Posted on July 14, 2021
My fiance and I celebrated our 5th anniversary (1 year anniversary since he proposed) at the Omni Bedford Springs Resort over July 6-8. It was the absolute perfect time to unwind, relax, and take in all the historic beauty that the resort had to offer. I loved all the country’s history being celebrated, especially the week after 4th of July. Our stay allowed us to take a break from the details and take a breath from wedding planning and just enjoy our itinerary at the Omni Bedford Springs Resort! (will be sharing the entire itinerary for our stay as many of you asked!)
By the 19th century, Bedford Springs was really popular and by mid-century the resort became quite appealing to politicians and actually served as “The Summer White House” for President James Buchanan in 1857. The politicians and their families loved the outdoorsy setting along with for the benefits the natural springs provided. In total, 12 U.S. Presidents have visited Omni Bedford Springs. George W. Bush being the most recent.
Upon check-in we were greeted by this striking 39-star United States flag from 1865! WHOA, so in 1865 there were only 36 official states–but the creator of this flag had high hopes that 3 additional states would soon join thus: the extra 3 stars unaligned. This particular flag at Omni Bedford Springs is actually the only known 39-star flag in existence, and its preservation behind glass and proper lighting reflects the great care and consideration that the Omni Bedford takes of this piece of history!
As requested, I will share our 3-day itinerary at omni
- 12:00pm Arrival and Resort Check-In
- 12:30pm We met with the Director of Marketing for an awesome private tour of the property and to hear a bit of the resort’s rich history! We loved this.
- 1:30pm-4:30p Relax at the Outdoor Pool with Poolside Beverages (pro-tip order something frozen–for us, we loved a few Froses in the heat!
- 5:00pm We got to check out the famous Indoor Pool! This was built in 1907 and the largest indoor pool in the world at the time, considered a full Olympic-size pool. Music was played live off the balconies of this beautifully designed area. It is truly a sight to behold, but also the history of it all is quite charming! This water is from the mineral springs. It is said to be healing.
- 7:00pm Dinner for two @ the Frontier Tavern (this is a First Come, First Served style that offers delicious dining options from breakfast, lunch and dinner menus! I had a Filet Mignon Frite, accompanied with broccoli, tomatoes, and french fries while Tony enjoyed a special Truffle Mushroom Pasta. Appetizer pro tip: Charcuterie Board!!)
- After Dinner The staff had so kindly dropped off a S’mores Kit to our room earlier that day for us to use outside of the Tavern at the fire pit. Such a cute idea. We loved it, and s’mores are highly underrated.
- 7:30/8am Start Your Day with a delicious and nutritious breakfast available through In-Room Dining ( convenient option if you’d like to enjoy sipping coffee on your rocking chair on the balcony! Amazing) at the Frontier Tavern or at the resort’s newest outlet Evitt House Coffee. We ate outside this morning and would highly recommend the Avocado Pesto Toast, Yogurt Parfait, along with a few cups of coffee 🙂
- 8-9am Explore the Trails along the Allegheny Mountains (We received a map in our room of all the mineral springs on hiking trails to explore! It is so peaceful and restorative)
- 10:00am Checked into the pool for our Cabana Rental we would enjoy later that afternoon 🙂
- 10:30am Tennis Court Reservations, we were able to pick up our equipment at Tally Ho Sport Shop. If you have tennis racquets and balls- pack them, otherwise you can rent these things for rental fees.
- 11:45am Check-In to Springs Eternal Spa for Appointment and Bedford Bath Experience. You simply cannot visit Bedford Springs without experiencing their heavenly world-class spring bath experience, it is healing. During renovations, they found that the front desk actually sits above one of the springs! All of the water in the baths come from this. Can’t say enough great things regarding our spa experience! There is a whole special routine in the Springs Eternal Spa baths before you’re ready for your spa appointment! There is amazing coconut and lemon waters served in the beautiful lounge area overlooking the gardens along with dried fruit and Cucumber Melon green tea. It was the perfect setting to be total Zen in our robes!
- 12:45pm Deep Tissue Massage Appointments for us! We were able to fill out our spa waivers prior to our arrival for the massage and Springs Eternal Spa. This will allow you to just relax when you get there.
- 2:30pm Relax at the Outdoor Pool in our special Cabana. The cabanas come as full-day rentals, you have a shaded comfortable set of loungers, a mini-fridge equipped with water bottles, chips, fruit, and menus available to order lunch poolside! It unfortunately rained not too long upon our arrival but we still loved spending some time at the pool and were totally relaxed from our spa treatments!
