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One of my favorite spots in Panama is Bocas del Toro and on our last trip we stayed in these perfectly placed over-the-water villas surrounded by nothing but the Caribbean Sea and the lush mangroves that protect the coast. Eco-friendly Bocas Villas (bocasvillas.com) is comprised of a set of four one-bedroom villa rentals (owner/manager Philip Albrecht is currently residing in one of the units) that stretch out over the sea, anchored by a string of boardwalks and a dock. If you want to totally relax and unplug, this is the place. We rented two side-by-side villas and some of our best days (and nights) were spent just hanging out on our patios, swimming and snorkeling right off our own dock, and attempting to catch dinner via a speargun and the sea’s natural bounty (note: we were never successful). While we were there, my cousin shot this video. It does the best job of summing up our experience at Bocas Villas.
For general trip-planning information, see our Panama Travel Guide.
Accommodations at the Bristol Buenaventura count 114 in total and vary slightly – some come with an enclosed garden terrace, others with a wrought-iron balcony overlooking the lake or pool (and ocean in the distance on higher floors) or the stables and plaza. All range between 540 and 660 square feet and feature an earthy color scheme, hard-wood floors, four-poster fluffy beds, a peak-a-boo marble bathroom with a large soaking tub, separate glass-enclosed shower, and Molton Brown toiletries – oh, and a hairdryer with some oomph. His and Hers closets, a stocked minibar, writing desk, separate sitting area with chaise, LCD flat-screen TV, iPod docking station, ceiling fan, and air-conditioning (hallelujah) round out the in-room amenities.
If you haven’t seen the first Panama video installment, check it out here.
Last month, I spent a week in Panama – an intriguing country with gorgeous coastlines, supremely lush countryside, a thriving capital city (the nation has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies), one famous canal, and a history packed with pirates, conquistadors, and the notorious Noriega. My friends and I hopped around from Panama City to the offshore Caribbean archipelago, Bocas del Toro, and topped off our trip with a night at the beachfront Bristol Buenaventura on the Pacific Coast (just under 2 hours from Panama City). I must admit, we couldn’t have been happier to arrive at the Bristol. As amazing as our trip was, what with our surfing adventures, private over-the-water pads (more on those next week), and unlimited watermelon-smoothie cocktails, after six days of 90+ degree weather, no air-conditioning, and no screens (or working bug spray) to protect from Panama’s infamous teensy but ravenous mosquitoes called chitras, a little five-star service and cool (the operative word) sophistication was exactly what we needed. Read more
Looking for a place to stay on Sint Maarten (Saint Martin)? One of my favorite spots on the Dutch side of the island is Cupecoy, and I recently discovered an under-the-radar, classy condo-hotel there that’s worth the splurge. The Cliff at Cupecoy sits just above the craggy coast offering unobstructed views of the ocean. The high-rise has managed to stay somewhat of a secret because, well, most think it’s just a residential condo. And while, yes, all 71 units are owned (most, as second vacation homes), 25 of the bunch are included in the Cliff’s rental program so when the lucky owners are not in town, the units are available to rent on a short- to long-term basis (there is a 2-night minimum). What’s especially great about this place – aside from the privacy, the fantastic Christian Dior Spa, the curvy outdoor pool, the two-lane indoor lap pool, the fitness center with ocean views, and the indoor-outdoor restaurant and bar with ocean views – is that all accommodations are spacious apartments with full kitchens, luxury finishes, and, of course, dramatic ocean views (video room preview above). Accommodations range from 1- to 4-bedroom suites and penthouses. Décor varies from one unit to the next but you can expect marble floors, granite counter tops, and sizable balconies. Read more
Here again with news of yet another New York City hotel opening – but this one is the most affordable to date. The Distrikt Hotel, opened on February 1, is offering spacious rooms from only $159/night! The hotel goes for a boutique feel with a New York theme. The city is represented (somewhat abstractly) throughout the hotel: floors are designated by neighborhood with a colorful photo collage of say Tribeca or Harlem displayed in the floor’s hallway (decoration within rooms, on the other hand, is the same regardless of which floor you chose); the hotel’s restaurant and bar features locally brewed beers and homegrown Long Island wines; in the lobby, a wooden map of Manhattan sits behind the check-in desk and an 11-foot grassy “living wall” installation represents Central Park. Its 155 rooms (video preview above) are simple, clean, and modern with great perks for the price like free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, iHome docking stations, Frette bedding and robes, and ECRU New York bath amenities. Go for a room on a higher floor (16 and up) for views of the west side and Hudson. All this attention on New York ‘hoods yet its own locale is the dismal Port Authority zone – the high-rise sits across the street from the station on 40th, next to layers of scaffolding (another hotel is underway next door) and a New York City Parole Office down the way. Despite the drab street, Times Square subway stations are two blocks away and prices really can’t be beat.
Deal: Stay two nights through March 31 and get the third night free, plus a complimentary room upgrade, a welcome basket from Dean & Deluca, and a “Distrikt Kit” with city maps and coupons.
For more budget hotel ideas, check out our Top 10 City Hotels Under $100.
You may not have noticed the island across the water from Miami’s South Beach strip (there’s enough to keep your eyes occupied on the happening drag) but just across the way, a 7-minute ferry ride to be exact, sits Fisher Island, a private residential community home to some 216 acres, a slew of luxury condos, and the Fisher Island Hotel & Resort. Onetime home to the Vanderbilt family (William Vanderbilt acquired the island from Carl Fisher in a trade in 1925 – Vanderbilt’s 220-foot yacht for the island!), the hotel is centered around the Vanderbilt’s original 1926 mansion which now houses restaurants Garwood and Café Tangier. Recently renovated rooms and villas (villa room tour above) feature traditional furnishings like poster beds and slick bathrooms with a large tub and separate shower with wide rain-shower head. Villas also come with their own private patios with loungers and an outdoor Jacuzzi. All hotel guests get their own golf cart to drive around the island during their stay.
Hyatt’s newest brand, Andaz, opened its first New York hotel in the heart of the Financial District on January 18. I manhandled my way down to Wall Street (battling the 5pm exodus from the neighborhood) to check out David Rockwell’s latest digs. Like its boutique sisters in London and Los Angeles, the “Andaz experience” is just as exceptional as its smart, space-conserving rooms (room video preview above). Read more
I recently visited Midtown Manhattan’s The Surrey to check out the hotel’s $60 million renovation. Interior designer Lauren Rottet essentially remade the hotel from top to bottom, bringing The Surrey into the 21st century while sticking with the traditional elegance of the original property. Read more
I recently had the pleasure of overnighting on St. Barts to review its jewel-box hotel, Eden Rock. (Ah, yes, I love my job.) While it’s hard to go wrong with accommodations on St. Barts – the island is filled with glitzy boutique hotels polished to perfection – the Eden Rock stands out from the gang for a few reasons.
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