Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos offers serious value for families despite a high room rate — my family saved hundreds of dollars on free excursions, activities, and meals for children under 5
The Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas opened in late 2019 and is an ultra-luxurious beachfront property with modern architecture and ocean views from every room. The price point is substantial and starts at $540 per night, which may seem off-putting at first, but it actually offers tremendous value. The rate includes many inclusions and amenities that translate to serious savings, especially for families. I stayed in an entry-level Ocean-View room with my husband and five-year-old twins and think it was a great family-friendly vacation. Read all Business Insider hotel reviews here.
A note from your Insider Reviews travel editor: Coronavirus has interrupted travel on a global scale forcing travelers to cancel and reassess plans in the coming weeks and months. We understand that right now is a challenging time to plan travel. But when this time passes and things return to normal, we know you'll be eager to explore the world again. Whenever that happens for you, and we know it will, we hope our travel content helps you make informed, useful, and inspiring choices on the best places and hotels to book. So whether you use our reviews now, bookmark them for the future, or simply need an escape from the news, we'll continue to share the world with you. In the meantime, we encourage all travelers to stay safe, follow guidelines from the CDC website, and take precautions. The new Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas has set up shop on the Baja Peninsula's isolated East Cape, and is far from anything resembling a strip of hotel towers or margaritas that you might imagine when you hear the name 'Cabo.' Opened in October 2019, the property sprawls over two miles of beach, with unobstructed views of the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range, with a luxurious, modern vibe that looks like an Architectural Digest spread at every turn. A search of the Four Seasons website revealed the lowest possible price for a four-night stay in the entry-level ocean-view room category was $540 per night in mid-summer, which is actually low season due to the hot climate. In busier seasons, that rate surges, and it's worth noting that a service charge of 15 percent of the room rate is applied to all reservations to cover employee costs. So, it can all add up to very big numbers indeed. But don't stop reading just yet. While the nightly rate is more than you might be accustomed to paying, the inclusions associated with it off-set that price significantly, such as complimentary kids' club, substantial off-site excursions, and free kids' meals, all without any up-charge. Considering those costs can typically add hundreds of dollars to a vacation, the room price offers serious overall value, especially when you factor in that it's a brand new, luxury five-star property. My family and I stayed in an entry-level Ocean-View Room, which was huge for a standard room, at 680 square feet. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to families or anyone looking to maximize the value of their stay while still enjoying luxury amenities.
The first impression The room On-site amenities What's nearby What others say What you need to know The bottom line Book Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas starting at $540 per night
Keep reading to see why I was so impressed by the Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas.SEE ALSO: The Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills is the top-ranked hotel in all of LA by Trip Advisor reviewers — I checked in to see if it delivered on the hype SEE ALSO: This luxury resort in the Maldives is like having your own private island that you can actually afford — here's why my husband and I picked it for our honeymoon SEE ALSO: The Riviera Palm Springs, part of Marriott Bonvoy, is my go-to for a cheap boutique stay in the desert
After a fast, two-hour flight from Los Angeles, we arrived at San José del Cabo International Airport (SJD), and were greeted by the transportation we'd arranged through the hotel. A comfortable Suburban with Wi-Fi and booster seats for our five-year-old twins transferred us for the hour-long, winding drive to the hotel. Upon arrival, we were greeted by dramatic postcard views throughout the alfresco lobby, through to the pools and stunning ocean.
We were greeted to the Four Seasons Los Cabos by welcome beverages, cool towels, and staff prepared to check us in at a seated lounge area. That's when my son managed to fall and skin his knee, shattering our false sense of serenity. In no time, like magic, a nurse arrived to clean him up with a first-aid kit and a representative from the kids club arrived with a basket of toys for the kids. This, thankfully, promptly stopped any complaining as a result. All of these details were early indicators of the truly exemplary service we experienced on property, provided by an army of staff. Next, we reviewed our itinerary: a collection of activities arranged through the hotel. Whereas many high-end resort properties charge for extras such as kayaks or beach bikes, this hotel provided a full menu of on-site and off-site excursions included in room rates. Think ATV tours, horseback riding, guided waterfall hike, ceviche-making and tequila-tasting classes. For my family of four, I've found such excursions can easily add hundreds of dollars for each activity, and that's before you factor in the required off-site transportation.
Every room here has an ocean view, which makes for a continued awe-inspiring first impression. I was also impressed to find extra touches for my kids in the room. A hand-written note on the mirror welcomed them and personalized desserts bore their names. Kid-sized slippers, robes, and toiletries were all also at the ready, and my twins were thrilled by the special attention.
Our entry-level Ocean-View Room was huge for a standard room, at 680 square feet. It typically starts at $540, though mine was comped for review. The look was modern and bright, with an airy design and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Sea of Cortez and manicured pool complex below. Our private terrace was spacious and comfortably furnished for indoor-outdoor living and dining. My husband and I took the king bed, while my kids slept comfortably on the pull-out sofa in a living area with a dining table.
