White sun-washed sand stretches for miles, against a backdrop of brilliant aquamarine ocean. You might think this is the Caribbean, but the Gulf Coast shore of Florida has some incredibly beautiful beaches that can give Caribbean ones a run for their money.
One of the most fun and relaxing Gulf Coast Florida getaways is Marco Island. This six-by-four mile island is the largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, stretching south from Naples through the Everglades and to the Florida Keys. Situated along the white sand beach is the island’s premier resort, the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort. This large, full service resort has everything from amazing pools, the beach, top-notch dining, a full wedding and event location, private golf course and spa. The Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort is the place to come for romantic getaways, family vacations, friend get-togethers or a special event. It’s one of those places that has something for everyone, and enough variety that you may never feel the need to leave! Guest Rooms There is space for everyone in the resort’s 726 guest rooms including 63 suites. Most have private terraces with amazing ocean and/or pool views, and the décor is inspired by South Pacific style. Plush, sink-into-them beds, spacious bathrooms and state-of-the-art technology make relaxing in the rooms a pleasure. Suites treat guests to an exceptional experience, offering awe-inspiring Gulf Coast views in a luxurious tropical oasis. Junior Suites range from 800-2080 square feet, and Presidential Suites are 1800-3000 square feet of sanctuaries in the sky, bathed in natural light. The Presidential Suites were fully renovated in 2013. Onsite Facilities The pools are pretty amazing here. There are two, and both are outdoor, large and heated. In particular, the Tiki Fantasy pool is a wonderland for kids, with a grotto, splash zones and a water slide. A poolside bar with basic food offerings such as burgers and sandwiches at both pools makes hanging out for hours enjoyable, and there seem to be plenty of lounge chairs even at peak times. Towels are provided at the poolside cabanas. Speaking of kids, the Tiki Tribe is the Marco Island Marriott’s supervised children’s program, available for ages five to 12. The fee is $70 per day. For golf aficionados, look no further than the Rookery at Marco, an award-winning private golf course just a 15-minute drive from the Marriott (which offers a complimentary shuttle). Designed to embrace the native surroundings of Naples, the prestigious course offers a driving range and putting green, clubhouse and restaurant, lessons and rentals, and a Kids Golf-4-Free program. The course is set to undergo a $4 million dollar renovation soon. On the beach just in front of the resort, a host of activities are available (most at an extra fee) including volleyball, tennis, sailing, kayaking, jet-skiing and boating. The Spa at Marco Island Marriott offers a relaxing environment with a Balinese style, with a full menu of treatments available. There are also plunge pools, therapy baths, a steam room and fitness classes here. The spa is adults-only, so if you tire of too much commotion at the outdoor pools you can always buy a $35 day pass and enjoy the spa facilities. Other facilities include:
A video arcade is sure to make the kids happy and keep them entertained
A small but reasonably equipped fitness center
Full service business center
The lobby is home to many boutiques, stores, a coffee shop, and beauty shop.
Dining As you would expect with a resort of this size, there are a lot of options that range from poolside casual to upscale gourmet. The informal Tropiks offers a sumptuous, expansive breakfast buffet ($26). 400 Pazzis is casual, serving pizza and paninis for lunch and dinner. Tiki Bar & Grill is light fare set poolside, open at lunch and dinner. Also open for lunch and dinner, Quinn’s on the Beach specializes in Caribbean dishes and inventive tropical cocktails; a tradition is to watch the sunset here and toast it with a Green Flash drink. A highlight of my dinner at Quinn’s was the fire dancing that occurred just outside on the beach, and easily viewable from most tables in the restaurant. Korals just off the lobby provides a place to grab some sushi and a drink in a very nice, lounge-like atmosphere. For me, the sushi was a bit hit-and-miss; but some other dishes – such as the lobster rigatoni – were amazing. Kurrents is the most upscale restaurant at the Marriott, with prime steak entrees and seafood dishes such as a Chilean Sea Bass. At the golf club, you will find the Rookery Grill and Hammock Bay Grill serving casual breakfast and lunch. Area/Nearby Attractions One of the perhaps most surprising facts about Marco Island is that it contains one of the largest prehistoric archaeological site in the Eastern United States, just south of the main island on Key Marco. Long before tourists arrived, the Calusa Indians established a highly developed society which left more than a thousand wooden artifacts discovered to date The area also features highways over large shell mounds over 40 feet high from the period of the Calusa Indians. The area is also a prime spot for frolicking dolphins and fascinating sea turtles. In fact, during the turtle nesting season the Marriott Resort imposes a light blackout ban at 9 pm; if your guest room lights are left on without your blackout drapes drawn, staff will go in and close them. The minimal lighting is to protect the nesting turtles and their eggs. Other local wildlife includes many species of birds, and Everglades National Park is very nearby, which makes a wonderful day excursion. Fishing and other water sports are top draws here, and if your tastes run more to shopping or sophisticated city life, spend a day or evening in nearby Naples. Good to Know At this time, there are no adult-only floors. During my stay, I was next door to a family with several loud children who woke up very early, and I could hear them clearly. Definitely a slight dent in my aura of relaxation. This was over Fourth of July weekend, a prime family time and outside summer, there are generally far fewer children at the resort. However, I would highly recommend that the Marriott implement a simple policy of guest room floors for families and separate ones for adults only. Internet in the guest rooms is not provided as a courtesy, which I believe should be standard in all hotels. Expect to pay $9.95 a day for it, or $16.95 daily if you want enhanced high-speed wi-fi access. All public areas of the hotel do provide complimentary wireless connection. The onsite parking fee is a reasonable $12 per day, or $22 for valet parking. Details: Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort 400 South Collier Boulevard Marco Island, FL 34145 Phone: (239) 394-2511 Rates: $189-525; Suites $759 and up
I have previously had the pleasure of visiting Koh Phangan, and more specifically the tiny beach of Thong Nai Pan Noi on numerous occasions however never to this particular resort. With only a small cluster of hotels on a tranquil beach, it is the
Where Kate Moss holidays in luxury. "Where do celebrities stay when they come to Phuket?' ‘The Amananpuri...' answers anyone on the heavenly island I ask this question to. I discover the Amanpuri is synonymous with fame and fortune, rest and relaxation. This is where Kate Moss stays when she visits, and Britney spears.
