CARTAGENA | WHERE TO STAY

There aren't a ton of choices inside the walled city, but they are all charming and provide calming oasis from the bustle and heat of the city streets. The most important features to look for are pools and air conditioning, both of which are necessities in the heat as far as I'm concerned.

BASTION
Super cool and boutique-y, it's less Cartagena and more high design but the pool, rooftop deck and restaurant (El Gobernador by Rausch) make it a great place to hang your hat.

CASA SAN AGUSTIN
Set in a former monastery, Casa San Agustin does a flawless job of maintaining its authenticity while providing 5-star service. Everything from the most comfortable beds on the planet to beautifully maintained gardens make it a total pleasure.

HOTEL SOFITEL LEGEND SANTA CLARA CARTAGENA
It's all about the pool here — it's the ;largest inside the walled city. In fact the entire hotel is larger than any other inside. Housed in former convent, the building is beautiful but the rooms definitely feel less authentic and more big box than some others.

THE TCHERASSI HOTEL + SPA
After a two-year restoration designed by Latin fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi, The Tcherassi Hotel + Spa  is a 250 year old colonial mansion complete with seven unique rooms and suites, In addition to oversized, luxurious guestrooms featuring high ceilings, rich wood floors, private balconies and large open bathrooms, the hotel boasts a full service spa, a vertical garden of more than 3000 local plants, four pools and a roof deck with 360 degree views of both the historic city and the sea.

CARTAGENA | WHERE TO EAT

A couple things about food in Cartagena: it's good, but not quite as good as you want it to be; street food can be amazing but can also lead to some stomach issues, so be smart and start a strong dose of probiotics a few weeks  before you go; and don't be afraid to ask for salt as it seems under seasoning is a city-wide epidemic. It's also important to remember that Cartagena has only become a popular destination in recent years and the food scene is still trying to catch up.  What they lack in food, though, they more than make up for in friendly service, lively atmosphere and great attitudes.

ALMA at Casa San Agustin
We stayed at this hotel and it's probably one of the most charming places I have ever been. And the courtyard restaurant doesn't disappoint either. Just stick with  the Aquachile which is fresh and light, the roasted sea bass and the shrimp skewers (and the Iberico ham is pretty good too). Stay away from what they recommend, though — the Sea Bass Chicharrones — which sound amazing but are actually just fried and under seasoned fish.

CAFE DEL MAR
Centro, Baluarte Santo Domingo
+57 5 664 6513
I don't even know if they serve food here to be honest, but the drinks are good and the view at sunset from the terrace is not be missed.

DEMENTE
Cra. 10 #29-29, Cartagena
+57 5 660 4226
Outside the walled city in Getsamani (think Williamsburg), Demente is super cool and super inventive Tapas-Italian-Colombian influenced food that is all locally sourced. The pizzas are great and it's awelcome change from the norm.

EL KILO
Cra. 7 #36122, Cartagena
+57 5 6641779
El Kilo is a relative newcomer to the Cartagena food scene and it's probably one of the younger and more hip-feeling places. The food is easy — ceviches, raw bar and skewers. The whole fish was one of the best we had.

LA CEVICHERIA
Cl. 39 #7 14, Cartagena
+57 5 660 1492
The name says it all.

LA MULATA
Calle Quero 9 58 Sandiego, Cartagena
+57 5 6646 222
perfect spot for lunch. Young, busy and full of locals.

LA PERLA
Cl. 35 #4 - 42, Cartagena
+57 5 664 2157
Another Peruvian-style place that we didn't love, but have heard such good things about I have to hope they were just having an off night.  Regardless, the Tamarind Margarita was well worth the visit.

LA VITROLA
Centro, Calle Baloco, #2-01, Cartagena
The menu is authentic Cuban (!) and the atmosphere is worth the visit. It's pretty old school so make sure you're no traveling with anyone under the age of 16  — they won't be allowed in!

OOH LA LA
Cl. 35 #4-48, Cartagena
+57 5 664 4321
We did a cooking class here (See WHAT TO DO) and the food was great. Run by a husband and wife team (he's French, she's Cartagenian) who worked all throughout Paris, the food is a great combo of both if their backgrounds.

RESTAURANT CANDÉ
Candé is a fave for tourists and Cartagenians alike. The menu is 100% authentic with a few twists and the room is lovely: whitewashed and fresh. We loved it for lunch. Don't miss the traditional ceviches, the chicharrones and the crab rice.ing on menu.

VERA
In the Tcherassi Hotel + Spa
Centro, Calle Del Sargento Mayor, #6-12, Cartagena
+57 5 664 4445
This might have been the best restaurant we ate in, which is weird considering its Italian, but Chef Daniel Castano spent 12 years working in New York with Mario Batali, so there you have it.  The pastas were great and I had a fantastic Mediterranean salad with perfectly grilled artichokes and a perfect dressing. It's not easy to find a green vegetable in Cartagena, let alone a salad, so this was a welcome change.

CARTAGENA | WHAT TO BUY

morchilas-bags.jpg

 

 

CIGARS
Stay away from buying them on the street — they are likely fake. Instead go to Casa Havana for a cigar, a mojito and some live salsa. 

EMERALDS
If you're into them, this is the place to get them as Colombia is the world's largest producer of Emeralds. From what I've heard, Lucy Jewelry is the place to get them.

MORCHILAS
These bags are literally sold everywhere. They come in bright colors or neutrals and can range in price from $10 to $50 depending on where you go. I got all of mine on the street and they made great homecoming gifts. 

THIS IS CARTAGENA
There are bunch of these around the city and they sell local wares all produced in Cartagena.

CARTAGENA | WHAT TO DO

Cartagena is a very smalll city with a very big heart, but not a ton of stuff to do. Here are some of the highlights.

CAFE HAVANA
While Cafe Havana opened as recently as 2006, it's become a mainstay of Cartaganian nighttime. Located in Getsmani, it's the ONLY place to go to hear live salsa. 

CARTAGENA CONNECTIONS
I'm not usually one for organized tours, but we wanted to do a couple of special excursions and were directed to Kristy Ellis and her company, Cartagena Connections. It turns out that Cartagena lends itself perfectly to these types of tours because, as I said, there's not a ton of stuff to do on one's own, but there is a ton of history and incredible stories to be found if you find the right guide. Kristy, an Australian transplant, is just that. She knows everything about everywhere and is an absolute joy to be around — something that seems like a requirement for a tour guide but so often isn't the case.  We took a tour of the Mercado Bazurto and did a cooking class with her, and if we had more time we for sure would have taken advantage of any number of the other tours she offers.

GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ
If you're a fan of Magical Realism, then Cartagena is the place for you. Birthplace of the creator of the genre, you can visit Marquez' house and take audio tours of the streets and places where many of his books, like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, were set.

