Jill’s Top 10 Travel Destination to Visit in 2019

This year I visited over 20 luxury resorts and wrote about my adventures for JustLuxe, LuxeBeat and Go World Travel. Some of the standout travel destinations, hotels and resorts include luxury spa experiences, outstanding restaurants, tennis courts, golf courses and enriching experiences that include cooking classes, wine tasting and morning yoga. 

Here’s a list of my favorites in 2018 that I would happily return to in 2019:


1. Luxe Spa in AvalonJustLuxe. Located on Catalina Island , The Island Spa offers ocean theme treatments, products and experiences. There is a day-long yoga and kayaking adventure. Guests meet at the spa and walk to Descanso Beach to enjoy a 1.5-hour paddle tour to coves and headlands along Catalina’s dramatic coast. Participants paddle through giant kelp forests teeming with sea life, and may see dolphins, seals, pelicans, and plenty of bright orange Garibaldi fish. After the paddle and lunch, attendees take a personalized yoga class at Island Spa Catalina, and dip in the heated pool before returning to one of the island hotels or take a boat ride back to Long Beach.


2. Washington DC New Neighborhood – Luxe Beat Magazine. The new InterContinental Washington D.C., located in the newly repurposed The Wharf area along the Potomac River is a 12-story waterfront hotel offering 278 guest rooms with 33 suites. One suite is a two-story Presidential penthouse, just below the rooftop bar and sparkling pool with views of the riverfront, Jefferson Memorial and beyond.


3. Living like a Queen in WaikikiJustLuxe. This historic hotel near Waikiki Beach recently completed $35 million dollars in renovations. With the help of Hawaiian designer Mary Philpotts of Philpotts Interiors, the hotel is now filled with Hawaiian colors, local art, comfortable furniture and engaging public spaces. It’s modern, hip and a trendy vacation destination. The staff host Hawaiian experiences for guests that include fitness surfing and yoga classes in the morning, daily Kona coffee tastings, fun interactive wellness workshops, and craft cocktail and live music in the evening.


4. The Ultimate Wedding Destination in Oahu – JustLuxe. The historically inspired Hawaiian Four Seasons chapel built in the center of the resort provides intimate wedding ceremonies next to beautiful stained glass windows. Doors open out to the tropical gardens for cocktails and pu-pu platters. Weddings can also be held next door at the historic Lanikuhunoa Cultural Estate.


5. Hawaii’s Immersive Spa ExperienceJust Luxe The 23,000 sq. ft., Laniwai Spa at the Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa provides guests with Hawaii’s wellness traditions. Laniwai in Hawaiian means freshwater heaven, and the crystal raindrop chandelier and soothing cloud lights transport guests to a new realm of relaxation. There is a hue of colors symbolizing the gifts of nature that join together to create a rainbow. These organic and natural Hawaiian treatments rejuvenation and renew spa guests.


6. The Best in Baja CaliforniaLuxe Beat Magazine Alaskan Airlines flies directly to Loreto on Thursdays and Sunday from LAX, once you arrive at the Villa del Palmar overlooking Danzante Bay and Isla Danzante, the exclusive all-suite guest rooms provide ocean, golf course and the Gigantic Sierra Mountain views. Activities include paddle boarding and kayaking in the protected bay, golf, tennis, spa and hiking excursions to see the ancient painted caves.


7. Leisure Elegance in Santa BarbaraJust Luxe. Driving up to the Mission-style Hilton Santa Barbara along the American Riviera with swaying palm trees, miles of sandy beaches, a lively wharf and glorious mountain views, this elegant pet-friendly resort offers modern comforts after a multi-million dollar renovation.


8. Newport Beach’s Newest Luxury HotelLuxe Beat Magazine Upstairs on the fourth floor is the only rooftop bar and lounge in Newport Beach called Topside Roof Deck. Guests taking the elevator up to the top are welcomed to spectacular sunset views. Since the day it opened, this sophisticated and celebration-worthy resort offers a heated pool, farm to table dining, bicycles and family suites.


