Six of the hottest new hotels to check out—and into— for April

Sunnier times are ahead, and what better way to welcome spring (and look forward to summer) than dreaming up your next holiday.

Fortunately, we’ve sought out some of the hottest new hotels to kickstart your planning – from a ruggedly handsome Aegean retreat to a reimagined Roman palace.

 

Nomad Mykonos

MYKONOS, GREECE

A hillside hideout far from the Mykonos crowds, this Cycladic sanctuary promises soothing whitewashed rooms, private pools and hot tubs, and sun-drenched terraces with Aegean views.

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Palazzo Talìa

ROME, ITALY

A short stroll from the iconic Piazza di Spagna and Trevi Fountain, this muse-inspired palazzo is divinely decorated inside and out and boasts a heavenly spa with an experiential pool.

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Norman Hotel

PARIS, FRANCE

Named after American graphic artist Norman Ives, the abstract interiors and jazzy atmosphere hits all the right notes – and some rooms have views of the Eiffel Tower rising above the rooftops.

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Capitolo Riviera

GENOA, ITALY

Sandwiched between sublime gardens and the Ligurian shoreline, every room and suite at this glitzy Riviera retreat has sparkling sea views – with the treasures of Portofino and Cinque Terre within easy reach.

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Lanson Place Causeway Bay

HONG KONG, HONG KONG SAR

Set within the buzz of Hong Kong’s iconic Causeway Bay, Lanson Place feels a world apart, with an in-room curated pillow menu, calming spa music and soothing essential oils to help you unwind.

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Todos Santos Boutique Hotel

TODOS SANTOS, MEXICO

Nestled in the old town of a Mexican ‘Pueblo Mágico’, a Spanish countess once lived within these mural-adorned walls. Now, there’s a rooftop terrace to kick back on, and plunge pools to cool off in.

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Meet the fifth generation Hawaiian family who are changing chocolate

“I’d like to introduce you to a dear friend of mine. He’s very intelligent, he’s highly evolved, he’s handsome and delicious and very shy,” tour guide Alexandria Webster said mischievously.

“Friends, this is Theo.”

Partially expecting an eligible bachelor to come sauntering around the foliage of the 46-acre Lydgate Farms in Kapaa, Kaua’i, we quickly learn that Theo is short for Theobroma cacao. Alas, not a heartthrob, but a tropical evergreen tree known for its seeds that are used to produce cocoa powder and chocolate, whose scientific name means ‘food of the gods’ in Greek.

“This mood-elevating food was discovered by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans and back then they weren’t nibbling on Hershey,” she says. “They were consuming chocolate as a ceremonial health chocolate tonic beverage and it was fermented cocoa beans with some spices like cinnamon, cardamon, vanilla bean and some hot chilli peppers. If you were drinking it you were likely a monarch or a priest because you were consuming money. This is what they would trade as their currency.”

A superfood with super qualities

On a mission to change the way people think about chocolate, Webster says many visitors who come to the farm don’t know that chocolate is a fruit.

“It’s not just a fruit, it’s a superfood. Cacao is loaded with vitamins, trace minerals, hundreds of them, it’s one of the highest whole food sources of antioxidants that you can consume. It contains over forty mood-elevating properties,” she said. 

Over the centuries, this beverage was used to treat anemia, mental fatigue, tuberculosis, fever, gout, kidney stones, and even poor sexual appetite. While most of the chocolate of today no longer has health benefits, top-of-the line fine chocolates do.

“It only takes one ounce of quality chocolate a day to reap the benefits of heart health, brain health,” she says. “It’s great for your blood circulation, it’s going to open up your vessels, it’s going to improve your mood, your alertness because of the theobromine in chocolate. So, if you eat chocolate every day, you will not only be happier, you’re going to die a little less. It’s shown to lower all-cause mortality.”