The bathroom was spacious, and also provided full ocean views. The freestanding soaking tub was impressive, as was the huge adjacent shower. Adjacent to our room was construction activity, taking place at the perimeter of the resort. It's both visible and audible at this stage as they still work out finishing touches. Thankfully, I slept without difficulty on the signature plush beds. Entry-level rooms, such as ours, are located on the middle floor of three-story buildings that are dotted throughout the property and include balconies. If you want a higher floor with even better views, expect to pay a minimum of about $100 more per night for these upgraded rooms. Downstairs, rooms feature private plunge pools, which will add approximately another $100 per night to stay in one of these. Beyond that, a slate of suites offer additional options for upgrading. Compare room types and prices for the Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos
The Four Seasons is built across a huge stretch (two miles!) of swimmable beach, which is actually quite rare for Cabo. Many hotels are located on beaches with strong tides that make swimming unsafe, so the Four Seasons offers a huge advantage with a beach you can actually use to the fullest. There are also six swimming pools on-site, with options for families or adults only. On our afternoon by the pool (the one day of our four-day stay that weather permitted), we were offered a tray of margaritas, passed complimentary as a 3 p.m. amenity. There's an 18-hole golf course, plus a sports and activities center with fitness equipment, volleyball, an eye-catching cobalt blue basketball court, and two tennis courts. The hotel also offers access to the exclusive Costa Palmas Marina. The on-site Oasis Spa is a true standout. It has 10 freestanding treatment rooms, each with its own massive footprint that's both indoors and outside. The spa has separate wet areas and locker rooms for women and men, including high-end products and chaises surrounding luxe pools and saunas. The connected Rossano Ferritti Salon has chic, spaceship-like salon chairs with million-dollar views through floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the mountains. The property also has a kids club, known across the Four Seasons chain as Kids for All Seasons. While not as expansive as some others, this one is remarkably well equipped and staffed. In addition to games and toys, it offers a full slate of activities. My own kids did a guacamole-making class, dream catcher art project, and made tie-dyed T-shirts. But the best activity of all was probably their own personal piñata party on the beach. The staff walked the kids over to the sand, rigged the giant piñata between two palm tree, and my twins got all the bounty to themselves, since we were there in low season. They never wanted to step away from the activities, giving us plenty of grown-folks time. At other resorts, we've paid up to $30 an hour for babysitting. Considering that the kids club is provided free to guests as part of the hotel rate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, we saved a lot of money.
The Four Seasons has five options for food and drinks. The most high end is Estiatorio Milos, an outpost of the seafood restaurant founded by chef Costas Spiliadis, which also has locations in Montreal, New York, Athens, Las Vegas, Miami, and London. It's right on the beach and is also the spot where the hotel's elegant buffet breakfast takes place. The poolside cafe Casa de Brasa serves twists on Mexican favorites (including a killer guacamole), plus an excellent tequila selection. El Puesto is primarily a ceviche bar, with outrageous, sweeping ocean views. Keep it casual at Ginger's, with grab-and-go options like pastries and gelato, as well as a pool table and teen area with both digital and analog games. In-room dining is available 24 hours a day. But perhaps the best part for traveling families is that kids under five eat free at restaurants, and even through room service. So take a moment to add up the cash value of that perk alone.
In short? Not much! And that's part of the point of this location, which feels very remote. It's a great place to come and spend a lot of time on property, making good use of the facilities and getting your money's worth from the room rate. That said, the resort is a half-hour drive to the community of Santiago. From there, there's a short hike that leads to a waterfall pouring down from granite cliffs. It's so pretty, it almost looks fake. Even my five-year-old twins were capable of doing this hike, and we all refreshed with a swim beneath it. Or, head to the 19th-century mining town of El Triunfo, where an array of old buildings have been restored and converted to restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, and a museum. Expect a winding drive of about an hour each way to access SJD airport.
Given the hotel's newness, online reviews are still sparse. There were just 20 on Trip Advisor at the time of this writing, with a "Very Good" 4.0 out of 5 average rating. The majority of these reviewers gave it an "Excellent" rating, but the critics echoed similar concerns, mainly about the property needing to work out its early kinks. "Despite the exemplary service and location, this Four Seasons is not ready for prime time," one wrote. Another echoed, "It's open, but not operationally ready," citing a lack of consistent pool and hot tub heating among the concerns, which is something we also noticed during our visit. Read reviews, compare prices, and book the Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos on Trip Advisor
Who stays here: Well-funded business travelers and companies, including those who book full buyouts. Sophisticated couples with the expectation of top-end luxury also come here, as do families seeking an amenity-rich experience for adults and kids alike, without much travel or jet lag, especially from the southwestern U.S. We like: The kids' club runs a truly exemplary program, including piñata parties on the beach, local cooking classes, and a range of art projects. We love (don't miss this feature!): The spa here is a must-visit. The grounds are sprawling and ultra-luxurious. Women and men each have their own lounge areas with expansive wet areas and high-end products. It's a standout destination spa when compared against any other I've seen. We think you should know: Most of the common spaces are largely open to the elements. If the weather suits your preferences, you'll love this characteristic. If the weather is not cooperating, or you prefer to spend more time indoors, you'll find yourself revisiting the same few places. It's also worth repeating that this hotel is one of the few in the Cabo area with a swimmable beach. We'd do this differently next time: During our visit, the wind was harsh, so we had to opt out of many of the outdoor relaxation options and excursions. Next time, in a more mild climate, I'll spend more time lounging by the pools, sunning and swimming on the huge expanse of swimmable beach, and taking advantage of more off-site excursions, such as an ATV tour, and horseback riding on the beach.
