Checking In: Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa

Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa

I have a confession to make .. I think I have only ever stayed in 1-2 Marriott properties. I honestly do not know why I haven’t stayed before – but I am 100% sold on staying in their hotels in the future. They exceeded any expectation I had and I already cannot wait to return to explore more of this area. The property overall is fantastic. I found it to be light and airy, extremely clean, and overall offered a lot of open spaces – my only wish is that I had gotten the chance to stay longer.

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Beach Sunset

From the moment I arrived, I was welcomed into a gorgeous lobby that had beautiful decor throughout and sun shining right through. I could see children laughing and running in the distance and I knew I was checking in somewhere special. The check-in process went so smoothly and the staff was incredibly friendly.

Lobby

Lobby

The hotel offers 2 pools, a luxurious spa, 2 restaurants, 1 bar, in-room dining, gym, beach front access, and a trip you are never going to forget!

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Outdoor Area

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Cabana Area

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Pool

The Room:

I checked into a 1 bedroom condo with an ocean view during my visit. I was extremely pleased with the large amount of space, washer and dryer, separate living space from the bedroom, the beachy upscale decor, and the lush marble bathroom.

Something that caught my attention right away was the well curated minibar options. Since the room has a full size fridge, there were plenty of beverage options and the liquor options came in pint sizes versus the single serving sizes. In addition – I loved that the hotel gave popcorn in the minibar snacks since the room has a microwave – perfect for a movie night.

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1 Bedroom Ocean View Condo

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1 Bedroom Ocean View Condo

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1 Bedroom Ocean View Condo

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1 Bedroom Ocean View Condo

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1 Bedroom Ocean View Condo

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Luxury Bath Amenities

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1 Bedroom Ocean View Condo

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1 Bedroom Ocean View Condo

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1 Bedroom Ocean View Condo

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1 Bedroom Ocean View Condo

My favorite part of the room is the balcony from which I could see both a sunset and a sunrise! I had the best view in the entire hotel in my opinion. There is something truly magical about enjoying peaceful time on your balcony with the breeze from the water and seeing the sun in all her glory.

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Balcony Sunset

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Balcony Sunrise

 

Room Features

  • 800sqft/72sqm
  • Air-conditioned
  • This room is non-smoking
  • Connecting rooms are not available
  • Outdoor spaces: balcony (1)
  • Living/sitting area
  • Dining area
  • Living room is separated
  • Fully equipped kitchen
  • Living area is separated from bed by privacy wall
  • Walk-in closet
  • Windows, soundproof
  • Total outdoor space: 74sqft/7sqm
  • King Bed
  • Marble bathroom
  • Outlet with dual voltage adaptors
  • Desk, writing / work, electrical outlet
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Washer and dryer
  • TV’s – 2

Dining:

Marriott Singer Island-3800 Ocean Restaurant-2

During my stay I had the pleasure of dining at 3800 Ocean. I had a moment to chat with the chef about the food and you could tell he was very passionate about his work – which ultimately shined through in his culinary creations.

I had a charcuterie board, fried green tomatoes with pork belly confit and a watermelon and goat cheese salad. I cannot possibly choose a favorite because each dish was amazing in its own way. I loved the rich flavors of the green tomatoes but also the softness of the goat cheese paired with the watermelon and arugula salad (which to be honest – I did not know if that would taste good but I love trying new things and it was fabulous!). I was completely full from all the amazing food that I just could not eat anything else – so I opted not to get an entree or dessert.

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Delicious Bread

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Charcuterie Board

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Fried Green Tomatoes With Pork Belly Confit

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Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad

 

Additional Information:

  • Address: 3800 North Ocean Drive · Singer Island Riviera Beach, Florida 33404
  • Phone: 1-561-340-1795
  • Distance from West Palm Beach Airport: ~20-25 minutes
  • Parking: Valet is available – Uber is also readily available throughout the area

Overall:

I loved my stay here and completely fell in love with the area.

 

Pin for Pinterest:

Marriott Palm Beach

Disclaimer:

I was hosted by the Palm Beaches Tourism Board, but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

26 Photos To Inspire You To Visit Bonaire

I just recently got back from a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line where the itinerary included 6 island stops. Among those stops were the ABC Islands. Bonaire was my favorite stop along this route and I give the credit for that to the driver I hired outside the port. Unlike myself, I didn’t do any research prior to arriving, I had planned to take an excursion through the ship but something was telling me to get a private island tour and I am SO happy I went that route (but there are amazing tours the cruise line offers).

We ended up getting a driver for about 3-4 hours and the cost was $100 USD plus I tipped him nicely for showing us everything and telling us the history of the island, being extremely kind and helpful and for chasing down a flying pack of flamingos so I could photograph them! That sounds weirder than it was – but he saw them across the road flying over the ocean and knew they would cross back and fly over the salt flats, so he sped up so I had time to get out of the car and take photos. If that’s not customer service, I don’t know what is.

