Cheers to “Beet Cancer” Recipe in the article below.

October in the United States is now providing a different kind of “medical travel” — pink travel. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness, or BCA, and pink is touted to promote awareness. Various travel venues are “tickled pink” to donate some of their revenue in October to related nonprofits.

Two destination stand-outs are Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and San Diego, California (the W, Hard Rock and Hyatt Hotels) according to J Public Relations, which offers the content below, including a cocktail recipe.

If you know of other travel-for-a-cause opportunities, please share them in the comments section below. Please also let us know what you think of these.

From J Public Relations:

“San Diego- Hard Rock “Pinktober”

“Pinktober 2013 at Hard Rock Hotel San Diego | San Diego, CA

Hard Rock goes a bit pink in October to help Breast Cancer Awareness in San Diego Photo from Hard Rock Website

“Stay – Hard Rock Hotel San Diego will outfit select guestrooms with special Pink Sheets, and a percentage of the room proceeds during October will benefit the campaign. The Sleep Like a Rock® bedding features the signature embroidered guitar pillowcases and plush bedding.  Guests of “Pink Sheets rooms” will also receive Hard Rock’s 2013 PINKTOBER guitar pin featuring pink rhinestones. In addition, hotel guests can opt to add a donation of any level to their guestroom bill during their stay.

 “Sip – The property’s retro-chic diner, Maryjane’s, will serve a limited-time cocktail. The restaurant team will wear pink shirts and pink gear every Sunday to promote awareness. They will hand out pink frosted guitar cookies to our hotel guests to promote awareness. They will also offer the cookies to outside guests for a donation.

 “Hard Rock Hotel’s 207 and Float bars will be offering specialty cocktails Flamingo Margaritas, Pink Floyds and Pink Dolphins with 25 percent of proceeds benefitting Hard Rock’s PINKTOBER™ 2013 campaign.

 “Savor – Rock Spa will offer an invigorating 50-minute Pink Sugar Whip body scrub to benefit PINKTOBER™.  To book a spa treatment, guests may call Rock Spa at (619) 764-6930.

 “Shop – Located lobby-level at the hotel, the boutique will feature a variety of PINKTOBER™ merchandise to benefit the cause including PINKTOBER pins, t-shirts, Pink Sheets and more.

 “W San DiegoIn honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the W San Diego is offering a ‘Drink Pink (for a cause)‘ cocktail where 50 percent of the proceeds from October will be donated to the Keep A Breast foundation.  The Drink Pink cocktail is made with Svedka colada vodka, triple sec, lime and cranberry juice.  

“In conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the W will also be turning it’s ‘W’ logo outside PINK to honor the month and help further spread awareness. Inspiring, iconic,and influential, the W San Diego offers a unique mix of cutting-edge design and passions around fashion, music and entertainment.  

 “Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The beauties of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Photo from the Hotel Terra Jackson Hole website.

“Spur Restaurant & Bar at Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa Hotel | Jackson Hole, WY

 “Throughout the month of October, a portion of Spur Restaurant & Bar’s ‘Beet Cancer’ cocktail will be donated to the Women’s Healthcare Fund at St. John’s Hospital in Jackson Hole.  The ‘Beet Cancer’ cocktail includes:

  • Beet ginger infused gin
  • St. Germaine elderflower liqueur
  • Lemon juice
  • House made ginger syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • Shaken and served up

“CHILL SPA at Hotel Terra Jackson Hole | Jackson Hole, WY

 “Chill for a Cause

 “Join forces with Chill Spa this October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Book a Chill for a Cause treatment and 10% of the proceeds will be donated to the Breast Cancer division of Saint John’s Women’s Healthcare Fund

“PINK Awareness Pink Grapefruit Facial | 50 Minutes $129; 80 Minutes $179: Bring life and vitality to your complexion with a vitamin-rich burst of pink grapefruit and other Eminence Organics Skincare products focusing on hydration.

“Fight Like a Girl Facial | 50 Minutes $129; 80 Minutes $179, Fight bacteria with a deeply purifying facial at Chill Spa.

“Live. Love. And get a Massage | 50 Minutes $129; 80 Minutes $179: Pink out your massage by choosing our specialty treatment this October.  The Live, Love massage is available in Deep Tissue or Swedish massage techniques.”

(End of quoted information from J Public Relations about pink destinations to help Breast Cancer Awareness in October. )


If you know of other luxury venues and destinations that are donating proceeds to Breast Cancer nonprofits, please share the information in comments below.  Do you think these kinds of efforts are a good way to reduce Breast Cancer?

Please also share other opportunities luxury travelers can enjoy while helping causes.

If you are looking for domestic luxury this summer, consider National Parks and stellar acommodations!  Get a nature and nurture fix when you combine first class Parks and pampering – and can get a package deal.

I don’t usually pass on press releases or information for things I haven’t tried, but I am a big fan of National Parks, and luxury-oriented  J Public Relations pairs Parks with pampering digs, and suggests some tempting trip ideas for outdoor wilderness creations with indoor comforts (no camping!). Below are words, images and links provided by them.

Tanque Verde Ranch paired with the Saguaro National Park (read on for more)


Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park with 2.2 million acres of natural wonders and wild animals.  Top sights include the Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Prismatic Spring on the Lower Loop, Mammoth Hot Springs on the Upper Loop and Yellowstone Falls near the shared section of the two.  At the southern edge of Yellowstone Park lies Grand Teton National Park which boasts majestic views of the jagged peaks of the Teton Ranges and miles of hiking and wildlife-watching by Snake River.

