Whether you call it a holiday or a vacation, it amounts to the same thing: It’s time out from your daily routine. An opportunity to escape to some of the best vacation spots on the globe where you can kick back, recharge batteries, explore a passion, learn a fun skill or just add to that cute freckle collection.
Why not come with me and let’s make a whistle-stop tour through some of the luxury Villas and best vacation spots in the world where you can explore and experience the very thing that lights your fire when you think about a holiday …. or vacation!
Whenever I look at the best places to vacation, I ask myself the key questions: “What is it I want to feel”. For me the ‘feeling’ associated with any vacation destinations is critical to my decision. So, for instance, do I want to feel cossetted or cocooned? If so, this guides me towards very luxurious, fully-serviced vacations. Perhaps, I want to be stimulated: for me this is all about history. A desire for entertainment means I am keen to look towards vacation destinations with a buzzing nightlife or world-class people watching by day. And so on ….
So, to classify this blog, I’m going to break it down with emotion leading the way. Let’s feel our way through some of the heavenly vacation places where Exceptional Villas roll out the red carpet for you!
A Whole Lot of History
I like to subdivide history into ‘bricks and mortar’ and ‘art and culture’.
As Europeans we do sometimes think that we wrote the book on history. Undeniably, stick a pin in any lush corner of Europe and you have centuries of amazing history (the bricks and mortar plus art and culture variety) waiting to be explored. My personal favourite for a healthy dose of the complete history package is Italy – specifically Rome and Florence. Oooh la la. History never looked so good.
Some of the architecture looks as box fresh as the day it was constructed – think the Pantheon in Rome and the Fontana del Nettuno in Florence or any number of other gorgeous buildings and monuments that appear around every sepia-hued corner of this great nation. And that’s before you’ve stepped into any of the revered museums across Italy where Renaissance art and sculpture are ready to astonish you.
But hold the phone, Europe doesn’t own the rights to all things archaic. For anyone slightly further west on the globe the mesmerising Mexico rivals anywhere for grand-scale and unique history. Chichen Itza, south of the Riviera Maya and Tulum have awe-inspiring edifices, centuries of history coupled with the art works of Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera in Mexico City museums to attract culture vulture types looking for inspiration. Where better to base yourself to experience all of the charms of the Mexican Cities and Caribbean coast than in one of Exceptional Villa’s stunning villas in Playa del Carmen. Miles of beach, blue skies, tequila and tacos … it’s a recipe for a divine vacation.
A Feast for the Senses
So some of the vacation places that always feature high on my list of ‘must visit destinations, revolve around the gourmet pleasures of the table. The dining experience for me has two distinct categories: What and / or Where. By this, I mean, is the food experience about the sublime dish in front of me or the tasty bite consumed in an unforgettable location.
I am always thrilled by the local cuisines in Jamaica. Hot, spicy, smoky, succulent meaty offerings have so often been copied but never equalled, I can promise you. Some fresh-fresh seafood or jerked chicken enjoyed at 3 Dives in Negril has to be experienced. This casual, family run restaurant is buzzing and wait till you try their secret sauce. Yummy!
For high-end dining offerings where you will want to bring your sexy best, look no further than Turks and Caicos’s Coco Bistro. This wonderful restaurant on the endless Grace Bay offers delicious and sophisticated food under swaying palm trees. It’s a lovely antidote to the casual fun of the Fish Fry that takes place each Thursday in Provo (Providenciales) where you will enjoy street food – think, the ubiquitous fried conch – to the sound of local music.
For the romantic honeymooners who want to tentatively feel your way through your first weeks of being newly minted Mr and Mrs, it is always lovely to celebrate that uber romantic vibe in some candle lit restaurant or bar under a star filled sky. I would look no further than the two princesses of the Caribbean – Antigua and Barbados. These islands are simply full of glistening white sandy beaches, dotted with palm trees, unfurling alongside the balmy waters of a turquoise Caribbean. With the fairy-tale splendour of Sheer Rocks in Antigua, you can dine or lounge on one of the four-poster daybeds taking in breath-taking sunsets. Yes, it is as perfect as it sounds.
