A review of Majahuitas Resort, an eco-resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Eco Love at Majahuitas Resort

A review of Majahuitas Resort, an eco-resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
We wait down the hill in Boca de Tomatlan. It’s humid, but a fan blows gently on us, cooling me down … and my french fries. Icy cold Corona placed on the wooden table in front of me, I look off into the distance, squinting for signs of a little motor boat coming to whisk me and my friend away for three days of bliss at the Majahuitas Resort, an eco-friendly property tucked into a private cove south of Puerto Vallarta.

At 4 p.m., as scheduled, our boat arrives and the driver grabs our suitcases and drops them in the boat, then takes my hand and guides me down into our transport as it bobs ever so gently on the water. Once my friend, Mike, is in, our journey begins.

Destinations Resorts Responsible Tourism Responsible Tourism Featured Reviews

Beach Republic: a lesson in boozin’ it up

There are two things Beach Republic, located in the northern part of Lamai on Koh Samui, makes very clear:

You’re on holiday (!) — drink, drink and drink some more.

And, you, too, can own your own little slice of paradise on the island.

The exterior of Samui's Beach Republic

There is no escaping either of these two messages. Even in the hotel room, a daily “Manifesto” arrives each night, detailing what’s up for tomorrow. A brilliant little piece of marketing to reinforce the brand, the newsletter includes reminders of the Happy Hour special, a featured drink of the day, and a reminder that visitors can own their own spot (or share) in the property.

When I arrive to Beach Republic, it’s late in the afternoon on Sunday, and the daytime revelers seeking out one of the island’s best brunches (or so it is noted) have already departed as the clouds begin to roll through and the wind picks up.

Suite Style

I head to my suite, a spacious room on the second floor, ready to unwind.

A room at Beach Republic on Samui

The room is nice, it is sleek and modern with few accessories. But, it is also lacking a certain warmth I expect from a luxury resort on a tropical island — namely a view. My large patio overlooks, well, nothing really. There are palm trees to remind me I’m in a tropical place, but there are also power lines. When I sit outside on the patio, I can hear them buzzing.

Then, there’s the bed. It’s nice, although the pillows are far too squishy for my taste. (Note: the afternoon I leave, I notice on a table at reception that there is a pillow menu (!), something I would have loved to indulge in had I known about it.)

Instead of hanging around my room, I decide to explore the property.

I leave the main building, which houses the hotel rooms, and head down the paved path to the beach, passing large, white walls with wooden doors masking the posh villas with private pools from the view of the public and guests.

Passing the villas at Beach Republic

I can only imagine the luxury oozing in those rooms.

Signs at Beach Republic

The signage en route to the beach and pool is kitschy. The property has created the “Ministry of Information” and encourages readers to go, chill, drink and dine in the self-contained party environment.

Pool parties

The pool at Samui's Beach Republic

The pool area is gorgeous. Outfitted with plenty of plush lounge chairs, couches and large, canopied beds, it’s easy to see why people would flock here for a Sunday brunch party.

When I arrive, there are a few stragglers, but it is close to sunset, and most of them have likely partied enough for the day and headed to their rooms.

The pool at Beach Republic on Samui

In between the two pools, a DJ continues to spin chill tunes.

At first glance, it reminds me a lot of the Vegas pool scene, just void of the scantily clad, gorgeous bodies and drunken antics which seem to be out of control in the City of Sin. Here, it is far more relaxed. At least on this evening.

And then, of course, there is the beach.

Beach at Beach Republic

I settle into a seat at the restaurant and order a veggie burger and a Singha. It’s two-for-one beers, so the 120 baht price tag for one doesn’t hurt me as much as it would if it wasn’t a special.

Staff is friendly enough, they come up to me, chat, smile and make sure I get my beer and food.

Al fresco dining

Dining and chilling at Beach Republic

The food is another story. Dinner is OK. It’s a veggie burger, and you can’t really mess up veggie burgers (unless you go to one place by my house in Chiang Mai which contends a veggie burger is merely a fried hunk of mashed potatoes), and I love that there are pickles on the sandwich. Is it anything to write home about? Not really.