MERCADO BAZURTO
Here's what I have to tell you before I say anything else: Don't plan on doing a tour of this market by yourself. Really — don't. I don't care how adventurous or well-traveled you are. Call Kristy (see above) and have her take you, because this is no cute farmer's market, this is about as down and dirty as you can get, and anything you think you might know about health and sanitary regulations needs to be put to rest. It's hot, muddy, dirty and little bit scary, but it's well worth the trip to get a true sense of the culture. And make sure to find the "food court" and have a bite at Restaurant Cecilia, made famous by Anthony Bourdain, where the rice and fish are both amazing and the beers are super cold.

THE ROSARIO ISLANDS
Like I said, Cartagena is HOT. And while the Caribbean lays just outside the walls, the beaches in the city are not swimmable and are inhabited mostly by  the homeless. So do yourself a favor and rent a boat (we used Boating Cartagena and they were amazing) and head out to The Rosario Islands, an archipelago about 62 miles off the coast of Cartagena. You won't even believe you're in the same country - the water is crystal clear and the snorkeling is fantastic. The guys at Boating Cartagena can organize lunch for you at any of the hotels on the islands which makes for a really nice day spent getting massages, having lunch and laying on the beach. And if you can, take 2 days and spend one having lunch at Cholon, an "island" (it's really a peninsula, but who's counting) located in Baru. And by lunch I mean eating freshly caught seafood while standing under a thatched hut in the middle of the ocean (they'll also deliver food to your boat, but trust me on this — you want to eat it in the water because you will never ever have that kind of experience again).  And don't say no to he guy who comes by canoe and offers you freshly snatched oysters, either. Apparently Cholon can turn into quite the party during the high season, but if you get there early enough you can get out before the real partying starts.

ICELAND | WHERE TO EAT

A note on eating in Iceland: We love to find little local restaurants in our travels and had hoped that on all of our day trips outside of the city to see various natural phenomena we would land in some amazing spots for real, local, authentic food. This is not the case. There are roadside stops for gas, coffee, rest rooms and Icelandic clothing, and this is where you eat. It’s strictly soups and sandwiches, which are fine, but nothing to write home about. The only exception is the very small restaurant on the black sand beach in Vik. It’s called the Black Beach Restaurant and if you can snag a window seat, you'll have a pretty good view of Dyrhólaey and the ocean. The lamb stew is good, but the lamb chops are the thing to get, bizarre as it may seem. Another note: for a reason I cannot seem to determine, Icelanders love to add fruit to their savory dishes. Sauces are all a bit sweet and unless you love that, you just might want to watch out and ask for sauce on the side when appropriate.

BAEJARINS BEZTU PYSLUR 
Tryggvatagata 1, 101 Reykjavík
+354 511 1566
This is the stand that sells the most famous hot dog in Iceland, and maybe the world. I’m told the line can take over 2 hours at lunchtime, so we opted for a pre-dinner snack and only waited a few minutes. So what’s so special about it? Well, it’s made of lamb for starters and somehow it has a much better “snap” than our regular all-American dogs. It also comes loaded – I mean loaded — with toppings: ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade and raw onions and fried onions, which might be a good thing, but I actually found the sauces to be so sweet I had ordering regrets.

DILL 
Hverfisgata 12, 101 Reykjavík
+354 552 1522
Often compared to places like Noma and Per Se, Dill has earned the reputation of being the best restaurant in Reykjavik. And it actually is, if super high end, new Nordic cuisine is what you’re after. Chef Gunnar Karl Gislason creates modern dishes using only the freshest and most local ingredients making sure to stick closely with Icelandic traditions.  Options are a 5 or 7 course tasting menu with or without a wine pairing and often include things you have always heard about but probably never tasted like reindeer or whale. But fear not, they’re done in only the most perfect way.

FISHMARKET (Fiskmarkadurinn) 
Adalstræti 12, 101 Reykjavik
+354 578 8877
Here’s where you’ll find all that puffin you’ve been hearing about, but it’s likely smoked and it’s definitely delicious. Flavors skew towards Asian, which is a welcome twist and if you’re going to eat fish in Iceland. Which, of course, you are.

GRILLMARKET (Grillmarkaðurinn)
2a Lækjargata, 101 Reykjavík
+354 571 7777
The meaty brother of the below-mentioned Fishmarket, we happened upon this spot for lunch one day and loved it so much, we went back for dinner. The name says it all: grilled everything — meats, fish and vegetables and all to perfection. The bi-level space is Iceland industrial chic: cozy, glowy complete with lava rock walls and the service is as friendly as it gets. Please don’t miss the crispy duck salad (one of the few dishes where I actually enjoyed the use of fruit) or the ribs — and please bring me back a rack. Also, a note: it’s not that easy to find – while the address lands you on Lækjargata, the entrance is actually down a little alley around the corner next to the Nordic Store.

GEIRI SMART 
Canopy Reykjavik
Hverfisgata 30, 101 Reykjavík
+354 528 7050
My love for this hotel is endless and includes this restaurant, which is as perfect as everything else they do. The menu seems tricky, but it’s well worth it and the Chef is reportedly the best in Iceland at the moment.

ICELANDIC FISH + CHIPS 
Tryggvagata 8, 101 Reykjavik
+354 511 1118
There’s a serious lack of ambiance here, but the location on the harbor makes it a great spot for lunch. Some say it’s the best fish and chips in Reykjavik, and that just might be true. We also loved the salads, the Skyr dipping sauces and the oven baked fish. Just make sure to ask for a side of malt vinegar because it makes the meal.

KOL 
Skólavörðustígur 40, 101 Reykjavik
Unsurprisingly, most of the entrees here are cooked in the coal oven (get it?). Opt for the seafood tower (because, seafood tower) and then if you’re not sick of them, the langoustines.

LAVA AT THE BLUE LAGOON
+354 420 8800
We had low expectations for our meal at Lava because as awesome as the Blue Lagoon is, it’s also one of the biggest tourist destinations (if not THE biggest) in the country, and good food and tourist traps don’t usually go hand in hand. I’m pleased to tell you we were totally wrong. Aside from the fact that many diners are still in various states of undress: bikinis, swim trunks, spa robes, the food is pretty freakin’ phenomenal and a great way to start your Icelandic adventures.  The fish is fresh, the rack of lamb tender and perfectly seasoned and the vegetarian options were inventive and delicious without being precious. The views of the lagoon are also pretty spectacular and the soaring walls of lava rock are something to behold.

MESSINN
Laekjargata 6b, Reykjavik 101
+354 546 0095
A relative newcomer, Messinn might win my vote for best fish we had while we were in Reyjkavik. A favorite among locals (always a good sign), the menu is 99% fish and 100% delicious. The pan-fry’s are just that – fish served in pans with a variety of set ups. My favorite was the salmon done with coconut, cashews and chili (the heat!) and in second place was the plaice with tomatoes, capers and garlic. For the non-fish eaters the giant pan of ratatouille and Israeli couscous is a delicious option.