I hope these 26 photos inspire you to visit Bonaire. One of the main benefits of going on a cruise is being able to see multiple places in one trip and making the decision if you want to return later for an extended trip. The island left such a lasting impression on me and I cannot wait to return.

**I including images of the slave huts because it IS an important part of the history in Bonaire. They are lined on the southern coast of the island, and while they stand alone, are colorful and have a painful history, they are beautiful in their own way. I’m really glad they were not taken down as it serves as a reminder of the past and how far we have come.

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Arriving in Bonaire

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Bonaire

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Jibe City

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Kite Surfing

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Colorful Hotel

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Cactus Fence

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Slave huts from the past

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Jibe City

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Flying Flamingos

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Jibe City

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Salt Flats

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Flamingos

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Coral “sand”

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Neal’s Lighthouse

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Residential Homes

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Salve huts from the past

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Bonaire

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Jibe City

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Salt Flats

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Residential Area

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Kite Surfing

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Jibe City

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Bonaire

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Jibe City

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Jibe City

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Bonaire

 

PINS FOR YOUR PINTEREST ❤

 

**Disclaimer: I did partner with Norwegian Cruise Line, but as always, opinions are entirely my own

Fairmont Southampton Bermuda

fairmont southampton bermuda

I was just saying right before I took this trip to Bermuda that I had dreamed of staying at the Fairmont Southampton for the last ten years. I was enticed by the pink walls of the hotel against the hues of blue that the ocean offered. Long before I was a Fairmont fan, I discovered this hotel just through a search online. I was captivated by it and I knew that one day I would stay there. So here we are – I made it!

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Photo from Fairmont

The Fairmont Southampton is a beacon of luxury in Bermuda. Offering 593 guest rooms rooms inclusive of 38 suites, I would strongly argue there isn’t a bad room in the house. With views of the ocean, the lush golf course or Gibbs Lighthouse – wherever you stay, the view is going to be fantastic.

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Gibbs Lighthouse

Sometimes you show up to hotels and from the moment of arrival, the grounds are picturesque and you feel like you’re in a dream sequence. That’s the feeling I got when I arrived at the Fairmont Southampton. Driving from the airport to the hotel, I was greeted by the beautiful water and colorful homes along the way. If I had to choose one of these homes to live in, I would argue that I couldn’t choose because they are all so beautiful.

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Flying into Bermuda

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Colorful homes of Bermuda

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All pink everything

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Pink walls

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Pink Walls

When you arrive at the Southampton, you are greeted in the driveway with staff ready to help with luggage and direct you where to go. Right inside the entrance to the hotel to the right is check-in. I stayed in a Fairmont Gold room – which gave me a private check-in on the 6th floor at the lounge. One thing that really stood out at the Southampton was the decor. I loved that the rooms had the bright colors of the island feel and was not modern. The modern details you see in a lot of hotels work for each of those properties, but I don’t feel like it would fit in this property. You kind of feel like you are with royalty and that while it is luxurious, it is not modern chic.

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I stayed in a Fairmont Gold room with a view of Gibb’s Lighthouse and also the sunset. I am a serial sunset chaser, so that was my decision behind choosing that room versus a sea view. To be fair – I could still see the ocean in both directions from my room.
Large in size, the room itself was very spacious. Accompanied with a king size bed, work desk, dresser, TV, 2 night stands, lounger, a balcony with a table and 2 chairs, a walk-in closet, a separate vanity dual sink, and a bathroom with a tub/shower combo.

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Sunset by the pool

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King bed

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Tropical decor

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Balcony

Fairmont Gold:

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Retrieved from Fairmont

I am a big fan of Fairmont Gold and prefer to book these rooms when I stay at the Fairmont. There are a lot of amenities (that are slightly different from Fairmont to Fairmont) but I love them all.

I want to note that the staff in the Fairmont Gold Lounge is some of the best staff I have met globally. Most notably, Pascal. He made sure every inch of my trip was perfection, engaged in great conversation and made me laugh every time I saw him. If there is only one person you meet during your stay here – Pascal is the one.

At the Fairmont Southampton amenities with Fairmont Gold included:

  • Private Gold Floor reception
  • Generous daily breakfast
  • Afternoon tea
  • Evening hors d’ oeuvres – they bring a selection from the restaurants for each guest
  • WiFi
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Afternoon Tea

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Jellies

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Evening appetizers

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Breakfast Pastries

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Lounge

Dining:

One of the main draws to this big resort on this small island is the vast dining options. Coming in with 10 places to dine, there was never a need to search to find delicious food. Since I stayed in a Fairmont Gold room, I had breakfast daily and other food available to me throughout the day. One of the many perks of booking this category.

During my stay I ate in three of the restaurants: Waterlot Inn, Wicket’s and Bacci. I also ordered room service for dinner one evening. Good news: all the food was exquisite. If I had to pick a favorite though, it would be Waterlot Inn. The chefs, the food, the service, everything was perfect.

