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A couple of months ago I embarked on what was easily one of my most exciting adventures yet. I joined Chapman Ducote and his crew on a three-day spearfishing exhibition from Miami to The Bahamas’ Cay Sal Bank on assignment for BOAT International. The story is in their November issue on newsstands now and you can read it here.

It opens with: “In spearfishing the action happens fast.” And that pretty much sums it up. It was three action-packed days aboard a fast boat on nearly uncharted waters filled with sharks, big fish, lobster, conch, green flash sunsets, the most stars I’ve ever seen in the night sky, uninhabited islands, dolphins and unbelievably clear blue water.

Scroll down for some behind the scenes pix and please read my story in BOAT. It’s some of my proudest work yet.

Day1Catch

Fresh catch from Day One on the water. From Left to Right: Ian Miller with a yellowjack, Chapman with a lobster and permit  and Rodrigo Franco with lobster. It made for a delicious dinner of yellowjack crudo, permit filet and barbecue lobster.

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Posing with the fresh catch.

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The Delta 54 Carbon, our vessel for the excursion.

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One of the guys with a fish on his spear.

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Learning the ropes with a spear in hand.

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We came across a wreck at the eastern edge of the bank.

Sharks

The most death-defying moment of our trip. Here, Franco fights off three bull sharks darting after him and the fish he just shot.

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A peaceful moment off Cay Sal Island.

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Those are “we just swam in the Gulf Stream with dolphins and saw the green flash” smiles.

Sunset

The sunsets at sea were unbelievable. Don’t forget to read the full story in BOAT.

All photos by Ian Miller.

My friend and fellow fabulous writer Kara Franker asked me to share my insights on how I get off the beaten path while traveling to her readers at Orbitz. Here’s what I had to say:

“I’m a big believer in slow travel to truly uncover hidden jewels and understand a destination on a deeper level. And by slow travel, I mean exactly that: slowing down the pace and staying for awhile. For me, whether it was studying abroad in London or spending two consecutive winters in Paris, long-term travel was when I truly uncovered the unexpected, met locals and, for a short time, masqueraded as one of them. Even throughout the years I lived in Key West, I sort of felt like I was there on one long trip, observing the lifestyle and the people, while also participating in it. Those are some of my most enriching and cherished travel experiences, and whenever I discover a new destination that I truly love I always wish I could spend at least a month there.”

Exploring Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea at a spot called Buza, which literally means "hole in the wall."

Exploring Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea at a spot called Buza, which literally means “hole in the wall.”

 

My Travel Tip: “Just go for it. One of my favorite travel writers Pico Iyer said in a talk I attended last year, ‘All you need to travel is wonder and a Swiss Army knife.’ I loved that because, to me, it gets at the heart of the joys of travel: a wonderment about the world, different cultures and societies. Forget the lists of ‘must-dos’ or ‘best ofs’ and just travel with wonder and, of course, be prepared for anything—that’s where the Swiss Army knife comes into play. At that same talk, travel writer Barry Lopez explained that there are two ways to approach a place: analysis and awe. He prefers the latter. And so do I. That’s where the ‘off-the-beaten path’ discoveries are found and savored.”

For more off-the-beaten path tips by other intrepid travel bloggers, check out the full post on Orbitz.

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The facade of the oceanfront Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach.

140 Character Overview:

Funky SoCal vibes with a touch of grit in the heart of Venice Beach. Rooftop bar with killer ocean views & sunsets. Easy walk to everything.

Beachprofile

A view of the surf from right outside the hotel.

 

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The hotel mimics the neighborhood’s mural art with its decor.

 

The Vibe:

As my Uber pulled up to the Hotel Erwin on Venice’s Pacific Avenue, I was overwhelmed with a serious feeling of familiarity, although I’d never been here before. Was I getting Tamarindo, Costa Rica vibes with all the funky mural art and casual beach bars? Did the madness swirling on the Venice Beach Walk bring me back to Key West and Duval Street? Finally, it hit me. The blue-brown Pacific and its golden sand beaches full of surfers in the water and sailboats on the horizon reminded me of my childhood home Newport Beach, just a few miles down the coast. While I haven’t lived in SoCal for 20 years or even visited for the last four, arriving in Venice felt like a powerful homecoming.

The hotel, itself, is laid-back with a bright, “Millenial” design scheme. Formerly a Best Western, Erwin has updated the space with design-forward ambitions aiming to meet the needs of today’s modern traveler. The vibe skews young and funky rather than mature and upscale, but that’s totally cool.

Bed

The room is spacious, bright and colorful.

 

Balcony

A no frills balcony offers partial ocean views (and partial parking lot views).

 

View

A glimpse of the ocean from my balcony.

 

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The former Best Western hotel has been updated with a modern bathroom design.