- 4:00pm We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring some of the trails on property, and right behind the resort, enjoyed the Chef’s Garden which was home of plenty of poblano, habanero, banana, and jalapeno peppers; rhubarb, sweet corn, and many more vegetables! There was a silver-lining to the thunder storms closing the pool though! Upon returning to the room, we found that the resort had left us a special charcuterie board in our room full of amazingly delicious seasoned cheeses, honey and fruit– and it perfectly paired with our rocking chairs on the covered balcony and a bottle of rose wine! (One of my favorite brands: Hampton Water) It was such a fun and relaxing late afternoon to catch up on some work before dinner!
- 7:00pm Dinner Reservations at the glamorous, The Crystal Room (This is a swanky, reservation-only restaurant off the lobby that has an array of fine dining! I ordered the Chilean Sea Bass, and my fiance enjoyed his filet! This was absolutely melt-in-your-mouth delicious and our friend Dave, whom we met the day prior, made certain that our reservation was at an intimate table in the back of the restaurant inside a beautiful pink room with crystal chandeliers and historic black and white photos of folks at Bedford Springs. It was such a treat! Following dinner, we made a pit stop at Evitt for some Lavender Honey gelato to enjoy on the rocking chairs right outside of the lobby.
Talk about a picture-perfect day. Every moment was fabulous and we just felt so grateful to take it all in!
- 7:30am Start our day with a delicious and nutritious breakfast at the Frontier Tavern. I had the best oatmeal of my life! Tony loved his eggs and toast. Their bread they make there is second to none. We took our coffees to go as we headed towards the Pro Shop to check-in for our Tee Time!
- 8:50am Check-In to the Pro Shop for Tee Time at 9:00am on the Old Course, our rental clubs were all ready for us in our cart and we were able to enjoy 9-holes before any rain. Fun Fact: Old Course at Omni Bedford Springs Resort is one of the country’s first golf courses!
Dating back to 1895, their restored historic and high-caliber course overlooks the picturesque Allegheny Mountains and Cumberland Valley. It spans the work of three golf architecture masters– Spencer Oldham, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross.
Bedford Springs Old Course has undergone a total renovation, overseen by architect Ron Forse, restoring it to its original course layout. Immaculate conditions was our review! A round of golf on these historicaly significant tees is a must-play for golf enthusiasts of all levels while visiting the lovely Omni Bedford Springs Resort.
Tee times as well as spa appointments book up SUPER quickly, we even heard that folks schedule these events before even securing a room just to ensure they will be able to have their spa appointments during their stay far in advance.
I almost forgot to touch upon our accommodations! So clean, comfortable, spacious, and charming! I believe we stayed in Swiss Cottage Suite! From the lobby, we took the elevator up 1 floor, and made our way through 2 buildings on our way to our suite. It was stunning, came equipped with walking sticks/canes, robes, a mini fridge, comfortable king-size bed, full-length mirror, plenty of seating and drawers, space, and an armour for the tv and all electronics. It was naturally lit from all the big beautiful windows, and the balcony was accessible through the door. The room was clean, and cleaned and picked up daily. We always returned to a special treat for us whether it was a sparkling Pellegrino bottle, charcuterie board, or s’mores kit! We loved that detail and personal touch from the staff!
The thought behind each bathroom is to give the guest a little piece of the Spring Eternal Spa so it has the total feel of the tile, dim-able chandeliers, and marble! It’s absolutely gorgeously elegant! The bath products are NEST! Need I say more? LUXE. There was even a little powder mirror and desk/chair for me to sit on to apply make up for dinner! Little white shutters open and close out to the balcony. It provided such a warm and luxurious feel, also accessed by a double-doored opening.
We just had the best experience at the Omni Bedford Springs Resort, and would 10/10 encourage and recommend any friend of ours to go and see for themselves! Feel free to check out my Instagram highlighting our trip with video at @Hmgriff11 and for more photos and videos of our stay.
*This was a sponsored partnership with Omni Bedford Springs Resort.
Posted on December 17, 2019
Sedona Before Christmas
December Travel: Last week, we stayed at Amara Resort & Spa in the beautiful Sedona, Arizona. Sedona’s majestic red rock backdrop everywhere you turn just leaves me in awe of its beauty. I had visited the area once before years ago, and it’s even more breathtaking than I remembered. It’s absolutely one of my favorite places in the US.Travel Tips: Getting to Sedona isn’t difficult. I usually find quite a few options for inexpensive flight options to the PHX airport (Phoenix, AZ) and then we rented a car to drive north (under two hours) to Sedona, AZ. The whole mountainous drive is gorgeous and it feels more like 25 minutes! For reference, we stayed for two nights, three days in Sedona. We then drove back to Phoenix after check-out to enjoy an afternoon and evening there before the next morning’s flight home!