The Four Seasons Los Cabos is an all-new, ultra-luxury, super-exclusive stunner for travelers looking to experience Cabo away from the crowds. Prices begin in the mid-$400s for a stay in the low season, and range way, way up from there. But the significant cost is notably offset by just how many inclusions come with the room rate, especially for families traveling with kids. These travelers will make extensive use of the kids' club, excursions, and free kids' meals — adding major value to the cost of the stay. Book the Four Seasons Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas starting from $540
More like this (3)
Hotels are trying to attract families with gourmet cooking classes, cabana classrooms, and yoga breaks as kids continue with remote schooling across the US
Summary List Placement Earlier this month, Landon Alvarez swapped his schoolyard for the seven pools at Club...Summary List Placement Earlier this month, Landon Alvarez swapped his schoolyard for the seven pools at Club Wyndham Bonnet Creek in Orlando, Florida. But before the 10-year-old could explore the resort's water slides, pools, and lazy river, schoolwork needed to be finished, his mom, Amber Alvarez, told Insider. The Alvarez family took advantage of the resort's new Back to School, Back to Your Bucket List program, targeted at families with children in virtual school. Club Wyndham Bonnet Creek is just one of the many hotels and resorts appealing to families with children who have online classes. Coined "schoolcations," the hospitality industry has quickly marketed the flexibility of virtual learning. How rest and relaxation pair with the stressors of online school Amber, her fiancé, and two children, 10 and 2, stayed in a suite for a long weekend. When they arrived, Landon was greeted with a backpack full of school supplies as part of the package. For Amber, the "schoolcation" package included noise-canceling headphones and a bottle of wine to kick off the trip. Outside, "cabana classrooms" were set up so learning could take place poolside. Landon completed his schoolwork from the suite's patio, and in the afternoon, the family grabbed their laptops and went to the pool to finish classwork and business work for the weekend. Amber told Insider that she was worried Landon might get sidetracked by the vacation atmosphere at the resort, but that the backpack of school supplies "set the tone that we're here to get work done as well." As virtual learning continues, the hospitality industry saw an opportunity: 'schoolcations' The hospitality industry has been decimated by the novel coronavirus. The American Hotels and Lodging Association found that nearly 75% of hotels anticipate more layoffs by the end of the year, and the association has claimed that the hotel industry is "on the brink of collapse." But while families debate whether or not they should travel and where they should visit, it's clear that domestic travel is on the rise. National parks have been swamped with tourists, RV rentals have skyrocketed, and many vacations are taking place closer to home. The Alvarez family was eager to travel. "As soon as we were able to, we were traveling," she said. "Of course, there was a lot of handwashing and wearing the face masks and social distancing, but we didn't let that stop us from making memories." Hotels and resorts are trying to entice families like Alvarez's, who are willing to travel and take advantage of virtual learning's flexibility, Jason Herthel, the COO of Montage International, a hotel management company, told Insider. Montage International launched Montage Academy in early September. The program offers children a study space, virtual tutoring, movement breaks, snacks, and lunches. The students attend their normal virtual classes, and, after work is complete, they can opt-in for electives like fly-fishing or a farm-to-table cooking class. A day at Montage Academy will cost families $175 and a school week costs $725. Herthel said that the idea came from conversations with guests. Families expressed concern about going back to virtual learning: "'I am thinking about trying to help my kids with math questions but I haven't taken algebra in decades,' or 'I'm stressed about whether our Wi-Fi is going to work at home with so many people using it at the same time,'" Herthel shared. "The idea sort of bubbled up from there." In less than a month, the company had launched the academy. The packages include everything from around-the-clock tutors to ski lessons When Nancy and Jim Liddell were searching for a way to celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary, they had a few requirements. They wanted it to be a family affair that would include their three daughters, and they needed the trip to be short because weekends were packed with athletics, and some weekdays had in-person classes. So they settled on a night at Kimpton Muse Hotel in New York City. The family traveled from their home in Darien, Connecticut, and arrived at the Kimpton Hotel on a Thursday evening. The next morning, the three daughters had virtual school from 8 a.m. until noon. Afterward, the family was free to explore the city. The family had access to Kimpton Hotels' new "Chief Virtual Learning Officer," who was there to help the children access Wi-Fi and troubleshoot any issues with online classes while Jim worked from a separate room for free. The kids received snack packs and school supplies for free, and at additional cost, the hotel provided school lunches. Jim said that a trip like this wouldn't have felt possible without virtual learning or the hotel's accommodations. "We may have considered it, but what we would have just done was play hooky with our kids." While some elements are included in a stay, others come at a high price tag Beyond onsite tech support, resorts have also added luxury amenities to attract families. At Auberge Resorts Collection properties, families have access to online and onsite tutors, babysitters, and nannies. After their virtual school bell rings, the kids participate in programming. "In Mauna Lani, our property on the Big Island of Hawaii, you can learn how to play the ukulele or you can learn how to hula dance," Mike Minchin, the chief marking officer of Auberge Resorts Collection, told Insider. Another example: A family recently booked a stay at Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection, in Aspen, Colorado, so their children could become expert skiers, Minchin said. A night at Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resort Collection, starts at $600 with its new program. Minchin said extended stays were popular over the summer, and his team predicted the same would be true as the school year started virtually. In a matter of weeks, 17 Auberge Resort Collections added the Remote with Auberge program. At some Auberge Resort Collection properties, access to an office cabana will cost $700 a day. The resorts also partnered with Advantage Testing so families can access tutoring, which ranges from $150 to $875 for 50 minutes of tutoring. Club Wyndham Bonnet Creek's program starts at $179 for a night in the suite, but perks like the cabana classroom have additional costs. Several resorts launched these programs in a matter of weeks For every family that checks into Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh, Greg