Perhaps August in the desert might not be your cup of tea, although there are few things more refreshing than jumping into a (climate controlled) pool when the mercury hits 110 degrees. But Southern California’s Coachella Valley is only that hot in the summer. All year long, it’s an oasis, not just of green at the foot of mountains, but of arts and culture.
Palm Springs has been a haven for Hollywood stars since the ’30s, and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, founded in 1999, comes to Indio in the spring. Outside summertime, when temperatures drop and cold weather sets in, the desert sees average highs in the 70s and 80s half the year.
In addition to being ringed by mountains with the Salton Sea to the south, the Coachella Valley is also the gateway to Joshua Tree National Park at the confluence of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. Aside from the boundless hiking opportunities, Joshua Tree is a perfect place to gaze at the night sky thanks to its elevation and dark sky conditions.
The area is dotted with canyons offering adventure to the rock climbers in the family, with The Living Desert in Palm Desert providing family fun with a zoo and botanical garden. El Paseo shopping center and the Palm Springs Art Museum are a respite when things do get too hot. With March comes the BNP Paribas Open, a pro tennis tournament in Indian Wells. Any time of year, a Jeep tour or hot air balloon ride taking in the whole valley show off the area’s stark beauty.
Arts, food and wine festivals come to the valley throughout the year, with the Desert Circuit Horse Show taking place January through March at the Polo Grounds. About the only thing missing is the carrot festival Bugs Bunny came looking for in a 1953 cartoon. No matter your interests or the time of year, the Coachella Valley remains an oasis in the desert. Even if all you want to do is jump in the pool on a hot day.
Where you should stay:
La Quinta Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
The Original Desert Hideaway, La Quinta Resort & Club—a member of Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts—has been a haven to Hollywood stars since 1926. Set on 45 acres of vibrant gardens, the resort features hacienda-style casitas, suites and villas clustered around 41 pools. Together with PGA WEST, the resort offers five unique golf courses designed by legends Nicklaus, Dye and Norman. Also available: Spa La Quinta, 23 tennis courts, seven restaurants and seasonal, live outdoor music. A multimillion-dollar restoration has furnished the resort with a modern look in line with the property’s history and serene desert surroundings.
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa offers unrivaled hospitality in the Palm Springs area. This award-winning resort boasts 530 newly renovated guest rooms, including 26 luxury Penthouse Suites and 43 extravagant villas with the area’s only personalized butler service. It is a premier golf and tennis destination, home to two PGA championship courses and world-class tennis facilities. Agua Serena, the 30,000-square-foot spa, is annually recognized as one of the nation’s best. Other highlights include seven outdoor pools, one of which is adults-only; private, poolside cabanas; and four tantalizing dining venues.
The Ritz Carlton, Rancho Mirage
The Ritz Carlton, Rancho Mirage offers a desert-chic ambience that embraces its beautiful natural setting. You’ll especially find this in your accommodations’ décor, which reflects the desert surroundings with locally sourced stone and wood. Admire the views from your private balcony or patio. Club Level rooms offer a private, well-stocked lounge with a dedicated concierge. The Ritz Kids program keeps children and teens occupied so you can indulge in the spa’s indoor-outdoor Spirit of the Mountains renewal treatment. Close proximity to Palm Springs brings golfers within range of more than 100 fine courses.
Taking the whole family on a beach vacation this summer? Want an apartment in the big city for a long weekend? Why, you’ll need to book an Airbnb rental for that, right? Sure, if you want to run the risk of being secretly filmed by your host, as a woman in China discovered this month. Or if you’re OK with the possibility that your host might cancel your booking at the last minute for no reason or because of your race, as occurred with a Big Bear, Calif., rental. Or if you don’t mind that the place you’re renting might not have the proper insurance, safety measures or even be legally available for short-term rentals.
Or, you could utilize the vast resources of the Virtuoso network and stay at a place that has been properly vetted, offers services such as housekeeping and lets you enjoy your experience instead of worrying about what’s actually waiting for you when you arrive and potentially dealing with issues that turn your vacation into a big hassle.
Virtuoso-preferred partners offer a vast array of accommodations around the world. In addition to many Virtuoso-preferred hotels having private villas and apartments, there are several companies who specialize in just this sort of thing.
Villas of Distinction features properties all throughout the Caribbean, in several European countries, Hawaii, Colorado, Florida and so much more. You can filter the number of bedrooms you need, the type of experience and level of service you’re looking for, and special features such as beachfront or fully staffed until you’ve found the villa that is perfect for you and your crew.
Abercrombie & Kent doesn’t just do great tours, from magnificently crafted group and family journeys to completely customized private itineraries, the company also has alpine chalets and luxury villas from Andalucia to Umbria at the best addresses in Europe. So after you return from a day of breathtaking touring with your driver and guide, you can sit down to a gourmet meal prepared by a private chef. Sure beats rummaging through the fridge at an Airbnb.
It’s never too early to think about next ski season. You might need help finding a place that checks off all the items on your wish list. Ski-in/ski-out, hot tub, whatever the request, Alpine Adventures has the rental for you, from Vail to Verbier, Crested Butte to Courchevel and just about anywhere else skis and snowboards tear lines.
