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Ventana - An Enchanting Resort in BIg Sur

Summary: I love Ventana. I highly recommend visiting  and exploring the landscape at Lime Kiln and Andrew Molera State Park which I've blogged about here. Please note this is #notsponsored . Yes, that means we paid our own bill! Lots of details in the following review. including a Post Ranch vs Ventana comparison.  Can you tell there's something exciting beyond this beautiful gate? There's something special about Big Sur, a magic in the light, the presence of the Pacific, the cliffs, beaches, redwood forests and the murmur of the surf. It's one of my favorite places in California. I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to be to celebrate turning fifty, because it's a place where there's a sense of nature, space and light and a wide horizon. We've been to Big Sur many times and for a celebration there are two fantastic hotels vying for your attention. The exclusive, modern and very private, cliff top Post Ranch Inn and on the other side of the road the …

The Seychelles - Where to Stay...?

Although it may not be a conventional pairing, the Seychelles was the perfect add-on to our Sudan trip and as I've explained elsewhere, we flew there rather comfortably and affordably on frequent flyer miles. You'll probably spend a lot of time in the resort so your experience in the Seychelles is all about where you choose stay. However, it's very confusing as there are a lot of options including quite a number of different islands to choose from; La Digue, Mahe, Praslin or a variety of private island resorts. You could stay anywhere from a modest bed and breakfast to one of the top hotels on earth, the question is how much do you want to spend and how far are you prepared to travel? What type of experience are you looking for; barefoot luxury or glitz, local culture, privacy or company, hiking, snorkeling, resort amenities?

Broadly speaking the Seychelles reminded me of both Hawaii and Tahiti. These are lush tropical islands that seem to spring from the ocean with  towering densely covered hills. There are opportunities to hike and you can drive yourself from beach to beach on Mahe and Praslin. You'll find a strong local cultural tradition and an established tourist infrastructure. As in Tahiti you'll hear plenty of French spoken and there are a lot of Europeans holidaying or honeymooning here. 

Rather like the Maldives there seems to be no upper limit to cost when you look into private island vacations and you'll spend a great deal to get to some of these places too as many are accessible only by private plane. I loved the look of lots of them but we were traveling for six weeks and I needed to pick a place that was within the realm of reasonable. Or at least what seemed reasonable to me because of course "value" is all about personal  perception as we all know! The good news for US travelers is that hotels in the Seychelles are priced in Euro so the favorable exchange rate means the Seychelles is far more affordable than it was only a few years ago. However, this is a relative improvement and resorts in the Seychelles are still pricey. For luxury and value I'd always recommend a pool villa in Bali! 

Below you can see the exclusive North Island on the horizon where Prince William stayed on his honeymoon.


I prefer small, locally owned boutique properties and we rarely stay in chain hotel because I'm not a great fan of the generic decor or service. In general  I'd rather take my chances on individuality! However, in the Seychelles we decided to stay in two Hilton properties because for us they offered the best balance of exclusivity, luxury and value for moneyThe two hotels were complimentary; we enjoyed the luxury of a small resort with private pool villas at the Hilton Northolme on Mahe, in combination with the island experience  of Hilton Labriz on Silhouette Island. 

While the Hilton Labriz  has more than 100 rooms it does give you a sense of the private island experience and the private villas are well designed luxurious and spacious. It is the only resort located on Silhouette, a large  island  not far from Mahe. Accessible by boat the island is a protected National Park and Marine Reserve, the main beach is incomparable and there are hiking trails into the mountains or along the coast to a series of beautiful deserted coves, see below. While we weren't thrilled about the scale of the resort the opportunities to explore the island, in combination with one of the best beaches in the Seychelles made this a good pick for us. 

In contrast the Hilton Northolme (below) is a smaller, more exclusive property with a much more boutique atmosphere and style.  With around  fifty rooms it's a much smaller resort  and there are fewer amenities but we loved the private pool overlooking the ocean. Staying on Mahe gave us a chance to drive around the island, visit the Botanical Gardens  and see something of the local culture.

Staying at these properties was a pragmatic choice, one of the additionally impetuses was that I have Hilton Gold status through Amex and I was aware that this would offer us a good chance for an upgrade to the next room category and a free breakfast for two which is a large savings! The Hilton forum on Flyertalk confirmed these properties are consistent in offering these upgrades and I'm happy to say that by traveling in the low season we were upgraded at both resorts. I suggest emailed the reservations managers ahead of time to clarify what is included and you may be surprised, as we were, when the manager at Northolme was kind enough to confirm the upgrade in advance. Effectively we were able to book the cheapest room category (without breakfast) while leveraging the upgrade into ocean view rooms. Consequently I'd highly recommend securing Hilton Gold status if you're considering either hotel. The upgrades made an enormous difference to our experience particularly at the Hilton Labriz where the next category up was an oceanfront villa right on their fabulous two kilometer  long beach, see below. 

I highly recommend this room category and I would be reluctant to stay at Labriz in one of the hillside villas. The sheer joy of this resort was having this incredible beach right outside your door, see below!.At Northolme we took an additional paid upgraded to a private pool room which was particularly luxurious and highly recommended. I'll be talking about which rooms to book and the resorts in much more detail in  upcoming posts, so stay tuned for lots of pictures and plenty more opinionated yapping!

Travel Tip: Additionally, by signing up for several Hilton Honers promotions  I collected a large number of Hilton points for the stays at Northolme and Labriz which we should be able to use on another vacation soon.


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