I cannot but mention Venice Restaurants and the Amalfi Coast restaurants for dining splendour. Two very different destinations within Italy but both offering a regional and specific menu that seduces with every bite.
The Bahamas will deliver the very best in picnic dining. Grab yourself a boat trip around one of the hundreds of uninhabited islands or atolls. A day of swimming, snorkelling accompanied by a very Robinson Crusoe-esque al fresco unforgettable dining experience will ensure you return home with unparalleled memories.
Surfing the Wave of Zen
Sometimes the best places to vacation aren’t just about calorific indulgence and a cocktail or three by the pool. In fact, some of my most enjoyable trips away involved me returning to my Irish nest improved both in body and brain.
My number one recommendation for this experience has to be Costa Rica. It is green, lush, naturally gorgeous and is leading the way in holistic vacations. There are any number of yoga retreats, surrounded by tropical jungles on the edge of the Pacific Ocean that will allow you to stretch your mind and body to new heights.
The Nicoya Peninsula town of Nosara along the western shores of this welcoming country has miles and miles of perfect beaches with some dazzling wave action that has become a mecca for surfing enthusiasts. You don’t have to be a yoga / surfing dude or dude-ette to find your personal bliss in Costa Rica. Hiking, a helping of San Juan history, whale watching, riding out with cowboys or just plain old lolling about in a hammock is all there for the taking too.
The Big Catch
As a completely different experience, you might like to indulge your inner ‘hunter gatherer’ self and pit your wits against a giant fish from the deep. The waters of the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean that swirl around the many island nations south of the USA are the playground of some of the biggest fish species on the planet. I’m talking about tuna, marlin and sail fish. These are the big boys you will want to encounter if you are on a fishing charter out of The Bahamas, Barbados or Grand Cayman.
Golf – more than just a four letter word
Or so I’m told. Interestingly, I come from a tiny island that seems to have more golf courses per square mile than most places in the world. Yet for all of this near proximity, I have yet to be wooed by the charms of this ancient game. I have been told that if I took some lessons and got better at it, I might stop paraphrasing Mark Twain and saying that golf is truly a good walk spoiled!
I am prepared to accept the truth of what I’ve been told. But …. And of course, there’s always a but! I am not interested in learning along a cloudy links course a mile from my door. No sir! I am thinking I will check into the heavenly Sandy Lane’s Green Monkey Golf course and learn at the feet of some of the keenest golf tutors in the world. I’ve seen the course, I’ve visited the resort, I’ve stayed at one of the beautiful Exceptional Villas right on Sandy Lane Beach but I have yet to be heard shouting FORE along the fairways. Well, so far!
Snorkel, Sail, Surf, Swim
All the S’s of the best vacation destinations! Why not up your skillset in any one of these categories from a villa in the Caribbean? Throw in tennis, diving, pilates, biking or even swimming with turtles. Think St Lucia’s gorgeous coastline with its beautiful resorts where all of these energising activities can be booked and waiting for your arrival. The remarkable concierge team at Exceptional Villas will build the very perfect vacation for you.
An itinerary as structured or relaxed as you wish will be lovingly devised according to your agenda. Not a moment of your vacation will be spent trying to locate a surf shop or book a jeep tour through some lush jungle. You simply arrive to a fully-loaded trip of a lifetime!
The Ultimate in Relaxation
I don’t know about you but I am feeling rather done in from all the action and activity of my earlier suggestions. I am thinking it might be time to insinuate myself into a welcoming hammock, stretch out a languorous hand for a refreshing cocktail and sway to the sounds of the ocean. At Exceptional Villas we can lay on any number of wild adventures and activities for you and your family or group. You can be as busy or buzzy as you wish. But regardless of all of this frenetic busy-ness, what we can offer you is the ultimate in relaxation back at your stunning villa.