Goffin, the director of sales and marketing, is there to greet them with a welcome sign, personalized Wi-Fi password, and school supplies. He shares his phone number so that family can call or text whenever they need his help. In Goffin's newly added role as a "Chief Virtual Learning Officer," he's there to help children with their virtual school needs. "It's something that can be special and excite the children while giving mom and dad a break on some level," he told Insider. Access to Goffin is free for families checking in, and so far he's helped a handful of families. Other than that, Goffin's role at Kimpton hasn't significantly changed. For many of the hotels and resorts, there wasn't much infrastructure added to create the programming. Instead, resorts like Auberge Resorts Collection "elevated and amplified things," Minchin said. For example, more babysitting services were added, the children's programs were enhanced, and partnerships with tutoring companies were created. Montage Hotels similarly had many amenities in place before launching Montage Academy. Elements like the "electives" were already happening onsite. The online tutoring component is new, and Herthel shared that the biggest lift was repurposing conference rooms to serve as socially distanced study halls. Minchin and Herthel both shared that they expect their hotels and resorts to keep the programming in place while large populations are still attending virtual school. As for the families who participated, they shared that they'd book a similar "schoolcation" again. "I don't see us doing any long-distance air travel anytime soon," Jim said. "So these short little trips and escapes are the way we're able to get away." If you're a teacher, student, or parent who wants to share their story on what it's like to go back to school right now, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more: Parents who live in RVs share 8 of their best tips and tricks for families that are new to homeschooling Inside teachers' first week back in US classrooms: Nerves, disorganization, and exhaustion A Vermont teacher swapped desks and chairs for hammocks and tree stumps so her students could learn outside year-round A TikTok video of an energetic teacher shows how much effort it takes to keep kindergarteners engaged during virtual classes FOLLOW US: Insider is on Facebook Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why Pikes Peak is the most dangerous racetrack in America
My stay at Islander Resort in the Florida Keys wasn't perfect, with many guests and staff not following COVID protocols, but I'd still return — here's what you should know before booking
Florida still has a high positivity rate for COVID-19, but in places like the Florida...Florida still has a high positivity rate for COVID-19, but in places like the Florida Keys, mandatory mask laws in place make it a good option for locals, if you're careful. I live in Miami and decided on a road trip and staycation at the Islander Resort because it has no interior hallways or elevators; all rooms and suites open directly outside. Rates begin at $189, and while my stay wasn't perfect, it did impart key takeaways on travel during the novel coronavirus. Read more: Is travel safe? We interviewed experts on risks associated with flying, booking hotels or Airbnbs, renting cars, and more, plus ideas on safe vacations during COVID-19. By now, it's no secret that Florida has failed the coronavirus test. After locking down when the Northeast did, we re-emerged only to find ourselves as the new epicenter of the US pandemic. Most of us shut right back up like clamshells, and the state remains a struggling hot spot. However, six months later, Miamians – me among them – are desperate for respite. As it turns out, staying cooped up all the time isn't good for you. "Having a sedentary lifestyle and not doing something for your own mental well-being – all these things can affect your immunity," Summit Health Group primary care physician Dr. Jessica Natale told me. In other words, it's not a bad idea to safely get out of your house now and then. But that's when taking precautions, not jetting off to Europe, where we're banned anyway. Or even states like New York, where we're on the quarantine list. Besides, as someone with an autoimmune disease and a dysfunctional immune system, flying doesn't seem like a good idea. So, day trips and weekend road trips it is. And after interviewing many public health experts and physicians about how to take a safe, socially distanced road trip, as well as how to do so in the Florida Keys specifically, I felt confident I could responsibly leave my house for a staycation within my state, so long as I adhered to certain guidelines. After all, my car is where I can control the situation, keep sanitized, and have as little contact with others as possible. I decided on Islander Resort for my first trip, located on Islamorada in the upper part of the Florida Keys. It generally appeals to travelers who head to the Keys for that Jimmy Buffett vibe, family groups who want to fish and relax, and South Floridians who like to bring down their own boats (there are 14 boat slips on the property). In the past, I've seen it get a little boisterous, but it's also been updated since my last visit, and management is aiming for a bit more elegance. I also checked the COVID-19 policies and was reassured that the room would be sanitized, housekeeping would not interrupt our stay, and no one was allowed on property except guests. Plus, there are no interior elevators or hallways. Each room or suite, equipped with a balcony or screened porch, opens out onto the 1,100-foot coral beach, a pool path, or worst case, a parking lot (my luck). Most are single-story, row-style or fashioned like villas and rooms start at just $189. Value-wise, Islander Resort was well worth it, and offered the respite I needed, so long as the hotel and my fellow guests were following pandemic procedures. As it turned out, not everyone approached things as conservatively as I did, and the hotel did not fully deliver on all their cleaning promises. But my stay did impart some key wisdom on COVID safety to consider when traveling during the pandemic. Of course, without a vaccine, there is no firm guarantee with regard to safety. It's crucial to follow guidelines and advice from organizations such as the CDC and WHO, and practice safety measures including wearing a mask, washing your hands, and maintaining social distancing. Additionally, consider your own level of risk, and whether you're traveling from or to a hotspot, so as not to increase the rate of infection. In other words, if you're not currently living in Florida, it's probably best to consider this hotel for a visit down the line. The first impression The room On-site amenities What's nearby What others say What you need to know COVID-19 policies The bottom line Book a room at Islander Resort starting at $189 per night Keep reading to see why I was so impressed by Islander Resort. A marquee sign on the west side of the Overseas Highway alerted my husband and me to the presence of the resort and The Florida Keys History & Discovery Center, a museum-aquarium (and more) that's located on-site. We pulled in and stopped at the guardhouse, where masked employees reminded us about