Eight Things to Do at Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya

I recently stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, an all-inclusive resort from the world famous brand. While it may not have been an obvious choice of resort for me personally, I have to say that I had a great time. My short stay there actually changed my mind about the brand.

I’m happy to report that I would definitely stay at an all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel again given the chance. Not only is the property stunning and elegant, but it also offers a number of features you’d be hard pressed to find in other all-inclusive resorts in Cancun and Riviera Maya.

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If you’re looking for awesome things to do in Riviera Maya, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya will probably have you covered for at least 3 days of your visit. That’s because the hotel offers so much  eight things you should definitely experience when staying at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya:

Stay in a Deluxe Platinum Sky Terrace at Heaven

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If you’re not traveling with kids, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya’s adults-only section, aptly called Heaven, is definitely the way to go. It’s quieter, more relaxing and less chaotic. Have a bigger budget? Then splurging on a Deluxe Platinum Sky Terrace suite is the way to go. This two-floor suite comes with the luxurious furnishings and amenities plus a private rooftop (second floor) with a big Jacuzzi. A dip in a private hot tub under that stars, anyone? Have the staff set it up for you, and bring up some drinks from your in-room stash!

Note: this room option is also available on the family-friendly Hacienda side. 

Stay Active and Attend a LES MILLS Fitness Class


Working out may be the last thing in your mind when you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort like Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. But trust me when I tell you that the LES MILLS classes that the resort has on offer for its guests are worth experiencing. They currently have 13 different fitness classes available. And they’re all pretty awesome as LES MILLS integrates a motivating pop music soundtrack with every workout, making them fun to do. And their instructors are very positive and inspiring. BODYCOMBAT (a kickboxing type workout) is a particular favorite of mine, but they have everything from BODYFLOW (a Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates inspired workout) to BODYJAM (a dance and cardio BJ workout). This means that there are options for every taste and level. So don’t forget to pack your workout clothes or buy the super comfy LES MILLS+REEBOK ones.

Join a Paddle Boarding Tour

Exploring coves and lagoons must be at the top of your list of things to do in Riviera Maya. And Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya’s beach is essentially divided into several different naturally protected coves. And the waters in each of these coves are so calm that they feel like they’re manmade pools. So they’re great for paddle boarding, and perfect for those who have never done the sport before and want to learn. The all-inclusive resort only currently offers paddle boarding through a guided tour on certain days every week. But it’s worth doing. Check their current paddle boarding tour schedule and make sure to register in advance.

Go Sailing and Wine Tasting at Sunset

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Partnering with popular excursion company Riviera Maya Adventures, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya offers guests a sailing cruise as part of their excursion packages. We opted for something a little different and instead went at sunset and did a little wine tasting. On our version of the excursion (which isn’t currently offered to guests) we got to do a Mexican-style wine and cheese (and charcuterie) pairing with the hotel’s very own sommelier. We got to sample different Mexican wines whilst enjoying lovely views of the sunset. And you might even get a glimpse of passing rays and sea lions. We did!

Reconnect with Yourself in a Temazcalimg_3390

Temazcal is an Igloo-shaped sauna-type lodge that’s traditionally used in many parts of Mexico. It’s supposed to have physical and spiritual healing benefits, and used by people to get away from the outside world and just reconnect with with one’s self. It’s become a trend, in fact, and one of the more Mayan-related things to do in Riviera Maya. Today, many resorts have started to open Temazcal experiences to their guests, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya including. At the resort, an actual shaman is with you throughout the whole ritual, which involves several steps, including a Mayan blessing ceremony with amber. It’s a unique and cathartic spa treatment that every person should experience at least once.

Warning: If you’re extremely claustrophobic or have certain medical conditions, this might not be the experience for you.

Get the Rhythm and Motion Massage at the Rock Spa

I opted for an aromatherapy message at the Rock Spa, and there wasn’t really anything special about it. However, the other ladies that I went with chose to do Hard Rock brand’s signature Synchronicity Massage, which is part of their Rhythm and Motion offering. A very unique spa menu, Rhythm and Motion is the world’s first fully immersive music-centric spa menu utilizing amplified vibrations produced by several rock and pop songs and couples them with different massage pressures and patterns that change with the rhythm. While this may not sound very relaxing, it’s apparently quite calming and effective. And, as it is something different, it’s definitely worth a try.

Pay for an Over-the-Water Cabana_dsf7646

Hard Rock Riviera Maya has several cabanas all over the property. If you have the budget for it (as it’s not included in the all-inclusive package), it’s definitely worth renting one for the day. If you’re loaded, rent one for your whole stay. And opt for the over-the-water ones. The ones on the beach are nice, but these over-the-water ones have the perfect view of the sun rising and they have direct access to the water. They’re also great for those who love the water but are not particularly fond of sand.

Party at Club Heaven

I’m not necessarily a party or club person and I’m also not very fond of club crowds in general. But clubbing is a typical part of the experience and one of the usual things to do in Riviera Maya. And once in a while I do enjoy going to clubs and letting lose. To be honest, I actually had a lot of fun partying at Club Heaven, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya’s onsite club. It’s famous for the indoor pool and two Jacuzzis that are set in the middle right in front of the DJ booth. This means that you can take a dip in the pool as you party or when you get too hot from dancing.

