By William Tomicki
I highly recommend a trip to Bali while it is still uncrowded and a haven for bargain hunters. Tropical Bali represents tranquility, spirituality, and balance between the universe and everyday life. With two-thousand temples, a rich culture, artisans galore, mystical mountains, jungles, rice paddies, and rivers, Bali is the jewel of the Indonesian archipelago. Two special resorts totally capture the essence of Bali: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay and Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan. Four Seasons at Jimbaran Bay is secluded on the shore of the island’s most beautiful bay, only fifteen minutes from the airport. One hundred forty-seven spacious villas located in seven villages, terrace through gardens gently to the water. All villas have their own personal pools. The Resort offers distinct, imaginative dining experiences and glorious spa treatments, especially the Royal Lulur—a deep Balinese massage, herbal scrub and soothing yogurt rub. Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, close to Ubud, emerges from the mountain mists in the Ayung River Valley, with sixty beautifully-appointed suites and villas on eighteen terraced acres. Guests cross a dramatic gorge via a solid teak bridge to enter the resort which offers two restaurants, a full spa with a focus on elements from the earth, boutiques, and endless outdoor activities. No resort experience I know of can quite match these two Four Seasons properties—the country, setting, views, people, and service combine with a warmth of welcome that is totally unique. Visit www.fourseasons.com.
The Mayan Riviera—the region south of Cancun—is an especially intriguing part of Mexico. In recent years, the area has undergone an impressive development and offers visitors a complete sampling of cultural sites, eco-adventure, and relaxation with considerably less tourist frenzy. My stay at Allure Mayan Riviera, a premiere all-inclusive resort, was a revelation of the richness of Mexican culture. The place has a wealth of character, blending Old World charm and New World elegance. A certain feel, distinctly Mexico, is captured in the colonial architecture and soft pastels that color the property. Ornate chandeliers drip from high ceilings while hardwood floors creak underfoot; it is as if you are a guest in a traditional hacienda, but one fitted with modern amenities. The property boasts five restaurants and just about any activity vacationers could ask for. At the spa, therapeutic pampering blends traditional and indigenous treatments that capture the rich natural elements of the Yucatan Peninsula. Only five minutes away is Tulum, one of the world’s most significant Mayan cultural sites. While the masses of tourists in Cancun were boarding busses hours to the north, we leisurely biked to the ruins—a mysterious ancient city that overlooks the turquoise Caribbean Sea. The resort’s proximity to this powerful manifestation of Mayan culture and a number of world renowned ecological parks, including Xel-Ha, Aktun Chen, and Akumal, distinguishes it from anything in Cancun. For reservations, call (800) 451-9376 or visit www.allureresorts.com.
Fifteen minutes outside of Boulder, Colorado, at the edge of the little town of Niwot, lies the Lil Bit North Ranch. Located at the scenic foot of the Rockies, owner Melisa Pearce has created a retreat that provides the rare opportunity to vacation with purpose. Touched by a Horse is a five-day event in which Pearce combines her championship riding skills and her years as a therapist, using humor and metaphors, to bring personal clarity. At once intense yet serene, Touched by a Horse sets the stage for immense and rapid personal growth. There is a comfortable pace which allows for personalized work and free time for introspection. The groups are kept small, with never more than eight participants, none of whom carry a cell phone or wear a watch during their stay. There are a number of options for lodging, ranging from staying at the ranch itself to rooming at the friendly and comfortable Niwot Inn just moments away. Wonderful home cooked (but by no means simple) meals are served ranch-style at the large table overlooking the peaceful Left Hand Creek. Touched by a Horse offers participants challenge, relaxation, expert riding instruction, and personal growth, all at the depth of your own choosing. For more information call (303) 652-8704 or visit www.touchedbyahorse.com.