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Whether you are looking for the latest wellness product, heading off to a retreat to reset or want to try the newest fitness studio, we’ve got you covered. Our Wellness Editor, Anji McGrandles shares the skinny on all the hottest wellbeing news.

Connect at The Yards

Connect at The Yards is the perfect event for those passionate about wellness, fitness, and enhancing their overall wellbeing.  

Taking place in the heart of Covent Garden on Sunday 7th July, attendees can enjoy unlimited access to a carefully curated program of wellness and fitness classes, talks and workshops, art exhibits, live music, and a wellness marketplace, spread across multiple venues within The Yards, from 9am until 6pm.    

Brands and partners bringing the event to life include; Lululemon, WeGLOW by Stef Williams, The Glow Space by Madeleine Shaw, Heartcore, Allbirds, Digme Fitness, JAB and Yogarise. Pineapple Dance Studios have curated a fantastic fitness program including Pilates, Yoga, Barre, HIIT, Boxing, Dance and Meditation.

Ticket holders can also enjoy exclusive discounts on lunch and dinner at select restaurants within The Yards, such as rooftop restaurant Ruccola at The Conduit, Gura Gura, Oriole, Le Bab, Fairshot Café, Lahpet and many more, and attendees will have the opportunity to take home a bumper wellbeing goodie bag. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here. House of Coco readers can get 20% off using the code HOUSEOFCOCO20 at the checkout.

Four Seasons Age-Old Wisdom for a Modern World

Four Seasons is dialling up its wellbeing offer with the launch of lots of fabulous retreats and programmes across 2024.  Here at House of Coco, we love the sound of their Mexican offer where you can learn the secrets of the traditional Temazcal or “house of heat” – at Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo, and Naviva, A Four Seasons Resort, Punta Mita

Led by a shaman, guests are guided through this ancient ritual that has been used for centuries since pre-Hispanic times in Mexico to cleanse the body of impurities and toxins and enhance one’s spiritual being through transformation.

Additional information on booking and the cost of the Temazcal experience can be found here.

Smart supplements

Get your essential vitamins and supplements in a quick, convenient way with Diso strips.  Simply pop a dissolvable strip on your tongue and all the essential nutrients go directly into the bloodstream rather than through the gut for faster more efficient absorption.

Packed into compact tins, Diso dissolvable range includes Collagen, Probiotics and Multi-vitamins.   can be popped out on the go whether you’re in the office or on a morning walk.

Delicious and nutritious, the full range can be purchased here.

Harness the Essence of Nordic Wellbeing

Those looking for some Scandi wellness will love BÄR, a haven for organic luxury skincare, body products, and home fragrances inspired by the breathtaking Nordic landscapes.

BÄR brings the magic of Scandinavia directly to your home through its online store. Carefully selecting and curating a range of like-minded female-founded brands, including MANASI7, RAAW ALCHEMY, DJUSIE, SEES COMPANY, AIVA, BODYOLOGIST and L:A BRUKET – BÄR takes you on a journey of wellness, as you discover the Nordic touch, and reconnect with the simple beauty of nature.

Shop the range here.  

Reset and Reconnect with your Soul in Santorini

Designed in partnership with mindful movement community, Sanctum and renowned wellbeing experts such as the world-leading acupuncturist Ross J. Barr, this retreat is a 3-day holistic transformative experience to push physical, mental and spiritual boundaries to release, heal and self-celebrate.   

Located in the stunning Andronis Concept Wellness Resort, expect activities that supercharge Western modern fitness methods with Eastern wellbeing practices such as breath work, Pilates, fire ceremonies, Kundalini yoga, primal fitness, acupuncture, astrology-themed somatic groundings and soundscapes.

From £4,765 (this includes 4 nights in a Finesse Suite, all activities, complimentary acupuncture, a Kosmos Box & all F&B meals). Full schedule is here. Book Here.

Unwind and Relax with Da Lapa

Da Lapa candles not only smell amazing, but they are made using only organic, vegan ingredients, ensuring that they not only exquisitely scented but are also kind to the planet.

From the natural coconut wax to the glass packaging, every component is carefully selected to minimise environmental impact while maximising the sensory delivery.  Our favourite is the Lemongrass range.

Shop the range here, prices start at £8.

For countless people, visiting ‘Lapland’ is a bucket list destination most people are keen to tick off early. However, with this part of the Nordic region sparsely populated, it is hard to know where to start. If you are looking for an authentic nature adventure, look no further than Muonio. With around 2,300 residents and an area of 2,039.97 km², social distancing is never an issue there.