Regenerative, generational farming

Lydgate Farms is run by Will Lydgate, whose family legacy on Kaua’i can be traced back across five generations. “My great-grandfather William arrived in 1865 with a dream to help build the future of the Hawaiian Kingdom,” he says. “[I’ve] dedicated myself to building a team that grows the best cacao the world has ever tasted.”

Embodying the principle of Mālama ‘Āina, a Hawaiian word that means to care for and honour the land for future generations, sustainability is at the forefront of his efforts. In addition to producing single-estate chocolate and treats like chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, Lydgate Farms also offers vanilla beans and small-batched palm blossom honey. 

“This beautiful tropical diverse farm is cultivated in a regenerative fashion, meaning we’re reinvesting in the soil for generations to come,” says Webster, adding that honey tasting is now part of the tour. “Cacao is an equatorial fruit — it only grows about 20° of the equator. That actually makes Hawai’i the only place in the continental US that can commercially grow chocolate.”

The farm has been recognized multiple times for producing some of the best chocolate in the world at international competitions. “Our farm represents the United States of America at the Cocoa of Excellence Awards in Paris. This is a world-wide chocolate competition every two years. Our humble farm is like the Jamaican bobsled team of the chocolate world, the underdogs,” she says, referencing the cult-favourite movie Cool Runnings. “Forty-six acres is a drop in the bucket compared to Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, they have thousands of acres and they’ve been doing it way longer than us. Small but mighty, we are now three consecutive runnings of the 50 best tasting chocolates in the whole world.”

From bean to bar

Based solely on the terroir of the farm, chocolate bars can elicit different flavour profiles from fruits to earthy tones. While there are only 14 original families of cacao, they cross pollinate to create thousands of varietals and result in the various coloured pods that range from yellow to vibrant red.

“Chocolate that’s fermented, that has distinctive flavour, that is packed with health benefits, and is not confectionery — meaning it’s heavily diluted with milk and sugar — didn’t even exist until 1997,” she says. “Isn’t that wild? It hasn’t been that long. People are just starting to learn about the art and the science that goes into making fine chocolate. Because Hawai’i is the only state where it can be commercially grown, we’re trying to transform Kaua’i into the Napa Valley of the chocolate world.”

At US$18 a pop, a chocolate bar from Lydgate Farms comes with a heftier price tag than your typical store-bought Cadbury bar. But when you consider the process involved, it should be a lot steeper. “If I crack this seed open and plant a seed today, it takes the tree at least four to five years to start bearing mature fruit. At that age, cocoa blossoms will start to bloom. They are so small that they are not pollinated by bees. They’re pollinated by the midge, which is a type of gnat,” she says. “Then it takes six to eight months for them to mature. A cacao tree can live 50 to 100 years.”

When it’s all said and done, she said the journey from bean to bar takes six to seven years. “Chocolate has more intricacies, more terroir, more flavour markers than wine,” she says. 

This story first appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of OFFSHORE. To read the full story, click here

 

A glamping retreat with a country store just opened in Texas

Outdoorsy Hill Country is a new luxury glamping retreat set in Hill Country, Texas.

Surrounded by rolling hills, the retreat, set on 32 acres, offers guests access to 22 all-season canvas glamping tents, a cafe and bar, a country store, an events lodge and a network of trails through nearby Fredericksburg. 

A large spring-fed watering hole is a centerpiece of the property, and offers a perfect spot for summer paddleboarding and wildlife spotting. Across the property, live oaks provide shade for live music performances and an outdoor bar.

Outdoorsy Hill Country combines state-of-the-art safari tents with locally sourced materials such as Texas limestone, creating a natural connection between the structures and the land. Outdoor amenities for each tent include wrap-around panoramic decks, and fire pits providing opportunities for guests to gather and relax for evening drinks and outdoor dining.

 

Spacious glamping tents

Spacious glamping tents, sleeping two or four, are sighted on the property to maximize seclusion, and blend seamlessly into the natural landscape. The tents feature a king-size bed, twin and trundle beds with linens, plush robes, and modern furnishings.