If you want to splurge, reserving a private booth for your party is definitely worth it as it can get pretty crowded. Plus, you’ll pretty much have a server constantly checking up on you to see if you need anything.


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Vignettes of NEST Tulum

From its quiet sandy path that winds past its beautiful, minimalist rooms to its idyllic beach lined with comfortable beach beds and cabanas, the 9-room boutique property of NEST Tulum is simply perfection. Nestled along Tulum‘s hotel zone, it boasts wonderful rooms that boast the plushest beds, exquisite furnishing, cute Mexican accents, delicious bathroom amenities, and no TVs so guests can unplug and simply unwind. Some of them, including my Tower Two room, feature balcony views of the ocean.

It’s since become one of my favorite properties.

Keep an eye out for my review of the property on TravelPulse. In the meantime, see my photos of the property below so you have an idea of how amazing this property is.








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Hotel Review: The Royal Playa del Carmen, Dressed Down Yet Elegant

A tranquil courtyard, green and decorated here and there with unusual metal sculptures, led arriving guests from The Royal Playa del Carmen‘s enormous lobby to the pools and the beach beyond. Standing there, it’s quite easy to fully appreciate the resort’s allure. Six or so elegantly beautiful Mexican hacienda-style structures, painted white for a more modern flair, rise above you in their modest grandness, their doric columns and intricate iron railing balconies both intimate and inviting.

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The Royal Playa del Carmen

Back in the courtyard, two paths on the opposite sides lead to the pool area, where two big pools sit, busy with guests enjoying their fruity cocktails and flanked with at least two hot tubs, possibly a couple hundred lounge chairs and several curtained cabanas, all arranged in a very appealing way. From here, you can hear the sounds of the waves as they kiss the beach, the famous Playa del Carmen beach, that lay just a few steps beyond.

Cabanas at The Royal Playa del Carmen
View from my hotel suite at The Royal Playa del Carmen
View from my hotel suite at The Royal Playa del Carmen

I was almost sad to leave the brilliant blue waters of Cancun behind, which was where I was until an hour earlier. But walking onto that serene, cream-colored beach and seeing that familiar turquoise waters of the Riviera Maya again after so many months, I am reminded of why I prefer it over Cancun’s partying ways.

It was here where, a little over a year ago, I fell in love with the Yucatan Peninsula and this unfailingly intriguing country. Having a smaller budget then, I made do with a cheap-ish studio apartment that turned out to be more expensive than its actually worth. Picture rough sheets, no air conditioning to take shelter from the tropical heat, a ceiling fan that sounded as if it was about to fly off its base any minute to shred me to bits in my sleep, and the occasional roach in the tiny bathroom that, judging from their gigantic size, could also possibly murder me during slumber. The only good thing that AirBnB find had going for it, in fact, was that it was just a short stroll from Playa’s main tourist strip.

This time around, I find myself, with incredible relief, surrounded in luxury. With over 500 upscale rooms, the all-inclusive Royal Playa del Carmen is an adults-only, beachfront property whose well-appointed suites boasts a massive bathroom, a Jacuzzi, and at times, a private plunge pool. It comes, undeniably, with palatial elegance, from its architecture down to the excellent service, but that elegance is also somehow charmingly subdued. It is, in other words, posh without being stuffy and superior, upscale but sincerely friendly. It’s one of the many things I love about it.

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Suites with private plunge pools at The Royal Playa del Carmen

I also love its abundance of delightful surprises that you’ll truly be hard-pressed to find in other properties, let alone in an all-inclusive one. Consider, for example, its quiet pool area–a gorgeous hidden gem that you wouldn’t know existed until either somebody told you or you just happened to discover it while getting lost in the resort’s expansive grounds. Consider nearby the onsite coffee shop–an unusual thing for an all-inclusive property–that serves proper lattes and is always ready with plates of cookies and muffins for afternoon indulging.

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The Royal Playa del Carmen
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Consider also the spa, whose bamboo-enclosed outdoor massage area may just be as glorious as those ones on the beach, the 24-hour snack bar where you can grab delicious snacks as well as good wine and cerveza any time of the day, the balcony hammocks that you wouldn’t have to fight anyone for, the pool concierge who is ready to lend a hand when you’ve run out of sunscreen, and even the friendly stray cats the staff has kindly allowed to stay on property for guests to dote on.

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Spa Azul at The Royal Playa del Carmen
Spa Azul at The Royal Playa del Carmen

And I love the food, the delicious fares of Brazilian, Asian Fusion, Spanish, Mediterranean, Caribbean, and French Mexican type cuisines that you can indulge in, guilt-free because you are, after all, on vacation. And because it’s hard to stay at this resort and not indulge. The sheer loveliness of it, whether bathed in sunshine or swathed in dusky blue, will make anyone drop their guard and simply revel in anything and everything.

Though most of all, I love that it’s one of those places where you, without meaning to, just automatically drop your shoulders, straighten your spine and walk as if you’re wearing a thousand dollar dress. But really you know no one will look down their noses at you if you’re sweating through your cheap, Target-bought top after just getting back from exploring the ruins of Tulum under that sweltering, unforgiving midday sun.

