Life's A Beach

You’ll wish you were here: six fabulous warm-weather destinations



Getting chilly? Think beach. Our recommendations for

 

Spectacular Getaways

 

Escape the autumn chill at these warm-weather resorts.

 

Pampered In Paradise 

By Steven Irving

 

 

A private cook—what a notion! He parades, accompanied by staff bearing packages and bottles, into your place—your rented or, maybe someday, purchased place. Then, while you and yours sit on the balcony, contemplating ocean and sand and acclimating to the waning of worry, they pour your wine and he prepares your dinner—just so! It is served. It is delicious. They remain discreet and unobtrusive. Your place is made, once again, spic and span. And your responsibility, forgetting for a moment the bill, is merely to drink, eat, address the appropriate compliments, and revisit the question of whether it is possible to obtain paradise on earth.

 

If you’re into this sort of thing. And some of us—in fact one of us who happens to be sitting across the table on this balcony—preserve the very 20th-century idea that you travel to the chef’s digs, not visa versa; that chefs are to be appreciated and gossiped about not seen (with the possible exception of a handshake and a two-and-a-half minute chat before dessert). That was indeed the way it was at those places we called restaurants. Welcome to the 21st century—or is it the 19th?

 

Grand Isle Resort & Spa rests on the isle of Exuma—a quiet (i.e., not Nassau) sliver of the Bahamas a couple of relatively short plane rides from New York. Weather? A bit more in common with Florida’s than you might like, but generally great. Nightlife? Remember we’re hanging in our room this evening.

 

During the day there was that accurately, if pretentiously, named Emerald Bay—properly peaceful and photogenic, plus the resort’s own pool and golf course. Our two-story, large, open, multi-bedroomed, air-conditioned unit came with a golf cart in the garage. A short golf-cart ride (or beach walk) away, there’s the plush Four Seasons Resort Exuma (Grand Isle guests have use of the facilities for tennis), for a fine spa (offering everything from Bahamian Cooling Aloe Wrap to Aromatherapy Massage—a thing we turn out not to be into), for lots more pools, and even for a restaurant, if you still can’t wean yourself of that impulse.

 

But the point—when evening comes, as it does with some dispatch in the sub-tropics—is to be sitting on that balcony, evaluating the sunset, sipping their good white wine and partaking of the Snapper Vera Cruz, the sweet mashed potatoes, the coconut saffron rice. Our chef: the very talented Brian Avanha. For dessert we especially recommend his guava duff. Most of us—even those of us who initially were suspect of the idea—could get used to this treatment.

 

Grand ISLE Resort & Spa

Georgetown, Great Exuma, Bahamas

(242) 358-5000/(888) 472-6310

www.grandisleresort.com

 

 

Flight Time from New York:

About two to three hours.

 

Price: The Grand Isle Winter Escape package, which includes five nights in a one-bedroom villa, daily continental breakfast, evening canapés, a bottle of wine upon arrival, and two complimentary Frette robes, is priced at $3,060 for the partial ocean-view villa. The oceanfront view is $3,958. The package runs through March 31, 2008.

 

 

Beauty & South Beach

By Esther Davidowitz

 

A few weeks after the New York Times described The Restaurant at The Setai as the most beautiful restaurant in the world, my friend and I happily found ourselves at the South Beach luxury hotel. And? I have no idea whether The Restaurant at The Setai is the most beautiful restaurant in the world (I’ve got a bit more traveling to do before I can make such a bold pronouncement), but, heck, it—indeed the entire Setai hotel—is pretty darn stunning.

 

Its exterior is deceptive. The 1930s building, which started out as the Dempsey-Vanderbilt Hotel, looks like every other Art Deco building in Miami’s hottest neighborhood. But inside—wow! This is your ultra-sleek, ultra-chic, ultra-luxe zen-like getaway where everything—from the exotic teak floors to the antique jade furnishings to the burnt granite and silk fabrics—is beautiful. Even the staff (there are 450 staffers and 135 rooms; now that makes for attentive service!), who wear perfectly-fitted brown-colored Nehru outfits, is beautiful. The guests are beautiful too.