Hotel Terra paired with the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park

Hotel Terra Jackson Hole

Located at the gateway to Grand Teton National Park and a short one hour drive to the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the LEED-Silver Certified and AAA Four Diamond luxury Hotel Terra Jackson Hole’s Passport to the Parks package provides the ideal destination for adults and families looking to explore some of the world’s most treasured natural sites.

The Passport to the Parks package includes:

·       3 nights lodging in a Terra Guest Room

·       7-day park pass to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park

·       $20 daily breakfast credit at Terra Cafe

·       Guidebook to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park

·       Backpack for 2 children with kids guide book, reusable water bottle and camera

·       Rates start at $235+ per night; Minimum 3-night stay

·       Valid Valid May 16 – September 30, 2013

Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa

The AAA Four Diamond Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, is also steps from the entrance to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and one hour south of Yellowstone.  Located in one of the most spectacular places in the United States, Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa is granting guests an all-access pass to explore both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks with Teton Mountain Lodge’s National Park Explorer Package that also includes a $50 gas voucher and daily breakfast credit at Spur.

 The National Park Explorer package includes:

·       3 nights lodging at Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa

·       7-day park pass to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park

·       Guidebook to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park

·       $30 daily breakfast credit at Spur Restaurant & Bar

·       $50 gas voucher

·       Rates start at $189+ / night; Minimum 3-night stay

·       Valid May 16 – September 30, 2013 (blackout dates do apply)

The Grand Canyon National Park:

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and has a depth of over a mile.  Known for it’s visually overwhelming size and intricate and colorful landscape, the Grand Canyon boasts some of the world’s most jaw-dropping and dynamic views.

L’Auberge de Sedona in Arizona

L’Auberage de Sedona, Arizona

Situated just 45 minutes south of The Grand Canyon in Sedona, Arizona, L’Auberge de Sedona is just a short drive from the country’s acclaimed Grand Canyon National Park.  The experts at the luxury boutique hotel have a breadth of knowledge to share with their guests if they’d like to tackle the trails on their own, or guests can book the Grand Canyon Package.

 The Grand Canyon Package:

The Grand Canyon is an awe-inspiring monument that must be seen. Guests can relax in L’Auberge’s beautiful accommodations, then spend a memorable day on a professionally guided tour of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The travel up Oak Creek Canyon, via luxury mini coach, is one of the top 10 scenic drives in America.

The package includes:

·       Two nights in either Lodge Room or Cottage Room

·       Grand Canyon tour for two; tour times range 10-11 hours

·       $36 breakfast credit at L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek

Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest:

Divided into two sections, called districts, Saguaro National Park is 91,442 acres, 70,905 acres of which is designated wilderness.  The park gets its name from the saguaro, a large cactus which is native to the region.  Close by is the Coronado National Forest which is spread throughout mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.  Divided into five ranger districts, each consist of multiple “ski island” mountain ranges.

Tanque Verde Ranch, Tuscon, Arizona

Ideally located amongst Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest, Tanque Verde translates as the “green pool,” a name given by the Pima Native Americans due to the seasonal river that runs through the land to create a mountainous desert oasis of vibrant cacti and various unique plants. Tanque Verde Ranch offers a variety of activities that allow guests to take advantage of this beautiful landscape, including expert-guided hikes through the Sonoran Desert or rugged Rincon and Catalina ranges, mountain biking tours, trail rides on horseback, birding adventures and nature walks. All of these activities are complementary with all-inclusive rates, which also include three daily meals and accommodations in tastefully decorated southwestern styled accommodations.

Coming Soon- the Salamander Resort & Spa paired with Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park, Virgina

This 200,000 acre park is haven to deer and songbirds and is an ideal location for outdoor activities for the whole family.

Be the First: Salamander Resort & Spa 

Salamander Resort & Spa is set to open this August in the heart of Virginia wine and horse country in the quaint 18th century village of Middleburg and a short 2-hour scenic drive along Virginia’s Skyline Drive to Shenandoah National Park. Set on 340 acres of farmland, the brand new resort will offer an unparalleled luxury experience in the region with 168 guest rooms and suites; a culinary program led by Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant in DC including a two restaurants, wine bar, cooking studio and 2-acre culinary garden; a world-class spa with 14 treatment rooms and a couples suite and an array of activities including an onsite Equestrian program to rival any other in the world, with a 22-stall barn, practice ring, riding trails and instructional classes. The property boasts tennis courts and an outdoor pool complex, and guests have privileges at the nearby Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. Fifty wineries are within an hour’s drive of the resort, as are opportunities for whitewater rafting, sporting clays and raceway spectating.


Where would you like to park you and loved ones this summer? If you try any of the above this summer, please let Luxury Travel Mavens know what you think!

Submitted by Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photos, descriptions and links supplied by J Public Relations


Private ski instruction in delicious powder, a long lavender treatment at the Fairmont Spa, and then the night adventure…

Good Morning!

Wake up in Canada’s Jasper National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, fresh snowfall wrapping your private roomy cabin as you emerge from plush bedding and head to a hot shower, all part of the upscale, rustic travel ensemble that is the Fairmont JPL (Jasper Park Lodge) 

Morning hasn’t quite emerged from night yet, and it’s still too dark to appreciate the forested lake path to the main lodge.  You call the pampering staff to pick you up in a van for door-to-door help with gear and transport to the main lodge.