 

The Location:

You really can’t ask for a better location in Venice. The hotel is oceanfront, with the Venice Skate Park and breakwater directly outside. You’re within walking distance to Muscle Beach, the Venice Pier and all the chic shops and restaurants of Abbot Kinney.

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Hotel Erwin (on the far left) is within the same block as the iconic Venice sign.

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Smack dab in the heart of the madness that is the Venice Beach Walk.

 

F & B:

The hotel has an onsite restaurant, which I didn’t get a chance to try during my stay, but it serves a menu of creative comfort food. The rooftop High Bar draws a cool, casual crowd for sunset and gets the seal of approval from all the LA lifestyle pubs.

Sunset

Bruh! Sunsets from High Bar are pretty badass.

 

The Specs:

119 rooms
Free WiFi
1 restaurant
1 bar
Free passes to nearby Gold’s Gym
Nightly rates from around $320

Surfsup

Serious surf during my visit. Also serious undertow.

 

The Verdict:

While the hotel is not exactly the lap of luxury, it’s plenty comfortable with its own personal style that works. The selling point for me is the ideal location and affordable price point in one of my favorite neighborhoods anywhere.

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Post-surf sess with my bros at Aloha Brothers up the block.

Shayne’s Checklist:

Bathrobe: Yes.

Conditioner: Yes.

Bed Comfort Level: 3 Stars (out of 5)

This destination gets Shayne’s “I’d like to live here for at least one month” seal of approval. I connected to Venice on a deep level.

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The New York EDITION occupies a historic clock tower originally built in 1909 that once housed the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

140 Character Overview:

Understated elegance by Ian Schrager, master of boutique cool, & Marriott International. Golden Age NYC inspo. Modern, sexy lobby scene.

Room

The rooms are simple and understated… and absolutely luxurious.

 

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The most captivating part of the view was that you can see both the East and Hudson Rivers outline Manhattan.

The Vibe:

This place is cool, sexy and luxurious. The New York EDITION is what modern hospitality is all about.

Lobby

The lobby lounge features low slung lounge chairs, a fire place and that sculptural spiral staircase leads to the Clocktower restaurant.

 

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The lobby bar drew a crowd every night I was there over opening weekend.

 

The Location:

Perfectly situated on Madison Square Park in the Flatiron District, you’re a stone’s throw from the original Shake Shack and Eataly, and everything else that makes this neighborhood cool right now. It’s an easy walk to my other favorite Manhattan hoods: Meatpacking, West Village, Union Square, etc. Plus, the subway’s right on the block.

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That view was stunning day and night.

 

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Bathrobes, minibar champs & room service cheeseburgers. This is how me and Reb pre-game for the hotel’s opening party.

 

F & B:

Celebrated London chef Jason Atherton helms The Clocktower restaurant, named for the hotel’s historic building, on the second floor. With mahogany wainscoting on the walls and molded Venetian plaster ceilings, the dining room’s elegance matches the decidedly fine dining menu. The sourdough roll with fresh clotted cream at the start of the meal is one of the best bites of food I’ve ever had. With four distinctive color-coded rooms, the restaurant also has a bar and billiard room. Downstairs, the lobby is a multi-faceted, inspired space for cocktails and schmoozing.

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The elegant dining room at Clocktower.

 

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Each of the restaurant’s dining rooms featured unique chandeliers.

 

The Specs:

273 rooms
1 restaurant
Lobby bar
Gym and spa
Free WiFi
Rates from about $625

Billiards

The billiard room. Who wants to break?

 

The Verdict:

I’m sold. I really love what The EDITION brand stands for. It’s modern, sexy and elegant.

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The EDITION’s bathrobes are gossamer soft and so are all the bath towels. So luxurious!

 

Shayne’s Checklist:

Bathrobe: Yes. So soft, plush and luxurious. Amongst the best in the biz.

Conditioner: Yes. A proprietary bath product by Le Labo.

Bed Comfort Level: 4 Stars (out of 5).

This destination gets Shayne’s “I’d like to live here for at least one month” seal of approval. Obvi! Prime location in my favorite city.

Looking for a quick getaway to Key West? Now until mid-October is considered the off season, making it the perfect time to snag rock bottom hotel rates, get out on the water (go with my peeps at Fury!) and enjoy the island sans the crowds. There’s also a slew of brand new Key West hotels to check out, plus I’ve included one of my favorite classics below.

The New

The Marker Waterfront Resort

A guest room at The Marker.

A guest room at The Marker. Photo courtesy The Marker.

 

A stone’s throw from the historic seaport and in the heart of Old Town, The Marker hotel opened in December 2014 as the first new hotel build in Key West since 1994. Owner Pritam Singh, the developer behind Truman Annex and the Key West Golf Club, has taken great care to ensure that The Marker blends seamlessly into its tropical, historic surroundings.  With 96 guest rooms, a courtyard pool and Cero Bodega restaurant, it embodies Old Key West in new lux digs. $$$.

