Bawah Reserve: Beach Picnics, Kayaking, and Snorkeling

My days quickly fell into a simple routine: sunrise kayaking (I even circumnavigated the island!) followed by a light breakfast and a spa treatment, relaxing and reading by the pool or on the beach, lunch with my feet in the sand at the Boat House, afternoon snorkeling, sunset cocktails and a leisurely dinner. I was perfectly content and wish every day could follow this routine!

Dining is all-inclusive (alcohol is for purchase separately) and you have a nice variety of options considering the size of the property. Treetops is the main restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a beautiful rainforest treehouse setting. Jules Verne Bar is upstairs from Treetops and is perfect for sunset cocktails. The Boat House is next to the water activity center and has tables in the sand for casual lunches and BBQ dinners. Grouper bar next to the pool and boat jetty is the social hub where everyone gathers before and after their activities and tours.

35 luxury suites

Bawah Reserve: Beach Suite vs. Overwater Bungalow

During your time at Bawah, you can choose to stay in an overwater bungalow, a beach suite, or a garden suite. While the overwater bungalows are tempting, they were not my favorite. I didn’t like the placement nor the floorpan of the bungalows. Due to tide fluctuations, they need to be placed on tall piers over the water and there is quite a drop from the bungalow to the water at low tide and the units are places very closely next to each other so there isn’t a lot of privacy on your deck and the bedrooms don’t get great air circulation.

I say skip the bungalows and head straight for the beach suite which are locate right on the sand with your own little garden for sunbathing and mere steps from the ocean. These are tented suites on low platforms with canvas walls and roofs. Just because you are sleeping in a tent doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice on the creature comforts. During the day, they get a refreshing ocean breeze and the tents can be closed up and air conditioned at night for ultimate comfort. The bathrooms are outfitted with gorgeous hammered copper tubs and sinks as well as a separate shower (good to know: there is no air conditioning in the bathrooms).

Bawah is not a resort, it is a community. The hotel component of Bawah Reserve supports the non-profit efforts of the Anambas Foundation which created programs like educating the local residents about sustainable farming and fishing practices, building modern waste management and recycling facilities, and rehabilitating local coral reefs. Guests at Bawah Reserve are welcome to volunteer and participate in these programs as much as they like, but you can also relax on the beach knowing that you are already doing a small part to contribute to the foundations efforts.

Where is Bawah Reserve?

Bawah Reserve is made up of 6 tiny islands within the Indonesian Anambas Islands in the Riau archipelago located in the South China Sea northeast of Singapore. Getting there is not easy, but the Bawah staff make it as seamless as possible and the journey is part of the experience!

Bawah Reserve: Getting There

Is Bawah Reserve right for you?

This is the trickiest question for me to answer because I am so much in love with Bawah and I recognize my bias. In my mind, everyone should go to Bawah!

Bawah Reserve: Sunrise Bungalows

I know that’s not actually true; not everybody would love the accommodation style and not everybody is that comfortable being so close to nature and being out in the ocean all day long. So, if I’m trying to be pragmatic, Bawah Reserve is an excellent choice for your next vacation if you are seeking a barefoot luxury experience jam packed with time in the ocean and on the beach. It is a good fit for active couples and well-traveled families. You also need a good amount of time to invest in a trip to Bawah to justify the long flights to Singapore and the cars, ferries, and seaplanes required to get you there.

I am already scheming a return trip for myself, this time with my husband in tow. If these pictures and this description catch your eye, I encourage you to add Bawah Reserve to your bucket list. I want as many people as possible to have the same incredible experiences that I had!

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Dining at Baha Mar, Our Top Picks

Baha Mar is a very large resort complex made up of 3 hotels, a casino, 7+ pools, a giant gym and spa, and over 30 restaurants and bars. Needless to say, experiencing the Baha Mar resort is a lot to digest and, as we learned our way around, it quickly became clear that the dining at Baha Mar was going to be a top highlight of our stay.

Dining at Baha Mar_ Header Image

Related: Read our general overview of Baha Mar here

As one hotel seamlessly flows into the other, it isn’t immediately clear which restaurants and bars belong to which resort and that is fine because guests at any of the 3 hotels have signing privileges at all resort outlets. One thing, you should know is that most restaurants will require advance reservations for dinner, so make a plan before you arrive! You can see a complete list of dining options on the Baha Mar website or on the individual hotel websites. 

