We review hotels & resorts to show you the best there is in accommodation around the world.

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Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Resort Review: Everything You Need To Know

The first thing you’ll notice about Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria is that it is actually located on Cayo las Brujas, an island close to Cayo Santa Maria. While it is a different island it still has the same stunning coastline for which Cayo Santa Maria is best known and the Dhawa is located on an interesting part of that coast – managing to be at times both rugged and sandy – with blue water and long stretches of beach.

We recently stayed at this all-inclusive resort for a week thanks to tripcentral.ca and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. If you’re looking to go yourself, we’ve put together an overview of the resort along with some highlights and suggestions of things you won’t want to miss while you’re there!

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Resort Overview

As one of the newer resorts in the area (as of June 2017) it offers a more modern atmosphere for those travelling to Cuba and a more intimate all-inclusive experience. We found the resort to be incredibly well-maintained with fantastic service and friendly staff.

dhawa cayo santa maria lobby

Though the property is smaller in size than some of the resorts that we’ve seen, you’ve got some options for spending your day in the resort including 2 large connected pools and one smaller, wading pool, tennis courts, a fitness centre, a spa and, of course, the beach.

At night, you can find your way to one of three a la carte restaurants, enjoy the nightly entertainment, head to the disco, listen to live music by the lobby bar or grab a snack at the 24-hour snack bar overlooking the pool.

The Standard Room at Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria

The standard room comes with either one king bed or two queen beds in a bright, island-vibe space that has either a garden, pool or ocean view. We found the necessary amenities like a safe, mini-fridge, iron and ironing board, hairdryer and toiletries and appreciated that the water and beverages were replaced daily in the fridge.

Since we’re not ones to stay in our room and are always out and about, a room with a view is nice but not always a priority for us. If it is for you, we’d recommend getting a premium package that includes a oceanview or request pool view as garden view will probably not be what you’re looking for.

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Deluxe Room

Other than that, the room is clean and spacious, welcoming and comfortable and we didn’t find any of the accommodation buildings to be too far out of the way from the major features of the resort.

If you did want to upgrade further, you can always choose a junior or one-bedroom suite which will upgrade you to VIP status and offers a whole array of additional amenities and resort extras.

The Beach

We had mentioned that the beach manages to be both sandy and rugged and this is something we loved about the area of the shore that the Dhawa is located. When first walking onto the beach, a rocky outcrop greets you from the end of the resort’s beach, it’s natural and pretty and a great contrast to the white sand, blue skies and water. It really is only a small section off to the side as the beach extends from it and is a long stretch of soft sand with lots of beach loungers and shaded cabanas to use.

dhawa cayo santa maria resort beach

On the beach is also a bar and restaurant which means you really don’t have to leave until they close! We found that it was a great spot to watch the sunrise, soak in some rays on a lounger, cool down and relax in the water and just enjoy the fact that you’re on a beautiful island. They also have non-motorized sports available for free to resort guests such as catamaran rides which makes for new experiences each day.

The Food & Service

Cuban resorts have long been criticized for their food but we’ve been fortunate to have stayed at resorts in Cuba that have pretty decent food and we’ve yet to have any complaints. The Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria is no exception. Their breakfast buffet was our absolute favourite. While it had a decent variety in general, it was their crepe station (pancake station) that had us up in time each day to make sure we didn’t miss out. Freshly made to order, with a variety of fruit toppings and sauces, they were an incredibly delicious and sumptuous way to spend each morning while on vacation.

The lunch and dinner buffet was also good with changing items daily but we found some favourites and tended to gravitate to them. One of those was the fresh fish section for dinner where the cooked prawns sauteed with garlic were spectacular.

dhawa french restaurant

The a la carte restaurants were also a pretty good change from the regular and offered us a bit of a romantic setting. We tried both the French restaurant (Maison Gourmet) and the seafood restaurant (Fuego del Mar) and though we liked them both, our favourite was the French restaurant. Each guest is able to book each of the 3 a la carte restaurants for one evening.

There was one place in particular that we could often be found: The 24 hour snack bar. Since it was open all the time, we found ourselves there for lunch, for snacks, for late-night second dinners and everything in between. It was definitely a great place to go if you’re hungry no matter what time of day.

Overall, the service was great. The staff was incredibly friendly and attentive and we found ourselves becoming regulars at a particular bar, section of the buffet and the snack bar. The staff at each one made a point to know what we liked and to make us feel welcome at all times.

The Entertainment & Other Amenities

We had fun on the resort and some of that had to do with the entertainment team. Always around during the day starting activities by the pool or beach and performing every night, they were fun and engaging.

The nightly entertainment was performed on stage in the resort theatre (with the exception of one night) and was different each night of the week. The performances varied from musical performances to dancing to shows involving audience participation and were lively ways to spend some time in the evening.

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Entertainment

After the shows, the disco started offering a club/lounge-like atmosphere that continued into the late hours of the evening.

If you’re not relaxed after watching a show or participating in one of the games or activities, there’s always the spa area where you can get a massage under a cabana overlooking the water. Though you may want to save that massage until after you give it a go on their tennis courts or burn off some energy in their fitness centre – both areas are great if you’re looking to add a bit of fitness to your vacation.

Our Tips For The Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria:

There are a few things we think you should know if you are planning a trip to Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria resort. For starters, you are not going to want to miss checking out the catamaran rides as they are a complimentary service of the resort and is a great experience  (do remember that tips are very much appreciated by those that will be taking you out on the water). If you enjoy the entertainment portion of all-inclusive resorts, the evening with the entertainment by the pool was by far one of our favourites and truly impressive and may just be something you’ll want to be sure to see.

We said that we were often at the snack bar and that means that we tried the entire menu. What we kept coming back for though were the chicken fingers. They were so good and the interesting mixture of bbq sauce, mustard and ketchup (we’re actually not sure what the sauce that comes with them is made of) was surprisingly delicious on them though you can ask for them without sauce if you’d prefer. If you’re not sure what to eat, or you’re hungry late, we’d definitely recommend heading over to the 24-hour snack bar by the pool for some!

 

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An Ontario Getaway At Long Point Eco Adventures

We’re always looking for great new places to visit in Ontario, especially ones that promise unique experiences, opportunities to challenge ourselves, and pretty much anything to do with good food. So, we were especially excited when Attractions Ontario told us  about Long Point Eco Adventures, a place that offers all three of these in one destination and that makes for a fantastic getaway in Ontario.

Long Point Eco Adventures is located in Norfolk County, an easy 2 hour drive from Toronto and is a destination all in itself, even though the surrounding area is also quite a beautiful and interesting place to discover with Turkey Point Provincial Park, Long Point National Wildlife Area, a whole bunch of waterfront activities and small town charm along Lake Erie.

Whether you choose to spend some time sightseeing or not, you’ll find that pretty much everything you need, from accommodation to recreation, can be found at Long Point Eco Adventure. Our time there was spent enjoying nature while camping in style, overcoming fears while participating in exhilarating activities and dining on some delicious food after sipping on great wine from the vineyard right across the street.

Here’s a little look at what there is to do at, and why we love, Long Point Eco Adventures:

Luxury Glamping

You’ll find three types of accommodation at Long Point Eco Adventures and while one is rustic, the other two take camping from roughing it to living in luxury.

Long Point Eco Adventures Cabins

For those who prefer a more comfortable camping experience, the wilderness pods are a great alternative that will have you feeling like you’re still camping in the wilderness but without any hint of ‘roughing it’. These pods have a comfortable queen bed, a mini-fridge, couch and table with chairs. It also has a deck with chairs, a washroom with a flush toilet and running hot and cold water, though you will be using shared shower facilities. Since there are electrical outlets and wifi as well, you’ll have everything you need to disconnect and relax or connect if needed. You’ll also find a hot complimentary buffet breakfast in the morning.

long point eco adventure wilderness pod

If you want to step up the luxury factor even more, there are wilderness suites that will help you do just that. Spacious long tented structures, queen or king-size beds, all the amenities of the wilderness pods with the addition of a ceilingless shower allowing you the incredible experience of showering under the stars. It’s an incredible glamping experience and perfect for a weekend getaway or longer.

