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(2016 - Winter Issue)


In three of Canadians’ favourite holiday hot spots—Montego Bay, Jamaica; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and Riviera Maya, Mexico—glamorous makeovers to five-star, all-inclusive Palladium resorts set the stage for vacationing like a star.


On my first stay at Montego Bay’s  Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort & Spa shortly after it opened in 2008, I felt transported back into the era of British colonial plantations and lavish lifestyles. The beachfront property boasts neoclassical pillars and verandas, a variety of palm trees and 24-hour concierges—all making me feel quite the grand lady. In 2015, a substantial facelift raised the Lady’s opulence quotient with swanky upgrades to villas and suites, and a redo of the authentic à-la-carte Bhogali Indian Restaurant.

Visitors using the Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort & Spa as a home base can explore nearby historical sites and walk in the footsteps of colonial legends. One of my all-time favourites is Rose Hall Plantation, owned in the 18th century by the legendary “White Witch,” whose body is buried on the grounds but whose ghost reputedly continues to roam. The Jamaican-Georgian-style great house was restored to its original splendour in the 1960s and today houses a pub, restaurant and gift shop. And golfers will enjoy the White Witch Golf Course just across the street.

Since Jamaica is relatively compact, a selection of day trips to other parts of the island can cover a lot of history and turf. Tours from the Palladium property can go for an hour or a day to spots such as Bellefield Great House and Gardens; the Bob Marley Centre and Mausoleum; and Firefly, Noël Coward’s final home and resting place. Nature buffs and outdoor adventurers can engage in countless activities including descending Dunn’s River Falls, riding a rainforest bobsled with Rainforest Adventures at Mystic Mountain, birdwatching and river rafting.


My first memory of Punta Cana was the impressive array of palm trees dotting the sandy expanse of Bávaro Beach. The Grand Palladium Palace Resort Spa & Casino is nestled in luxuriant stands of these evergreens offering shade, privacy and romance. Beachfront living doesn’t get any better than this.

But the resort’s owners continue to raise the bar on the “palace” concept with renovations and upgrades. For example, 12 ground-floor oceanview rooms have been converted into junior suites by turning their terraces into interior spaces and adding a new exterior terrace to each room. More than 40 suites have become loft suites with a new bathroom design, new decor and a second bathroom on the upper level. Refurbishments at Zentropía Palladium Spa & Wellness centre have brought in state-of-the-art equipment that, combined with attentive staff and personal trainers, can help visitors stick with their programs or develop new ones.

While the Grand Palladium Palace Resort has plenty to keep guests occupied throughout their stay, those who want to see more of the island can book any number of tours at the resort. One destination I revisit every chance I get is Altos de Chavón, a perfectly recreated Mediterranean-style village in La Romana (about an hour’s drive from Bávaro Beach). Complete with amphitheatre, it also houses a cultural centre, archeological museum and chic little restaurants. Fabulous shops offer the wares of local artisans, while galleries exhibit the works of students from the on-site design school, an affiliate of New York’s Parsons School of Design.


Guests of the Grand Palladium White Sand Resort & Spa can live like aristocrats in a refreshingly modern take on Mexican architectural style—with more amenities and fabulous food than ever. Inspired by the history and environment of the fabled Riviera Maya, recently completed renovations to the resort’s Mayan suites, one-bedroom suites and junior suites have injected new furniture and dramatic decor into an already luxurious mix. Gorgeous textiles and Designers Guild wallpaper evoking local mangroves contribute to the ambiance, while outdoor showers, terraces and thatched huts put guests right into the eco-zone.

Nestled in a secluded area of the Akumal coastline between Tulum and Cancun, the Grand Palladium White Sand has seven freshwater pools and one saltwater pool. The grounds serve as a wildlife sanctuary for adorable “pets” such as sleepy iguanas, pink flamingoes and multicoloured parrots that perennially amuse guests.

For more nature and wildlife—or history and shopping—the resort’s tour operators can show visitors the popular spots. These include the aquatic theme park Xel-Há (about a 10-minute drive), the Tulum ruins (25 minutes) and the town of Playa del Carmen (20 minutes). Cultural events throughout the year include the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival, the Riviera Maya Film Festival and the Sacred Mayan Journey in canoes from Xcaret Park to Cozumel. And every spring and fall, Chichen Itza (a three-hour drive) serves up the renowned equinox events.

Spain-based Palladium Hotel Group has 50 hotels in six countries from Europe and the Caribbean to Central and South America. Its all-inclusive signature luxury getaways emphasize privacy and comfort by way of intimate suites, world-class wellness and spa facilities, pristine beaches and tranquil infinity pools. Palladium Hotel Group is also licensed to operate Hard Rock Hotels in Spain.


Your local travel agent can provide details for that special trip to any of these spots. Bespoke destination weddings are offered by all Palladium resorts. More information about Palladium Hotel Group and some exclusive offers are available through palladiumhotelgroup.com.

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