Sights, Sounds & Setting – Three hits of the Travel Journal

Tue. April 11, 2017 12:00 AM
by Ross Forman

I remember taking a sunset photo last year at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino that was amazing, incredible, breathtaking -- and almost immediately was, of course, converted into my Facebook profile photo. LIKEs were plentiful.

But the photo only lasted on my social media page for about 24 hours before it was replaced by an even more breathtaking sunset photo.

Can't say I've traveled to every exotic locale that generates unbelievable sunset photos, but Aruba and Waikiki are my top two on such a list, and not necessarily in that order.

So, I was a bit surprised talking with Mark Frances, the general manager of the Playa Largo Resort & Spa in Key Largo, Fla., in mid-March. Sure, he told me all about the amazing property, such as its 14 secluded, beachfront acres on historic Key Largo; the 144 luxury rooms and suites; the 10 private bungalows and the luxurious, private beach house; and more.

But it was his commentary on their sunsets that really struck me.

"I have lived on islands all over the world during the last 25 years, and I am yet to witness sunsets at breathtaking as those that can be seen from our beach at Playa Largo," Frances said. "I always thought that Aruba was the sunset capital of the Caribbean ... but truth is, Key Largo wins hands down."

Frances said sunset photos at the Playa Largo always are #NoFilter.

Now I'm really intrigued by Playa Largo, which boast so many bells and whistles, and high-tech toys, that I could write about it for hours. I am going there soon, though, and will have a further update on this must-see spot that is less than a 90-minute drive from Miami International Airport and a property that falls under the Marriott banner.

Playa Largo also boasts an activity that I can't wait to try: standup-paddleboard-fly-fishing. Frances said that's an "in" activity on property. For me, it probably will be a lot of time 'in the water,' but that's OK. It's all about the experience, after all.

From Sights To Sound ...

One of the best annual music festivals now features Lady Gaga.

Yep, Coachella scored Lady Gaga for the mid-April event.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (often just called Coachella) is an annual music and arts festival held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., dating back to 1999.

Lady Gaga, Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar are the 2017 Coachella headliners, April 14-16, after Beyoncé, who was originally announced as a headliner, was forced to withdraw after she became pregnant.

The Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa is offering a hotel package for festival-goers that includes DJ'd pool parties, a late-night taco truck, artsy morning fuel provided by BaristArtist Michael Breach, and more.

The Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa will feature four of California's hottest DJs, each spinning beats throughout the weekend. The lineup features DJ Torosbros, DJ Mogli, DJ Herswerve and The Lady Julius.

Sure sounds like the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa is expanding the Coachella craziness.

For much of the 19th Century, the only established watering point in the Coachella Valley was the heart of a thriving Native American village. European explorers gave this area the name Indian Wells. In 1957, the world-famous Hollywood power couple, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, chose Indian Wells as the ideal location for a private get-away in the heart of the Palm Springs Desert. Since then, the area has developed a reputation for fine living and luxurious leisure.

Sure sounds like the Indian Wells Resort & Spa is expanding the Coachella craziness.

The Indian Wells Resort & Spa was founded by Hollywood legends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in 1957, and is a private retreat mixing elegance and history.

From Sound To Setting ...

I'm always intrigued by hotels in Waikiki – and where some tourists opt to stay.

Sure, there are plenty of on-the-beach properties that are almost indescribable. They are so scenic, so pretty, so perfect ... and so pricey, too.

So, I was super happy to find a new hotel. New, as in, new to me; this is an older property, though fully renovated within the past year or so, I should say. But this hotel has a super chill vibe: the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, which certainly pays homage to the soul of Waikiki, not the prefabricated version often peddled to the masses. Thus, the Surfjack collaborated with some of Honolulu's brightest visionaries to build a hotel reminiscent of the city's mid-century heyday, all while celebrating the effervescent creative movement that's reshaping the city today.

Located on Lewers Street, the property also teamed with famed, local chef Ed Kenney to create Mahina & Sun's, with a progressive-yet-comforting menu that's representative of Hawaii's real palate.

One of my favorite parts of the Surfjack is the Swim Club. Yes, is a cool, picturesque pool, nestled in the middle of the Surfjack, which carries a trendy 1980s motel feel and look, amid all modern trends and needs.

The Surfjack also has a super-sized, outdoor movie screen, with nightly surf-related movies showing.

The Surfjack truly came to life in 2016 as it previously was "aged," guest services supervisor Robert Helsham admitted.

Not anymore. The Surfjack has live music, wonderful ambiance and so much more.

And don't worry, you can still walk to Waikiki Beach in about five minutes. Plus, Bacchus Waikiki, which boasts itself as "Honolulu's friendliest neighborhood gay bar" is literally steps away from the Surfjack front entrance – think walking from Roscoe's Tavern entrance to D.S. Tequila in Boystown.

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