I am completely biased. “But Neil”, you say, “we trust you to give us an unbiased opinion on all of the really cool things out there for us meeting planners to use and share. How are you biased (say it ain’t so)?” “OK”, I say…”I’ll tell you. I am biased in two big ways… 1) I really, really like high levels of service and 2) I like people I have known for a long time that have never steered me wrong (the trust thing).”
This month’s editorial?. I’m pretty sure I like them but, being new, I have never actually stayed at any of them. How can I recommend them? Two reasons… 1) Their brands have always provided me with a high level of service and 2) I trust the people who have told me about them.
Not that I would ever book a group anywhere, site un-seen, but at least these new properties will make it into my “consideration set” when I recommend a destination to one of my clients (and forgive me for using the phrase “consideration set”).
Special note… if anyone from any of these hotels really wants me to site so I can write about them first hand, e-mail me and I will tell you my preferred seat assignment.
Second Note – When I decided to write about hotel openings and reached out to my various connections for ideas, I was inundated with information about new properties… so much so that I have to divide it into parts… so for now… The Tropical Edition…
As with all of my newsletter/blogs, the information here will be posted on our website allthingsmeetings.com (bookmark it) and then put in our Resource Library so you can always check them out. Oh… although I am sure the hotels I talk about are happy to get free press, they may have to endure my de-constructing their press releases… here goes…
First up… Hacienda AltaGracia, “a luxury resort teeming with life-altering experiences”. OK… let the de-construction begin… ah, never mind… too easy… we continue…
Located in the mountains of southern Costa Rica, this 50 hacienda-style casita resort was originally a family retreat and coffee farm but now boasts one of Central America’s finest spas (the press release actually calls it a “wellness haven :), gourmet fusion cuisine, a world-class equestrian program, all sorts of Costa Rica-style “critters” (my word) and Auberge-Resort level service.
One thing about it… you have to want to be there. It’s a three-hour drive from San Jose Intl airport (their San Jose, not ours), or a very short flight on one of the resort’s private planes (that’s extra). Seems like an incredible destination for a top-tier incentive or a high-end Board retreat. Combine all that with nature stuff, waterfalls and horses (I like horses)… I am now officially biased.
A little closer to home (assuming you do not live south of Costa Rica) the 299-room JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa, offering over 38,000 square feet (a lot) of meeting space, is located within the exclusive (as in gated) 2000-acre residential development of Puerto Los Cabos. Just 20 minutes from the airport, the resort overlooks a “pristine” beach (de-construction question – can you combine the words development and pristine in one paragraph?) with “breath-taking” (their word) views of the Sea of Cortez. The pristine development also has golf. And just to make it even more interesting, the resort includes The Griffin Club, a 45-room luxury hotel within the luxury hotel. Yes, it also has a spa, several restaurants and bars and pools and lots of things to do. My experience with JW is that they are good.
And while we are in Cabo… The recently opened 161-room The Cape (a Thompson Hotel) has been getting rave reviews. Positioned on a secluded (define secluded in Cabo) beach only three miles from downtown Cabo, the resort features unobstructed views of El Arco (presumably a good thing). The hotel p.r. people want you to know the “beach boasts a left-breaking wave” (presumably also a good thing). The hotel has 2,000 square feet of meeting space, which does not include a very, very cool rooftop venue for special events.
They describe the hotel as a “1960's Baja-meets-SoCalsurfer style environment that reflects the Thompson brand's urban roots yet honors the resort's Baja setting.” I have no idea what that means. Can I still order guacamole’? If not, no worries, because their restaurant’s chef, world renowned Chef Enrique Olvera’s other restaurant, Pujol in Mexico City, is ranked #17 of the top restaurants in the world. I bet it’s good.
Speaking of good… any Four Seasons opening is a good thing. Another Four Seasons in Hawaii is a really good thing. It’s not “new” new, in that it used to be the JW Ihilani, but since everything will be different… Enter the new Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina.
Adjacent to the Lanikuhonua (“where heaven meets earth”) Cultural Estate and nature preserve, the newest Four Seasons in Hawaii is located on the ocean in the resort community of Ko Olina, meaning “place of joy.” Note… I have a very stupid cultural question… when Hawaiians are talking does one say, “Hey where are you going today”, and the other replies… “To the place of joy where heaven meets earth. Wanna come?” And the first guy answers, “Nah… been there, done that.”?
Sorry… getting back on track… just 17 miles from Honolulu International Airport, the 358-room resort also has over 16,000 square feet of meeting space, a spa, five restaurants… and as a total surprise for an Hawaiian resort… a great beach and a bunch of pools. And remember, after relaxing for a few days at this resort, you can head over to the Four Seasons Lanai and un-wind.
OK… let’s all head back to Costa Rica and turn right. Opening December 2015 –Secrets Playa Bonita Panama Resort & Spa. This adults-only all-inclusive 310-room resort has what every luxury resort in Panama should have…golden sand beaches, jungle walkways, a freshwater infinity pool and a Spa. The resort has over 20,000 square feet of meeting space (the ballroom can accommodate banquets for up to 800) and if you really want to, you can swim in two oceans in the same day.
Assuming you know the geography of Panama… the resort is minutes away from the colonial and shopping districts of Panama City, the Panama Canal, and the Punta Bruja Nature Reserve. Great opportunities for eco-stuff. Fun Fact… The average daily temperature in Panama is 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Ah, you say… that’s the average. True… averages can be deceptive…except in Panama. Seriously, year-round…it’s 82 degrees. I mean it might get up to 87 during the day and 77 at night… but really… it’s 82 degrees.
And one more… keep going way southeast… and…Bem vindo ao Brasil!
Specifically, the Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro. The 436-room hotel occupies a privileged position on a beautiful stretch of beach in the heart of the “prestigious and exclusive” Barra da Tijuca neighborhood (translation… the rich people live there) and so you can retreat in style from the craziness that is Rio. Not necessarily too crazy, but crazy enough…and that’s why we go. With over 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including an 8,500 sq. ft. ballroom, the property can handle meetings of up to around 300 classroom style (or almost double that for a banquet).
Galeão International airport is approximately a 50-minute drive (and when the PR department says approximately… ha ha).