Instead of cabin room service, you try breakfast at Cavell’s where casual gourmet is fine dining with local infusion. Morning fare includes a scrumptious array or a la carte. Much of the restaurant’s honey comes from the bees that live on the roof. The staff has been known to help pick the fruits and vegetables locally, and the chef works with Alberta farmers for the best organic produce.


Morning in Marmot Ski Basin, Alberta, Canada by Lisa TE Sonne

The Ups of Downhill

For a morning of skiing, hop on the 8 am shuttle going up the mountain to the Marmot Basin Ski Area.  Elk sightings are a bonus as the van’s headlights illuminate tree sentries in a world of white.

Arrive at the ski lodge as the sun debuts with splashy pinks across the mountains horizon. Skiers and snowboarders are already painting sinewy Ss into the snow.

If you have signed up in advance for private one-to-one instruction for snow boarding or skiing, you have a guru meet you and guide you for the rest of your day. Dave is part teacher, concierge, and coach who can help with everything from selecting and tightening your boots and skis for the best fit at your skill and fitness level, to showing you the secret bathroom that means no extra stairs in the boots.

Once out the door and near the slopes, he is photographer, historian and instructor with patience and a ready smile.

He reviews the fundamental basics and provides tailored exercises to undo bad habits. He selects the chair lifts and paths that will best help both your learning curve and your pleasure quota.

Riding ” the longest high-speed quad chair in the Canadian Rockies”  to the top provides scenery bonanzas. Dave designs a beautiful route down that includes sections of three different named runs.

At one point no other skier or snowboarder is in view. Majestic peaks are. The snow is powdery delicious, not icy and crusty, not squishy and smushy.  You understand how people become skiing fanatics.

A lunch break at Caribou includes a delicious salmon burger and salad with good company.  You hear a tale about a WWII secret plan in nearby Lake Patricia to build an aircraft carrier of ice. You meet Dave’s charming wife who also inspires people up and down the mountain runs.

You have to stop skiing to make the 2:30 shuttle. You want more, but know that less is better here.  You haven’t fallen or broken anything, you learned some good techniques to practice, your endorphins hum, and the scenery is a high;  you are glowing.   And the next luxury awaits.

The Spa lounging area, courtesy of the Fairmont, Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, Canada

Afternoon Recharge– Blue Reflections

Your signature spa treatment awaits in your own niche of the Fairmont’s 10,000 square feet sanctuary in the Main Lodge. You skip the interior access to the great outdoor pool, the inviting sauna and steam room. You change and ease right into a 90 minute session to cleanse and rejuvenate your skin, and sooth any muscles that might be tired after skiing .

Brittany welcomes you with her soothing voice and nurturing trained hands. First you breath deeply and inhale lavender and eucalyptus , and exhale troubles.

“The Blue Reflections” for some might be to chase away the winter blues, but at JPL it’s to celebrate the blue skies and “Blue Magic” lavender.

Brittany works her magic with especially formulated scrubs, rinses, and moisturizers as she explains that lactose acids build up after a work-out and massage is a great way to flush out the toxins and get the circulation going.

You feel like a super athlete with this post ski session, and like royalty ( you heard that the Queen Mother stayed at the Fairmont JPL, but no word on whether her blue blood ever circulated better because of a “Blue Reflections.”) From head (your scalp is massaged with hot oils for deep hair nutrition ) to toes ( ahhh, massage) you feel  relaxed and revived.

To make sure your stomach is not deprived, you  asked for Room Service to deliver to the spa, and enjoy a chef’s plate of delectable cheeses and fruits artfully arranged.

It is tempting to stay in the spa’s comforts and float into dreams, but you planned to add exploration to your luxury since  Jasper National Park is a “Dark Sky Preserve” and you were told that Maligne Canyon is part of the largest karst system in the world!  Karst topology can be drainage systems of caves- above or below ground, and sinkholes formed by bedrock that is dissolved over time.

The Sundog night Ice Canyon walk, Alberta, Canyon. Photo by Lisa TE Sonne


Cool Nightlife!
In the lobby you meet with a few other intrepid spirits who are sharing their boot sizes with guide Wes Bradford of Sundog Tours . He hands out boots, headlamps, hand warmers to go in mittens, and “icers” to clamp footprints of spikes on the bottom of your boots, the better to grip for ice-walking.

.A drive later and you are walking under the mega astronomic canopy of a “Dark Sky Preserve.” Tales of shooting stars and northern lights and the huge arc of the Milky Way make the current cloud cover seem oppressive and rude.

But you decide to forget the “have nots, “ of your night, and the “haves” makes it seem like you are enveloped in a gigantic cosmic cave –seeing only what headlamps illuminate.  Wes stops to point out with a flashlight the deep canyon to the right and the animal tracks in the snow to the left.  Wolves are very large here.

It’s 20 below zero (C not F)  and when you descend into the canyon, the path ends as you walk in the stream bed, some of it moving liquid and some of it ice- solid. You are flanked by nature’s ice sculptures seen with dramatic patches of flashlight.

If you wear glasses, you will want to make sure your excited steamy breath and warming headwear are not creating fog blindness or a mini-weather system with clouds and then rain between your eyes and glasses. You not only will act like a wimpy, dorky adventurer since you can’t even see your own feet, but you might fall and miss some of the hanging icycles or the fossils that Wes points out.