 

And uninhibited. You can find some lounging by the pools (there are three, each one warmer than the last), cocktail in hand (a 90-foot bar runs the length of the pool)—topless. There’s a good chance that barely-clad gorgeous blonde is not from Beverly Hills but Barcelona, Brussels, or Berlin (40 percent of the hotel’s guests are European). Guests sleep on Dux beds, watch flat-screen LCD and plasma TVs, listen to CDs through Bose surround-sound systems, and enjoy what my friend appreciated the most, Lavazza espresso machines in their rooms. I was more impressed by the gigantic daybeds on our gigantic terrace. And if you must work, there is high-speed Internet access.

 

And soon, apparently there will also be a state-of-the-art recording studio, should you be one of the many musicians who come to visit here or who happen to live here (yes there is a residential component). “The recording studio is just another amenity for our guests,” said Devyani Singh, The Setai’s director of public relations, one morning over a breakfast of fresh fruit and strong coffee. You just never know what guests are going to want.

 

And as for that restaurant: what the Times went for is the same kind of authentic, Asian perfection scattered throughout the hotel. The fact that it looks out on The Setai’s courtyard, decorated with oranges in the day and candles at night, of course doesn’t hurt. If you find a more beautiful restaurant, let me know.

 

The Setai

2001 Collins Ave,

Miami, FL

(305) 520-6000 www.setai.com

 

 

FLIGHT TIME FROM NEW YORK:

Approximately three hours.

PRICE: Winter rates, which are based on availability, start at $595 for one night in a studio suite.

 

 

 

Europe on The Atlantic

By Esther Davidowitz

 

In 1926, an eccentric and debonair monkey-loving architect plunked down $1.25 million to open the most expensive (at the time), pink-colored, 100-room hotel in a little-known part of Florida. Today, the Boca Raton Resort & Club sports more than 1,000 guestrooms, two lush green golf courses, 30 Har-Tru clay tennis courts, a palatial-sized spa, a 32-slip marina, and a huge yacht club.

 

Yes, much has changed since architect Addison Mizner strolled through the grand halls and courtyards of his hotel. Mizner was often accompanied by his beloved spider monkey and clad in his silk pajamas. Yet one suspects Mizner, the man credited with setting the architectural style most of us associate with Florida resorts, at least high-end resorts (tall arches, stucco moldings, open-air porches, red tiled roofs, and grand courtyards) would approve of the changes.

 

For starters, Mizner loved opulence and elegance. And the Boca Raton Resort & Club is nothing if not opulent (carved gold-leaf lamps, super-soft white linens, bubbling fountains, mammoth crystal chandeliers) and elegant (soaring beamed ceilings, natural-stone flooring, luxurious upholstered seats, and exquisitely intricate mosaics). Step into the newly renovated lobby, which recently was made over by famed French architect Thierry Despont (he helped restore the Statue of Liberty), and you may very well think that you’ve stepped into a sophisticated old European villa—one that just happens to sit right by the Atlantic Ocean and that just happens to have rows and rows of Royal Palm trees and tropical plants.

 

Mizner would love, too, that his hotel, which he designed to be a self-contained village, indeed is a self-contained village, only now its inhabitants can dine on a 20-ounce Kobe beef burger at The Old Homestead Steak House (tab: $37—ouch!), enjoy an espresso martini on the 27th floor of the resort’s tower, get a Sevruga caviar facial at the newly-built Spa Palazzo ($215 for 80 minutes), and work off that Kobe burger at one of the hotel’s three fitness centers. They can also play croquet, go ocean kayaking, shop for all sorts of high-end goods, or—the hell with it—lie on the beach all day reading the latest John Grisham book. Or, if they prefer, lounge around in silk pajamas.