Andara Resort Villas is Phukets' hottest new luxe villa stay, a chic urban hotel infused with subtle contemporary Asian flavours and ultra-exclusive Hollywood luxury. Guaranteed: you won't want to leave.
Located near beautiful Kamala Beach, along a strip known as the ‘Millionaires Row' area, glamorous homes and hotels cascade mountainside towards the bay, as fashioned by Europe's Monaco or the south of France. The Andara is the newest arrival, and boasts 26 deluxe pool villas with 37 divine pool suites, each facing the bay with dramatic ocean and mountain views.
To get there, a fancy air-conditioned transfer car collected me with chilled refresher towel, ice water and a soundtrack of trendy Buddha Bar beats to listen to on the way to the Resort. Adorned with exquisitely chic Asian infused décor, the hotel foyer is just begging for a glossy magazine photo shoot. Magnificent gold buddha statues tower ceiling-high, lit up with trendy and charismatic ambience to decorate the walls. A stylish boutique garment store and deluxe winery featuring acclaimed vino in a modern and elegant setting complement the grand entrance.
A futurist bespoke buggy will take you up the hill to your suite or villa, I was staying in a Pool Suite, and my expectations were beyond astounded when I entered the outrageously large abode. Before me lay an LA condo that belonged to a Hollywood star, had I died and woken up famous, and was there a divorced Brad Pitt waiting for me in the next room? This suit is so spacious I could play football in it, so LA g-l-a-m-o-r-o-u-s I forgot I was in Thailand, and with my own infinity pool and panoramic views, massive divine and dreamy bed, flat screen home theatre, and ipod docking station - just so heavenly. I had to check this wasn't really a villa.
Being escorted to view the Villa area, I imagined it couldn't get much better. How wrong I was. Perched on top of the world, or so it seems when you sit on the fancy platform lounge setting, by a double sized private infinity pool, you can't help think you could be sitting in a trendy music video right about now. Basically the villa area is a magnificent mansion, with elaborate decor. A personal chef and housekeeper are on call around the clock for those lucky enough to stay here. With it's 6 bedroom, I imagine these special people would be a large wedding group, someone of royal status, or someone of great fame - complete with their entourage troupe.
The staff at Andara are all very helpful and exceptionally qualified at their job. Hand selected from the best of the existing hotels in Phuket, it shows. As close to two weeks prior to my visit Feb 2010, the dazzling premiere party was held, where Andaras' general manager, Andew Whitaker, graciously included invites to the finest of his competing hotels. Many declined, in protest to loss of their favourite staff. Well, new staff do have to come from somewhere! Regardless, the party was an overnight success, I can tell from asking anyone in town about the Andara, ‘Oh yes, big party, fireworks and shows.'
In the evening I stroll down to the restaurant. Seated inside or al fresco dining, your gaze wanders past the fountain water feature, past the pool bar, to where you must spend some time later - the resorts main infinity pool area. Stylish black bed-lounges with shading umbrellas are set amongst lush palm trees and purple boganvillea. If you want, a trained masseuse from the Spa can massage you while laying in the serenity here.
The wait for my food to arrive wasn't long. Most people assume I'm vegetarian when ordering tofu, but I just really like the taste - and have a high standard of how it should be served. Boy, was I glad I ordered the silken tofu at the restauant called Silk. Infused with soft Thai flavours on a bed of white rice the tofu felt like err - silk, melting in my mouth. I ordered it the next day. I am dreaming of it now. Damn it, can I go back please? For dessert I recommend the indulgently rich chocolate mousse, just divine. Silk was famous in it's own right in Phuket before relocating within Andara. Cuisine is Thai or western, whatever you fancy. At the rear is a trendy urban bar, coloured with a fine coctail selection.
If you're like me and easily eat too much food, there's a fancy new fitness centre to work it off the next morning. This gym is so large you may ask if they have relocated a Fitness First studio to the grounds. Shiny new state of the art cardio equipment and weights stand, perfect for slogging away the calories. Daily activity classes are held, only I can't decide between morning yoga or stretching. Lazing-by-my-private-infinity-pool is the class I choose, it's a new one! A stay at the Andara Resort Villas in Phuket is an unforgettable experience, which I recommend to anyone and everyone - you will like it here.