Here are our top picks for dining options at Baha Mar:

Dining at Baha Mar | Breakfast:

Regatta Buffet – Buffets can be hit or miss, but Regatta runs a smooth operation with many options to keep everyone in the family happy. We were fans of the omelette station, the build-your-own quesadilla options, and the fresh fruit smoothies. We declined the splurge, but we heard the crepes were a crowd favorite! Regatta is a perfect breakfast option if you’re traveling with your family or a group. Ourisman Travel clients staying at the Grand Hyatt will have the Regatta Buffet included daily with their reservation (for 2 adults per room).

Commonwealth – Ourisman Travel clients staying at the Rosewood will receive complimentary breakfast at Commonwealth. This classic breakfast buffet is smaller and more curated than Regatta, but the ambiance is quieter and more up-scale.

Cafe Madeleine – If all you want is a good cup of coffee and a pastry or quick breakfast (quiche, croissants, etc), then this French inspired cafe is the perfect spot. they offer indoor/outdoor cafe seating or grab-an-go options.

Starbucks – don’t worry, the old standby has a location at Baha Mar!

Dining at Baha Mar | Lunch:

Dining at Baha Mar _ Costa at RosewoodCOSTA – Dining at COSTA for lunch (twice) was hands down one of our best meals during our stay at Baha Mar. This restaurant is nestled in the Rosewood courtyard garden so it might be hard to find if you aren’t staying at Rosewood, but it is worth the hunt! The menu features latin flavors and the restaurant as an island oasis setting, the dining “cabanas” look like they are floating over a giant koi pond. Mexican cuisine in the Bahamas seems like an odd choice, but the chef comes from Rosewood Mayakoba and the food is incredible, so it works!  Fresh tuna and red snapper ceviche, paired with great guacamole, Mexican street corn and mushroom ‘al ajillo’ provided the perfect blend of nutrition and flavor. While sipping our Grand Marnier margarita’s, we were even treated to a parade of baby flamingos!

Fi’lia – Carpaccio, Caprese, and Calamari! This italian eatery has all you need for a relaxing al fresco lunch. We recommend the local conch arancini and truffle pizza. Add in a glass or two of rosé and your lunch is complete!

One of the fun features of Baha Mar is all of the food trucks and street food style “shacks” dotted around the resort. So, while you’re relaxing out by the pool, you don’t have to throw your cover-up on and head to a restaurant for lunch, you can just wander over to a food truck for tacos, burgers, hot dogs, etc. Our favorite was Da’ Poke Bowl Shack for giant bowls with rice, crisp veggies, and delicious marinated tuna.

Dining at Baha Mar | Dinner:

Carna – The restaurant was recommended to us by the GMs of both the SLS and the Grand Hyatt and it was backed up by every staff member with spoke to. So, with high expectation, we saved our reservation at Carna for our final dinner at Baha Mar. We wanted to round out our site inspection trip with a proper steak and full-bodied red wine. Located in the hub of the casino, Carna’s vibe is warm and modern.  Clear display cases of different cuts of meat provide a rustic butcher feel followed by plush seating and excellent service.  We decided to go a classic route; Wagyu beef, brussels sprouts with a surprising soy kick and mashed potatoes that had more butter than potatoes.  But a little decadence is what vacation is all about.  Pairing the meal with a bottle of Brunello was the perfect way to round out all the flavors Carna provided.

Cleo Mediterraneo – Who doesn’t love tapas?! Cleo is located in the SLS lobby and word quickly got out that it is a top favorite at the resort. The meze platters, kebabs, and pita bread and dipping sauces kept our group happy and well fed! The crowd favorite dishes were the brussels sprouts, haloumi cheese, and spicy cigars.

CommonwealthLocated on the lowest level of the Rosewood, this brasserie offers a variety of dishes that take you around the world; each dish is inspired by a different country in the British Commonwealth. Try the honey glazed prawns, tuna & green apple tartare, and burrata to start, followed by flavorful pork shoulder, grilled Canadian lobster with mustard and cognac, or local grouper fish and chips. The classic beef Wellington is one of their top choices as well.  If you’re feeling adventurous for dessert try the Sky Juice ice cream, which is a take on a traditional Bahamian beverage of coconut water, condensed milk, spices and gin.