COVID-19 policies and directed us to the lobby. There, we could clearly see the plexiglass-wrapped valet station, whose use had been discontinued. Because we were pulling up as a storm was pushing out, the fountain that usually greets travelers wasn't on. Only five people are allowed in the lobby at one time, but we arrived at a slow time in the early evening and were the only ones checking in. The property's 24 acres have been recently reimagined with native plants and renovated rooms. My husband, a physician who is practiced at personal protection, went inside while I stayed outside to minimize exposure. Both he and the desk attendant wore masks, and he sanitized his hands after he came outside. We were immediately relieved at how clearly the hotel had marked the beach, pool, and pier areas for coronavirus policies. There were very few staff and guests walking around, and the ones that were used masks. Later, after dinner, the beach had more of a throng, with some folks playing with their children and/or dogs, and many had mask-less faces. Technically, because this was open air, it was legal. But because people were gathering in groups on the beach and pier, we decided to leave. We booked a standard, single-story Tropical View King room that opened onto the parking lot. The rooms are a generous 370 square feet, and the access and views get better from there, opening onto the beach, with or without an ocean view. Our friends who traveled to the hotel for the same weekend booked earlier and stayed in a villa-style beachside suite with two separate rooms. It was also about the same size. Suite views are variable, ranging from courtyard to ocean, but the size can blossom up to 1,070 square feet for a two-bedroom. Although our single-story, motel-style Tropical View King room was standard, it felt large with a kitchen with a full-size refrigerator, coffee fixings, and a microwave. It struck me as especially handy for families and longer-term stays. There was also a closet — more like a wardrobe — and the bureau aligned with that, which was where the 50" smart TV sat. A small bathroom was clean and updated with a steam shower. I appreciated how nicely the towels were folded, and the large-format Paul Mitchell bath amenities felt like an indulgence. Everything was visibly clean. The sink, however, is on the outside of the bathroom, across from the little kitchen area. This made the entrance way a little tight. There's not a lot of space to unpack toiletries, either. The King-sized bed, covered in blue-and-white linens, took up about half the room. I loved how wide the bed was, and my husband appreciated the firm mattress. With plantation shutters keeping out the sun and good, strong air-conditioning, the room was a comfortable place to hang out, day or night. We knew we had left our anxieties at home when we gave in to the urge for a late afternoon nap. The rest of the space was comprised of a small table that could serve as a desk or a spot to dine, plus a love seat. A door at the end of the room opened to a screened porch with patio furniture and a ceiling fan to cut the humidity. When we weren't sleeping or in the water, we hung out on the terrace, sipping wine we brought and chilled in the fridge, or reading under the fan's lazy breeze. While I found the heavy, dark furniture dated and out of its tropical element, the tile floor, sea-themed artwork, and blue-and-green color scheme lightened up the room. With modern minimalist design, it was hard to tell if anything extraneous had been removed for the sake of COVID. Robes hung in the wardrobe (slippers aren't supplied regardless), and two decorative pillows rested on the love seat. While no paper flyers for activities, magazines, or menus were in the room, the sugar and creamer were filled for a few days' stay. In fact, staying at the resort didn't feel much different than it did before the pandemic, aside from the obvious design updates. While I was nervous prior to arrival, once I entered the room I felt fine. The obvious cleanliness helped, and the privacy was reassuring. We couldn't hear anything from neighbors, and doors, which you approach from outside, were far enough apart that even if people weren't wearing masks, we didn't come within six feet of each other. As a bonus, while I usually find it difficult to sleep in a hotel the first night, the pandemic has had the opposite effect on me. Staying at the Islander was the only time I've felt rested since February. Still, while I enjoyed my stay — and clearly needed a change of scenery — I would have been uneasy had it been at full capacity. Another friend who went for a long weekend after I returned reported staff wearing inefficient neck gaiters, no visible cleaning, and too-crowded pools. I'd return, but if the pandemic is still raging, only during weekdays in the low season. I'd also upgrade to a suite with a beachside view, which can cost about $120 more for a room that is roughly the same size as mine, with a much better vantage point. The view determines the price, with rooms and beachside suites on the ocean side (where we were staying) starting at $189 and townhouses on the bayside at $260. Prices rise in peak season and mandatory minimum stays are often required. But if you book early enough, you might be able to score a standard room with a beach view for a nominal extra charge. Compare room types and prices for Islander Resort Islander Resort always reminds me of the lyrics of the old Madonna song, "La Isla Bonita." Whenever I'm there, lounging at one of the saltwater pools, I think of how the sun really does seem to perch higher in the sky, with pink-and-gold sunsets lasting as long as it takes to savor a frozen piña colada, which the bar makes with actual coconut. Despite my desire to rhapsodize it, however, Islander Resort is just as much a good-time Jimmy Buffet tune as it is a soothing Spanish lullaby. The pools can be quiet and peaceful or occupied by interconnected family groups and occasionally rowdy tourists who don't control their children. Several times, we had to remind children about maintaining their distance from us, at which point they'd swim closer on purpose and mock us. I also saw a young boy do a front somersault into the pool, which has a depth of four feet. Neither the pool staff, who wear neck gaiter and bandanas as opposed to masks, nor beer-in-hand parents do a good job of watching for danger. It's worth noting that masks aren't required for guests at the pool, but wristbands are. You'll be stopped at the gate and asked for your room number, then handed a towel. As a mom of two and a former teacher of 15 years, I found it irritating to take matters into my own hands. But given the number of adults who won't follow guidelines, it was not entirely surprising. At the end of the day, I also had to consider where I was: The Conch Republic, where everyone is in a Sovereign State of Mind (this is the Keys' actual motto) and everything is laissez-faire. Even during a pandemic, you're apparently expected to roll with it. And, it should be noted, the beach lounges and cabanas were completely deserted, and lounge chairs at both pool and the beach were grouped and rearranged to provide maximum separation. Hanging out on the sand was a wiser decision, albeit a hotter one. Plus, taking a socially