When your night vision is clear, it’s fun scampering and crawling and leaping in the streambeds, grabbing onto solid ice columns to pull yourself up to peek into a cave. The elements direct a landscape that changes nightly. You can hear water behind walls of ice.  You are in geology’s drama.

Snowflakes drift down languidly.

For most of history, people had curiosity about the mysteries and beauties of nature, but they didn’t have headlamps, glasses, hi –tech fabrics, hand-warmers, and cold-tolerant cameras.

They certainly didn’t have a heated cabin at the Fairmont waiting for them.                                   by Lisa TE Sonne,    a Luxury Travel Maven

Along the path from cabin to main lodge.


A private ski lesson! Sonne with instructor Dave.

Photographs by Lisa TE Sonne except the Spa photo, courtesy of Fairmont JPL, and this one thanks to Sarah Sekula. Ready to plan your own trip to Jasper, Alberta, a Fairmont?




Paddleboarding in a lagoon near the Atlantic Ocean

“Don’t look at your feet. Look forward.” That was the main advice for our first foray at stand-up paddle boarding or “SUP.”

A few of us newbies gathered on a sandy patch near Aquadilla in northwestern Puerto Rico for a lesson from Aquatica Dive & Surf which also offers surfing, diving, and snorkeling.  Arcing in front of us lay a beautiful natural classroom and playground:  to the left,  the Atlantic Ocean, straight ahead, a placid lagoon; and to our right, an inviting, meandering, calm river,  flanked by lush jungle growth.

All the waters were warm compared to many other places in the continental US where  paddleboarding is taught, and the conditions were gentle for optimal beginner’s luck.

First attempts in the warm lagoon.

“It’s all about balance” was the other advice given as we pushed our long boards out into the lagoon. Guides were nearby to help steady us if we needed it. I got into a kneeling position in the middle of my board, placed the single paddle perpendicularly in front of me, and then used it to push myself first to squatting, then to standing position.

Wow! I was up on a paddle board! Things felt tippy at first, until I found my own sweet-spot on the board. From  then on,  it was relatively stable. For me,  paddling was easier than just standing still.

The long pole with a curved paddle at one end had been adjusted to my height, so that one hand could push down on the handle, while the other hand mid-pole pulled it toward me. Pushing and pulling the paddle in the right amounts is one form of balance. Being in the optimal position on the board is another.  Finding the body posture that works is also a key element of balance – not leaning back or forward too much, knees slightly bent. Most of that, the body seems to do automatically.

Lesson One: Look Ahead and Practice Balance

To control direction, you can back-paddle the way you might while kayaking. You can also switch the paddle over to the other side, which also means switching which hand is on top and which is in the middle of the paddle.

It was about the shortest learning curve of any new sport or recreation, I can remember– certainly easier than anything involving a ball or wheels.  Soon, we were heading up the river, first-time paddlers (ages ranging from the 20s to 60s) relishing the pleasure of something new.

Paddling offers solitude or good company.

We could be close enough for conversations or find our own niche in nature to listen to the wildlife and enjoy the jungle fauna.

It took just enough effort and attention that my mind was cleared of other worldly things. But not it did not require so much concentration that I couldn’t hum a spontaneous paddling tune, take photos with my waterproof camera, or just make up a jungle adventure.

Beautiful orange flowers floated. Coqui frogs added to the chorus. Occasionally a bird would swoop nearby. The river was so gentle,  it was encouraging for practicing different speeds and directions. The water was so warm that the idea of falling in was not intimidating.

We had seen stand-up paddle boarders out at sea where conditions can be much more challenging.  Those paddlers may also have the thrills of catching waves.  Kneeling or laying on long boards to catch waves goes way back in Hawaiian tradition.  The kind of recreational stand up paddle boarding or “SUP” we were learning has been growing in the last few decades with the advent of new board designs.

Boards left while paddlers hike.

Shore Leave

Our little quasi-intrepid group spread out and paddled under a bridge, and past a rope swing until we were gathered near a muddy shore where some branches hung low.  We helped each other ashore for a land hike.

The cleared jungle trail lead through thick growth to an early railroad tunnel in Puerto Rico, built in 1906. Naturally we felt compelled to walk through the dark passage until we saw the light again.

Paddling back to our original shore, I thought about how much this “lesson” had been like my first surfing lesson in Waikiki on Oahu- the warm waters,  gentle conditions and beautiful scenery there had made it an optimal place for a sense of fun and success the first time out. The same was true here for my first SUP chapter.

At  the end of our group journey, one person said she  thought it was boring as a sport. She was teased that she should try it in the ocean before reaching any conclusions. Two other people said they thought paddleboarding was more fun than kayaking. One because he likes being up above the water, the other because it uses legs as much as arms. A fourth person said she really loved it and would pursue it more when they got home.

All  were all glad we had tried a new way to enjoy Puerto Rico’s natural beauty and man-made features.

The Luxury Elements:

The view from the Eclipse Restaurant, part of the Villa Montana Beach Resort in Puerto Rico. The Resort can help arrange horseback riding on the beach, paddleboarding, and massages.

To make paddling in Puerto Rico a more luxurious experience, you could stay at Villa Montana Beach Resort, not far from the International airport in Aquadilla, (or find out what the Heliport sign is all about.)  The spacious villas can be your  home base for biking, horseback riding on the beach, tennis, golf, pool lounging, and tide-pooling.

The resort’s alfresco seaside restaurant, the Eclipse,  offers wonderful food and views, and delicious fuel to start your paddling day off with gusto.

