Book a stay at Hawaii’s Kona Village and get an $800 flight credit

Last week, while on Hawaii, I had the chance to wander over to Kona Village Resort and stroll through the grounds. I was pretty impressed by what I saw. While the resort is located right next to the Four Seasons, the feel (while still luxury) is totally different.

Rooms here are hale – thatched roof bungalows in various forms. In keeping with the barefoot, carefree style of the resort, the rooms don’t have tvs, radios, or even telephones. What they do offer is total seclusion, privacy and romance, as each bungalow has access to a beautiful black sand beach and its own hammock. Hotel staff communicates with guests via notes, and a coconut is used as a “do not disturb” symbol.

It’s the perfect spot for honeymooners to escape and relax, but they are also plenty of activities offered, like snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, whale watching, surfing and SCUBA diving. Rates for the hale start at $410 per night for two people, including breakfast and selected water sports.

Right now, Garden, Superior, or Deluxe rooms, which run about $700-$900 per night, qualify for a special fare deal. Book five nights in the room and receive $800 in flight credits. The room rate includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. The fare credit is applied to the cost of the room.

Dive packages, romance packages, and family packages (book one hale and the second is 50% off) are also currently available.%Gallery-76818%

Follow us on Twitter!
Be our fan on Facebook!

%Gallery-73514%

Destination spas hard up for guests, slashing prices

Upscale spas may not be accustomed to offering deep discounts, but the current economic situation has left them little choice. As a result, you’ll be able to take advantage of some fantastic deals and go to spas that might be out of reach otherwise. Live like the wealthy (used to) for a few days.

For the top shops in the spa business, the International Spa Association (ISPA) says that visits are down and shorter, and the people who are coming are spending less. Day spa trips are becoming more common than destination alternatives, which has kicked the industry into “survival mode.”

To bring more spa-regulars – and first-timers – in the door, several spas around the country are going to extraordinary lengths. The Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas is offering a third and fourth night free for guests booking two nights (arriving on Sunday). Reservations must be made before October 15, 2009 for trips to be taken by the end of the year. Miraval Resort, outside Tucson, Arizona, has a $275 daily special (per person) through October 14 that includes almost everything (except spa treatments and taxes). And, Canyon Ranch, also near Tucson, is offering 15 percent off an all-inclusive package for first-time guests visiting by December 23. Visit between November 29 and December 23, and you could pick up a 30 percent discount.

Looking to make your first destination spa trip? Now is clearly the time to do it.

Maldives President proposes green tax for tourists

The Maldives, an archipelago of over 1000 islands in the Indian Ocean known for their stunning beauty and expensive, luxurious resorts, aren’t exactly cheap to visit. And they aren’t about to get any cheaper. The President of the Maldives has proposed a $3 per day “green tax” on tourists.

The tax would help fund the President’s plans for fighting climate change and for making the Maldives a carbon-neutral country within the next decade. He has a vested interest in stopping global warming – the Maldives are the lowest-lying islands on the planet, with an average elevation of only 7 feet above sea level, and it is estimated that they could be completely submerged by rising sea levels within the next ten years.

With an average of 700,000 visitors, who each stay around three days, visiting the Maldives annually, the tax could provide the country with over $6 million per year for environmental initiatives. With most resorts in the Maldives costing $500 (or much more) per night, $3 per person, per day is a small price to pay to help protect this vulnerable country from the dangers of climate change.

The Abbey Resort and Spa: Luxury on Lake Geneva

Billing itself as “the only full-service resort” on the shores of Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, The Abbey Resort and Spa is one of those places where you can almost feel the ghosts of the past whispering around you. The resort was completely renovated in 2005, but its timber A-frame and low-slung bungalow style buildings look much as they did when it was built nearly 50 years ago, when the Midwestern elite made it their summer playground.

There’s plenty of nostalgia for the “good old days” here – the nearby Geneva Grand Resort proudly boasts that it was a Playboy Club in the 1960’s and 70’s. And money. Lots and lots of money. The houses that front Lake Geneva, the 9-mile long lake that is the centerpiece of the area, are multi-million dollar affairs that bear the names of families like Borden, Vicks, and Wrigley. Yet despite the vast wealth of the “haves”, those who aren’t descendants of the Midwest’s titans of industry can still share in the benefits of area. There are several public beaches and marinas, and every lakefront property is required to have a public walkway so that all area residents can enjoy a stroll around the lake. And in the towns of Lake Geneva and Fontana, more modest homes and affordable restaurants lines the streets where wealthy summer residents mingle with the local families who live here all year round.

For Chicago residents, getting to The Abbey couldn’t be easier. It’s about 80 miles from the city (50 miles from Milwaukee), but the Metra Rail will get you there in less than two hours from downtown. You’ll get off at the end of the line, at the Harvard Station, where a shuttle will pick you up and drive you the remaining 15 minutes to The Abbey. You can also request service from the resort to anywhere in Lake Geneva, making a car completely unnecessary.

The Abbey is family-friendly – there are childcare services, organized kids’ activities, free games like bags and croquet, two outdoor and one indoor pool, and a 2,000-square foot arcade complete with Wii system – but it’s also perfect for a romantic or relaxing retreat. The rooms have all been updated and feature pillow-top mattresses, LCD wall-mounted TVs, mini-fridges, and patios or balconies.