 

Boca Raton Resort & Club

501 East Camino Real

Boca Raton, FL

(888-491-2622  www.bocaresort.com).

 

 

FLIGHT TIME FROM NEW YORK:

Around 3 hours.

 

PRICE: Peak season—$399 to $619;

low season—$169 to $329.

 

Island Adventures

By Steven Irving

 

We’re going to recommend this one to families. It’s not that the beach (our room sat right on it) or the open-air restaurant and bar or the pool (pour your own drink) wouldn’t keep a romantic couple tropically blissful. St. Lucia is one of our favorite islands—combining the perfect weather and beaches you expect from the West Indies with lush, rugged, dark-green vistas. You, and someone who just wants to be with you, could lie by the curvaceous pool or on the white beach and swim and snorkel and scuba dive and kayak and walk the gardens and play table tennis and dine and—did I mention?—lie by the curvaceous pool or on the white beach. You could forget all about kids or other back-home concerns.

 

But there was a posse of tow-headed English kids wandering about during our visit. (The English cricket team was on St. Lucia for the World Cup and was giving one of its usual abysmal performances.) And these polite, quiet, totally cute children seemed to have made this not hugely fancy or pretentious resort into an absolute wonderland. We’d watch them have adventures at the pool or the beach (mothers or despondent-cricket-fan fathers following with the sunscreen)—young Tom Sawyers and Huck Finns (or the English equivalent), amongst the waters and palm trees. And we’d wish, despite our accomplishments as a romantic couple, that this time we had brought along a few adventurous children of our own.

 

East Winds Inn

La Brelotte Bay, Gros Islet

St. Lucia, West Indies

(758) 452-8212/(800) 347-9154;

www.eastwinds.com

 

 

Flight Time from New York: Approximately five hours (starting Nov 15, there will be nonstop service from JFK to St. Lucia three times a week).

 

Price: Oct 1 to Dec 20 $265-$300/per person per night (includes room and board plus drinks in the cocktail lounge and activities).  

 

 

A World Away But Close to Home

By Alice Shapiro  

 

Some think Bermuda, an idyllic group of islands of less than 21 square miles, is in the Caribbean. It’s not. It’s much closer, located 600 miles east of North Carolina in the Atlantic. And like the Caribbean, Bermuda’s waters are crystal clear and appear in various shades of blue, from turquoise to midnight blue. It’s hard to believe it’s the same Atlantic Ocean that washes ashore in New York.

 

Bermuda has just enough of a foreign flavor to remind you that you’re away from home but not so much that you feel out of place. There is no language barrier, no money exchange; only a charming English accent, a sea of pastel-colored, white-roofed homes, stretches of pink-sand beaches, and cars driving on the “wrong” side of the road.

Bermuda resorts run the gamut from large or mid-size luxury hotels to smaller, more intimate ones. Here are a few of my favorites.

 

Cambridge Beaches

Sandys (441) 234-0331 or (800) 468-7300;

www.cambridgebeaches.com

 

 

Suites: $745 to $1615

 

Cambridge Beaches marries Bermuda’s natural beauty with romance. A cottage colony on its own peninsula, it’s the place to get away from it all, even from the rest of Bermuda.  

Casually elegant, parts of the main building date back to 1803 and evoke a feeling of a slower pace of life. The obligatory computer with high-speed Internet connection is found in the main house, tucked away in a little nook.   

 

Each of the 94 private cottage suites features a different décor, running from florals to ultra hip. For the ultimate, book one of the three pool suites. My favorite is the Sunset Suite: the plunge pool overlooks a cove and another peninsula providing grand sunset viewing. An oversized zebra-striped rug, a deep pink couch, a 42-inch flat-screen TV, Jacuzzi tub and shower with six heads, look so South Beach chic.

 

After golf, relax, and unwind at the spa, pool, beaches, or enjoy the water sports. And don’t miss high tea—fruit, scones, pastries, and a chocolate fountain, something the early Brits surely never had.