Villa Montana Resort

To end your day with soothing luxury, arrange in advance for a private massage by the shore or in your own villa.

You could open the door to your place and be greeted by dozens of candles, sweet smells, and a talented masseuse ready to ease any muscles you challenged while enjoying paddle boarding and hiking. If you want romantic ambiance for yourself or mate, trails of rose petals can be arranged, too.




Some Practical Tips for PaddleBoarding:

*Wear water shoes with good support and grip (although some people prefer barefeet to help their balance.)

*Secure your glasses/sunglasses with a strap that floats

* If you want to wear a hat, make sure it has a strap

*Pre-spray bug spray on yourself,  and your hat

* Bring/borrow a waterproof bag for your camera and anything you want to keep dry

*Bring water with you to stay hydrated. Make sure the guide has  plenty before you start out.

* And, of course, check  with your doctor first, if you have any relevant medical conditions!

Thanks to Aquatica for a good first lesson.

Tips While There:

*Watch others to observe what works and what doesn’t

* Listen to the guides– they should know where it’s safe to get off near shore and where the submerged logs are,  etc.

*Ask for a “dry bag” if you want to bring your camera and keep it dry, then use it on the hike. Make sure you learn how to close the bag properly.

*There are some elastic ropes at the front of the board for securing things like the dry bag

*Ask what the plan for the paddle is. If you are going to stop and hike like we did, you might want to make sure you bring dry shoes and put them in a bag. (Fire ants like exposed feet.  Exposed feet usually don’t feel the same way about fire ants.)

*Remember to ask others to take your picture on the board, if you want a memento of your good time!

Puerto Rico- the Place!
Puerto Rico is a US territory,  so if you are a US citizen, you don’t need to worry about passports or customs or international cell phone charges, the way you would with many other Caribbean islands. US currency, and both English and Spanish prevail, and driving is on the right side of the road unlike many other Caribbean islands. You can fly into the capital of San Juan on the northeast of the island, and enjoy Old San Juan’s rich history, great restaurants, party night life, and wonderful museums. After a couple of days, drive west to the Isabella area of Puerto Rico, or you can fly straight to Aquadilla airport.

If you opt to take the east to west road trip, and are willing to go a little inland, two memorable attractions in Puerto Rico are the Arecibo Observatory, and the Rio Camuy Caves (787-898-3100.)

For more help planning a great trip, check out

What more can you share about Paddle Boarding or about Puerto Rico? Please add your comments below.    Viva the good life!

-Lisa TE Sonne for LuxuryTravelMavens

 Photographs © Lisa TE Sonne,

Ahhhh, barefoot luxury in Barbados !

A view from The Crane Residential Resort- a destination since 1887.

The footwear I wore longest my first day in Barbados was fins. I spent enchanted hours in the morning, scuba diving through the coral gardens in 88 degree water with schools of neon blue fish for company, off the western resort lined-and-designed Caribbean side of  the island.

But the rest of the day, I was indulging in “barefoot luxury in Barbados” – The Crane Resort way – on the eastern, more private Atlantic side of this multi-faceted vacation mecca.

I woke barefoot in a big hand-carved four-poster bed with the rhythmic  sounds of the Atlantic surf. The bed, authentic Barbadian furniture,  was similar to those used in the resort since it first opened as a hotel in 1887, triggering more than a century of legacy. Locals say that in the late 19th century, the visiting celebrity “Buffalo Bill” Cody paid for his stay by leaving a watch and the gold chain to his timepiece.  In the 21st century, 252 accommodations offer golden refuge for travelers from timezones around the world.

I padded across the marble floor to open the tall shuttered doors to my spacious balcony, part of my 1,200 square foot residential suite at the Crane Residential Resort.  My refrigerator was already full of fruits and eggs and the makings for great coffee were on the counter. A five-jet shower awaited too.  I was well fortified for a drive across island, and relaxing diving.

Dive Boat

Catamaran dive boat to explore the Caribbean waters on the western side of Barbados


When I returned to my Crane “home” from easy  diving with Hightide Water Sports, my swimsuit was still wet, so I headed barefoot to the Atlantic Ocean that looked so beguiling from my balcony. My toes were tickled as I walked a small part of The Crane’s 40 acres of landscaping (tended by over 20 landscapers) to the cliff’s edge for sweeping views.

The Crane Resort's elevator to the  private beach

The Crane Resort’s elevator to the private beach below the gardens and suites

Both a glass-fronted elevator and steps descend three flights from the cliff perch to powdery sand that massaged my toes.  In certain lights, the sand shimmers pinks.

Barbados is the eastern most inhabited Caribbean island and the Atlantic waters on the island’s eastern side can be boisterous for body surfing and bogey boarding.

Atlantic surf below The Crane Residential Resort

It was fun to frolic in waves that were more than 20 degrees warmer than the ones I had last played in, off the California coast.  I swam past the breakers and floated on my back reveling that no land mass was between me and Africa! Just leagues and leagues of beautiful sea.

To the side, I could see some old steps along the side of the protecting promontory where two boys fished.  I had been told that the steps, dating back to 1769, were a part of a private sanctuary for women who wanted to get around the societal expectations forbidding females to get wet in public. Here, they could enjoy the ocean.

On the beach today, men and women openly swim, body surf, sun on lushly padded lounge chairs or walk with rum drinks served in fresh coconut shells from the beaches’ bar. I was content to gently undulate with the swells on the bathwater warm ocean, my toes pointing to the tropical sky.