9. Napa’s Newest Wine Country ResortsJust Luxe. The newly refreshed Vintage House lobby lounge and rooms are the quintessential wine-style country living. A complimentary breakfast is offered in this room from 7 to 11 a.m. In the evenings, both properties offer a complimentary wine tasting in their lobby each Friday and Saturday evening from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The large, heated pool and 103-degree whirlpool are framed in outdoor cabanas and chaise lounge chairs with thick pads. A highlight to each room is a hanging wicker basket swing to sit and swirl a glass of wine.


10. Indulge at La Quinta Resort & Spahttp://www.justluxe.com/travel/spa/feature-1967158.php. About thirty minutes from downtown Palm Spring is a celebrity hideaway in the town of La Quinta. Built in 1926. It became a retreat and playground for Hollywood’s biggest names, U.S. Presidents Taft and some of the wealthiest families in America. Many of the historic casitas, suites, villas and vacation units are surrounded by green lawns, flower gardens or clustered around one of the 41 pools and 53 hot tubs.

Recharge your senses at one or more of these award-winning resorts.

Luxurious Laniwai Spa at the Aulani Resort, A Disney Resort & Spa

Recently I met Lucia Rodriguez Amasio, the Laniwai Spa Director at the Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa for a tour of her 23,000-square-foot luxurious spa. As she greeted me in the lobby, I learned Laniwai in Hawaiian means freshwater heaven.

The backsplash at the reception counter is wavy and white with a hue of rainbow colors. The lighting decor includes a crystal raindrop chandelier and soothing cloud lights. Both symbolize the gifts of nature to create a rainbow. “Rain comes down from the heavens, travels down the mountains to the sea and back to the heavens,” Amasio said. “We try to replicate that experience for our guests.”

What makes this spa different than other resort spas is the Disney Imagineers play on color, light and water to create a rainbow effect throughout the spa. Also, the music is not Disney-esque, but soothing Hawaiian sounds that change as one walks through the locker rooms, rain showers, steam room, dry sauna and treatment rooms.

Spa guests are initially given a wood bowl filled with po.haku or wish stones. I was instructed to hold my hand over the stones and select one “or one might select you,” said Amasio. I chose one with the word “Balance.” On the back side was the Hawaiian translation Pono. “Balance can be both physical and mental,” Amasio said, as she handed me a glass of pineapple lemongrass water to begin my detox cleanse. I held onto the stone and followed her to the center of the spa before stopping at a small circular pond.  “Our guests can never get lost, because this is distinctive and round like a rainbow. We only see the arch of a rainbow, but actually a rainbow is a complete circle,” she said.

I was told to make a wish, and place the stone into the pond. “Keep balance in your mind all day,” Amasio said. I noticed as I dropped “Balance” into the water, it landed near stones that said “Dream”, “Happiness” and “Harmony”. The wood sticks lining the wall in this area are made of the ohi’a lehua trees. It’s a species of flowering evergreen tree that is endemic to the six largest islands of Hawaii.

Amasio encouraged me to drink a glass of pineapple and coconut water from the hydration station. “All superfoods rich in antioxidants to help fight free radical damage, promote skin cell rejuvenation, boost metabolism and provide a super immune boost,” she said.

Guests are advised to arrive one hour before their appointment to take full advantage of the outdoor relaxation garden as a prelude to their treatment. We stopped at the complimentary exfoliation station known as the Pulu Bar. Guests may take a container of coconut vanilla salt scrub to one of the six different shower heads to achieve a soothing and polishing E Kala Mai shower experience. Nearby are two different temperature plunge pools – a hot one at 101 degrees and a colder one at 90 degrees for sensitive or pregnant guests. Above are rain drop lights hanging in the lushl trees. “This tropical area has become a popular spot for anniversary celebrations and even weddings,” she said.

Spa guests may sit out in a cabana in the garden and order light and healthy snacks that include a protein shake and salad. There are complimentary banana muffins and cookies available in the morning, and chocolate treats in the afternoon. The staff will also offer a tea flight served with organic gummy bears for a sweet snack.

Taking a tour of the 15 treatment rooms, I learned guests can choose from four different Hawaiian scents for aromatherapy and a vaierty of music to personalize their experience. The treatment beds are heated, and the products used are organic lotions that are not too strong to all the senses. After a treatment, guests receive a glass of hydration water and cube of guava jelly for a little spike of sugar.