NAM LAUGAVEGUR
Laugavegur 18, 101 Reykjavik
+354 519 6303
At some point you'll need a break from Icelandic food. You'll also need a break from the astronomical expense of eating out, so head to Nam, a Vietnamese noodle and dumpling bar set behind a tourist shop on the main shopping street. The menu is simple and the dishes fresh and refreshing. I know it sounds weird, but I promise you it's worth it.

ROK 
Frakkastigur 26a, Reykjavik 101
+ 354 544 4443
Tucked onto the cutest street you’ll ever see, next to the famous Hallgrímskirkja Church, Rok serves an Icelandic version of Tapas, which after 5 days of eating Icelandic food, was a nice change. The menu when we were there was wintery (because, um, it was winter) and was pretty perfect: Christmas lamb chops with cumin, pulled pork, duck comfit and the like. We also had a ptarmigan soup, which was insanely good. What’s ptarmigan? I’m glad you asked. It’s a partridge-like bird that lives in Iceland. Who knew?

SÆMUNDUR Í SPARIFÖTUNUM at the KEX HOSTEL
Skúlagata 28, 101 Reykjavik
+ 354 561 6060
Forget what you think you know about hostels because Kex isn’t that. This former biscuit factory overlooking the harbor is one of the hottest spots in the city, and its Gastropub is the perfect place for a cozy Icelandic meal.

SLIPPBARRIN AT THE MARINA HOTEL
Myrargata 2, 101 Reykjavík
+354 560 8080
Cool hotel, cooler restaurant. Especially if you like cocktails, like the Pippi Gonzales which is made with dill aquavit. The menu is made up of locally sourced ingredients and the room is as fresh as the menu.

TULUM | THE UPDATE

I am fortunate enough to take 5 days every year to go to Tulum, which is one of my favorite places on the planet. I just got back from my 5th annual escape and while I have pretty much exhausted my recs in the previous guide (read it here), I needed to add a few things that I was lucky to discover on this trip.

WHERE TO SLEEP

HOTEL NOMADE TULUM
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila, Km.10.5,
+1 877 265 4139

With the same owners as my Beloved Be Tulum,  Nomade Tulum is the more esoteric sibling. More hip commune than hotel, they call it a  "human centered hotel, conceived as a temporary habitat for those ready to learn and share, ready to awake the soul, and free the mind." Rooms are all hand-built from natural local materials, creating a combination of modern eco-chic with upscale glamping. And with weekly retreats, workshops and talks alongside a "culinary shaman" who prepares raw and cooked organic fare, you're sure to return to real life a whole lot more centered than you were when you left.

SANARA TULUM
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila, Km 8.2
"Space to heal, breathe and be free," Sanara may sound like your typical Yoga Retreat/Hotel, but it's far from ordinary. It's won a whole bunch of Architectural awards, boasts an incredibly beautiful (and healthy) restaurant called The Real Coconut and yes, the beachside yoga pavillion is pretty spectacular. Make sure to book a beachside room, though. The jungle side can prove to be a little dicey at night.


WHERE TO EAT

ARCA
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila, Km. 7.6
I was wondering how long it would take someone to come in and give Eric Werner of Hartwood a run for his money. Well, these two Chefs: Maya from Mexico and Fausto from San Francisco have finally done it. The open air space is maybe even more gorgeous than its competition next door, and the food is as inventive and fresh, but is a lighter version of what Werner does at Hartwood.  Everything is farm (and sea) to table, sustainable and delicious. And the drinks are on point as well. Arca is a welcome addition to the Tulum dining scene for sure.

LUNCH AT NOMADE
Sit on the beach, order a margarita and get the whole fish with green sauce. Then send me a thank you note.

LUNCH AT LA ZEBRA
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila, Km 8.2
+52 1 984 115 4726

I know I mentioned the new chef's table at La Zebra in my last Tulum post, but what I had never done before was go for lunch. I can't recommend it highly enough - the food is traditional Mexican, and there's nothing fancy about the menu, but the flavors are all just a little elevated and the food feels a bit more refined than most of what you'll find in Tulum. Tacos are all fantastic (pork cheek sous vide, anyone?) as are the ceviches, and I kid you not: the chicken quesadilla is the best I've ever had

← Back to Tulum

Tulum | Where to Eat

A Note on Eating in Tulum: with the exception of one or two places, almost all restaurants are predominately outside, so dress accordingly: spots on the beach side which can get windy and those on the jungle side often require bug spray.

ANTONITO'S LA CHIAPANECA
Cancun - Chetumal Mz 6 Lt 8, Centro
+52 1 984 114 6386
In Town

Cheap yet amazing tacos here, the best being the Al Pastor. Oh, and they’re .52 each.

BE TULUM
Km.10 Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 1 984 803 2243
Beach Side

As much I love staying here (see Where to Stay), I love eating here even more. It’s almost gotten to the point where we often will do all three meals in a day. Tables are set right in the sand and the menu is traditional Mexican with incredible ceviche, grilled fish and amazing tacos.

CASA BANANA
Km. 8.5, Carretera Tulum Boca Paila
+52 1 984 806 2871
Jungle Side

They call it urban rustic cuisine. I call it delicious. It’s Argentine and most everything is cooked in the wood-fired oven and is all really, really good. Their craft bar program is also impressive.

CASA JAGUAR
Km 7.5, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 1 998 222 2749
Jungle Side

It might actually be too hip for me, but Casa Jaguar is the darling of all the cool peeps who head to Tulum. More open-air lounge than straight up restaurant, the menu is inventive and the drinks even moreso. Make sure to stop by on Thursdays when it turns onto a dance club at 10pm.

CASA VIOLETA
Km 8.2, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 1 984 171 0986
Beach Side

A bottle of rosé and a plate of fish tacos pretty much sums up what Casa Violeta means to me. They do breakfast really well here, too, and it’s one of the only enclosed restaurants (albeit in all glass), so a good option in the rain.

CHAMICO’S
No website. No address. No phone. Lunch only.
It’s locals only and the menu is fish only. But it’s the freshest fish you’ve ever had. And the coldest beer. Make it at least once and bring cash.
Directions (from Mr. and Mrs. Romance): From Tulum you head north back towards Cancun on the main road (there’s only one!). When you get to a sign for Oscar & Lalo’s Restaurant, turn off. If you miss the turn, don’t worry. There’s a U-turn bay ahead so you get a second go at it. Drive down the unsealed road right to the end. And I mean right to the end. Go past all the hotels you’ll find there, nod and smile at the security guard halfway down, who’ll (slowly) unhitch the chain gate for you to continue. When you come to what looks like an abandoned parking lot and an old ship, you’re there. You won’t see any signs but you should see the white of the chairs through the palm trees.