Essentially, we can arrange for your private staff to stock up your fridges, fire up your barbecues, prepare bespoke meals and picnics – bring order out of chaos each day. This allows you and your happy fellow travellers to indulge your daily whims without the worry of housekeeping chores.
Picture it, you return to your villa after a long day of fun and fabulous experiences. There’s a cool cocktail or beer waiting for you. You have a refreshing shower, slip into some casual resort wear and glide onto your private beach-side terrace to enjoy an aperitif before dinner.
Your barefooted evening can gently unfold with everyone bonding over the sumptuous dinner of local fayre recounting the many adventures of the day. The next morning, you awake to a magically tidy kitchen awash with the aroma of the freshest coffee. This is he essence of true relaxation. There’s a helping hand and smiling face discreetly waiting to ensure you are catered for just as you wish.
Once the preserve of the ladies, a quality spa experience has stepped over the gender barrier and the evolved man now sees the value in indulging facials and massage treatments. My favourite destination for the ultimate spa experience as to be Dominican Republic’s Six Senses Spa located in the luxurious Punta Cana resort. What I love is the quality products with healing properties, delivered in such a tranquil and serene setting. In between any of the wonderful activities within this resort (golf, tennis, water sports) you can check into the spa for some glorious treatments. Something for everyone!
We’ve been expecting you, Mr Bond
So, I’m a bit of a 007 fan. As a movie franchise, it is a travel writers dream. How many incredible exotic locations have been introduced to us the viewers over the past decades. From the iconic moment Ursula Andress walked onto Jamaica’s Laughing Waters beach in Dr No, to the more recent visits by the heavenly Daniel Craig to Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como for Casino Royale, it’s dazzling.
And although it is often said that crime doesn’t pay, the big baddies of these 007 stories generally seem to have the most palatial and splendid homes on private islands in the midst of some vast turquoise ocean. With this in mind, why not embrace your inner baddie and whisk yourself and your family off to a private island where you can release your inner Scaramouche / Blofeld.
The best places to vacation if you are in search of a private island have to be Little Whale Cay or Over Yonder Cay – both in the Bahamas. For a family gathering, special anniversary or wedding, there’s nothing to rival having a private island paradise for your exclusive use. The word ‘freedom’ is used time and time again to describe that relaxed sense of unbridled adventure that is completely yours as you step onto your island kingdom.
I’m always curious about the etymology of everyday words. It’s the sort of science-y fact that I do love. Apparently, the word ‘vacation’ derives from the custom of the wealthier upper class families of 19th Century NY ‘vacating’ their city homes to travel to their rural estates to see out the hot summer months in cool style. From these beginnings, the word came into common usage by schools, middle and working class groups who compared their trips to the local beach resorts as their equivalent of the Park Avenue yachting class.
The term ‘holiday’ is, of course, more British in its origins. It references the ‘Holy Days’ that individuals were permitted to take away from their working lives to observe their religious practices.For my money, I’m more of a ‘holiday’ kind of gal. Why? Because a sublime trip to some gorgeous Exceptional Villa is always for me a truly religious experience!! Don’t wait, call now and experience the ultimate divine getaway!
About Mairead Moriarty
Born and raised in Co Kerry, lived in London, New York, San Francisco, Dublin. Owner of one very battered suitcase, a well-worn passport and a million memories.
It seems very fitting for a travel writer that my surname translates as ‘Skilled Navigator’. Apart from an occasion when, aged 3, I got lost in a Supermarket in Tralee, I have managed to live up to my name!
Curiosity is probably the driver that has sent me on magical mystery tours around the world. I want to ‘feel’ a place. I want all my senses to be engaged: from the history and geography that has influenced a country or city, the arts and achievements of its natives, anything and everything really.
Regardless of whether I am on a local train travelling through Morocco, or poking around in Marconi’s study in Bologna or on a canal boat weaving through the heart of the English countryside, the same rules apply - ask questions, talk to locals, eat what they eat, sit quietly with nature and simply be.
Assimilate as much as is possible so as to understand the soul of a place. That is my passion. That is the compass by which I navigate.