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Burger at Wickets

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Wickets

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Bacci

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Bacci – risotto & beef cheek

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Bacci Spices

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Waterlot Inn

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Waterlot Inn

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Waterlot Inn

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Patio Bar at the Waterlot Inn

Activities:

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Golf at the Fairmont Southampton

The hotel offers an array of activities for those staying in the hotel. Some of the more famous activities are their golf course and private beach club and beach.

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Beach Club

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Beach

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Beach

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Beach

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Beach

The hotel has a private beach directly across the street from the hotel that is lined with blue and white striped umbrellas for your use atop pink sand and the clearest blue water I have ever seen. If Paradise was a real place, here it is. There is a free shuttle the hotel offers that will take you back and forth to the beach right outside of the hotel.

Chairs, umbrellas and towels are available at the beach. You can also rent a cabana for a charge.

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Private Beach at Fairmont Southampton

The hotel also has a spa, tennis, diving options, pool, and so much more. The pool chairs fill up quickly but people come and go through out the day leaving space for others. The beach is so gorgeous that a lot of people head that way.

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Pool

Pro tip: Rent a cabana for the day at the pool for $25 usd.

I got a cabana (the one pictured below to be exact) and it was the best time. I had it for the entire day and I could go from the pool back and forth, read, and had lunch next door at Wicket’s. Very seldom can you find a cabana for $25 – It was worth every single penny and more.

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Pool side hangs at the Fairmont Southampton

 

Additional Information:

  • The hotel has a shuttle that goes to the restaurants and beach/club right outside the front door of the hotel
  • If you are staying at the hotel, you can get a free ferry into Hamilton (let the front desk know ahead of time).
  • The Grounds are over massive and some of the streets do not have walking room – using the shuttle to get to the restaurants and beach is advised
  • Resort is casual – you are on island time – Bermuda shorts encouraged 😉
  • Book a shuttle online before arriving – the cost is $30 per person round trip – otherwise taxis are about $60 each way.

 

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Ferry

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Shuttle

Contact Information:

  • Address: 101 South Shore Road Southampton Bermuda SN02
  • Phone: + 1 441 238 8000

10 Photos To Inspire You To Visit Bermuda

Bermuda

I am currently in Bermuda and IN LOVE with the country. This is my second time visiting and the entire island is so picturesque.

Here are 10 photos from my camera that I hope inspire you to visit this gorgeous island ❤

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Sunset

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Views from Fairmont Southampton

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Colorful homes

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Private Beach at Fairmont Southampton

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Sunset

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Fairmont Southampton Pool

 

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Beach

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Pretty Palms

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Views of the golf course and beach from Fairmont

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Pool side hangs

Caribbean Cruise Port: St. Thomas

St. Thomas is a popular port that you will find on a lot of Eastern Caribbean itineraries and cruises leaving from the Florida ports (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, some from Orlando). The port has two docking areas: Havensight and Crown Bay which are both located on the south side of the island close to Charlotte Amalie.

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View from Paradise Point

The island of St. Thomas is part of the chain of U.S. Virgin Islands that is intertwined with the British Virgin Islands. The capital, Charlotte Amalie offers bountiful shopping, dining and sightseeing.

When you leave the port at Havensight there is a bar immediately upon exit to the left with decent prices. If you turn to the right you can walk a little ways and you will find Senor Frogs – a non stop party.

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Bar outside the exit of the ship port

You will notice as you exit there are signs on the ground pointing you to where to head for shopping and free standing signs for taxis. As you exit the port there will be a lot of shopping options.

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Follow the signs outside the exit of the port

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taxis are right past the shopping strip

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Some of the available shopping in St. Thomas

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Some of the top tours to do on the island include:

  • Ride the View – The Skyride to Paradise Point is 800 feet above sea level giving you views of the harbor, cruise ships in port and Charlotte Amalie. There are about 35 steps in total to get up to the gondola.
  • Ice Bar
  • Magen’s Bay Beach – white sand and hues of blue water.
  • Castaway Shipwreck snorkel and sailing
  • The best of St. Thomas Tour – this tour will take you to Mountain Top for unparalleled views of Magen’s Bay and the best banana daiquiri on the island
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Skyride

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View from Mountain Top

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A must drink

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Views of the islands

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Magen’s Bay Beach

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St. Thomas

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Private boats in the harbor

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Sunset while leaving port

If you do not want to stay in St. Thomas, you can take a ferry over to neighboring island, St. Johns. This island is also part of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is about 45 minutes by ferry each way. If you decide to visit, some of the options for sightseeing include: sailing, hiking, shopping at Cruz Bay, snorkeling, and spending your day at the beach.

