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All-inclusive resorts are great at keeping their guests busy. Included yoga classes and dance lessons are a fun way to spend a less-than-sunny day, and free-to-use kayaks and snorkeling gear can get you away from the pool and into the ocean. But many resorts also offer additional activities and day-trips that aren’t covered by the basic all-inclusive rate. (Usually the division between included and not lies with the type of activity. If the activity is “non-motorized,” it’s probably included. If it requires a ride off the property or a heavy piece of equipment, it probably requires an additional fee.) The good news? In many cases, that additional fee is worth it.
The eight itineraries listed below will give you a sense of what’s available, and how much these day-trips cost. And keep in mind that these are just examples to show you the breadth of resort offerings. There are many other resorts that offer similar excursions.
At an all-inclusive resort, we often resign ourselves to an acceptance that what we gain in dollars saved, we lose in memorable dining experiences. When all of our meals are included in the room rate, we often don’t hope for anything better than standard food court or buffet fare.
The Spanish hotel chain Iberostar wants to turn that perception on its head, and so they have launched a new initiative, named Iberostar Chef, that focuses on elevating awareness of the brand’s culinary offerings through special events, training courses for guests, and a cookbook.
Nine months out of the year, Caribbean islands are a postcard-ready panorama of blue skies, swaying palm trees, and cocktail-sipping, hammock-lounging bliss. But from September to November (as in, right now), they are associated with another thing: hurricanes. As we speak, reports are showing that the season’s first tropical storms are already forming.
But for those willing to roll the dice, hurricane season can also yield up some incredible bargains. Flights, cruises, and hotels often go for a fraction of their peak season rates, at a time when most travelers are too spooked by the thought of having their trip washed, blown, or flooded down the drain.
And if you’re worried about showing up to a ghost town, rest assured: of the 25 million tourists who visited the Caribbean in 2012, roughly a fifth of them were brave enough to travel between September and November, the peak of hurricane season.
To give you a head start, we logged onto Expedia and CheapCaribbean and chose some hotel-and-flight packages for a range of dates in late October and mid-November. All packages are priced per-person, based on double occupancy, with flights from Miami. Other departure cities are usually available for more.
Clearly, none of the following destinations can provide guarantees on anything weather-related (otherwise they wouldn’t be offering the deals in the first place!). But with prices this low, you can afford to have your trip cancelled and still have extra cash lying around to re-book the whole thing from scratch. Now, get out those bathing suits! Read more
Spring break isn’t just for hordes of rowdy college kids and fun-loving families anymore. Increasingly, outfitters are upping the ante – and, often, slashing prices – with warm-weather tours and off-the-beaten-path offerings that target 20-, 30-, and 40-something sojourners who are, more often than not, looking for a trip that leans toward adventurous instead of ordinary.
Here, a roundup of some of the most enticing deals and destinations to boost you from the last vestiges of winter. Read more
In further proof that the world has not, in fact, ended, Karisma Hotels & Resorts has unveiled its Jackson Family Wines Culinary Series, a brand-new offering for 2013. Held at the adults-only El Dorado Royale and El Dorado Casitas each month, the weeklong program will highlight a different chef and winemaker from the Northern California winery, who will work together to create wine and dine experiences such as tasting and cooking classes, beachside wine parties, and a multi-course winemaker dinner prepared in a thatched roof “culinary theater.”
Sounds like a perfect backdrop for a Valentine’s Day getaway – or a reason to toast a trip to Mexico any other time of year. Read more
Aeromexico is giving us another reason to get sunburned this summer, with its launch of daily direct flights from JFK airport in New York to Cancún, Mexico from starting July 1.
Timed so you can hit the beaches the same day you land, Aeromexico’s flights depart JFK’s terminal 1 at 7:10am daily, and arrive at Cancún International Airport before lunchtime. Return flights take off daily at 5:25pm from Cancún, and land at JFK by midnight.