Muonio, Finland

What makes Muonio unique? You can breathe the purest certified air in the world. They have over 200 pristine lakes and over 20 fells, and only in Lapland will you experience eight different seasons.

Where to stay in Muonio?

A great base for your arctic adventures is Harriniva Adventure Resort. They’ve been established since 1973, on the edge of Muonio village. The hotel is synonymous with wilderness adventures. Their five decades of experience have meant they’ve fine-tuned the very best outdoor adventures for their guests. You can enjoy fast-paced action with their snowmobile and husky tours. You can go white-water rafting in Europe’s longest free-flowing river, the Tornion-Muonionjoki. You can go ice-fishing under the midnight sun. They offer multi-day wilderness tours for those who want to spot exotic wildlife. Alternatively, you can just enjoy a relaxing stroll on the frozen river and get inspired by the northern lights and the multitude of stars.

What is great about supporting Harriniva Adventure Resort is that you are supporting a third-generation family business who are passionate about the surroundings. Their restaurant serves up the best of local cuisine including toast Skagen with white fish roe and reindeer served with mushroom sauce. They also have a dedicated vegetarian menu. Their resort is also great for those seeking relaxation with two riverside saunas and outdoor jacuzzis, offering tremendous views of the locality.

Saunas in Muonio

Another place to consider visiting is Jeris Lakeside Resort. It is situated by the mystical lake of Lake Jerisjärvi. It is considered sacred in indigenous Sámi mythology. Snowmobile is a great option here through the snow-covered forest and to the lake. The jewel in their crown is Arctic Sauna World. Sauna is a religion to the Finns and this is the equivalent of a shrine for locals to worship in. 

Their saunas are named after Finnish folklore gods: Tapio, Ukko, Ilmatar and Vellamo. They represent the elements: earth, fire, wind and water. For example, the most traditional smoke sauna belongs to Ukko, which is the fire sauna. They also have a Northern Lights sauna, which includes a two-floor panorama view experience. In the winter, they have ice holes for you to take a dip in before, during and after your sauna experience. It is supposedly ideal for improving blood circulation and the suppleness of your skin.

Hunter experience

If you want to experience activities like ice fishing, you need experienced guides like the teams from Hunter of the North. You’ll be transported to your fishing spot by sleigh or snowmobile. There are numerous lakes in Muonio to choose from. They will provide all the equipment needed whether it is traps and nets or fishing rods. The kind of fish you can expect to catch include whitefish, perch, pike or burbot. They will also show you how to handle and prepare the fish, before savouring a homemade lunch by the campfire.

You can also try the reindeer herder experience. You’ll get to feed reindeer in the wilderness as well as learn invaluable knowledge about this majestic animal.

Animal farm

If you are thinking of tours with huskies, reindeer or horses, then you need to check out Polar Lights Tours. They are a family-run business and have designed these experiences for all seasons. They can be paired with other activities like picking berries or paddling through crystal clear waters. They even own an aurora wilderness cabin, where you will have a chance to observe the northern lights from the comfort of your bed.

Embracing nature

If you want to learn more about local nature and culture, you should pay a visit to the Nature Centre of Kellokas. They provide in-depth information about Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park and nearby is Finland’s oldest hiking trail. The exhibitions focus on how dependent people are on nature and promote respect for Finnish wildlife. The national park is Finland’s most popular national park and was established in 1938 and includes hiking trails of varying difficulty and atmospheric campfire areas.

Whether you are a winter or a summer person, Muonio has so much to offer for outdoor aficionados.

For more information, visit the website

Kintsugi is a new global wellness brand, drawing inspiration from the ancient Japanese art of repairing ceramics with gold and with the intention to raise frequencies for increased joyful and healthy lives. The first Kintsugi Space launched in Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi, in November 2023, an entirely new concept for the destination. This will be followed by online membership and the launch of the lifestyle product line in 2024 and other exciting spaces internationally.

To experience the magic of Kintsugi first-hand, Team Coco’ very own Hannah Tan-Gillies ventured into bustling Charlotte Street to get a taste of what the innovative wellness concept has to offer.

Kintsugi, led by the gentle genius of acclaimed spa creative Patrizia Bortolin is all about inspiring people to embrace their imperfections, while being surrounded in a new kind of luxury. During the London event, Patrizia, who is also the founder of the Glowing Flow Spa Consultancy, was recognised by The New York Times for her work at Preidlhof Luxury DolceVita Retreat* and celebrated by Conde Nast Traveller as creating the ‘Best Life Changing Spa Experience’.