 

Tips for visiting St. Thomas:

  • The island is part of the United States as a territory
  • English is spoken here
  • You can rent a car to explore, but they do drive on the left side of the road
  • If you have a U.S cellphone provider, your phone should work here (Sprint is available on the island)
  • There is plenty of duty free shopping on the island
  • No food or dairy products are allowed to be taken off or back on to the cruise ship
  • DEET should be worn to fend off mosquitos
  • The sun is a bit hotter closer to the equator, using sunscreen is advised
  • Weather – average during the day is 88 degrees Fahrenheit

Virgin Port Services:

9003 Havensight Mall, Suite 303 St. Thomas 00802 United States Virgin Islands

Phone: 340-775-1151

Fax: 340-775-1152

 

 

Pearl Farm Beach Resort – a Luxury stay in Davao, Philippines

 

pearl-farmLocated on Samal Island in the Philippines, Pearl Farm beach Resort is a luxury hideaway hidden away on a pristine beach offering bungalows over the water, world class service, exquisite food, a private island, and the ability to relax as much as you want or partake in activities.

Getting there:

pearl-2Imagine taking a plane, a bus and a 40 minute boat ride to get to a private resort. Then you arrive in Paradise. While that may seem daunting, it was actually perfect. The flight from Manila was a little less than 2 hours, the bus ride was about 30 minutes (depending on traffic in Davao) and the boat ride was the best part! Riding through the Davao Gulf and seeing the beauty of the area was spectacular. We were greeted with fresh local fruits and spent the duration of our boat ride admiring the water and other islands.

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Arriving:

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This was my first experience in arriving to a resort by boat and it did not disappoint. Upon arrival we were greeted with cool towels, drinks and music. It was by far the most warm welcome received by a resort I have ever experienced.

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We never had to touch our luggage as it was transported to our rooms by the staff. That was exceptionally gracious of them considering how warm it was outside.

Rooms:

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Samal Houses over the water

Pearl Farm Resort has options for your stay from staying in a multi-bedroom villa with a butler on a private island, Malipano Island,  Samal Houses that are stilts over the water and Hilltop Rooms that are set up away from the shore. No matter where you stay at the resort, your time is going to be memorable and fabulous.

MALIPANO VILLA

 

SAMAL HOUSE

 

 

Dining:

dining

Maranao Restaurant

 

Dine al fresco at Maranao Restaurant, the main restaurant for Pearl Farm Resort. I only ate here once and it was for breakfast. They had a large buffet with options for every palate. I  am big on the local fruits and of course, bacon. ❤

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Also during my stay we had lunch on the private island, Malipano. This is not a traditional spot to have lunch as it is reserved for private functions, but amazing nonetheless.

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Private island dining

 

Activities:

The resort offers an array of activities for all levels of participation from snorkeling, jet skiing,  2 pools, private beach, billiard tables, snorkeling over the clam sanctuary, boating, spa, and so much more. The water is unbelievable and offers beautiful colors throughout.

I did get a 60 minute traditional massage and it was perfect. After a day of traveling and fun activities, it was a real treat to receive. The staff is very professional and accommodating to your pressure preference. I would highly recommend a treatment or two.

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Infinity pool – source

 

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Beach

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Water with the fish

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Gym – source

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Pool tables – source

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Beach

Overall my stay at Pearl Farm Beach Resort was nothing short of luxurious. It was the perfect ending to a nearly month long visit in the Philippines. If Davao is not on your radar when visiting, it should be. The hospitality of the Filipino culture is amazing and you will never want to leave.

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Clear waters

 

Additional Information: 

  • Address: ONB Babak Building, Babak – Samal – Kaputian Rd, Babak, Island Garden City of Samal, 8119 Davao del Norte, Philippines.
  • The hotel was a former pearl farm but is no longer.
  • You will have to take a boat or a helicopter to get to the island. The resort does have a landing pad.
  • WiFi is only available at Maranao Restaurant and it works beautifully.
  • The boat to the hotel leaves a couple times a day from the main land.
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Samal Houses

Thank you to the Philippines Tourism Board and Pearl Beach Farm Resort for graciously hosting me. As always, opinions are my own. 

 

33 Photos to inspire you to visit the Philippines

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Davao

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Suman Chocolate

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Filipino Eagle

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Maruya

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Davao

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Kids playing

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Sunset in Bohol

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Lobok River in Bohol

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Chocolate Hills in Bohol

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Panglao Beach – Bohol

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Butterflies

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View from the top

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River boat cruise

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Room service at the Fairmont Makati

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Sunset in Manila

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Small Lagoon – EL Nido

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Outside dining

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views and hues

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Monkey in Davao

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Manila pool vibes

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Big Lagoon – El Nido

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The Peacock Garden

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Pond in Bohol

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UBE jam

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Sunset in Bohol

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Fairmonot Makati

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The Church of Baclayon

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Singapore Sling at the Fairmont

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Tarsier in Bohol

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Private island dining in Davao

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Pearl Farm Beach Resort – Davao

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Palms

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Pearl Farm Beach Resort – Davao

The Philippines, covering over 7,000 islands, has something for everyone. From island hopping, to relaxing, to luxury, to budget. One of my favorite parts of this trip was the ever changing landscapes. One day I am in the mountains and in the same afternoon, at the beach.