The Gates

Bonus: The Gates is dog friendly!

Bonus: The Gates is dog friendly!

 

Appropriately named The Gates, this is the first hotel to greet you once you turn onto the island from US 1. The New Town hotel opened April 2015. While it’s a 15-minute hike to the attractions of Old Town, shuttle service will soon be provided to guests. They’re aiming to create a destination resort with island-chic rooms, a pool, cigar bar, food truck and weekly parties courting locals. $$.

NYAH

Conch cottage & beach cruiser at NYAH.

Conch cottage & beach cruiser at NYAH.

 

Short for Not Your Average Hotel, this wallet-friendly guesthouse is tucked away behind a charming conch cottage in Old Town. Perfect for those traveling in large groups, each of NYAH’s 36 unique rooms can accommodate up to six people comfortably thanks to flexible configurations. The rooms are bare bones and clean, while also offering a courtyard pool, complimentary Continental breakfast and happy hour in a setting that couldn’t be more Key West. $$.

The Classic

Casa Marina

The Casa Marina boasts one of the best pools on the island.

The Casa Marina boasts one of the best pools on the island. Photo courtesy Casa Marina.

 

Conceived by oil tycoon Henry Flagler who built the Overseas Railroad originally connecting Key West to mainland Florida, the 311-room Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is a historic South Florida gem. The lavish Mediterranean Revival property situated on the Atlantic Ocean is fully updated with an elegant poolscape, private beach and waterfront dining. $$$. 

A version of this story originally appeared on Miami.com.

The Porch and The Other Side. Photo by Nick Doll.

The Porch and The Other Side. Photo by Nick Doll.

 

There’s a classic way of doing Key West. It involves dinner at Louie’s Backyard, drinks and live music at Sloppy Joe’s, photo ops at the Southernmost Buoy, a stop at the Hemingway House, spotting Key West chickens and sunset at Mallory Square. And, of course, plenty of key lime pie, conch fritters and margaritas.

But a younger, hipper Key West has emerged thanks to a few longtime locals turned entrepreneurs and restaurateurs who are shaping the culture of the island and swiftly solidifying new classics.

Chris Shultz, originally from Minneapolis, moved to Key West in 1999 after college in Boston and a stint in Los Angeles. In 2003, he co-authored the book Quit Your Job & Move to Key West (now in its 8th edition). A cult classic still sold in gift shops today, it’s a comedic take on the magnetic draw of this bohemian, anything-goes island mixed with a dose of practical advice that’s tempted many a daydreaming tourist.

Owner Chris Shultz at The Porch. Phot by Livi Lavery.

Owner Chris Shultz at The Porch. Phot by Livi Lavery.

 

And that’s how many local’s stories go: “I came here on vacation, fell in love with the place, and never left.”

“You really just can’t beat your daily life here,” says Shultz. “You probably have the best collection of people from all over the place that get along that you could ever have.”

Craft Beer on The Porch

In July 2010, after a decade as a writer, publisher and irreverent tastemaker (after all, he threw the first TuTu Tuesday party during October’s Fantasy Fest in 2009, now one of the local’s most anticipated events), Shultz opened his first brick and mortar establishment, The Porch (429 Caroline St.; 305-517-6358), with business partner Keith St. Peter. A bar dedicated to craft beers and fine wines inside a historic sea foam green Victorian mansion overlooking Duval, the property’s large front porch and garden begs to entertain.

“I always wanted to own a bar. My grandparents owned a bar,” says Shultz. “And I felt like something was missing on the island. There wasn’t really a place with a focus on good beer, good wine, good music and a good atmosphere. We wanted to make a place that we liked to hang out in.”

With 18 beers rotating through the taps, 50 more in bottles and about 40 wines, The Porch became an instant hit catering to an eclectic mix of locals—from fishermen to performance artists to off duty bartenders—who swing by to snag a spot on the porch, sip on suds and watch the tourists stream by. And soon, savvy tourists joined the party, too.

Since then, Shultz, 39, has become an island mogul, following up The Porch with 2 Cents restaurant in January 2013, The Other Side cocktail bar in May 2014 and the forthcoming Waterfront Brewery set to open April 2015 inside the old Waterfront Market at the historic seaport.

“I can’t help myself,” he laughs.

In each new endeavor, the formula has been the same: fill a void on the island and get the local’s stamp of approval.

A Gastropub is Born

At 2 Cents (416 Appelrouth Ln.; 305-414-8626), a creative gastropub with steampunk light fixtures and intergalactic mural art, tucked away on a quiet lane off Duval, Shultz and St. Peter partnered with Chris Otten, chef-owner of the popular organic burrito stand Bad Boy Burrito.