She brings all this goodness to the Kintsugi experience, which adeptly combines ancient Eastern healing techniques with modern Western methodologies based on a holistic approach of wellness using innovative Quantum Healing methods.

What is Quantum Healing you say? Well it is an ethos that is based on the premise that our thoughts and intentions can have a powerful influence on our health and wellbeing, to bring the body and mind into a state of balance and harmony. It involves the application of quantum principles to a holistic, integrated wellbeing approach. At its core, it leverages the idea that particles exhibit both wave and energy properties in the human body and when this energy is in equilibrium, the body can heal itself.

kintsugi spa

Patrizia leads a team of experts including celebrity Facialist Anastasia Achielleos who is a Kintsugi Wellness Community Ambassador focused on fascial wellness and high consciousness. She is also joined by famed Italian architect Emanuela Beneneddeti who created the Kintsugi space in Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi.

The Kintsugi method guides its members towards a new, higher frequency where life feels more joyful and nourishing. Laughing and crying are both welcome, a celebration of the body is encouraged through dancing, massage, community and purifying. It also stimulates the mind to create healthy routines, change perspectives, think less and observe more, care for details and rituals and appreciate the beauty all around.

Situated on the sought after Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi, the seven-floor pale pink building houses a wellness space exclusively for female members (unlike other aspects of the brand which are open to all). In addition to 3, 6 and 11 months membership options, there is also a six-day retreat offering, with membership existing for the duration of the programme, as well as an international membership for four days a year*. Kintsugi partners with Ember Lifestyle Travel for all arrangements to ensure an unforgettable and seamless wellness retreat.

kintsugi spa

There are plenty of treatments and experiences on offer including a ‘Lay Down and Heal’ experience, a Happiness Room, Wisdom Studio focused on sound healing and Activation area. No matter what area in your life needs balance, Kintsugi has a way for you to refresh and recentre. We certainly can’t wait, whether it be via the online membership, the Kintsugi collection (coming soon in 2024) or a trip to Al Reem Island, to enjoy the full Kintsugi experience ourselves and we’re sure that you will too.

Discover more at https://kintsugispace.com/

It’s no wonder why Cartagena de Indias captivates locals and tourists alike. This medieval walled city on the Caribbean coast boasts charm, culture, vitality, and a vibrant nightlife scene. Explore its narrow, colorful streets lined with boutique shops in one of the best-preserved old cities in the Americas.

Cartagena de Indias

Discover Historic Elegance at Casa San Agustín in Cartagena de Indias

There is a more modern part of the city, filled with glass-laden high rises, which is reminiscent of Miami. However, I would recommend staying in the old city to soak up the magic of Cartagena. Staying in one of the refurbished, grand colonial homes from the 17th and 18th centuries is the best way to discover the city.

Casa San Agustín is one such property and it is situated in the heart of the action at Plaza de los Estudiantes. The refined boutique hotel was created from three meticulously restored 17th-century mansions. It has only 20 guestrooms and 11 suites, so attentive service from the staff is guaranteed. It seamlessly blends modern comforts with authentic Colombian features. You’ll notice the original frescoes in the library where they serve complimentary afternoon tea. In the guest rooms, you’ll see their iconic wood-beamed ceilings that are centuries old.

Accommodations at Casa San Agustín, Cartagena de Indias

The main feature of the hotel is a 300-year-old aqueduct that serves as a backdrop to the main plunge pool. It is precisely because of the existence of boutique hotels like Casa San Agustín that helps to keep these important relics well-preserved. Plenty of greenery such as palm trees surround the public areas to offer a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the old town.

The rooms are relatively spacious even at the entry-level deluxe rooms, which range from 409 and 839 sq. ft. They provide luxurious Frette linens as well as renowned Ortigia amenities from Sicily. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the eye-catching Suite Prestige. They are duplexes with an area between 1539 and 1732 sq. ft. They include two bedrooms which is ideal for families and close friends to share. All the rooms offer a complimentary mini-bar that includes soft drinks and beer. The combination of dark wood, polished marble and ornate painting tiling in the bathroom adds to the colonial grandeur of the surroundings.

Their sister property, Casa Pestagua offers a similar level of comfort and sophistication. It is known as “the most beautiful house in Cartegena”. It belonged to the powerful 18th-century aristocrat, Count of Pestagua. It had undergone a major 15-million-dollar refurbishment and had only reopened last April. Now you can live the life of a count too, when you book in to stay at Casa Pestagua. The hotel is a proud member of the Relais & Chateaux group, the only hotel in Colombia awarded with that honour.