Stay: We were so grateful to be hosted by the urban chic, Amara Resort & Spa, situated along the banks of Oak Canyon Creek and surrounded with red rock beauty. I was so excited to be visiting before Christmas time; I just knew it would feel extra cozy with the holiday decor and Edison lights. We were in the heart of Sedona and a 5-10 min drive from everywhere we wanted to go! Uptown Sedona, made up of little cafes, restaurants and shops, felt like a Hallmark Christmas movie with all the holiday cheer and festive feels!
Property Amenities + Special Touches: Upon arrival, we truly felt so warmly welcomed by both valet and concierge. The valet had our vehicle out in seconds each time we walked out front. Check-in was so smooth, and the kindest woman working at the front-desk made sure we knew all that we needed to on the events taking place on the property, how to get to our hikes, and what we may be interested in during our stay.A few of my favorite resort details:
Heated Infinity Pool & Hot Tub With a View (Acceptable to walk to in robes 🙂 )
Complimentary Yoga in the Studio: Daily 7:45a & 8:30a
Illy Coffee Bar in Lobby: 5:30a-9a
Daily Wine Hour in Living Room: 5p-6p (white & red and SO perfect)
Spa Services Available Upon Request, Gym Access, Comfy Robes & Yoga Mat in Room
Adorable Post Card-Writing Corner: Amara takes care of postage
Top-Rated Saltrock Kitchen Southwestern Restaurant off Lobby: Also had seating on the gorgeous and heated patio overlooking the red rocks, with water falls + lawn seating)
Comfortable, Spacious Suites with Balcony Seating: Clean, up-dated, mini-bar, turn-down service, the shower products smelled amazing!! Need to find out the brand they use!
Saltrock Southwestern Kitchen: Tasty and Fresh Southwest Inspired Flavors, quickest, and superb service. Our dinner server was awesome and so friendly!Itinerary Suggestions:
SaltRock Kitchen: at resort brunch/lunch/dinner/drinks
Sedonuts: the name- it’s a must! coffee, donuts
Creekside Coffee & Bakery: breakfast sandwiches/avo toast
Creekside American Bistro: Breakfast
THE HUDSON: Lunch/cocktail/burgers/pasta
MARIPOSA: Epic View, sunset drinks, dinner
Devil’s Bridge Hikes 1.8 miles-3 miles
Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping: great art, shopping, and jewelry
Airport Mesa: Solid scenic lookout in our opinion
Bell Rock Hike: Easy hike
Helicopter Ride: Various time options, we used Sedona Air Tours
Pink Jeep Tour: They also have Grand Canyon
ATV Tour: $299 four hours around the ruins
Golf: Hilton Sedona Bell Rock Course
Javelina Leap: Vineyard and Bistro
DA RANCH: Newer winery, beautiful, good wine
Page Springs: Winery (could be crowded in peak season)
Exhausted after an early six-hour flight from JFK followed by 2-hour drive from PHX, we checked in and kind of planned out what we’d be doing the next day with the front desk’s map help! We then explored the property and enjoyed the lawn’s views along with the heated pool! It was time for wine hour conveniently so we just got to relax and get settled in Amara’s cozier than cozy couch area of the lobby!
I did my research ahead of time when it came to restaurants and sights! Between consulting with some of my AZ friends and TripAdvisor, I decided we’d just stay at Amara and enjoy a dinner at the SaltRock our first night. We had an amazing dinner! From their hand-crafted cocktails ( I had a seasonally-spiced margarita) to the chips and queso and steak mini taco appetizers! We loved every bite. I think we shared a chilean sea bass entree that was also noteworthy! It was early to bed after a long travel day!
Due to the convenience of the location and the delicious-sounding menu, we decided to grab breakfast back at SaltRock. We surprisingly caught the sunrise behind the rocks, enjoy a delicious farm -to-table style big breakfast, and grab a coffee in the lobby before we were off to our first hike: Airport Mesa! I was told this was the best view of Sedona and it was all of a 5-minute drive from the resort. Parking can be tight there, but there are lots of options to park on your drive up the hill. Once you’re there, you can venture around the 3-mile trail or just take in the sights from Airport Mesa! Absolutely gorg.
Initially, we had planned to hike Devil’s Bridge, but since it had snowed the week prior, we also had some concerns with slipping and decided to just forego the risky trail and revise ze plan over some very large pieces of toasted zucchini bread and iced oat milk lattes uptown in Pink Cafe.
We somehow managed to sign up for a helicopter ride whilst strolling around the Christmas town haha, so ventured over to Bell Rock to hike until our ride time.