Breakfast the next day is similar. The morning buffet, which runs from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. has heaps of a la carte offerings and a selection of fruit, cereal and cheese, plus fresh-squeezed juices. I order poached eggs and sauteed potatoes. The eggs are fine, but the potatoes are served in a little pot and smothered in … cheese? I can’t tell. But, being someone who isn’t a huge fan of cheese, I try a little and decide to just sip my coffee and take in the killer view of the pool and sun-soaked white sand below.

The next day, I try out the french toast which boasts a sweet scattering of cinnamon, honey and other tasty ingredients. Again, it is just OK. I can’t really taste any of the sweet.

Spaghetti at Beach Republic

Lunch my last day was the best — a simple spaghetti aglio y olio with heaps of garlic and soaked in olive oil.

Location, location, location

Because of its location at the north end of town, there isn’t much to do in the area other than hang out at the pool and beach. So, that is exactly what I do. My last night, I head out of the property and into town. In the late afternoon, songthaews are scarce and the price taxis want to drive me 10 minutes down the road makes me roll my eyes. I opt to hop on a motorbike taxi for more than I would pay for a tuk tuk in Chiang Mai, and meet my friend for dinner and drinks at Black Pearl Restaurant.

The following day, the person at the front desk gives me a gorgeous little treat — a late check out to the tune of 4 p.m. But, not before telling me I can book a taxi back to the airport for a whopping 700 baht. I decide to skip the taxi and try my luck on the main street (which grants me a savings of 300 baht).

The bottom line

Would I stay here again? Yes —  if I had friends at the property and a wallet stuffed with baht to indulge in the boozing beachside. But, as a solo traveler who isn’t going to rage it up alone? Not likely. It just isn’t close enough to the city for me. Then again, I don’t think Beach Republic is made for those traveling solo looking to simply chill. It fosters an environment of true holiday spirit — fun and sun. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Hell, I almost want to go and scoop up my friends in Chiang Mai and whisk them down south with me for a sweet weekend of debauchery.

It is nice? Absolutely. The staff, the rooms, the property itself are gorgeous and presented well. I always felt comfortable and welcome. I would have liked to check out the spa, but I didn’t even find it until the last day of my stay, tucked behind the restaurant with a lone sign pointing somewhere.

Editor’s Note: My time stay was courtesy of Beach Republic, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy

Dining Resorts Reviews

Ahh, Amari

I have a checklist for what constitutes my version of paradise:

1. A gorgeous location

2. Something gorgeous to view

3. Someplace gorgeous to stay

4. The ability to tune out the real world and relish all of the gorgeous

Amari Palm Reef in Koh Samui is one example of my paradise. Located in the town of Chewang, it is far enough from the main drag, yet close enough to get to where the action is.

After taking my 130 baht taxi — which really isn’t a taxi at all but a van that shoves as many bums in the vehicle as there are seats and then heads to whatever section of the island the group is going, dropping them off at their respective hotels — and arriving to Amari, I know immediately I am in for a true vacation.

Reception at Amari Palm Reef

The open-air reception and lobby is outfitted with comfortable, beach-y lounges  topped with fresh-cut flowers, and staff with smiles on their faces.

I sit and fill out my reservation form and am handed a sweet fruit drink and scented, cold towel to refresh before I am taken to my room.

And, what a room it is.

The room

A junior suite at Amari Palm Reef

With 188 rooms, split between two areas (the main road intersects the property), I have the prime spot — an airy 45 meter junior suite on the second floor.The wall-to-wall sliding glass door opens out to a magical view of the pool, and beyond that the soft, white sand beach and glistening water.

The view from my junior suite at Amari

Of course, the first thing I ever do when I check into a hotel is try out the bed. Living in Thailand, the beds tend to be a bit harder than I am used to (or would like), but the bed in my room is about as perfect as they come. It’s soft, covered in lush sheets, topped with a crisp blanket and four pillows. I snuggle my head into the pillow.

Yeah.

It’s the best pillow I’ve ever rested my head on.