If you plan to visit, you can read my tips here.

I had the time of my life visiting 4 islands and did not want to leave. The Philippines will leave a place in your heart that will make you want to return ❤

 

17 tips for visiting the Philippines

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Planning a trip to the Philippines? After spending nearly 4 weeks island hopping and getting to know the country, here are my best tips for visiting the country.

  1. Don’t leave the airport without the local currency, pesos – I cannot stress how important this is. It took me 6 days to find an ATM that was international and would take my debit card. Normally I would get the local currency at my airport but they did not carry it. If you are heading to more remote islands, I would highly suggest to make this a top priority. It is very rare to find places that take credit card. Everyone wants cash.
    1. Tip: Some of the airports charge a fee of 100-200 pesos just to wait in the terminal for your flight. This is done by cash only.
    2. Tip 2: Make sure to set your debit card on a travel alert so you are not denied cash when you need it.
    3. Tip 3: You can check with your hotel before arrival and see if they have an international ATM, as some of them do. However, if you are taking a taxi from the airport, you will need local currency.  14572311_10157678926195083_8165169279151544118_n
  2. Traffic can be overwhelming – this is not the same as Columbus, Ohio traffic jam in the afternoon leaving work. I’m saying it can take you 1 and a half hours to go 3 kilometers in traffic during their rush hours. It will literally be stop and go traffic for the duration of the trip.
    1. Tip: Plan ahead if you need to get somewhere that is time sensitive, especially the airport.
    2. Bonus: Use Uber to get around. With their fixed rates you never have to guess what your fare will be. I paid about 200 pesos to take the hour and a half drive. To break that down, the exchange rate with U.S. dollars is 45 pesos to 1 USD. Not even $5 dollars for an Uber.
  3. Try everything that is UBE – UBE is a purple yam and the Filipino culture loves it. They have created all kinds of amazing foods from it and it can be addicting! From gelato to jams, cakes to pastries – don’t miss this unique food.

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    UBE jam is my favorite – hands down

  4. Get a portable wifi hotspot – most lodging has wifi in the big cities and it works great. When you are roaming the cities it is nice to stay connected and not have to pay a fortune in international cell service. I use Skyroam when I travel and it’s as low as $8 dollars a day for a 24 hour connection.
    1. Bonus: Skyroam allows you to add up to 5 devices – this means you can run it on your phone and computer or even it share it with your travel companions.
    2. Double Bonus: Skyroam is very lightweight and can fit in your pocket or easily into your bag.
    3. Side note: Skyroam does not work in every country. Skyroam does work in over 100 countries but it is still adding new countries. Check before you purchase one to make sure it covers the areas you are going to.  Skyroam_3Gmate_Unlimited_Data_Hotspot_home
  5. Don’t drink the water – some people will tell you not to others will tell you it is ok. If it is from a faucet, I would suggest no. Stock up on water, even to brush your teeth. All the hotels I stayed in over my visit actually provided 2+ bottles per day as part of the room.
    1. Tip: there were a few times I was massively dehydrated and asked my hotels for more water and they provided it. Don’t be afraid to ask. Otherwise, you can purchase some and its very cheap.
  6. Take in a sunset – No matter which island you find yourself on, they are equally as magical! I was fortunate enough to see many sunsets during my trip and its very easy to fall in love.
    1. Tip: The sunsets were different around the islands from oranges to purples – but all just as lovely!
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      Sunset in Manila

