Virtuoso Global April 2019 Three desirable destinations serve up sun, sand, and savings

Three desirable destinations serve up sun, sand, and savings

Up your game with impeccable views on Casa de Campo’s Pete Dye-designed golf course in the Dominican Republic. 
Up your game with impeccable views on Casa de Campo’s Pete Dye-designed golf course in the Dominican Republic. 

This winter’s polar vortex spawned a record number of deep freezes, blizzards, and beach-escape fantasies. While spring’s arrival may have tempered sun-soaked dreams a bit, Virtuoso travel advisor Sharon Howell suggests this is the perfect moment to make them a reality.

“April is a great time to plan a beach vacation,” she says. “Travelers have the best options for flights and accommodations prior to the last-minute rush in May, when people realize summer is here.” The advisor often turns to Pleasant Holidays, her “one-stop shop” for vacation packages that bundle round-trip airfare, transfers, accommodations, and activities at hundreds of luxury resorts in the most preferred destinations. Better still, the packages are completely customizable to clients’ interests and come with Virtuoso amenities such as automatic upgrades, resort credits, early check-in and checkout, and more.

Travel advisor Heidi Nanigian also gives a nod to Pleasant Holidays. “There are so many components, I can book everything with them – the class of air, car rentals, trip protection, even tours – which makes it easier for my clients and me.” Another advantage: the peace of mind that comes with 24/7 emergency assistance in every destination. For a worry-free, beach-based holiday, you can’t miss with one of these three favorites.

Waikiki’s most iconic duo: The Royal Hawaiian with Diamond Head in the distance.
Waikiki’s most iconic duo: The Royal Hawaiian with Diamond Head in the distance.

Oahu: Pink hibiscus beer on Waikiki’s white sands

Hawaiian surfing icon Duke Kahanamoku grew up riding the waves of Waikiki, Hawaii’s most famous beach. The wide stretch of golden sands, with Diamond Head as a dramatic backdrop, is one of Virtuoso travel advisor Chris Lee’s favorite go-tos for a classic beach getaway. Lee started booking his own Hawaiian vacations with Pleasant Holidays in the 1980s, when the company focused exclusively on travel to the islands. “There’s a lot to be said about the expertise that comes with selling a specific destination for that long,” Lee says.

Another Waikiki legend: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort is Oahu’s “Pink Palace of the Pacific,” where you can take a surfing lesson before relaxing on an umbrellaed lounger on the private strip of prime sand. Then again, you might sip a cold hibiscus hefeweizen beer – the hotel’s exclusive new brew – in a cabana by the Malulani Pool. A current five-night package includes round-trip airfare, breakfast daily, and a 15 percent discount at Abhasa, the island’s premier garden spa. Apply your exclusive discount toward a Lomi Pohaku Facial or other spa treatment.

Pleasant Holidays’ array of optional tours and activities lets Lee tailor each package to clients’ desires, then bundle everything into one easy payment. Couples can add a touch of romance with a sunset dinner cruise, while history buffs might tour the Arizona and Missouri. Mid- to late April is the perfect time to book, Lee says, since it’s the tail end of spring break, “so there are more accommodations available and, most important, lower airfares.”
Immerse yourself in the bounty of Playa del Carmen during a stay at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya.
Immerse yourself in the bounty of Playa del Carmen during a stay at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Riviera Maya: From barrier reef snorkeling to spa rituals on Mexico’s Caribbean Sea

Sunseekers heading to Mexico’s Riviera Maya find its white sands are also less crowded this time of year, as are the exceptional Mayan archaeological sites and other attractions. Howell books a number of her most discerning travelers at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, an all-inclusive luxury resort fronted by one of the region’s prettiest beaches. Lavish suite accommodations and the simplicity of having all meals and beverages included in the rates – even wine, beer, and spirits – make Grand Velas a “five-plus star experience” for couples and families alike. “The level of service and the world-class dining are a winning combination,” Howell says.

The resort offers complimentary clubs for kids and teens, as well as a plethora of daily activities. A five-night stay leaves plenty of time to go kayaking along the coast, snorkel the Mesoamerican Reef – second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – and take advantage of a Virtuoso exclusive $50 credit per person, per day, at the SE Spa, which Forbes magazine named among the most luxurious in the world. So, one day you might embark on an exotic water journey; the next, you could indulge in delectable body therapy that combines a coffee exfoliation with a cocoa oil massage. Howell encourages travelers to book spa treatments in advance, as well as dinner reservations to sample the resort’s variety of venues. Personalize your stay with a tour of the ancient Mayan city Chichén Itzá – one of the New Seven Wonders of the World – a speedboat cruise through Nichupté Lagoon, or a day trip to the area’s famous Xcaret eco-park.
Discover pristine perches for appreciating the Dominican Republic’s turquoise waters at Casa de Campo.
Discover pristine perches for appreciating the Dominican Republic’s turquoise waters at Casa de Campo.

Dominican Republic: championship golf courses, lobster rolls, and horseback rides

Travel to the Caribbean continues its steady comeback in 2019, with Virtuoso advisors reporting a 21 percent upswing in January and February bookings compared to the previous year. Many of those were at luxury resorts in the Dominican Republic.

Those looking to get an early start on summer should consider Casa de Campo Resort and Villas, one of the most esteemed resorts in the Caribbean. You need never leave the lush, 7,000-acre property, set along the island’s southeastern coast and boasting three championship golf courses – including the top-ranked, Pete Dye-designed Teeth of the Dog – along with a 13-court tennis complex, elite equestrian center, and private marina. (There’s even a sixteenth-century replica village complete with cobblestone streets and artisan studios.) Taste buds are satiated by fresh lobster rolls, grilled octopus, and a choice of ceviche on the new menu at Minitas, the resort’s signature restaurant, while Virtuoso treats you to a $200 credit at the spa. For off-site adventures, consider a swim in the island’s famous Hoyo Azul (“Blue Hole”) cenote or a jungle horseback ride.

Nanigian says that travelers planning a Dominican Republic vacation during shoulder season can take advantage of special promotions and secure favored accommodations. What’s more, they can add Pleasant Holidays’ optional travel protection, which saved a number of her clients who needed to change or cancel plans. “It is so much easier to book everything in one place,” she says, “because you only have to make one phone call.”

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