The retreat’s tents are also climate-controlled to ensure a comfortable stay year-round. Private ensuite bathrooms feature rain showers and premium bath products from San Saba Soap Company. A fully equipped kitchenette and stocked mini-bar give guests the chance to grill outdoors or mix a cocktail featuring local Garrison Brothers bourbon.

 

The Cafe will offer guests a seasonal menu of light eats featuring local produce served on its deck with panoramic views of the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park. Guests can start the day at the cafe by enjoying fresh Merit coffee, juices, smoothies, and grab-and-go breakfast options. The day winds down with craft cocktails and a curated selection of local wines from Crown Hill Winery and Pedernales Cellars and cold beers from Real Ale Brewing.

A country store will ensure guests have all the provisions guests need for their stay as well as hosting pop-up retail experiences from local brands.

Outdoorsy Hill Country is now accepting reservations. 

For more information, visit outdoorsy.com/hillcountry. 

This luxury tour operator just added Africa to its travel portfolio

Classic Vacations, a global luxury travel company, is expanding its portfolio to include luxury offerings on a new continent: Africa.

Classic’s Africa portfolio launches with a range of carefully crafted itineraries designed to highlight southern Africa’s most iconic destinations and hidden gems. Whether travellers are seeking adventure in the wilderness, cultural immersion in vibrant cities, or just relaxation, there will be a tour to suit every taste and interest.

“Our diverse product offerings now span from city experiences in iconic destinations such as Cape TownJohannesburg, Livingstone, and Victoria Falls to unforgettable safari adventures in Kruger National Park, BotswanaZambia, and Zimbabwe. At Classic, we pride ourselves on curating exceptional experiences, and our newest additions promise to deliver even more to immerse travelers in the beauty and excitement that this magnificent region offers,” said Joelle Apilado, vice-president of product, Classic Vacations.

Africa offers a wealth of unique experiences that our customers are asking for. Add that to our preferred luxury accommodations and curated VIP service, and travelers are guaranteed to create memories that last a lifetime,” she concluded.

To learn more about Classic Vacations and its new Africa trips, visit www.classicvacations.com.

Here’s what it’s like diving with whale sharks in La Paz, Mexico

As the boat skimmed across the water, a massive shadow rose from the depths below.

“Shark! Shark!” Cristian yelled, and cut the engine.

Moments later, an ominous, black dorsal fin sliced through the surface. Seated on the edge of the boat, I fumbled for my mouthpiece and adjusted my snorkel mask. Then, taking a final shaky breath, I jumped.

At first, I saw nothing. On an overcast day in La Paz, Mexico, even at the surface the water was as cloudy as the sky above. The murkiness limited my visibility to a mere two feet. 

But suddenly, the light shifted. And then I saw it.

Face to fin with the world's biggest fish

Like something out of a horror flick, in a matter of seconds, I was face to face with the largest fish in the world. Despite my love of the ocean, I have an irrevocable fear of deep water and everything that lurks below.

Growing up and spending my summers in Muskoka, even locking eyes with a large-mouthed bass or a Northern pike was enough to send me flailing wildly back to shore. For that reason alone, I’d never scuba dived or snorkelled. And on rare occasions when I ventured past my hips for a swim, I’d pictured this moment one thousand times; a lone, vicious shark appearing from the deep and ripping me to bloody shreds.

Underwater, time seemed to slow down while my heartbeat sped up. Frozen, I watched through my mask as a whale shark approximately 30 feet in length glided past, close enough that I could touch it. I didn’t scream and fill my breathing tube with saltwater and drown in a watery grave like I always imagined. 

Instead, I silently kicked my flippers and swam side by side with this gentle, polka-dotted giant.

Whale sharks, despite their massive stature and wide mouths, are among the most docile of their species. Filter feeders, their cavernous mouths are lined with about 300 super tiny teeth, allowing for a generous scoop of plankton and small fish, which is their primary diet. They can live anywhere from 80 to 130 years, and have been around since the Jurassic period.

