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[caption id="attachment_7250" width="600"] Galapagos Giant Tortoise (c) Sonia Kraemer D'Annunzio

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When you start looking into your big bucket list trip to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, the choices can be overwhelming. When to go? Which islands? How long? What kind of ship?

This is a case where if you go in blind and try to figure it all out yourself, you had better have a lot of time on your hands. With close to 200 ships licensed to ply these waters in some form or another, and many times that many companies selling tours, you need a filter. Your best bet is to book with an operator who has been showing off the wildlife here for decades, a company like Go Galapagos.

Formed from a 2014 merger of two tour companies with a long history, Go Galapagos combined the deep benches of experience at Klein Tours (founded in 1970) and Gala Tours (founded in 1983). Based in Ecuador, the company employs some of the most experienced captains, guides, and crew in the country. At this point they have served more than 69,000 travelers: singles, couples, families, and groups.

Treading Lightly in the Galapagos Islands

Itineraries are tightly controlled in these fragile islands to minimize man's impact. Ships have a specific schedule to avoid crowds and bottlenecks. The best tour companies go beyond the conservation minimums though, which control what food can be served (no invasive berries, for instance) and how many tourists can land on any given island at one time.

Go Galapagos has desalination equipment on its ships to produce water directly from the ocean, with ultraviolet purification systems to provide clean drinkable water going into reusable water bottles for guests so there is no single-use plastic. The company also uses refillable toiletry dispensers and separates/collects anything that can be recycled back on land.

[caption id="attachment_7248" width="600"] Galapagos Green Turtle (c) Florencia Ceide

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The Go Galapagos Experience

The company offers two types of ships for cruising the islands: one 100-passenger ship and two yachts.

The advantages of the large Galapagos Legend ship are a more stable cruise from a ship that's 301 feet long, larger public areas (including an outdoor auditorium), more cabin types, a hot tub, and a pool. The ship was just renovated in 2017.

The Coral 1 and Coral 2 yachts have 18 and 11 cabins, respectively. These allow a more intimate experience where you can get to know your shipmates better and they can get into smaller coves. With a smaller number of passengers, there's not such a need to stagger the zodiac departures over several hours.

The smaller ships are better for groups traveling together or a large multi-generational trip where you want to have most or all of the cabins to yourself. They do have outdoor decks, a bar area, library, and hot tub.

If you're going for a real luxury experience though, book a premium suite with a balcony on the Galapagos Legend so you'll have plenty of room to stretch out. The Legend Balcony Suite is the size of a real hotel room, with a sofa for lounging and a furnished balcony.

For detailed information on the itinerary choices, the ship options, and cabin layouts, see the Go Galapagos website. Naturally the company can also set up mainland tours and transfers so you can see more of Ecuador while you are in South America.

Go Galapagos is an advertising partner of Luxury Latin America, but as always, all opinions are our own. See more on the region from our Luxury Galapagos and Ecuador Travel section.

The post Cruising the Islands in Style With Go Galapagos of Ecuador appeared first on Luxury Latin America Blog.

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We've been trying hard to keep up with all the new openings in Los Cabos, with the latest addition being our in-depth review of Chileno Bay Resort and Residences. This Auberge Collection resort isn't the newest in town since that title rarely lasts more than a few months these days, but it has already soared up the rankings to join the elite luxury resorts that have been established for more than a decade, like sister Auberge property Esperanza.

Chileno Bay Resort, as you would probably imagine, is named after the section of the ocean it overlooks, with the architecture designed to make the most of the view from every point in the horseshoe-shaped property. In your room or villa, by the pool, or having dinner, you're nearly always going to have the blue sea in sight.

As with most stretches of sand in this area, the ocean waves and steep drop-off make swimming from the beach a dangerous red-flag proposition. The sand is nice for a morning walk, but you're more likely to spend your day kicking back on a lounge chair at the pool.

Starting at the edge of the fitness center are the three infinity pools, all of which cascade toward the ocean. The first pool is ideal for wading with the little ones and even teaching them to swim. Drop down to the family pool, cabanas on one side, and chairs on the other. The last pool, adults-only, is the closest pool to the beach and two restaurants. It rolls out a floating tequila bar every day at 4 p.m.

