Ranked in the top five resorts throughout the Alps, St Anton in Austria is an gem. It is part of the famed Arlberg region, which receives some of the highest snow fall every year, and features a charming town full of luxury shops, restaurants and accommodations. Reaching St Anton is remarkably easy as it is served by a railway that deposits guests in the town center.

A pedestrian friendly location, it also has free public transportation. Of course, many are eager to visit for the town’s association with the creation of modern skiing. As the birthplace of Johan Schneider, it is at the epicenter today’s ski world.

Not a place to just sit and let time pass by, St Anton has been continually expanding and improving over the decades, while somehow managing to preserve its mountain village tone. It focuses around a central street, the pedestrian-only Dorfstrasse. Lined with excellent cafes, bars, shops and restaurants, it is also home to many authentic and original structures.

Today’s travelers can stay in any number of premium hotels or large and private villas. Most of them can provide the perfect accommodation during the winter ski season or the summer hiking and outdoor season.

What to Do in St Anton

The skiing is an essential activity, but there are also hiking, biking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and other options. However, you might never get past the “cult status” of St Anton in Austria as the skiers’ paradise. It has more than 300km of pistes and another 200+ km of off pistes options. There are more than 85 lifts and a nice blend of easy to extreme routes and options. Yet, as one expert cautions, “However, even the ‘normal’ routes, such as those down from Schindlerspitze and Kapall, should be approached with caution by all, including advanced skiers. “Extreme routes”, like the 52 down the Kandahar-Galzip piste are best tackled with a ski guide. In fact, with so much terrain to explore, and so many people competing for fresh tracks on it, hiring a guide is the best way of maximizing St Anton’s potential.”

Though the mountain has been equipped with truly pioneering lifts, including the Galzig gondola build as a Ferris wheel system, a guide is often the best way to get the very most out a first-time visit to the region.

Après Ski in St Anton

When you are not skiing, hiking or perusing the shops, you will want to dig into the amazing domestic food. The area is noted for its après ski and nightlife options thanks to those two early post-ski bars. The Mooserwirt is a most as it is a place famous for being the “world’s baddest bar”. The Krazy Kanguruh has been refurbished since the 1960s but still retains its unusual and hip vibe.

If you want a quieter après ski experience, the Underground is just off the Galzig piste. It has been a popular spot for more than two decades. Lastly, Anton Bar is where the locals go, including the ski guides and instructors, making it perfect for picking up some tips after your time on the slopes.

Dining in St Anton

Dining here is an adventure and you can enjoy affordable treats at spots like the Ulmer Hutte with its lovely scenery. The pricier Alber’s Rodelalm and Robi’s Rodelstall are actually mountain huts that offer outdoor lunches and great vintages. Yet, it is the Hospiz Alm with its stunning cellars and local specialties or the Verwallstube with its amazing gourmet dishes that will put the perfect touch on your ski holiday.

If you have decided to book a lovely, luxurious ski chalet for your next Alpine Holiday, you may be wondering the best way to go about packing for your trip. After all, you need to consider bringing or renting your gear, just how formal or casual your accommodation, and what you intend to do during time off the slopes. While many après ski spots are the utmost in casual, many of the world’s Michelin recognized and starred restaurants are also in locations like Courchevel, Val d’Isere and Meribel. Naturally, a great sweater and comfortable slacks may not work in a five-star restaurant.

So, what sort of tips can you use when packing for your Alpine holiday in the winter months? We have several very useful ideas to put to work:

Invest in Excellent Layers

Whether you are going to hit the slopes all day or you are one of the party uninterested in skiing but eager to explore the surrounding villages, towns and many premium amenities, you will save space and headaches by investing in good layers. High end base layers, also often described as long johns or long underwear cannot be beat in terms of moisture wicking, warmth and performance. Rather than purchasing bulkier or specialized tops and bottom, look to the best materials, such as silks or silk blends, and go with simple crew collars or even turtlenecks to get the most use out of a single layer of clothing.