EL TÁBANO
Km 5, Carretera Tulum Boca Paila
+52 1 984 134 8725

Jungle Side
This was the first restaurant I ever ate at in Tulum, and it holds a very special place in my heart. Actually, it’s the lavender shrimp that holds that. Truly, everything served from the open-air kitchen is incredible, and the vibe is laid back and super friendly. The menu changes daily and is written on a series of chalkboards at the center of the dining room and it’s all fresh and delicious.

GITANO
Km 7, Carretera Tulum Boca Paila
+52 1 984 188 2184

It’s like all of your Pinterest dreams come true. Chandeliers in the trees, tike torches along the path and bathrooms bathed in candlelight. And the food is spot on, too. Don’t miss the chorizo or anything from the bar.

HARTWOOD
Km 7.6, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
Jungle Side

Hartwood may very well be the most famous of all of Tulum’s restaurants which is sort of incredible considering it’s open only 4 days a week from 6pm-11pm (maybe less in the case of inclement weather), has no electric appliances (save for one lone blender), doesn’t take reservations and starts taking names at 3pm (in person only). But Chef Eric Werner’s (formerly of Peasant in NYC) food can’t be denied. Everything he makes is by hand, grilled or cooked in the incredible wood-burning oven and is the true essence of farm to table.  So take a beach break at 3, get on line and prepare to be amazed. And if you love the food as much as I think you will, you can make it home with the new Hartwood cookbook

LA ZEBRA
Km 8.2, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 1 984 115 4726

The new chef’s table is where it’s. 8, 10 or 12 course tasting menus of traditional Mexican recipes with a twist. Chef Eliza Bonilla hails from Mexico and his cooking is pretty spectacular. If a tasting menu isn’t your thing, any regular meal at Le Zebra is far from regular. And the Sunday night Salsa party is pretty incredible, too.

LOS AGUACHILES
Avenue Tulum MZA, 40 LTE. 1 Centro
In town

Amazing ceviches and hot sauces. One of Chef Eric Werner’s faves.

MATEO’S MEXICAN GRILL
Km 5.2, Carretera Tulum Boca Paila
+52 1 984 179 4160
Jungle Side

The closest thing you’ll ever come to a sports bar in Tulum, it’s the perfect stop for a taco and a beer.  And breakfast is awesome here as well.

MEZZANINE
Km 1, Carretera Tulum Boca Paila
Beach Side

Another hard sell is good Thai in Tulum, but here it is. In case you’ve OD’d on tacos and tequila, you can get your fix of high end pad thai and curries here. And it’s all really, really good!

POSADA MARGHERITA
Km 4.5, Crta. Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 1 984 801 8493
Beach Side

If traveling to Mexico for Italian food feels wrong to you, let Posada Margherita relieve you of that thought. Not only is it good Italian food, it’s AMAZING Italian food. The restaurant is owned by the perfectly gorgeous Alessandro Carrozzino who makes sure to sit down at each table personally and recite the short menu (usually 2-3 handmade pastas and 2-3 fresh fish dishes).  He sets the vibe for your meal – relaxed, laid back and chic as hell.

RESTAURARE
Km 6, Carretera Tulum Boca Paila
+52 984 168 1282
Jungle side

It’s a Vegan paradise here at Restaurare where everything comes straight from local farmers. Think mushroom ceviche and Mayan lasagna.

TAQUERIA LA EUFEMIA
Km 9, Carretera Tulum Boca Paila
+52 1 984 151 6979
Beach Side

“Today … relax and eat some fucking tacos,” so says the chalkboard message in front of this beachside Taqueria. Um, you don’t have to ask me twice.

ZAMAS
Km 5, Carretera Tulum Boca Paila
+1 52 984 877 8523
Beach Side

Crayola colored tables on the beach make for a happy place for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Tulum | Where to Stay

The hotels in Tulum are all variations on a theme. Some are slightly more upscale than others, but none are super luxury. Prepare for eco-chic lodging and mimimalist decor.


AHAU TULUM
Km 7, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 98 48 02 53 87

Admittedly I've never stayed here, but the people I know who have, love it. The rooms are tricked out beach cabanas and the restaurant sits on the beach. There’s also a professional Kite surf & Paddle School on the property, which are two of Tulum’s most beloved pastimes.

AMANSALA
Km 5.5, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
Home of the famous Amansala Bikini Boot Camp, this was the first place we stayed in Tulum years ago. Billing itself as “eco-chic,” I would go with more eco, than chic, but it’s THE place to stay for a yoga break or for the bikini boot camp retreats, which was what we did. The food, though, is restricted as is the alcohol, so prepare to be a bit of a rebel if a serious detox isn’t quite what you came for.

ANA y JOSÉ
Km 7, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 99 88 80 56 29

Ana y José straddles both sides of the main beach road – from jungle to beachfront – and feels more like a “resort” than anything else on the strip, complete with pool, spa and restaurant + bar. It’s also probably the most kid-friendly with all suite accommodations, so keep that in mind if a family vacay (or someone else's) is not what you had planned.

BE TULUM
Km 10,  Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 98 48 03 22 43

This is where I've stayed for the past four years, and it's my idea of heaven on earth. The rooms (all air condoned, by the way – a REAL luxury in Tulum), spread out along a sandy path that leads to the beach, are all spacious, clean and simple, and each room has either a private pool or a large in-room Jacuzzi. The real deal, though, are the two ocean suites located on the 2nd floor of the buildings closest to the beach, which have rooftop pools overlooking the ocean. Also of note is the incredible beachfront restaurant (see Where to Eat) and the fact that the hotel is adults only.

CASA VIOLETA
Km 8.2, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 98 41 71 09 86

Owned by the GORGEOUS Karla Gutierrez, Casa Violeta doesn’t look like more than just a few thatched roof huts on the beach, but it’s so much more. Bellini bed linens, amazing yoga pavilion and incredible restaurant all make for a super laid back stay. This one is also great for traveling solo.

COQUI COQUI
Km 7.5, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
CLOSED

ENCANTADA
650 212 6782
Km 8.7, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila

It’s brand new and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it, but reviews are good and pictures are pretty.

MEZZANINE
Km 1.5, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 98 41 31 15 96

This hotel is on the northern part of the beach road, so it’s a bit more secluded and the beaches tend to be quieter. It’s a gorgeous spot with a only 9 rooms, so the service is pretty impeccable.

PAPAYA PLAYA PROJECT
Km 4.5, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 98 41 16 37 74

This was opened as a “temporary hospitality experience” in 2011, but has become a permanent fixture on the beach, with 80 cabanas spread across 800 meters of oceanfront property. There’s also a great restaurant and bar, the requisite spa and yoga pavilion and on occasion there’s even a pop up nightclub. This is, for sure, the most truly eco-chic of the hotels along the strip.