distanced stroll on the beach, pier, and grounds, day or night, was a nice change of pace from walking around the same neighborhood block at home. Still, make sure you inspect the beach towels, which were handed out at the pool. Despite the claims of a costly renovation, we found several stained beyond repair, visible even when rolled up in the bin. And though I handed one back to an attendant and mentioned that it looked so bad that it should be taken out of circulation, I saw her throw it in the dirty towel bin. In regular times, activities include full moon yoga, Bingo, kids' craft sessions, movie night, and more. However, resort activities have been suspended until further notice. You can still fish off the pier, however. In addition, you can use kayaks, paddleboards, and water bicycles. The guidelines for use are one hour per person per day, which is covered by a $30 daily resort fee. We thought we would take advantage of this, but the days were too hot to engage in exercise. Given that swimming and water sports are the only activities available, management might also want to rethink charging such a steep resort fee, especially since some of the resort's facilities are closed. For instance, Elements Lounge & Fine Dining was not in operation. Instead, Tides Beachside Bar & Grill was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Much of the fare was refreshing, well-prepared, and evocative of the region. We felt fine lunching on a less-crowded mid-afternoon, but a strict noon rush kept us in a suddenly abandoned pool instead. While things seemed clean, we didn't see any increased sanitization going on aside from the staff wiping down tables at the restaurant. You can also place orders to go and get ice cream at a pick-up window framed by plexiglass. But because this also seemed to be where waiters picked up drinks and orders to serve at the pool, we chose not to compete for the same air space. In addition to swimming, many South Floridians like to bring down their boats and get out on the water all day; others like to arrange charters and water sports rentals through Islander Girl Tours, which is an independent company that leaves from a site on the hotel grounds. If you bring back a catch from the fishing pier or a day on the boat, Islander Resort will also rent propane gas grills for $75 per day and include grilling utensils. They usually place them behind the screened lanais. Contact Guest Services for availability. Islamorada is filled with well-known restaurants, bars, and attractions, including the famous, multi-level Holiday Isle Tiki Bar. We dined at two favorites: Ziggie & Mad Dog's for some absolutely terrific steaks, and Lazy Days Restaurant for seafood. At Lazy Days, you can request for them to cook your catch, and you can also watch the sunset from the beach. We caught the tail end of a pink sky as we dined, having stopped first at Pierre's Restaurant and Beach Café at Morada Bay. Islamorada is called the "Sportfishing Capital of the World," and you can charter a fishing expedition through the hotel or with any number of reputable outfits. If you'd rather learn about dolphins, stingrays, sea turtles, and alligators, stop into Theater of the Sea, which also has some gorgeous gardens. For a different kind of beauty, go birding and hiking at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, park hours and facilities have changed, so be sure to visit the website before you go. Masks are required inside any covered areas at Theater of the Sea and other similar attractions, even if most of it is outside. And Islamorada's many food-and-drink establishments seem as busy as they are during high season, in part because Monroe County's government (as opposed to its citizens) has been very strict about hotel and restaurant occupancies. It looks like they're overflowing, with waits for dinner, when they really just have less, socially distanced room to host visitors. I recommend making reservations even if you think you don't need them, even if you've been to places in the past where you haven't required them. Also keep in mind that while masks are mandatory, the folks who live in the Keys are used to doing what they please. Big government is not their kind of thing. Thus masking is not something a lot of them willingly follow. Check flight prices to Florida on Expedia Islander Resort has a 4.5 rating on Trip Advisor and a 9.4 out of 10 on Hotels.com, where guests often comment about the unusual beauty of the wide, shady beach, the exceptional landscaping, and the comfort of the rooms with porches or screened lanais. Guests also praise the amenities, which range from ping pong to fishing to kayaking. Families love that there's plenty to do, including visiting the on-site Florida Keys History & Discovery Center, a museum-aquarium-movie theater about nature. Some register complaints about the tight bathrooms, which are small but updated with steam showers. A few others feel that the mattresses are hard and that the beach sand is not as white as they might prefer. And recently, a couple of guests noted that the staff hasn't been responsive to their needs, but the current situation is certainly straining resources. Read reviews, compare prices, and book Islander Resort on Trip Advisor Who stays here: Families, couples, and people who like to spend time on the water boating, fishing, and paddling (one hour per person, per day, included with resort fee). Yes, even during COVID: As mentioned, many tourists and families are still visiting, and not keen to follow all the policies. We also noticed a lot of mask gaiters and bandanas in lieu of real masks, especially on waitstaff and pool attendants. The material was flimsy and fell off when they spoke; noses weren't covered; and had we not been dining outside, we would have left a couple of establishments. We like: The long, wide beach and fishing pier, both of which offer pleasant ways to spend time in solitude. We love (don't miss this feature!): The on-site Florida Keys History & Discovery Center is a museum, lecture hall, movie theater, research library, and more. Run by the non-profit Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation, it recently added aquariums and interactive exhibits from the Mote Marine Laboratory's Coral Reef Exploration. We think you should know: While Monroe County has a mandatory mask policy, the community here is highly independent and doesn't like being told what to do. You'll find a lot of waitstaff wearing their fishing neck gaiters, which continuously fall down when they talk and are not a good substitute for masks. We'd do this differently next time: Instead of competing for a table in reduced-occupancy dining rooms or eating outside in the heat and humidity, I'd do more take out and eat on the screened-in porch and take advantage of my room's kitchen. The policies at Islander Resort dovetail with Monroe County in general. Face coverings over both mouth and nose must be worn in public whenever there is a roof overhead. That includes the Islander Resort lobby, where there is a maximum of five guests allowed at one time. In addition, the following safety measures have been taken: Signage advising guests of social distancing and other policies is frequent throughout the property. Hand sanitizers are available throughout the property, but