In La Paz, whale shark tours are available from October through May and can be arranged through a certified guide. Just two hours north of Los Cabos, La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur, a Mexican state on the Baja California peninsula. Whale shark season in this area typically runs from the winter into early spring, making this an excellent time for a chance encounter.

Just as quickly as it’d appeared, after two minutes of our synchronized swim, the shark picked up speed and continued on its own trajectory into the sea.

Popping up to the surface, I was met with cheers from the rest of my dive group.

“That was amazing! Go again?” Christian yelled.

“I think I’m good,” I yelled back, and started a speedy front crawl back to the boat—because after what I just witnessed, who knows what else might lie beneath?

Five of the prettiest European flower festivals to visit this spring

Europe is home to some of the world’s most beautiful flower festivals.

These festivals not only celebrate the ephemeral beauty of flowers but also serve as cultural showcases, enticing travelers from around the world to immerse themselves in the splendor of Europe’s floral heritage.

Here are our five top picks to attend this spring!

Maderia's Flower Festival

From May 2 – 26, 2024, the Madeira Flower Festival unfurls as an enchanting spectacle, creating unforgettable moments in the hearts of both locals and visitors alike. For more than four decades, Madeira has embraced the cherished Wall of Hope ceremony.

With more than a thousand participants of all ages, the festival’s focal point is the Flower Parade, transforming the streets of Funchal into a vibrant spectacle of music, colour, and floral fragrances.

A dazzling procession of floats, adorned with dancers and musicians donning creative and colourful costumes, captivates the senses of onlookers. The festival also features a variety of smaller events, such as flower concerts offering live music amidst lush flora, as well as markets where visitors can purchase plants and indulge in regional cuisine. A week later, the charm continues with the Madeira Auto Parade, a delightful fusion of classic cars and exquisite natural floral arrangements.

Holland's Tulip Festival

Holland’s Tulip Festival, perhaps the best-known flower festival of all, takes place this year from March 21 to May 12.

Held annually in various locations across the country, including the famous Keukenhof Gardens and surrounding bulb fields, the festival showcases the beauty and diversity of tulips in full bloom. Visitors can expect to be mesmerized by endless fields of vividly colored tulips stretching as far as the eye can see, creating a breathtaking panorama of natural beauty. From traditional tulip varieties to rare and exotic hybrids, the festival offers a kaleidoscope of floral displays that captivate the senses. In addition to admiring the flowers, attendees can immerse themselves in Dutch culture through live music, traditional dance performances, and local cuisine, making the Holland Tulip Festival a truly immersive and unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.

At Keukenhof Gardens, roughly a 40-minute drive from Amsterdam, you’ll experience the magic of more than seven million spring flowering bulbs blooming throughout May. From the famous tulips to other varietals like roses and chrysanthemums, Keukenhof remains one of the most popular spots to view spring flowers in the world.

Adult tickets to Keukenhof Gardens cost €19.50 and sell out quickly. However, there are plenty of other places to revel in the Netherlands’ spring colours.

From public parks and gardens, to museum grounds and of course, the abundance of tulip fields easily seen by train, the beauty of the country’s florals are on full display throughout the season.

The Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea Flower Show, held annually in London, England, is one of the world’s most prestigious floral events.

Organized by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), it attracts gardening enthusiasts, designers, and celebrities (including members of the Royal Family) from around the globe. Showcasing innovative garden designs, rare plants, and cutting-edge horticultural techniques, the Chelsea Flower Show is a celebration of creativity and expertise in the realm of gardening and landscaping.

From stunning show gardens to vibrant floral displays, the event offers visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty and diversity of the natural world.

This year’s flower show takes place from May 21 to May 24 in Chelsea, London. Guests can explore more than 300 exhibitors who are selling everything from artisanal products to spring bulbs and blooms.