Room options here go from large junior suites to palatial luxury digs, with four-bedroom villas available and private bungalows for those who find the villas' private pools and chef insufficient for their family's needs. This is one of the highest-tech resorts in the area, many options controlled with your smart phone and staffers summoned quickly via a messenger app. You can expect top amenities, fine toiletries, impeccable housekeeping, and spacious marble baths at your disposal.

The well-trained, often well-traveled staff here is on par with what you'd find at other Auberge Collection resorts, which is saying a lot in a region of Mexico where staff demand is high and the housing situation is a challenge. The restaurants here get high marks too, especially dinner at Comal, despite the secluded location where nearly everything has to be shipped in or flown in.

See our full review of Chileno Bay Resort and Residences in Los Cabos, Baja Sur, Mexico.

The post Checking Out Chileno Bay Resort and Residences, Los Cabos appeared first on Luxury Latin America Blog.

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"Passport please. Return ticket please. Travel insurance card please. Thanks and enjoy your flight."

You've always been asked for the first thing and probably sometimes been asked for the second. Now add travel insurance to your list of to-dos before you head to Ecuador. That country recently passed a law that all visitors to the country must have travel insurance that includes health coverage.

As I write this, the law is supposed to go into effect July 22, 2018. It has already been delayed once though and tour operators are saying they're not sure what to tell visitors because there are no concrete guidelines to pass on. There's not much time left for clarification, but the intent is clear, so better safe than sorry if you're heading to the Galapagos or the jungle sometime soon.

Travel Insurance for Antarctica Needed

If you're flying to Argentina or Chile to board a cruise to Antarctica, you had better be packing a travel insurance card. Your regular health care insurance won't help you there. You need a robust travel policy that includes medical evacuation--an expensive operation in such a remote area. If you don't have a policy already that includes this, you won't be able to go waddle with the penguins.

These two are not isolated examples either. Travelers already have to show proof of travel insurance in three other countries: Cuba, Poland, and the Czech Republic. None of these countries get the tens of millions of visitors as Mexico or France, but don't be surprised if one of these other tourism behemoths decides to follow the same path. Thailand is considering taking this step as well, saying that visitors without insurance who suffer an accident---and there are plenty of those with all the motorbikes in use---are a cost to the country's health care system.

Shop around and check coverage and price, but this is a situation where buying from some small company you have never heard of could backfire. In Cuba, for example, your insurance provider needs to be on their official list or it's like you don't have a policy at all. They do accept the big ones though, like our advertising partner Allianz. I've had an annual travel insurance policy from Allianz for years now and though I've fortunately never had to make a claim, the cost is rather minimal compared to what I spend on other types of insurance in my life. Here's a breakdown of options for a 50-year-old woman from California in mid-2018:

The Cost and Coverage of an Annual Travel Insurance Policy

I know it's hard to read that tiny print, but click on the graphic and you can get your own quote. Note that the first two options in this annual plan are $125 and $249---annually, not per month. One of those will be enough for most leisure travelers. The last option you would mostly need to cover up to $1,000 of business equipment, or if you're traveling in remote areas and may need a very expensive medical evacuation, which is covered up to $250,000.

Note that the trip cancellation insurance coverage rises with the different options too though, so if you're booking a luxury tour costing $10,000 each, you would only get back $2,000 each of that in the middle tier, none of it in the lower tier. (You could purchase trip cancellation insurance in a one-off manner from the tour company or travel agent of course to supplement.) It's always good to evaluate how the options match up to the kind of traveling you will be doing and how much your luggage is worth. Also, you probably won't need this for routine medical care anywhere in Latin America because it's cheap enough to just pay for it out of pocket. It's when things really go wrong that you'll want an insurance company with a phone number having your back.

This post is sponsored by our advertising partner Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and we have received financial compensation from the company. As always, all opinions are our own.

The post Like an Onward Ticket, Some Countries Require Travel Insurance appeared first on Luxury Latin America Blog.

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When you start asking rum connoisseurs about their favorites, the name Ron Zacapa pops up a lot, so I was excited to try this relatively new Edición Negra version. Ron Zacapa 23 is not just one of the best rums from Central America, it's also one of the best in the world. This new one has an interesting twist though, with rum aged in charred oak barrels that previously held American whiskey and Pedro Ximénez wines from Mexico.

