Just Back From: The Four Seasons Resort, Costa Rica

Just Back From: Four Seasons Resort, Costa Rica

Property Type: Luxury Resort

Destination: Peninsula Papagayo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Getting There: The closest airport is Liberia. It is 1 hour drive from The Four Seasons.

Who is it for? The Four Seasons Resort has positioned itself so it can appeal to any type of traveller.  It is perfect for anyone, ranging the adventurous family or the couple that is looking to relax.  

Our Take:

From the moment you enter the gates, you are taken back by the views of the bay and the lush greenery. The Four Seasons is situated 15 minutes away from the Papagayo gates. The Four Seasons just completed a 35-million-dollar renovation opening its doors in early December and I was fortunate enough to experience the luxurious accommodations first hand. All the rooms are located within a 5-minute walking distance to the main area, where the pools, restaurants, lobby, boutiques and spa are located. The suite product is located further from the main area, creating a more exclusive environment.

There are two beaches and three main pools on property. The beaches are known as the activities beach and the quiet beach; however, it did not seem to be too quiet when I went. The activities beach has multiple free activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, and volleyball, just to name a few. On the property you are also able to rent jet-skis without having to plan in advance. One of my favorite features of the quiet beach was that where was a pool! With it being jelly-fish season, barely anyone was in the water and everyone would go to the pool. Having this pool at the beach gave guests the ability to enjoy the beach, and cool off afterwards without having to go into the ocean.

One of my favorite features of the four seasons resort product is the level of service each employee provides. They had set up every day a fruit bar, an ice-cream bar, passed snacks at the pool, and much more. Our favorite restaurant on property was Bahia Grill. One thing to note, is wherever you are on property – you can order from any menu. This is something they don’t tell you, but knowing about it will maximize your experience.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this property to anyone who is interested in going to Costa Rica!

 

  

Just Back From: Four Seasons Hotel, George V, Paris

As you walk into the famous George V, you are immediately overwhelmed by the impressive floral displays in the hotel lobby.  The exquisite flower arrangements are a draw to the hotel, and something they work very hard to maintain.  Every day the flowers are checked, fresh ones are swapped out for ones that look tired, and all the displays are checked for safety-especially the orchids that hang from the 5 Star court yard just outside the back door. Every month or so, the colours and flowers are changed, and the lobby gets a fresh new look, often something to represent the time of year, or a festive season that may be celebrated. 

Once you move past the lobby, you will see that the hotel has a regal feel to it; most of the rooms are decorated in blue, yellow or green theme and are simple yet elegant.  With 11 different room categories, there is a room type for everyone.  If you are travelling with a family, and need a connecting room option, there are many suitable choices, and many different types of combinations of rooms that can connect.   With that, you also get incredible view options that range from looking over the stunning 5 Star Garden, or a magnificent view of the city line, including a direct view of the Eiffel Tower. 

The hotel also offers its guests a full spa and gym that has top of the line equipment.  It is currently undergoing a very discrete renovation to include a nice size in-door swimming pool that will be open for this coming summer, 2018.

Every morning guests (who are Four Seasoned Preferred) can start their day with freshly squeezed juice, coffee, and arrangements of meat, cheese, fish and pastries.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, you can also order eggs and other breakfast dishes that are all beautifully presented. 

After breakfast, you may wonder out of the hotel and enjoy all the incredible history, architecture and buzz that Paris has.  And if you are not sure of what to do, the concierge desk in the front lobby is there to help.  They can offer you with ideas, make reservations, and give you maps and tips of how best to see Paris. 

The location of the The Four Seasons George V is perfect.  It is located on George V Avenue, about 1 block away from the famous shopping area called the Champs-Elysees.  At any given time, the Champs-Elysees, which is a street that stretches between the Arch de Triumph and the Big Wheel (2 iconic sights) which are flooded with people looking for the latest and greatest fashionable items.  In addition to that, there are many amazing restaurants around the corner and even more historical sites that are also in reasonable walking distance.

What is nice about the location of the George V is that you can quickly be part of that hustle and bustle, and just as quickly return to your 5 star hotel, which is on a quieter street, and hidden behind the famous wrought iron sign that reads George V.

