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Dining

A Day on Waiheke Island – Wine Tasting & More

By | Adventure, Dining, Family Travel, Honeymoons and Weddings, Luxury, Romance | No Comments

Waiheke Island in New Zealand is a Wine Lover’s Paradise

 

A day on New Zealand’s Waiheke Island is as relaxing as it is beautiful. The gorgeous scenery, combined with a diverse amount of vineyards and dining options along with the welcoming residents combine for a fantastic day trip  from Auckland via ferry, or opt to stay for a few days because 1 day just might not be enough!

On a recent visit to New Zealand we had the good fortune to experience a full day on the island. The day trip was booked with a reliable tour operator that we use for many clients in many destinations. The portal offers terrific access to all sorts of the best day tours & activities across the globe including this one.

Upon departure from Auckland’s main ferry terminal the 45 minute trip across the Hauraki Gulf can be a bit chilly and breezy so determining whether to opt for the very comfortable accommodation in the climate controlled main decks or enjoying the view from the top deck exposed to the elements is a decision to consider from the outset. We opted for the breeze (and breezy it was!). But it greatly enhances the arrival in Matiatia Bay.

Starting out from the ferry terminal it takes just a minute to disembark, then a couple more to find your group for the tour (unless opting for a completely private tour) then you are off to a terrific tour of some of the islands top vineyards for tastings and more.

Our group started out at Stonyridge Vineyards for a brief overview and history of the property courtesy of some of the staff as well as wine tastings along the way.

then is was on to a delightful lunch that far exceeded our expectations outdoors near the olive tree plantation.

Quiche, excellent cheeses & guacamole & homemade chips, more wine….(not pictured – we were hungry)

The exterior at Stonyridge Vineyard

As one of the first vineyards on the island it certainly set some of the standards and some high bars, which we were soon to find out would be exceeded!

After Stonyridge we enjoyed some additional tastings at a nearby olive orchard which featured not only some nice olive oils, but additionally some chutneys and other delights were available for sampling and purchase.

But it was wine that we came for!

So on to Casita Miro

To say that this place was memorable is such an understatement. It is quite obviously a labor of love created and curated by the owners Barnett & Cat Bond. Cat focuses on the award winning restaurant

 

 

While Barnett focuses on the wine. A quick overview of the vineyards and brief history of the property….

 

quickly led to tastings of some of the best wines that we experienced in destination – especially the Madame Rouge, which is both outstanding and unforgettable! (and that’s not easy for me to say, as someone who does not generally care for sweet wines)

 

The Spanish influences and Gaudi inspirations are everywhere beginning with the unmistakably Gaudi-esque retaining wall that greets you upon arrival, throughout the property and on to the tasting bar pictured below…

The visit to Casita Miro was excellent, and if ever I get the opportunity to return for a special dining experience this one is near the top to the to-do list for New Zealand, but as they say on television commercials all too often….but wait, there’s more!

The most talked about and highly regarded vineyards on Waiheke Island has to be Mudbrick.

It was recommended and name dropped by everyone who I spoke to regarding putting this New Zealand experience together, and it did not disappoint.

Well, to be honest there was a bit of disappointment involved, but the lovely staff at Mudbrick had nothing to do with it – it was the weather…gloomy, overcast, hazy, chilly & cool meant that spending an extra couple of hours on the patio to enjoy the sunset was not going to be terrific this day, but maybe next time because if it were clear I can only imagine that the view of the sunset across the bay with Auckland in the distance would be amazing!

Still, the overall ambiance is a cut above.

Mudbrick is not only a terrific place for a small group tour or Cellar Door tasting, and of course an excellent choice for a memorable lunch or special occasion dinner, but as well is a top choice for events such a weddings or corporate events.

Strolling the gardens….

Dining al fresco….

Enjoying a libation….

Mudbrick is a cut above. Next time it will be enjoyed “on the fly” after checking the accuweather forecast!

In the end though, Waiheke is not only about vineyards and wine tastings (although I would be equally happy with a few days here as a few days in Napa & Sonoma), there is more to the destination.

A chill little laid back beach town is how I would describe the primary community of Oneroa. A bit of shopping, a stroll along the beach,

along with hiking, biking, paddleboarding, horseback riding, zip lining & more can help you unwind in this pristine little gem.

When it’s time to talk about incorporating a stop at Waiheke Island into your larger adventure to New Zealand then get with “Your friends….in the travel business” at EZTravelPad for the help you deserve.