That combination is kind of a head-scratcher to me. I wouldn't normally put bourbon and red wine together in the same drinking session unless it was going to be a very long night. (And maybe a rough morning.) Most whiskies that have employed this technique pick one type of barrel and run with it, like sherry or port, and find some good alchemy in the combination. The company's own Zacapa Centenario XO is a good example for rum, with an extra aging session in barrels that previously held cognac. It works extremely well---and commands a high price.

How would this second introduction work out, with three different flavor profiles and rum versions aged anywhere from 6 to 24 years? Well if anyone could pull this challenge off, it would be master distiller Lorena Vasquez. She's been at the controls at Zacapa (and sister label Botran) for more than two decades now, so I think she has proven she knows what she is doing.

Ron Zacapa Edición Negra Review

None of this information I supplied above is on the bottle, which seems rather odd to me. All it says on the label is, "From virgin sugar cane & aged at a high altitude in double charred oak barrels." The presentation is quite understated overall, especially at the U.S. liquor store price point of $55 to $80. After you open the nice gift cylinder, the bottle is nothing special: cork and plastic top, small embossed flower, a clear glue-on label, and the woven reed decoration circling the bottom. So if you're looking to really impress a client, spend more for the XO version instead.

If you're buying it for yourself, it's what's in the bottle that really matters, right? Here the Negra shines.

My first impression was, "Wow, that's a lot of smoke and wood," the taste hitting me hard like a Flor de Caña rather than like the normal velvety soft explosion you get on the tongue from a Zacapa 23. It mellowed out a bit as it spent some time in the glass though and the elements came together well in a cohesive package. This is kind of a "best of both worlds" rum for people who like strong flavors but complexity. You get the usual caramel, vanilla, and spice notes you expect from a Botran or Zacapa rum, but a bit of the dark side creeping in with hints of leather, ash, and dark chocolate.

Although this rum doesn't have any more alcohol than the others in their line, it smells and tastes like it does. The bourbon overtones are clearest in the nose, where you get a strange Guatemala meets Kentucky combo. It's harder to find a smooth bourbon than a smooth rum, so perhaps the best contribution of the whiskey barrels is to provide a perception of heft and add another dimension to the flavor journey. This Negra rum really dances across the tongue, hitting different taste buds from the beginning of the sip until a finish that seems to linger forever.

I didn't get any hints of red wine, however, which is a good thing. Perhaps those Pedro Ximénez barrels are used more sparingly in the solera blending process, to the point where they contribute in the background without standing out at all.

Many tasters have put this Edición Negra rum one rung up from the 23 and one rung below the XO, which is also where it falls in price. Really though, that's a matter of personal taste more than quality. If you like your aged rum unadulterated, then you might think of these blending experiments as blasphemy and won't like the outside elements introduced in the aging process. If you like complexity and enjoy sipping a fine spirit neat for an evening, try out this Negra version and I doubt you'll be disappointed. I was a bit skeptical up front, but after spending an evening sharing this with a couple friends who loved it, I'm glad they left me some to return to when I want to drink something special.

See more information at the Zacapa website and do a local web search to see where you can buy it in your area.

The post Ron Zacapa Edicion Negra Aged Rum Adds a Charred Barrel Twist appeared first on Luxury Latin America Blog.

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What is your vacation like on a small ship cruise?

Well if it's an UnCruise, the better question might be about what the vacation is like off the small ship cruise. Because if you are on an adventure cruise with that company, you'll spend as much time off the boat as on it. You will eat very well, but you'll have plenty of chances to work off some calories as well.

On our UnCruise Unveiled Wonders of Panama and Costa Rica 8-day trip, we started off in the Panama Canal and ended up at the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. Along the way we snorkeled, kayaked, paddleboarded, hiked, swam, and spent a lot of time on beaches we had all to ourselves. If you've got a bit of time, settle back with a potential shipmate and check out this video tour of the beaches, the wildlife, and the fun:

UnCruise Adventures in Panama and Costa Rice - YouTube
A few passengers bristled when I said I was writing about this trip for a luxury publication. In their minds, "luxury" meant being pampered while sitting around doing a lot of nothing. To them this was the opposite of that and they considered themselves "adventurers" or "active travelers," no matter how much money they had.