Don’t spend all day out and about as heading back to the hotel for high tea is well worth it.  The delicious assortments of petit fours and teas are fit for a queen.  The tea takes place in the dining area where the breakfast is located and a really special experience.

If tea is not your type of beverage, you can enjoy some incredible cocktails both in the beautiful hotel bar that has an old world charm to it, or in the 5 Star court yard that has the water fall feature with an elaborate display of orchids that hang over the fountain.

In that same courtyard you are surrounded by 3 very impressive restaurants. All three of the restaurants are Michelin Star restaurants that have either 1 or 3 stars.  If you are looking for fine dining, you don’t need to go far as you have 3 excellent choices right in the hotel. 

If you do decide to step out for dinner, make sure to ask about the complementary car that will take you within a certain radius of the hotel.  The cars are very impressive, and definitely have you feeling that royalty.

Nothing is too much to ask for at the George V.   The staff are there to ensure you have an excellent stay both at their hotel and in Paris.

Just Back From: The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

Our close friend and preferred partner, Jeremy Mcclellan,  who represents Marriott International Luxury Brands, recently returned from a visit to Santa Barbara, where he had the pleasure of staying at The Ritz-Carlton Bacarat.

Today, Santa Barbara is back and better than ever and the community looks forward to welcoming guests during the season.  The Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara have truly come into their own and are dedicated and focused on providing the best in anticipatory service creating memories to last a lifetime.

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Santa Barbara as a Destination:

  • Located an hour and a half north of Los Angeles and with a Mediterranean climate - Santa Barbara is often referred to as The American Riviera.
  • The destination has several seasons to be aware of:
    • High Season includes Spring Break and then from Memorial Day until mid-September
    • Low Season is December to February which is generally when the area receives the majority of their rainfall
    • Shoulder Season is April/May and then October/November and often times has great weather and great rates
  • Key Events and festivals include the following:
    • March:  Santa Barbara International Orchid Festival
    • April:  Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend, Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival, Santa Barbara International Film Festival
    • May: I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival
    • June: Summer Solstice Celebration
    • July:  Santa Barbara French Festival
    • August:  Old Spanish Days Fiesta

The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara:

  • This gorgeous resort is located on 78 acres in beautiful Goleta in southern Santa Barbara County, California overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a stunning natural beach.
  • Offering 358 guest rooms and suites, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara features the aesthetic of a Mediterranean Village connected by courtyards, gardens and paths that meander through haciendas of white wash and red tiles complimented by lush green foliage, ocean blue and the sounds of the surf. 
    • The room and suites mostly feature a view of  our beautiful manicured courtyards and gardens however there are a limited number of partial ocean and full ocean view rooms and suites.  A pro tip - book early! There are a limited number and they go fast, especially in season!
    • Family Tip:  The hotel features a 2 floor residence suite with stunning ocean views and an outdoor terrace of your dreams!  Perfect for large family’s traveling together, this suite features two master bedrooms and on the ground floor of the building, adjacent to the suite are four additional kind size rooms available for additional guests.
  • A primary differentiator is the 42,000-square-foot spa and fitness center featuring an adults-only pool, redwood sauna, eucalyptus steam room, fireside lounges a rooftop terrace and a private adults only pool.    Along with the spa adults only pool, there are two main pools and all three are saline and heated to 82 degrees year round.
  • Complimenting the pool experience are 25 cabanas with varying degrees of service and it is highly recommended that you reserve in advance of high season.
  • Gorgeous dining and wine tasting in Angel Oak a steakhouse with a modern twist and over 12,000 bottles of wine.  Compliment your steak selection with a taste of the sea and try the Blue Crab and Pork Dumplings….simply amazing!
  • The resort offers preferred tee times at Sandpiper Golf Club located adjacent to The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara.  Beyond Sandpiper, there are two additional golf courses in the area to challenge the most avid golfer
  • Tennis enthusiast will love the four Har-Tru clay composition courts and several pros that can provide challenging competition for any skill level
  • Coming in 2018 – a purpose built Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge with indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the spa pool.  Until then, the resort offers a temporary Club Lounge that has been receiving rave reviews and offers the personal service and food and presentations.
  • Coming in 2nd Half of 2018 – The Ritz Kids featuring the Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment program.  Members of the Cousteau family live nearby and will be actively involved in the program personally.