Other good dinner options are Shuang Ba (we regret we didn’t get a chance to try this as it comes highly recommended), 3 tides for good seafood, and Katsuya for sushi.

Cocktails at Baha Mar:

Dining at Baha Mar _ Manor BarManor Bar – if you’re feeling moody and want a dramatic atmosphere with classic old-world cocktails and a large rum list, this is where you want to start your evening. The decor in this room has a feel of a gentlemen’s club with deep velvet sofas, leather arm chairs, jewel tones, and dramatic lighting. The menu is inventive and the servers are friendly and chatty. The room is small so it fills up fast and service was sometimes slow, so give yourself plenty of time if you’re on the clock for a dinner reservation.

Monkey Bar – if you go to Manor Bar when you’re feeling moody, then go to Monkey Bar when you’re feeling fun and social. This is the lobby bar at the SLS and it is definitely the best casual hang out space in the entire resort. The drinks are simple and the people-watching is fantastic! The large lobby is divided into small conversation areas so the buzzy atmosphere never gets too crazy and you can still comfortably hold a conversation.

SkyBar – Want more energy than the lounge bars but not quite ready for the nightclubs? The rooftop bar at the SLS is the perfect in-between option. It still has a “see and be seen” vibe, but it is still pretty laid back and the views overlooking the resort are worth seeing! Note: during slower times, SkyBar is only open on weekends.

We weren’t sure what to expect from Baha Mar, but we were pleasantly pleased with all of the dining options! We did have some complaints about slow service, which isn’t surprising in a young resort like this. Otherwise, our meals were all good quality with fresh ingredients and there is enough variety so you can have something different each day, even over a week-long vacation.

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Everything You Need to Know about Baha Mar in the Bahamas

As soon as it opened, Baha Mar quickly became one of our top-selling resorts for 2018. The convenient location (especially for east coasters), excellent value, and variety of choice in hotel accommodation are all nice features drawing a lot of attention. But, we don’t recommend booking this one blindly! Because this resort offers a little something for everybody, you have to know what you’re buying to make sure you’re getting the option that is the best fit for you!

Jessica and I recently visited Baha Mar to see for ourselves what the fuss is all about and to gather insight on how best to manage reservations here so our clients continue to get the best service and the best value. Read on for a round-up of our take-aways and advise for making the most of your stay at Baha Mar.

Quick Facts:

  • Location: Nassau, Bahamas – only 10-minutes from the airport
  • Three Hotels: Grand Hyatt, SLS, and Rosewood
  • Dining: over 30 restaurants, bars, and lounges – read more on our top picks for dining
  • Highlights: On-site Casino, ESPA Spa, multiple pools, buzzing nightlife, and sea life sanctuary

Top Tips:

  • Know what you’re buying: The best comparison we can think of is the Mayakoba resorts (Riviera Maya, Mexico) smashed together with the Bellagio casino in Vegas. This resort is not for everyone, but they offer a little something for nearly all travel styles! For us, the biggest draw is location and convenience. This is not where you go for a grand celebration type of trip, but it is a great option for an easy beach getaway!
  • Pre-book your arrival transfer: The hotel airport transfer service is seamless and speedy. They have an arrivals lobby right outside baggage claim and they will whisk you away to your car. Definitely arrange your transfer with the hotel concierge so you can start your beach vacation as fast as possible.
  • Pre-book your dinner reservations: This is a must if you are staying over the weekend! While there are many restaurants to choose from, the best options for sit-down dinners will book up fast and there will be long waits for any walk-ins. It is best to have a dining plan already set before you arrive.

Baha Mar

Immediately on arrival, it is clear that this is a resort on a grand scale! Each of the three hotels have their own entrance, which helps immediately disperse the crowds. The casino is central to nearly everything within the resort and guests staying in the Grand Hyatt will have to walk though the casino to get from the front desk to their rooms (unless they are staying in the Reserve; more on that later). It is important to know that it is not easy to avoid walking through the casino and there is indoor smoking; while the air circulation is very good, the noise and smells from the casino could be a turn-off.