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The decorations in the room are quiet, but evoke an Asian vibe, and its the little details that really bring the room to life — fresh flowers in a sleek glass vase, a sculpture above the bed, decoration pillows on the couch.

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And then, there is the bathroom. A nice-sized tub is situated next to the vanity (which is stocked with my absolute favorite line, Elemis), and then a separate shower and private bathroom on the other side.

My favorite product, Elemis, in the room at Amari

In the closet, there is a beach bag, an amazingly plush robe, slippers and an umbrella for when it rains in paradise.

I glimpse out the window and look at the clear blue sky as the sun begins to cast that warming golden our glow, then head down to the Bar@C for a quick cocktail before heading out for the night.

When I return home to my room, and for the next two days, I struggle with the choice of staying in my room or heading down to the pool and beach.

I swear, it is actually a hard choice given how in love I am with the bright room, and, of course, my delicious bed.

My last night at Amari, I don’t do anything but relish the calm the room is able to evoke from me. I tuck myself into the soft robe and sit out on my balcony, watching as lanterns float into the sky, stars twinkle, and in the distance, a lightening storm erupts, casting blue streaks through the clouds.

The pool

There are two pools at Amari — one on each side of the road. Because my room is beachside, I stick to that pool. Here, there are plenty of lounge chairs and quick poolside service. One corner of the pool has a whirlpool to sit and relax in the sun. There is also a “water fall” of sorts separating the two main areas of the pool.

 The pool at Amari

The crowd is diverse — kids, couples, friends — and a few balls float in the pool, beckoning vacationers for a quick game.

I spend most of my time at the pool, but that’s only because the water in the pool is far cooler than that of the beach.

The beach

It’s beautiful.

The beach at Amari

It’s got incredibly soft sand, heaps of lounge chairs to lay on, but it’s the water that’s the problem.

The shore at Amari Palm Reef

Because it is so shallow in this part of Chewang, the water is warmer than a bath. I walk out a good distance, and it still doesn’t come up to my calves. The sea isn’t the best for swimming, but the view truly is spectacular.

Bar@C

Beds, couches and cozy tables create an idea of an alternative reality. While the booze is a bit pricey for my Chiang Mai standards, the luxurious lounge immediately gives way to a relaxation I haven’t felt in a long time. Sitting, sipping a cocktail and looking out as the sky turns to night over the water is a fantastic way to start my first night in Koh Samui, and more important, my first vacation in ages.

Beds at bar@c at Amari

During the day, I snack on fish and chips (OK, not fantastic), and by night I meet one of my closest friends in Thailand for a cold, albeit pricey by Chiang Mai standards, beer.

Prego

Chiang Mai has ruined me in regards to wine. The typical wine I can order up north is the Mont Clare box crap. So, when I sit down to dinner and see a multi-page wine list boasting wines from all over the world (hand selected by the hotel’s general manager, Martin Kunzmann), my eyes nearly pop out of my head. Wine! Sweet! Delicious! Wine! In bottles!

The extensive wine selection at Amari's Prego

That’s enough to make me fall in love.

The atmosphere at Amari's Prego on Koh Samui

But, there is more to Prego than just the wine. The open air restaurant situated across the street from the beachside half of Amari, has a chill vibe. And, gorgeous menu packed with Italian selections.

Sure, when in Thailand, eat Thai food. But, when there’s an Italian restaurant with items like Waygu on the menu, damn. Order. It. Up.

Even as a non-meat-eater, there are plenty of options. For my main course, the chef actually whips up a sensational sea bass served with grilled veggies and truffled, yes, truffled mashed potatoes. I haven’t had anything this divine since my Vegas days.

Since I’m so stuffed on the mashed potatoes (plus the smoked salmon app and main course), I can’t try any of the desserts, like the limoncello sorbet — even if my tastebuds say yes. Instead, I get a little glass of grappa to wash everything down.

I walk out feeling delighted, stuffed and blissfully happy.

Pizza at Amari's Prego on Koh Samui

The next day, I return to Prego to try one of the wood-fired pizzas. Perfectly crisp and delicious.