Don’t forget to pack plenty of good socks and underwear too as most Alpine holidays involve getting active, overheated and showering once or twice daily. This can make for a laundry situation if you do not bring a good assortment of warm socks and comfortable underwear.

Remember the Sun Block

So many travelers end up with sunburns, deeply chapped lips and all kinds of skin irritation simply because they did not recall that an Alpine ski holiday is outdoors and in the brightest conditions. The wind and cold temperatures will also tax the skin, so pack a very good lip balm, sun screen and moisturize the skin daily.

Wear Your Ski Jacket

A major mistake so many skiers make when packing for an Alpine holiday is to keep their ski clothing separate from their other gear. You can spare yourself a headache or two by planning on wearing your ski jacket during your journey to the Alps, and by investing in lightweight ski gear designed with premium materials. You can also wear any hiking or walking boots you might think of packing for travel too, as this saves a tremendous amount of room and gives you a much firmer step as you arrive at your destination and walk from the vehicle to the chalet or accommodation. Don’t forget to think of your ski helmet as a vessel for holding gear and toss items like gloves, goggles and other items into it when packing.

Reconsider Normal Clothes

What sort of everyday gear are you thinking of bringing? If you are hitting the slopes each day, don’t pack a lot of street clothing as you are unlikely to wear more than one or two outfits. Additionally, if you are going to stay in a private chalet, you can be as comfortable and casual as you’d like throughout the après ski hours. Yoga pants, sports clothing, even pajamas and slippers may be adequate for the vast majority of time spent off the slopes and in the private lodge. Do bring one or two outfits if you are going out a few evenings or sampling the gourmet eateries, but skip the heels, the jewelry and the accessories.

Unusual Items for Alpine Holiday

Of course, if you are booking a chalet or a luxury accommodation, you will want to save room for your swimsuit, flip flops and cover. Don’t forget you also want a more stylish beanie or hat for the times you are off the slopes. Many people forget the non-skiing hat!

With these simple tips, you can easily pack only the things you need and will use. You will also avoid forgetting some gear that many wish that they had, but left at home.

A year ago, on the morning of September 6th of 2018, last minute preparations were taking place to prepare for the unimaginable. A menacing and historic storm that grew stronger by the minute and was taking a more direct and worrisome path that only optimized it’s destructive nature and impact.  The worst possible scenario was being eclipsed every few minutes by a scarier and more foreboding forecast. A storm that was previously expected to deliver winds of 140 to 150 miles per hour was now forecasting 185 mph sustained winds and guests of over 220 mph.   To put that in perspective, an EF-5 Tornado (the highest scale possible) has winds over 200 mph and be known to wipe out towns in a few minutes.  Hurricane Irma became a sustained tornado that would last for hours ripping roofs, uprooting trees and turning debris into missiles capable of embedding into concrete.

The next few hours were solely focused on immediate survival. The afternoon, as the winds subsided, would be focused on survival for the next few months and the very first steps in rebuilding what was destroyed.  Decades of progress became mere memories within a few intolerable hours.

In the year since Irma, encouraging green shoots of recovery are appearing as the devastated Caribbean islands are rebounding and welcoming guests. The following is a quick synopsis of each island’s condition and what to expect for the upcoming 2018/2019 winter travel season.

St Martin

The island of St Martin took the hardest hit from Hurricane Irma. The absolute center of the eye passed through Simpson lagoon and Cupecoy.  While the culinary town of Grand Case on the northern half of the island never experienced the desired reprieve of the storms eye, but rather being subjected to hours of the continuous and incessant battering of Irma’s the strongest winds in the eye wall.  Even though the island handles Category 1 and Category 2 hurricanes with relative ease, this epic storm was supernatural and devastating.  Countless lives were changed forever.