You might feel even more exclusive at this property with only 10 spacious suites and 6 deluxe rooms. The laid-back charm is very similar to Casa San Agustin. The central plunge pool is ideal for escaping the occasional sweltering Caribbean heat. The shaded sunbeds underneath the tropical palm trees are an ideal spot for catching up with your reading list. You’ll notice plenty of Moorish-inspired arches around the boutique hotel that recount the colonial times of previous centuries.

Indulge in Culinary Excellence

The rooms have a light and airy design, no doubt helped by the double-height ceilings and excellent use of natural lighting. You’ll find sturdy-looking light wooden beams on the ceiling of all the rooms. Similar to the sister property, the entry-level room is deluxe and includes luxury linen and ever-reliable Ortigia amenities. Having been refurbished recently, the decor is marginally fresher looking than her sister property but both boutique hotels are maintained to the highest of standards.

The restaurant offering at both hotels is headed by renowned Chef Heberto Eljach, who is one of the most celebrated chefs in Colombia. At Casa Pestagua, we have the culinary delight of AniMare. The menu is a journey of Colombian cuisine with modern touches. It takes in both influences from the Caribbean and the Pacific side of the country. You’ll get to savour local classics such as shrimp and snail cocktail Cartagena style. Typically, such a dish is found as street food in the local streets of the city, but here it is served in a much-elevated format, with avocado and homemade bread. Their seafood casserole main course is equally elevated with treasures of the sea served up in lobster cream and coconut milk sauce along with fried plantain chips. At Alma situated in Casa San Agustín, you’ll enjoy a similarly extravagant fine dining experience. They are particularly proud of showcasing the best of Colombian cuisine and cater for all kinds of dietary requirements from gluten-free to vegetarian needs.

For those looking for a beach holiday, you can enjoy that as well whilst staying at both hotels. They have a private beach club at ACASĪ on Isla Barú. You can immerse your feet on the white sandy beaches and swim in the turquoise waters of the beach. The hotel can arrange a private round-trip boat charter that takes about 45 minutes and you can admire the picturesque coastline along the way. It will be a different experience to the history and culture of the old town.

Photography by stephane louesdon .

Finally, if you want to relax further, they have the Aurum spa. You can enjoy everything from a detoxifying body scrub in the hammam to a gold wrap to help nourish the skin. Aurum is the Latin word for gold.

For a holiday where you can enjoy both a city break and a beach holiday. One where you can embrace history and modernity. Make sure you check out the romantic city of Cartagena.

For more information on the hotels, please visit –

https://casapestagua.com/en/
https://www.hotelcasasanagustin.com/

A trip to Athens is perfect for those who enjoy artisan shops, independent restaurants and boutique hotels. It is a multi-faceted city where you don’t have to plan your trip but still have plenty to do if you are based in downtown Athens.

They have a dazzling array of shopping experiences from concept stores to historic shops. One place that should be high on your list of places to visit is The Naxos Apothecary. It is the oldest herbal pharmacy in Athens.

The exposed labs will immediately attract your attention. You can observe the preparation of herbal remedies, face creams and fragrances. The Korres products you are likely to find in your home countries. However, the tailor-made face creams and bath products of The Naxos Apothecary product collection are worth purchasing. They feature a set of five fragrances inspired and named after some of the most breathtaking villages of Naxos.

Next door to the apothecary is the newly opened xenodocheio Milos boutique hotel. It is the perfect base for you to explore the city, being a short walk away from Syntagma Square. It’s the Athens equivalent of Trafalgar Square. It is the first luxury hotel from the world-renowned restaurant group, estiatorio Milos. They’ve offered elevated Greek cuisine specialising in seafood since 1979 when it was founded in Montreal.

The hotel oozes effortless elegance from the moment you step out of your car in front of the hotel. It is a 19th-century neo-classical building that was designated a landmark building by the Ministry of Culture in 1979. It is situated opposite the Old Parliament House which is now the National History Museum.

The rooms have a serene minimalist style and soothing wooden panelling that are reminiscent of Nobu Hotels. Even though they have 43 rooms only. It’s sub-divided into nine categories from your entry-level classic room to the neoclassical apartment, that is the Milos signature suite. Most of the rooms enjoy mesmerising views of the Old Parliament House or Lycabettus Hill. The summit of the latter is the highest point in central Athens.