Options to wash off the sand and salt are many starting with the outdoor showers. The Crane’s grounds have several sets of swimming pools. One set of pools flows over 1.5 acres with cascading connections and jacuzzi.  Many of the Resort’s suites come with individual pools either as part of a front yard or as part of an outdoor upper level. I enjoyed The Crane Beach Pool’s proximity to the ocean sounds and sands.

One of the Crane's pools

One of The Crane’s swimming pools with Ocean view


My next barefoot foray on this deliciously naked toe day was the Serenity Spa, one of the Crane’s nurturing niches.  I received the “Travelers Paradise Express” which weaves together Swedish, Lomi-Lomi (Hawaiian) and Deep Tissue very effectively with talented Lashawn also rehydrating my dry post-airplane skin with almond lotion. I particularly liked – of course – the foot rub part!

It’s enjoyable to try massages that are signature for their geographic and cultural context like a Mayan themed treatment in Cancun, Mexico, or an amber massage in the Baltics, so I had been hoping for some kind of Barbados rum massage or pink sand defoliation (I made those up), but the actual eclectic Serenity blend of massage techniques worked wonderfully and does suggest Barbados’ international legacy. For centuries, Barbados was a key portal for the trade of goods, people, and ideas between the Americas, and Africa and Europe.

My feet were quite glad to receive three kinds of massage blended.


A Zen dinner in the Tatami room. Shoes are parked outside and our legs rest below floor level while we enjoy great Japanese and Thai food without leaving The Crane.


How could this barefoot day get any better?

Answer: Dinner in the Tatami room of the fantastic Zen restaurant on the Crane grounds, a Zagat’s favorite for Barbados. Shoes were parked outside the private room as new friends – travel writers and tourism experts – bared soles and souls with stellar sushi, sashimi, and lots of laughs.

After a day of Caribbean diving, Atlantic ocean play, pools, foot massage, and Zen repose, I returned to my suite with its own  jacuzzi bathtub, lounge chairs for star gazing and tradewinds on the balcony,  and the luscious four poster  bed.   What a welcoming sequence  to enjoy  barefoot luxury in Barbados – the Crane way!


PS: The next two days, I did don shoes when I left  the Crane, ironically to check out the big rich history of the little Island that influenced the world and the first President of the United States.  I say ironic because for  a key period,  barefoot slaves helped drive the economic prosperity of Barbados. Now it’s liberated barefoot visitors who help fuel Barbados’ top financial engine – tourism.   I am happy to kick off my shoes,  and the Barbados Tourism folks  can help you plan your own footprints in the sand.


-Lisa TE Sonne for

 Photos by Lisa TE Sonne

Follow her adventures: @ExploreTraveler


View from the Balcony of Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Resort and Spa, a good place to recall a wonderful trip

The lyrical lapping sounds of the Caribbean Sea below are my happy hour soundtrack as I sit on my balcony, overlooking the rich, dark blues of the interconnecting lagoon-like pools of the Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun Resort and Spa and the tiffany and turquoise blues of the sea beyond.

Sitting now feels like a satisfied sigh for my whole body, after a full day that included rappelling into a cenote; ziplining over lakes; canoe-ing in a lagoon; hiking in the jungle with a big black monkey, blue butterflies, and yellow frogs; riding a bike to the main Mayan temple of Coba: and then taking the 120 steep steps up the Yucatan’s highest Mayan pyramid — and down again. I am definitely ready to rest and bask in the memories

I shared the two-hour each-way drive from resort-filled Cancun to the jungle Yucatan Mayan area with eight buff 20-somethings who had travelled from parts of the US and Russia. We were on the AllTourNative ‘s “Mayan Encounter Adventure,” which included 63 copas (speed bumps) on mostly good roads with comedic narrative provided by a guide who kept the activity pace moving whenever we piled out of the air conditioned van.

AllTourNative aims to support the local cultures, economies, and environments by taking

Up the pyramid of Copa in the Mayan Yucatan, two hours from Cancun resorts
Lisa TE Sonne

visitors on memorable day trips that intertwine different degrees of culture, nature, and activity and opportunies to buy local souveners or photos by a local person. Originally, I had wanted their Tulum package, which includes a dramatic Mayan archeological site on the coast, visiting Mayan families and snorkeling in the fantastic-sounding underground river and caves, but it wasn’t offered on the only day I had left in Cancun. So then I intended to be on the Cultural tour of the Coba Mayan ruins, which includes visiting Mayan villages.

cancun trip

Instead I was on the Adventure trip, which falls somewhere between Disneyland rides and true exploration. The bats and tarantula were not holograms or animatronic creations. The winds on the zipline were real, not piped in. But our itinerary was partially a fast line up of quick doses of active things that many people had done before us. Call it designer adventure or an Indiana Jones appetizer menu or channel surfing mini-experiences- rushing to get a rush.

Ziplining in the Yucatan, Photo by Lisa TE Sonne

Now, back in my room, I am feeling no aches, pains, or strains. I am enjoying the post glow of cardio vascular endorphins, pseudo-survival smiles, and some decent photos of new sites and experiences. I think a large reason was the lovely balance of nurturing relaxation and activity that I had enjoyed at Le Blanc during the first part of my trip, and my soothing visit to the Gem spa the night before this busy day.