If you only have about an hour and want a beautiful and easy trail- Bell Rock Hike is your best bet! Friendly to hikers of all ages, we truly enjoyed this one. Every few minutes I would find myself just turning around looking out, saying “WOW!” I do that a lot in Sedona. Every painted sky (and mountain) is a canvas of God’s Grace! (One of my very favorite songs: “So Will I” by Hillsong United)
It was time to check-in near the runway which was at the top of Airport Road (not ironic lol) for our helicopter ride! It was both Tony and I’s first helicopter experience and it was fantastic. We were reminded that Walt Disney had a house in Sedona for a very long time, and he even created Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom modeled after this very place. We flew through canyons and valleys; the pilot pointed out Cathedral Rock, Snoopy Rock, and more. The rate was decent too, and it was under 20 minutes so it didn’t take up too much our time that we wanted to explore. I believe the company we used was Sedona Air Tours. This company also does Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon as well. If we were in town longer I definitely would’ve loved to adventure to either of those spots by car but we just didn’t want to spend the entire trip en route!
Thanks to my AZ friend, Carissa, we made reservations about a week in advance at the fan-favorite: Mariposa, which is a latin-inspired grille. Folks enjoy the epic views from Mariposa for afternoon cocktails, as well as probably their most popular time: sunset. The surrounding rocks LIGHT UP before the sun begins to set AND there was a full moon brightly lighting up the sky as we sat outside in wonder. The entire property was stunning and there were a few other groups beside us who had the same idea. We then were taken to our table which was right next to their floor-to-ceiling glass windows, still gazing out at the incredible scene. At Mariposa, you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. In addition to Mariposa, Chef Lisa Dahl also owns Butterfly Burger and Dahl & Diluca, offering the freshest cuisine whether it be Latin, Italian, or American! Even if it’s just for cocktails, go around sunset to Mariposa–no regrets!
Everyone said Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village was a must, and they weren’t wrong. Authentically fashioned after a traditional Mexican village, Tlaquepaque, meaning the “best of … Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village is that very special place. Most stores closed at 6, however, we were able to catch a few jewelry stores (with pieces crafted from Africa and Spain, OMG I found the cutest bracelets!) to wander around, and the Christmas decor and lights were just so merry! This village was so magical, I loved it.
Since we had to make the trek back to Scottsdale, we packed up and headed back over to Tlaquepaque to see it during the day, grab a coffee from the famous Cake Couture Coffee & Desserts, and a bite to eat at the warmest, Pump House Station (Urban Eatery and Market). Their portobella benedicts- UH-mazing. The Christmas decorations were ON POINT, and I appreciated every detail. Before hitting the road, we strolled around seeing the Christmas trees with chai lattes and some treats from the bakery!
Needless to say, we had the best time. We look forward to returning again soon, Sedona. Thank you for your partnership, Amara Resort & Spa. Hosted by Amara Resort & Spa.
Posted on October 9, 2019
Hosted by the Grand Isle ResortWhen we were heading to Exuma, I got SO many questions like, “You’re going to the Bahamas? How will you fly in? It’s still there?” This isn’t a surprise since US news sources suggested the entire country being destroyed. And while Hurricane Dorian left 2 islands absolutely devastated, there are actually over 700, and over 2000 cays that make up the Bahamas. Each are so special in their own personalities and beauty. Which is why it’s so important and effective to continue helping to support the Bahamian economy and its people by visiting the other islands!
Here, it’s possible to sunbathe alone on a white sand beach, stand on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean, snorkel with sea turtles and nurse sharks, swim with pigs, and so much more! Tourism dollars assist in rebuilding and many of the resorts, like @grandisleresort , have funneled money into the relief efforts. 🇧🇸If You Didn’t Already Know: Exuma is a district of the Bahamas, consisting of more than 365 islands, also called cays (pronounced KEY- I didn’t know this until we were there, oops). The largest of the cays is Great Exuma, which is 37 miles in length and joined to another island, Little Exuma, by a small bridge. It was a 1-hour flight from Miami to George Town airport on American Airlines. From the airport, you’d probably want to have a rental car arranged or a taxi in advance since it’s a 20 minute drive to the resort. Our resort had a driver there for us upon arrival, and while we stayed for 5 nights, we didn’t rent a car and were fine. (Note: Taxis seem to be $35-$50 wherever you go)
Pro Tip: After checking in at the airport ticketing-counter before you head home, walk across the street to Kermit’s Airport Lounge for Sands Beer and snacks. There are several colorful picnic tables and it’s a fun way to spend your last hour before boarding your flight! These beers are so refreshing, maybe the only ones I actually appreciate.
Cash: It’s helpful to bring some cash on your trip though cards are accepted. The US dollar is accepted. Remember: In the Bahamas, there is a Value Added Tax (VAT) which is placed on goods and services rendered at the rate of 12%.
Where to Fly Into: Exuma International Airport: Several major national and international airlines offer daily, bi-weekly and weekly flights. Helpful to also know: Exuma is 132mi from Nassau so boating is doable. Hurricane Dorian hit two weeks prior in the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, but Exuma actually had amazing weather– sunny everyday, and temps in the upper 80s. The ocean water is pure turquoise. SO. DREAMY.