They make exceptional use of the window area by creating a cushioned nook area, which is perfect for reading a book whilst admiring the flow of Athenians in the downtown area.

Only the very best amenities will do at xenodocheio Milos. You’ll find Simmons luxury mattresses, a Nespresso coffee machine, and an Alessi Kettle Machine. You won’t be surprised to find the toiletries are made exclusively for the hotel by The Naxos Apothecary next door. They even provide dental kits which is a rarity at most 5-star hotels.

Even though the mini-bar isn’t complimentary, it is well worth trying out the handpicked treats on display. They include Popy’s gourmet popcorn, luxury Leonidas milk chocolate and a dry “Enotria” red from the Douloufakis Winery.

You can’t talk of their hotel without mentioning their outstanding restaurant. They have branches throughout the world including London, New York and Miami. The clean design of the restaurant works perfectly with the rest of the hotel. It was designed by renowned architects, Divercity Architects.

Prominent in the design is an artist’s interpretation of a fisherman’s net on the ceiling. That is a gentle clue to the main focus of their restaurant: supremely fresh seafood. The menu includes signature dishes such as whole fish baked in sea salt and lobster from Nova Scotia either grilled or served with pasta Athenian style.

Even the breakfast buffet is filled with Greek delights. You are served with fresh juice and a break basket including Koulouri, the iconic Greek sesame bread ring. The buffet station has the signature spanakopita. The eggs of your choice cooked to order are served with local tomatoes, cheese and a smattering of olives.

Service is attentive yet discreet and you never have to wait long for any dishes to arrive. They truly embody the Greek philosophy of ‘philoxenia’, which means an act of hospitableness and welcome. Note the in-room dining is 24 hrs and carried out by the kitchen team from estiatorio Milos.

They do offer an ELEMIS SPA Suite, which is all about ‘evexia’, the Greek word for well-being. Their deeply relaxing aromatherapy massage will unwind any modern-day stresses within 60 minutes. They use Mediterranean essential oils including extracts of bitter orange, cardamon and ginger.

The massage begins with inhalation exercises and ends with a mist of Aloe Vera sprayed over the body. I would strongly recommend booking in advance as they only have one SPA suite.

Alternative dining options in the area are in abundance. Most are independently run restaurants that offer a wide variety of cuisines.
Asian food is particularly well-represented in the area.

You can enjoy comforting ramen at So so so! on Apollonos Street and in fact, most of the neighbouring restaurants offer Asian cuisine. If you want high-quality yet casual-dining sushi, there is Akira Japanese restaurant. If you fancy some aromatic Vietnamese food, there is Hanoi Vietnamese restaurant. And finally, baos are all the rage in Athens. You can enjoy very affordable baos at Thess Bao with unusual combinations like their mushroom ‘gyros’ which is served with cannabis oil.

Athens is a truly vibrant city bursting with individuality. Make sure you check out my recommendations when you are next in Greece.

For more information on the hotel, please visit –

https://www.xenodocheiomilos.com/

You might be wondering why Hollywood heavyweights like Kevin Costner and Oprah Winfrey choose to live in Santa Barbara County rather than Los Angeles. And even the likes of Harry and Meghan have chosen to call Montecito home. Much like the French Riviera, the small-city, Mayberry coastal setting is an irresistible attraction. It is popular with surfing aficionados, culture vultures and wine enthusiasts. However, paparazzi are rarely spotted in the region. In this article, we examine why Santa Barbara is ready to blossom, not just for celebrities but for the international tourism scene.

World-class hotels

Hollywood royalty adores discreet five-star hotels and it is no surprise you’ll see the likes of Jane Lynch and Michael Keaton falling in love with Hotel Californian. The ornate Spanish colonial revival architecture along with the Moorish interior from celebrity designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard is a magnet for celebrities. The Mirador Rooftop Deck, which offers panoramic 360-degree views of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean is a crowning jewel of the hotel. All of the surrounding buildings are three storeys or lower due to changed building laws post-1925. The stunning Majorelle spa is equally popular with Majorelle blue tiles that are often found in Moroccan designs

Santa Barbara

The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara is the place for celebrity weddings. Hollywood couples who have celebrated their wedding there include Nick Carter and Lauren Kitt, Fergie and Josh Duhamel, and Travis Barker and Shanna Moakler. The hotel is just slightly outside of downtown Santa Barbara and tucked away on 78 acres of land overlooking the Pacific to offer that seclusion and privacy celebrities require. You can appreciate the beauty of the surroundings by going on a nature hike along the Chumash Nature Trail. They have one of the finest steakhouses in the region with Angel Oak and their newest opening, Bacara Wine Tasting Room is attracting countless plaudits.