We specialize in unforgettable leisure vacations and we are here to help.

Email [email protected] for more

Friends Party at Private Villa – Chic Mansion

By | All-Inclusive Resorts, Caribbean, Dining, Luxury, Uncategorized | No Comments

Seriously- how cool would it be to share this amazing mansion with 5 other couples?

This is an 11,500 square-foot luxury house with six stunning guestrooms each with dedicated en suites. As a part of one of the hippest adults-only all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic.

The villa offers guests six suite-style bedrooms which mean that you and eleven friends can enjoy the house’s private amenities and the resort’s Diamond Club™ privileges together.

Your stay in the Mansion include luxurious round-trip airport transfers, butler service, private pool cabana with attendant and even a complimentary spa treatment for each guest. The villa has its own private pool, hot tub, patio, sound system and games room with a pool table.

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It’s gorgeous, it’s spacious, and it’s perfect for a private party such as a couples retreat or even to celebrate a Bachelor/Bachelorette party

Check out the Private pool complete with hot tub!!

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Game room is complete with bar, pool table and stripper pole (not pictured)

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Amazing living space with huge screen and more…..

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and when the smallest and least amazing bedroom looks like this….

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oh wait….you also get a private dinner with private chef!

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But remember – this is not just a stand-alone mansion, it’s also located on the same property as one of the coolest 5 Star Adults-Only All-Inclusive resorts in the Caribbean

Dine around outside the mansion at restaurants (included!) featuring cuisine such as

  • Italian
  • Ceviche
  • Steak House
  • Middle Eastern
  • International
  • Pub Grill

…and more

With nightly entertainment, a terrific beach, several bars and even a mermaid pool this is something to experience and share with your friends

All this and you can get in for under $1500 per person for 5 nights!!

So what are you waiting for…get your friends together for the ultimate couples retreat!

Contact “Your friends….in the travel business? at EZTravelPad for more info

 

What are the Most Popular Honeymoon Destinations Today?

By | All-Inclusive Resorts, Blog, Caribbean, Dining, Honeymoons and Weddings, Luxury, Mexico, Romance | No Comments

Is the most popular choice the right choice for YOU?

With so many choices for Honeymoons these days, how do you know what is the right choice for you?

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is it about the perfect sunset photo shoot on the perfect beach?

 

Caribbean? – Hawaii? – Mexico? – Florida? – South Pacific? – Europe?

There are many, many possibilities for destinations to choose from when you are thinking about your Honeymoon or Destination Wedding, and there are many factors to consider-

  • How much time can you afford?
  • What do you want to experience?
  • How does budget play into it?
  • Do you need a passport?
  • What about safety?
  • Resort – Tour or Cruise?

EZTravelPad can help you quickly narrow down your choices to the most suitable, and offer you expert advice as to what else you should be thinking about – after all, an expert knows more- right?

So what are the most popular choices for Honeymoons these days?

Well, in my experience the vast majority of couples that I talk to want to experience something unique- something that neither of them have experienced before so that they can make new memories together, and in general it is usually ranked something like this-

  1. Tropical – Romantic – Beach
  2. Cruise
  3. Close to home – a romantic Bed & Breakfast 2-8 hour drive from home
  4. Tour Europe

So let’s look today at #1 – Tropical resort This can mean Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, South Pacific, somewhere even more exotic…

By far – about 80% of EZTravelPad clients choose either Caribbean or Mexico. Many people make their selection based on preconceived ideas about safety – affordability – beauty – status.

Obviously safety is a paramount concern. Nothing is more important to EZTravelPad – and all of our travel partners – than your safety! Many people see negative press about Mexico or specific Caribbean islands and rule them out. I am not here to change anyone’s mind – I am here to help you make the best choice possible given your particular wants, needs and desires. I happen to love Mexico, and the value that it presents to the US traveler, so would urge you to consider it – or if not, then it’s a really big world with plenty of other choices!

Budget & Value-

Sometimes price and value are confused. At EZtravelPad we always strive to acheive the maximum value for our clients. One of the best ways to acheive MAX value is by selecting an all-inclusive resort. Most all-inclusive resorts are located in-

  • Cancun / Riviera Maya area of Mexico
  • Jamaica
  • Dominican Republic

At an all-inclusive resort (and there is a very wide variety ranging from budget to luxury) typically food and beverages plus entertainment and non-motorized water sports are included in the price.