The breakfast buffet

Most breakfast buffets I encounter tend to lack veggie options. Not Amari.

The selection is huge and includes fresh-baked breads, an omelette station, cheese, fruit, pancakes, french toast and more — all served on the second floor of the resort’s other restaurant, Merante. With a view of the pool and sea, it is a great place to sip a morning cup of coffee, nosh on better-than-normal buffet items and prepare for a day in Koh Samui.

Breeze Spa

The Breeze Spa at Koh Samui's Amari

The spa offers a wide-range of treatments, including massage (naturally), scrubs and wraps, facials and more. While staying at Amari, I got a hot stone massage and loved it. Consultants meet with each person individually to determine what treatment would suit them best based on their needs, and then from there, it’s game on.

The customer service

I mentioned that everyone at reception had smiles. But, the customer service at Amari goes beyond that. When I want to book a trip off the island, the GM is the one to whip out a map and suggest places to check out. When I decided I want to head to a little island for the morning, his staff actually book me the trip, arrange a private car for me to explore other island goodies, and then slip an itinerary under my door that night with all of the details.

And, when my friend loses her phone, the front desk is the one to get on the phone and speak Thai to places she could have left it. Above and beyond the normal call of customer service, and something we are both grateful for, even if the phone never turns up.

The bottom line

Amari is luxurious without being pretentious; posh without being exclusive.  It’s a place where couples, families and friends can all feel comfortable. The spa, with specials during the low season, is great value for the treatments. Prego is a fantastic spot for a fancy dinner, laid back lunch or just to sip wine (my favorite!). The property is close enough to the party of Chewang without being in the party, and given that transportation on the island can cost a good bit, its nice to know you don’t have to hop in a cab to experience something other than the property. For those in need of wifi, it is fast and log-in is easy. Plus, the entire resort is outfitted with it so you can make all of your friends jealous with those feet-in-the-sand pics on Facebook. Would I stay here again? Absolutely.

Editor’s Note: My time stay was courtesy of Amari Palm Reef, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy

Resorts Reviews

Preview: Bali’s Five-Star Samabe Resort

A monkey guards the make-shift gate as we pull into Samabe Resort, Grand Mirage Resort’s sister property, located in Nusa Dua.

Right now, Samabe Resort isn’t quite there — it’s wrapping construction with an opening set for early 2013. But, even as we walk through the white sand and the still-under-construction villas and suites, I can tell one thing: this resort is going to give all of the others on this part of the exotic island a run for its money.

Perched high on a cliff, when Samabe Resort opens, the five-star resort will epitomize luxury.

It’s easy to imagine sitting on this villa’s terrace at twilight. Photo courtesy Samabe Resort.

I’m not kidding.

Think personal butlers, private pools for each villa, complimentary spa treatments, yoga, organic meals, a daily cocktail hour (which I can envision being a highlight for me) and more. All-inclusive.

A birds-eye-view of Samabe Resort. Rendering courtesy Samabe Resort.

Spread across 16 luscious acres of tropical land, Samabe Resort will offer 35 free-standing villas and 39 suites — one and two bedroom villas and suites — plus seven penthouse villas and the Royal Samabe Residence, essentially a two-bedroom home with infinity pool. Each and every one offering unobstructed ocean views.

The sales manager weaves Daniel and I through the grounds and buildings, explaining the little details, like the bamboo thatched roofing which will have to be replaced regularly, but  a “must” in order to echo the Balinese architecture the resort prides itself on presenting. Each room is decorated with culture in mind, tapping in to woods, colors, accents and more, giving guests more than just a typical hotel room.

A villa bedroom. Ahhh. Photo courtesy Samabe Resort.

We step into one of the suites, a gorgeous expanse of room with doors opening out onto a large balcony with a stunning view of the blue-green Indian Ocean. We’re high up, and looking down, down, down I immediately lust for the room to be complete and to be sitting out here on plush patio furniture, sipping a glass of champagne.

A suite bedroom at Samabe Resort. Photo courtesy Samabe Resort.

It’s that gorgeous.