Funk Zone

The area by the waterfront has risen like a phoenix from the ashes in recent years. Evolving from decrepit warehouses to the trendiest district of Santa Barbara, it is now home to countless wine-tasting rooms, gourmet restaurants and art galleries. Wine appreciation rather than mere wine consumption is the name of the game here. You are very likely to encounter one of the Baldwin brothers at The Society: State & Mason, the newest wine-tasting room in the zone. Exquisite wines are either paired with tapas-style dishes or innovative truffles from Jessica Foster. Madras curry-flavoured milk chocolate anyone?

The trendy restaurants are equally in demand in this part of town. Blackbird Restaurant pays homage to one of Hollywood’s greatest directors, Alfred Hitchcock, with subtle nods including a photo with Alfred Hitchcock and a seagull on one shoulder and a blackbird on the other. The menu passionately supports local produce from Santa Barbara spiny lobster to Hope Ranch mussels. The cocktails from renowned mixologist Devon Espinosa are not to be missed. On the border of the Funk Zone, you’ll find upscale Mexican cuisine at Santo Mezcal and a meat lover’s paradise at the retro-decorated, Rare Society.

Ganna Walska Lotusland

If Willy Wonka was in the botanical industry instead of confectionery, this is precisely what he might have created. 37 acres of the most fantastical gardens and stunning architecture. Ganna Walska, who used to own the estate until she died in 1984 (aged 96), used to call herself the ‘head gardener’ and ‘enemy of the average’. It is one of the top five gardens in the world in terms of comprehensiveness. The attractions range from the immaculately pruned Japanese Garden to the imposing cactus garden to the priceless cycad garden with plants that date back to the Jurassic period. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are known to be regular visitors and live close by.

Eclectic Museums and attractions

For a city of under 89,000 inhabitants, the museum-to-local population ratio is extremely high. One of their finest is the Santa Barbara Museum of Art . With around 25,000 pieces of distinguished artwork that span over 5,000 years of human creativity, it is no surprise over 150,000 visitors flock to the museum every year. They often have special pop-up exhibitions that highlight lesser-known, yet deserving artists such as Joan Tanner. Her outlandish sculptures made of plastic corrugated roofing sheets, re-bar, cast concrete etc. were displayed earlier in the year. The museum even has Oscar links, thanks to Christopher Plummer who famously won a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in “Beginners”. In the film, he played Paul Chadbourne Mills who was the director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and came out as gay later in life at the age of 75.

For family-orientated experiences, there is MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation. The ultra-immersive installations will get your scientific brain motivated whether you are 8 or 80 and is popular with celebrities like Julie Bowen. A visit to historic Stearns Wharf is a must where you’ll find the equally interactive Sea Center. There you can touch an exotic array of marine life from sharks to rays to sea stars. To explore the rich history of the city, there is the Old Mission dating back to 1786, when the Church was building its presence in the area through these settlements. The graceful charm of the Mission has earned it the nickname “Queen of the Missions”. There is also a historic cemetery and mausoleum, a nine-room museum of classical artwork and artefacts, and numerous lush gardens.

Quirky experiences

With the philanthropic nature of the locals, you will be unsurprised to find a cat therapy cafe in the city centre. You can visit for an hour and play with 15-20 free-roaming rescue cats. They also sell apparel as well as help their resident cats find a forever, loving home. Not far away, you’ll find Salt cave Santa Barbara, the largest in North America. There are numerous therapeutic benefits to resting in their crystal cave rooms lined with pink Himalayan salt.

https://santabarbaraca.com/

Entering the luxurious lobby of the Grand Hotel Brioni – all marble finishes, sumptuous seating areas laden with curated books and artwork and a brigade of perfectly presented staff ready to welcome – the tone of your stay is set – elegant, refined and luxurious minus any pretension or stuffiness. As check in is completed and luggage ushered to rooms, I found it hard to focus on the welcome speech as eyes on stalks kept drifting to the expanse of the sapphire blue Adriatic that lay just beyond…

There are two types of people in this world – those that are desperate to get to their hotel room, unpack, explore the nooks and crannies of what the room has to offer, a jump on a bed here, a flick of the coffee machine there. And there are those that grab their key, throw their hand luggage on the bed, grab the swimwear that was packed in said hand luggage for easy access and run to the pool / sea as soon as possible. I am the latter. Hurrying down to the terrace that I had spent so long pawing over via instagram posts, nothing quite prepared me for the sheer majesty of the vista bestowed upon me. An infinity pool that tumbles into the clearest, blue water, cabanas and loungers sitting atop expertly carved rocks in a way that makes them look as if they are part of the natural landscape and a breathtaking view of the neighbouring Brijuni islands peppered the horizon. The location of this hotel is pure drama – as you would expect for a place that once hosted the Hollywood elite.