Of course, if you’re more into an authentic wilderness vibe, you can try one of their camping pods which are cabins with twin or queen beds, none of the interior amenities of the other options and shared outhouses and showers.

Eco Adventures & Outdoor Recreation

From the ground to the sky, it’s an incredibly fascinating destination that offers so much to do. You can tailor your visit to whatever you enjoy doing as much, or as little as you want, tapping into their eco adventures and outdoor recreational activities.

long point eco adventure ziplining ontario

For us, the huge draw was the ziplining and canopy tour which had us zipping through tree tops, catching great views of Long Point Bay and Turkey Point and completing a 40 ft rappel. It’s an exciting experience that can be done during the day or at night with 8 ziplines and 2 suspension bridges. We found it an amazing first ziplining experience and those on the tour with us said it was a great ziplining course even for experienced zipliners.

It was also an opportunity to challenge ourselves as Carolann managed to face her fears and push her boundaries. She fell in love after the first zipline and had a smile on her face until the very end.

We also got a chance to join in on axe throwing in the evening which had us learning some new axe throwing techniques by an expert and teaming up to compete in one epic axe throwing competition (we can’t help but brag, et, mention that our team won both games). It really offered the best axe throwing instruction we’ve had and was a ton of fun.

long point eco adventure axe throwing ontario

For those spending more than one evening at Long Point Eco Adventure, you’ll probably want to get involved in some more of the activities they offer. Between their zodiac boat tours, kayaking, fishing tours and mountain biking, you’ll be hard pressed to find a dull moment during the day. Later at night you can take a peek at the sky in the observatory where you’ll get a full astronomy experience and then sit by the campfire, with the bright stars above, before heading to bed.

Culinary Exploration & Excellence

If you like the idea of glamping and want to pair it with more laidback and low-key activities, or add some culinary pursuits to your already adventurous itinerary, Long Point Eco Adventure has got you covered. In fact, there’s a lot to do outside of the high-energy recreational activities they provide.

After our thrilling canopy tour and ziplining, we wound down by heading across the street to Burning Kiln Winery for a tour and tasting. Staying true to the area’s history in the tobacco industry, the Burning Kiln has incorporated architectural elements like the tobacco barn and even uses tobacco kilns as part of an innovative winemaking process.

We found it an incredibly interesting tour with some truly unique elements and discovered some great Ontario wines in the process.

The Burning Kiln Winery Norfolk County

For dinner, we headed to the restaurant on site. The Burning Kiln Restaurant welcomes David’s Restaurant on Tour for lunch and dinner from May to September and has some spectacular dishes to choose from. We had cauliflower bites to start and chose the beef tenderloin and the burger of the week as our mains and thoroughly enjoyed each one. It was a great way to end the tour of the winery and a fantastic meal to remember

The Burning Kiln Winery Restaurant

If you’re looking for more culinary adventures, Long Point Eco Adventures offers an apiary tour where you can don a beekeeping suit and learn all about the hives, honey bees and beekeeping. You’ll also get a chance to taste what the bees are all fussing over – the honey!

Taking a day to explore the forest and learn how to find and pick wild, edible mushrooms is another option. The guided tour will have you collecting mushrooms along the way which will later be used to prepare a meal for you and paired with wines from the Burning Kiln Winery.

 

Whether you’re looking to relax in style in your accommodation the whole time and venture only for food and wine or are interested in a full-adventure experience, Long Point Eco Adventure has something for everyone and makes it one of the best destinations in Ontario for a getaway.

 

A huge thanks to Attractions Ontario for making our stay at the Long Point Eco Adventure possible. If you’re looking for other amazing things to do in Ontario, head over to the Attractions Ontario website!

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4 Cayo Santa Maria Resorts You Should Know About

Cuba holds a special place in our hearts. Not only is it the scene of our very first vacation together, it is also one of our favourite countries to visit with incredibly friendly people, beautiful culture and amazing beaches. Though we mostly enjoy delving into the local scene when we travel, we also love to vacation and that means taking a break from it all, sitting back and letting someone else take care of everything.

So when we needed some time to relax and reenergize, we figured an all-inclusive resort would be perfect and decided to head back to the scene of our first vacation as a couple. To do that, we popped over to tripcentral.ca and looked up resorts in Cayo Santa Maria, the island in Cuba where our travels as a couple began!

All-Inclusive Resorts For A Vacation in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

What we found were a lot more options than were available years ago. With all of these choices we decided to not only stay in one resort for the week, but also visit several others while we were there. This gave us the opportunity to see what was else available for those looking for a getaway, romantic or not, on an island with some of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever seen.

Here are four great options for an all-inclusive vacation in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba.

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria

We stayed at the Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Resort for the whole week. It was relatively new when we visited and we thought that its modern design and decor was an intriguing contrast to the tropical setting typical of an all-inclusive resort in Cuba.

The Dhawa is actually on Cayo Las Brujas, a neighbouring island to Cayo Santa Maria, but the drive is similar in distance from the airport and you really won’t notice the difference if you’re venturing off the resort for any of the excursions or attractions. In fact, you’ll find yourself closer to the Marina Gaviota Las Brujas where you can go scuba diving, fishing or sailing.

The resort itself is family-friendly with everything from a kids club for the little ones, to a disco at night for the party-goers. We found the food to be above average for what is commonly found at resorts in Cuba and even discovered some favourites at the buffet and the 24 hour snack bar that had us returning for more! With three a la carte restaurants, there’s also decent variety of food to choose from.

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Cuba Resort

We loved the pool area as it had two pools, semi-attached, and a separate wading pool nearby. There’s also daily and nightly entertainment and activities with an incredibly talented, friendly and enthusiastic entertainment team.

Our favourite part of the resort was, as is for any resort in Cuba, the beach. This stretch of beach may be a bit unexpected as it has a beautiful rugged natural rocky area to start before it extends to a long strip of sandy coastline. With a bar, food service and tons of loungers either in the sun or in the shade, it makes for a great place to enjoy the sun, sand and water.

It’s a great resort, with a more intimate vibe, that is perfect for a family, a group of friends, a couple or just an individual looking for a more relaxed vacation in the sun.

Melia Las Dunas

The Melia Las Dunas was the resort we stayed at on our first visit to Cayo Santa Maria together and we found it as fantastic during this visit as it was the last time. It’s by far our choice for a romantic getaway for couples in Cuba even though it is not an adults-only resort.

What you will find is two areas of the resort – each one with its own pool and buildings with rooms, but one side geared towards families and kids and the other for adults. While the sides can mix and mingle, there are activities for the kids available only at the family pool (and also the separate kid pool) and most of the guests that are adult-only will find they are given a room at the other side of the resort.

Melia Las Dunas Cayo Santa Maria Cuba Resort

The Melia Las Dunas also has some great dining options. In addition to the buffet, there is a pizzeria serving food at lunch and while it was one of our favourite places to eat, their 8 a la carte restaurants are also great choices for dinner.

There are quite a number of bar and snack options, entertainment throughout the day and evening and impeccable staff and service. Of course, nothing beats a resort that not only has a stunning beach but also an ice cream parlor. One of our favourite things to do when we were planning to spend some time in the sun and sand was to grab an ice cream on our way!

It’s a beautiful resort with a tropical atmosphere and is perfect for a little romance, even if you bring the kids!

Warwick Cayo Santa Maria

The Warwick Cayo Santa Maria is one of the hotels on the island that we were able to visit with a day pass. Since we did not get to stay as guests, our opinions are from what we saw during our time exploring the resort. For us, this resort was simply stunning. Being only two years old, it is similar to the Dhawa in that it felt like a modern tropical paradise.