Or when, on your last day, you just happen to take a slip on an oversized sandbag while you were walking on a neighboring beach (because why wouldn’t you?), and you’re walking back to your suite all gross, your legs sandy and your bottom algae-covered.

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8 Reasons to Spend Your Family Vacation at Boca Raton Resort & Club

Boca Raton Resort & Club exterior and poolBoca Raton Resort & Club exterior and pool (Courtesy Waldorf Astoria)

On Florida’s eastern coast not far from Miami is Boca Raton Resort & Club, a Southern luxury escape that presents an idyllic setting frequented by families and other patrons since the latter part of the Twenties. Not far from Florida’s major destinations but far enough to be pleasantly secluded, it’s the perfect option if you’re looking to get away from your hectic city life.

Here are eight wonderful reasons why you should spend your next vacation with the whole family in this Gold Coast resort.


It’s a quiet hideaway. While only an hour away from buzzing Miami, less than 30 minutes from Fort Lauderdale, and around two hours from Orlando, Boca Raton Resort & Club feels like you’re in another land altogether, nestled far away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. It’s the perfect spot for families looking for a relaxed, unaffected getaway without being far removed from civilization.


Its year-round tropical climate. Whether taking the kids during spring break, in the summer, or over the Christmas holidays, you will be treated to pleasant, sunny weather and warm, blue waters.


Beautiful front exterior of the resortBeautiful front exterior of the resort (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Its beautiful architecture. The lovely façade of its original structure greets visitors as they pull into the main drive, peachy-pink in color and resembling the fictional Grand Budapest Hotel. The main lobby inside is just as remarkable, with bright interiors that feature high ceilings and windows, multiple archways, and an intricate design. Further into the property are gardens, fountains, mosaics, open air corridors, and other accents that help make this resort a romantic setting for a picturesque vacation in the South.


One of the many kid-friendly activities at the resort.One of the many kid-friendly activities at the resort. (Courtesy Waldorf Astoria)

It has many kid-friendly activities. Beyond the resort’s several kid-friendly pools, active families will find a good number of options to entertain the kids and keep them from getting bored, a task easier said than done. Arts & crafts, quests, and golf and tennis camps provide fun, educational experiences for the kids while the surf school, the new kid-favorite FlowRider, and other land and water activities keep them occupied. With the help of the resort’s well-furnished Mizner’s Quest Club and its trained staff, planning a fun vacation for the kids is effortless.


It has great activities for adults, too! Kayak or paddleboard out into the beautiful, pristine waters, rent a boat, learn to surf, golf, play a game of croquet, have a spa day, or go sunning at the beach or by the pool while enjoying a nice fruity drink. Whether you’re looking for an active vacation or an idler one, there’s always something for adults to do at the resort.


Private beach at the Boca Raton Beach ClubPrivate beach at the Boca Raton Beach Club (Courtesy Waldorf Astoria)

It has a private beach on the Atlantic. The privilege of having access to a private beach, quiet and uncrowded, is underrated and underappreciated… that is, until you’ve lazed around in one. Boca Raton Resort’s beach is exclusive only to its guests and members, making it safer and more peaceful, with more space for large families to spread out and kids to run around.


Waldorf Astoria SpaWaldorf Astoria Spa (Courtesy Waldorf Astoria)

The spa is an experience in and of itself. The resort’s onsite spa, Waldorf Astoria Spa, has repeatedly been named one of the best spas in the world. It’s a much-deserved distinction, as proven by the spa’s unforgettable signature treatments that include a luxurious caviar facial and 50-minute Ritual Bath. If a relaxing vacation is what you want, then a spa day here is an absolute must.


Its got one of the best restaurants in Palm Beach County. Its contemporary furnishings, friendly staff and high-vantage views of the Atlantic and the Intracoastal Waterway aren’t the best things about Boca Raton Resort & Club’s New American restaurant, THE BLUE; it is, as it should be, the food. From its fresh seafood selection to its heavenly meat dishes to its equally memorable side dish offerings, THE BLUE is dedicated in giving its guests a wonderful dining experience that’s less based on fluff and gimmicks and more on the actual meal.


(Originally published on MiniTime.com)

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Hotel Review: Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Why Go: Go back in time and find out what it was like living in the 60s at Universal Resort Orlando’s family-friendly Cabana Bay Beach Resort, where the retro cool style of Mad Men meets the fun, futuristic utopia of The Jetsons.

The latest onsite hotel addition to one of the most popular theme park resorts in the world is perfect for families with a penchant for bright colors and vintage design. And as Universal Orlando’s first value-to-moderate hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort treats guests, young and old, to pretty, candy-colored aesthetics, great kid-friendly pools, plush beddings and easy access to the theme parks at super affordable rates.

Cabana Bay Beach ResortCabana Bay Beach Resort (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Getting There: Situated next to Interstate 4, Cabana Bay Beach Resort is easily accessible whether you’re driving from another city or taking the shuttle from the Orlando International Airport 20 minutes away. A complimentary shuttle is available to and from the theme parks.

Getting Oriented: The retro-themed hotel sits on the Southwestern corner of the Universal Orlando complex, with Universal’s Islands of Adventure directly to the North and Loews Royal Pacific Resort to the East.

