Boutique

A Return to Cap Juluca, and Classic Caribbean Luxury

All photos courtesy of Cap JulucaAll photos courtesy of Cap Juluca

Once upon a time, when I was brand new to travel writing, I got an invitation to go to Cap Juluca resort in Anguilla. I had no idea where Anguilla was exactly, but had heard of Cap Juluca because of the celeb fan base (Jennifer Aniston, Janet Jackson, Bill Gates…the list goes on…). At the time, I had traveled, but in a college budget-type way. That trip was an eye-opener to what a luxury hotel experience could be, and in some ways set the course for where my life would go. I’ll never forget sipping a welcome glass of champs on that amazing beach; my first experience with a in-room  …

Meet Jicaro, A Romantic Eco Resort in Nicaragua

Jicaro Island Ecolodge, a romantic private-island resort in NicaraguaJicaro Island Ecolodge, a romantic private-island resort in Nicaragua

The buzz is growing about Nicaragua. The Central America country is undergoing a tourism renaissance, and our recent visit found a lot of romantic eco resort options — including Jicaro Island Ecolodge, an unexpected treasure.
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Globetrotter: Photographer Laura Grier on Romantic Bali

Photo by Laura GrierPhoto by Laura Grier

Photographer Laura Grier is always on the move — be it shooting destination weddings and engagement shoots around the world with her company Beautiful Day Photography, or capturing the work of indigenous craftspeople in developing countries with NOVICA/National Geographic. As much as she likes to go someplace new, she also keeps returning to one special place: Bali, Indonesia. Here is her take from her most recent trip there, and the honeymoon-perfect hotel she fell in love with.
Bali always feels like home, every time I land here. There is something nostalgic and romantic about being here. It’s like how a certain smell or song can bring  …

Architectural Digest-Worthy Villas for a Destination Wedding or Special Occasions

Casona Don Carlos in Nicaragua, photo courtesy of Mukul ResortCasona Don Carlos in Nicaragua, photo courtesy of Mukul Resort

I loooove hotels; few things make me happier than scoping out a new resort, or revisiting an old favorite to see how its changed. But hotels aren’t the only way to go for luxury travel — there are some spectacular villas out there, offering a different take on the luxury experience. For instance, Villa Manzu in Costa Rica comes with household staff and a garage filled with surfboards and kayaks, so guests can easily get out and play in the Pacific.
To me, the best villas offer a sense of place, with great views, beautiful views and outdoor space to enjoy the location, and unique furnishings  …

Private Island Honeymoon Bliss at Parrot Cay

Photo by COMO Hotels and ResortsSunset at Parrot Cay. Photo by COMO Hotels and Resorts

The first time I went to Parrot Cay, I missed Brad Pitt by a day. That was back when he was with Jennifer Aniston. Resorts can change a lot over time, but on a recent return I was glad to see nothing at Parrot Cay had changed, in the best possible way.
Parrot Cay sits on its own private island, accessible by a 30-minute speedboat ride from Providenciales. Paparazzi is a non-issue, which makes it great for high-profile guests; Paul McCartney, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Richards have all visited, and Donna Karan and Bruce Willis own property on the island. And privacy  …

Globetrotter: Destination Wedding Photographer Donna Von Bruening in Maui

Photo by Donna Von BrueningPhoto by Donna Von Bruening

Savannah-based destination wedding photographer Donna Von Bruening is on the road a lot, and we love keeping up with her travels. She recently returned from Maui, Hawaii, where she was shooting a birthday party at Montage Kapalua Bay. She managed to snap a few shots for us in her downtime; here’s her report. 
“Earlier this fall, work brought me to the shores of Maui’s Kapalua Bay for a week at the exclusive Montage Resort. I was in good company, there with top event designer Luke Wilson of Luke Wilson Special Events in Charleston and NYC.
Our first day revolved around an intimate birthday dinner  …

Globetrotter: Bernadette Smith of Gay Wedding Institute on Why She Loves Riviera Maya

Courtesy of Blue DiamondCourtesy of Blue Diamond

Our friend Bernadette Smith has long been a leader in same-sex weddings. She started planning same-sex weddings in 2004 with her company 14 Stories, and has written three books on the topic. When legalization began sweeping across the country, she wanted to bring her passion and knowledge to other planners. So in 2009 she founded the Gay Wedding Institute, which works with individual planners and travel corporations like Marriott, teaching them all how to best serve their same-sex clientele.

Bernadette travels a lot for work, educating on same-sex wedding planning, but when she needs a break, Riviera Maya, Mexico  …

Inside Luxury Destination Weddings at the Caribbean’s Most Exclusive Resort

Wedding couple at Amanyara by Scott Clark PhotoWedding couple at Amanyara by Scott Clark Photo

I travel a lot, checking out hotels and venues for our honeymoon and destination wedding clients. But I usually travel solo (to cover more ground), and certainly don’t celebrate like a wedding guest when I’m working! So when I got the invitation from my friend JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions (who also happens to be one of the country’s premier luxury destination wedding planners) to join her in Turks and Caicos to see how they do destination weddings at two of the Caribbean’s top resorts, I couldn’t resist the chance! Here’s part one of my recap, from Amanyara.
Amanyara is arguably the most exclusive resort in the  …

Top Southern California Destination Wedding Venues in USA TODAY Travel

Ceremony at Terranea Resort courtesy of Kirsten Manick PhotographyCeremony at Terranea Resort courtesy of Kirsten Manick Photography

We love Southern California for destination weddings; it’s sunny, accessible and home to a slew of amazing venues and vendors. We headed out earlier this summer to scout hotels for USA TODAY Travel, we found it hard to narrow it down to just 10 — but we managed. From an historic inn in Palm Springs built by a mobster to a sprawling contemporary resort perched on the bluff just south of Los Angeles, these 10 hotels were the cream of the crop.
 
 

A Secret Honeymoon Villa in Guatemala

Casa Palopo at Lake AtitlanCasa Palopo at Lake Atitlan

Most visitors to Guatemala head straight to the historic capital Antigua and leave it at that, but you’re missing out if you don’t head into the highlands. Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America; think Lake Tahoe only surrounded by rural villages and the Sierra Madres instead of the Rockies. It’s a three-hour drive from Guatemala City by car, or 30 minutes by helicopter (which is how the wealthy Guatemalans do it; many of them have second homes here).
One of these homes has been turned into the sweetest boutique hotel, ideal for honeymoons or buyout weddings. Casa Palopo is a former villa-turned-9-room hotel,  …