On the one year anniversary of the storm, St Martin is in the midst of a renaissance.  The island is open for business since May of 2018 and welcoming guests. The beaches are beautiful. The turquoise blues of the Caribbean still tantalize and restaurants still mesmerize with their unique French Caribbean flair.

What to expect?

St Martin’s full recovery will take a few years but the island is certainly a good destination for 2018/2019 winter travel.  The essence of what our guests enjoy, the luxury standard of their own villa, restaurants, beaches and rental cars are returning with many more options relaunching each month.  St Martin’s villas are historically quite reasonable when compared to other Caribbean destinations. They have always delivered a superior experience at a fraction of the cost of other islands. This year, the expected promotions will be quite alluring.  Guest will be able to enjoy a luxurious vacation at their own private luxury villa that rivals the costs of cruises or 4 star hotels.

Please note that villas will not relaunch unless the villa is of equal or superior standard to it’s condition prior to the hurricane.  Many new villas are launching and many are returning fully renovated and upgraded.

Beach Conditions

The beaches on the Caribbean side are in very good shape and have more sand then in previous years.   Mullet Bay, Baie Rouge, Baie Longue, Plum Bay beach are in great shape.  Orient beach is rebounding.  The Sargussum seaweed issue that is affecting the Atlantic side of most Caribbean islands is expected to subside in the winter months with the cooler water temperatures.  We expect that Orient Beach will be a good option starting in November once the beachside restaurants return

Infrastructure

Grocery stores are full. The infrastructure (water and electricity) are reliable and WIFI is returning to the previous standard.  Rental cars are available. The island is safe.

Restaurants

A good selection of restaurants have been opened and many more are scheduled to return.  Simpson Bay has fully returned back to normal. Porto Cupecoy handled the storm quite well and Mario’s Bistro is open and welcoming diners.  Grand Case restaurants have re-opened such as Spiga, L’Auberge Gourmand, Rainbow, La Villa and Bistrot Caraibes with others expected to re-open soon.  Bikini restaurant on Orient Beach has re-opened with Kontiki and Kakao expected to re-open in late November.

Overall Recommendation

St Martin is a good choice for winter travel as long as guests understand that the island is still rebounding and that sights of devastation will be readily apparent. But the destination has several key advantages. The island offers direct flights from major eastern US seaboard cities.  St Martin is well rounded and not a sleep destination. There is always something to do and nearby islands to visit.   The value of a St Martin vacation is uncomparable to other destinations.  And lastly, and most importantly, you will be contributing to the renaissance of the island.

St Barts

The island of St Barts had the most remarkable comeback imaginable. Within a month or so, the roads were cleared and the island was in remarkable shape.  The beachfront hotels did sustain major damage due to storm surges. They are expected to be back in operation late 2018 with some hotels (ex. hotel Guanahani), scheduled to relaunch in late 2019.

Nevertheless, Winter 2018/2019 is shaping up to be a very busy season with many of the restaurants and shops relaunched and villas in fabulous shape.  The primary issue affecting the island is the lack of flights into nearby St Martin that we expect to dramatically improve starting in November 2018 with expanded flight schedules by most US airlines.

Overall Recommendation

The destination is highly recommended for travelers.  The recovery of St Barts is well ahead of expectations and guests should enjoy the relatively same standard of vacation as in previous years with just a few exceptions.

Anguilla

The picturesque island was devastated during hurricane Irma however, the villas on the island held up remarkably well. The villas rebounded within a few months and have been welcoming guests.  Many of the villas are self-sustained with generators and cisterns so their reliance on the island’s infrastructure is limited.

Overall Recommendation

If you want to relax and decompress on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, then Anguilla is an ideal choice. The villas are in great shape and access to the island is normalizing once flights to St Martin resume their previous timetable.  Seabourne airlines offers direct air service from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The interior of the island has not seen much progress over decades so it’s current condition is not of significance to visitors.

BVIs

The rebound of the BVIs has been complicated by the lack of government help and organization. While St Martin and St Barts have been greatly assisted by the French and Dutch governments, the BVIs have not received the same assistance.