Family suite at the Cabana Bay Beach ResortFamily suite at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Room Options: Families large and small will find the rooms at Cabana Bay pleasantly comfortable and roomy. A family of four will enjoy spacious accommodations in a standard room with two queen beds while a family of six will find a family suite with a kitchenette, an additional full-size sofa bed and extra large bathroom to their liking. Large and multi-generational families will love the connecting rooms and suites perfect for spreading out while still having easy access to one another.

For the Whole Family: Picnic tables, a lawn, a pool table, and a bean bag toss give families plenty of fun things to do together at the resort. However, water fun is never far away on days when you want a break from the theme parks and need to cool down and relax.

Pool at the Cabana CourtyardPool at the Cabana Courtyard (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Separated into two courtyards – Cabana Courtyard and Lazy River Courtyard, Cabana Bay’s huge recreation area boasts two big, zero-entry pools (open from 8 am to 11 pm) with plenty of umbrellas and lounge chairs, a lazy river, a waterslide, a hot tub, a small sand beach, and several cabanas to rent for privacy. The Cabana Courtyard features one pool, the waterslide, the cabanas and Atomic Tonic for refreshments. The Lazy River Courtyard, on the other hand, is home to the lazy river, the second pool, the sand beach and The Hideaway Bar & Grill.

Indoors, the resort’s 10-lane bowling alley and restaurant, Galaxy Bowl, give families the option to hit the lanes while having casual dinner. There are also several shopping and dining opportunities, including a Starbucks and a Universal Gift Shop.

Just for Kids: Little ones will love the kids’ splash pad located next to the waterslide at the Cabana Courtyard. Big kids, tweens and teens will enjoy the arcade games at Game-O-Rama, which features old school classics like skeeball.

Galaxy BowlGalaxy Bowl (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Where to Eat: The full-service hotel offers six gastronomic opportunities. Poolside eats and drinks available at The Hideaway Bar & Grill, which serves burgers, sandwiches, wraps, chicken wings, hot dogs, fries, salads and deserts. Bayliner Diner, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is great for quick, indoor dining with their burgers, pizza, pasta and grab-and-go items. Galaxy Bowl serves nachos, spring rolls and wings, salads, sandwiches, burgers and pizza for lunch and dinner.

Atomic Tonic is a great stop for refreshing drinks, while Swizzle Lounge has the perfect nightcap for parents after the kids have gone to bed.

Coffee-drinkers can start their day with a morning boost from the onsite Starbucks.

Insider Tips:

  • If you’re planning on shopping at the parks using your room keycard, make sure to stop at the front desk and have them increase your spending limit so you won’t have to call in every time you spend past the $150 default limit.
  • Don’t carry your shopping bags around the park. Arrange for them to be sent directly to the hotel.
  • The Tube Shack in the Lazy River Courtyard sells tubes at $20, but if you’re looking to save money, bring your own or go on the lazy river without them!
  • Keep an eye out for poolside contests and movies.
  • Remember that you have early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour before the park opens to the public, a perk that comes very handy as Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are two of the busiest and most popular areas of the parks.


(Originally published on MiniTime.com)

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Hotels That Give Families the Star Treatment

We can’t all live the luxurious lives of celebrities, but once in a while we can certainly splurge and treat the whole family to a luxurious vacation and experience what it’s like to travel like one, even for just a few days. From luxurious celebrity-approved amenities to suites named after legends to a Mediterranean-inspired spa, there are plenty of options for families looking for star treatment.

Here are five resorts that offer posh features for families with kids.

Mr. C Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, CA

As one of Los Angeles’ classiest hotels, 4-star hotel Mr. C Beverly Hills features Italian-inspired accommodations while offering stunning views of the City of Angels and easy access to the city’s most famous attractions like Rodeo Drive and LACMA. In addition to its swanky furniture and accents as well as a pool, sundeck, and private balconies, the hotel has also collaborated with The Honest Company, an eco-friendly company co-founded by Golden Globe-nominee Jessica Alba, to provide kids with wonderful bath and body products during their stay. With the hotel’s “Little C” amenities, mini guests will be given The Honest Company Discovery Set that includes a shampoo, body wash, organic healing balm, face and body lotion, hand soap, and laundry detergent on top of other awesome perks like kid-size bathrobes. What’s more, complimentary Mr. C teddy bear, freshly baked cookies and milk with be provided as a welcome gift upon check in. Rooms start at $311/night.

Sun Valley Lodge, Sun Valley, ID

Sun Valley Lodge (Courtesy Sun Valley)
Sun Valley Lodge (Courtesy Sun Valley)

Tucked in the mountains of Idaho, Sun Valley Lodge enjoys a reputation as a bucket list-worthy winter resort destination for families looking to enjoy the tranquility of nature and the freedom of the powdery slopes. After a very recent renovation, historic Sun Valley has reopened with new suites fit for legends. The ski lodge, which opened its doors in 1936 and had been a favorite destination for Hollywood stars, recently unveiled its five luxurious “Celebrity Suites,” named after the big names that frequented it. These names include Ernest Hemingway who wrote part of For Whom the Bell Tolls at the resort, Marilyn Monroe who stayed there while filming Bus Stop and Clint Eastwood. Today, guests and fans of these icons can walk where they walked and enjoy wonderful accommodations that feature a cozy fireplace, a separate living room, double sink vanity and a granite entry. Rates start at $499/night.