Packing Tips: Keep it comfy and casual on beach vacations! You’re not in a city.. most likely not attending fancy dinners! Besides dining at 23° North one night, I actually didn’t dress up whatsoever this trip! I had a lot of maxi dresses and rompers hung in the closet and by the end of the week, they remained as untouched as most of the beaches we stumbled upon in Exuma! HA. Seriously, save yourself some suitcase room, and time! The only time I wore more than a swim suit and cover up, or work out clothes, is when we went out to dinner- and even then, just wear a casual sundress and sandals sufficed.
Where to Stay: We stayed at the award-winning Grand Isle Resort & Spa on the quiet island of Exuma! A truly luxurious beach resort situated on the beautiful Emerald Bay Beach. We absolutely enjoyed this beachfront Bahama’s resort villa luxury accommodations. The resort is made up of spacious villas (all with stunning blue water views) complete with high-end amenities! Complete with 2 beautiful pools both overlooking the beach, restaurants and gift shop on the property, a great fitness center to get some work outs in, and golf carts to rent! This is a beachgoer’s dream with the softest white sand and warm ocean waters. Grand Isle Resort has beach chairs as well as stand-up paddle boards, volleyballs, snorkels, kayaks and more set up for complimentary guest use.
They feel a lot like high-end homes with quite tasteful furnishings and accessories, granite countertops, an enormous marble bathroom with a spacious glass shower and jacuzzi, L’Occitane amenities and a patio or balcony depending upon what floor- accessible by French sliding doors. (We had three separate balconies!)Villas & Penthouses: Ranging in size from one to four bedrooms, these breezy and beautifully furnished villas capture the essence of relaxed residential comfort. Coffee and tea were stocked in the kitchen. High-speed WiFi is included and available throughout the resort. The staff were utmost respectful and accommodating. Our first villa had some wifi trouble and they upgraded us a day later to an owner’s penthouse! Everyone called us by name. We had the place practically to ourselves since September is a slower month.We had perfect weather all week. We had the convenience of a spacious penthouse with a fully-equipped kitchen (all villas come with these amazing kitchens) The concierge helped us navigate for where to get groceries, and set up a boat tour for us to explore other cays and see some of the things Exuma is known for.
Private terraces were golden for our leisurely breakfasts and evening cocktails. My culinary skills were surely showcased in our fully equipped gourmet kitchen each night! Guests may even arrange an unforgettable meal delivered by Grand Isle’s Chef. He’s so nice, left us a lovely fruit plate and wine upon arrival, and introduced himself at the pool. These special, personal touches made such a lasting impression. Truly set a tone for the entire week for us. We appreciate how thoughtful and kind the staff was to us.
Resort Dining Options:
Pro Tip: Grocery-Run! With a fully-stocked kitchen, it’s easy to prep creative meals in the villa. We learned this ahead of time and took a taxi the second day to a small, nearby grocery store to pick up ingredients for dinner 3-4 nights! We also checked a bag from Miami full of wine, champagne, breakfast items and snacks! The only thing I wish we had more of is water, I drank from the sink a few nights after running out of bottled water, but I was told that isn’t the greatest idea. Oops! We saved money by refilling our water bottles around the resort at cooler stations though! But yeah, we just saved a ton by cooking in our villas and bringing our own wine! It was fun too.
Guests of Grand Isle Resort have a few choices for dining on the property. The Palapa Grill restaurant boasts fab views of the pool and ocean while serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests can also have menu items from the Palapa Grill delivered poolside or to a villa via in-room dining. Tip: The spicy conch fritters were delicious! Big fan. There’s 23° North which only serves their menu on the weekends, and then a handful of local spots (unsure of their hours!) that concierge can point you to, off the property. But a little more on 23° North…
Most Relaxing and Chic: 23° North Beach Club!
Our favorite feature of Grand Isle Resort, 23° North, was this very place. This 30,000 square feet beach club features a brand-new, fine dining restaurant experience (like I mentioned previously), special events venue (it would actually be so pretty for a wedding reception) oceanfront infinity pool, coral-stone patio, and unrivaled views.
The freshest seafood, local ingredients, fragrant herbs and rich island spices lift up the Bahamian-fusion cuisine! 23° North Beach Club offers an air-conditioned and elegant Asian-Bahamian twist to dinner! The interior is simply gorgeous, comfortable and cozy with a fireplace.
A $4 million project in the making, this brings the resort to the next level. We were waited on at our cabana, the servers were so kind and called us by our names! It was adult-only and very pretty. Just think Mediterranean style with the all white and deep sapphire blue pool overlooking the ocean, only separated by sand dunes! We spent the majority of our time here while on the property… sun-tanned, and mimosa in hand 🙂
GOLF & SPA: An 18-hole golf course designed by PGA legend- Greg Norman weaves throughout the luxury resort, wrapping around Emerald Bay and finishes at the tip of the peninsula. Available to rent for $20 a day, you can also golf cart around this gorgeous course without disrupting the players. An onsite spa offers their services as well, if I hadn’t just been treated to one earlier that month for my birthday I might’ve indulged! We didn’t really explore this option to golf, however, I hope to better look into details of playing at least 9 holes the next time. It’s owned by Sandals and was quite pricey.
