The Legian resort luxury suites in Bali, Indoneasia is where sunbathers can relax, dance and play into the luxury of night. There are two types of holidays in blissful Bali; the jungle ‘find yourself' beautiful sojourn of volcanic-rock beaches; or the ‘lose yourself' kind, where you enjoy a spot of chic market shopping, followed by pina colada cocktails beachside,
Ecuador has a lot of history, culture, traditions and arts - and with a stay at Morenica del Rosario in one of the country's most charming cities, Cuenca, your accommodations encompass all of that.
Morenica is almost as much a heritage museum as it is a hotel. Sprinkled throughout its four floors are artifacts, handicrafts, antiques and other pieces from Ecuador's cultural timeline. Part of the pleasure of arriving into the hotel is wandering through the place taking it all in; even the stairway is filled with treasures.
This also creates some wonderful common-area spaces in which to relax, work, or socialize. In addition to the K'ipa cafe/bar on the ground level, the second floor has a beautiful, large sitting area. Around the corner is a hidden stairwell to a hideaway nook just beckoning to guests.
Another impressive thing about Morenica del Rosario is the view from the upper floor windows and rooftop terrace; its location right by the Iglesia Santo Domingo allows for stunning views of the cathedral's twin domes from on high - even more dramatic at night, when the church is lit up.
The location can't be beat; Morenica is in the midst of all that is happening in Cuenca, just steps from the main Nueva Cathedral and central plaza, along with top restaurants and shops. Guest rooms are luxurious and comfortable, each with its own unique decor. Amenities include:
Full bed with 2 types of pillows
Digital safe box
High speed wireless
Desk and chair
Rates include breakfast, which is a fairly extensive buffet including fresh fruits and amazing fresh-squeezed juices, hot/savory items and a meat and cheese plate. Every morning there seemed to be a different local specialty also on hand.
Boquete, Panama has become one of those "it" places that expats have been flocking to relocate to in recent decades. Fortunately, it is still under the radar of places such as Costa Rica and Cuenca, Ecuador; and still retains an authenticity, a low-key vibe, that keep it from simply being gringo-land in Central America. The cool mountain climate, stunning views, great hiking and coffee farming draw short-term tourists, retiring Central Americans and Western expats alike.
Two of these expats are Jane Walker and Barry Robbins from Vancouver, Canada. The couple left their home and stressful lifestyles in high-tech nearly twenty years ago, heading south to Central America yet unsure of where they would finally settle. "As we drove out of the parking lot, I just let go," Jane recalls of their exodus from North America. "The life we were leading was being left behind. I didn't know where we were going, but I knew it would be different."
After a year and a half of exploring the region, they settled in Boquete in 1996 and found six acres of land that was a defunct coffee and orange farm. There, they built La Montaña y el Valle - The Coffee Estate Inn, the first luxury inn in the Boquete area, in a mere 10 months.
The Coffee Estate Inn is exquisite and magical; you can look at the photos and videos online, but they don't prepare you for the riot of flowers and colors and scents that envelop you the second you drive through the gate. Jane and Barry have been avid gardeners all their life, using it as an escape from stresses of the job back in Canada. "We would garden just about as frantically as we worked," Barry says. "So instead of taking the enjoyment and that soul-fulfilling thing of working in the soil, it was just covering up an absence in the rest of our lives." But for the past 18 years, the couple has found their calling and turned their passion for gardening into a labor of love, creating the stunning oasis that is their inn.
"There's no 'growing season' here," Jane says. "You pick up a plant and stick it in the ground, and it simply grows. It's truly a gardener's paradise. It's right for us, right here." Luckily for the rest of us, we have the opportunity to live that paradise if only for a short while. Three very private, luxurious bungalows are the only rooms at the inn, and the couple has thought of every small detail to make the stay wonderful and memorable - right down to heated floors in the bathrooms for those chilly mountain mornings.
There are many very good reasons why VISIONTV out of Canada picked the inn for its "Recreating Eden" television series. The episode featuring Jane, Barry and their Coffee Estate Inn has been syndicated and shown on the Knowledge Network in Canada since January 2008.
The Coffee Estate Inn sits high up on a hill a few kilometers above the town of Boquete, so it is both secluded and peaceful as well as a quick, convenient drive into town as well as local hiking trails and other day trips. Jane and Barry provide loads of detailed information, both during the arrival orientation as well as in the information book left in each guest room; and they always make themselves available to answer questions or provide guests with area information. You can also take a coffee tour of the farm with Barry, who explains the process of coffee farming and roasting, along with interesting tidbits about the gardens in general and life in Panama. The tour is included in stays of three or more nights.