In our opinion, the best feature of Baha Mar is the variety of restaurant and bar options. No matter which hotel you are staying at, you can charge back to your room from anywhere within the resort. Each hotel offers a different vibe and we loved being able to change the scene depending on desired ambience.


Three Hotels Within One Resort

SLS:  The SLS lobby quickly became our favorite hangout space. We loved Monkey Bar in the lobby  and Sky Bar on the roof for pre-dinner cocktails. All of the spaces in the SLS have a young and fresh feel with unique decor and chill vibe.

The rooms here are very stark and not our top pick but the price point is great. This is a good option for young couples and groups of friends. SLS is known for their nightclubs around the world, so it was fitting for them to host the nightclub, Bond as a party option on the lower level of the resort.

Grand Hyatt: Taking center stage at the Baha Mar Resort, the Grand Hyatt is the largest of the 3 hotels. It has 2 tower wings with the Casino and dining options in the middle. The west tower offers rooms that are crisp and modern while the east tower features a more dramatic, moody decor. All rooms are a comfortable size and most will feature balconies.

The Reserve at Grand Hyatt creates a luxury hotel within a hotel with separate entrance, private reception lounge, and private elevators. Complimentary light bites and wine, tea, and coffee are also served to guests each afternoon in the Reserve lobby. This option is the best value of all of the hotel options at Baha Mar.    

With Hyatt Privé amenities, our clients enjoy a $100 property credit, potential room upgrade, complimentary breakfast for two at Regatta, and a few other perks throughout the stay.

Rosewood:  If you want a true luxury hotel experience, you must stay at the Rosewood. There is a major shift in decor and atmosphere as soon as you enter the Rosewood territory. It is quieter with serene color tones and comfortably relaxed, yet still classically formal decor; it even smells nicer. Away from the hustle and bustle, Rosewood is a place for guests to enjoy the finer things the resort has to offer. Though the dining options and Manor bar are open to all guests, access to room floors and pool area are strictly for guests only. When the main Baha Mar resort complex gets loud or busy, it is nice to have the Rosewood pools to retreat to for a calmer pool-side experience.

At the Rosewood, it is clear that staff understands it is often the little touches in service that can make or break a 5-star hotel experience. Guests will enjoy special moments like a complementary ice cream cart and a flamingo parade for the kids (or kids at heart), complimentary sun screen by the pool, and special turn down treats on your pillow at night.

Our reservations at Rosewood Baha Mar include Virtuoso Amenities with potential room upgrade, complimentary breakfast for two, and $100 resort credit. You can even book this one yourself using the Virtuoso hotel booking tool!

The Public Spaces

There is so much to take in at Baha Mar from the casino, to the Vegas-style water fountain show, to the multitude of dining options and galleria shopping. After grabbing a cup of coffee at the French bistro, you can wanter through the art studio and chat with local artists about their latest projects and the importance of supporting the local community. Next door was an area where guests can paint and complete crafts on a possible rainy day. There’s also a large function space for weddings and conferences but they keep that area nicely tucked away so it won’t disturb vacationing guests.

Guests at all 3 hotels have access to the ESPA spa and gym. Advance reservations are recommended for the spa; the 24 treatment rooms fill up quickly. The gym is very large and well equipped and even has outdoor exercise equipment so you can work out with an ocean breeze!

The pool complex offers several options so nothing ever feels crowded and everyone will find their home. Nestled amongst the pools and along the beach, you will find an array of food trucks, pool-side bars, and gift shops. The Exploration Center has a sea-sea-life exhibit with nurse sharks, sea turtles, and a touch pool with starfish and baby rays. This area was a highlight for kids and grown ups! With 30+ restaurants and bars, the dining scene at Baha Mar deserved its own details write-up; read our thoughts on the dining options here

Bottom Line:

Will we return to Baha Mar and recommend it to our clients? Absolutely!

The Baha Mar resort has a lot to offer and we are excited to have strong relationships at all 3 hotels so we can offer our clients the best possible value. You definitely need to know what you’re getting into when planning a vacation to Baha Mar and we’re here to guide the way!