Girona's Tiempo de Flores

From May 11 to May 19, visitors to Girona, Spain can enjoy the Girona flors de temps, a free flower festival that’s been held every year in Girona’s Barri Vell neighbourhood since 1954.

Roughly an hour’s drive from Barcelona, Girona is a northeastern Spanish city known for its well-preserved Old Quarter with fortifications dating back to the 1st century BC. 

Rather than a mass display of gardens, Girona’s entire city—especially the historic centre and the medieval Jewish quarter is dressed in flowers—from florals cascading down steps to monuments wrapped in petals upon petals.

Many buildings not typically open to the public also exhibit during this week. Girona’s citizens are known to get in on the fun, too, with many houses decorating their balconies and doorways with colourful flowers. 

Sicily's Infiorata di Noto

Sicily’s Infiorata di Noto is a dazzling spectacle that transforms the streets of Noto, a picturesque town in southeastern Sicily, into a canvas of floral artistry.

Held annually during late spring, this centuries-old tradition sees local artists and volunteers meticulously arranging thousands of vibrant flower petals into intricate and elaborate designs and “floral carpets” that span the cobblestone streets. 

Visitors flock to Noto from all over the world to witness the breathtaking beauty of the floral carpets, which often depict religious motifs, mythological scenes, and intricate geometric patterns.

Happening this year from May 18 to May 21, the festival, with its origins dating back to the 16th century, celebrates the end of winter and the arrival of spring, as well as the region’s rich cultural heritage. This year’s theme will pay homage to the musical works of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, who is best known for his operas.

 

Inside the Italian town that gave us Parmesan cheese

On a trip to the grocery store the other day, I found myself standing in the pasta aisle.

Stocked between the packages of linguine and penne, rigatoni and fusilli, and hovering above exorbitant rows of pre-mixed jars of pasta sauce, were an army of plastic shakers, crammed with Parmesan cheese.

Grabbing one, I rolled the container over and skimmed the ingredients: cellulose powder, potassium sorbate, calcium chloride, lipase, sorbic acid…the list went on, with a string of other words that sounded just as unnatural. 

Don’t get me wrong; I’d grown up eating the Parmesan cheese I was now side-eyeing. After ladling chunky Bolognese sauce onto a plate of steaming, buttered spaghetti noodles, the cheese was the next best part, even though sometimes you’d have to whack the bottom to get the clumpy pieces to break apart. After a few vigorous shakes with roughly a quarter of the container dispersed, the pasta was ready to eat.

I never gave much thought to this cheese, which for some reason, could sit on a shelf with dried goods and not go bad, sometimes for more than a year. But after visiting a local caseificio, (known locally as a classic dairy farm) in Parma, Italy, I had a new appreciation for one of North America’s favourite cheeses.

A 1,000 year-old secret

 Like the city’s name suggests, Parma is the birthplace of Parmigiano Reggiano, which is a protected designation of origin product, and somewhat of a national treasure to all of Italy.

For one thousand years, the production of Parmigiano Reggiano in Parma has followed an ancient recipe using just three simple ingredients: milk, salt and rennet—familiar and natural ingredients, I might add. With such simple origins, the final product is also lactose-free, high in protein and low in fat.

Originating in the Middle Ages, Benedictine monks were the first to start churning out large wheels of cheese with a long maturation period, using salt from the nearby Salsomaggiore salt mines and fresh cow’s milk.

Free from additives and preservatives, the longer the cheese aged, the more value it held.

According to the Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano, which was founded in 1901 in a bid to authenticate and differentiate between copycat Parmesan cheeses, the first evidence of cheese being used as commerce through trade dates back to a record of sale in the 12th century. From dowries to land agreements, cheese was used as a form of currency for hundreds of years.

The making of a perfect Parmesan

At Azienda Agricola Bertinelli, a producer of Parmigiano Reggiano, the process starts with roughly 550 litres of raw milk.