While the gorgeous, giant pool was definitely something to enjoy (and we did), we really liked the beach with the multiple access points and varied terrain. When we first stepped foot on the one end of the beach we were greeted with a rocky outcrop before it gave way to pure sand.  To us, the contrast between the natural, more rugged looking shore and the pristine, sandy stretch of beach was simply beautiful. Having a bar at each of the main beach access points is also a great touch!

Warwick Cayo Santa Maria Cuba Resort

The hotel rooms we saw were also modern with great decor and added touches.  The one thing we didn’t get to try much of was the food. During the low season, the main buffet was closed for renovations and we were only able to try the mini buffet which was decent but obviously not indicative of the regular food options or any of their a la carte restaurants.

With many bars, a lush tropical property to explore and tons of waterfront space, whether at the pool or on the beach, and lots of activities to choose from, the Warwick is definitely a resort that adds some 5-star Cuban luxury for the whole family!

Valentin Perla Blanca

Multiple pools, beautiful landscaping, different activities and entertainment throughout the day and into the night and, something we’ve yet to experience in our travels, adults only access. The Valentin Perla Blanca was a whole different resort from the ones we visited. As with the Warwick this was only a day pass, so we only got to explore some of what the resort had to offer.

As is with many of the larger resorts on the island, low season means that some of the areas are closed off. For us, that meant we focused our time on the pool that was open and the beach. There are some great vibes at this resort, with the music and the relaxed atmosphere, and we enjoyed slipping into the 24 hour restaurant to test out some of their food (the chicken fingers were definitely our favourite).

Valentin Perla Blanca Resort Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

What stood out the most to us about this resort was the option to upgrade to the Privilege Club. By doing this you would get an exclusive concierge which means quicker check-in and check-out, a special lobster dinner, 20 min massage, discounts on additional spa treatments, premium brand liquors, a special buffet area as well as more benefits and extras in the a la carte restaurants. It also means access to the “Privilege Lounge” which has AC, those premium liquors we mentioned and a relatively quiet space to get away and relax.

We really loved that part of the Valentin resort and knew as we were walking around that it would be a great way to experience a stay there. It’s definitely a great place to get away from it all, pamper yourself and leave the kids at home!

A huge thanks to tripcentral.ca for making these experiences possible. If you’re looking for vacation packages or looking to book a trip, check them out! As with everything, reviews and opinions are our own.

 

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6 Things To Do At Casino Rama Resort Beyond Gaming!

Though Casino Rama Resort offers an extensive gambling floor with over 2500 slot machines, including some of the latest technology, 100 table games and a room dedicated to poker, there’s a whole lot more to do beyond the casino once you are there. In fact, there’s an entire property offering many things to do whether you’re there for the day, a weekend or longer. “Casino” may be the first word in the name but the “resort” component shouldn’t be overlooked and after staying at Casino Rama Resort on two separate occasions and visiting the property for day trips several additional times, we’ve seen what a fantastic entertainment destination it is for visitors.

What To Do At Casino Rama Resort If You Aren’t Gambling

Please gamble responsibly. If you think you, or someone you know, may need help with a gambling problem, please visit the Responsible Gaming Council Site for more information & to find help if you are in Canada. In the USA? Visit the site for the National Council on Problem Gambling

With a location not far from the Toronto area, it’s definitely a fantastic option for a getaway or day trip, whether you’re headed to the casino area or not. To give you a better idea of all there is to do at Casino Rama off of the gambling floor, we’ve put together 6 things to do there that make it a destination in itself and a resort you’ll be excited to visit!

1. Watch A Show

Casino Rama Stage Entertainment Centre

There’s nothing that showcases Casino Rama Resort as an entertainment destination more than the 5000-seat entertainment centre where world-famous comedians, musicians and performers grace the stage. Whether you’re staying at the resort or just dropping in for a performance, watching a show is a great way to enjoy your time at Rama.

In fact, it’s an experience all on it’s own and we’ve had the chance to see several shows there between the two of us. From comedy acts by Russell Peters and Whoopi Goldberg to concerts by various artists from around the world, we’ve seen some incredible shows on their stage. What is especially great is that no matter where your seats are, you’ll find you have a fantastic view.

It’s definitely one of the parts of the resort that makes it stand out and is a huge draw when visiting the hotel, the casino and the area.

2. Enjoy Delicious Food

St Germain's Casino Rama Meal

With eight dining options, you definitely won’t be going hungry and each restaurant offers a different atmosphere and fare. It’s here that you can explore the culinary side of the resort and enjoy some truly great cuisine.

There’s St. Germain’s a steakhouse with absolutely phenomenal service and delicious, beautifully plated meal. They have superb cuts of meat, a variety of seafood and a dessert menu by an award winning pastry chef. It’s one of our favourites and we know we will always find a dining experience to remember.

There are also a variety of options for more casual dining like Simcoe Yard House, a sports bar and restaurant where we love to eat whenever we’re at Casino Rama. Their Ultimate Hot Dog – a half yard in size – is a fun and tasty meal to try. The Weir’s restaurant and Cedar are alternately open and also offer casual dining and a many menu options. For us, we tend to head to The Weir’s for breakfast and Cedar for a late night snack.

From the Noodle Bar to The Willow, serving Chinese cuisine, the Firestarter Lounge by the lobby to the Couchiching Court buffet, you’ll definitely not go hungry nor will you run out of options or variety.

The best part of it all? The food is exceptional at all of the restaurants so you really can’t go wrong with your choices!

3. Have A Spa Day

Casino Rama Spa

Casino Rama Resort has an entire oasis for anyone looking to get away and get pampered for a day… or longer! Their Balance in Life Spa offers massages, manicures, pedicures, facials and other treatments and it’s a great place for a little relaxation.

We both recently enjoyed a massage and can honestly say it was one of the best we’ve had. Though we went individually, there are packages for couples as well and we may just be looking into those the next time we go!

The other great thing is that even if you aren’t a hotel guest, spa guests have access to the pool and amenities and as you’ll see below, they’re pretty fantastic on their own!

4. Enjoy The Pool & Amenities

Casino Rama Pool

For guests of the hotel, there are additional amenities that are available. The pool area has long been a highlight for those we’ve talked to who have stayed at Casino Rama Resort. Their indoor salt water pool and hot tub are a draw for those looking to unwind during the day or get a few gentle laps in while feeling the incredible effects of the salt water on their skin. We especially love the patio connecting the pool to the outdoors. When the weather is nice, it’s a great place to go to dry off and enjoy some sun.

The eucalyptus steam room is also an amazing amenity and a great place to start before a spa session or after a workout in their adult-only fitness room.

It’s really a great space to spend some time while at the resort and a definite attraction for those who want to book a room and stay at the hotel.

5. Relax In Your Spacious Room

Casino Rama Hotel Room

The rooms at Casino Rama Resort are a destination on their own. They offer an inviting and spacious sanctuary with comfortable beds and a great sitting area with a large screen TV. It really is a fantastic place to relax and unwind, get cozy and spend some time.

The gas fireplace is a great touch in the cooler months and can add to the romance of the room if you’re there with a special someone.

No matter what you’re at Casino Rama for, you’ll want to spend some time in the room – ordering in room service, enjoying a bath in the Jacuzzi tub, watching some TV in the living space, and you may not want to leave at all!

6. Explore Rama First Nation Culture

Rama First Nations Casino Rama

Throughout the resort, you’ll notice architectural and artistic designs that illustrate Rama First Nation culture and history. There’s a lot to see and we’ve learned a lot by delving deeper into what the art and symbols mean and represent. Even the names of some of the resort’s features – like St. Germain’s – hold significance to the Rama First Nation peoples.