St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, CA

Its gorgeous, Spanish Mission style architecture, featuring a couple of double staircases, 13 fountains, and balconies with relaxing views, make St. Regis Monarch Beach one of the best family retreats in Southern California. Its bright, newly renovated rooms that offer plush beddings, a marble bathroom, and a private balcony; private beach with complimentary umbrellas and lounge chairs; heated, kid-friendly pools; an adult pool that plays music underwater; and lovely, quiet grounds are terrific reasons enough to take the kids. However, it’s really the resort’s excellent and more than accommodating treatment of its guests that keep them coming back. The resort encourages the laid-back and friendly staff to go out of their way to give every single guest the star treatment, making sure that everyone at the resort is happy, relaxed, and more than satisfied.Rooms from $345/night.

Miramonte Resort & Spa, Palm Springs, CA

Miramonte Resort & Spa (Courtesy Miramonte)
Miramonte Resort & Spa (Courtesy Miramonte)

Palm Springs has long been a favorite desert destination among celebrities, with its year-round sunshine and its close proximity to Los Angeles. So it comes as no surprise that many upscale resorts have made this oasis their home. Among them is the 4-star Miramonte Resort & Spa, upscale, exotic and not far from the main tourist strip of the famous hideaway. With its gorgeous, Mediterranean-inspired architecture bordered by the desert hills, bougainvillea-decorated pathways, modest gardens, and modern guest rooms and suites, it’s easy to imagine your family vacationing in a private island off the coast of Greece. And with the resort’s award-winning THE WELL Spa, now offering luxurious treatments at discounted rates that start at only $89, you’ll feel like it too! Try the Summer Glow treatment for a full-body exfoliation at only $89 while the Summer Swedish Massage at $99 is perfect for parents who need to get rid of their stress. Rates start at $97/night.

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit (Courtesy Grand Velas)
Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit (Courtesy Grand Velas)

Luxury, thy name is Grand Velas. The infinity Jacuzzi, penthouse terrace hot tubs, stunning tropical views, and other top-notch all-inclusive offerings make Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit a fantastic choice for that celebrity-grade Mexico getaway. Besides the great kids club and the Signature Dolphin Swim, kids will be treated to the ultimate R&R with the resort’s Marine Adventure Massage, available throughout the summer for kids 4 to 12 years. Let your young stars enjoy a 25-minute treatment that includes a soothing stuffed octopus body and scalp massage, a sea-brush, delicious juice and a SEAcret surprise at the end in an adorable under-the-sea-themed cabana. Not going in the summertime? Year-round spa treatments like Pancho’s Marble Massage and the Princess Massage are also available for them. The resort’s sister property, Velas Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta, offers seasonal spa treatments for kids, too. If a spa treatment at this resort doesn’t make your kids feel like their favorite celebs, we don’t know what will. Rates start at $565/night.

El Conquistador and Las Casitas Village, Puerto Rico

El Conquistador (Courtesy El Conquistador)
El Conquistador (Courtesy El Conquistador)

If an island paradise is more your flavor, why not fly the whole family to Puerto Rico? Fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise will be happy to know that the luxurious El Conquistador and Las Casitas Village in Fajardo, not far from El Yunque National Forest, were the resorts of choice for Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz while filming On Stranger Tides. Tear the kids away from the water slides at Coqui Water Park or the infinity pool for about an hour and go on a spa day as a family, thanks to the “Ki’ Spa” spa program that focuses on healthy and kid-friendly products and practices. Ki’ Spa offers signature treatments like the 50-minute massage and facial combo “My Time!” and the mini coconut sugar scrub “I am Glowing.” Rates start at $189/night.


(Originally published on MiniTime.)

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Hotel Review: Club Med Punta Cana

Why Go: While many have several preconceived ideas of how a Club Med resort should be – opulent and luxurious, for example – the brand’s 4 Trident family-friendly resort, situated on the Atlantic shores of the Dominican Republic, slightly deviates from such ideas to match the island’s laid-back but active lifestyle. And it’s perfection.

Not to say that it falls short of being luxurious, of course. After all, it boasts a beautiful 5 Trident space, fittingly christened Tiara, which features a private infinity pool with sweeping views of the ocean, a dedicated concierge service, nightly turndown service, and beautiful, beachside family suites that offer ample deluxe living space for a family of four. Club Med Punta Cana, however, is more than just indulging in expensive accommodations and amenities.

With an ideal location – right next to the famed shallow reefs of Punta Cana and minutes from the Punta Cana International Airport, Club Med Punta Cana (the resort that introduced Punta Cana to the world) goes beyond the usual all-inclusive escape that mostly involve taking dips in the pool, sunning on the beach and indulging at the buffet table. With the help of its Gentil Organisateurs (GOs), the resort encourages an active and fun tropical vacation where guests partake in the many activity offerings, immerse in the local culture, make lasting friendships, and at times, push past their comfort zone, no matter their age and predilection.

Getting There: A mere 10-minute (or less) drive from the Punta Cana International Airport, which receives inbound flights from many major cities in the US and in Europe daily, Club Med Punta Cana is one of the most easily accessible resorts in the Caribbean. Grab a cab at the airport, which will only set you back $30 (up to 4 people), or arrange for private transportation.

