In today's uncertain economic climate, people are taking shorter vacations and escaping to locales a lot closer to home. Now more ever, we need to get away, but who wants to shell out the bucks for business class tickets to Thailand for the whole family when one's stock portfolio is more volatile than a Zippo in the hands of an arsonist?
We all want a bargain these days. Lucky for those of us in Los Angeles, there are myriad destinations to go for a weekend or a week -- Mexico, Las Vegas, Napa, Palm Springs -- and plenty of fabulous properties that are now offering deals. Here are a few I recently visited.
Who starts a luxury hotel brand in these troubled times? The former president of Ritz Carlton, Horst Schulze. Of course, Shulze came up with the idea for the Capella brand before the current economic crunch hit, but he went ahead with his plan anyway. He was convinced if he built a collection of small (under 100 rooms) ultra-luxury resorts that afforded both privacy and opportunities to mingle with like-minded sybarites, a clientele would follow. Capella Ixtapa opened in December, followed by Capella Telluride in February and Capella Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas opens in July.
The Ixtapa resort is built into the rocks on the rugged coastline north of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.
Every room has an expansive terrace with a private plunge pool overlooking the Pacific; it is so private you can sunbathe nude on the luxurious daybed while you order room service 24/7.
But the hotel's best amenity is the powerful music of the waves crashing against those rocks. The dramatic sound, filtering through the sliding louvered screen doors with the ocean air, lulled me off to the best sleep I've experienced in a long time. And that's what a vacation is all about. Check webite www.capellaixtapa.com for introductory rates.
Malibu Beach Inn
The waves crash against the shore here, too, and the Malibu Beach Inn is a lot closer to L.A. than Ixtapa. Located on Pacific Coast Highway right in the middle of California's most famous beach town, the Inn was bought and given a multi-million dollar renovation a couple of years ago by mogul David Geffen, who lives down Carbon -- or Billionaires' -- Beach.
The Inn is small and intimate, very modern in design and, of course, everywhere you look there's that drop dead ocean view. The restaurant terrace is one of the best places to dine on the beach in Malibu; it doesn't hurt that the food is top notch. And you're steps away from the newly renovated Malibu Pier and in walking distance to trendy Cross Creek Shopping Center.
A special rate through March of $299/night includes ocean view room and dinner for two and is reason enough to put the surf board in the back of the pick up and head west. I recently took part in a girlfriend fitness; for $375 per person, the hotel provided overnight accommodations, nine fitness classes with a dynamite personal trainer -- everything from weight training to yoga to a morning jog along the beach, as well as healthy beverages and snacks to keep us going. www.malibubeachinn.com
Miramonte Resort & Spa
If the desert is more your thing, head for the Miramonte Resort & Spa in Indian Wells. The resort, which is both unpretentious and glamorous in that old Palm Springs style, is set on a sprawling piece of property surrounded by mountains that take on a dazzling violet hue at dusk. The lush landscaping and one of the sexiest pools in the desert make it the perfect place to hide out and read magazines between treatments at the Well Spa.
The hotel is offering an unbeatable Sunday-Thursday rate of $149 per night in February and March; it includes a free room upgrade and a $50 spa credit per room. Friday and Saturday-night stays are only $20 more per night. The hotel's finest asset is its staff, which is among the nicest in the industry.
The Colony Palms
Another cool desert destination is the Martyn Lawrence-Bullard designed Colony Palms, right on the main Palm Springs strip. The 56-room resort, which was built as a gambling den by a mobster in the 1930s, now has a Moorish modern motif, a chic new pool and a Moroccan spa that riffs on a hamman theme.
The hotel is offering an Economy Relief Package in February and March, which means 25% off room, spa and the Purple Palm restaurant. (Even if you stay elsewhere in Palm Springs, definitely visit the Purple Palm, nevertheless, for its fine cuisine and impeccable wine list.) The package also includes a discounted round of golf at any of three expert courses. If you stay Friday and Saturday night, you can add Thursday, Sunday or both for $100/night plus taxes and receive a $100 Spa Credit during your stay. If you stay any two weekday nights, a third night is free.