You can also stop into one of the shops and browse arts and crafts, gifts and clothing linked to Rama First Nation and beyond.

 

Casino Rama Resort really is an entertainment destination on its own and it only takes a short time there to realize there’s a whole lot to do and that there’s a reason why it’s called “The Great Indoors” – while they have a state-of-the-art casino floor that’s sure to impress, there’s a whole resort to explore and enjoy!

 

A huge thanks to SJ Consulting for the invitation & to Casino Rama Resort for hosting us. As always, all opinions are, and always will be, our own!

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Romance & Wine: Riverbend Inn in Niagara-On-The-Lake

From our first visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake, in Ontario, Canada, we understood why people claim this region as one of the best for a romantic getaway. The area offers incredible scenery of seemingly endless stretches of vineyards and natural beauty with wineries offering tours, views and festivals and hotels with luxury, character and history. Add to that a close proximity to the many attractions of Niagara Falls and you’ve got a pretty fantastic destination overall.

The Niagara Region wine festivals are a huge draw for us and we often find ourselves heading that way when we can. We love what the festivals mean: a series of wineries providing wine tastings, and often food and wine pairings, on given dates with passes that allow you to hop from winery to winery (with a designated driver of course) tasting the very best the area has to offer. It’s an amazing time, with some incredible flavours, and becomes a romantic outing for us each and every time as we explore the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara on the whole.

Driveway to Riverbend Inn & Vineyard Romantic Getaway in Ontario

What we’ve had difficulty doing however, is pinpointing which of the many accommodations would be perfect to turn our outing to a romantic getaway. That is until we discovered Riverbend Inn & Vineyard, one of the best hotels in Niagara-on-the-Lake for just that purpose, and combined it with one of the wine festivals of the region.

Riverbend Inn: The Perfect Setting For Romance & Wine

Riverbend Inn & Vineyard Niagara-On-The-Lake

Though it was winter, there was no decrease in the beauty of the Niagara wine country. We drove through frozen countryside, sunlight sparkling off the snow and ice that clung to the branches reaching up from the vineyards on either side of us. Our final turn had us following one of the most scenic roads, the Niagara River Parkway, with views of the Niagara River and more beautiful landscape. When we reached the sign for the Riverbend Inn & Vineyard we were greeted with a view of a Georgian mansion surrounded by acres of lawn, garden and vineyards.

Riverbend Inn & Vineyard Niagara-on-The-Lake

This was definitely a place to enjoy a weekend together, with privacy for acres surrounding the property, stunning views over the vineyard and a stay in an intimate historic hotel. In fact, the history of Riverbend Inn & Vineyard can be traced back to 1809 and has changed from farmhouse and farmland to schoolhouse to art gallery and, eventually, to the 21 room Georgian-style inn that it is today. With so much history, charm and character, it is no wonder we felt so enchanted with the place.

We found the location perfect for making our way to the wineries that often participate in the festivals and is only a short drive from Niagara Falls, a romance destination of the world. Even in winter, with the falls frozen over and the coloured lights creating a rainbow over the solid white mass of previously free-flowing water, Niagara Falls remains an awe-inspiring sight. We passed by to take a look and headed to a nearby restaurant with window seating that faced the Falls to enjoy a candlelight dinner before returning to the hotel for the night.

Find out more information about Riverbend Inn & Vineyard and their prices!

The Property: A Unique & Scenic Experience

view from Riverbend Inn over the vineyard

Though we realized the property was special when we first arrived, it only became more interesting as we explored. The stunning views were found from all directions and the history of the hotel was reflected from the front lobby to the original front entrance of the mansion. Photos, artwork and pieces of furniture and decor paid homage to its origins, while new additions and friendly service added to its luxury.

Riverbend Inn is also home to a restaurant serving meals in the elegant dining room. There is an antique bar where some of the vineyards own wine is served and offers a patio to enjoy both food and drink during the warmer months. Regardless of when you go though, we’re pretty sure that view never gets old.

gazebo for weddings at the Riverbend Inn Niagara-On-The-Lake

We noticed the gazebo and were told that weddings take place outside and that it is one of the only hotels in the Niagara region that has views of the vineyards for an extra special ceremonial backdrop. Though that’s not quite the romantic escape we had in mind when we went, we could definitely see it as being a perfect venue for a wedding in the Niagara region and having a bridal suite doesn’t hurt either!

The Room: Comfort & Luxury In A Historic Setting

Room at RIverbend Inn NIagara-on-the-Lake

It wouldn’t be one of the historic hotels in Niagara-on-the-Lake if the rooms didn’t live up to the promise of the exterior. Twenty-one uniquely decorated rooms provide a cozy and comfortable experience with some added luxuries. We absolutely loved the fireplace, especially in the winter, and snuggled up to enjoy the warmth as it permeated the spacious room.

fireplace in the room at RIverbend Inn Niagara-on-the-lake

When we weren’t out hopping from winery to winery for the festival, we spent a large amount of time in the comfort of the room. The flat screen TV offered entertainment, the in-room refreshments kept us going and we found ourselves lulled into a relaxed state over the course of the weekend.

Added to that was the incredible view from the balcony that overlooked the vineyard. It was a pleasure to wake up every morning, slide open the curtains and have such a stunning view waiting… especially after a solid sleep on a bed that was so comfortable it was difficult to pull ourselves from in the mornings.

Planning a Romantic Getaway in Niagara-On-The-Lake

While a wine festival may not be everyone’s cup of tea, a food and wine festival can be an altogether different matter. Food and wine paired right is a spectacular culinary experience and if you aren’t one for wine or alcohol, buying a designated driver pass enables you to enjoy the amazing food created by some of Niagara regions top restaurants and chefs with water instead of wine. Moving from winery to winery allows you to enjoy the scenery of the area and should you crave something more substantial, many wineries have world class restaurants for a romantic meal together.

If a wine, or food and wine, festival is still not something that interests you, the region boasts so many views, restaurants, and activities and with a short drive to Niagara Falls, you can partake in some popular tourism before heading back to Niagara-on-the-Lake for peaceful nights.

Though where we call home is a short 45 minute drive from Niagara-on-the-Lake, for us staying in the region and making an overnight or weekend vacation out of the visit is something we enjoy. It’s one of our favourite destinations for a weekend trip and now that we know there is accommodation like Riverbend Inn that adds to the romance and experience while being located right in the heart of it all, we’ll be planning many more of them in the near future!

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reverbend inn & vineyard Niagara-on-the-Lake

 

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Loews Hotel Vogue – Where To ‘Strike A Pose’ In Montreal

It’s only about six hours by car, five and a half by train or one hour by plane. Though it’s a relatively short distance away from Toronto, and still within Canada, the culture and experience is quite different. While you’ll see all signs are bilingual in Toronto, when you cross that border between Ontario and Quebec, and then head into Montreal, the signs become more French, less English, and the streets look more like a small European city. The history, culture and language are different and after several conversations with locals, you’ll be left with the feeling that you’ve entered another country altogether. It’s a place we love to visit, perhaps for that very reason, yet we struggled for a long time to find the best place to stay in Montreal that would offer a great location with the comfort and luxury we look for while travelling. That is, until we found Loews Hotel Vogue.





We had driven through a late December snowstorm in order to spend a few days in Montreal. We wanted to see the city dressed in holiday spirit, attend a production of the Nutcracker Ballet by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal, in which one of Carolann’s best friends would be dancing, and enjoy finding some more of the foodie treasures that are hidden among the many great restaurants in the city.

Though we had stayed at other, less-than-impressive hotels in the past and looked at many accommodation options in Montreal for this more recent trip, none really stood out as much as Loews Hotel Vogue Montreal. Though we hadn’t stayed at a Loews Hotel before, we knew of their reputation for incredible service and luxury. Their only location in Canada, in Montreal, was beckoning us to see if they could really live up to the hype. And with ‘Vogue’ in the name, we were expecting less of the kind sung in a Madonna song and more in the way of a high level of style and service. We were not disappointed!