I would still consider this a luxury adventure though because it hits the other definition: exclusivity. When you go on a small ship trip with UnCruise, you get into bays where you're on the only boat around, places no gargantuan cruise ship would ever be allowed. Plus with fewer than 60 people on board at capacity, you'll get to know your shipmates and won't feel like a number. There's a high crew-to-guest ratio and our guides were a mix of foreigners and locals, all of them well-trained and knowledgeable. Our guides were really well-versed in the flora and fauna of this rich region, having grown up around it all before studying formally.

A few other things ticked the luxury boxes for me. The bar---which is all-inclusive with the meals---was well-stocked with fine rum from Panama and Costa Rica, plus we had Ron Zacapa 23 (one of the best rums from Central America, if not the best) and Santa Teresa 1796 from Venezuela. The bartender whipped up some great classic cocktails and we even had craft beer from Costa Rica on board. The second real pleasure was the food on board, which was high-end restaurant quality despite the limited kitchen size and the need to carry everything on board a ship. The pastry chef was a real magician, putting out some "Wow!" surprise every day at snack time or dessert time.

See our full feature story here: Secret Beaches of Panama and Costa Rica on an UnCruise Adventure.

The post Panama and Costa Rica the UnCruise Way on a Small Ship appeared first on Luxury Latin America Blog.

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When we first published a luxury real estate article on Panama City a decade ago, what was then called Trump Ocean Club was the slick new game in town and the market was getting flooded with buyers from Argentina, Brazil, and especially Venezuela who were looking for a stable place to put their money. Meanwhile, a full-blown financial crisis was raging in the USA, which kept the market from overheating too much in this dollar denominated market.

The capital of Panama is a dynamic place though, the skyline changing every time I visit. Nothing stays the same for long. A wider parallel canal has opened up next to the old one for huge container ships. The "Panama Papers" came out and let to a range of embarrassments and banking reforms. As the Trump name has become toxic to developers and hotel owners, the angry orange one's family name has disappeared from the front of the dramatic tower, now called The Bahia Grand Panama.

Yes, when you talk about luxury real estate in Panama City, it's a little complicated. There's not just one kind of buyer and there's no longer just one kind of condo to buy at the high end either. As the luxury housing market has gotten more sophisticated, the skinny towers in the business district are joined by ones around a golf course, high-rises in a less crowded area, and a full-on renovation spree in the historic Casco Viego area. The latter is not joined by a running and bike path that stretches miles between there and the city center, along the water.

A new marina, the Biomuseo, a subway, housing developments on Amador Causeway---all of these things have happened in just the last five years, on top of a wider and deeper canal costing billions. This is clearly a good place to be doing business.

It's also a good place to retire too: Panama still comes out on top in terms of incentives they offer to woo foreign investment and to appeal to retirees. While some of the benefits have scaled back or phased out when it comes to taxes---you can actually get a better tax break from buying in a 10-year-old development than a newer one---the list of residency benefits is still long. There's 50% off entertainment, 50% off mid-week hotel stays, 25% off airline tickets, and a $10,000 tax exemption on goods you bring into the country during a move for starters.

Moving to Panama is a surprisingly simple process too, with a minimum of forms and a couple months of processing time. No big anti-immigrant backlash here. Panama is moving full speed ahead at 5% plus economic growth annually and they know they need to be a welcoming place to keep that rolling year after year. If you've got a million bucks or two to invest in real estate, they'll be really happy to see you.

The housing market here is active and liquid, but it's far from overheated, with new developments seemingly opening every month. So if you like the heat and you like big-city, cosmopolitan living, take a look at "The Crossroads of the Americas." You still get a lot for your money at the high end here and the quality of finishes and design keeps getting better each year. Check out our full article:

Panama City: A Buyer's Market for Luxury Condos in the Hub of the Americas

The post The Evolving Luxury Real Estate Scene in Panama City, Panama appeared first on Luxury Latin America Blog.