Personal Insights:

  • Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as boutique lots of unique wines like Albariño, Tocai Friulano, Mourvedre, Grenache Blanc are all grown in the micro-climates of Santa Barbara.  Begin your wine tasting adventure on-property at the Foley Food & Wine Society (FFWS) Wine Tasting Room where guests in-residence can sample local wines daily
  • Visit the Funk Zone which is this eclectic and very cool area packed with galleries, microbreweries, hip restaurants, and cool shops
  • Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show – Every Sunday over 200 local artisans display their creations on Cabrillo Boulevard.  From talking with artists to watching them in action, this is the perfect open air gift shop for great souvenirs.
  • Get out on the Water:  Charter a sailboat or explore the world-famous Channel Islands National Park from the comfort of a private vessel. Spot local marine life including California gray whales migrating between mid-February and mid-May.
  • Enjoy a night at the movies!  The resort has their own move theatre on-property and during peak season we offer complimentary family movie screenings complete with popcorn and snacks.  Private screenings are also available starting from $250 per showing complete with all the goodies like popcorn, sodas and snacks

Just Back From: Shanghai

Our close friend, John Ladd, founder of Vitae Collection, recently returned from a visit to Shanghai. John was kind enough to share his feedback with TWIL.

I am excited to share my recent experience visiting the new Capella Shanghai which officially opened in September 2017.

Located in the chic and historic tree-lined streets neighborhood of the French Concession (Xuhui District), Capella Shanghai is a spectacular oasis from the hustle and bustle of the popular tourist areas of the city.  This ultra-luxury urban retreat is perfectly suited for travelers interested in more than just another hotel room in Shanghai… but instead an authentic and exclusive Shanghainese residence living experience.

Capella Shanghai, featuring 55 one, two and three bedroom shikumen (stone-gate) villas ranging from 1400 sq. ft – 2300 sqft. also includes the award-winning Auriga Spa, le Comptoir de Pierre Gagnaire restaurant and “The Gallery” including la Boulangerie pastry shop and a variety of other boutiques and restaurants facing West Jianguo Road.

Just Back From: Japan

Our close friend, Jessica Rosen,  who represents Destination Asia, recently returned from a visit to Japan. Jessica was kind enough to share her feedback with TWIL.

I was extremely excited to visit Japan when the opportunity came up. Japan is a top destination – with almost 30 million people visiting each year – and I was dying to find out why for myself. I had very high expectations. Now that I’ve been there, I can tell you that it met and exceeded all my expectations!

As soon as the plane landed, I knew that this trip would be spectacular. It started with the Japanese people. Each person I met, including my fantastic guides, were amazingly kind and courteous. Strangers on the street would assist with directions and would go as far as walking me to the locations I needed to get to. The hotel bellman would block the top of the car to make sure I never hit my head entering or exiting a taxi. Even the customs agents apologized for keeping me waiting - this just proves how nice and warm the people of Japan are. I felt safe, humbled and grateful for meeting new people.

I was struck by the Japanese attention to detail, in every walk of life. They treat their food like works of art with the exact placements, and up to 16 different courses at the ryokans! The public transportation, whether it be cars, buses, city trains, or the bullet trains, is clean, sleek, and, most importantly, never late. On the rare occasion when it is late, riders are given certificates to bring to their employers.

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During my 10-day trip I visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and the Setouchi region. I absolutely LOVED Tokyo. Tokyo is the ultimate big city with tons of quirks. I spent an afternoon in Harajuko mesmerized by the different cafes, large cotton candies and the oh so fabulous Harajuko girls with their pink hair and eccentric clothing. That night I had dinner at the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. This was the ultimate night out - think bright lights, robots, and a silly but interesting plot line! I was smiling for 2 hours straight at the outrageousness of the Robot Show.