JASHITA
Bahia Punta Soliman s/n, 77780
+52 98 41 68 67 69

This one is located about 20 km north of the main beach strip on the very secluded and very beautiful Solimon Bay, which makes for a great swimming and snorkeling spot. It’s pretty isolated, though, and not so easy to access all of the restaurants on the strip, so just be prepared to be really, really quiet at Jashita. If you happen to be in the mood for a romantic getaway, the Aphrodite Honeymoon Suite is over the top.

LAS RAINITAS
Km. 9, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
+52 984 871 1090

Las Rainitas is closed for a complete renovation until 2017, so check in and see if they’re open because we hear the reno is going to be spectacular.


HOUSES

While we usually love the idea of a house, in Tulum it feels like the hotels are the way to go. Unless, of course, you’re traveling with a large group or family, in which case we have heard that these rentals are the best on the strip:

CASA DOS BESOS

CASA BEHLA
A group of three houses of varying sizes just next to Coqui Coqui.

 

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Tulum | What to Buy

While there isn't a ton of shopping in Tulum, what is there is perfectly curated and very of the place. In fact, you could probably get on a plane with no luggage at all and find everything you could ever need for the perfect beach vacation in these shops.


HACIENDA MONTAECRISTO
Km 7.5, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila (at Coqui Coqui. see above)
High fashion meets beach chic at this incredible shop. And if you can’t get to Tulum, many of their pieces are available from a slew of US shops from J.Crew to Club Monaco,  too.

JOSA TULUM
Km 7.5, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
Best. Cover-ups. Ever. For real. These dresses and caftans go from day to night, won’t wrinkle in your bag. And the shop, a tricked out modern lean-to, might even be cooler than the wares.

LA TROUPE
Km. 7.5, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
Mexican style, Bohemian feel,  and everything here is made locally by Mayan women.

MIGUELINA
Across the street from Posada Margherita, Jungle Side
I've long been obsessed with her cover ups and rompers, but they are pricey! Happily I found them to be a bit less expensive in Tulum.

MR. BLACKBIRD
Km 7.5, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila
It’s tiny and the floor is covered in sand but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a plethora of jewelry, sandals and accessories to choose from.

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Tulum | What to Do

The great thing about Tulum is that there's lots to do, if sitting on the beach sipping a cocktail and reading a book are not your thing. Here a list of some of my favorites for when I just can't eat another taco. Note that there aren't really any proper addresses listed as many places don't have actual locations. Your hotel or taxi driver will be able to lead you, though.


AKUMEL DIVE SHOP
Plaza Ukana I, Playa Akumal, Local 3, 77731 Akumal, Q.R., Mexico
+52 98 48 75 90 30

Akumel, which is located about 20 minutes up the coast from Tulum, is home to some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving. Located in the middle of the public beach replete with taco stands is the Akumel Dive Shop, which offers everything from bull shark diving to tours of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere (see below). Or, if you prefer to snorkel solo you can also rent gear and go it alone.

AKTUN CHEN
Located 25 min from Playa del Carmen, 4 km south of Akumal and 16km before Tulum
+52 98 48 06 49 62

Caves, ziplines, underground rivers, wildlife – it’s all here at Aktunchen Natural Park. Great if visiting Tulum with kids, or antsy travel mates who are tired of laying on the beach drinking margaritas.

CASA CENOTE (or CENOTE MANATEE)
Carratera Cancun - Tulum, Interior Fraccionamento Tankah, Caribe Lote 32 Manzana 3, Q.R. Mexico
+52 98 41 15 69 96

People LOVE cenotes – natural sinkholes created where a cave has collapsed – and while I’m not a HUGE fan (I tend to get claustrophobic), the one at Casa Cenote seems to me to be the most beautiful and serene. And there’s also a great restaurant right next door for cold beer and ceviche when you’re done. Ask any taxi driver and they’ll get you here in 10 minutes from the Tulum hotels.

CHICHEN ITZA
+52 98 58 51 01 37
The second most visited archaeological site in Mexico, Chichen Itza was elected one of the new 7 Wonders of the World in 2007. It’s a very cool Mayan Ruin and worth a look if you’re searching for an activity.

KANLUM LAGOON
Located 15 minutes from downtown Tulum,  by road from Tulum to Muyil south, approximately 9 km south of Tulum.
Totally crystal clear and calm, this lagoon is perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Bring your own gear, though, because there are no amenities here.

MAYAN RUINS
You kind of can’t get away with a trip to Tulum without visiting the ruins. There are quite a few to choose from, but I like the Tulum ruins the best. They are just North on the beach road and there’s a beach just below.

SIAN KA’AN BIOSPHERE
It’s a 1.5 MILLION acre UNESCO world heritage site. It’s a biosphere. Jaguars, pumas, hundreds of birds, manatees, and alligators and about a thousand other animals call it home. And it just might be the coolest place on Earth, so whatever you do or don’t do during your time in Tulum, you can’t miss it. Book a tour, go solo – however you want to do it, just please trust me on this one.

TEMAZCAL CEREMONY AT MAYA TULUM
You’re already in Tulum, so the next obvious step is this traditional Mayan purification ceremony. Led by a shaman, inside a small, hot lodge it’s really just a more exotic way of saying sweat lodge.

 

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New Orleans | Where to Eat

I fear that although I only spent 4 days in New Orleans, my list of where to eat is pretty long. It's amazing how many meals you can fit into a day if you try hard enough.

CAFE DU MONDE
800 Decatur Street
+1 504 525 4544

It's cliché, and not at all my usual preference to go onto the beaten path, but there is no way around it: you simply CANNOT visit New Orleans and not have beignets and chicory (drink it the way they suggest: au lait, half coffee, half hot milk) at Café du Monde. Both are sublime and if you ask me, the best way to do it is to take it to go, walk around to the side of the building and watch the beignets being made through the glass wall.

CASAMENTO'S
4330 Magazine Street
+1 504 895 9761

Oysters, oysters and more oysters. Oyster loaf, specifically, is what they are best known for, but anything done with seafood here is a sure bet.

CLANCY'S
6100 Annunciation Street
+1 504 895 1111

It's a bit of a trek to get there, but this former neighborhood bar and po'boy palace is now home to some of the best creole cuisine in all of Louisiana. It's upscale but far from stuffy and you can feel the history in every dish. 

COCHON
930 Tchoupitoulas Street
+1 504 588 2123

Cochon is one of those places that you can't eat at just once. In fact in the four days we were there, we went three times (don't judge). Chef Donald Link is a fixture on the New Orleans food scene (see Herbasaint, below), and he has won all kinds of awards for good reason. It was here that I first ate alligator (fried with chili garlic mayonnaise) and everything from that to the wood-fired oysters, smoked pork ribs, rabbit dumplings,and, of course, the Louisiana cochon is sheer brilliance. It's a great spot for lunch in an area that feels more industrial than anywhere else in town, so it's a nice change of scenery. And don't miss a visit to Link's Butcher, a butcher shop, sandwich counter and wine bar, right next door.