Getting Oriented: Sitting on the shores of DomRep’s longest natural reef in southern Punta Cana, the lush Caribbean resort is one of the biggest Club Med properties in the Americas. Yet, a relaxing walk around the property and about half a day there will quickly get you oriented with where most of the important spots are, like the restaurants, the main pool, the beach, the sports areas, and the new CREACTIVE play space.

Tiara, the 5 Trident space at Club Med Punta CanaTiara, the 5 Trident space at Club Med Punta Cana (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Room Options: Club Med Punta Cana has a total of 553 rooms divided into 3 types (Deluxe, Club, and 5 Trident Space Suites) of beach house-style bungalows with unassuming yet colorful exteriors. All rooms have the usual resort features and family-friendly amenities that include air-conditioning, an espresso machine, hair-dryer, safe, iron and ironing board, and flat screen cable TVs.

Deluxe rooms vary in size, as do Club rooms, and offer different options for couples as well as families – including a 2-bedroom with a living area. The 5 Trident Suites, on the other hand, are all 2-bedroom oceanfront suites with a full bathroom and a ¾ bath, a receiving area, a living area connected to the main bedroom, a balcony that opens up to the sea, and convenient water access. If you are looking for a more luxurious option, a 5 Trident Space Suite is definitely the way to go.

In December of 2015, the resort is set to open their adult-only Zen Oasis zone to provide a perfect hideaway for couples and, of course, parents who deserve a much-needed break. Zen Oasis rooms will feature modern accents, spa-like bathrooms with rainfall showers, a terrace or balcony, outdoor daybeds, and classy L’Occitane spa toiletries, not to mention access to a lagoon pool, a wellness bar, and an adult-only beach.

CREACTIVE is one of the newest family-friendly attractions in Club Med Punta Cana.CREACTIVE is one of the newest family-friendly attractions in Club Med Punta Cana. (Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana)

For the Whole Family: Perhaps Club Med Punta Cana’s best offering right now is the new Club Med CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil. CREACTIVE is an all-age, family-friendly outdoor play space where guests can seize a rare opportunity to be part of the circus and participate in more than 30 circus pursuits – from the swinging trapeze, tightrope and acrobatic bungee to mask making, make-up and dance. Since its launch in June 2015, it’s become a big hit with kids and adults alike!

From there, the list goes on. Water lovers have access to swimming, kayaking, sailing lessons, water polo, windsurfing lessons, snorkeling (additional cost), and kite surfing (additional cost), to name a few.

Prefer to stay dry? Beach volleyball, basketball, soccer, tennis school, and fitness classes are among the many land-based activities available. Punta Cana is a golfer’s paradise, with two world-class courses featuring 12 seaside holes between them less then 10 minutes away from the resort, so if you have an avid golfer in the family, make sure to sign him or her up for coaching sessions with Happy Golf at the southwestern end of the resort.

End your day with an amazing L’Occitane Spa treatment on the beach at sunset. Is there anything more relaxing than getting a full-body massage while listening to the sounds of the waves?

Kids' pool at the kids' club.Kids’ pool at the kids’ club. (Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana)

Just for Kids: Much like the resort, the kids’ club and childcare at Club Med Punta Cana is centered on keeping kids occupied and entertained while parents enjoy some R&R. Daily schedules are curated to include not just indoor activities, pool time and afternoon snacks, but also stimulating activities such as the trapeze (kids ages 4 and up), archery, acrobatic bungee, kayaking, and sailing (6 and up). There are even special themed days, so there’s never a dull moment.

The club is divided into four categories based on the kids’ ages – Baby (4–23 months), Petite (2-3 years), Mini (4-10), and Passworld (11-17), enlists especially-trained GOs, and has special considerations in place like allergy lists and sign-in bracelets to ensure the kids’ health and safety.

Savor delicious international cuisine with the whole family at the resort.Savor delicious international cuisine with the whole family at the resort. (Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana)

Where to Eat: Delectable options, both buffet and a la carte, are offered at the resort. International cuisine is the theme of its two buffet restaurants – waterside Hispaniola, which offers lovely views of the reef, and Samana, located near the pool and bar Cielo that offers non-alcoholic drinks and snacks to kids – to cater to every taste.

For breakfast, a must-try is the White Chocolate Bread (Pain au Chocolat Blanc), a Club Med exclusive pastry that will keep you and the kids coming back for more.

If you’re staying at one of the 5 Trident Space suites, welcome the day with a terrific basket of mini pastries, a plate of fresh fruit from room service and freshly-prepared hot chocolate made from local cacao, enjoyed on your sea-facing, private balcony. The tropical ripe mangoes are unforgettable!

Grab a quick snack at the Celeste Snack Bar to refuel between activities.

Insider Tips:

  • Club Med Punta Cana now offers paddleboarding tour that takes participants along the reef to a lagoon teeming with wild stingrays. $50 per person.
  • CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil is a perfect multi-generational recreation; so make sure to take the whole family, including grandma and grandpa, to test their acrobatic and creative skills.Included with your stay.
  • Near Samana are some shopping options, especially for families who are not planning on leaving the resort. Make sure to purchase some local goods to enjoy at home or bring back to your friends and family. Coffee drinkers will love Café Santo Domingo, which offers a smooth and mildly sweet blend, and hot chocolate drinkers will truly appreciate Cacao JLC.
  • Make sure to check out some of their nighttime shows, specified on the Daily Activities sheet.
  • The resort usually has an evening dress code. It’s non-mandatory, but a lovely tradition to participate in. Check with the resort before your visit, so you know which outfits to pack!
  • Going in the summertime? Slather on plenty of sunscreen and re-apply as necessary. And don’t forget the bug spray.