At one point, standing on the balcony and letting the hot air gently tousle my hair, I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to stay in the finished product. Only one word comes to mind — heaven.

The view from said suite.

 

Editor’s Note: My time in Bali was courtesy of Grand Mirage Resort, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy

Resorts Reviews

Blissing out at Bali’s Grand Mirage Resort

It’s cool in the lounge where Daniel (my friend who has flown to Bali to meet me for the weekend) and I sit, awaiting our keys to our suite at the Grand Mirage Resort.

“Would you like a drink?” Asks one of the hotel’s staff, clad in a skirt, button-up shirt and heels. “We have wine,” she says, following up.

I take one look at the sweeping view of the Indian Ocean outside of the windows to the lounge and smile to Daniel.

Yes, wine, please.

We take the glasses filled with light pink liquid and raise them towards each other.

“To Bali,” we say, smiling.

Lobby of Grand Mirage Resort

Photo courtesy Grand Mirage Resort

The ocean view suite

Daniel and I haven’t stepped beyond the immaculately clean lobby when reception informs us our weekend is going to be beyond amazing.

“We’ve upgraded you from an oceanview room to an oceanview suite.”

“Did you hear that?” He asks me as we walk away from the desk. “They’ve upgraded us.”

“We’ll see,” I say, trying not to get my hopes up. I don’t get upgrades. I get rooms with spiders and showers that don’t work.

But, as per usual, my Austrian friend is right. We’ve got a suite.

The two of us take the elevator to the fourth floor and exit, walking down a long and airy hall to the end of the corridor where a statue awaits us at our door. We slide the key in …

Holy wow.

“It’s kind of like we’re in a museum,” I whisper as we take in the entry way, lined with statues and backlit.

Suite at Grand Mirage Resort

Then, we move towards the main part of the room. To one side are floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Grand Mirage’s well-manicured grounds. There’s a moveable flat screen television, a little minibar (with complimentary refills daily, thanks to our reservation being all-inclusive), a couch, table and a chair.

To the other side is the master bedroom, a gorgeous, dark-floored masterpiece with a poster bed swathed with shimmery see-through green fabric, a wrap-around balcony and a bathroom complete with bath tub (delicious) and shower.

He and I exchange delighted looks.

“I almost want to jump on the bed,” I tell him, trying to contain my delight at our luck with the suite.

“Yeah, this isn’t bad at all,” he says, whipping out his phone and making a quick video. “I can’t wait to post this on Facebook and let everyone see my home for the weekend.”

And, what a home it was.

The great outdoors

Because we are gifted with the all-inclusive designation, we have access to all non-motorized sports at Grand Mirage Resort. That means we get to hop on a catamaran or try our luck wind-surfing. I skip the windsurfing, but Daniel gives it a go.

We do take up the catamaran. While it is scenic ride off-shore, I’m disappointed that it is a quick 15-minutes. I barely find a comfortable position on the vinyl before we are turning around at the reef and heading back to shore. But, it is a nice break from sunning and swimming to hop on a floatation device and take in the resort and the water from a different perspective.

Grand Mirage Resort beach

Then, there’s the beach. While Daniel and I are here, the beach isn’t ridiculously crowded. Sure, a family ends up camping right next to me on the second day and chatting loudly as I try to fall asleep. But, I can only imagine the resort during high-season. We manage to find seats each day, although sometimes people leave their towels after they’ve departed the beach.

Grand Mirage Resort

As far as the beach goes, it is clean. And beautiful. There are gorgeous day beds to purchase for $15 a day. And, then there’s the sea. It’s super warm. And, the seaweed likes to get entangled in my toes. After a quick swim, I opt for the pool instead.

The pool at Grand Mirage Resort

Photo courtesy of Grand Mirage Resort

The pool at Grand Mirage is huge. There’s a waterfall, a volleyball area and more. While parts of it are overrun with kids (hey, this is a family resort for the most part), I am able to find a spot where I only have to dodge jumping kids a few times.