COMMANDER'S PALACE
1403 Washington Avenue
+1 504 899 8221

Nothing, and I mean nothing screams old world New Orleans charm like Commander's Palace does. It has been around forever (since 1880 to be exact) and has been home to some of the world's  greatest chefs, including Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Jamie Shannon, and now ,Tory McPhail. My money is on Sunday brunch in the treehouse-like dining room where you can feast on what they call Haute Creole cuisine for hours while drinking Sazerac after Sazerac. Plus, it's located in the Garden District which makes for a great after-lunch walk.

COQUETTE
2800 Magazine Street
+1 504 265 0421

Despite the fact that the building dates back to the late 1880's and has been everything from a grocery to an auto parts stores, Coquette is definitely on the more modern end of New Orleans style. The dining rooms (there are 2, one upstairs and one down) are airy and the menu which changes daily, focuses on locally sourced products. 

DANTE'S KITCHEN
736 Dante Street
 +1 504 861 3121

The menu here was a surprise to me for some reason. I'm not sure what I was expecting (maybe the name threw me), but I was happy to find some really inventive cooking here - the escargot, boudin rouge and chicken under a brick were standouts - and they are also huge proponents of sustainable cooking. 

DOMENICA
123 Baronne Street
+1 504 648 6020

I often find that the biggest challenge when traveling is leaving with no regrets: do not ever get on a plane saying to yourself,  "damn, I should have eaten that last (fill in the blank)." Unfortunately, it almost always happens to me. Domenica was one of those cases where it was our last meal in New Orleans and we had eaten SO much, but it's a don't miss from celebrated chef John Besh. His Italian fare is inventive and really incredible.

GALATOIRE'S
209 Bourbon Street
+1 504 525 2021

This very well may be the most famous lunch spot in all of New Orleans and the time to go, if you can, is Friday at noon, when you'll certainly have to wait in line, and the place to sit is in the downstairs dining room, but the pomp and circumstance is part of the fun (I have been told that they do actually have a wait list and take limited reservations, but we were not privy to that info on our trip). Waiters wear dinner jackets, and for the most part are Galatoire's lifers so their menu recommendations should be taken to heart. I have also heard that Sunday brunch is high on the list of things to do, but keep in mind that for men at that time (as well as every day after 5pm), jackets are required.

HERBSAINT
701 Saint Charles Avenue
+1 504 524 4114

This was our first meal in New Orleans and it set the bar really, really high. Donald Link, who I've now mentioned  a few times, is the chef here, and while Cochon is his down and dirty masterpiece, Herbsaint is the much more refined older brother. It is the first restaurant he opened and to say it is flawless doesn't even do it justice. I could talk about it all day, but instead I will give you some menu highlights and really, really insist that you make it your business to eat here. Some of our favorite dishes:  housemade spaghetti with guanciale and fried-poached farm egg,   muscovy duck leg confit with dirty rice and citrus gastrique and  louisiana shrimp and fish ceviche with cucumbers and pepitas to name a few. 

LA PETITE GROCERY
4238 Magazine Street
+1 504 891 3377

Sadly, we didn't get a chance to eat at La Petite Grocery, but we did walk by it and I have heard a ton of good things, mostly that it's a perfect stop for lunch when shopping on Magazine Street. 

LILETTE
3637 Magazine Street
+1 504 895 1636

Another Magazine Street spot, and like Coquette, Lilette is also a bit more contemporary and Chef John Harris' menu is focused on local and fresh produce. The room is classic New Orleans and the service can't be beat. And it's pretty versatile, or - casual enough at lunch for a quick stop while shopping and then feels more refined at dinnertime.

MOTHER'S 
401 Poydras
+1 504 523 9656

As with so many of New Orleans' institutions, Mother's feels more cafeteria than restaurant, but it makes no apologies for what it is, and what it does, it does well - specifically the loaded po'boys. We happened to go to Mother's twice for breakfast while we were there and I have to admit that I fell in love with the no-frills feel and the super authentic food.
 
WILLIE MAE'S (no website)
2401 St Ann Street
+1 504 822 9503

Two words: FRIED CHICKEN. Yes, there are other things on the menu, but don't bother because this is, as they will tell you, America's best fried chicken. Please make it your business to get there!

New Orleans | Where to Stay

When we were researching our trip to New Orleans, I reached out to a few people I knew who had spent considerable time there, and the same hotels came up over and over again. I list them here with the caveat that we did not stay in any of them. In fact I went against my gut (never a good thing), and chose a place recommended by a travel agent and it was a total disaster, so I will leave it off my list. 

THE RITZ CARLTON
921 Canal Street
+1 504 524 1331

Definitely on the higher end, but the location on Canal Street can't be beat - a block off of Bourbon Street - so in the heart of the action without lying on top of it. They also have a cool lounge (the Davenport, named for its headliner, Jeremy Davenport) that will transport you back to the 50s.

THE ROOSEVELT
130 Roosevelt Way
 +1 504 648 1200

Yes, it's a Waldorf Astoria property, but it has a pool. On the roof. And it's HOT in New Orleans. Oh, and did I mention that it's also home to one of the very best restaurants in all of New Orleans? That's right, you can dine at John Besh's Italian fantasy, Domenica, in your pajamas if you want.

THE MONTELEONE
214 Royal Street
+1 504 523 3341

Another well located historic hotel, the one with a bit more pomp and circumstance (think Pimm's Cups and Southern grace). 

THE W NEW ORLEANS - FRENCH QUARTER
316 Chartres Street
+1 504 581 1200

As I mentioned, we were pretty unhappy with our New Orleans accommodations, and this hotel was the one that really stood out to me as the place we SHOULD have stayed. The location is perfect, and it's the perfect blend of old world luxe and W hotel modernity. Plus, the gardens are gorgeous and the pool can't be beat. It's also perfect for traveling with kids.

 

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New Orleans | What to Do


LISTEN

Obviously there is a HUGE music scene in New Orleans, and while I wish I could tell you we took advantage of it, we didn't really. We were traveling with our kids and so it wasn't so easy for us to get into some of the places, but these are a few that stood out as the most fun.
 

FRENCHMAN STREET
An entire street dedicated to music 7 nights a week 365 days a year. On any given night you'll find the best jazz, funk, blues, and everything in between.

dba
618 Frenchman Street
+1 504 942 3731


SPOTTED CAT
623 Frenchmen Street

SNUG HARBOR
626 Frenchmen Street
+1 504 949 0696


ONE EYED JACKS
615 Toulouse Street
+1 504 569 8361


PRESERVATION HALL
726 Saint Peters Street
+1 504 522 2841


TIPITINAS
501 Napoleon Avenue
+1 504 895 8477


ROCK 'N' BOWL
3000 Carrollton Avenue
+1 504 811 1700


DO

AUDUBON ZOO
6500 Magazine Street
+1 504 861 2537

As I mentioned, we were with our kids in New Orleans and as such visited the zoo under the guise of needing a "kid" activity. But the truth is that this zoo and the surrounding park is truly for everyone. There are amazing animals (elephants, white tigers!) and it's a really beautiful setting outside of town. A great visit for any age.