Loews Hotel Vogue: Luxury in Downtown Montreal

Loews luxury hotels in Montreal

It wasn’t difficult to find and when we got there, the location of the hotel left us with a great first impression. Loews Hotel Vogue is located in an active area of shops and restaurants close to the city centre and in close proximity to the metro station.

It was a short walk, even in the bitter winter cold, to get to any number of restaurants and we found ourselves ducking into an amazing Vietnamese restaurant. We also enjoyed walking the streets as they came to life at night with people passing by and the lights lit against the dark night sky. With access to much of what the city has to offer, the hotel is a prime place to stay when visiting Montreal and the onsite parking is a huge plus though not necessary with the metro station being so close. Valet parking made it even easier to check-in and for us, it was a great way to escape the cold on our way from the car to the front lobby.

Luxury & Comfort From the Moment You Step Inside

Loews Hotel Vogue Room

Entering the lobby, the modern, art deco interior greeted us as we approached the front desk to check-in and we were struck by how the style lent itself to the boutique feel of the hotel. The restaurant in the hotel, La Societe Bistro, promised a relaxing atmosphere and quality food as we passed to head to the elevators and took a glance, and a sniff, from the restaurant’s lobby entrance.

Opening the door to our room only reaffirmed our initial impression that we may have just come across one of the best boutique hotels in Montreal and one of the comfortable, luxury hotels in the city. The room was incredibly spacious with a front entrance and a hallway, complete with a vanity and a large closet, that lead to the bedroom. A large bed drew our immediate attention with its accent pillows and, following the decor of the rest of the hotel, art deco artwork above.

loews hotel vogue best boutique hotels in Montreal

A couch at the end of the bed separated the space and made a comfortable seating area from which to watch the large screen TV situated atop the large desk. With multiple power outlets and ports, it was definitely created with the guest in mind providing for the electronic needs of frequent travellers, business travellers and tourists alike.

Loews hotel coffee station

Between the complimentary 24 hour coffee bar in the lobby and the a tea and coffee station on the desk in our room, we had more than what we required for refreshments. The coffee station also made the space a great area for us to relax in, and we definitely took full advantage of the amenities offered!

Pure Bliss Is A Bubble Bath

loews hotel vogue bathroom

There’s something rather divine about having a large bathtub with bubbles and jets to relax in. But there’s something extra special when that is offered in a gorgeous bathroom with a television for your entertainment. The marble tiles, the large stand-up shower with a rain-shower head and an abundance of toiletries available throughout the washroom was impressive. The bathtub experience was pure luxury. Between the bedroom with the beckoning bed promising comfort and a good night’s sleep, the seating area providing entertainment and relaxation and the bathroom offering pure bliss, we’re not too sure which part of the room was our favourite!

Want to check out Loews Hotel Vogue? See more details about the hotel & their rates.

Best Place to Stay in Montreal? It’s In The Details.

Loews Hotel Bose ipod dock

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, what really makes a hotel stand out to us is the attention to detail and it was this attention to detail that made Loews Hotel Vogue the best place to stay in Montreal. In the hotel you’ll find all you need for an amazing stay in Downtown Montreal. In fact, while access to the rest of the city is a piece of cake from its location, the services and amenities available in-house may have you thinking twice about leaving at all.

Why go out when you have a 24 hour fitness centre, the Lobby Bar to grab a cocktail by the hotel’s own mixologist, a coffee bar for a hot beverage at any time of the day or night, hotel wide, incredible fast Wi-Fi, in-room spa services, a fabulous restaurant and lounge in the lobby and room service for those who choose to keep on those plush bathrobes, as well as a whole list of services for those with kids, teens or pets!

toiletries loews hotel vogue montreal

These extensive services and amenities in addition to small touches in the rooms themselves like a radio-alarm-clock-docking-station, a large variety of toiletries available in the washroom, the TV above the bathtub as an added touch, the convenient coffee station in the room itself and the ultra-comfortable pillows and mattresses all add up to a memorable stay beyond the luxury and comfort of the rest of the hotel.

If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Montreal, whether you are driving in or relying on in-city transportation, there really is no better place to look for comfort and luxury, with a boutique feel, than Loews Hotel Vogue.

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Brody Apartments: The Best Hotel in Budapest Near the Danube

The flight was long, though not the longest we’ve had to endure. Still, between the first 8 hour flight, the layover and the last flight to land in Budapest, we were spent and our jet lag was starting to kick in.

Despite it all, it didn’t dim our excitement. We were anxious to explore Budapest and see the city so many others have raved to us about. Our excitement was only increased by the unique accommodations we knew were waiting for us. Weeks before, we had scoured the hundreds of options of where to stay in Budapest online and were frankly surprised at the huge number of options in the city where you can stay comfortably for a great price like the some of the most amazing hostels in Budapest.

We knew we wanted to choose a hotel near the Danube, as we were to board a boat docked along the river for a Viking River Cruise the following day. We also knew we wanted something different. Something beyond the typical chain hotels that kept popping up.

What we found was not only an incredibly unique accommodation in Budapest, it was also something we had not yet seen during our travels. And so, as we rolled our uncharacteristically large suitcases down the uneven sidewalks of Budapest, we felt a spark of excitement, despite being sleep-deprived, in anticipation of reaching our destination for the evening – Brody Apartments.

Brody Apartments – Boutique Style, Complete Comfort

brody apartments where to stay in budapest

Like much of the building fronts in Budapest, the inconspicuous outside of Brody Apartments opened to an incredible narrow building of fully furnished, serviced apartments. As the door to our apartment opened we realized just how deceptive the building was – the narrow structure and short hallways may have suggested a small building, but the size of the apartment proved that to be completely wrong. The two-bedroom apartment we were staying in was massive.

Entering the hallway, we had a glimpse of clean and modern decor before we got our thorough tour of the place. Two bedrooms and two baths, we first took a look at the “guest”, or second bedroom, near the front door before continuing down the hall to the kitchen area. Fully-functioning, the kitchen included a fridge, stove-top, oven, microwave and kettle. Dishes and cookware were provided which made it a completely usable and livable space.

brody apartment budapest Hotel in Budapest Near The Danube

The hallway opened up to the living room. Here was a place to relax and enjoy ourselves after a day of sightseeing in Budapest and walking around some of the many Christmas Markets in the city. The area was bright, modern and spacious with large, comfortable couches in front of a flat-screen TV and to the other end sat a large dining room table.  On the far wall there were tall windows to let in enough natural light to brighten the room during the day and in one corner stood a wood stove, if some added warmth or ambiance was needed.

bedroom in brody apartment budapest

As we brought our suitcases to the master bedroom, we were once again struck not only by the spacious rooms, but also the intriguing artwork that flowed throughout. The white of walls and linens in the room were contrasted beautifully with the dark of the furniture and accented by the colourful paintings that adorned the walls.  The en-suite bathroom was impressive, with a giant tub and multiple shower heads. As in the kitchen, every need was thought of, from toiletries and soaps to a hairdryer and plenty of towels.

As we mentioned, one of the things we absolutely loved was how complete the “full-service” part of the apartments really was. In addition to pretty much any necessity one would need to utilize the kitchen to the fullest, there was even a washer and dryer as well as an iron and ironing board. Then, the artwork too was a part of the full-service experience as some of the many pieces that decorated the large apartment were available for purchase.