Excursions We Chose: While it is 100% fine to relax for a week on the resort, the concierge team really helped us book what off-site things we knew we wanted to experience while in Exuma. They paired us with a trusted vendor, Coastline Adventures for their Full-Day tour. They picked us up from the resort’s entrance and returned us at the end of the day. 👏🏼We had a wonderful time! For a few years now we’ve had a couple items to check off our bucket list! Swimming pigs and befriending some sharks!😅
The speed boat ride was just about 100 some miles in total and stopped at the following:(1) Farmers Cay: Feed/Snorkel with Sea Turtle (2) Big Major Cay: Swimming Pigs (3) Compass Cay: Swimming with the sharks (4) Leaf Cay to Feed Iguanas (5) Walked on a gorgeous secluded sandbar (6) Conch Salad was caught, and made fresh for us (7) Pointed out Celebrity Islands- David Copperfield, Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, etc.(8) Staniel Cay: Stopped for lunch ($20US/person for buffet home-cooked style ribs/picnic food)
Full-Day Boat Tour
Note: I saw 0 children on this due to intense boat speeds I’m guessing. This was Mid-September 2019 and at that time paid $250 US per person with $20 US per person extra for lunch which was buffet style of what seemed to be home-cooked, $10 US per person at Compass Cay. So for the 2 of us, I think it came out to be around $570 US. We did find it worth it though, even when one of the boat’s engines blew. Since we relied on the boat’s speed to cover so much mileage (120mi) over the day, I am pretty sure we didn’t get to snorkel at two of the normal stops due to lack of recovery time.
Pro Tip: Water is hard to come by sometimes when you’re abroad- remember this! Our boat did give us unlimited Sand Beers and water bottles which was great. Lunch is kinda pricey though- maybe pack your own lunch and grab water from the boat!
One of the most famous and favorite stops while exploring the Exuma Cays is a visit with the swimming pigs. Major Cay is uninhabited and the pigs are not native to the island. Some say they were left by a group of sailors, who planned to come back and cook them. Or that the pigs swam over from a shipwreck nearby. Wherever they came from, there are now about 20 pigs and piglets on Pig Beach aka Big Major Cay. As our boat approached, they were waiting for us, and began swimming to us haha!
So you know- we were warned that the mother pigs are quite protective over their babies, and known to sometimes bite (particularly, butts.) HA NO PIG DEAL. Needless to say, I was always aware of my big pig surrounding when I approached any piglets! Our tour guide gave us buns to feed them and you can get in the water to swim with them too.
Swimming and Petting Sharks
OKAY, soooo it may very well seem crazy to swim with sharks, BUT these are pretty harmless. Nurse sharks are slower swimming bottom feeders who prefer fish, shrimp, and squid. However, they do have very small, but strong jaws and will bite defensively if they are stepped on or bothered so it’s important to be respectful. Tony accidentally hit one with his foot while treading water by them, luckily nothing happened! *Sigh of relief.* I didn’t venture out much further than the shallow dock viscinity, but I was able to sit and swim with the sharks from there and tread off the ladder! Don’t let fear overcome you on this one, definitely worth the experience. I mean, the sharks get fed regularly and even have names..#SquadGoals #CompassCay #SharkBaitOoHaHa
What do Nicholas Cage and Iguanas have in common?
They both want to live on the island, Leaf Cay? We were told by our guide that this 40 acre island was at one point actually owned by Nicolas Cage? Random but in 2006, he purchased the island for $3 million, but once he saw the large population of iguanas living there, he resorted to selling it back to the Bahamian government for $1.5 million. Oh man, bad investment- but cool that he did!
This was our final stop on the boat and were we tired! BUT this was a fun little surprise considering we didn’t know what to expect and got to feed several iguanas. Jurassic Park vibes for sure. It was beautiful as the sun was setting, and the iguanas were happy to see us 🙂
Coco Plum Beach (Great Exuma)
Rental cars can be delivered to the resort for guest use at a rate of $75 per day. A few groups that we spoke to at the resort said they had a rental, but we survived a short stay like ours without one. If you need to get creative with transportation ask the concierge to see if they can make it happen as they tend to know the taxi drivers well. If we figured out transportation a little better I would have loved to go to Chat ‘N’ Chill had we known more about it prior! There’s music, a beach bar, and stingrays and a shark! At Hooper’s Cay there are also sea turtles you can swim with! We did get help from concierge to check out Coco Plum Beach and our driver kindly waited for us while we explored.