there could be more. Groups of lounge chairs at the pool and beach have been removed and rearranged to reflect the recommended six feet of social distance. Dedicated pool attendants distribute wrist bands and pool towels, but the station was abandoned many times during the day, and we walked in without wrist bands on our second day there; we eventually were chased down and handed them. Guest rooms are sanitized prior to arrival and housekeepers will only enter to clean every three days. The pool, splash pad, beach, and pier are all open to overnight guests only, although the splash pad was closed when we were there. Key card and high touch surfaces are continually sanitized, according to the website, but we didn't see any cleaning going on aside from the staff wiping down tables at the restaurant. With children returning to (mostly virtual) school, stress and anxiety levels — along with virus levels — are ramping up again. For South Florida locals, Islander Resort in Islamorada is a good option to decompress for a socially distanced weekend. But if you're not from the area, please strongly consider waiting to visit until it's safer to do so. For out-of-state travelers, please follow state, CDC, and WHO guidelines about where and when to safely visit Florida. As a state, we depend on tourism. The Islander Resort is a good value with the perfect Keys vibe that is ideal for groups of travelers, and its recent upgrades have made the grounds enchanting. The in-room kitchen also allows you to tend to picky family members, long-term stays, and for those that want to take out food rather than eat at restaurants. But you do need to watch the pool and beach public areas, which can become dense at times with people, especially children, not keeping enough distance. The staff doesn't pay attention to that, although you can see why. They're stretched thin, and it didn't look like some of them were happy to be working in the hospitality industry. Still, the bandanas and neck gaiters they're wearing are simply not good enough, although since they're outside, we felt it was safer than it would have been. I also recommend a few more sanitizing stations placed around the property, or stockpiling your own, and would like to see more actual cleaning of high-touch surfaces, not just paying lip service to cleaning. Crowded public spaces, lack of attention to guests breaking social distancing rules, staff members themselves not practicing the best mask policies, and not enough visible cleaning might give you pause, though, if you're high-risk or ultra-cautious. But the positives outweighed the negatives, and for the sake of my mental health, I'd personally return to the Islander and places like it during the pandemic at low-volume times, such as early autumn weekdays while kids are in school. Unless they lock it down again, Monroe County hasn't seen the last of me. Book Islander Resort starting at $189 per night here
I'm a travel writer, but hadn't left my home in Los Angeles since lockdown began,...I'm a travel writer, but hadn't left my home in Los Angeles since lockdown began, where cases never really dipped before spiking again this summer. To celebrate birthdays and catch our breath amid unrelenting bad news, I planned a family weekend in Palm Springs, which is a two-hour trip from home for our first post-lockdown getaway. While my husband and I generally prefer hotels, we viewed an Airbnb as our safest option for a contact-free experience and a private pool. Read more: Which is safer: Airbnb or hotels? Here's what doctors say. Even though I'm a travel writer, I've spent most of the last four months at home with my family — like many Americans — amid the pandemic. As frustrating as it's been to be cooped up, I have not viewed this as the time to take risks with health and safety. We live in Los Angeles where cases plateaued at best, before spiking again this summer. But July is historically a favorite time for vacation in our household since it's the time of both mine and my twins' birthdays. And with our summer travel plans to Tahiti off the table this year, we needed something — desperately. We opted for a long weekend to Palm Springs, our happy place, which is just about 120 miles from home. This, of course, dovetails with trends across the country seeing most travelers opting for post-lockdown trips to regional destinations within 200 miles of their homes. And while my husband and I are very much hotel people, preferring amenity-rich hotel experiences to home-share environments, I viewed all hotels as off the table, right off the bat. I'd spoken to experts over and over again in reporting travel safety stories for Business Insider over these last few months, and understand that the greatest virus transmission risk comes from direct encounters between people. That meant a private vacation rental was the only way we were willing to travel. In the first few months of the pandemic, Palm Springs banned short-term rentals, but this restriction lifted in June, which is when I started searching for lodging, aiming for a date in late July. Surprisingly, many of the options suiting my needs were already booked for the summer weekends. I would have preferred a refundable option given the uncertainty of these times, but those options were limited too, especially for what I wanted: a property in the range of $300 per night (or approximately under $1,400 all in with taxes and fees) with at least two bedrooms and a private pool. Ultimately, I selected this "Spacious Desert Oasis Mid Century Home" and made my booking. Here's how it went. How I chose my rental COVID-19 policies The first impression Our stay What you need to know The bottom line Book this two-bedroom Palm Springs home with pool and spa starting from $289 per night Keep reading to see how I decided on a Palm Springs Airbnb for my vacation during COVID-19. As a travel writer, I've covered Airbnb in the time of coronavirus extensively. So I was well aware of the platform's new three-tiered options for enhanced cleaning during the pandemic. The first and most stringent option is Cleaning Protocol, in which hosts enroll and participate in a learning and certification program and also maintain a 24-waiting period after a guest checks out before entering to clean a listing. The second option is the Booking Buffer program, which is less rigorous on the cleaning side, but requires a longer time cushion between guests: 72 hours. Hosts have a third option: to participate in neither of these new standards and instead continue their existing procedures. Each Airbnb listing reflects the host's choice with a badge up top (or a lack of one). The listing I selected bore no new badge, indicating it did not participate in the new programs. I might have preferred to see that badge, but given limited inventory, I felt comfortable without it because I understand from public health professionals that the main risk of virus transmission comes from people-to-people interactions and not from surfaces. So, I felt that any environment, inhabited at a given time by my family alone, was an acceptably safe choice. Additionally, at the time of my booking, the home had a perfect 5.0 score from reviewers across all categories including cleanliness. By the time of my visit, it had dipped to 4.97 from 30 reviewers but still received