To find more information about Brody Apartments, as well as current rates, click here

A Unique Hotel in Budapest Near The Danube

Brody Apartment Hotel in Budapest Near The Danube

While the style and attention to detail was definitely a draw for us to stay at Brody Apartments, the location too was a large part of our decision in where to stay in Budapest. With an upcoming Viking River Cruise we wanted to find the best hotel in Budapest near the Danube so that our trip to board would be as easy as possible. We looked at many different options throughout the city, on both the Buda and Pest side of the river, but when we came across Brody Apartment and saw all it had to offer, we knew we found something unique and special: exactly what we look for when booking our stays. We combined the benefits of the accommodation itself with the amazing location and decided there really wasn’t a better place to stay in Budapest.

And boy were we glad we did! Not only were we able to access the hotel easily from the metro system (and from the airport by taking the metro system), we were able to walk to the port and board our Viking boat in a short amount of time while taking in the city around us. In fact, we liked it so much we’ve already recommended as a great hotel near the Danube for others who are planning a river cruise departing from Budapest. Why not enjoy some luxury and comfort before making your way to do more of the same while cruising down the Danube?

Brody: Where Art Meets Budapest

brody house budapest

What we found at Brody Apartments was much more than serviced accommodation. We found an entire community based around hospitality and art. What started out as a private arts club in a neoclassical townhouse in Budapest, has turned into much more.  The initial meeting space of the arts club was transformed into a boutique hotel as well, called Brody House, allowing members a place to stay after attending arts events and gatherings. Brody House now boasts 11 uniquely designed and decorated rooms, each named and styled after one of the original artists of the club.

brody house boutique hotel budapest

With unique pieces of furniture, refurbished or created from unexpected items, and walls decorated with paintings, photos or unusual items, each room provides guests with a sensory-rich, technology-absent experience. The artwork is the entertainment.  We were fortunate to be able to enjoy breakfast at Brody House one morning and were pleasantly surprised at the spread laid out before us. Granola and yogurt, fruits and breads, cheese, meats, and cereals were part of the breakfast buffet, while hot dishes could be ordered off the available menu.
Brody House Boutique Hotel Budapest

While Brody House is ideal for shorter stays, Brody Apartments is perfect for longer ones, as is Brody Villa, a newly opened restored nineteenth-century villa that can accommodate larger groups of people or for hosting events. Though we’ve not had the opportunity to visit, we’d love to do so and see how the combination of history & art, present in both Brody House and Apartments, is brought together in this heritage listed building. With three accommodations, as well as Brody House Studios which serves as a venue for many of the clubs events, the brand is growing rapidly while leaving a strong impression on both the arts and hospitality communities in Budapest.

What started as a stay in a unique hotel in Budapest near the Danube quickly turned into a foray into the arts scene of the city. When deciding where to stay in Budapest, we know our decision will always include the name ‘Brody’.

 

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Villa Caemilla: A Boutique Beachfront Hotel in Boracay

We walk at length through the mayhem that is Boracay beach on our way through station 2 and into station 3, moving through the crowds and activity while surrounded by noise and music. As we get deeper into station 3 however, the crowds start to dwindle. The music becomes a distant beat of bass and the sound of the waves softly rolling against the shore becomes distinguishable. We stop to take in the quiet and look up to the night sky before turning and making our way into our accommodations for the night. Yes, on this chaotic strip of beach we found our peaceful paradise, a beachfront hotel in Boracay,  from which to indulge in the best of both worlds: the excitement of the island and the tranquility promised by the sun, surf and sand.

Excitement & Tranquility Combine At the Best Beachfront Hotel in Boracay

boracay beach view

With an entire 4km long strip of beachfront property, on the longest white beach in Asia, you’re going to find quite the selection when looking for a beachfront hotel in Boracay. Nope, finding a hotel by the beach isn’t the tricky part of looking for accommodation on the island. Finding one of the best hotels in Boracay might be however, as you weigh the options between a louder area on the beach or a more secluded hotel off the strip.

During the day, the beach is quiet but active with kitesurfing, sunbathers and those out for a stroll along the strip of beach, or higher by the many restaurants that line it. Touts are persistent in their offers of goods and services and unless you are on the beach by the water, chances are you encounter someone with almost every step you take. By night, the beach turns into a frenzy of music and dancing, fire shows and entertainment. While foot traffic flows regularly during the day, it becomes a thick crowd at night.

boat on boracay beach in front of villa caemilla

Depending on what you travelled to Boracay for, and what your expectations are, the relentless onslaught can either be a welcome distraction, or an unpleasant overload. We found an incredible compromise when we stayed at Villa Caemilla Beach Boutique Hotel (Click here for the latest prices and more information about Villa Caemilla.. Villa Caemilla offers the best of both worlds on the island: a beachfront hotel on Boracay beach with easy access to activity that comes alive at night while also providing a tranquil escape from the chaos with its quiet location and peaceful surroundings.

Search for hotel options in Boracay below!

A Great Space to Relax or Dine by the Beach

Front desk at the Villa Caemilla - beachfront hotel boracay

When we first arrived at the hotel we were warmly welcomed and as we were being checked in, we were brought welcome shell necklaces and cold scented towels to refresh ourselves after our walk in the sun along the beach to get there. We were also given welcome drink tickets which could be used anytime that day. This was something that immediately caught our attention as most places bring you the drink directly, often before you are ready or while you are still trying to check in and get comfortable. By giving us the tickets, we were able to check-in, put our things away and change before coming back to the bar, grabbing our drink and sitting down to relax and enjoy it… and we did exactly that.

After using our tickets for fruit shakes, we settled at one of the tables where we could look out onto the beach. The restaurant and bar area being so easily accessible and open to the front offered an amazing area to sit, eat, and relax. We chose a few appetizers from their menu and soon found out they not only have an amazing location, but great service and delicious food.

beachfront hotel in Boracay loungers

Just beyond the front of the hotel is the section of beach where they put out beach loungers for their guests from 6am to 6pm to sit in the sun, or the shade under the palm tree, and still receive bar and food service. It didn’t take us long to realize that’s exactly where we wanted to go next!

The Hotel Room at The Villa Caemilla

bed at villa caemilla boutique beach hotel

The hotel itself is stylish but comfortable and this flows from the front lobby and dining area all the way to the rooms that line the back of the property. As we stepped into the room it was pretty clear why they were the winning newcomer boutique hotel in the 2015 World Hotel Awards as well as the winner of the 2015 World Luxury Hotel Awards for best luxury new hotel. The room was spacious and inviting with colours that made you feel like you were in a tropical getaway. Two towel swans greeted us on the bed accompanied by toiletry bags. We would later find out that the large bed was also incredibly comfortable and offered an amazing night’s sleep.

The washroom was clean and luxurious, with luxury fixtures, a rain shower and large, fuzzy bathrobes, which we were quick to use. The attention to detail was noticeable especially when it came to the toiletries. Not only were there a good range of products, the quality was impressive.

What a Great Beachfront Hotel in Boracay is All About: Location, Location, Location

beachfront hotel in Boracay villa caemilla loungers

As we said, Villa Caemilla offers the best of both worlds as a beachfront hotel in Boracay: the raucous nightlife and the quiet beauty of the island. Of the hotels in Station 3, it is situated in a quieter part of the strip where the loud bass of neighbouring hotels and restaurants doesn’t seem to quite reach the hotel but are also only a short walk away. In fact, walking only a few minutes will have you in the middle of utter chaos and excitement.

At night, this is where we would go. We’d walk from our hotel in station 3 all the way to the end of station 1. Sometimes, we’d stop at a coffee shop and sip our drinks while listening to some live music. Other times we’d walk closer to the shore, taking in the activity from a distance, sinking our toes in the sand and watching the water as it rolled onto the shore. The best part however, was that when we tired of the noise and crowds, we knew we had a quiet place to return to. If we came back early enough, we could even enjoy some live music in the comfort of our own hotel lobby.

sandcastles in Boracay beach

During the day, we parked ourselves on a lounger out front and enjoyed all that Boracay beach has to offer for those that want a vacation in the sun. We ordered our food and drinks to our seat in the sand and ate while watching the palm trees sway in the breeze.