The at 2 Cents. Photo by Michael Marrero.

The patio at 2 Cents. Photo by Michael Marrero.

 

“We wanted to do pub fare at an elevated level,” Shultz says. “It’s high end food in a comfortable place where we try to use the freshest, highest grade, best ingredients possible.”

The menu is modern and constantly changing, executed by chef de cuisine Brad Schwing. Influences range from Spanish tapas to Southern comfort, featuring fresh caught fish and local ingredients in a mix and match of small and large plates. Think, playful, yet gourmet spins on classic bar food, like nachos with duck confit, chicken wings marinated in sweet chili sauce, brioche grilled cheese with tomato-basil jam and next-level jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon.

A Proper Cocktail Bar

The Other Side (429 Caroline St.; 305-849-0930) was the next project to launch. The name is fitting as it’s located on the other side of The Porch in the same historic building. You enter a grand foyer where on one side, a door opens to the sudsy conviviality of The Porch and on the other side, a door leads to, well, The Other Side, a refined cocktail bar with a speakeasy-library vibe decorated with tufted leather chairs, a mounted jackalope’s head and original photography by Michael Marrero.

The beauty is, no matter what your party is in the mood for—beer, cocktails, wine—you can head to either bar and then meet outside to drink together on the porch.

Head bartender Tim Rabior at The Other Side.

Head bartender Tim Rabior at The Other Side. Photo by Nick Doll.

 

Under the guidance of head bartender Tim Rabior, The Other Side is Key West’s first bar truly devoted to classic and creative cocktailing with attention to spirits, fresh fruit and herbs. Classics range from a Hemingway Daiquiri to Champagne Cocktail No. 2, and creative concoctions include the Smokin’ Piña made with Cutty Sark Scotch, grilled pineapple, basil and sugar. There’s a different featured cocktail every night or you can tell the bartender what you like and he’ll whip up something special just for you.

Craft Brewery On the Horizon

Along with business partners Joe Walsh and George Esdensen, Shultz is opening the long-awaited Waterfront Brewery (201 William St.). Located in the iconic, and enormous, Waterfront Market covered in a Wyland mural, The Waterfront Brewery is one of the island’s most ambitious projects to date.

Brewskies in Key West. Photo by Nick Doll.

Brewskies in Key West. Photo by Nick Doll.

 

“It’s a huge weird space,” Shultz says of the former grocery store that’s stood vacant for the last five years. The brewery will feature a 2,500 square-foot tasting room featuring live music on an outdoor deck, as well as two restaurant concepts: fine dining upstairs and laidback pub downstairs.

They’ve recruited Justin Stine of Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing as head brewer to create Key West micro-suds like the Crazy Lady Honey Blonde and Key Lime Witness using honey, key lime, star fruit and mango amongst other locally sourced ingredients.

Legal Rum Running

Craft beer isn’t the only locally distilled libation in town. In December 2014, Paul Menta, longtime chef, professional kiteboarder and former owner of the still popular Cuban Coffee Queen and Amigo’s Tortilla Bar, went out on a limb to create the island’s first legal rum distillery inside an old Coca-Cola bottle factory. With seven year-round rum varieties, 16 seasonal and some aged inside an American oak barrel, soaked in the ocean for salty local flavor, the distillery and tasting room is open to visitors daily.

Paul Menta with his salt-soaked barrel of rum. Photo by Rick Iossi.

Paul Menta with his salt-soaked barrel of rum. Photo by Rick Iossi.

 

Key West Legal Rum (105 Simonton St.; 305-294-1441) is served at bars throughout the island. “We can’t keep Sloppy Joe’s stocked,” Menta says of the high demand. New hotels, like The Marker and The Gates, are also putting his rum front and center in welcome cocktails and bar menus.

Key West has remained an attractive destination over the years because of its people, a free-spirited and creative crew. And this new class of movers and shakers is honoring that history. “I like providing a platform for people to do their talents,” Shultz says, referring to his team of chefs, bartenders and business partners. “They make me look good.” And the whole island is better off because of it.

A version of this story originally appeared in The Miami Herald’s Tropical Life section, p. E1.

Bankie Banx's Dune Preserve.

Bankie Banx’s Dune Preserve beach bar.

 

Long a sanctuary for celebrities in search of an under-the-radar retreat, Anguilla is also an up-and-coming foodie destination for both authentic West Indian cuisine and elevated organic fare. However, its reggae roots run deep with the annual Moon Splash reggae festival. Read on for eight spots to enjoy Anguilla’s sublime food and night life.