(Originally published on MiniTime.)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Hotel Review: Boca Raton Resort & Club

Why Go: It’s a timeless beauty that exudes elegance and grace as well as comfort and, of course, fun – the perfect resort for a Florida family vacation nestled away from the hectic hum of theme parks and cities.

The Boca Raton Resort & Club is a sprawling 356-acre property in lovely Boca Raton, Florida, with a year-round tropical climate and a grand, romantic architecture that features the Spanish-Mediterranean, Moorish, Gothic and contemporary styles, that feels very much like the quintessential Southern retreat.

The family-friendly Waldorf Astoria resort has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings as the Cloister Inn, earning its place as one of the top south Florida luxury resorts today. It now features five great properties, each with its own character, modern amenities, quiet gardens, seven pools, a private beach, a luxurious, award-winning spa, 16 unique restaurants and lounges, and a plethora of land and water activities including the new FLOWRIDER wave simulator to accommodate the more active guests.

Getting There: The resort is an easy 30-minute drive from the Fort Lauderdale International Airport and about an hour away from Miami so whether you rent a car, hail a cab or request for private car to come pick you up, the choice is yours.

Getting Oriented: The resort is split into two properties – the Boca Raton Resort & Club and the Boca Beach Club. Boca Raton Resort & Club is nestled on the southwestern edge of Lake Boca Raton where the Gulf Stream meets the lake while Boca Beach Club is situated on an Eastern peninsula on the Atlantic side. Guests of either property can easily access both with the resort’s complimentary shuttle service, which runs every 15 minutes.

A Boca Beach Club SuiteA Boca Beach Club Suite (Courtesy Hilton)

Room Options: Boca Raton Resort & Club has 1,047 deluxe guestrooms, housed in its five properties – the Cloister, the Yacht Club, the Tower, the recently renovated Boca Beach Club, and the Bungalows. Each room features the usual modern and family-friendly amenities like flat screen TVs, cable, WiFi, coffee maker, mini bar and bathrobes, as well as beautiful furnishings and accents, which vary depending on the property.

In-room highlights in the Cloister include rainfall showers, winged rattan and leather headboards, and mahogany-topped desk while rooms and suites at the Tower (the tallest building in Boca Raton) offer expansive views of the Intracoastal Waterway or the golf course and Atlantic Ocean. Luxurious guest rooms at the Boca Beach Club feature granite counter tops and vanities, separate tub and shower, and black-out curtains.

Best of all, large and multi-generational families can spend some quality time together but still spread out and enjoy the space, thanks to the resort’s connecting rooms and 187 suites.

Just for Kids: The award-winning resort, voted as one of the “Greatest Hotels in the World” by Travel + Leisure, is not just a place to relax and unwind. It’s also a great place to stay active, thanks to its family-friendly recreational offerings, particularly South Florida’s first Flow House that features the dual-sided FLOWRIDER.

FLOWRIDER, Boca Raton Resort & Club's new and popular attractionFLOWRIDER, Boca Raton Resort & Club’s new and popular attraction (Courtesy Hilton)

Since its launch in December 2014, the FLOWRIDER wave simulator has been a big hit with kids (and adults too!), providing a safe and fun environment for surfing and body surfing beginners as well as a place for non-beginners to practice their skills when surfing conditions aren’t optimal. Surf and private lessons are available, should you and the kids wish to learn from the experts while night surfing and Glow Flow Black-Light Surfing (Saturdays from 6-9 pm) are available for night owls.

Take advantage of the resort’s “Live Like a Floridian” package for unlimited use of the new FLOWRIDER wave simulator and a $25 food & beverage credit. Valid through December 31, 2015.

Another kid-friendly feature of the resort is the super cool Mizner’s Quest Club, which not only provides a safe place for kids ages 3 and up to learn, play and discover while the adults squeeze in some R&R, but also keeps them busy and entertained. Depending on your preference as well as your kid’s age, your child can take advantage of the Quest Clubhouse & Arcade, the Quest Club Camp, the Golf Camp, the Tennis Camp, the Aquatics Program for the kids, and many more!

What to Do: A nice cool dip at one of the resort’s seven family-friendly pools, bodysurfing on FLOWRIDER, a round of golf, a game of croquet and biking are a few of the great options for those wanting to stay on land. Collaborating with the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, the resort also offers a Sea Turtle Hatching Program for animal lovers and future marine biologists.

Waldorf Astoria Spa at Boca Raton Resort & ClubWaldorf Astoria Spa at Boca Raton Resort & Club (Courtesy Hilton)

Moms and daughters will truly enjoy spending half a day luxuriating at the Waldorf Astoria Spa, considered one of the best spas in the world. The Ritual Bath at the spa, which treats guests to a glorious 50-minute relaxation ritual involving a variety of water treatments in an elegant balneum-type room, is an unforgettable experience. A soothing signature massage after is also ideal.