Yes, the location of Villa Caemilla and the quiet luxury of the hotel and its rooms make it a perfect beachfront hotel in Boracay. It was a place where we could enjoy all the beach has to offer in luxury and comfort.

Click here for the latest prices and more information about Villa Caemilla.

Villa Caemilla Beach Boutique Hotel Logo

Villa Caemilla Beach Boutique Hotel

Station 3, Angol,

Barangay Manoc-Manoc, Boracay Island

Philippines, 5608

 

Looking for a different kind of vacation on Boracay? Mandala Spa & Resort Villas offers an alternate island getaway a short distance from the beach!

 

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The Henry Hotel Manila

The black wrought-iron gates of the nondescript entrance opened to reveal the long driveway and lush green interior of the grounds. Our Uber car slowly made it’s way past dark-paneled colonial style buildings with white-trimmed windows towards the main building of the property. As we exited and grabbed our luggage, the trickling of the fountain and the serene, secluded grounds had us relaxing before we even stepped foot into the unexpectedly modern interior and walked up to the reception desk. We were met with three smiling faces donning quirky thick black rimmed glasses and black bow ties over crisp white linen shirts. In just a matter of minutes it became clear to us that The Henry Hotel Manila wasn’t going to be just another typical hotel experience.

A Boutique Hotel “Like No Other” – The Henry Hotel Manila

henry hotel manila sign at front

When we visited Cebu in the Philippines, we had the chance to experience a truly unique boutique hotel – The Henry Hotel Cebu. After such a memorable time, we were excited to see their Manila location which we knew was quite different, yet incredibly interesting in its own way. What ended up surprising us the most was how easy it was to forget where you were when you were staying there. Hidden away from the busy streets and surrounded by trees, we found the hotel to be a place to relax and an escape from the chaos of Manila.

The Rooms: Historical Flare & Local Flavour

the bed at the henry hotel in manila

Our room was in the main building of the complex and offered a colonial historical feel with some local flavour added in through the decor. This ever-present connection to culture and history is one of the most fascinating aspects of The Henry Manila.  Each room at features furniture made by local, and resident, creator Eric Paras and each piece of his is available for purchase. The rooms themselves retain as much of the original design and materials as possible, with restored wood flooring and armoires that were trademarks of the bourgeoisie of the colonial period in the Philippines.

standard room at the henry hotel manila

One of the staff mentioned how significant the large, hardwood antique armoires are to Filippino culture “it’s a piece of our history”, he said, “only the wealthy and politically powerful could afford these so it is a piece of luxury and history”. He said that the style and materials used back then are no longer employed so those pieces that remain are generally passed on through generations.

refreshments in the room at the henry hotel manila

In addition to maintaining as much of the original aesthetics, the incorporation of current local artists and products also brings in that quirky and original flare we came to recognize at the Hotel Henry Cebu. We quickly spotted the unique tissue boxes and garbage bins and were told that they were made by a local NGO – Kamay Krafts – which employ battered and widowed wives to make handmade products using materials native to the Philippines. The local links within the room seem to be endless and almost everything in the room has a story. From the artwork to the furniture, to the snack basket of local treats and coffee, there’s a connection to culture or a link to history and we absolutely loved being immersed in it.

Interested in staying at The Henry Hotel Manila? Just click here for hotel details and information.

Apt 1B – A Boutique Dining Experience

quesadilla at apt 1b at the henry hotel manila

We were pretty hungry when we first arrived at The Henry Hotel Manila and so, after checking in, we made our way back downstairs and through the “hidden” door between the front reception and the hotel’s restaurant – Apt 1B – in search for something to satisfy our now growing appetite. The interior of the restaurant was in keeping with the rest of the property – boutique and trendy in style and decor.

Sitting down in the intimate dining room, we were quickly presented with the menu of gourmet food options. We decided on a soup and salad despite the choices of pastas and breakfast, burgers and sandwiches that sounded equally appetizing and tempting!

We were served quickly and attentively and really enjoyed our meal thoroughly. As we ate, we watched the rest of the customers’ orders flow around us as delicious meal after delicious meal was brought out.

breakfast at the henry hotel manila

The following morning we were excited to head down for breakfast and we definitely weren’t disappointed. Buffet servings of coffee and tea, juice and fruits were available as we ordered our main breakfast: one order of eggs, toast, sausage and homefries and one order of pancakes.

Again, the food was delicious and filling and after several cups of coffee, we were ready to start the day!

The Grounds – A Retreat Outside Busy Manila

the pool at the henry hotel manila

If you’ve been to Manila, you know what a chaotic, hectic place it can be. The cars and the honking, the people and the poverty, the intensity of the city may be tempered by the incredible people you meet and the wonderful Filipino culture, but it is still present in large doses. For us, The Henry Hotel Manila provides the perfect combination of city location and secluded retreat grounds.

front gate to the henry hotel manila

In fact, it does such a great job of being a private refuge from the craziness of the city beyond that it’s easy to forget you are still in the core of Manila until you step outside those wrought-iron gates and reemerge onto the fast-paced, intense city streets.

The property is surrounded by wrought-iron gates and walls, bordered by green foliage and trees, and peppered with interesting features like the art gallery, furniture store, fountain, pool and of course, the main buildings which hold the rooms and suites of the hotel.

pool area at the henry hotel manila

The pool area is peaceful and serene, the trickling water of the nearby fountain still distinguishable and the surrounding trees providing privacy and shade. We took some time to relax by the water, soak in some sun and enjoy the peace and tranquility.

The property is a great place to walk through, along stone paths, past the colonial buildings housing guests and the swimming pool, through the compound and to the other end where the art gallery and houses holding furniture displays are located.

Below: Compare The Henry to other hotels in the area and save!


 

The Furniture Showroom – Local Talent and Design

 

As mentioned, all of the furniture in each of the rooms is made by a local artist and available for purchase. Eric Paras, the resident artist and furniture maker also displays his work in three houses – collectively A-11 –  at one end of the property. As with the furniture in the rooms, the furniture on display in the houses, as well as the artwork and accessories by various other artists and designers, are also for sale making these houses part showroom, part gallery, and part store and entirely unique in concept.

eric paras furniture manila

Each room is designed with various pieces designed by Eric Paras and brought together with added touches like framed work by artist Wataru Sakuma. We were amazed at the talent and variety of pieces by Paras and completely in awe over the artwork by Sakuma like the incredible intricate 3D maps that are created out of paper.

furniture showroom henry hotel manila

From first floor to top floor, from the first house to the third house, the furniture and artwork combine for a wonderful aesthetic appeal and a great showcase of the talent of these artists.

 

Our stay at the Henry Hotel Manila was a wonderful and tranquil escape from the chaos of the city and one memorable experience. From boutique accommodations to tasty cuisine to local artwork, The Henry Hotel showcases the best of history and culture of the Philippines.

Click here to check out prices and more information on The Henry Hotel Manila.

the-henry-like-no-other logo

The Henry Hotel Manila

2680 FB Harrison St.

Pasay City, Philippines, 1300

Tel: +63 32 807-8888

Email: reservations.manila@thehenryhotel.com

 

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Best Couples Spa & Resort in the Philippines – Mandala Spa & Resort Villas

As the doors opened, the smell of incense, the sound of gentle music and the sight of colourful flower petals elegantly strewn were the first to reach our senses. Stepping into the villa was like entering a tropical paradise with the beautiful canopy bed with artfully placed petals atop the white linens, the warm wood decor and the trail of flowers leading into the modern and spacious bathroom. This hideaway off the streets of Boracay was a welcome oasis away from the busy, tourist filled beaches and was surrounded by trees and tranquility and saturated in luxury and relaxation. We had found a luxury oasis and one of the best couples spa and resorts in the Philippines.