1. Blanchards 

Situated in a cozy cottage on Meads Bay beneath a pink facade and teal shutters, Blanchards is run by an American ex-pat couple and has been a go-to spot for fresh Caribbean fare and warm hospitality for 20 years. Start with the Caribbean sampler and feast on fresh grilled mahi, jerk chicken and crayfish (similar to lobster and equally abundant on the island and its menus).

The hydroponic farm at CuisinArt.

The hydroponic farm at CuisinArt.

 

2. CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa

For the inquisitive foodie, arrange a tour of CuisinArt’s hydroponic farm where they grow 44 varieties of lettuce, tomatoes and herbs in a greenhouse through water recirculation and drip irrigation, allowing for farm fresh crops year round. Afterwards, have lunch made of the farm’s fresh ingredients poolside at Café Med.

All about that lobster BBQ and rum punch at Sandy Island.

All about that lobster BBQ and rum punch at Sandy Island.

 

3. Sandy Island

Charter a boat with Shoal Bay Scuba or take the sea shuttle Happiness ($10 per person roundtrip) from Sandy Ground Beach two miles offshore to the remote, pink sand beaches of Sandy Island. Spend the day snorkeling, frolicking in the shallow water and refueling with a Caribbean BBQ party. Menu highlights include fresh grilled lobster with coconut and ginger and rum punch.

The legendary Bankie Banx performing at Dune Preserve.

The legendary Bankie Banx performing at Dune Preserve.

 

4. Bankie Banx’s Dune Preserve

Legendary Anguillian reggae artist Bankie Banx has his own delightfully ramshackle beach bar on Rendezvous Bay where he performs live weekly. The governor of Anguilla is a big fan and can often be found at a private table enjoying his music.

Lobster quesadillas at Hungry's.

Lobster quesadillas at Hungry’s.

 

5. Hungry’s Food Van 

Check out Anguilla’s thriving food truck scene at Hungry’s. Owned by former executive chef at Cap Juluca, the van dishes up fresh quesadillas stuffed with rice, peas and carrots and your choice of filling (the lobster is superb), as well as soups and salads.

Chicken BBQ at Ken's.

Chicken BBQ at Ken’s.

 

6. Ken’s BBQ 

Ken’s BBQ (no website) is a roadside food stand in The Valley loved by locals across the island, serving barbecue pork ribs and chicken made from livestock raised on his own farm. Hours vary, consult your concierge.

Pumphouse

7. The Pumphouse 

Serving elevated Caribbean cuisine in a funky setting by the old salt ponds in Sandy Ground, come to The Pumphouse for dinner and stay for live music nightly.

8. Tasty’s

For a true taste of what the locals eat, head to Tasty’s for conch creole with coconut dumplings, curried goat stew, grilled crayfish, pumpkin soup and johnny cakes.

A version of this story originally appeared on Miami.com.

Stairway to heaven at Viceroy Anguilla.

Stairway to heaven at Viceroy Anguilla.

 

There’s a Spanish proverb that goes, “How wonderful to do nothing, and then rest.” It’s found printed on t-shirts at Ernie’s Bar, a humble beach shack on Anguilla’s Shoal Bay, a stretch of powder white sand and endless turquoise-teal water, once named the number one beach in the world by Travel Channel. It’s a sentiment that’s easy to settle into on this Caribbean island of 35 square-miles with a population of 15,000. A British territory and northernmost Leeward Island, Anguilla’s a mere three hour flight from Miami and then 20-minute ferry from St. Martin/St. Maarten.

Anguilla’s long been a sanctuary for celebrities in search of under the radar retreats (it’s where Brad and Jen had their infamous breakup walk on the beach) and mere mortals desperate for rest and relaxation in style. Unblemished by cruise ships, the island’s slight removal from the beaten path makes just the difference. Days are spent simply gazing into the horizon while lounging by an infinity pool perched precariously atop a craggy cliff overlooking the sea, a surprisingly tiring exercise. But one happily succumbs to the languorous pace that seems finely attuned to the gravitational pull of the moon’s tides and the sunset. The big questions of the day are: Beach or pool? Rosé or rum punch? Kindle or hardback? Lunch on my lounge chair or at the poolside café?

With luxurious resorts veering towards the sublime, where you stay in Anguilla makes all the difference. These four hotels are leading the pack with aesthetically unique offerings for discerning travelers of varying tastes.

The Tropical Eclectic: Malliouhana

The dreamy, tiered infinity pools at Malliouhana.

The dreamy, tiered infinity pools at Malliouhana.

 

Malliouhana, Anguilla’s original luxury resort, which opened in 1984, reemerged in November 2014 after a three-year closure and 18-month restoration by Auberge Resorts. The result is a dazzlingly transporting 55-room boutique hotel positioned on 25 acres of beachfront bluff. Upon arrival, the hotel’s white box façade with high-arched entryways and chic striped awnings feels more Beverly Hills than Caribbean–that is, until you see the ocean shimmering through the tiered, open air lobby.