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The luxury resort scene in Los Cabos keeps getting more heated all the time. This has clearly become the go-to spot for high-end hotel chains to make their mark in Mexico. The home-grown Mexican companies are no slackers, however, and Grand Solmar Land's End is worth considering for its fine facilities, large rooms, and near-perfect location.

That location is at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortes and creates some dramatic ocean waves. You can watch those waves crashing on the shore from a beach chair or from the multiple infinity pools that are perched over the sand. The flag is always red for "no swimming" in this rough current, but there's a special thrill when you're having a cocktail at the swim-up bar and seeing 10-foot waves roll in. From December through March you'll probably see whales off shore as well.

This location is right behind the famous Los Cabos arch, with sunrise at one end of the beach and sunset at the other. The spa at Grand Solmar is set up differently than at most resorts. It's not buried in a basement to cut off all outside noise. Instead it's comprised of two sets of thatched cabanas at either end of the resort. Your relaxing massage comes with a salty sea breeze and the sounds of the ocean.

The standard rooms at this resort would require a 3-level upgrade at most others. They're spacious, with a full dining table and a murphy bed, a large furnished balcony, and a well-equipped kitchen that has a full-sized refrigerator.

The 244 rooms at Grand Solmar come in several configurations, none of them small. Even the studio rooms have a fully equipped kitchen, dining area and a hidden Murphy bed for extra guests in their 737 square feet. The furnished balcony has comfy lounge chairs. It goes up from there through master suites, multi-bedroom suites, and four-bedroom penthouse suites that are larger than most luxury homes in the area.

This is the closest luxury resort to Cabo San Lucas itself, literally walking distance from the nightlife, the restaurants, and the marina for fishing or whale watching trips. Staffers can also arrange all kinds of adventure tours in the area. We even went camel riding on a beach (of all things), after a fun ATV ride, with Cactus Tours.

If you've never been to Los Cabos, you might think it's just another beach resort area, but take a tour with us and see the dramatic beach here and get a feel for what the resort at the end of Baja is like.

Grand Solmar Land's End Video Tour - YouTube
We have stayed in and toured a lot of different luxury resorts in this area on four different trips. With that context, we were impressed by the attentive service, consistently good meals, and the great physical set-up of one of Los Cabos' own home-grown resorts.

See more photos and our detailed review of Grand Solmar Land's End in Cabo San Lucas, Baja.

The post Grand Solmar Land’s End at the Tip of the Baja Peninsula appeared first on Luxury Latin America Blog.

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I seldom sample spirits at 11:00 a.m., but travel writing is not for the faint of heart. Offered a chance to taste Flor de Caña, Nicaragua’s premium rum, my colleagues and I were up for the challenge. To find out how this Central American favorite is made, we left the beautiful colonial city of León and drove about 45 minutes north to the distillery. Other participants we ran into booked tours from Managua or their cruise ships.

Flor de Caña Distillery offers three public tours a day in its 125-year-old distillery. Set amid cane fields in the leafy town of Chichigalpa, it lies at the base of San Cristóbal—an active volcano. Unveiled in 2012, the 90-minute tour begins with a vintage train ride. It disembarks at the “world’s largest rum barrel,” a two-story building with a tiny museum and tasting facilities.

Since the Pellas family of Nicaragua has been making Flor de Caña (Spanish for sugar cane flower) for five generations, the tour is a mini-course in Nicaraguan history. The museum’s black-and-white portrait collection includes a youthful Mark Twain, looking cocky in a big hat and tall leather boots. To get from San Francisco to New York without crossing the U.S. in 1866, the celebrated author took a boat to Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast and then traveled overland to the Caribbean side. In those pre-Panama Canal days, he followed a route devised by U.S. mogul Cornelius Vanderbilt (also pictured in the museum) to transport prospectors during the Gold Rush. Twain had to board steamers, cross a gigantic lake and travel by wagon on a bumpy road—one of his all-time favorite adventures.

We also visited a Flor de Caña storage area, where wooden barrels were stacked in rows, way over our heads. Our English-speaking guide attributed the rum’s distinctive flavor to several factors: the area’s rich volcanic soil and the aging that takes place in white oak barrels (imported from the U.S.) that have been used to mature bourbon. The casks always contain the same age rum—never mixed with older or younger. The rum is made with local sugar cane, without additives, and has a dark amber color.