The re-emergence of the BVIs will take more time than other destinations.

Overall Recommendation

We are advising guests to defer vacationing in the BVIs until a stronger recovery takes hold. At this point in time, there is limited information and assurances for guests to properly plan and enjoy a vacation for the winter 2018/2019 season.

Set at the far eastern end of the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana has a stunning 35+ kilometers of gorgeous white sand beaches available. In fact, it is noted for offering some of the very best beaches in the entire Caribbean region. Most visitors, when asked about their stay, immediately comment on the beauty of the beaches, their rows of swaying palms, their perfect waters and their many comforts.

Of course, like so many tropical destinations, there are some good beaches and then some even better beaches. Though we recommend that all visitors to Punta Cana take a day or two to drive around and see each for themselves – going back to spend days at their favorites – there are some that seem to get universal “thumbs up”.

Playa Bavaro

The Playa Bavaro area seems to rank as one of the most popular and is often described as pristine. Though it is the main tourist beach, it is enormous, long and can seem quite uncrowded or empty in many areas. If you want the ultimate, a sunset stroll along its sands is an unforgettable experience. It is close to the Melia Caribe Resort and has a great parking area and easy path that takes you to the sand.

El Cortecito

In the midst of Bavaro is El Cortecito, which is also considered a downtown area of Punta Cana. This provides you with the ultimate island beach life option. Steps from great restaurants and facilities, but also steps back to the sands…you can easily spend your days here.

Kid-Friendly Arena Gordo

If your Punta Cana beach life includes kids, then the Arena Gordo is a good one for you. Unusual for its wide stretches of sand that have gentle slopes to the water, the beaches are noted for the shallowness of the water that makes the area great for children. The public access is at Ocean Blue and Sand Service.

Cabeza de Toro

If you love nature and serenity, the Cabeza de Toro is one of the most natural beaches in Punta Cana and close to the Natura Park Eco Resort. Juanillo also has one of the most secluded beaches but it is also equipped with a restaurant, lounges and cabanas! Ultra luxurious and beautiful, it is possible to find local fish merchants in addition to fun local eateries and taco trucks!

As you can see, the beach life in Punta Cana is as diverse as Punta Cana itself. Take time to experience and explore and you will easily find many destinations to love.

When planning your visit to Los Cabos, you’ll probably get a lot of advice from those who have already enjoyed a stay. Most will tell you about the wonderful restaurants that populate every neighbourhood and area, most will also talk about the need to visit both towns – Cabo San Lucas and its quieter and more laid back neighbour, San Jose del Cabo. Many will also talk about the amazing beauty of the beaches and scenery, the world-class golfing, the many spa and wellness options, and so much more.

However, if there is one thing that you are sure to hear everyone recommend, it is to go out at least one evening to savor the area’s dazzling nightlife. On most lists of “things to see and do in Cabo“, you are going to see a repeated recommendation, and this to people watch while enjoying the nightlife hotspots.

Nightlife in Cabo

One thing to know right away, though, is that nightlife does not mean one thumping dance club after another. The nightlife of Cabo varies quite widely. There are resort based bars and clubs that offer poolside activities, there are local restaurants offering a happy hour type of nightlife with lots of delicious food and affordable cocktails, and there are the more familiar clubs that have live music, dance floors, dazzling light displays and more.

Though Cabo is known as a party destination in many parts of the world, it is distinct from other popular nightlife hotspots. It is a far more laid back and even classier place to go out, enjoy drinks, and get a bit on the wild side, or just sit by the waterfront and enjoy some local music, delicious food and people watching.

Let’s consider some of the most famous names in Cabo nightlife:

Pink Kitty

This is probably one of the most famous night spots with a reputation for being a high end nightclub. One of the best dance floors, it is a distinctly metropolitan place with bottle service and an admission fee, but it is also noted as a place to be seen.