“Half of the milk is from the previous evening that is kept in large containers and half is from this morning,” said Giovanna Rosati, spokesperson for the  Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano. “In the morning, they push the container over the vat and the partially skimmed milk falls into the vat. They are not allowed to use a decreamer, because it would alter the milk. It’s a great example of a protected designation of origin (PDO) product, which is a product that owes its characteristics to its area of origin, where it is produced, not to some secret patented recipe,” she added.

From there, rennet (an enzyme found in the stomach of dairy cattle) is added and the milk begins to naturally curd. Next, it’s the job of the master cheesemaker to break the curd down and begin cooking the cheese. Using steam, the curds sink to the bottom of the vat and begin to form one giant mass. From start to finish, the process takes roughly 50 minutes, in which two twin wheels of cheese are created. 

But the work doesn’t stop there. After cooking, each cheese is wrapped in a traditional linen cloth, then placed in a traditional mould, which gives it its classic wheel shape. Next, it’s transferred to a casein plate, which is outfitted with a sequential alphanumeric code that enables the cheese to be traced all the way back to its origins.

Holding up the stencil, Rosati looks almost like a WWE wrestler with the prized championship belt. “This engraves a few key details on the rind of the cheese,” she explains, noting it includes the code of the dairy producer where the cheese was made, as well as the month and year of production.

To be classified as a true Parmigiano Reggiano product, the cheese must be aged for a minimum of 12 months and undergo a rigorous quality control check, which includes a series of tapping tests to check for air pockets or tears.

And as for the cheese that doesn’t pass the test?

It’s cut up and sold as regular Parmesan—not to say that it isn’t outstanding, but without that stamp of approval, it’s no Parmigiano Reggiano. 

This story first appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of OFFSHORE. To read the full version, click here to access a digital copy.

Stats say Canadians are ready to spend big on their next vacation

American Express Travel released its 2024 Global Travel Trends Report, highlighting the inspiration and trends driving global travel bookings this year.

The report reveals that Canadians rank as the second highest global market for anticipated average trip spend and are prioritizing spontaneous, bucket list, and once-in-a-lifetime vacations.

A summary of the Canadian findings from the American Express Travel 2024 Global Travel Trends Report are as follows:

  • Extended, bucket-list trips are on the rise: Canadians are looking to take longer trips compared to the global average, visiting multiple countries in a region or taking expedition/remote trips.
  • Canadians are willing to spend, unless a travel hack can help them save: Travellers are willing to foot the bill to get the most out of their trip but lean on travel hacks for cost savings and upgrades.
  • Spontaneity, solo travel and self-love drive travel desires: Canadians are leaving room for spontaneous exploration, exploring for self-fulfillment, and look to escape the chaos of daily life with solo trips.

What Canadian travellers want

One-in-three (33 per cent) Canadians planning on taking a trip in 2024 plan to travel for a major trip (e.g., bucket list trip, dream vacation) this year.

The most common types of trips Canadians consider to be a ‘dream vacation’ or major trip include multi-country tour within a region (66 per cent), expedition cruises (32 per cent), adventure travel (29 per cent), wellness retreats (23 per cent).

Among Canadians planning to take a trip to visit multiple countries in a region, 70 per cent plan on visiting Europe.

Canadians planning on taking a trip in 2024 are making the most of vacation time, with  one to two-week trips (45 per cent) and week-long trips (44 per cent) being most common, compared to week-long (47 per cent) and weekend trips (41 per cent) being most popular among global responses.

 

Canadians love savings

More than one third (36 per cent) of Canadians plan to spend more on travel compared to last year.

Globally, Canada ranks the second highest market for anticipated highest average spend for leisure trips at an average of $8,824 per trip.