Each tour comes with tastings of Flor de Caña 7 and Flor de Caña 18, the numbers indicating how many years the rum has aged. I found the 7 (only $10 here on site) deep and intense, smoky, slightly dry—with hints of caramel, vanilla and the tropics.  The 18 (which retails for $50 usually in the USA) is bolder, with a peppery aftertaste. In the interests of journalism, we also tried Ultra Coco ($6), a coconut flavor introduced four years ago. Pleasant, slightly sweet and spring-like, it’s meant to be mixed with cocktails.

During our week in Nicaragua, we were offered many mixed rum drinks, most often Rum & Coke, which I associate with college hangovers. We also tried rum in passion fruit cocktails, “green drinks” and, well, practically everything. We were all the better for it.

But purists mourn the lack of a national drink. “Nicaragua has no cocktail to call its own,” laments Marc Lacey of the New York Times, with a whiff of snobbery. “Despite a top-quality domestic rum, bartenders borrow from others when mixing it. They add Coca-Cola and call the resulting drink a Nica libre, which everyone knows is really just a Cuba libre. They add soda water or ice, which does little to make the resulting drink shout "Nicaragua!"

In 2006, there was a push to make El Macuá (white rum, guava juice, lemon juice, a little sugar and ice) the national drink, but it hasn’t achieved the status of, say, Peru’s Pisco Sour.

After drinking rum straight at Flor de Caña Distillery, I wonder if a national cocktail is needed. “If it’s really good rum, then you don’t want to do anything to it,” a local told me. “It’s a matter of respect. Pour it into a glass, over ice if you like. Drink it.”

 

IF YOU GO

You can book $10 Flor de Caña Distillery tours online.   9 a.m., 11 a.m. or 3 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. VIP tours are 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and cost $100---with more high-end, longer-aged rums in the mix. You can buy rum and other merchandise in the gift shop, but the same goods are available at the airport.

Note that you can also do high-end rum tasting at Mukul Resort near San Juan del Sur, owned by the Pella family.

This post is from Luxury Latin America contributor Candace Dempsey. She is an award-winning adventure travel writer, journalist and author of Murder in Italy (Penguin), the true story of Amanda Knox. Based in Seattle, she specializes in Italy, India, Africa, and Latin America.See her food article on Costa Rica here.

The post Visiting the Flor de Caña Distillery in Nicaragua appeared first on Luxury Latin America Blog.

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There's a good reason Mexico gets so many luxury travelers drawn to its coasts: the country has more luxury beach resorts than any other country in North America---including the USA. You can quickly get to the Riviera Maya region of the Yucatan Peninsula from the east coast or Midwest of the USA. Leave your home in the morning and be sipping a cocktail with your loved one on the beach in the afternoon at a romantic spot like Belmond Maroma Resort.

When I live in the USA it's in Florida, so I know that we have some fine beaches with white sand and palm trees, but even in Florida it's hard to find the kind of beachfront luxury resorts you get in Mexico. The ones in the Riviera Maya have a much higher staff-to-guest ratio, the rooms are usually far more plush, and the water is often 5-10 degrees warmer in winter. Plus they don't have to be JW Marriott sized to be profitable. Maroma has just 63 rooms and suites, so you're not going to feel like you should have a lanyard and a stack of business cards.

Three of their four room categories are suites, including the ones where you can walk right out onto the beach or snap that perfect drool-worthy social media photo from your deck. As you can see from that photo at the top, you won't have to go very far to dig your toes into the white sand or swim in the Caribbean waters.

The Ocean View Junior Suites are the first upgrade, looking out at the blue water, but if you are on your honeymoon or celebrating an anniversary, why not step it up? The Master Suites have a separate living room so you can snuggle up on the sofa while looking out at the scenery--either the lush jungle or the sea. Both have outdoor space for taking it all in.

The top room choices are the Oceanfront Suites, with more than 1,900 square feet of space. These have a plunge pool on the covered patio where you can relax with a view of the waves, beside a furnished deck. They have luxuriant outdoor showers in addition to the indoor ones. Some have their own spa area or fitness area, while others have room for the kids if you're coming as a family.