AQUARIUM OF THE AMERICAS
1 Canal Street
+1 504 565 3033

The aquarium, also part of the Audubon Nature Institute, is right on the Mississippi River and is home to some pretty spectacular sea life. Don't miss the
Gulf of Mexico Exhibit which measures 17 feet deep and holds 400,000 gallons of man-made saltwater. It's packed with sharks, sting rays, and sea turtles—including King Mydas an endangered green sea turtle. We loved everything about this aquarium.

NEW ORLEANS PHARMACY MUSEUM
514 Chartres Street
+1 504 565 8027

Just that - an old apothecary that is very cool to check out.

 

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Austin | Where to Stay

HOTEL SAINT CECILIA
112 Academy Drive
+1 512 852 2400

I had never been to Austin when we planned our annual post-New Year's domestic trip, but Marc had and he had stayed here and loved it, maybe more than any other hotel he had ever been to. I looked it up online and this is how the hotel describes itself:

"Created in honor of the patron saint of music and poetry, the Saint Cecilia takes inspiration from the great era of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when a revolution of rock and roll and beat poetry overran the hallowed halls of established convention. We pay tribute to the great creative legacy of our revolutionary idols and to the spirit of the artist that lies within us all."

It seemed pretty clear to me that this hotel was exactly what we were looking for, and I am happy to say that it more than delivered. It's a perfect blend of early rock n' roll and modern luxury. The location is spot on - steps from the South Congress Shopping District and pretty much within walking distance to anything you might want to do, but tucked away far enough off the beaten path behind a gate and set amidst beautiful gardens and pool that is a complete oasis. The rooms themselves are perfection - the beds are the most comfortable I've ever slept on (thanks to exclusive Hastens mattresses and bedding from Cuddledown) and each room comes with a record player and the hotel has a huge selection of vinyl from which to choose, which to me, is the epitome of what Austin is all about.

Other places to stay that we have heard are great:

THE DRISKILL
604 Brazos Street
+1 512 474 5911


KIMBER MODERN
110 The Circle
+1 512 912 1046


HOTEL SAN JOSE
1316 S Congress Avenue
+1 512 444 7322


THE W HOTEL AUSTIN
200 Lavaca Street
+1 512 542 3600

 

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Austin | Where to Eat

CONTIGO
2027 Anchor Lane
+1 512 614 2260

Contigo is the brainchild of owner Ben Edgerton who grew up on his family’s 4,000 acre ranch of the same name in Jim Wells County, TX. He always wanted to open a restaurant and so created this incredible interpretation of the ranch in East Austin. We landed at Contigo on a perfect Sunday afternoon and were treated to cold beers and spicy margaritas in the open-air dining room. The whole place feels like a high-end state fair with string lights and glossy picnic benches, and the food is even better. Andrew Wisehart who was formerly at the Michelin-starred Le Toque in Napa runs the kitchen and while the menu is all Texas, it's also really inventive. Don’t leave without trying the rabbit & dumplings, pigs in a blanket or the strawberry doughnuts. We were there for brunch, which was pure perfection, but I’m guessing any meal here is a great one and at night the scene must be simply magical.

FREEDMEN'S
2402 San Gabriel Street
+1 512 220 0953

Visiting Austin and not eating barbecue is an unthinkable sin. There are many places to choose from, and while Freedmen’s is perhaps lesser known than some of the most famous (think Franklin’s or Salt Lick), I would argue that is superior in every way. For starters, it’s in the coolest building ever. Just a quick history: The building is a landmark, built in 1869 by a former slave named George Franklin. It became the heart of Wheatvale, one of Austin’s freedmen’s settlements (hence the name). Over the years the building served as a residence, a church and a grocery, and you can truly feel the history within its walls. So now that your history lesson is over, let’s get to the food and drink here. For starters, Freedmen’s is big into retro craft cocktails and their whiskey wall is also something you have to see. The food at Freedmen’s is straightforward barbecue and it’s really, really delicious. Go for The Holy Trinity (brisket, pork spare ribs & house-made sausage) and add some sides (the grilled cabbage slaw with cider vinegar is the perfect accompaniment to cut some of the fat in the meat) or starters (smoked beets with herbed goat cheese – not your typical bib item!) and do not leave without eating at least twice your body weight in the smoked banana pudding.


LA CONDESA
400A West 2nd Street
+1 512 499 0300

Maybe it’s enough to tell you that La Condesa has the largest selection of 100% blue agave tequila and mezcal in all of Austin, or that its bar program is run by Cocktail World Cup champion Nate Wales. Or maybe it’s enough to tell you that when it comes to modern Mexican fare, Chef Rick Lopez is so good he was nominated for a James Beard award for best New Restaurant. Or maybe it’s just enough to tell you that every single thing on this menu (I know because I really did try every. single. thing) is incredible – from the four types of guacamole (jumbo lump crab with apple and coconut vinegar? Yes, that’s true). To the zanahoria (roasted carrots, crispy quinoa and pickled currants with a carrot top chimichurri) to the huarache de nopal y chorizo masa (grilled cactus paddle) to the bistec asado (grilled hanger steak with garlic mojo, bone marrow, beef tongue & radish) and the carne torcida tacos (smoked brisket pastrami on a rye tortilla with horseradish). The room feels a little sterile, but other than that, this is a definite must.

METTLE
507 Calles Street
+1 512 236 1022

This is the first (and only) place I have ever had vegan chicharrones. Yes, you read that right: VEGAN. CHICHARRONES. I didn’t understand it either, and I’m still not sure I fully grasp how they were made (tapioca, I think?), but they were DAMN good, and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between them and the real thing. And the most amazing part about them is that they are not all indicative of the menu at Mettle (meaning this is NOT a health food joint). Mettle is a bright, airy and a very cool bistro-type place in up and coming East Austin. The menu includes gems such as bacon tater tots (vegan what?), fried black-eyed peas, fried chicken and chicken fried beef cheeks. If fried isn’t your thing, there are lighter options (no judgment) including grilled scallops and yes, a vegan “soul” plate. 