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      Sunset in Bohol

  7. It is hot in the Philippines – Located in Southeast Asia, the Philippines keep a warm wet climate year round. There is a lot of breeze to go around though – as it glides through the 7,000+ islands.
    1. Tip: Even if the sky is dark grey during the day, wear sunscreen. That dark sky still has a sun and it is going to burn your skin if you don’t take precautions. I made the big mistake of not using sunscreen because it looked stormy – and then I spent the next four days in bed burnt to a crisp. Don’t let something you can prevent ruin your trip.
    2. Tip 2: If you are burnt, stay inside. The sun and heat will make it worse than it is. I left my hotel for supplies the day after I got sunburn and it felt like my skin was melting. Cool showers, aloe and sleeping in a cool bed with little to no clothing so it doesn’t irritate your skin – this will do wonders.
    3. Bonus: there are places you can get an aloe massage for your burn and it’s not very expensive. I would highly recommend this.
  8. If you plan to visit more than one island, try to pack everything into a carry-on – there are many local air carriers that allow you a carry-on up to a certain weight free of charge. They charge for extra weight and for checked luggage. Keeping a carry-on allows you to move through the airports quickly and not to over pack. As an added bonus, you save money by not having to check your luggage .
    1. Tip: The weather is pretty warm so you won’t need winter gear to visit. Think light clothes, bathing suit and 2 pairs of shoes: 1 flip flop and 1 tennis shoe or dress shoe, depending on your plans.
    2. Bonus: laundry is unbelievably cheap to do. Maybe $2-3 USD for a good amount.
  9. Pack flip flops, they are essential – it does rain and the streets hold the water for a little while – having flip flops you can wash off helps in not ruining your shoes. I would suggest rubber flip flops since leather ones will get wet and then stink. I was caught in the rain several times and I am so glad I had shoes that could withstand the flooded streets and not fall on my face. You’ll be glad you packed these.
    1. Tip: if you forget to pack them, no worries. Everywhere sells them. You’ll be able to secure a pair in no time.
  10. The Philippines is more than just beaches – the beaches are beautiful and offer different color sands, but there is also jungles and mountains. Get out there and explore! You won’t regret taking in more of the countries beauty.
  11. The Philippines can be done on a backpacker budget or a luxury budget: Southeast Asia is reputable for being a backpacker and budget travel area. However, after staying in luxury properties for most of my trip, I can assure you there is plenty of luxury to go around. The islands offer something for everyone: you can go as cheap as $10 a night in some hostels to $1000+ a night in villas over the water. It’s all about how you want to tailor your trip.
    1. Bonus: no matter what your travel style, the Filipino culture is extremely hospitable and offers top notch service.
  12. Bring common medications with you: I did get sick a few times and I needed Imodium, was severely dehydrated and had a cold. You know what medications work best for you – pack some back-ups just in case you find yourself sick. Sometimes it can be hard to find things you know and are used to using in foreign countries. It never hurts to be prepared.
    1. Tip: It wouldn’t hurt to bring a mini first aid kit. I needed band-aids a few times from cutting my foot on some coral..and guess who didn’t have anything? Yep-me.
  13. Everyone I met spoke perfect English and it is wildly popular throughout the country – this was a huge bonus for me. Being able to communicate in full sentences really helps the transition. This isn’t a make or break deal for travel for me nor should it be for anyone else, but it is comforting knowing you will be able to talk to people and get where you are going or whatever you need. The culture loves tourists and they will engage you and get to know you.
    1. Bonus: Don’t be surprised when you have a flood of new friends – the culture is very friendly!
  14. Definitely visit more than one of the islands – since the Philippines are made up of over 7,000+ islands .. you might as well visit more than one. Deciding on which island to visit is going to depend on what your interests are. If you want to swim with whale sharks (seasonal) then you will want to go to Cebu. If you want to island hop and see the most famous islands and lagoons, then El Nido will be your destination.
    1. Tip: getting between the islands is not very expensive. Book in advance and save a little money on your tickets and/or ferry or bus fares.
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      Island hopping in El Nido

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      River cruise in Bohol

  15. Pack bug spray and use it – there are signs in a lot of places that Zika has been found. Better safe than sorry for this one. I know a lot of people who aren’t planning to have kids or get pregnant brush this off, but if you did get it, it will still make you very sick for a few days and ruin your trip. It may be easier to just take the precaution. There are a lot of mosquito’s, so even if they aren’t carrying Zika, they are still going to bug you.
  16. Eat your food Kamayan – which means with your hands. It’s traditional to eat food without utensils and to bond with others in the Filipino culture. I was able to do this once on my trip and it really brought the table together – versus everyone being on their cell phones.  14650232_10157678926240083_5389927809600823846_n
  17. Get a window seat on the plane – You don’t want to miss being able to see the beautiful water and the islands coming to, moving among or leaving the Philippines.

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    Views leaving Bohol, Philippines

9 Places you should visit this summer

Summer is here! So where will you be traveling to? Whether you are looking to relax, be adventurous or a combination of both – I have you covered. Here are my top picks for summer getaways:

  1. Oahu, Hawaii – A lot of Americans head here during our winter months but the best weather in Hawaii is during the summer. Prices are also lower. The island of Oahu has something for everyone – beautiful beaches, historical significance, hiking, waterfalls, surfing, great food – and the list goes on. There is no shortage of types of accommodations either – you can stay anywhere from a hostel to a 5 star resort or anything in between.
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    Waikiki Beach Sunset

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  2. Maui, Hawaii – Same as Oahu, the weather is great and the prices are low. You’ll find more luxury resorts and golfing available here. I found Maui to be far more relaxed than Oahu. If you are feeling up for the challenge, take the Road to Hana – with its windy roads and one way bridges, definitely not for the faint of heart. You will also find beautiful beaches with red and black and sand.
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    Grand Wailea


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    Red Sand Beach – Maui


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    Grand Wailea Resort – Maui

    3. Ireland – I actually went to Ireland in February and the weather was great. It doesn’t get very hot and during the summer the countryside is lush and green. You will see some more tourists than during winter months but with the Euro not as strong as it used to be, take advantage of the travel opportunities!