Increased spend is balanced with a range of ‘travel hacks’ to save money on travel:

  • 44 per cent will travel during off-peak seasons.
  • 41 per cent will use credit card points to pay for flights/hotels.
  • 20 per cent will book through companies that offer complimentary hotel benefits (e.g. room upgrades, hotel credits)

Additionally, 85 per cent of Canadian adults agree that they are interested in finding flight deals so they can spend more on accommodations or upgrades.

The full American Express Travel 2024 Global Travel Trends Report can be downloaded here.

Luxury motels are trending—but should you book a stay?

Boutique motels, with their modest room count, old school hospitality and all-around affordability are an ideal choice for travellers from all walks of life.

A few years ago, if you’d told me that I would be willingly spending my weekend at a motel, I probably would have laughed.

If countless road trips across Canada—and one too many reruns of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror flick, Psycho, taught me anything— it was that these places, whose flickering neon signs beckoned slyly from the parking lot, offered cheap rates for a reason. 

It didn’t used to be like that, though. Motels as we know them started dotting North American roadways in the 1920s. Their origins were primitive at best, offering weary travellers a place to wash up and lay their heads. 

The term “motel” was actually coined from the words “motor hotel” because these accommodations primarily targeted travelling motorists. After the Second World War, motels spiked in popularity, as more attractive features, like outdoor pools or kitchenettes were introduced. But by the 1960s, as chain hotels emerged, motel bookings tanked. While hotel brands continued to reinvent themselves to cater to an ever-changing clientele, motels remained entrenched in the past. 

Now, decades later, motels have entered their renaissance era.

Motel mania

A far cry from the seedy, roadside fixtures with their often sleazy connotations featured in Hollywood cinema, boutique motels are having a moment. Often refurbished or completely gutted from the ground up, these new motels include thoughtful amenities, sought-after perks and contemporary decor that give select high-end hotels a run for their money.

From on-site wine bars and farm-to-table eateries, to full-fledged room service and generously stocked minibars, in-room spa treatments and on-site after-hours socials, these motels leave dingy stereotypes in the dust. 

And so, on a Saturday afternoon, I found myself checking into The Beach Motel. 

As a travel editor, I’ve lost count of the five-star hotels I’ve stayed at around the world. From private infinity plunge pools overlooking the Caribbean Sea, to signature scents in-room and even pillow menus, luxury properties are constantly coming up with new ways to make your stay feel extra special. But after stepping into the lobby and receiving a signature welcome drink and a hot towel during check-in, The Beach Motel immediately felt very on par to the level of hospitality I’ve come to expect from those high-end properties.

An elevated stay

Stepping into my suite, the elevated hospitality continued—there were chocolates on the bed, the heated floors had been turned on, and general manager, Amanda Deer, was eager to help answer any questions or attend to special requests.

Located on the shores of Southampton, one of Ontario’s best summer beach towns, the property is owned and operated by Dane and Samantha Buttenaar. With backgrounds in landscaping and real estate, the couple opened The Beach Motel in March 2022, successfully transforming the old Huron Haven motel that occupied the lot years before.

“I think since the shift to hotels, motels have been neglected and always been a ma and pa type establishment. Normally owner occupied, they were understaffed and not well kept,” said Dane Buttenaar, co-owner, The Beach Motel. “More recently, there’s been a shift from hotel accommodations to Airbnb and boutique properties that allow a more personal touch. We enjoyed embracing a guest-focused experience that allowed guests to not only have great service, but the chance to all interact and converse about travel and our beautiful town, Southampton.”

Home to 17 suites, each room is outfitted with either a king or queen-sized bed, a soaker tub and a rainfall shower and heated bathroom floors. Additional in-room, hotel-like amenities include a Nespresso machine stocked with a selection of coffees and teas, matching robes, a hair dryer, a mini fridge and even an ice bucket as well as wine and cocktail glasses. 

The Beach Motel also houses a spa that offers massages and facials, a two-person sauna and an on-site restaurant, with a weekly farm-to-table menu executed by chef Carey McLellan. Inside the restaurant, which doubles as a lounge, guests can take their pick of complimentary board games and plenty of paperbacks, and on cooler nights, enjoy a drink by the cozy stone fireplace. It’s that smaller setting coupled by its communal spaces, that make you feel so much more connected to the property and the staff. 

