Travelers are sophisticated consumers. Looking for the perfect destinations to whet appetites, both literally with culinary/thirst-quenchers and figuratively with heart-pumping activities or romantic getaways, vacationers seek unique experiences at fine resorts and luxury destinations. Our seasoned Luxury Travel Writer, Priscilla Pilon has scoured the world to bring you her current top picks by category. Bon Voyage!
ECO-FRIENDLY DESTINATION – Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Gansbaai, South Africa
Grootbos, designated as one of National Geographic’s’ Unique Lodges of the World, is a virtual utopia where five-star accommodations coexist with nature in an eco-paradise.
The all-suite rooms and villa have private porches, spectacular luxurious bathrooms, and canopy beds overlooking acres of gorgeous King Protea plants. Its blooms are the national flower of South Africa.
The Grootbos Foundation is an award-winning non-profit organization committed to responsible tourism and transforming communities. On property, local women attend the Food Production and Life Skills College and grow food at the Siyakhula Farm producing organic fruits and vegetables, free-range chickens, and honey from the beehives set in the beauty of the fynbos, a distinctive type of vegetation only found in the southern tip of Africa.
The cuisine at Grootbos is the freshest possible with mostly locally sourced products. Since the chefs use the produce grown on the property, we could literally taste the wholesomeness in every bite. Each meal was a true gourmet farm-to-table experience. The homemade honey ice cream with honeycomb cookie was simply out of this world.
Grootbos is nestled inside the best area to see the “Marine Big 5” – whales, sharks, dolphins, seals, and penguins. The list of resort activities is brimming with exciting outdoor adventures for people of all ages.
SPA DESTINATION – Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin, Texas
Petit bungalows with private front porches on the quiet river set the mood for a relaxing getaway. The green and blue palettes in the rooms match the peace and tranquility found outdoors.
Healthy food options are served at every meal where portions are not Texas-sized, rather spa-sized. Menu items list caloric intake to facilitate making better choices. Chef Stephane Beaucamp teaches guests how to cook replacing sugary, fattening ingredients with more healthy alternatives. The more calories saved, the more wine can be justified with dinner.
The outdoor activity center hosts daily water excursions or for those who wish to exercise on their own. Hydro bikes and paddleboards are fun choices. There are indoor exercise classes and instruction for those who prefer a more rigorous regime.
A huge indoor lap pool under the roof of an old barn adds to the Texan charm. Next to the indoor pool is an outdoor version with cabanas and lounge chairs tucked in amongst the native wildflowers.
Inside the spa, treatment rooms are spacious and have a heavenly scent that relaxes the mind and body before the actual treatment begins. The waiting area boasts a large fireplace with lounge chairs and comfy blankets to cozy up in while waiting for your turn in heaven. Treatment options range from a variety of traditional massage techniques to the latest, most technologically advanced procedures.
GOLF DESTINATION – Gleneagles, Perthshire, Scotland
This legendary Gleneagles Hotel and Resort boasts three championship golf courses on the private estate and recently played host to the 2014 Ryder Cup at their Jack Nicklaus designed PGA Centenary Course. The hundred-year-old King’s Course and natural beauty Queen’s Course are walking-only courses that have inspired many to play the rounds of their lives or to curse the day they picked up a club. Either way, everyone enjoys the 19th hole at the jazz-themed bar, tasting one of the 120 single malt whiskies on offer.
The hotel itself is a throwback to a bygone era where style and grace ruled the day. Modern amenities such as the spa and family playrooms have made their way into the castle but formality and tradition remain in the décor and activities presented – falconry, tennis, shooting, equestrian school, fishing, off-road driving, and gundog school.
GAY DESTINATION – Quebec City, Canada
While gay cruises and pride parades are often the focus of LGBT travel by many in the industry, the overall desire for a unique travel experience in a destination that is LGBT-friendly is often the priority for today’s LGBT travelers. Quebec City makes for an ideal destination with a rich history, charming cobblestone streets and a friendly gay scene.
Beyond the everyday reasons to visit Quebec City to savor the culture and history, there are also a number of international events throughout the year that make this a must-visit destination. The Festival d’Eté de Québec is every July; the Carnaval de Quebec transforms this city during January and February, and the Fête Arc-en-Ciel is a favorite for LGBT travelers celebrating this “rainbow festival” each September.