Taking in the expanse of water and craggy coastline, I could feel any stresses in both my body and mind ebb away – a feeling that would continue to establish throughout my stay thanks to the hotel’s clever design choices. The Grand Hotel Brioni has recently undergone a £30 million renovation. Taking inspiration from the natural surroundings and with a focus on local artists, the design of the hotel far surpasses that of just aesthetics (although it has that in spades) but the cleverly curated colour palette is one that restores the soul. It is hard to imagine that the use of blue throughout the hotel is just a coincidence when the colour is known for its calming effect and benefits on mental health. The way the external natural world melts into the modern, almost brutalist in design hotel through colour is a stroke (no pun intended) of genius. The bright blue Croatian sky disappearing into the azure depths of the Adriatic which gently laps up the contrastingly stark white cliffs. The turquoise infinity pool, perching on top of them, over looked by rooms and restaurants alike. Carpets, furniture and even glassware are drenched in blue tones as if world outside has seeped in, bringing with it a sense of still and serenity. Trickling through to the bedrooms, accents of blue head boards and even the complimentary blue flip flops and Acqua Di Parma toiletries (reason enough to go), it is near impossible to escape the feeling of balance these design choices invoke yet it is done with such subtlety you don’t realise you are tumbling through this dreamlike state until you leave the hotel and are expelled back in to the stark reality.

Drift away…

The hotel offers 227 rooms and suites but due to careful mapping and a plethora of open areas, it nevers feels busy or crowded. Cabanas hidden amongst rocky outcrops and lavender bushes, cosy corners within bars and winding paths carved into the cliffs further cement the feeling of intimacy and exclusivity.

Staying in one of the ‘Collection Rooms’, a balcony was forgone for additional square meterage but with french windows offering a Juliette balcony and views over both the garden and ocean, it didn’t feel like a compromise as the feeling of outdoor living and swathes of natural light streaming in were plentiful. A king size bed that felt like a cloud and came with a pillow menu ensured the deepest of sleeps and a marble laden bathroom complete with rainfall shower sets guests up for the day.

Well thought out touches such as specially designed espresso cups to accompany the Illy coffee machine and the ‘Butler’s Corner’, a room on each floor that provides an alternative to a mini bar, where guests can go and choose their goods and swipe their key card – helping combat wastage whilst furthering enforcing the feeling on individuality and the bespoke.

Hotel eats…

The hotel boasts four restaurants offering a wide variety of food meaning even the most discerning of diners are catered for but all with a key focus on local produce whether that be a specially curated wine list featuring some of Croatia’s finest wines (I didn’t know this was a thing either until I got there and was pleasantly surprised), exceptional olive oil (might I dare to say, better than Greek) or fish landed from nearby waters.

The Brioni Forum (taking its name from the Forum Square in Pula) is the epicenter of the hotel’s eateries, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner with a buffet style format and a whopping 280 covers at any one time. Given the reputation of a Radisson Collection property, I was expecting slightly higher things but then reminded myself, “this is a buffet for 280 people and I am yet to go to a hotel that does it well”. The choice is extensive but it all lacked the ‘wow’ factor and for a hotel that boasts the tagline ‘Welcome to the Exceptional’, everything needs to be well… exceptional.

Sophia is the fancy pants eatery where both hotel guests and non residents don their finest and flock. Specially imported marble topped tables, parquet flooring, light fixtures that double up as works of art and a terrace offering sunset views set the scene. An open kitchen centered around a Josper oven plays stage to a brigade of chefs all armed with tweezers and sauce spoons, opposite a wall heaving with fine wines and Champagnes – it is opulent, it is heady, it is everything a luxurious grill restaurant should be.