Ready to go? Let us know how we can help!

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Elevate Your Travel Experiences

Ultra-luxury is now ultra personalized.  Our travel industry partnerships and our team’s signature intuitive creativity work together every day to design unique and curated experiences for our clients.

elevate your travel experiences

If you’re looking to elevate your next trip and truly travel like a VIP,  check out our top tips for how to take your next trip to the next level:

Don’t Be Shy: Booking with Ourisman Travel means automatic VIP status.  So why not request the little things that will make your booking more comfortable. What helps you feel at home in a hotel room? Do you have a favorite scent, late-night snack, or preference for certain firmness of pillow? Tell us! You may not realize just how important this simple information can be and it often leads to some creative thinking from our team and our partners.  By letting us know of an anniversary, job promotion celebration, or even a baby-moon, you are helping us elevate your stay with celebration-oriented gifts and amenities! Luxury is personal, so let us get to know you!

elevate your travel experiences

Ride in Style: A simple concierge request to be picked up from the airport in a luxury vehicle is a basic utility.  But we like to think outside the box and turn a mundane transfer into a highlight of the entire trip.  How about arriving in a helicopter, speedboat, yacht, or hot air balloon? You can even make an entrance by sky-diving!

The arrival, is only the beginning. Sometimes, the journey itself is the highlight. Carve your way through the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Rockies onboard the world-renowned Rocky Mountaineer Train, float above exotic landscapes in a hot-air balloon, or take a horseback safari through the African bush, galloping from camp to camp.  Elaborate transportation is a sure-fire way to plan a trip that  you will never forget!

elevate your travel experiences

Seek a Unique Experience:  Yes, a five star hotel option is an experience within itself, but take your travel plans to the next level and set out a day of intention.  Schedule a private early morning museum tour before the doors open.  Watch sumo wrestling in Japan and pair it with a dinner eating Nabe, the traditional stew wrestlers eat.  Or, receive a sloppy kiss from a giraffe! Not many people get to brag they met face-to-face with a giraffe.

elevate your travel experiences

Pick Up A Hobby: Have you ever wanted to test out your photography skills? Why not  pick up a photography class during your stay in a new destination! We can help you find classes that will bring out that inner photographer. Speaking of photography, if  you want breathtaking photos of your adventures, but don’t want to be the one behind the lens, we can set you up with a professional photographer for a photoshoot on location so you can go home with amazing photographic memories from your trip.

When it comes to learning something new while traveling the world, the opportunities are endless. In addition to cooking and photography, we also help our clients learn new skills like painting, pottery, wine-making, clothing design, horseback riding, or learning a new sport.

All about the flavor:  If you are a foodie, travel is the perfect time to awaken your taste buds.  Learn about unique local ingredients and preparations with a market tour; take your shopping spoils to the kitchen to try your hand and making some local favorites.  A cooking class with a renowned chef can  be fun and educational while also giving you the opportunity to extend your trip once you return home by recreating your favorite dishes long after the trip has ended.

If you don’t want to get hands on in the kitchen, we know the real indulgence is often in the tasting, not the cooking! This is when we recommend a progressive dining tour or a street food tasting tour. Visit a famous hawker center in Singapore with a local who can tell you exactly where to go for the best chicken rice, or follow your stomach through the many vibrant neighborhoods of Mexico City on a taco tasting tour. The possibilities (and flavors) are endless. Looking for something really special? We can help with restaurant recommendations for some of the most celebrated restaurants around the world.

Express yourself:  Pick up an art class in Rome and draw the Spanish Steps, or walk the footsteps of some of Mexico’s most revered artists including Frida Kahlo. Perhaps you’d rather express yourself through movement and a tango class in Argentina or flamenco in Spain is more your style? The new cruise line Virgin Voyages even offers Squid Ink tattoos from famous tattoo artists, so you can express yourself and come home with a life long souvenir. The possibilities are endless!

Create Life in Balance: Whatever your intention, we can help you discover an array of mindfulness-based activities to open your eyes, mind and heart. Practice yoga atop the mountain peaks of Peru or in the vineyards of Napa Valley, meditate in the desert or on the shores of a serene pond, or try something new like equine therapy.

