Looking outside my window at what Mother Nature has wrought — a snowstorm that packed a punch — it’s no wonder that Andrew Harper members are dreaming of warm-weather climates. Our travel office has reported a jump in domestic bookings to Hawaii, California and the South, along with trips to Mexico and the Caribbean. With the vaccine rollout starting to pick up, travelers have newfound optimism. Here are the places they are headed and what’s new at each of them.
Topping our list for winter bookings is sunny Florida. Acqualina Resort & Spa, with its signature red beach umbrellas and giant chess board, is a member favorite in Sunny Isles Beach, between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. This lavish 98-room Mediterranean-style resort is set within a 51-story tower fronted by a white-sand beach. Its 20,000-square-foot ESPA spa, the first of its kind in the United States, features 11 treatment rooms and one Royal Spa Suite, a sauna, relaxation lounges with Himalayan salt walls, steam rooms and a whirlpool with a Roman waterfall. In December, the hotel added Ke-uH, an Asian-fusion izakaya (a Japanese pub) that specializes in robata, a style of slow-grilling meats.
Three hours from Miami and a half-hour north of Key West is Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, a 5.5-acre private island that offers the experience of being in the Caribbean without having to leave the country. The resort suffered major damage from Hurricane Irma and reopened after a two-year renovation on March 1, 2020 — not the most auspicious timing. Still, after a difficult year, Little Palm Island is resilient and welcoming back guests with redesigned oceanview accommodations in thatch-roof bungalows, an enlarged Dining Room and a spa where one can request all manner of treatments, from four-hands massages to CBD baths. With no TVs or telephones here, relaxation is guaranteed.
Bookings are up in the Golden State too. And changes are afoot at some of our members’ favorite getaway spots there. The Lodge at Pebble Beach, which opened in 1919, offers glorious views of the Pacific from the Monterey Peninsula. Golfers are looking forward to visiting soon because one of the most exciting courses in the world will open there in 2021: the New Short Course at Pebble Beach, designed in partnership with Tiger Woods. His vision is to make it both challenging for skilled golfers as well as fun for casual players and families.
Palm Springs, which sees spring high temperatures in the mid-80s, is getting its fair share of bookings right now. We recommend two premier hotels in the “Playground of the Stars”: the 25-bungalow L’Horizon Resort and Spa, designed in 1952 for a television producer and oil tycoon, and the legendary 17-room Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn. In 2019, Willows Inn united with Bishop House, originally built as its twin, into a single estate.Two years later, there’s yet more news: The resort was purchased in January by Soho House owner Ron Burkle — no word yet if changes are in the works.
A few new properties opening in the area have caught our eye, notably the new design-centric Sands Hotel & Spa in Indian Wells and the 21-and-over La Serena Villas, built in 1933 in the heart of downtown Palm Springs. We regret to inform you that we are declining to review the new clothing-optional hotel, despite the fact that it has “manor” in its name!
The warm breezes of the Hawaiian Islands have been calling for a while, but it was only starting in October that travelers were allowed to visit without quarantining (after presenting a negative COVID-19 test, of course). Members have booked stays on Oahu, Maui, Lanai and the Big Island, with the latter being the most popular destination. In fact, one of our travel advisors just got back from the Big Island herself. Many of the hotels in Hawaii used their closings during COVID to make upgrades.
On the Kona-Kohala coast, families staying at the Four Seasons Hualalai have a lot to look forward to. The hotel recently added the new Kumu Kai Marine Center, which allows visitors to explore the natural environment, feed an eagle ray and learn about the 4,000 tropical fish in the hotel’s 1.8-million gallon “aquarium” called King’s Pond. Golfers will appreciate the new Hualālai Golf Hale, a golf “lodge” that offers instruction, simulation and immersive entertainment. The resort also premieres its newly renovated rooms and guest suites.
In South Kohala, Mauna Lani, an Auberge Resorts Collection property, where our advisor recently stayed, debuts its 14-month $200 million “reimagination.” Rooms and suites have gotten an interior design update from New York-based studio Meyer Davis. And the spa and fitness facilities have been refreshed and new restaurants and pools added.
Oahu’s Turtle Bay Resort reopens this summer and will showcase renovated beachside bungalows that are bright, airy and naturalistic in design. There’s also a new chef de cuisine, who will focus on Hawaiian comfort food.
Back on the mainland, South Carolina is calling, with its screened-in porches, gentle river breezes and romantic century-old oak trees. Halfway between Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head Island, this may be a less-expected destination but it’s no less luxurious, especially when staying at Montage Palmetto Bluff, where several Harper members have recently made reservations. One of the Lowcountry’s best-kept secrets, Palmetto Bluff is a gracious 200-room colonial-style inn. Secluded on 20,000 acres of marshland, it’s a perfect Southern seaside escape. Guests needn’t leave the property to enjoy a Jack Nicklaus Signature course, eight dining options, an extensive nature reserve and a riverfront marina.
Travelers continue to seek out hotels and resorts that offer fresh air and lots of room to roam. In Tennessee, the perennial favorite Blackberry Farm and its sister resort, Blackberry Mountain, are continuing to welcome Andrew Harper members. And out West, where one of our editors recently traveled, guests have booked Amangani in Wyoming and the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Utah.
One of the easiest foreign destinations to visit these days is Mexico. Not only are flights relatively short from the United States, but the country does not require visitors to quarantine or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival. Perhaps for those reasons — and the fact that it’s warm, sunny and inviting — our travel office has seen an uptick in bookings to Mexico, specifically Los Cabos. We recommend four hotels in the area: Las Ventanas al Paraíso, One&Only Palmilla, Chileno Bay and Esperanza.
Now that all U.S.-bound airline passengers must provide proof of a negative COVID test to gain entry, many hotels are making antigen and/or PCR tests easier by offering them on-site. This is true of the four hotels listed above, where the tests are either free or offered for a nominal charge.
The appeal of a direct flight from the United States is driving a lot of travelers to book a trip to Belize, where the year-round temperature is 80 degrees. As of February 1, the COVID test requirements are more flexible, with the country accepting two types of results: those from rapid antigen tests, taken within 48 hours of travel, and PCR tests, taken within 72 hours.
We recommend six hotels in Belize, so Andrew Harper members have options. They can choose rainforest accommodations (The Lodge at Chaa Creek), a beach getaway (Victoria House), a private island (Cayo Espanto), a mountain hideaway (Blancaneaux Lodge), an eco-retreat in a ruined Mayan city (Chan Chich) or an all-inclusive jungle lodge (Copal Tree). The travel office has made reservations at each of these properties in the recent past.
Wintertime is typically when bookings to the Caribbean skyrocket, and although fewer people are traveling, the region is still garnering plenty of interest. Amanera, in the Dominican Republic, reopened in July, which coincided with the whole country opening back up to visitors. As with all Aman properties, the setting is pristine and the rooms are minimalist in design. When our editor last visited, he proclaimed the 25-casita Amanera to be a “spectacular property, not just for its dramatic situation between the rainforest and the sea, but for the way an exceptional design has been integrated into this singular location.” The Dominican Republic makes travel there easy, as the country does not require visitors to submit a negative COVID test.
Two other Caribbean destinations that Harper members are packing for are Antigua, specifically Jumby Bay, a private island off the north coast, and Turks & Caicos, where one fortunate member will be spending seven days relaxing at Parrot Cay, a COMO resort set on a private island with over 4 miles of beach access. Both countries require a negative COVID test to enter, but that’s a minor bump in the road when the destination is so rewarding.
Let the Andrew Harper Travel Office book your next adventure. Call an advisor at (800) 375-4685.