While summer in the Caribbean means hurricanes combined with high temperatures and soaring humidity, this usually results in off season advantages, like cheap hotel rooms and shorter queues. In addition, Cancún hosts a wealth of warm weather attractions. Visitors can swim with the whale sharks at Isla Holbox, explore the Tulum Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo, go cave diving in the submerged cenote caverns, or just relax at one of Cancún’s many beach resorts.
Other new Aeromexico flights include non-stop flights from Washington D.C. to Mexico City from $529, and a daily service from Atlanta to Mexico’s capital from $449 starting July 1. For nonstop flights to Cancún, both Priceline and Expedia currently list flights starting from $759 on American Airlines.
See our Cancún destination guide for general trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on flights, hotels, vacation packages, and more.
March 20, the spring equinox, marks the first major date of 2012 for the Maya Long Count calendar. The hype has already caused a bump in tourism at many already-popular sites throughout the Mundo Maya, but with a little advance planning, you can carve out some solitude (and preserve your sanity) while contemplating the enduring mysteries of the Maya civilization at their remarkable ruins.
While visiting the sites of Chichén Itza, Cobá and Tulum in the Riviera Maya, I was fortunate enough to have access to Dr. Julia Miller, an archeologist specializing in Maya culture and architecture and tour guide for the Mérida-based operator Catherwood Travels. Below, a rundown of some of Miller’s input from my incessant questions, as well as some practical tips on how to maximize your visit to the Mundo Maya. Read more
So, the world didn’t end when the Mayans said it would. But that doesn’t mean that the popular Mayan ruins in Riviera Maya, Mexico, Chichén Itzá, Tulum, and Cobá, aren’t still worth a visit. The Mundo Maya, which also include the countries of Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala, saw tourism numbers rise during 2012, and now that things have calmed down a bit, you’ll want to check out these unique sites. After a long day of exploring, a refreshing dip in a cenote, or natural well – the Riviera Maya is full of them, is the perfect way to cool off. And, aside from the ruins, the Riviera Maya is becoming a popular adventure travel destination, with an array of opportunities for hiking, diving, and cave exploration. One word of advice: If you’re thinking about a visit in 2013, book now. Read more
2011 has been a big year for hotels—we’ve scooped dozens of exciting hotel openings across the globe. On the flip side, we must bid farewell to a few monumental hotels that have closed. Here are a few of the goners we’ll miss most. A moment of silence, if you will.
Sahara Las Vegas (closed May 16)
One of Sin City’s last Rat Pack-era hotels has closed for good. The landmark casino-hotel held court on the northern Strip for 59 years. Scads of musical legends had graced its ballroom stage (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Bobby Darin, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, and Liza Minnelli, to name a few).
Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya (closed June 6)
We know Mexico tourism has taken a beating these last few years, but is the Mandarin’s closing an upshot? The luxury beach resort had been enduring increasingly low occupancy rates. Perhaps there’s hope—the property’s website indicates that the hotel will re-open in due course. We shall see.
The Chelsea Hotel (closed in August)
The historic artist enclave was sold to developer Joseph Chetrit and closed in August, save for its 100 permanent residences. Future plans are vague but Chetrit intends to keep the Chelsea a hotel. Phew! We can only hope that the history-packed rooms retain their legendary rocker grit post renovations.
The Plaza’s Oak Room (closed in May)
The celebrity-loved Oak Room will no longer host its famously outrageous afternoon parties, thanks to a rent dispute between restaurant operators and hotel owners. No word yet of what will become of the historic space.
Ritz Paris (temporarily closing in summer for renovations)
The oh-so-fancy Parisian landmark is, in truth, not so ritzy at the moment. The old gal is looking a little tired and will close for two years this summer for an extensive refresh.
- Loews Hotel: Get 20 percent off at 15 hotels, with rates from $104. Available all day today.
- British Colonial Hilton, Bahamas: With rates from $129/night, you’ll save 30 percent on stays December 10-23. Sale ends today!
- Fairmont Mayakoba: This Five Diamond Riviera Maya hotel is on sale for $199/night.