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    O’Brien’s Tower


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    Long Library at Trinity College


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    Cliffs of Moher


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    Sweet Republic – Dublin, Ireland

    4. Key West, Florida – While everyone is vacationing with their kids in Orlando, take this time to go relax in the keys. I love that the city is walk-able and very laid back. There are plenty of activities for every age. You could sink your toes into the sand everyday, get out on the water, stroll the shops and bars, take a haunted tour – the options are really endless.

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    Always get a window seat


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    Stay at Nyah!


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    Drive the Keys in style


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    Definitely get a mango mojito

    5. Lake Tahoe, CA –  It seems all I can talk about lately is Lake Tahoe – so it had to be on the list! I actually thought it was more of a winter destination and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Lake Tahoe is a paradise location nestled in the mountains. Just go and thank me later.

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    Lake Tahoe


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    Sunset over Reno/Tahoe


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    Lake Tahoe


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    Lake Tahoe


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    Resort at Squaw Creek

    6. Paris, France – Is there really a bad time to go to Paris? No. It is beautiful year round. It is busier this time of year but the Euro isn’t as strong, so that makes up for it. Stretch your money as far as you can and go fall in love. Walk the gardens at the Palace of Versailles, sip coffee in the street cafes, eat macarons until your belly hurts, and don’t miss seeing the Eiffel Tower.

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    Eiffle Tower


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    Sacré-Cœur


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    Macarons!!

    7. Iceland – Going during the summer means it won’t be as cold as it is in the winter. My favorite part of Iceland was taking the Golden Circle Tour and seeing all the waterfalls and the beautiful countryside. Even when it was frigid cold outside, the waterfalls still flowed. If you do plan to visit Iceland, no trip will be complete without a stop at the Blue Lagoon.

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    Golden Circle Tour in Iceland


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    Gullfoss

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    8. Puerto Rico – For Americans, you don’t need a passport to visit this island in the Caribbean. I see this as the loop hole to visiting. A lot of the Caribbean islands are similar – but you go to Puerto Rico and you have cell service, they use U.S. Currency, English is widely spoken, and the beaches are fantastic! I have been one time to Puerto Rico and stayed at El Conquistador in Fajardo. It is about an hour and a half from San Juan so it is a little remote but worth it. They have their own private island with a beach, the food is fantastic and you will get all the tropical vibes. pr2

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    El Conquistador Resort


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    El Conquistador Resort

    9. Mexico – During the summer it is a bit warmer but the spring break crowds have left and you can relax. I am a big fan of Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Cabo, and Cozumel. Staying in the resort areas is what I have done when visiting and have nothing but great things to say. There are a lot of all-inclusive resorts, which is nice because you can budget exactly what you plan to spend with no hidden costs. These resorts include beer and alcohol as well.

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    Sunset in Playa del Carmen


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    Royal at Playa del Carmen


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    Mexico Sunsets are the best!


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    Flying Over Cancun

Our Destination Wedding

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Given that I am a fiercely passionate traveler and we both love the Caribbean, when it came to planning our day, we ultimately decided on a destination wedding. We could not have been more happy with how everything went, down to every last detail.

We had been planning a wedding for years and could never settle on anything. It was either too expensive for the number of guests we wanted to have, not available, wrong time of year, not doable – you name it, it was not happening. We had initially decided on a destination wedding but got some resistance from our families. After a couple years of doing research and trying to find a place, we ended up revisiting the idea. I have to say, the stress was instantly gone once we picked the place we would get married at. I cannot stress enough how easy it is to plan a destination wedding with Beaches Resort. They gave us beautiful options and we selected from there. We had a wedding planner the entire way to assist us with legal documentation, room bookings, decisions on food, flowers, and decor – it was so easy, anyone could do it.

The resort is all-inclusive and the food is gourmet. Beverages, including alcohol and wine were also included! Once our guests booked their rooms, all they had to do was show up and everything else was taken care of. Bonus for our guests: it was a mini vacation!

The deciding factor on this resort for our wedding was their ability to make gluten free food for my now husband. He is a Celiac and he gets very sick from gluten, even cross contamination. They took fantastic care of him.

Here are some photos from our day:

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Guest Bags

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Details

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Plane cuff links – a gift from me to Matt

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My deceased grandmother

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Getting ready

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The earrings

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Matt’s gift to me, an “S” representing my new last name

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The shoes

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Maid of honor and I

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Maid of honor and I

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Matt getting ready

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Matt and his Best man, his brother Jeff

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Emily

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Waiting for the wedding

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Before the wedding

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A seashell cross from Matt’s parents

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Matt waiting for me

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Walking down the aisle

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Matt’s first glance

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Our Wedding

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Our Wedding

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Getting the blessing

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Wedding

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My brother reading the program

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The rings

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Our first kiss

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WE ARE THE SUNDERLANDS!!

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Making it official

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WE DID IT!