QUI
1600 East 6th Street
+1 512 436 9626

Paul Qui is the resident bad boy chef of Austin. Born in the Philippines, he grew up loving to cook and went on to win season 9 of Bravo’s Top Chef. Over the past few years he has taken over the Austin food scene with a series of food trucks (East Side King) and this, his eponymous restaurant. Qui is kitschy and playful and can be scary. The menu reflects what Qui has always been about – a blend of French and Japanese cuisine with a little Texas thrown in, and I say scary because on paper a lot of it seems unlikely and maybe even inedible. But let me tell you: leave your judgments at the door. This food is off the hook insanely good. The offerings change often so it’s hard to pin down what you might have the pleasure of trying, but whatever he’s cooking, you should be eating.
*Note: Since we ate there, they have opened a Tasting Room that you can purchase tickets for in advance. From what we can tell it looks like a pretty insane option, so try and get in, and please let us know how it is!

 

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Austin | What to Do

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SEE THE BATS
Yes, bats. It turns out that Austin has over 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats that come out from under the Congress Bridge every night at dusk. Creepy? Yes. But also pretty cool to see. I have been told that the best vantage point to see this phenomenon is to just stand on the bridge. Or, if you prefer to make it an actual thing, rent a boat and watch from the river below.

BARTON SPRINGS POOL
2201 Barton Springs Road
+1 512 476 9044

This insanely cool spring-fed pool inside Zilker's Park measures 3 acres in size and maintains a 68ºF temperature year-round with lifeguards on duty. I've heard that Robert Redford learned to swim here and that it's home to the endangered Barton Springs Salamander, although I didn't see either on our visit.

UMLAUF SCULPTURE GARDEN
605 Robert E. Lee Road
+1 512 445 5582

There are over 100 sculptures in this incredible garden (adjacent to Zilker's Park as well), and they also offer morning yoga and meditation classes that are beautiful. A fun place to spend a nice afternoon with kids, too. 

ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE
Various Locations
Best. Movie Theater. Ever. Seriously. The original on Colorado Street was a parking garage that was transformed by Tim and Karrie League who happened to like the idea of watching movies while drinking beer and eating. That first theater was a one-screen operation that featured second run titles at discount rates, but it wasn't long before people like Richard Linklater and Quentin Tarantino got hip to the Drafthouse and started showing up. It's a great place to see a movie and feel like a local.

LADY BIRD HIKE + BIKE TRAIL
First Street Bridge at Lady Bird Lake
Run, walk or bike this loop (10 miles) and be sure to check out the Memorial at Auditorium Shores which honors the late bluesman, Stevie Ray Vaughan.

LONGHORN CAVERNS
6211 Park Road 4 S., 
Burnet, TX 78611
+1 830 598 CAVE

This self-proclaimed Texas Hill Country wonder was created over thousands of years by the dissolving and cutting action of water on the limestone bedrock of the area. Some say animals from the Ice Age are fossilized here, but I say it's just a pretty cool place to visit.

PARAMOUNT THEATER
713 Congress Avenue
+1 512 472 5470

As old school as a theater can get (it was built in 1915), and has hosted everything from Vaudeville acts to the premiere of Batman in 1966. Today it's home to movies, concert and shows.

 

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Austin | What to Buy

SOUTH CONGRESS SHOPPING DISTRICT:
This hip strip features an array of eclectic shops, restaurants, boutiques, antiques, music venues and galleries. And every first Thursday of the month, the street turns into a street fair of sorts with all stores staying open until at least 10pm. 

Some of the standouts for us were:

ALLEN'S BOOTS
1522 South Congress Avenue
+1 512 447 1413

Cowboy boots! Hundreds and hundreds of cowboy boots. If you're not going to buy them in Austin, then where? 

LUCY IN DISGUISE WITH DIAMONDS
1506 South Congress Avenue
+1 512 444 2002

The Allen's Boots of costume shops. So bizarre and yet so much fun.

SECOND STREET SHOPPING DISTRICT:
Home to most of the big name stores in Austin: Banh & Olufsen, Design Within Reach, Swatch and the like, the area is a great place to walk around and shop, and there are a ton of great restaurants as well (see La Condesa, above). There are also a number of smaller, cooler local shops with checking out.

 

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Los Angeles | Where to Stay

THE BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL
9641 Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills
+1 310 276 2251

The “Pink Palace” has been around for over 100 years, and while it’s been renovated, it still remains faithful to the old Hollywood Glam it’s so famous for. Yes, it’s located on Sunset Boulevard, in the heart of Beverly Hills, but it’s also surrounded by 12 acres of lush gardens, making it a true haven.

CHATEAU MARMONT
8221 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood
+ 1 323 656 1010

Another old school, Hollywood institution, this one by Hotelier extraordinaire Andre Balzac. It’s on the smaller side with only 63 rooms, (well, rooms, cottages and bungalows) but almost all of them are tricked out with full kitchens, living rooms and balconies or terraces, making them feel super homey. Oh, and it’s quiet – the Chateau was built as the first earthquake-proof building in LA, so each room has soundproof walls.

FAIRMONT MIRAMAR HOTEL AND BUNGALOWS
101 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica
+ 1 310 576 7777

From the location (across the street from the Pacific and walking distance to all Santa Monica has to offer) to the rooms (clean and comfortable), to the Bungalows (perfect LA glam) to the service (gracious and friendly), this just might be one of my favorite places.

THE LINE
3515 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
+1 213 381 7411

The Line is new on the LA hotel scene and can only be described as uber-hip and very cool.  Built by the same group responsible for The Nomad in NYC and Freehand Miami, everywhere you turn loos like a Pinterest post.  The interiors are by Sean Knibb (all handmade in his Venice Beach studio), the food by LA darling Roy Choi, and the hotel shop by Poketo. It is truly boutique hotel heaven.

THE LONDON WEST HOLLYWOOD AT BEVERLY HILLS
1020 N. San Vicente Boulevard, West Hollywood
+ 1 866 282 4560

It’s all about space here: The rooms are all suites, and the smallest clocks in at 725 square feet – that’s almost double the size of most standard hotel rooms. It’s also in a fantastic location and the concierge service can’t be beat.

THE PENINSULA BEVERLY HILLS
9882 South Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills
+1 310 551 2888

Yes, you can walk to Rodeo Drive from here. And to Century City. But really, it’s all about the rooftop pool, which has the most incredible views of the city skyline. The Peninsula is also home to The Living Room, famed for its afternoon tea service.

REGENCY BEVERLY WILSHIRE
9500 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills
+1 310 275 5200

The Reg Bev Wil as we like to call it, has been catering to the Glitterati since 1928. Such luminaries as Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Warren Beatty the Dalai Lama have all stayed at this Four Seasons hotel. And while it’s everything you’d expect from the chain, the hotel might be best known for being the place where Richard Gere and Julia Roberts played house in Pretty Woman.

SHUTTERS ON THE BEACH
1 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica
+1 310 458 0030

The most famous of the Santa Monica beachfront hotels, Shutters on the Beach is a quintessential beach resort. The rooms are on the smaller side here, but they aren’t the reason you book – you stay here for the views, the location and the beautiful pool with direct beach access.

 

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