By nourishing your curiosity, you leave no room for regret. Celebrate opportunities to embrace new destinations and new experiences and treat yourself to new luxuries along the way!  Take time to be with family and friends, find space for your wellbeing on adventures to remember, in places you’ve never been, revealing depths you didn’t know existed.  Let us elevate your travel experience and you’ll never wonder what could have been.

elevate your travel experiences

Find Your Path: Trek to lost temples, snorkel coral reefs or live like a local. Tours are often a great way to discover culture and experience.  With our resources, you can experience private tours in the ruins of Jordan, walk the streets of Colonial Mexico City with a local so you can see the spaces people often miss out on.

Seas The Day: When you’re traveling to a coastal region, the best views are often on the water looking back in. You’ll gain a whole new perspective of your destination and be rewarded with unique skyline and landscape views. We can help you coordinate a sailing or speedboat excursion in some of the best destinations around the world. Think sunsets in Santorini, incredible rock formations in Los Cabos, or a day trip to Capri in Italy. The world is your oyster, so why not test out your sea legs on a private yacht!

Recover:  Re-entry into the real world after an amazing vacation, can be rough and the least celebrated luxury is often time itself. To really pamper yourself, try scheduling for recovery time when you get home.  Sometimes jet lag alone is enough to keep you in bed for the day, but there is also an added benefit to allowing yourself some time to unpack, do laundry, and relish in your recent travel experience by taking a moment to reflect and organize your travel photos.


elevate your travel experiences

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Meet The Wanderer – Ansley Davis

Whether it’s a planned vacation or a last minute trip just outside her city, Ansley is always looking forward to venturing to new places and experiencing new things. She’s accustomed to and confident in traveling alone, and finds joy in maneuvering her way around new cities, making new friends, and fully immersing herself in other cultures/customs.

For Ansley, the most exciting and intriguing part of travel is simply to escape the ordinary, day-to-day routine. She admits, “I fall into work mode and let the social and fun parts of life slip through the cracks all too often, so when I take time to travel, I have the space to slow down, value my surroundings and experiences, soak in the world’s beauty, and focus on being present.”

Ansley enjoying Florence with her mother

The most memorable aspects of every trip happen when Ansley steps outside of her comfort zone. Whether it’s trying popular foods from a specific area, befriending a local and letting them guide an experience, or seizing the opportunity to do what she loves in a new setting, exploring and truly seeing the world is what draws her to travel. ”I am a ball of energy – so I’m always on the go! On recent trips, I have filled my time with activities like yoga classes, dance classes, hiking, and cooking classes, but I also like to walk around and see all the small, less obvious traits that make a particular place unique and special.” Even at home in Chicago, Ansley often fills her free time hopping on the train and heading out to explore a new neighborhood to walk around and explore. “I love to feel like a tourist in my own city!” she says.

Ansley showing off some moves in a canyon

Ansley, like many Wanderers, tends to find herself packing the night before a trip. Though that doesn’t mean that she leaves home completely unprepared. Ansley likes to do some research before traveling to educate herself on cultural customs, local hot spots & to get a general lay of the land. Ansley’s mantra while traveling is “how can I challenge myself today” & she strives to experience new things wherever she goes. Aside from the usual travel essentials, you’ll never catch Ansley without her travel yoga mat, affirmation cards (The Universe Has Your Back – Gabrielle Bernstein), and quality headphones!

As a Wanderer, it’s difficult for Ansley to pinpoint a specific place she wants to travel to next. For her, it’s less about location and more about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. “Any vacation where I can spend part of my time in a city, while also having access to the outdoors, is the ideal place for me. I like to have the balance of fun and fast-paced life that metropolitan areas have to offer, but also be able to relax and thrive in the outdoors. Being on the water is a plus, always!” However, if she had to narrow it down to a top three for her destination bucket list — Thailand, New Zealand, and South Africa are at the top!

No trip is complete without a little shopping!

Tips for a Wanderer from a Wanderer? – “TRY IT! Even if you’re hesitant. You never know what’s through that door!”

Are you a Wanderer? Take our quiz and find your travel personality along with recommendations for destinations, hotels, and activities that fit your style!

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