Of course, it’s important to also point out a few key differences between a high-end motel, such as The Beach Motel, and a true five-star hotel, too. With fewer rooms and a lower guest-to-staff ratio, you can expect an intimate atmosphere and a more personalized approach to service. However, many boutique motels don’t offer a 24-hour concierge; instead the front desk follows a dedicated hourly schedule. Parking may also be limited in busier months, and on-site restaurant hours close earlier than the restaurants in town. 

But if it’s small town hospitality and a charming experience you’re after, give the humble motel another chance.

More motels to explore in Ontario

The Drake Motor Inn

Dubbed Prince Edward County’s most retro inn, The Drake Motor Inn is operated by the same owners of Toronto’s beloved Drake Hotel and Wellington’s Drake Devonshire. Wrapped in bright, funky colours, this pet-friendly motel features 12 guestrooms, all decked out with art and photography. Guests can enjoy plenty of perks, including complimentary use of Polaroid cameras for the perfect selfie, as well as a plethora of dining options at the Drake Devonshire.

thedrake.ca/drakemotorinn

Penny’s Motel

A laid back, old school vibe, minus the bubblegum pink bathtub awaits at Penny’s, located in Thornbury, Ont. on the coast of Georgian Bay. The swanky-looking motel offers 13 pet-friendly rooms, stocked with Malin + Goetz bath products, heated floors and rainfall showers. Locally-sourced food, including build-your-own s’mores abound at Apres, Penny’s snack bar. Other amenities include complimentary bikes, communal fire pits and heated patios.

pennysmotel.ca

Somewhere Inn

Outside of Ottawa in Calabogie, Somewhere Inn, opened in August 2021, breathes new life into an old motel from the 1970s. Its oversized, dog-friendly rooms that can sleep up to eight are TV-free (encouraging you to explore somewhere new, duh) and furnished with comfortable queen and king-sized beds. Nespresso machines, soaker tubs, Endy mattresses and fluffy duvets make this spot feel just like home for you and your furry friend for as long as you’d like.

somewhereinn.ca

A Four Seasons resort is coming to Los Cabos this May

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Cabo San Lucas at Cabo Del Sol is open for reservations and will begin welcoming guests as of May 1, 2024.

Ideally located on the southern coast of the Baja in the heart of the Los Cabos Golden Corridor, the luxury resort community of Cabo Del Sol is home to a vibrant, Riviera-style village that includes the new Four Seasons Resort and Residences.

About the property

The resort offers 96 expansive guest rooms, casitas, suites, and villas plus 61 residences, villas, and estates ranging from 79 square metres (847 square feet) to 590 square metres (6374 square feet) – all with sparkling views of the Sea of Cortez, where whales visit annually November to April.

With clean lines and open, airy spaces, the architecture and design seamlessly blend traditional Mexican influences with contemporary luxury. All accommodations feature retractable glass doors that bring the outdoors in, as well as private terraces. Many suites also include private plunge pools and outdoor showers.

Just 30 minutes from Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) and 15 minutes from Cabo San Lucas International Airport (CSL), Four Seasons Resort Cabo San Lucas at Cabo Del Sol is mere minutes away from Cabo’s famous shopping, dining, nightlife and sightseeing.

On property, guests will enjoy a swimmable beach ideal for snorkelling and water activities, three pools, three restaurant and five bar options, the on-site El Taller Artisan Art Studio, the full-service Tierra Mar Spa with fitness centre designed by celebrity trainer Harley PasternakBaja 360° Adventure centre, Papalote Kids For All Seasons, locally-driven retail experiences, a clubhouse-style wedding and event facility, and access to the Cabo Del Sol golf course.

For more information on Four Seasons Cabo San Lucas, click here.