There are so many more choices, from the villa collections of Virtuoso-preferred wholesalers Travel Impressions and Classic Vacations to the beautiful villas along Lake Como available through the all-everything Italy specialists at IC Bellagio. Luxury retreats has 4,500 in 100 highly sought-after locations. Now aren’t you glad you don’t have to worry about an Airbnb host dropping by without
notice during your romantic dinner?
South Africa is the perfect blend of wild and sophisticated. A few days in Cape Town and the Cape Winelands reveal a magnificent culture, while a safari shows off the spectacular wildlife you expect on a trip to Africa.
Stefany got to see the beauty firsthand on a recent study tour with African Travel. The journey began in Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands with a night at the boutique Le Quartier Francais. The hotel has the feel of a bed and breakfast with stunning mountain views from the pool area. Among the other properties in the Leeu Collection, Leeu Estates has magnificent views of vineyards and mountains, really providing a wow factor, while the 12-room Leeu House has a charming homey ambiance.
Each property is conveniently located near the wineries at La Bourgogne Farm and Haute Cabriere. The charming La Bourgogne offers tastings at a picnic out back with pleasant views, while the larger Haute Cabriere has grand views and allows guests down into the wine cellar for some hands-on learning.
About an hour from the Winelands, Cape Grace Hotel across from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a revelation. Views from the rooms are either of the harbor or Table Mountain. Each floor has different decor while maintaining an overall nautical theme. Tastings with a whisky expert can be arranged, and the wonderful Pinotage served is South Africa’s signature red wine. Virtuoso guests can have their own lockers to store wine or liquor. The service is excellent, and it’s possible to reserve a BMW car service with advance planning. Michael, the Cape Town guide, even managed to get them to the top of Table Mountain despite inclement weather that threatened to shut down the cable cars.
A day exploring the Cape Peninsula is a must, but be sure to dress in layers so you can enjoy the seaside views in comfort. A stop at Boulders Bay gave a preview of the amazing wildlife South Africa boasts, as a colony of African penguins calls the beach home. There are now 3,000 of the penguins thanks to a conservation effort that started with a single pair of breeding birds in 1982. Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa on the peninsula offers panoramic views.
From the Cape, the group headed out on safari. The first stops were Lion Sands River Lodge and Kapama Karula in the country’s northeast. They also saw the Tree House at Lion Sands, a great escape for honeymooners, and the upscale Lions Sands Ivory Lodge. Morne, the safari guide at Lion Sands River Lodge, was fabulous. His passion for the animals and sharing them with guests was on full display. He really got into the game drives, cutting his way through trees to make sure the group saw lions. He has a deep knowledge of the wildlife and their habits, helping to maximize the game-viewing experience. They even came across a leopard that got up close to Stefany’s feet! Every day was a new adventure!
Kapama Karula was breathtaking. The service, the food, and the decor all had a wow factor that made the stay so memorable. The guide here, Elmero, was just as passionate and knowledgeable as Morne. He made sure to explain the animals’ behaviors, which added a great deal to the game drives. They even pursued a leopard through the bush at night! All in all, it was a wonderful experience, and one DMC Travel Tailor is happy to specially arrange with valued clients.
Click here to watch the highlights of Stefany’s South Africa adventure:
Is Africa on your Bucket List? If so, reach out to Stefany at firstname.lastname@example.org to start planning your African adventure.
It might not be that big, tucked on the side of Spain on the western edge of Europe, but Portugal is the hottest destination going this year. Combine the capital of Lisbon — think a European San Francisco — with second city Porto and the beach-laden Algarve region with the diverse islands of Madeira and the Azores, and Portugal becomes a lot bigger than you might have previously imagined. That was one takeaway from Virtuoso Travel Week this month in Las Vegas, where more than 6,000 attendees from 100 countries shared the latest and greatest in the travel industry.
Another important trend is the rise of sustainability. From resorts such as The Brando in French Polynesia, where 95 percent of the energy used is renewable. Buildings made from local, renewable and recycled material blend with their natural surroundings and even waste is turned into compost that is used in organic gardens. The resort’s conservation program focuses on fish and sea turtle replenishment as well as atoll conservation. Seawater air conditioning and coconut oil biofuel help power the resort while getting it closer to carbon neutrality.
Kevin Molony, president of New Orleans-based Royal Insider is working to preserve the culture in and around the city his family first came to in the 1720s by showing clients the authenticities of life for those who call the Big Easy home, far from the tourist haze of Bourbon Street. That could mean hanging behind the scenes with a Mardi Gras crew to see how much blood, sweat, and tears go into preparing not just afloat but a celebration of heritage or dining in a historic home with a meal prepared by the city’s top chefs.
With the launch of www.galapagos.com, www.safaritours.com and www.visibleasia.com, Big Five Tours & Expeditions, ranks countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia based on the sustainability of tourism there, and works in the destinations it services to improve those scores. As Lesa Bain of Lindblad Expeditions succinctly put it in her acceptance speech for Virtuoso’s Sustainable Tourism Leadership award, “Sustainability rocks!”
All told, more than 40,000 meetings took place over the course of a week between travel advisors and suppliers, resulting in an exchange of information that will benefit our travelers. Looking for a great meal? Meadowood Napa Valley’s The Restaurant, winner of Best Dining Experience, has you covered. A nice drink? The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel in London was voted Best Bar. As for any other experience you can imagine, drop us a line at email@example.com.