That resort is running a "Suite Life Package" through the end of the year to give you extra incentive to spread out in larger quarters for your Mexican beach vacation. You get these goodies thrown in when you book the package:

* Daily a la carte breakfast at El Restaurante
* Three-course dinner for two on the beach with wine pairing
* Daily in-room wake-up coffee service

Check availability on this Suite Life deal and other seasonal resort packages here. Don't forget about scheduling some treatments at their award-winning spa as well.

As part of the Belmond Resorts group, you know that Maroma will deliver a high level of cuisine and personal service from a well-trained staff. See our reviews of this Riviera Maya Resort and their historic Casa de Sierra Nevada property in San Miguel de Allende.

Photos courtesy of Belmond Maroma, (c) Edgardo Contreras

The post The Suite Life on the Riviera Maya Coast of Mexico appeared first on Luxury Latin America Blog.

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Chile is a charming and beautiful South American country that's paradise for wine lovers. It is surrounded by the Andes Mountains on one side, and the Pacific Ocean on the other side, from glaciers in the south to one of the driest deserts in the world in the north. Apart from being a tourist destination with people coming in from all over the world, it is also famous for wines.

That geography is actually a huge advantage when it comes to growing wine. With the sea on one side and high mountains on the other, this is perhaps the easiest country in the world for growing wine organically. Few pests attack the grapes here and it's possible to make organic wine that is at the same level as what is produced with chemicals elsewhere. There are also a high number of microclimates thanks to the varied valleys dotted among this long and skinny country on the Pacific Ocean.

Chile has a long and rather tasty history of wine making. Grapes were first introduced to Chile in the 16th century by Spanish missionaries. Since then, wines have been produced and exported from this topographically diverse country.

There are many places to visit in Chile, especially if you are a true wine lover. The vineyards in Chile have seen a massive burst in development in the last few years. From hotels to spas and restaurants, everything related to wine tourism is booming.

Wines of Chile

Chilean wineries are home to many types of wines that have flourished in South America. The most common grapes grown in Chile are Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Cabernet Sauvignon is the largest produced variety of wine.

Chile produces a huge volume of both red and white wines. Some of the other well-known Chilean red wines are Syrah, Pais (Mission), Pinot Noir, and Carignan. The list of white wines produced by Chile is also fairly lengthy. Besides Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Moscatel, Pinot Grigio and Riesling are some of the white wine varietals.

The terroir in Chile is not much different from other prime wine regions of the world, including in the most prestigious regions of Europe. You get the volcanic soil, the salty sea breeze, and a climate that allows for sunny days and cool nights. With rapid changes in altitude available in Chile just by traveling a few miles, it is possible to create dramatically different wines from the same grape just by changing the placement of the vines.

The biggest attraction in Chile for wine lovers is the various wine tours that are being arranged there. There are so many options to choose from while visiting Chile. You might actually get confused which wine tour to take. Many of them offer great wine tasting sessions and wonderful food, as well as amazing views.

Chile's Wine Valleys

Some of the most famous wine tours that are arranged for tourists include the top wine valleys in the country.

Casablanca Valley - This region between Santiago and the sea is a newcomer on the wine scene, with few significant plantings before the 1980s. They have made up for lost time though, producing some of the country's top-rated white wines.

Colchagua Valley - This may be the closest climate match to Napa Valley, with hot days and cool nights. Located about 100 miles south of Santiago, the valley runs west from the Andes foothills to the Pacific Ocean. Try what you would sip in California here, though with a price tag that's easier to swallow.

Maipo Valley - The most prominent wine region of Chile and and easy trip from a base in Santiago. This is the place to go for the best Cabernet Sauvignon bottles.

Aconcagua Valley - One of the top-5 wine-producing regions of Chile, this valley 60 miles from Santiago and about 60 miles long has a hotter climate than most others in the country. It has a reputation for producing fine Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot.

Maule Valley- Traditionally the bulk and value wine capital of the country, this largest wine-growing area by land mass, a few hours south of the capital, is getting renewed interest because of its old vine wines from plants more than 100 years old.

Let Tango Tours arrange your luxury wine and food tour in Chile as well as Argentina and Uruguay.

The post Why Chile is one of the Best Places for a Wine Tour appeared first on Luxury Latin America Blog.

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