I saw a few families, but mostly couples in their 30’s to 50’s, during my stay. My room was comfortable and spacious and the bed soft and inviting. My only complaint was with the wi-fi service. It was free, but I had a very hard time getting a signal. When I did, I was bumped offline every 15 minutes or so, and web pages loaded very slowly. I can’t say if that would be the case all over the resort, or just in my location, but it was inconvenient when I needed to get some work done.

If you don’t plan on working while at The Abbey, you’ll find plenty of things to do to keep you busy. The resort rents bikes and fishing poles and there is a golf course nearby. The 35,000-square foot AVANI Spa offers treatments like facials, massages, body wraps, waxing and manicures. It features a pool, whirlpools, inhalation spa, steam room, sauna, sundeck, and spa menu for dining. Guests can also take advantage of the Spa’s fitness center or full line-up of exercises classes liking spinning, yoga, zumba, and pilates, which are geared towards any fitness level. I found there was always equipment available for use, the yoga class was just difficult enough to challenge me (but not hard enough to make me feel like an uncoordinated idiot), and the spa staff was always friendly but unobtrusive.

The resort borders a marina, but the small beach isn’t suitable for swimming. There is a nicer, sandy beach less than a five-minute walk off the property, or you can take the shuttle into Lake Geneva proper to visit the beach there. In town you can rent a boat or wave runner, water-ski, or take a cruise past the historic mansions around the lake. Nearby parks offer hiking trails and horseback riding, two wineries offer wine tasting (a wine festival is held in September), and there are farms where you can pick your own fruit just a few miles away. You can also soar above the lake in a hot air balloon or small airplane. In winter, locals hit the frozen lake for ice fishing and skating.

The Abbey offers an impressive variety of delicious food, all made from scratch in the resort’s kitchen. Meals are served at one of two restaurants, and there is a coffee shop, gazebo grill, cocktail lounge, and cigar bar. The resort also offers catering and meeting spaces, and hosts many weddings throughout the year. The weekend that I visited, a wedding was being set up on the lawn in front of the marina. For a resort-style destination wedding close to Chicago, I can’t think of a more beautiful place in the Midwest at which to get married.

To be honest, when I hear the word “relaxing”, I think “boring”. I prefer my vacations to be packed with sightseeing, learning, experiencing, and of course, eating and drinking. This makes me generally shun resorts where I think I’ll feel as though I’m held captive and at a loss for things to keep me entertained. I’m also very budget-conscious. Since I spend so little time in my hotel room, I don’t like to spend too much on it. And I can’t stand when resorts jack up their prices for food, drinks and activities just because they know guests will pay rather than head off-site. So I was a bit worried that The Abbey wouldn’t be my style. But I was pleasantly surprised.

One of the things that I liked about The Abbey was that leaving isn’t a hassle for guests without their own wheels. The shuttle will take you anywhere you want to go, and there a few restaurants and shops within walking distance of the hotel. And The Abbey doesn’t gouge its guests on food and drink just because it can. Management knows that it isn’t just the hotel guests who keep the resort in business, especially in the off-season. They aim to attract local customers too, and keep the prices reasonable so that everyone can enjoy The Abbey.

Despite any initial reservations, I found myself enjoying The Abbey immensely, and trying to convince my husband that returning for a “relaxing weekend” (in my case, meaning one chock-full of wine-tasting, boat tours, horseback riding, and cooking classes) at The Abbey would be the perfect fall trip. And as it turns out, fall is one of the best times to visit. Weekend rates start at $216 per night, and include free breakfast buffet and a 25% discount on spa services.

Disclosure: The Abbey Resort did cover the cost of my stay, but don’t think they had an easy time wooing me with spa treatments and Pelligrino. Freebies are nice, but they won’t make me forgive a hotel’s shortcomings. My review of the resort represents my own views and experiences as a guest and were not influenced in any way by fancy cheeses or free champagne.

Go to Antigua with Curtain Bluff’s “Power of 10” package

I know we’re still sweating the summer, and January seems like a lifetime away. But, think back seven or eight months. Remember how cold it was. It’s hard to make the connection, but it really was that cold out, and you lived it. It’s going to happen again before you know it. So, now is probably the time to book a retreat from the crushing cold. Curtain Bluff‘s new package, “The Power of 10,” is designed to make your start to 2010 memorable … as if relief from frigid temperatures with the warmth of Antigua weren’t enough.

From January 1, 2010 to March 31, 2010, you’re stay at the all-inclusive Curtain Bluff resort will be enhanced with a sunset sail on Curtain Bluff’s yacht, cooking classes with Chef Christophe Blatz and a series of “seconds”: a second spa treatment, a second tennis lesson and a second personal training session. And, this comes in addition to all the usuals: fishing, snorkeling, SCUBA diving and just relaxing by the beach.

“2009 was a tough year for many in different ways,” says Rob Sherman, managing director of Curtain Bluff. “We at Curtain Bluff want to offer something extra special and fun to start 2010 off right,” he continues; “now in addition to experiencing some of our top activities already included with their stay, guests can also splurge on spa treatments and private lessons and classes at minimal cost.”

Curtain Bluff really does redefine relaxation: the place actually got me to chill for a while. This package is definitely worth a look.

Interested in Curtain Bluff? Read the recent series on this resort >>