 

Breakfast is a full buffet spread and, for dinner, dine on its private island, at the beach, by the pool, at the chef’s table, or in the dining room. The fresh seafood is superb and the imported meats are equally scrumptious. Dining, like everything else here, is way above par.

 

If you still have time, hop on a ferry to Hamilton to shop, visit historic St. George’s and Dockyard. Cabs, buses, ferries, and mopeds are the only way to travel, since there are no rental cars on the island. 

 

Elbow Beach

Hamilton, Bermuda

(800) 526-6566 reservations or resort

(441) 236-3535

www.mandarinoriental.com/bermuda

 

Suites: $1,135-$1,650

 

Elbow Beach Hotel, named after the stretch of private, pristine shore on Bermuda’s spectacular south shore, has been a favorite for more than 100 years. Step into the lobby and the charm and luxury of Bermuda’s past comes alive. A combination of resort hotel and cottage colony, Elbow Beach has 235 luxurious hotel rooms and suites, (many newly refurbished), and 104 cottages. Part of Mandarin Oriental’s portfolio of luxury resorts, it’s set on 50 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens.   

 

    A pink sand beach, a pool, scuba-diving, tennis, a fitness center, kayaking, snorkeling, a putting green, and a new spa with six spa suites and two couples’ rooms are just some of the activities and amenities to enjoy. And of course, with seven restaurants there are plenty of choices to delight your taste buds. The Lido, located above beautiful Elbow Beach serves local seafood with Mediterranean touches, while the Seahorse Grill, its signature restaurant, serves global cuisine. Elbow Beach is located just five minutes from downtown Hamilton, the island’s capital.

 

The Reefs

Southhampton

(414) 238-0222; www.TheReefs.com

 

Suites: $304-$895

 

The Reefs is a small, luxury hotel. Perched on limestone cliffs overlooking its own beach, this romantic resort is made up of 65 lanais and suites including seven Bermudian cottages with outdoor Jacuzzis. Casually elegant, it’s friendly and the staff is attentive. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind.

 

    Its private pink sand beach is set in a fortress of giant boulders. But if you prefer a pool, the infinity swimming pool will make you feel as though you can swim out to the ocean. For more activities, soak in the hot tub, snorkel, kayak, hit the fitness center, or totally unwind at La Serena Spa, or play tennis. Its three restaurants offer totally different experiences. Grill 56, the main restaurant, features traditional Bermudian archi-tecture with limestone walls and exposed beams. Ocean Echo Terrace rests atop the cliffs and offers dramatic sunsets and a stunning 180-degree ocean panoramic view. Dine alfresco on the beach at Coconuts, snuggled into the rocks, where you’ll hear the waves lapping the sand as you enjoy outstanding cuisine and the heavenly ambiance. 

 

The Fairmont Southampton

Southampton (441) 238-8000

www.fairmont.com/southampton

 

 

Suites: $519-$2,559;

penthouse: $2,159-$3,839

 

The Fairmont Southampton is the biggest hotel in Bermuda and it is perched on the island’s highest point. The piece de resistance is the Newport Room, Bermuda’s first AAA Five Diamond-rated restaurant. 

 

 

 

Each of the Farimont’s 593 rooms has a balcony or terrace; the suites, Fairmont Deluxe, and Southampton Premier rooms all have ocean, harbor, or golf views. The Fairmont Gold Floor provides  personalized attention—its own check-in and breakfast. Besides its par-3 course, only minutes away is Riddell’s Bay Golf Course, a championship 18-hole course. And the resort has a fantastic kids’ program, pink-sand beach, water sports, Willow Stream Spa with an indoor pool, a ferry to Hamilton, and a potpourri of restaurants satisfying all taste buds.

 

Alice Rindler Shapin is a freelance writer who specializes in travel and golf. She has a weakness for courses with great views.

 

 

 

 

 

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