What is new for younger guests is a high-style retail studio and salon to help little girls can get luau ready and become Moana or pretty mermaids, while young boys can don new board shorts and rash guards to look super cool in the Rainbow Reef or sliding down the Volcanic Vertical waterslide.

The Painted Sky Spa experience is for 13 to 17-year-old guests who seek a clarifying facial, new hairstyle, or makeup lesson. The 1,500 sq. ft area. allows teens the Laniwai spa privileges with an accompanied adult. Together mother and daughter may enjoy the showers, plunge pools, relaxation lounge areas, complimentary snacks, and hydration waters.

Since the Painted Sky is near the adult-only outdoor Wailana pool and pool bar, parents can enjoy some quiet time while their teen is receiving a treatment. Also near the spa is the 2,000 sq. ft. Mikimiki Fitness Center filled with Life Fitness equipement, free weights and stretching areas.

While enjoying the Alunai Resort or staying at a nearby property in Ko Olina, be sure to make a reservation at the luxurious Laniwai Spa to unwind, detox and satisfy all of your senses.

To make a reservation, go to https://www.disneyaulani.com

Read my review in Just Luxe – http://www.justluxe.com/community/luxurious-laniwai-spa-at-the-aulani-resort_a_1967491.php

Hawaiian Wedding at the Four Seasons Oahu in Ko Olina


Finishing up lunch with Yvonne Hunter, the Director of Public Relations at the Four Seasons Oahu Ko Olina Resort, she took me on a tour of the newer resort. Almost three years ago the JW Marriott Ihilani (built in 1998), became the Four Seasons Oahu. Set among green lawns and a dramatic coastline with the Waianae Mountains in the background, Hunter told me Ko Olina in Hawaiian means “Place of Joy.”


Walking out to the resort’s grassy oceanfront peninsula enclave, I noticed a long table beautifully set for 30 guests. Exotic flowers were displayed to enhance this semi-private wedding or reception spot offering ocean, resort and verdant mountains.


As we passed the adult-only infinity pool, I noticed the bride-to-be and her wedding party enjoying some sun and fun at a private cabana. Zane the Four Seasons Tanning Butler approached the ladies with a tray of five different strengths of sunning lotions and sunscreens to help prevent painful sunburns and achieve golden tans.


Hunter shared that other pre-wedding activities include swimming in the sheltered beach lagoon with complimentary water toys and paddle boards. Guests can take a ride on the Four Seasons outrigger canoe or relax and get a massage in a waterfront cabana at the Naupaka Spa & Wellness.


The 35,000 sq. ft. space offers 17 treatment rooms, plus three muliwai healing hales. Muliwai is Hawaiian for where the water of a slow-moving stream meets the sea. These three hales offer two treatment beds and oceanfront breezes and views. Yamaguchi Salon is available for bridal hair, makeup and nails, while there is a men’s barbershop for the groom and groomsmen. The luxury facility includes steam, sauna, whirlpool, change rooms, and relaxation areas.


Hunter walked me over to the historically inspired Hawaiian chapel built in the center of the resort. No one needs to leave the resort for a traditional or Hawaiian wedding ceremony. This intimate Four Seasons chapel has beautiful stained glass windows. Doors open out to the tropical gardens for cocktails and pompous. Executive chef Martin Knaubert and his team will happily prepare dinner outside or in the Ocean Ballroom. Weddings can also be held next door at the historic Lanikuhunoa Cultural Estate.


Before leaving Hunter led me through the 3,840 sq. ft. Presidential Suite on the fourth floor. Offering full ocean views, the suite offers two Hawaiian decorated bedrooms, a private theater screening room, elegant dining and living room, plus a stairway leading up to a 516 sq. ft. terrace and lounge area. She showed me a separate kitchen for guests to have meals prepared and enjoyed for al fresco dining.


The Four Seasons Oahu is truly a “Place of Joy” for vow renewals or a memorable wedding that appeals to all the senses.

To make a reservation, go to Four Seasons Oahu Ko Olina

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