Inside, your senses are delighted with a wall adorned floor to ceiling with vintage dive helmets. A mirrored mosaic floor reflects celadon walls and Caribbean curio, while the adjacent Sunset Lounge features paintings by Haitian artist Jasmin Joseph depicting the Garden of Eden. Outside, tiered infinity pools are adorned with yellow ruffled umbrellas. And once you’ve pulled up a cushioned chair at the cliffside restaurant overlooking Bobbing Cove Beach, you’re firmly situated inside an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel on the Cote d’Azur.

Lobster and conch pizza at Malliouhana's cliffside restaurant.

Lobster and conch pizza at Malliouhana’s cliffside restaurant.

 

The hotel is nothing short of spectacular, and this extends to the cuisine helmed by Executive Chef Jeremy Bearman, formerly of New York City’s five-time Michelin-starred restaurant Rouge Tomate. Think, elevated Caribbean fare and a farm-to-table sensibility with entrees like lobster and conch pizza, tamarind-glazed duck with cornbread and coconut butter, and for dessert light-as-air, house-made coconut yogurt served with tropical fruit. Rates from $1,042 per night. 

The Modernist: Viceroy

Sunsets at Viceroy's Sunset Lounge.

Sunsets at Viceroy’s Sunset Lounge.

 

The Viceroy is a true stunner from the moment you set foot inside the lobby. All right angles in a pastiche of natural grey- and sand-toned marble, it opens up to the dramatic Sunset Lounge set atop a cliff, framing a panoramic vista of Meads and Barnes Bays. An adjacent infinity pool—the first of three pools on the resort—is nearby, lined in black pebble for effect. The architectural concept by Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo is modern minimalism rising from the organic landscape, serving to highlight its natural beauty.

Purveyor of style Kelly Wearstler designed the hotel’s interiors with surreal objets d’art like petrified wood tables, chairs carved of natural wood with larger than life Renaissance-style profiles sculpted into the backs and, at Aleta restaurant, gilded fish lining the walls.

Cliffside views of the sublime, sprawling resort.

Cliffside views of the sublime, sprawling resort.

 

The 35-acre resort, built in 2009, houses 166 serene accommodations with private villas, townhomes and suites with up to three bedrooms. The rooms, bathrooms and sundecks are extra large in Italian travertine marble with private outdoor soaking pools. From sushi at Sunset Lounge to fine dining and a lavish buffet breakfast at Cobà, there are five bars and restaurants in all, making never leaving the resort tempting, and true relaxation all the more achievable. Rates from $800 per night.

Secluded Serenity: Ce Blue

The chillaxation deck at Ce Blue.

The chillaxation deck at Ce Blue.

 

For those in search of the privacy of a condo with the services of a boutique resort, Ce Blue is the answer. Just a year old, situated high in the lush green hills of Crocus Bay, Ce Blue offers eight two-story private villas of up to five oceanfront bedrooms with vaulted ceilings and a softly modern, organic design scheme. Each room is complete with a stunning en suite master bath featuring an open shower and egg-shaped soaking tub, some with impressive views of the bay, especially at sunset.

Sunset bath time!

Sunset bath time!

 

Ideal for a group of friends or a family reunion, each 8,000-square-foot villa boasts a 5,000-square-foot wooden deck with pool and outdoor shower, and dizzyingly sweeping views of the sea. Accommodations come standard with gourmet kitchen and dining room, an outdoor barbecue, washer/dryer and living room with entertainment center.

Ce Blue has an onsite restaurant and bar popular with locals that specializes in gourmet pizza, as well as room service and the option to arrange for an in-villa private chef. While there’s no direct beach access, a short walk down a steep road leads to Crocus Bay beach with watersports and two more restaurants where you can charge meals to your room. Rates from $2,400-$3,600 per night (based on four night minimum stay).

Moorish Marvel: Cap Juluca

Outrageous aquamarine waters at Cap Juluca.

Outrageous aquamarine waters at Cap Juluca.

 

Cap Juluca, the grand dame of Anguilla’s resorts, opened in 1988 and is situated on 179-acres of Maundays Bay, an intimate, white-sand crescent with impossibly pale blue water. Its design is inspired by Greco-Moorish architecture, which can feel more novelty than luxury, yet there’s something decidedly romantic about the place. Its 15 white stucco villas with domed roofs, terracotta tile floors and arched doorways contain 70 guestrooms.

