I’ve been trying to figure out which type of person Vivo Resorts is perfect for. For sure it’s the person who wants to be healthy while they’re on holiday, since Vivo has an athlete’s dream gym plus lots of healthy food. Vivo is certainly ideal for the couple who wants to get away from it all — the resort is all alone on a vast beach and you can sleep listening to the sound of the waves. But Vivo is also great for anyone who wants to be close to the action; it’s just a 10-minute drive from the perfect Mexican town of Puerto Escondido. Vivo is also ideal for multi-generational families and was designed with their their needs in mind.
So, maybe Vivo Resorts is perfect for just about everybody.
Vivo Resorts is owned by former Canadian Olympian downhiller, Cary Mullen. He created the resort for what his retirement-age parents and his young family wanted and needed, as he couldn’t find it anywhere else.
The resort is on a stunning and empty 24-kilometre-long (15-mile) beach, Playa Palmarito. In summer the crashing waves are mesmerizing, in winter the seas calm enough for swimming. The beach is also a favourite of sea turtles. Various types of the endangered animals come year round to lay their eggs on this beach. The Vivo Foundation supports the Palmarito Sea Turtle Camp (amongst other charitable organizations) to protect the turtles. Guests can help release the just-hatched babies into the ocean at sunset, increasing their survival rate from 1-2% up to 5%. Whales, dolphins, and rays join the turtles swimming by and can often be seen from condo balconies.
As you’d expect, a resort created and owned by a former Olympian takes health and wellness seriously. Vivo’s gym, for example, is actually welcoming. It’s on the second floor above the restaurant, with views of the resort’s two main pools and the ocean, and has a fresh breeze blowing through windows that actually open. At Ernesto’s, Vivo’s farm-to-table restaurant, it’s easy to find healthy options, made deliciously with local products from the markets and with seasonal ingredients from the fields surrounding the resort. You can cook at home too, as every suite has a full kitchen.
Vivo Resorts is a condo-resort; each property is owned privately, though amenities and decor must adhere to prescribed minimal standards. The 75-acre beachfront community is stunning. There are several pools, including one aimed at family activities, a lap pool, and a beachside infinity pool with swim-up bar. The spa has a range of offerings, plus a meditation room and a yoga studio. You can also take a beachfront taichi or yoga class, plus play basketball or the favourite sport of retirees — pickleball. When completed, the Vivo community will have up to 600 condominiums, 115 private villas, and a selection of shops and cafes.
Ideal for families or groups of friends travelling together, you can book a one-, two-, three- or even four-bedroom condo or a private villa (each one has a full kitchen, laundry and more). Vivo has a Kids’ Club that the Mullen children helped design, as well as lessons and activities that families and friends can do together both on and off the resort. Sure, you can just lie by the pool if that’s what you want, but Vivo aims to bring people closer together and help them learn new things at the same time.
Vivo Resorts is a 10-minute drive from Puerto Escondido, which might just be the perfect Mexican town. It has a traditional market, artisans making crafts and textiles, both traditional and international dining, the third best surfing beach in the world (be amazed by the pros practicing or in competitions), beaches suited for amateur surfers and swimmers, plus friendly residents who welcome you to learn more about Oaxacan culture.
And if you fall in love with Vivo after your vacation? Have a condo or a villa built to your specifications and then you can come back as often as you like.
Way back in the 1980s I saw my first photographs of Turks and Caicos’ Grace Bay Beach, where Ocean Club Resorts is located. I couldn’t believe that the sand could be that white and that the water could be so many shades of turquoise. Finally, more than 30 years later, I got to put my feet in that sand, swim in that water, and see the beauty with my own eyes.
You’ve probably seen photos of Grace Bay beach too. Turks and Caicos’ famous resident dolphin, Jojo, has a habit of showing up here. His “smiling” face in the clear waters off the beach has graced the covers of magazines and newspapers around the world. Plus you’ve likely seen Club Med’s splashy ads, as the resort is right next door to Ocean Club and shares the same gorgeous beach and views.