With Boca Beach Club’s private beach and its clear blue waters, water lovers have access to a number of activities and facilities, including a full-service marina, a Surf School that accommodates all ages and skill levels, a PADI Bubble Maker for kids who want to learn scuba diving, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and snorkeling, to name a few. Swimming is, of course, essential for a complete experience.

Where to Eat: Foodie families will revel in the many fantastic dining options on-site (12 to be exact), and since there are offerings from breakfast to late-night snacking, guests wouldn’t have to venture far for nourishment.

For full breakfasts, Palm Court at the Cloister and SeaGrille Restaurant at the Beach Club offer hearty starts to the day. Don’t miss out on the fresh orange juice that’s to die for!

For lunch, take the kids to the Beach Club, order some terrific fish tacos or sandwiches and fruity drinks at Beaches Restaurant and Bar, and have a nice and laid-back lunch on the beach under the cool shelter of your complimentary beach umbrellas.

For dinner, try delicious Italian creations at Lucca, great sushi at Morimoto’s Sushi Bar, or meat dishes at 501 East Kitchen.

the bluethe blue (Courtesy Hilton)

During your stay, take the whole family up to the 27th floor of the Tower for an unforgettable feast at the blue where they combine superb cooking with a lovely ambience and sweeping views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic. Reserve a table just before sunset. Try the claw bar or the Oven-Roasted Maine Lobster. Not a seafood lover? Their Cider Bone-In Pork Chop is perfection and their Creamed Spinach is addictive! The service? Excellent!

For coffee, snacks and pastries, head to Serendipity. Cool down with their signature Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.

Insider Tips:

  • Have some time before your next engagement or just looking to get to know the property better? Go on an interactive Mizner’s Quest and uncover the resort’s history, quirks and secrets.
  • SeaGrille Restaurant has more breakfast items for those looking for a good variety. Try their omelet station and smother that Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with cream cheese with chives.
  • With sommelier Roberto Colombi at the helm, the blue’s wine selection is nothing short of exceptional. Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations based on your taste and preference!
  • Take a self-guided tour and see the many interesting sculptures across the property. Can’t afford to purchase and ship one home? The Baker Sponder Gallery near the resort lobby has smaller models.
  • Go for a night swim. All the pools on-site are heated to a very comfortable temperature, especially at night!

(Originally published on MiniTime.)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Club Med Punta Cana

Following the launch of Club Med’s first collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, a group of us flew to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for the weekend to try on the new Club Med CREACTIVE by Cique du Soleil for size.

Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Step out of Your Comfort Zone at Club Med CREACTIVE

From afar, it looks like your usual kids’ playground, what with its vibrant, fun design and printed words on the walls and on pathways aimed to inspire and motivate. However, a closer look reveals towering pole buidings, some with tarp roofs, all with unusual contraptions and long, massive ropes and cords hanging from their frames – it looks more like an outdoor practice arena for circus routines and performances. And in essence, it is.

Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana
Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana

Typically, I’m terrified of heights. I’m not one to go skydiving or bungee jumping or even crossing glass skywalks that show great depths under my feet, no matter how much you assure me that it’s completely safe. I’ll go on a rollercoaster, but I’ll still get that feeling of impending doom right before I get on. A few days ago, however, I was able to step out of the confines of my comfort zone and quell my fear of heights.

Granted, it probably wasn’t a typical week at Club Med Punta Cana. The kids were still splashing around in the pools and the adults were trying their luck with windsurfing and sailing as usual, but there was something distinctively different. It was a more inspired kind of different, with the resort having recently launched this exciting open play space they aptly call Club Med CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil, located not far from the nice stretch of sand on property.

It’s Club Med’s inaugural collaboration with Cirque du Soleil and simply phenomenal, offering an interactive and fully immersive circus experience for resort guests in a fun, gets-the-creative-juices-flowing-and-the-adrenaline-pumping kind of way.

Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana
Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana

CREACTIVE features over 30 activities from wild acrobatic endeavors like the flying trapeze, acrobatic bungee, wall scaling and trampoline to artistic pursuits like dancing and mask and face painting, and acting. Of course, an amazing crew of talented, well-trained, experienced AND multi-lingual Gentils Circassiens is there to show you the ropes, make things easy, and put minds of the less dauntless (including me) at ease. And in case there’s still a lot of hesitation to try on the acrobatic activities, the crew also puts on showcases to make the activities look even more appealing.

Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana
Courtesy Club Med Punta Cana

This new addition to the resort presents a perfect opportunity for kids (seriously, I’ve seen 5-year-olds do the trapeze) and adults (there were older adults doing triple flips!) to push limits and reach glorious heights. It’s here that many, from little daredevils to grandparents looking for new experiences, are now flocking to learn and do cool new tricks they wouldn’t have access to in most other resorts in the Caribbean.

Taking on the acrobatic bungee at Club Med CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil. (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Taking on the acrobatic bungee at Club Med CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil. (Photo: Michelle Rae)

And it was here that I conquered the trapeze, albeit not without screams of trepidation, and did acrobatic bungee flips a good 10 feet off the ground. Yes, me who gets paralyzed when I have to look over a balcony despite the presence of stable railing. The experience was scary at first, but then it was fun and then it was exhilarating.

And then it was something I wanted to do over and over again.

(Originally published on Huffington Post.)

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