The spa connoisseur has many choices here in Cancun, a X kilometer region that evolved solely for beach resort tourism. The Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Resort and Spa boasts the largest spa of the almost 200 hotels.
The staff at the 40,000-square-foot Gem spa made me feel like only my two feet (and the body they are attached to) were important. Ixchel (a beautiful Mayan name) introduced me to the hydrotherapy pleasures of the alternating hot and cold treatments route. I had heard some people take five hours to really unfurl their knots and anxieties, but with a departure time of 7am the next morning, I “settled” for shorter immersions.

“The Ice Room,” a cooling complement to the steam room, part of the alternating cold and hot offerings of the Hydrotherapy journey at the Gem Spa, the largest in Cancun. Photo provided by Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Resort and Spa.

I already felt more relaxed thinking about what I had read on the website: It is the only spa in Cancun and Latin America that provides a complete 10-step hydrotherapy program. You can start in the enormous Sensations Pool, with an amazing view of the Nichupte Lagoon. It caresses the body with thousands of bubbles. Afterwards, you head to an aromatherapy steam, a vigorous shower, clay steam room, ice room, sauna, rain shower, Jacuzzi, polar pool and foot bath.

Ixchel tended to me as if I were royalty, waiting with dry towels and beverages after each water treatment. For the steam room, she offered chocolate mud to pull out the toxins. The ice room was refreshing. Walking on rocks in hot and cold pools prepared my feet for the next treat.

The Gem spa offers various gemstone therapies, but I was looking forward to continuing the water theme of my Cancun trip, going from the biggest fish in the sea (whale sharks) to little fish that nibble off dead cells.

The Garra Rufa are small fish imported from Turkey that eat your upper layers of dead skin cells instead of having them sloughed or scrubbed away. Supposedly they also can help circulation. My husband and I had tried the little guys in Singapore several years before and had actually researched how we might bring them into the United States. They were so funny, novel, and seemingly effective! We could laugh and get smooth skin at the same time. Regulatory mazes in the U.S. were beyond our enthusiasm, though, so it was wonderful to see that top spas in Mexico were offering them as an option.

While I was sitting with my feet in the water, providing a banquet for the little ones, Xchmel started rolling her palms over my scalp. Her massage continued on my arms and hands. Instead of laughing at the nibblers, I closed my eyes and relaxed.  My thoughts floated. All of me had been floating earlier that day when I was scuba diving  in the world’s second-largest reef. Brightly colored tropical fish still meandered through my mind.

I had also scuba dove around poignant sculptures by Jason de Caires Taylor in the largest underwater museum in the world. Hundreds of human

The Underwater Sculpture Museum
Photo by (c) Lisa TE Sonne

shapes based on real people were beginning to form an artificial reef that would provide meals for future sea creatures. And even as I was sitting on  a pillowed throne, offering my feet and calves to the garra rufa, those  artful underwater human forms were becoming fish food.

Xchmel gently brought me back to the present and showed me seven different gems lined up. She asked me to select the one that spoke to me. She then told me how each gem corresponded to a different energy chakra and held a different guiding message for the well-being of the person who chose it.

I slept very well that night, and the next morning, dawn did her finger painting on the sky over the lapping waves as I gathered my stuff for a road trip to the jungle and Mayan ruins. The early AM staff at the hotel desk changed money so I could be ready for shopping and tips, and the maitre d’ at the bountiful breakfast buffet  (free for Fiesta  guests) helped me pack up foods and coffee to make the long drive more enjoyable. In both cases the staff ended our encounter saying, “It is my pleasure” with a cultural sincerity.

Every day I had heard “it is my pleasure” from people who had done something to add to my pleasure. With the exception of one negative dive master, service was very professional and also genuinely warm. People seemed to want to add to the happiness of those around them.

Sitting on the balcony, now, recalling all the vignettes that fed my spirit on this day, my stomach starts to rumble. The Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Resort and Spa offers Isla Conroy, a seafood restaurant, La Joya, for local delectables with Mariachi music, or I could indulge in culinary delights at the five diamond Le Basilic — all for an extra fee at this family-welcome resort that is EP (European Plan or Extra pay for lunch and dinner and certain added services).

On arrival, however, I had been enrolled in what one staff member called the “Double Upper” – the Grand Club plan. I went up the marble stairs to the quiet, private Club lounge with deluxe service, where an artfully laid out array of fresh appetizers and sushi and an open bar always waited with wonderful views of the coast. Well-fed and back in my room, packing for the trip home, I realize I am happily sated this trip, but not done with Cancun.  It won’t be Cancun’s 13 signature golf courses, five shopping malls with luxury shops, or dynamic nightlife that would lure me back. It would be cultural roots — the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and seaside Tulum and lesser known archeological sites,  the unique way “The Day of the Dead” is celebrated in Mexico,  the new curiosity-invoking Positive Pyramid and other events  being developed to end one Mayan era and begin a new one


Another magnet for return for me would be the opportunities of staying at wonderful resorts and spas as luxurious rejuvenating home bases to explore nature— from the underwater ocean wonders, to the jungle canopies, to getting to snorkel in the  underworld’s vast system of rivers and cenotes.

And of course there is the warmth of the Mexican personality.  I kept hearing and experiencing“  “It’s my pleasure!”

And for me the trip was “con mucho gusto” (with much pleasure.) .

So Muchas Gracias and hasta la vista, Cancun!