Ocean Club Resorts is the first condo resort in the Turks and Caicos Islands, on the island of Providenciales, and the model for many that came after. Thanks to the recent arrival of Managing Director Wilbert Mason, Ocean Club is likely to set new trends for other T&C resorts to follow.
Ocean Club is split into two resorts. I stayed at Ocean Club East, on the quieter part of Grace Bay Beach. It has 114 rooms, 102 of which are available for rental. Slightly smaller is Ocean Club West with 66 of their 89 rooms available for hotel guests. The West complex is a leisurely 20-minute stroll (or a complimentary shuttle bus ride) down the beach from Ocean Club East and closer to shopping. It’s funny to say the West side is the less-quiet part of the beach because, by the standards of most destinations, the whole beach is quiet.
Dining at Ocean Club Resorts is a highlight. Ocean Club has several independent restaurants that you’d want to eat at even if you weren’t a hotel guest. Of particular note are Opus at Ocean Club East and Solana at Ocean Club West. Opus has elegant dining both indoors and outdoors in their treed courtyard. They work with local fishers to provide the best of what’s under the sea, including Caicos lobster tail and the islands’ famous conch, as well as the best from around the world such as New Zealand rack of lamb and Black Angus beef. Opus also offers rum flights and the largest wine list on Provo. Solana, next to the beach at Ocean Club West, has a wide menu too but specializes in sushi and teppanyaki. The kitchen is extremely accommodating to allergies, especially with advance notification.
At Ocean Club Resorts you stay in an independently-owned condo. Each is decorated differently but all are required to have the same amenities, including lush L’Occitane verbena bath products. Just as in a hotel, you’ll have daily housekeeping service. Unlike in most hotels, you’ll have a full kitchen, laundry, living room, dining area, and a large screened-in porch or balcony with a view of the beach, gardens or pools. Suites come in one-, two- and three-bedroom sizes, and there are also smaller studios with kitchen or kitchenette. The resort has wifi throughout and it stretches not only to the beach but, I was surprised to discover, even into the gentle turquoise waves.
Suites are distributed in three-storey buildings clustered around the pools and gardens. Note they don’t have elevators, but there are some suites designed to be wheelchair accessible, including with larger showers. Suites are in great condition and have the new addition of hurricane-proof aluminum louvres on the windows and patio doors.
On-site you’ll find pools, tennis courts, meeting rooms, a guest barbecue, a gym, and spa. Though there’s no kids’ club, children can participate in a Seafari scavenger hunt adventure and learn about Jojo the dolphin and Provo’s flora and fauna. There are complimentary bikes, paddle boards, and kayaks to borrow. Activities and live music are scheduled frequently.
Turks and Caicos has plenty of activities on offer. Try kayaking in the mangroves of the Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve with Total Adventure Co., or Island Vibes Tours’ snorkelling trip in Turks and Caicos’ crystal clear waters and to see the deserted isle of Half Moon Bay. It will be hard, though, to tear yourself away from Grace Bay’s spectacular beach.
Note that the islands almost always have a gentle trade wind blowing, but bring bug spray just in case it dies down. The wind keeps tiny no-see-ums away, which can bite and give some people an itchy allergic reaction.
This little boutique hotel in El Salvador’s charming surf town of EL Zonte lives up to its name. “Palo verde” means “green stick” in Spanish, and the hotel does everything it can to be sustainable, focussing on local products, encouraging local businesses and minimizing waste of resources.
Palo Verde currently has ten rooms. They range from the classic which sleeps two to three guests, a family/friends room sleeping up to five, rooms with a king or two queen beds, plus a honeymoon suite. The more spacious rooms also have a balcony or patio looking out over the pool and to the beach, some with a hammock to laze in.