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From Tokyo I moved onto Kyoto where I had perfect weather (in February!!). Kyoto truly combines the old with the new - the Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku-ji, was a stunning work of art dating back to 1397, and the Fushimi Inari Shrine was overwhelmingly intricate (and gorgeous!) with its 10,000 tori gates!

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From Kyoto I took a day trip to Nara. I felt like a true Disney Princess being in Nara. I was surrounded by hundreds of deer (I believe the park has an estimated 1,200) roaming around. Not only does Nara have deer but it is home to the massive UNESCO World Heritage Site, Todaiji Temple. I found a day trip to Nara to be essential when visiting Kyoto and well worth the 35 Minute Shinkansen train ride from Kyoto Station.

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Most of my trip was spent it Setouchi, and wow, it was well worth it! I fell in love with this hidden gem in the western-southern part of Japan that is off of the Seto Inland Sea. The Setouchi area consists of 3,000 different islands (Japan has 6,900 total) and it is one of the world’s largest archipelagos.

The first stop in Setouchi was Kobe! I took a 27-minute Shinkasen ride from Kyoto Station to arrive in Kobe. I stayed at the Kobe Merikien Park Hotel which had a wonderful view of the port with the best ferris wheel show I have ever seen

Kobe is known for two famous things – (1) Kobe Beef and (2) Sake! I had the pleasure of going to a group dinner where we all dined on melt-in-your-mouth Kobe beef. The following morning, we visited a Sake Brewery where we learned about the processes of making sake and thankfully got to taste a few different kinds. Just like the rest of Japan, the details and manual labor going into the art of making sake is very intricate. Viewing the processes made me value drinking sake so much more.

Upon leaving Kobe, we headed to the Okayama Prefecture. Our first stop was at the Bizen Osafune Sword Museum. While there, we got to witness a sword master creating a sword by heating metal and hitting it with a hammer. This technique requires three people and over a month of work! I had the pleasure of contributing to this creation.

Next stop, Hotel Ofutei, located in the Hiroshima Prefecture, where I experienced my first ryokan! One of the biggest questions people ask, “Should I stay in a ryokan?” My colleague, Andrew, did an excellent job of answering that, and I agree with his sentiment, Yes, stay in a ryokan!


Hotel Ofutei had breathtaking views, an indoor and an outdoor onsen (hot spring with a bath) that was so remote you got to feel the nature. It was located in Fukyama, also known as the place where they shot The Wolverine movie. Our wonderful guides were very proud of the fact that Hugh Jackman stayed in this area.


Setouchi literally means Inland Sea. Because Setouchi is made of so many islands, the scenery is breathtaking regardless of where you end up. It is a wonderful place to visit and experience nature in Japan. Being in Setouchi and on the Seto Inland Sea, taking a boat ride (or 3!!!) is a must

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One of the biggest draws in Setouchi is Naoshima Island,an island in the Hiroshima Prefecture that is an art haven. First, you have the ever luxurious Benesse House Hotel with sleek minimalist rooms. Connected to the hotel is the Benesse House Museum with today’s modern art. The most highly regarded museum on Naoshima Island is the Chichu Art Museum which has artwork by many famous artists,including Claude Monet and James Turrell. For all of your clients who seek out art, Setouchi offers an art show every two years called the Setouchi Triennale. The next one will be in 2019. The Setouchi Triennale was first held in 2010 and it is intended to create Setouchi to be a leading destination for contemporary art. Clients who are passionate about art will be impressed by Setouchi and Naoshima Island.

Visiting Setouchi was a breath of fresh air after spending a few days in the big cities. It is a great addition to any trip to Japan. Whether you just wish to add 2 or 3 days onto your itinerary to see a different side of Japan or if you are returning for a second or third time, and would like to spend a week in Setouchi, you will not be disappointed. Setouchi provides an opportunity for people to experience a more unique and authentic part of Japan. It is a perfect destination for travelers who would like to get off the beaten path.

Based on my brief but jam-packed trip, no matter where you end up going in Japan, you will find kind people, beautiful surroundings, delicious food, and have a great time.

My friend jokingly said Japan is a Utopia, and all joke aside, it just might be.