Finding A Luxury Oasis at the Best Couples Spa & Resort in Boracay

mandala spa and resort villas couples spa

Boracay is a beautiful island in the Philippines with many hotels, resorts, spas and activities. It is also a popular tourist destination and as such, the main strip of the beach can get pretty crowded and, in some areas, fairly noisy. Our first night on the island had us staying right on the beach in Station 3 (the strip of the beach is divided into three stations though the borders between each are arbitrary rather than actual physical divisions). Unfortunately, our hotel was right beside a late night bar pumping out high-level bass music into the wee hours of the night, leaving us worried about the rest of our time on Boracay. Though we didn’t know it, we’d have very little to worry about.

After the first night, we made our way off the beach and headed to what would be our accommodation for the next several nights – the award winning Mandala Spa and Resort Villas and what we came to see as the best couples spa and resort in Boracay, Philippines. Situated a short walk away from the beach, nestled away from the streets of Boracay, we found the main entrance to the resort and started down a path covered by an archway of foliage. Pulling our wheeled carry-on sized backpacks down the path, we stopped as the dark green, leafy cover opened up to reveal the resort.

The lush vegetation gave the feel of a secluded tropical paradise as we navigated the path past the spa, to the reception area. Welcomed with warm smiles and an offering of ginger tea and water, we sat and relaxed out of the sun while the check-in process began. We quickly found ourselves being led to our villa along the winding path, with the greenery surrounding us and the occasional butterfly fluttering past.

A Luxury Villa Off The Beach in Boracay

best couples spa and resort philippines mandala spa and resort villas

Tucked off the side of the path, we took in the greenery of the Mandala Spa and Villas and walked up to our own, private getaway. As the doors opened and we took our first look inside, we knew we had found a special resort in the Philippines. The soft sounds of music drifting from the private iPod docking station was the first thing we noticed. Calm and peaceful, it beckoned us further into the villa where we were struck by the gentle smell of incense burning. Olfactory and auditory senses now stimulated, we surveyed our surroundings: warm wood floors and furniture, white flowing curtains on large floor-to-ceiling windows, and accents of red and purple combined to create a room that seemed to radiate luxury and tranquility.

mandala spa and resort villas flowers

The flowers and petals were amazing touches as well and as we followed the trail from the door of the bathroom, across stone tiles, we found ourselves in another haven of comfort. A large tub with petals already floating in the water, plush bathrobes and towels, and an outdoor private rain shower were just some of the amazing features in this spacious en-suite.

couples spa and resort philippines villa bathroom

We were quite surprised with what we found in the room – a kettle with all the fixings for tea and coffee, a private modem for WiFi, a great basket of toiletries, and a large TV that managed to only add to the luxury of the room without taking away from the tropical paradise vibe that had infiltrated our minds from the moment we stepped into what was shaping up to be one of the best resort in Boracay, Philippines.

mandala spa and resort villas philippines

We quickly got ourselves settled, making coffee and tea with our in-room amenities, and headed to the patio outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and the peaceful privacy of our own oasis.

A Focus on Feeding The Body, Mind & Soul

the garden cafe mandala spa and resort villas philippines

The Garden Cafe, an outdoor restaurant pretty much central to all the villas, was a perfect place to enjoy the beautiful weather and the tropical seclusion of this luxury spa resort while grabbing a meal. With the Mandala Spa and Villas’ focus on health and wellness, it was no surprise that the food offered had a variety of healthy choices and ingredients.

breakfast at mandala spa and resort villas best couples spa philippines

On our first morning, we woke up in a haze of contentment, tucked in our comfortable bed with the canopy curtains let down around us. After taking our time to get ready, we headed to the Garden Cafe to grab some food. Sitting at a table overlooking the resort, the birds entertained us with their morning calls as we browsed the menu and made our selections. This was to be the pattern set for the rest of our mornings at the Mandala as we went through their all-day breakfast menu, one dish at a time, trying things like their incredible oatmeal and quinoa pancakes, fresh muesli with homemade organic yogurt and fresh fruit, and perfectly cooked eggs Benedict.

mandala spa and resort villas food

After our first breakfast, we knew we needed to try more of the menu and returned for many meals. We were particularly fond of their roasted pumpkin soup, the surprisingly delicious quinoa burger and their Moroccan chicken wrap, though everything we tried had our taste buds and stomachs feeling satisfied.

the vessel mandala spa and resort villas best couples spa and resort

We had quickly realized that the Mandala Spa and Resort Villas was one of the best couples spa and resorts in the Philippines but what took it to the next level for us was its focus on nourishing the body, mind and soul. The food provided us with healthy, nutritional and amazing tasting food (many ingredients grown in their own greenhouse garden) and their fitness centre, The Vessel, offered classes in the morning and afternoon, like yoga, jazz dance and pole dancing. Add the spa to the mix and it isn’t difficult to see how we could feel completely content and relaxed for our entire stay – our mind, body and soul having been pampered completely.

Enjoying an Award Winning Spa in Boracay

award winning spa philippines mandala spa

Staying at the Mandala meant we were also staying at a luxury spa resort that has won awards for their spa treatments and is easily one of the best couples spas in the Philippines.  Recently winning the Leading Spa Resort in the Philippines for 2015, we knew we couldn’t leave without indulging in their spa services. It didn’t take us long into our first treatment to understand why they were award winners and to decide a second treatment was an absolute must.

We booked a Romantic Mandala Spa Journey for one of our last days at the resort and after months without any successful efforts to ease our tense, travel-weary muscles we were excited for not only the romantic experience but the hopefully healing benefits of the treatment!

mandala best couples spa philippines

Our Romantic Spa Journey was divided into three different treatments starting with a “Royal Footbath” which was the perfect way to begin to completely relax. After the footbath and some tea, we were taken to massage tables, side-by-side. Here we were given their full-body “Asian Signature Massage”. Sinking into pure bliss as our knots and tense muscles were kneaded and released, we let all sense of time or stress melt away. The final treatment was their “Cleopatra Milk Bath” where we both luxuriated in the warm, petal-filled water enjoying fruit shakes and chocolates as the last of our stress evaporated and any remaining muscle tension faded.

After the first treatment we booked our second for the following day, this time going with one of their award winning spa treatment: Mandala Spa’s Hilot Trilogy. We were intrigued to experience an ancient Filipino therapeutic form of massage and traditional healing.

mandala spa experience romantic journey

We first experienced Hihilaan, where banana leaves covered in coconut oil were dragged along our backs in order to determine areas of imbalance. Next, a traditional form of vacuum cupping, Bentosa, followed by a Hilot massage of deep strokes. Finally, there was the foot massage, Dagdagay, where two bamboo sticks are used to massage the soles of the feet. We found each one incredibly interesting to experience, although Macrae got a bit ticklish with the Dagdagay technique!

Again, complete relaxation took over us both and we were left in a state of loose muscles and calm moods. What we noticed most about both spa experiences was the attention to detail. From the flower arrangement underneath our massage tables so we’d have something to look at, other than the floor, if we opened our eyes, to the soft linens and choice of oils, there was great thought and care put into every aspect of the treatments.

Escaping the Chaos & Enjoying Some Tranquility

mandala spa and resort villas boracay

While we always enjoy staying on the beach, finding some tranquility and peace away from busy areas (like many strips along the beach in Boracay) is a respite we also look for often. With free towel rentals from Mandala Spa and Resort Villas and a path that leads out to a shortcut to the beach, the sand and water was only a short walk away and allowed us to enjoy the quiet and relaxing vibe of the spa resort, while still getting as much beach time in as we wanted.

Between the villa, the food, the spa and the overall focus on relaxation and wellness, we knew we had found one of the best couples spa and resort destinations in the Philippines and by the end of our stay, we were dragging our feet, wishing the experience didn’t have to end.

 

 

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