 Lisa TE Sonne for

 Photos by Lisa TE Sonne, unless otherwise credited. @ExploreTraveler

Enjoy the prequel to this article

Dublin Luxury Hotel

The Shelbourne’s Constitution Room

Travelers can enjoy of the luxe of the Irish, choosing the finest places while travelling the ancient footpaths and modern favorites of Dublin and environs in South East Ireland. For some high-end hotel hopping, Lisa’s Luxury Likes include a weave of city, country, seaside and garden luxury: The Shelbourne, Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, Dunbrody Country Home, The Cliff House, and Barberstown Castle.

Shelbourne Dublin

In the heart of Dublin, the Shelbourne shines for deluxe treatment, rich historic atmosphere, and delightful location. Suites overlook St Stephen’s Greens, the renowned Victorian gardens. The concierge will greet you by name when you return from the Abby Theater or Temple Bar. Five minutes away, you can walk in the footsteps of Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, and Jonathan Swift at Trinity College and see the Book of Kells, or head over to

The charms of Grafton Street Dublin, a five minute walk from the Shelbourne

peruse the nearby pulse of picturesque Grafton shops and street artists.

First opened in 1824, and now a Five Star Alliance Renaissance Hotel, the well-restored sanctuary shares memorable dining, more than 500 pieces of Irish art, and the “Constitution Room,” where Michael Collins oversaw the drafting of the Irish Constitution.

US, Irish, and European electrical sockets are all available, but the real energy of this cosmopolitan treat are the wonderful people who make you feel five star.

EXTRAS: Ask for the Princess Grace Suite, if you want to rest where royalty dreamed.

If you want to learn about own personal Irish history, book a session with the Shelbourne’s Genealogy Butler service that helps guests find their Irish roots.

For a day trip of time travel, arrange to visit the fascinating prehistoric monument of Newgrange.

The Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt

Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, Ireland

Near Irelands’ east coast, in the woodlands of County Wicklow, Powerscourt Gardens: The Ritz-Carlton is a grand scale, upscale country retreat. Play at the gentry life with horseback riding, shooting, fly fishing, and hiking in the region where scenes of Brave Heart and Excalibur were filmed. Garden lovers can stroll acres of magnificence at the Powerscourt Gardens.
For those who love eponymous luxuries, don’t miss the Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt dining experience for culinary highs, and swim laps over the 160 Swarovski crystals that light up the twenty-meter indoor pool, part of the ESPA spa facilities.

Touch pad controls for lights and curtains at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt

You can feel like a modern Lord or Lady of the manner in palatial-sized suites, with touch pad controls  for lights and curtains, and sweeping curved balconies over the expansive grounds with views of Sugarloaf Mountain.

EXTRA: The Spa is pioneering good luck “shillelagh” massages. Hand carved from wood in the nearby Shillelagh forest, the sticks have a history as ancient tools. Now they are being used in artful massage to un-do knots and tensions.

The Cliff House

For seaside luxury, don’t miss The Cliff House, a Relais and Chateaux gem and Five Star Alliance hideaway on the Irish Sea. The bedrooms are aesthetically rich and original with creative Irish arts and comforting amenities.

Sit on your seaside balcony to savor the twilight before indulging in the delectable at The House Restaurant, a Michelin one-star treat on the ground floor. The stellar inside pool offers saltwater views. Walkers can explore the churches in the nearby town, comb the seashore, or stumble upon an ancient healing well just down the row.

The lovely staff and setting make it hard to leave.

EXTRA: All the senses can be sated.

The Dunbrody Country House Hotel

Irish Countryside Outside Dublin

For memorable culinary lessons, inviting grounds, and the pleasures of country life like in the movies, relax at Dunbrody House: A Georgian Manor built in the 1830s that sits on more than 200 acres near Arthurstown, this once-private home shares charming intimacy.

Three floors offer a total of 22 rooms, each wonderfully unique. Original fireplaces and deep soaking tubs provide cozy pampering. The range of antiques make you want to see every room.

Across the way, the Dunbrody Culinary School offers lessons and tips for guests using fresh foods from the grounds and local sources, thanks to Irish celebrity Master Chef Kevin Dundon.

For day excursions, stroll the Viking towns of Wexford and Waterford. Take the Waterford Crystal  Factory Tour to see masters at work turning glass into elegant ware and art.

EXTRA: Even those who don’t think they can cook can help make great Irish soda bread and take the recipe home.

Barberstown Castle

Fine dining at the Castle built in the 13th century

If you want your Hotel to be an experience, as well as a cushy accommodation, Barberstown Castle beckons. Built in the 13th century with modern sections added more recently, the Kildare County castle welcomes exploration, and is just 40 minutes from Dublin. Once owned by Eric Clapton, the Hotel now has suites that are each named after distinguished guests through the century, including the Eric Clapton Suite. Each room is unique with antiques and special touches.

You may enjoy great conversations with the owner, meet musicians who come to play during the champagne hour, or enjoy an unforgettable six-course meal in the oldest part of the medieval castle. Barberstown Castle

EXTRA:  Stroll through the colorful village of Kilkenny and take a lesson, fun to beat, on the Irish Bodhran at the Kyteler’s Inn, (established in 1324)  or

Saunter the Castle grounds. and Candy, the dog, may walk with you through the gardens.


Special thanks to Tourism Ireland for making this trip possible. To enjoy additional ideas for planning your own itinerary,  you can check out for things to see and do all over Ireland.

Happy Travels and Good Luck finding your own pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Lisa TE Sonne  for

 Photos by Lisa TE Sonne

Which of the five top luxury hotels appeals to you  the most?