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Happy

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Us

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Me

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Me

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Matt

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Matt

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Guest Book – a record of our first dance song

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Kissy Kissy

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We snuck away to get a whiskey

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Our favorite wedding photo

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Those who couldn’t be here for our day ❤

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Matt with his family

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Us with my family

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Us with his family

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Some more kissy kissy

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He’s trying to make a break for it

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Everyone

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Overlooking the water

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Dinner table

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My place setting

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Matt’s place setting

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First dance

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These two think they are so funny

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Maid of honor speech

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A toast

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Best mans speech

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Matt’s parents

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My mom and brother

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Salad

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Steak

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Mahi Mahi

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Our Cake with the states we are from

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Our cake knife

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Doesn’t he look dapper with those flowers

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I hope you enjoyed the extensive list of photos from our wedding. Our first anniversary is coming up and I have a great surprise for him. ❤

 

Details from our wedding:

Shoes – Valentino

Earrings – Oscar de la Renta

Photographer – Yeoman Photography

Location – Turks and Caicos at Beaches Resort

Dress – David’s Bridal

Cake Knife – Michael Aram

Cuff links and charm – Tiffany’s

Gift bags, hanger, cake topper – Etsy

Men’s Suits – Ralph Lauren

Bow ties – Nordstrom

 

Girls Weekend – Virginia Beach

Girls Guide

The time of year is here – beach weekends! No time like the present to kick the cubicle and go relax with your best girlfriends. My friend Emily and I spent last weekend in Virginia Beach swimming, drinking wine, eating amazing food, going to the spa, and relaxing at our hotel. This was the perfect escape from Washington, D.C. where we reside. Bonus – it is less than a 3 hours drive!

Where we stayed:

We stayed at the Founders Inn and Spa for two nights in a fireplace suite room. I know you are probably thinking “fireplace in the summer?” We actually used it! We were chilly after swimming, so we turned it on and ordered pizza for room service!

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Suite

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Fireplace Suite

Once we checked into our room, we were delivered some yummy treats!

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The hotel has grand furnishings and portraits of Founders past on the walls. You will feel like you stepped back in time with an elegant stay.

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The hotel has an indoor pool and spa that we were able to enjoy during our visit. Bonus: the pool is open until 11pm! Most hotels I have stayed in close around 8-9:00pm.

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Indoor Pool

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Spa

The hotel has a sprawling English garden on the backside over looking a small lake. You can stroll the gardens, take a seat on a bench, or if you stay in the Presidential Suite, you can view the entire gardens from your room balcony that sits at the overview.

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What we ate!

We ended up eating most of our meals at the hotel – and with good reason. Excellent prices and incredible food.

Dinner at the Swan Terrace Grill is a MUST DO if you are in Virginia Beach. We couldn’t figure out what to eat because the menu looked fabulous – so we tried a bunch of dishes. I feel like the pictures speak for themselves – the food was to die for.

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Crab Cakes

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Pungo Spinach Salad

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Founders Cut

They also serve a breakfast buffet each morning in the Swan Terrace that has the best bacon! I love bacon – the Queen of bacon, I have been called.

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Breakfast Buffet

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The Bacon 😉

Spa Day!

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Flowering Almond Spa

I enjoy going to the spa but I rarely get a chance because I am always running around working and traveling. Having this spa day with my friend was a great way for us to unwind and decompress from life. We went to the spa at our hotel and the services were excellent.

I ended up getting a Wild Lime Scalp Treatment and we both got a Lemon Verbena Body Scrub. If you want your skin to feel baby bottom smooth – definitely go for the scrub. The scrub smelled nice and it was made with sugar and not salt – so it wasn’t harsh on the skin. 5 days later and my skin still feels amazing. As for the scalp treatment, I cannot stress enough how much everyone should get this done. I have been working a lot and having tension headaches. My spa therapist was aware of this and the way she relieved my scalp has been a blessing. I left feeling like a new person.

Don’t forget to enjoy your spa day with champagne and chocolate covered strawberries!

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Activities:

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I had read about a winery called Mermaid Winery in Virginia Beach – so I suggested we go. Can’t have a girls weekend without wine, now can we? They have free tastings on Friday nights, so we did that and then we each ordered a flight of wine. I ended up trying their signature wines and Emily went with a flight of red wines from around the world.

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Some things to note about the winery: I loved their wines! All of the ones I tried. I even bought a bottle of white wine to take home – which is bizarre because I don’t really like white wines. If you are looking for a good white wine, The Siren’s White is it. They stack their flights (shown above) and I actually now prefer this. Keeps the table cleaner and you can keep track of what you are drinking. The winery was very busy when we went – so plan for that if you decide to go.

Definitely go to the beach! Be aware that parking can be challenging and take cash with you. A summer picks up, the beach will get more crowded. We lucked out and had a beautiful day that wasn’t very busy.

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We drove down from Washington, D.C. since it isn’t far. We enjoyed Aerosmith tunes, white kit kat candy, arguing over not having Wendy’s (haha), and this glorious bathroom sign at a gas station.

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Overall we had a good stay, fabulous food, great wine, and relaxed in the spa and pool.