Beach Spots: One of my favorites is the swings on Coco Plum Beach. There are two sets of swings in the ocean here and they are so fun. Depending on the tide, you may have to venture out into the water a bit, but it wasn’t too deep! We had the beach to ourselves.. the beach is just breathtaking, and worth the little drive to see. If you go at Low Tide, you can walk as fas a you can on the sandbars out to the middle! Funny enough, we ran into the sweet Italians that we met on the day tour boat a few days prior!
Another spot that is said to be worth the trip and while we didn’t make it here, we were told to head to the Tropic of Cancer. This beach is said to be stunning; they filmed Pirates of the Caribbean there! If you go, chances are you’ll be the only ones there. Pure heaven! They say there is an island off shore called Turtle Island because it looks like a turtle.
How Long To Stay:
I would suggest staying at least a week to fully unwind and prevent unexpected weather from canceling activities in case you do run into rain or windy days! Rates for the Grand Isle Resort seem to fluctuate over the course of the year during high and low seasons! We were incredibly fortunate to be hosted by the resort during September which is normally considered to be a low-season time. There was a major hurricane that hit the northern Bahamas earlier that month, but left Exuma Cays untouched. We had nothing but sunshine with occasional cloud coverage.
When To Visit:
Many travelers seem to prefer to visit Exumas in the winter, when temperatures are balmy and dry. June through October marks the Exumas’ rainy season, with storms, high winds and cloudy days, as well as the occasional hot, hazy and humid day.
Other Exuma Properties:
We shared the bay with Sandals Resort at Emerald Bay (all-inclusive resort) but it was far enough away that we never saw anyone or their property but from afar. The Peace & Plenty which is not considered luxe, but seems charming, historical and cultural- dating back to the American Revolution, and the location is more centralized on the island. I’ve heard AirBnb is a nice option too. Some homes even come with boats for the visitors to use! I’ve had a couple of friends who have done this and said good things. Either way, you won’t regret visiting Exuma, Bahamas.
Our Sincere Appreciation for Grand Isle Resort:
This resort is just totally accommodating, clean, beautiful, and boasts the most stunning views! They’re also giving 10% of all bookings to the victims of Hurricane Dorian to help rebuild their own resorts and get back up and running as soon as they can. Visiting the Bahamas helps much more than people know. Are you convinced yet? Leave your thoughts below! For more, visit my instagram @hmgriff11 to check out our travels.
One of the most important things I remember is how nice everyone we came into contact was on the resort and off. The welcoming and thorough staff who called us by name wherever we were on the resort, and treated us with such kindness- we even were upgraded to the penthouse suite by the always patient, Patreika at reception, after returning from an all day boat excursion!
Upon arrival, Jay of concierge, escorted us by golf cart to our villa, carried in our bags, and helped us with any off-property questions we had. He made it known there were a handful of off-site places to eat that were options to us and he then arranged travel for us to get to each place. Patreika also arranged a cheerful driver named Iceland to take us into town for groceries to cook meals (bc let’s be honest- our fully-equipped kitchen simply was too amazing not to be used!), and got us registered for a private tour group for a full-day of boating to various cays with 3 girls from Spain and 3 Italians!🇧🇸It was called Coastline Adventures and it lasted from 8AM to after 5PM, picking us up at our resort’s entrance and returning us at the end of the day. (More info about tour that section)
Also upon arrival, we had a beautifully displayed fruit plate and bottle of my favorite, Cabernet Sauvignon next to two wine glasses, waiting for us from the Executive Director of Culinary, Chef Fritz of the resort! He later that day introduced himself to us at the pool— we dined there and 100% suggest the Miso Sea Bass and Tuna Ceviche from 23° North Beach Club!
Finally, the nicest and most hospitable servers for dinner at @23northatgrandisleresort and welcome cocktails (from the beautiful bartender, Sharell) The truly amazing, Patrícia 🌴, of social media who was the best guide for us before arrival as well as on property and taking us to hidden beaches, CocoPlum Beach, and joining us for our daily cabana mimosas at @23northatgrandisleresort
Posted on June 5, 2019
TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence: Rated #5 Hotel in Miami Beach.
Staycation for us, vacation for you! Everything you need for a dream getaway in the sun, @carillonhotel has you covered. ☀️ Head on over to my instagram to watch through my story highlights on our recent stay at the award-winning Carillon Wellness Resort and Spa. Catch a glimpse of their world-class spa services and fitness facilities, invigorating thermal experience, to the sparkling roof top pool and their refreshingly breezy oceanfront @thestrandmiami terrace restaurant. A day spent in 100% relaxation mode! Below, I’ll share with you our itinerary during our day a the Carillon Miami.