Cabo Wabo

This was made famous by Van Halen front man Sammy Hagar who opened it in 1990. A restaurant and nightclub, it has a stage that features many famous bands throughout the year, and it is a popular dance spot. Louder than other nightlife destinations, it is easily one of the more party-friendly options.

El Squid Roe

Trendy and long considered a “must see” for its upper level balcony open to the night sky, it is also a truly fun place to do a bit of people watching, and the food is known to be good too!

Baja Brewing Company

If you prefer your nightlife on the other side of Los Cabos, this wonderful brewery and restaurant will be sure to please. It has a happy hour every day of the week and live music during weekends. It is in the heart of the art district and features an outdoor beer garden, great food and a classic pub-styled bar inside. This would be an idyllic spot to meet local artisans and fellow foodies and more laidback travelers.

Mandala Food & Wine Club

Noted as the up and coming “in” spot for nightlife in Cabo, it has a remarkable décor that is equal parts Asian and Las Vegas. It has an open air feel with bottle service, and is noted for its attentive staff.

Passion Club

Lastly is this unique spot that offers amazing Land’s End and Sea of Cortez views as well as sitting right along Medano Beach. It is equal parts lounge, restaurant and nightclub with a great and modern atmosphere.

There are certainly many other Cabo nightlife hotspots, but if you want to hit some of the biggest and most well-known, this list will give you the best options.

If you speak with those familiar with St. Martin, most say that the most popular of the beaches is Orient Beach, and while it is the hotspot for water sports, sunbathing and swimming, it is not the only great beach. For those who want the same high quality, white sands, excellent conditions and even amenities, you don’t have to jostle with the crowds at Orient.

While Orient, in general, is an absolute “must” for visitors to the island of St. Martin, the following beaches can offer a welcome respite from crowds while still providing some of the most impressive experiences possible.

Green Cay

An small island tucked surprisingly close to Orient Bay, this is the perfect beach for those who want the proximity of the best amenities on St. Martin, but who prefer to enjoy solitude and complete privacy. It is found on the island just offshore and is easily reached by boat, kayak, or even paddleboard.

Cupecoy Beach

A hit or miss beach depending on beach and wave conditions. When full of sand, Cupecoy beach is the most scenic beach on the island with a sandstone cliff backdrop and fabulous sunset views. The beach is highly convenient and undeveloped except for the Shore Pointe villas on the on the western end of the beach.

Mullet Bay

Considered one of the best beaches if not the best beach on the island, conditions tend to be ideal with calm and crystal clear waters with occasional swells. The beach has limited amenities but 2 lolos that serve good food and drinks.  An ideal spot for a casual lunch. Be sure to enjoy a barbeque rib platter and a Presidente.

Long Bay Beach

If you envision yourself sipping cocktails while gazing out over a Caribbean sunset, you can do so at Long Bay. The white sands, many local pelicans, and the lapping of the waters are the epitome of the island experience, and yet this beach is one of the quietest and relaxing imaginable. The bar at La Samanna looks out over the beach, and is just a short walk from the sands.

Lovers’ Beach

Noted by locals as very challenging to find but well worth the effort, it is near Pointe Arago and is also the smallest beach on the entire island. Sized perfectly for two people, it offers an exclusive hideaway.

Baie Rouge

Though often as heavily visited as Orient, Baie Rouge or Red Bay is considered by locals, world travelers, and experts alike as the most beautiful beach on the island. It has restaurants surrounding it, some charming natural features, and even a hidden beach for those who are hearty enough to do a bit of hiking.

Happy Bay

Within minutes of Grand Case, this picturesque and idyllic beach requires a ten-minute hike, but is well worth the effort. It is noted as one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean, one of the least visited, and it remains pristine and untouched because of this. Bring a picnic and a camera as the coconut palms that line the sands offer an iconic image of paradise.