The dining

Our first meal at Grand Mirage is the Grand Cafe buffet. It’s decent — but I’m a vegetarian and there are only a handful of choices, so for the remainder of the trip, Daniel and I opt for a menu instead.

Dining at Grand Mirage Resort

Photo courtesy Grand Mirage Resort

Our first night, we head to the Jukung Grill, a gorgeous open-air restaurant nearly on the shore of the  Indian Ocean. Over more rosé, I dine on the grilled fish and listen to the soft lap of water hitting the sand and a group of traveling musicians serenade the guests.

Dinner our last two nights is spent at the resort’s Italian spot, La Cascasta. Daniel can’t get enough of the dishes — particularly the lamb. I love the fresh bread and olive oil.

After three months in Thailand, fresh olive oil is pure heaven.

Breakfast every day is a gorgeous buffet — again without too many vegetarian options — but with an omelette station that makes some of the best omelettes I’ve had in SE Asia.

Lunch varies between Jukung and Grand Cafe. I can barely stomach the coconut I order as a drink — its hot and doesn’t have the same flavor I’ve grown accustomed to in Thailand; and the veggie burger I order seems more like a big dollop of mashed potatoes with veggies mixed in. But, it’s not bad. And, with a view of the tropics, I can’t really argue. Whatever is lacking in taste is made up for in sheer beauty of the surroundings.

The drinks

One of the best parts of being all-inclusive is the free booze. There, I said it. It’s a vacation and booze is definitely a part of anything that is categorized as a vacation in my book. The first night, we fill up on rosé wine. The rest of the weekend, we’re a bit more conservative.

I don’t want to be hungover in paradise.

I do love the swim-up pool bar. And, the mojitos they put out have just enough liquor to give me a buzz after the second.

But, after that, we’re pretty responsible.

Thalasso Bali Spa

I’ve been to plenty of spas in my day, thanks to living in Las Vegas. When we walk through the sand and sea shells of the cream-colored spa, my heart flutters.

This. This oozes relaxation.

Grand Mirage Resort

Photo courtesy Grand Mirage Resort

I indulge in a 55-minute aroma therapy massage and it feels like heaven. Serious heaven. Set inside a deep blue room with little lights inset in the ceiling, reminiscent of twinkling stars, I instantly feel my body unwind (although it wasn’t too tight to being with, thanks to living in Thailand and the bounty of inexpensive massages I treat myself to on a weekly basis).

“You ok?” My masseuse asks as she gently glides her hands over my back, slick with oil designed to ease muscle aches (you know, from that overnight in Bangkok since Air Asia doesn’t offer any non-stops from Chiang Mai to Denspar).

When the massage is done, I feel light as a feather and slip back into my bathing suit to sidle up to the pool-side bar.

The customer service

Daniel and I are lounging on our cushion-y chairs, soaking up the sounds of the Indian Ocean our first evening when a staff member comes up to us.

“We are going to play football, you want to come?” He asks us.

I feel like I am on a cruise. Although, I’ve never been on a cruise this is how I imagine staff to be. Go, go, get involved.

“Sure, I can do sports,” Daniel says, pulling himself up from the chair and disappearing off to go and kick a ball around with others.

Throughout the weekend, the interest in our time at the resort is apparent.

“Everything OK Miss?”

“Would you like to …”

“How was your meal?”

“We’ve arranged your transportation …”

It’s like I walked into a bubble of care where the customer is actually important. It’s a nice change from meals where plates are put down without regard to the company at the table.

The bottom line:

This resort caters more towards families and couples, and at times the kids and couples making out in the pool can be a bit much. But, the resort can’t control that. I love the attention to detail — the floor mats in elevators remind guests what day it is, because, you know, it’s easy to forget when you’re in paradise. Customer service is above average. Rooms are clean, beautiful and well-maintained. With the all-inclusive, the mini-bar is re-stocked daily. For free. Amenities are wonderful, minus the lack of veggie options in the restaurants. Having the award-winning spa on property is fantastic, plus there are options to have an outdoor massage on a whim. Would I go back? You bet.

Editor’s Note: My time in Bali was courtesy of Grand Mirage Resort, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy

 

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