- Z NYC: This brand new hotel will offer rates of $128/night on the 28th of the month for the first six months of 2012. Hurry! You can only book from 12:00pm to 12:28pm today!
- Kura Hulanda Resorts, Curacao: Get the third night free at one of two luxury properties on the island.
- Viceroy Palm Springs: Facebook fans of the hotel can score rates of $75/night, plus some stellar perks.
- Charles Hotel, Boston: The Four Diamond Boston property is slashing rates 50 percent, to start at $99/night. The low rates are only bookable between 11:28am and 12:29:28pm.
- Hotel Thirty Thirty, NYC: Stay at this Midtown NYC hotel for just $129/night. The sale ends Tuesday.
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, cruises, and more travel deals.
Escape to the sunny Riviera Maya, Mexico, and stay at the luxurious, Five Diamond Fairmont Mayakoba from $199 a night. This Cyber Monday deal is valid for stays between November 28 and December 23, 2011 and includes the following extras:
• Free upgrade to the next room category, a value of $40 or more
• $50 spa credit per stay
• Daily breakfast buffet for two, a $50 value
• Complimentary margaritas for two when dining at one of two AAA Four Diamond restaurants
Nestled in the heart of Riviera Maya, the 401-room Fairmont Mayakoba is set on 45 acres within a private, luxury community surrounded by a lush mangrove forest intersected by crystal clear canals. The property features several dining options and bars, a spa, and a golf course. A dedication to a green philosophy has earned Fairmont Mayakoba verification as a Rainforest Alliance certified hotel.
THE VALUE: Stay at a luxe resort, located on 45 acres in the sunny Riviera Maya, at a 30% discount.
THE CATCH: This is a Cyber Monday special and can only be booked on Monday, November 28.
THE DETAILS: Visit the Fairmont Mayakoba Website to book.
Slathered in green, cool mud and wearing nothing but a bathing suit, I bow at the entrance to the crimson-colored clay hut and prepare for the curative sweat of a lifetime. As the chaman leads a deep-throated chant, I settle cross-legged onto the adobe’s dusty floor, my feet inches from a fire pit that will house a mound of scalding lava stones for the next 90 minutes. This is sweat lodge detox deluxe – Mayan-style.
The Mesoamericans have been practicing the art of el temascal practically since the beginning of time, with the goal of not only ridding physical toxins from the body but also the kind that have a tendency to invade our mental well-being. Although spas throughout Mexico claim to offer the ancient treatment, only a couple of places provide guests with the authentic, old school version – which is how I find myself purging my soul to seven strangers in a barebones igloo at the Aventura Spa Palace, located on a rugged patch of coastline in the Riviera Maya.
There is no shortage of deals to sunny destinations in the summer months, but once winter rolls around hotel prices typically skyrocket. Not so this year at Barcelo Hotels in Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. The premise: the farther in advance you book your stay, the great the discount. Reserve a room more than 120 days in advance for 35 percent off; 90 to 119 days in advance for 30 percent off; 60 to 89 days in advance for 20 percent off; and 31 to 59 days in advance for a 15 percent discount. Reduced rates are available in Mexico and the Dominican Republic from November 1-April 30, 2012, and Costa Rica from December 24-April 30, 2012.
THE VALUE: All-inclusive rates at some of Mexico and the Caribbean’s top resorts start under $100 per person, per night.
THE CATCH: You’ll have to nail down your plans pretty far in advance in order to secure the best discounts. However, there’s no cancellation fee if something comes up closer to the date. There may be minimum stays around the holidays, and rates are much higher during those periods.
THE DETAILS: Go to www.barcelo.com to book, or call 800-227-2356.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on flights.
One of our favorite Riviera Maya resorts just got even better. Azul Beach Hotel – featured in our Top 10 All-Inclusive Beach Resorts – has recently finished up $21 million in expansions and renovations that encompassed two new restaurants, a new 150-seat theater for live music and shows, enlarged suites, a new wedding venue, and a kids club partnership with Fisher-Price.
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