I have been fortunate to visit the Galápagos Islands on several occasions, and over the years I have sailed there on vessels ranging from an eight-person motor yacht to a 70-passenger cruise ship. In general, the farther you travel from the two inhabited islands of San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz, the more otherworldly the archipelago becomes. (My own favorite island is remote Genovesa, far to the north.) But for those with less time, those with young families in tow or those whose enthusiasm for wildlife might be stretched by an itinerary of a week or more, there is now an attractive alternative.
On a recent trip, I stayed at the dramatic new 14-suite Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island, which offers stylish accommodations, first-rate food, a spa, well-organized land-based activities and exciting wildlife excursions aboard a private yacht. Although I continue to recommend the excellent Galapagos Safari Camp, also on Santa Cruz, Pikaia has raised the bar significantly and is the first genuinely luxurious property on this magical archipelago.
Back on the mainland of Ecuador, I spent a few pleasant days in Quito, staying at boutique hotels housed within historic mansions. I then headed northwest to Mashpi Lodge, a wonderful eco-lodge situated in a cloud forest about three and a half hours from the capital. Set on a private 3,212-acre enclave and surrounded by a public reserve of 42,000 acres, Mashpi is part of the larger Chocó region, which ranks among the world’s biodiversity hot spots. Both the cuisine and the service were exceptional, and I can think of only a few other places in the world where I’ve seen so many spectacular birds at such close range.
In this issue you will also find an account of a week that I recently spent in Boston. I greatly enjoyed my stay at The Eliot Hotel in Back Bay, and I was pleased to discover that my favorite boutique property in the city, XV Beacon, is as comfortable and stylish as ever. Perhaps the highlight of my visit was the morning I spent in the Harvard Art Museums, which are now contained within a beautiful new facility designed by Renzo Piano.