The brand new 3,290 square-foot, two-bedroom Jonquil Suite is a habitation that begs to be luxuriated in. With ample living space, courtyards, a full kitchen and bathrooms with indoor/outdoor showers and soaking tubs, the suite also boasts an ocean-facing front yard with direct beach access, private infinity pool and Jacuzzi. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into your home away from home in Anguilla, ready to entertain. While the Jonquil Suite is impressive, the resort’s standard rooms and suites aren’t quite at the same level of modern luxury, even after a recent multi-million dollar update.

Views from the Jonquil Suite.

Views from the Jonquil Suite.

 

With four dining venues, Pimms is the resort’s high end restaurant featuring a fusion of Caribbean and European flavors with pristine views of Maundays Bay. The adjacent Spice Moroccan Lounge is newly opened in a plush, exotic setting. It’s the perfect place to muster up some energy for a drink with live music after a day at the beach, and then of course, rest and do nothing. Rates from $1,397 per night.

Bye now!

Bye now!

 

Getting There: Nonstop flights from MIA – SXM on American Airlines, three hours long, from $640 round trip. Fly into St. Martin (SXM) and arrange a 20-minute ferry charter to Anguilla at the adjacent terminal with companies like Calypso Charters ($65-$85 per adult one way). Another option is to take a taxi 10 minutes to St. Martin’s Marigot ferry terminal to catch the public ferry for $15 per adult. Charter flights are also available. Departure taxes and fees apply.

A version of this story originally appeared on Miami.com.

FacadeAngle

Look up. The iconic facade at the Plaza Athénée.

 

140 Character Overview:

Opulence to the maximus at iconic Parisian luxury hotel on Champs-Élysées. Eyefuls of Eiffel Tower, glitzy dining by Ducasse, spa by Dior.

Facade

Ooh la lah. J’adore!

 

Eiffel1

Ca va Tour d’Eiffel?

The Vibe:

The Plaza Athénée is nothing short of spectacular. It’s a luxurious, glittering marvel with both Art Deco and classical design elements. In fact, rooms are designed in one of the two styles.

Restaurant

All that glitters at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant.

 

LobbyNew

The lobby has lavish classical and Art Deco flourishes.

 

ArtDecoSuite

This suite is designed in the Art Deco style.

 

ArtDecoBath

Love a fancy bathroom!

Eiffel2

More views of Monsieur Eiffel.

 

The Location:

One of the ritziest neighborhoods in Paris, the Plaza is situated between the Seine and the Champs-Élysées in the eighth arrondissement. You’re never far from a picture perfect view of the Tour de Eiffel. It’s on the same block as such iconic fashion houses as Dior, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Bottega Veneta on the avenue Montaigne. The entire neighborhood is a luxury shopping mecca. The hotel is within walking distance to the Arc de Triumph, the Grand Palais and the Tuileries.

ClassicalSuite

I loved the color scheme and design motif of the classical suite.

 

Piano

No luxury suite is complete without a baby grand piano in the salon.

 

ClassicalBed

Beautiful bedroom in the classical suite.

 

ClassicalDetail

All about those details!

 

ClassicalBath

Pretty bathtub. Rub a dub dub.

 

Eiffel3

Looking at you never gets old.

 

F & B:

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée is one of the finest restaurants in Paris set in a glittering white dining room with elaborate chrome booths and a ceiling swimming in crystal chandeliers. On my visit, we enjoyed specialty cocktails in the chic bar. There’s a seasonal restaurant set in a courtyard garden, as well as a relaxed destination for snacks.

LeBar

Le Bar at the Plaza.

 

The Specs:

208 rooms and suites
5 restaurants and a bar
Dior Institute Spa
Rates from $998

DiorSpa

Gotta love spa doors emblazoned with CD.

 

The Verdict:

It’s what dreams are made of for the rich of the rich. The place is stunningly spectacular offering one of the most classical Parisian experiences there is to be had.

DiorSelfie

Dior signature selfie.

 

Shayne’s Checklist:

Bathrobe: Yes.

Conditioner: Yes

Bed Comfort Level: n/a. I toured the hotel.

This destination gets Shayne’s “I’d like to live here for at least one month” seal of approval. Paris has my heart.

As Jimmy Buffett extols, “Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes.” If the dog days of Miami’s summer are getting you down, maybe it’s time to hop in the car and head south for a daytrip to the Florida Keys. While a drive to the end of the road in Key West is best reserved for an overnight trip, you can still get into a Keys state of mind (saltwater, conch fritters, key lime pie and all) with a daytrip as far south as Islamorada. Punch these points into your GPS and your wories will melt away as downtown’s high-rises shrink out of sight in your rear view mirror.

The entrance to Schnebly Redland Winery

The entrance to Schnebly Redland Winery

Stop 1: 10 a.m. Schnebly Redlands Winery & Miami Brewing Co., Homestead

Pay a visit to Miami’s tropical countryside, and the heartland where tomato fields and mango groves  provide the heart of the farm to table culinary movement. An hour’s drive from downtown, you’ll find long, one-lane country road surrounded by acres of farmland. The tempo slows down and the sights consist of flat green fields, lush sturdy palms, and a giant blue sky with cumulous clouds floating lazily in the upper strata.