Petite Cayes

After just thirty minutes of gentle hiking you discover a breathtaking sight – the deserted sands of one of the most picture-perfect beaches in the region. Usually lapped by gentle waves, it can be a good spot for surfers when there are swells. However, it is usually a place of peace, quiet, and one in which you feel you have discovered your own, private paradise.

Maho Beach

This is on the Dutch side of the island, but fun to list here because of its rare position. Set at the end of the runway at Princess Juliana International Airport, it is a great spot for photography buffs who want to snap truly iconic images of the many planes heading out of the islands. It is close to the Sunset Beach bar that also provides great views of the airplanes as well as the sun dipping slowly into the sea each evening.

There are certainly other beaches to explore, but if you are searching for spots that feel more like your own private paradise than a popular and busy beach, those on this list are sure to please. Don’t forget to pack a hamper, bring good hiking/walking shoes, and to prepare to just sit back, breathe in the sea breezes, and enjoy!

William Shakespeare is famous for many sayings and phrases, and one of the most frequently used is this one: “and therein lies the rub”. This is a misquote, actually, and it comes from “Hamlet” who says “there’s the rub”. Whether you say it correctly or incorrectly, it means the same, and is a tidy way of explaining a major hurtle or difficulty. Take the annual Cannes Film Festival…most of us would love to attend, watch all of those award-winning films and do a bit of celebrity spotting. The rub? You have to be a credentialed film industry professional to set foot into any of the events or screenings.

What to do? The answer is actually quite simple – opt to stay in your own private villa in the French Riviera – most especially St. Tropez – at the same time as the film festival itself. This puts you in the heart of things, and allows you access to the restaurants, beaches, spas, and upscale boutiques frequented by the biggest and brightest stars. When you book with Isle Blue, you also enjoy the non-stop support of our concierge team who can help you obtain bookings and services that ensure you enjoy your own celebrity-level holiday.

The Big Events

Each year, St. Tropez is home to a lot of exciting events, or there are equally major activities just a short drive away, such as Cannes and its film festival. If you head to St. Tropez in May, you can enjoy events such as Les Bravades and Long Night of Museums, and of course, you might just run into some celebrities who are attending Cannes nearby.

Of course, the biggest event of St. Tropez occurs throughout the year, and it is the shopping. Paying a visit to the old quarter of St. Tropez puts you face to face with one of the most amazing sights a shopper will ever witness – the world’s biggest designer names standing shoulder to shoulder with a classic European market. As one journalist so aptly described it: “jammed into St Tropez’s narrow streets…is a curious mix of market-cum-designer-outlet with people casually holding Louis Vuitton bags amongst their wares from the market. And if designer goods aren’t your thing, visit the Place des Lices Market where you’ll be jostled in amongst stalls selling food, drink, pottery, plants, antiques and more.”

Naturally, the stars of Cannes are well aware of St. Tropez as a European shopper’s dream, and you will want to make sure you spend time doing some celebrity spotting in addition to picking up some stylish or tasty treats.

The ideal time to shop in St. Tropez is Monday through Saturday from nine to noon or from two to seven, and generally expect crowds during the tourism seasons.

A little gem nearby is Port-Grimaud, and more and more of the Cannes attendees are heading here too. This, as many say, is a modern and miniature Venice, offering authentic artisan goods and beautifully made French wares. Sip your coffee by the waterfront and don’t be too surprised if the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio or Reese Witherspoon stroll calmly past!

Of course, there are far more reasons to head to St. Tropez than the shopping and star spotting. This area is part of the fantastic Cote D’Azur and French Riviera. This means fantastic beaches (though many argue that Cannes has better beaches than St. Tropez), excellent dining, amazing water sports, and scenery that will make you stop in your tracks.

As a guest of Isle Blue, you can count on our team to provide suggestions, recommendations and support of all kinds. Whether you wish to hire a car and driver, have a chef prepare your meals, or to make a booking at a museum or show, we are happy to help you feel like a star during or after Cannes has enjoyed its annual celebration.