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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Hilton Labriz, Seychelles - Room Review

The central appeal of the Hilton Labriz is its location on Silhouette Island. While only 40 minutes by boat from the mainland, the island location provides as much exclusivity as a large resort can manage. The beach is truly spectacular and we loved the opportunities to explore. As an all-villa resort the rooms are spacious, well designed and luxurious with beautiful bathrooms and private outdoor showers. I'm pleased to say the rooms were very well maintained and  more impressive in person than they appeared on the Hilton website - which is always a nice surprise. The villas are fairly similar though the deluxe room categories have slightly more interior space and feature giant circular baths and four poster beds. The main difference is location, whether the rooms are on the beach and whether they have a private pool. 

There are five room categories which I'll discuss in detail; Garden Villas, Beachfront Villas, Beachfront Villas with Private Pool, Deluxe Hillside Pool Villas and Deluxe Beachfront Pool Villas. 
This is a lot of detail but I would have appreciated a post like this when I was considering the hotel. It's also worth noting that unlike so many blog posts this is NOT a sponsored post. We paid for our own room so you're guaranteed an honest assessment.

As I explained in the previous post we booked a Garden Villa (above) and were upgraded to a Beachfront Villa as Hilton Gold members. Once we arrived at the resort I was delighted we were in the beachfront room because I don't think I would have been happy with the situation of the  Garden Villas which are set back from the beach and often look over other rooms or the main pathway. The positioning  makes the front deck much more public and  a far less desirable space. The rooms  do have nice interiors (below) and bathrooms but you're missing out on the ocean and beach which is the key attraction of this property. Overall I don't recommend this room category but if you do choose to book it I'd ask for a room looking into the garden rather than the pathways even though these  villas are in the second row back (rooms 101-116). Not all of the rooms in this category are freestanding so it's also important to make sure your villas isn't attached. Interior of the Garden Villa below.

As you can see below, the beachfront villas are lined up right right on the beach, each has a lovely deck with chairs and loungers and a further pair of loungers for the beach which the staff will bring in every night. The villas are well designed with small details that provide a sense of luxury, a tap to wash off sandy feet right by the deck,  a fan above the outdoor seating area,  and well planted greenery which provides a surprising and welcome amount of privacy. The villas are so similar that it's hard to recommend one over another. I was worried our villa (230) would be too close to the restaurant but in fact we loved the location and the excellent room attendant Iqbal.  Overall I'd recommend a villa on the spa side of the resort (229 and up) as I loved walking to the  deserted , boulder scattered beach in front of the Presidential villa which is just past the spa.
We were delighted with this category of room which I'd highly recommend, it really is hard to convey the sheer beauty of the beach and ocean and the joy waking up here or reading you book on the deck. 
I think this room category represents  the best value for money in the resort. Unfortunately I failed to take a good picture of the interior - really sometimes I wonder if I'm suited to blogging at all!!! In addition to the enormous bed, in front there is a  seating area with a sofa and chair and a desk as well as a dressing area with cupboards behind the bed. The luxurious, light and beautiful marble and chrome bathroom featured an expansive glass wall, a modern freestanding bath in the center of the room, sinks on each side along with a glass enclosed shower and loo. The luxurious shampoos, soaps and other amenities seemed to multiply every time we turned around and the housekeeping was excellent particularly given the challenges of us tracking sand through the villa at every moment!
As a Brit I was delighted to see they had  a kettle for tea along with the ubiquitous coffee maker and they brought me plenty of  fresh milk which I appreciated.
What is particularly lovely and very well designed is that the area behind the bed is open and you can see right back to the far glass wall in the bathroom and the small enclosed garden beyond, see below.This means that if you leave the sliding  doors to the bathroom open you can look from the bathroom, through the bedroom, to the ocean and you can even see a glimpse of the ocean from the outdoor shower! The whole place is wonderfully designed to maximize every opportunity to enjoy the view while providing as much privacy as possible.

To be honest I couldn't quite make sense of this room category, the sheer joy of the resort is the glorious beach so who would pay for an upgraded deluxe villa with a private pool facing into the hillside? Well, the answer is that a public beach doesn't have the same appeal for all guests.  This room category offers complete privacy and for visitors from the Gulf region this means they can enjoy the pool without the concern of  being overlooked. 
Above  you can see the high fence around the garden which was filled with huge granite boulders.There was also an hammock in the garden and a separate sitting area shown below.
The deluxe rooms also featured four poster beds. Overall the Deluxe Hillside Pool Villas didn't appeal to me and I wouldn't recommend them unless you are looking for complete privacy, in which case they most certainly fit the bill.