Here, you’ll find Schnebly Redlands Winery, an only-in-Miami novelty that produces 22 varieties of wine from tropical fruits, like mangos, lychee, passion fruit, guava, starfruit, coconut and even avocado.

“It’s an escape from normal life—cell phones, traffic, noise pollution, cement,” says founder Peter Schnebly, a farmer and packager turned winemaker. In 2012, after eight years producing tropical wines, he added the Miami Brewing Co. to his portfolio. The craft brewery creates beers with a sense of place, like Big Rod Coconut Ale and Shark Bait Mango Wheat Ale.

Come for a tasting and tour ($7-$10) of the sprawling and lush Napa-meets-South-Florida facilities and stay for lunch at the newly opened RedLander restaurant onsite helmed by chef Dewey LoSasso.

The bar at Alabama Jacks. Photo courtesy of Alabama Jacks.

The bar at Alabama Jacks. Photo courtesy of Alabama Jacks.

 

Stop 2: 12 p.m. Alabama Jacks, Card Sound Road

As you depart the mainland, opt for the road less traveled—Card Sound Road, an alternate route to Key Largo. You’ll soon come across Alabama Jacks, a roadside, water front fish shack where boats tie up and locals while away the afternoon with a fried grouper sandwich and cold lagers. The atmosphere is a little bit country and a lot of Keys color with license plates nailed to the walls, lobster trap and dive buoys strung from the ceiling and the requisite blue marlin mounted above the bar. Stop here for a bite to eat with live music and a boisterous crowd. Don’t skip the conch fritters and smoked fish dip.

A loggerhead sea turtle at the reef.

A loggerhead sea turtle at the reef.

 

Stop 3: 3 p.m. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo

No trip to The Keys is complete without an excursion offshore. Discover some of the most unspoiled sections of the Florida Straits (the third largest barrier reef in the world) with a two and a half hour snorkel trip ($30 adults, $25 children, not inclusive of gear rental) at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The park extends three miles into the Atlantic and runs the length of the shore approximately 25 miles. You’ll learn about the delicate marine ecosystem and swim amidst a variety of coral formations, purple sea fans, yellowtail snapper and rainbow parrotfish. Keep your fingers crossed to spot an endangered loggerhead sea turtle, a stingray gliding along the sandy bottom or a pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins playing in the wake of your boat.

Trips depart six times daily and reservations are strongly recommended. Scuba and glass bottom boat excursions are also available, as well as boat rentals and kayak tours.

Surf and turf at the Green Turtle Inn. Photo courtesy of Green Turtle Inn.

Surf and turf at the Green Turtle Inn. Photo courtesy of Green Turtle Inn.

 

Stop 4: 6:30 p.m. Sid & Roxie’s Green Turtle Inn, Islamorada

Take the scenic Overseas Highway another 20 miles south to Islamorada and watch as the green trees of Key Largo’s hardwood hammocks give way to unobstructed views of pale blue salt marshes. The aquamarine water of The Keys all but surrounds you. If you thought you escaped Art Deco kitsch in South Beach, think again as the neon glowing sign of Sid & Roxie’s Green Turtle Inn lures you in from the road for dinner. It was established in 1947 when the first motorists began making their way down to The Keys.

Today, while it’s no longer an inn to spend the night, the café is still open and imbued with Old Florida charm. While the fare and the vibe is casual, the dinner menu offers sophisticated dishes, like fresh caught fish “a la Roxie” with jumbo lump crab, tomato, onion and beurre blanc or “a la Sid” with Florida spiny lobster, orange ginger, vanilla and butter sauce. This is also your chance to end the day with a sweet and tart slice of key lime pie made with a macadamia nut crust.

A view of the beach at the Post Card Inn. Photo courtesy of Post Card Inn.

A view of the beach at the Post Card Inn. Photo courtesy of Post Card Inn.

 

Stay the Night Option: Post Card Inn Beach Resort & Marina at Holiday Isle, Islamorada

You could turn around after Sid & Roxie’s. But if you’re not in the mood for a two hour drive back to Miami, check into the Post Card Inn Beach Resort & Marina at Holiday Isle a few miles up the road. The sprawling property features an onsite restaurant, tiki bar, pool, beach and marina, and the rooms and common spaces are surprisingly hip and updated with an eclectic beach house aesthetic. You could easily while away the next morning there with a margarita in hand gazing at the Atlantic with whatever Buffett song happens to pop in your head.

A version of this story originally appeared in The Miami Herald’s Tropical Life section, p. E1.