Rooms are decorated in a minimalist way and feature reclaimed wood furnishings and linens made locally in El Salvador. Cooling options include both air conditioning and a ceiling fan, or just open your windows or patio doors to let in the ocean breeze and the sound of the waves. Bathrooms feature rainfall showers as well as luxe refillable L’Occitane shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and soap (bring your own suncream to combat El Salvador’s powerful sun). One beach and one bathroom towel are provided per person to limit laundry. The hotel also takes a sustainable approach to hot water usage — you’ll need to ask at reception to have the heat turned on for a hot shower.
Dining at Palo Verde is excellent. The onsite independent restaurant, Olor de Mar, overlooks the beach. Chef Carlos Burgos has a delicious menu of fusion cuisine with a focus on El Salvador’s excellent seafood — don’t miss the ceviche. A full breakfast is included in hotel rates. I loved sipping my pineapple smoothie watching the waves crash on the beach and enjoyed both the sweet and savoury breakfast selections.
The hotel has an inviting long infinity pool which draws your eyes out to the surfing waves off their volcanic beach. Relax in the pool’s shallow or deeper areas, on sun loungers with umbrellas, or on the Bali beds looking out to sea. There’s even a set of swings at the bar. Wading, swimming and surfing are possible at the beach too.
The hotel can arrange surf lessons (through Surfero’s Surf School and acclaimed instructor Alex Novoa), yoga classes, Spanish lessons, as well as a massage next to the pool. Palo Verde’s beach is a touch rocky during the wet season (May to October) but very surfable, and the sandy stretch grows in the dry season as the waves calm. The water is always warm. There are caves to explore, a cliff to watch the sun rise behind, and a long beach on the other side of the river.
Pick your time to visit El Salvador’s beaches by the season. The dry season, from November to April, has little rain and small waves. May brings more rain and bigger waves, and can sweep sand away from some beaches; it returns as the rains subside. The best surfing is from March to October with south swells reaching ten feet. Beginners will love the waves from November to February.
Ski resort hotels can tend to offer much the same — tired Alpine decor and a budget feel, often without the price tag to match! Luckily, the Melia Sierra Nevada avoids all the usual pitfalls. With a number of practical and luxury features, you can continue to have a fabulous experience after you come back from the slopes.
The recently refurbished rooms are cosy, stylish and comfortable. The huge waterfall style showers are just what you need to soothe away aches and pains without struggling to squeeze in. The rooms can be configured for extra beds whatever your family set up and there’s plenty of wardrobe space for the excessive amount of clothes ski trips require.
Driving into the resort after a few days of heavy snow we were relieved to find the Melia’s underground carpark. On the same level are secure and generously sized ski lockers, one per hotel room (with convenient benches for equipment assembly) so you don’t have to drag all your gear through reception.
Extra bonuses include an on-site English/sports bar and three restaurants if getting dressed up and venturing into the village for your evening doesn’t appeal. The buffet restaurant is great quality, with plenty of islands displaying fresh ingredients with vibrant colours from salads and cheeses, cakes and desserts, and a cooking station complete with a chef grilling to order — it’s everything you need to satisfy your post-skiing hunger.
There is a fabulously well-conceived kids’ club between 5:30 and 8:00 pm, so when your children STILL have boundless energy you can unwind for a couple of hours knowing they are t-shirt making, painting, crafting and playing in a cute fun-house just a few floors away.
The spa and pool area are delightful, with an array of treatments on offer plus steam room and sauna. Next door at the Melia Sol y Nieve, the pool is breathtaking, with what looks like geysers erupting to great height all across the water. It’s a child-free zone too, perfect for adults seeking some quiet R&R (although less helpful for parents relegated to accompanying their kids to the children’s pool next door).
For anyone trying to save a few euros on accommodation, the Melia isn’t that much more expensive than places offering decidedly average rooms and facilities. But the extra you get for your money is well worth it to add that extra touch of comfort, convenience and class to your trip.