I would caution you to be rather careful if you're looking to book a beachfront villa with a pool at this property. They have two types of room that are located on the beach and offer pools but they are quite different. While the Deluxe Beachfront Pool Villas offer a large pool overlooking the ocean the regular Beachfront Pool Villas offer something quite different as you can see below. This is more of a plunge pool squeezed into the small space behind the bathroom. In person it looks rather bare and I found it unappealing, frankly I would much rather look out  from the bath at the small garden with private outdoor shower which we had in our room. However, once again the advantage is that this pool is entirely private which cannot be said for the  larger pools facing the beach in the Deluxe Beachfront Pool category. While I wouldn't pay any extra for this particular plunge pool experience, I can see it might have some limited appeal to others.

The nine Deluxe Beachfront Pool Villas are the furthest from the restaurants and the closest to the spa, as I  mentioned earlier I far prefer this side of the resort because you're closer to the lovely beach in front of the Presidential Villa which was one of my favorite places on the island. 
The interiors are spacious and well appointed but very similar in style to the other rooms. The key difference here is that each deluxe villa enjoys a larger beachfront footprint including a good sized pool and a deck area  facing right onto the beach, as you can see above. As with the beachfront rooms the situation is impressive. One factor worth noting is that while the bathroom has a large circular bath facing the  private pool and beach you do not have the same privacy as the cheaper beachfront villa rooms where the bathroom faces the back of the property. Additionally the outdoor shower is located by the pool rather than in the small walled garden which makes it far less private. You can see the outdoor shower on the left below. The bathroom is  directly beyond the sun loungers.
I can see the appeal of these rooms and they seemed to be popular with both honeymooners and families with children. In fact this diverse demographic is one of the central tensions of the resort to me, in that they are catering to very different types of customers. I very much liked the larger outdoor space and the comfortable seating areas which were well designed. Although it is only semi-private there is more privacy than one might imagine as the villas are set back from the beach and surrounded by foliage. At the resort in general they do a masterful job of providing privacy while still showcasing the ocean views. Very few hotels offer private pools right on the beach and if you're looking for a pool and beach experience the room may work well for you and you may be prepared to pay for it. However, I do see several negatives; I prefer the bathroom in the room we stayed in and frankly the pools look rather dated. These rooms are dramatically more expensive and they don't represent a good value to me, precisely because  they can't offer greater privacy. I would recommend a regular beachfront villa here and  a private pool villa elsewhere, perhaps at Northolme which I'll be reviewing in some detail later! If you are looking at  spending serious money for this category of room for a honeymoon I'd be more inclined to look at  a more exclusive private island resorts in the Seychelles or somewhere that doesn't cater to children.  In this price range I would prefer an overwater villa in the Maldives.

Breakfast with your feet in the sand...
We love the Beachfront Villas which I'd highly recommend. Labriz is beautiful but it isn't the highest- end of the luxury market in the Seychelles and consequently you can't expect great privacy, however these rooms offer a fantastic beachfront situation and a relative  value in an expensive country. We were happy with our choice but as usual it's all about expectation, we had made a pragmatic decision with a clear understanding of the advantages and disadvantages that Labriz offered - private island, fabulous beach vs  mid-range, larger scale resort. We  met some honeymooners who were clearly disappointed by the hotel. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that they were paying a great deal for a Deluxe Beachfront Pool Villa. Despite the beautiful  island environment, I'm not sure that the other amenities, including the restaurants etc., met  their  sophisticated expectations and its fair to say the restaurants are expensive and adequate rather than exciting. Frankly our honeymooning friends might have been happier at a more exclusive property like the Four Seasons or the Banyan Tree on Mahe. However, for us the Hilton Labriz was a great destination, it's mid-range luxury, beautiful rather than opulent  and it enabled us to experience a private island in the Seychelles which we very much enjoyed.  
Just for fun here are some views of the Presidential Villa which is wonderfully located at the far end of the resort. It reminded me very much of the larger villas at Ladera on St Lucia. The interior is quite flashy and it has a residential feel which seems designed for family groups rather than honeymooners. However there's complete privacy and lwho wouldn't love this view?