The Coffee Estate Inn remains a small and exclusive hotel by choice. The bright and airy bungalows face the volcano and have spectacular views. All are surrounded and separated by gardens and forest. Each bungalow has a large covered terrace, spacious living room and dining area, kitchenette, separate bedroom with ensuite bathroom, flat screen television with satellite TV and DVD, security safe and free high speed wireless Internet. Windows are screened. Each bungalow also has a fully stocked kitchenette with toaster oven, microwave, mini-fridge and of course - a personal supply of the estate's personally roasted coffee beans, never more than three days out of the roaster.
"Coffee is one of those things that just gets in your blood," says Barry. "This is the place we want to be. This is home."
Rates are $180 per night, per couple using the special internet rate; private breakfast left in the room for each morning is included.
Some travelers are beach people, wanting the sand-and-water experience under palm trees. Others are city travelers, preferring the excitement and diversity of entertainment that a metropolitan vacation offers.
Westin Playa Bonita in Panama City is one place where you can have both – in style. The gorgeous property is just at the outskirts of the city, across the bridge from Panama City’s lively downtown and the Panama Canal. On this peaceful stretch of Pacific Ocean beach, with its golden sand and blue waters, the Westin Playa Bonita has all the makings of a hidden-away tropical resort; yet is only minutes away from the sightseeing, restaurants and nightlife that thriving Panama City has to offer.
Guest Rooms The rooms have an elegant, understated modern décor, with fantastic bathrooms and views that either look over the Pacific Ocean or the tropical rainforest that surrounds Playa Bonita. The beds are seriously comfortable; in fact Westin has trademarked it as its Heavenly Bed, and that it is. All rooms feature a 40-inch LCD television, iPod docking station, refreshment center, separate shower and deep soaking tub, wood Panamanian furnishings and some have private patios. The 18th floor is home to the Westin Executive Club Rooms, all with stunning views from private balconies and access to the Executive Club Lounge, serving food and drinks throughout the day. Suites are also available, from the Revival and Renewal Suites meant for a relaxing stay to the Presidential Suites of 1,600 square feet, with ample living space, kitchen and dining table for six.
Onsite Facilities This is the kind of place where you can do as much or as little as you like. Four beachfront pools provide an escape overlooking the ocean, with several bars and the ability to have snack foods and light meals served. Take a stroll along the beach, or participate in some of the fun daily activities ranging from salsa lessons to beach volleyball and kayaking. There is also a fully equipped fitness center onsite. If you really want to experience total relaxation, check yourself into the Sensory Spa by Clarins, which specializes in holistic remedies and hydrothermal healing with their many choices in body and facial treatments.
When it comes to dining and nighttime fun, there are plenty of choices here. Depending on the level of package you have booked, three large dining rooms serve sumptuous buffet meals three times a day. These are not your typical buffets; on my stay we were highly impressed by the quality and diversity of the food offered. There are also several other restaurants onsite. The chic Soléo offers Mediterranean tapas by day and cocktails and karaoke by night, while Asiana is a sophisticated dining experience specializing in sushi, curries and other Asian dishes. Finally, Tierra Y Fuego is an upscale steakhouse with a Latin flair. For after-dinner drinking or dancing, the Oasis Bar & Lounge has a great vibe, personable bartenders and live music most nights.
Neighborhood/Nearby Attractions All the sites and attractions of Panama City are a short drive away, five to 25 minutes. Check out the history of Casco Viejos, the old town that is both falling apart and up-and-coming at the same time, and the newest hot spot for the hip and creative. Don’t miss the nearby seafood market, a taste of local culture and where you can get some amazing, fresh ceviche for three to four dollars. Of course, the Panama Canal is a huge draw. Take a tour of the canal and its lakes and byways; or visit the famous Miraflores Locks for a birds-eye view of ships passing through the locks.
Highlights Location – on the beach yet minutes from the exciting, lively city and the Panama Canal. Food – an excellent variety of all sorts of food using fresh ingredients and chefs who are serious about what they are putting out. Atmosphere – this can be a fun party place, with good times by the pool and evenings listing to live music while sipping delectable cocktail creations; or you can simply relax by the beachside pools or in the spa. Staff – the people who work here are generally a friendly and helpful bunch, who will make you feel at home.
Good to Know If you’re traveling as a family, you’ve come to the right place. The Westin Kids Club for children 4-12 offers supervised activities, completely free of charge. Attentive staff will lead the kids in crafts, music, playground and beach activities and much more. Weddings and events are big here. With 20 multi-purpose event spaces that compromise 65,000 total square feet, and a professional events team, having the perfect wedding, renewal ceremony, party or corporate event is a breeze. The Westin Playa Bonita is pet-friendly; they’ll even provide your four-legged friend with its own Heavenly Bed!