Make the most out of your Miami Beach vacation & save. Reserve the suite of your choice for 3 nights, and stay an extra night on them! You’ll have more time to soak up the sun, indulge in spa treatments, meditate by the sea, work out, explore the city or completely relax. I noticed it was their 3-Day Retreat Season May through November. If this is something that sounds appealing to you, elevate your wellness and check out their schedule on those events and retreats! “Come as you are, leave as you’ve never been!”
Our Carillon Miami Itinerary:
10:30AM Arrival: Check-In
10:45AM We were given our own lockers, sandals, and robes! Changed into my swimsuit that I’d be wearing for our treatments we’d be doing that morning!
11AM Cryotherapy time. Might I mention, this would be my first time trying any Cryotherapy! Back in college we had to take ice baths after soccer two a days, and you know, I’m going to say I MUCH PREFER the Cryo. I was a little nervous, but we were obviously in great hands and given so much information by our therapist, Esti! Here’s what we tried, and I documented some moments!
WHOLE BODY CRYOTHERAPY
3 MIN $99
(step inside one of the coldest machines in the country, reaching -275°, to invigorate your entire body, balance your nervous system, improve immunity, stimulate your metabolism and burn up to 800 calories)
LOCAL CRYOTHERAPY / CRYO-PAIN FREEZE
6 MIN $60
(the cooling effect of liquid nitrogen focuses on shoulders, elbows and knees to minimize pain, promote healing and speed up the recovery process by reducing inflammation and swelling)
INSTANT CRYO-FACE REJUVENATION
6 MIN $60
(a laser-guided cold treatment that boosts collagen, tones, tightens and rejuvenates skin)
25 MIN $65
I love Infared over regular high-temp saunas because it works from the inside of the body out, and the benefits are endless! Plus the temperature doesn’t have to be as high and you don’t need to stay in as long! Bonus bonus bonus.
Facts: An infrared sauna eliminates seven times more toxins than a traditional sauna while helping to relax your muscles, burn calories, promote relaxation and relieve inflammation by increasing circulation. it also helps balance cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone.
Whether you’re in our fitness area toning with their state of the art equipment or sweating under the sun, both offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. We didn’t work out this time, but they have a world-class gym full of equipment, studio classes– SEE SCHEDULE HERE.
Cheers to a beautiful morning!
12:30PM Time for a delicious lunch at The Strand Bar & Grill (exceptional service and food)
2:00 Walk through the resort to Carillon’s private beach area! Steps away from the white sands and crystal blue ocean! Such a beautiful day for this.
2:30 Check back into the Spa for our “Complimentary Champagne Upon Arrival” (no glass at the pool) and a little R&R on the Atlantic Pool Deck overlooking the ocean and property! Best Part: you can walk around in robes and spa sandals 🙂 Adult only pool, towels, fruit-infused water, and hot tub included!
Your body and mind will 100% effortlessly relax at this rooftop spa with breathtaking ocean views, and it’s quiet! No cell phones or music 🙂
Continuing the Thermal Experience
4:30 PM Thermal Spa Experience time! Can you tell we’re really enjoying our day of relaxation!? The Thermal Experience is open 8AM-8PM and let me tell you, we made the most of these hours! We left at 8 haha! There is a men’s spa suite and a women’s spa suite for total comfort!
Let their thermal suites embrace you in an invigorating European spa experience. From tropical rain showers to the herbal laconium, we each said that we moved frequently between hot and cold hydrothermal therapy suites to stimulate circulation, any muscle pain relief, to decrease stress and rejuvenate zeeee body, and boy do you feel it!
This was our second visit to the Thermal Experience and we truly enjoyed each experience! The Spa is a place of relaxation and tranquility. Here’s a few of the featured experiences that I enjoyed:
EXPERIENTIAL RAINS Multi-sensory showers simulate a Caribbean monsoon, Atlantic storm and Polar mist – a perfect cooling experience after a day in the sun.
FINNISH SAUNA Dry heat purifies and cleanses the body in this classic environment featuring fragrant wood and heated stones.
CRYSTAL STEAM ROOM This scented steam room, enhanced by colored light and a large clear crystal, cleanses and soothes the body
Can’t say enough good things about our entire experience at Carillon Miami. From the invigorating and rejuvenating treatments in the morning, to the perfect oceanfront views, deliciously farm fresh foods and service at lunch, to the definition of relaxation we felt in the Thermal Experience Spa– I can honestly say we loved every minute! Thank you for having us Carillon Miami Wellness. We’ll be back soon!
Until next time, Carillon! We loved our visit with you!
CARILLON MIAMI WELLNESS RESORT | 6801 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33141 HOTEL 866-800-3858 | THE SPA 866-276-2226 | CARILLONHOTEL.COM @CARILLONHOTEL | #WELLNESSYOURWAY