a 5.0 for cleanliness. "This property is so clean," one reviewer noted, adding, "well appointed, cozy, and charming!" Plus, it was in our budget: Our final booking broke down approximately like this: $295 nightly for three nights ($885), plus $185 cleaning fee, plus $151 service fee, plus $123 occupancy and taxes. Grand total: $1,344. This is substantially more than we would have paid for one of our favorite desert hotels — such as the Avalon Palm Springs — but again, we didn't consider a hotel an option at this time. However, the fees can greatly inflate what seems like an otherwise affordable price. I did also reach out to the property manager by way of the Airbnb platform to confirm that the property would be vacant for a minimum of 24 hours between guests, which he confirmed was the case. Although our host did not commit to Airbnb's enhanced cleaning policies, confirming this buffer helped me feel that our risk could be reasonably considered negligible. The virus is known to settle out of the air quickly, within hours or less. I also asked whether the 24-hour buffer would render an early check-in or late check-out impossible, and he was quite accommodating. "Yes, we are required to have a 24-hour vacancy in between each guest. With that restriction, along with the rule for the cleaners not to enter until three hours after each checkout, it makes it difficult for late checkouts," he wrote. But he added a generous accommodation to offer us two hours early on the arrival date and two hours later on the departure date, which helped make our planning feel more relaxed and less rushed. We arrived about a half-hour before the nominal 4 p.m. check-in time and appreciated the flexibility to go right in. We collected our key easily and contact-free by way of a lockbox and entered the home without difficulty through a lovely succulent garden in the front yard. It was just as indicated in the listing photos. Inside, the house appeared pristine. A bottle of hand sanitizer sat on the entry table and there were others throughout the house. There seemed to be no evidence of previous guests, objects, or dust that had gone unnoticed. I first noticed that the bathrooms were both perfectly resort-like with fancy showers including multiple shower heads at various levels. The bathrooms also held typical hotel-like amenities such as shampoo, lotion, and soap. The kitchen was also well-stocked with all the comforts of home including drawers filled with cooking essentials (olive oil, spices), conveniences (ziplock bags, foil), and fun or functional extras (tropical cocktail stirring sticks, waterproof band-aids, scotch tape). Also on the kitchen counter? A balloon tied to a box of four cupcakes, since I had mentioned in my initial contact that we'd be celebrating three family birthdays on this trip. A nice touch! We'd brought our own pillows from home as a precaution — or at least for peace of mind — and swapped them with the existing bed pillows. We also brought our own disinfecting wipes and took a pass over the remote controls in each room and some other high-touch points like light switches. In general, I didn't feel too disquieted about any of these details, and the feeling further dissipated over our stay. Other than visiting the grocery store (conveniently located nearby the property), which I did alone, my family stayed in the home for the duration of our stay. This worked out well because the pool was as sparkling and comfortable with plenty of floaties included. My kids spent most of the time happily in the water. And, frankly, it's not unlike how we would have spent our time pre-coronavirus on a Palm Springs summertime trip when temps can and do easily soar well over 110. We also made s'mores at one of two backyard fire pits and there was a Weber barbecue that my husband used to grill dinner. The sleep quality was excellent, with comfortable beds in each bedroom outfitted with soft linens. We also used some of the provided throw blankets for lounging on the couch that were remarkably soft and still bore tags indicating Parachute brand. In all, the property was not wholly unlike a hotel. It appeared clean and inspired our confidence that it was indeed fully disinfected as promised. And while we had no contact with the host, the property manager was highly reachable and responsive by text message, lending the sense that our stay was staffed for our needs, but from a safe, off-site position. Upon leaving, we took our trash bags out to the bins, loaded and started the dishwasher, and placed the keys back in the lockbox, as per our instructions. We couldn't just slip out as we would in a hotel, and we still had to tackle these tasks despite paying cleaning and service fees. Who stays here: This two-bedroom home is just right for small groups of up to four. It worked well for our young twins to share the full-sized bed in the second room, but it's best for a couple, small kids, or extremely cozy friends. Partiers shouldn't stay here — not just because of COVID, but because it's a quiet street with restrictions on amplified noise outdoors. We like: The pool and expansive backyard are among this home's standout features and were necessary for the summer heat. The front yard landscaping was also stunning. We love: As a tentative Airbnb person, I felt very reassured by the spa-like bathrooms, which were all gleaming, sleek, and posh with fancy multiway shower heads. We think you should know: Families with babies and young kids need to be mindful of any Airbnb with a pool. Ours was was not surrounded by a fence, and of course, there will be no lifeguard on duty. We'd do this differently next time: We sure got our money's worth by staying exclusively in the home to mitigate our risk exposure. But next time I return to Palm Springs, I hope it's safe to venture out more to experience the city's wonderful restaurants, people watching, and shopping. All other things being equal, my husband and I still prefer hotel life. Not just for the housekeeping and the room service — but for the thrill of meeting other travelers in the lobby, the smell of a resort spa, the kids' club, the concierge … all those services as well as the ineffable qualities that make certain hotels so special and luxurious. But all other things are not equal right now. We are extremely coronavirus-transmission weary, and at this stage are only comfortable traveling with a fully private and contact-less environment. This Airbnb satisfied our truly substantial need to get away to a safe place, with the privacy of a house but the comfort of a hotel. We did not feel exposed to any meaningful risk, which is a sentiment I have expressed to many friends and family members as they seek to make their own low-risk travel plans. As I have told them, we felt our stay was a huge success and would gladly book another vacation rental in this vein again. And in fact, for our sanity, we must do it again to get through this pandemic in our home state, which now holds the dubious distinction for most cases in the nation. Just be sure to flag the search criteria that are most important to you when searching for vacation rentals, and save room in your budget for fees. They'll add up far quicker than a hotel resort fee. Book this two-bedroom Palm Springs home with pool and spa starting from $289 per night