Some resorts – such as Sandals Resorts also include motorized water sports such as water sking & scuba diving- even golf….unlimited! Sandals Resorts are very good and are located in Jamaica, Bahamas, St Lucia and Antigua

Palace Resorts are another great choice. Palace Resorts are located in Dominican Republic and throughout many areas of Mexico. Palace offers $1500 in resort credits that can be used for scuba, tours, spa, romantic dinners, golf & more. This is a great value and allows MAX flexibility & choice!

There are some other great choices as well…

BUT– all-inclusive resorts are not necessarily for everyone. If you are the type that wants to get out and experience the destination to it’s fullest – meet the people – eat the food – live the culture, then an all inclusive resort experience is probably not the best choice. If you are the type who likes fine dining offering tremendous choice and is not afraid to pay for it, then a more “Americanized’ resort may be your best option, and they exist EVERYWHERE.

You may be interested in a destination like Hawaii or South Pacific or Europe where all inclusive resorts simply do not exist – no worries, at EZTravelPad we are completely familiar with all types of EP resorts- from high-rise in Hawaii to private-island in French Polynesia. Consider this- will the OTA (online travel agency such as Expedia, Orbitz, etc) personally email the sales manager at the resort and let them know to expect you – and what to expect from you? Unlikely

Choice

So is your Honeymoon or Destination Wedding all about the beach?

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the party?

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the food?

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the tranquility?

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the adventure?

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the spa?

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the service?

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the destination?

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the room?

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How you answer those questions plays a very important role in determining which will be your best choice, and it is very difficult (if not impossible) to make the right choice based on the price and photos you find on the internet.

Adults Only vs Family Friendly

Often times Honeymoon couples want their Honeymoon experience to take place at an adults only resort. There are great options here, and again, Sandals leaps to mind as they are exclusively for adult couples only. Honeymoon couples make up the majority of guests at a Sandals Resort. Sometimes, particularly if a Destination Wedding involves children, then the adults only aspect is not possible. in that case there are still many, many choices- but I want to suggest that a primary concern at that point should be service – you want your most important vacation to go flawlessly and a more service oriented (and often higher end) resort may be the best choice.

How Can You Make The Most Informed Decision?

Here is the best advice you will receive- work with a travel professional….especially a travel pro that specializes in Romance Travel. In most cases the cost will be the same as you would achieve doing things yourself on the internet or going directly to the resort/airline/cruiseline….plus you will most certainly experience a higher grade of service and impartial advice to help you make the best choice.

Experience

Experience can mean many things. Is someone who has worked behind a desk for 20+ years your best source for feedback? Is your cousin, who went to Jamaica on her Honeymoon the best source for info? My belief is that experience is best when it’s broad, and part of that broad base of experience is only achieved by getting out and seeing – getting out and experiencing destinations and resort brands first hand – on the ground.

I have personally spent 33 days out of country this year alone- in 5 different countries – 8 different islands – visiting well over 60 different resorts, all in an effort to help my clients make the best choice possible when it comes to THEIR most important vacation. It’s hard work, but it is so rewarding!

At EZTravelPad we work with select wholesale vacation packagers – and directly with resorts to insure that you achieve the best possible value AND service. Work with a travel pro that you trust, that knows the destinations, and that understands what it is that you are trying to experience. At EZTravelPad we like to think of ourselves as “Your friends….in the travel business” – so when it’s time to make your plans make the call or send the email – you’ll be glad that you did.

 

Awesome Breakfast Spot in Cancun’s Hotel Zone

By | Blog, Dining, Mexico, Travel Tips | No Comments

Breakfast at the Dolphin Aquarium in Cancun

 

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It’s tough to beat a leisurely breakfast at a great restaurant – or a good restaurant in a great location. I’m not sure I have been anywhere quite this good before. Imagine sipping your morning coffee on a bright, warm but comfortable morning in paradise –

now imagine that you are spending your morning breakfast just a few meters away from the dolphin experience at Cancun’s Interactive Aquarium

 

See the video to get a look

 

The Juga de Limon is located at the La Isla Shopping Center along the “7” in the hotel zone of Cancun, Mexico. It’s hard to believe that a good breakfast (full breakfast) in such a great location is available for only $10.50..try it – you will not be disappointed.

When you are ready for more tips and insights into making your vacation the best that it can be, check with EZTravelpad – we are here to help (oh, and there’s also that best price guarantee thingy…)