We were treated to chef’s choice which included focaccia, whipped butter and gin & whisky infused salt followed by one of the best steak tartare I’ve ever had, accompanied by heady truffle butter and nasturtium. Of course the main was a variety of cuts of steak to showcase what the restaurant had to offer and included cuts from both America and France and sides of proper chips, potato mille-feuille and a plethora of steak sauces. Call me crazy but I am still to get my head around why a European restaurant would ship in a cow all the way from America when they have perfectly adequate bovine in nearby fields – personal preference of meat locality aside, the steak was cooked well and washed down with the incredible Medea Punta Greca, a Croatian Merlot, I was content. The meal was finished with a creme brulee, minus the brulee – more a dusting where there should have been a crust, but the addition of crumbly butter biscuits to the thick, unctuous custard worked well.

The gastronomic highlight for me was the unassuming Brioni Lungo Mare. A laid back outdoor restaurant overlooking the ocean offering fresh fish and light lunches. The decor giving nods to the European holidays we all know and love, tables painted with designs of lemons and florals and white metal chairs perched under parasols. A light lunch of pan fried sea bass with crisp skin, sitting atop a zingy lemon risotto with freshly shaved asparagus complimented by a light and fresh Croatian rose is what ocean side dining is all about. I greedily watched other plates come out of the kitchen all looking wonderful – giant prawns and heavily doused caesar salads making me wish I had a second (and third stomach).

The main lobby bar is a sophisticated affair and perfect for sundowners and nightcaps alike. The cocktail list is as extensive as it is innovative and definitely worth a work through.

The Bioni Giardini bar sits just behind the infinity pool and offers relaxed plates as well as an incredibly well stocked ice cream bar which is well worth a visit or five.

Spa time…

The self titled and completely just jewel in the Brioni crown is the Gemma Di Brioni spa. Literally – it boasts treatments utilising local gemstones to promote wellness and clarity. Spanning 1300 square meters across two floors and offering indoor pool, cold water whirlpool, three saunas, steam room, rain showers, relaxation lounge complete with salt wall and a menu of revolutionary treatments said to draw on the minerals available from the surrounding natural world including the aforementioned gemstones and algae, it is truly magnificent and somewhere you could happily spend a day. To the point that this sun worshiper was almost praying for grey skies so she could enjoy it without compromising baking time.

Looking beyond the hotel…

A mere twenty minute drive away is Pula town, a must for history buffs and culture vultures. With one of the six best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world and winding streets to get lost in and watch the world go by, it is the ideal place to spend a day exploring and steeping yourself in ancient history. Restaurants and cafes line streets and market squares, be sure to try local dishes of ox and of course, the seafood on offer. A short drive from here is both the Chiavalon Olive Oil farm which offers tastings and tours and the Medea Winery where you can try a variety of wines paired with delicious local charcuterie and cheeses – an absolute must.

Flights to Pula are less than two hours from UK airports (we flew from Stanstead) making this relatively unsung but glorious destination the perfect spot for a quick get away, although be warned, you will want to spend more than a couple of days absorbing everything it has to offer.

Prices for the Grand Hotel Brioni start from €290 per room per night based on a B&B stay in a Collection Room with Garden View.

Find out more about Grand Hotel Brioni here

New to Santorini’s hotel scene is NOŪS, a unique resort that draws inspiration from the island’s traditional architecture and natural surroundings. Its suites and rooms are beautifully integrated into the landscape, using materials and textures that have been part of the island’s heritage and style for centuries. Santorini’s rich history is woven through every space but given a contemporary flair that feels modern and fresh.

NOŪS boasts an exceptional spa with 5 treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, sauna, steam bath, cold tank, gym, and a special outdoor yoga area. The team of highly skilled therapists are dedicated to guiding guests on a personalised journey of wellness. NOŪS’s aim is to offer exclusive wellness treatments dedicated to the principles of ‘Ef Zin’ (Eυ Zην, the Greek principle of ‘well-being’), with a holistic approach to spa treatments that will replenish and rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.

In addition to the spa, is the Vitamin Bar, a sanctuary of health and nourishment where a variety of fresh salads, revitalising juices, wholesome cereal bars, invigorating smoothies and traditional Santorinian products will keep you energised.

You can also unwind at the resort’s poolside bar and lounge, or savour a delectable meal at the in-house restaurant, Elios, a delightful Italian-American chophouse specialising in prime steaks crafted from locally sourced ingredients hailing from Santorini and the Cycladic region. Inspired by the trattorias of Little Italy, the menu at Elio’s evokes a nostalgic spirit with its selection of specialty dishes from classical Italian cuisine.

Wine enthusiasts will delight in Santorini’s renowned white grape varieties and guests are invited to indulge in a wine tasting experience alongside their stay, savouring the exquisite regional wines and bestowing an opportunity to appreciate the rich oenological heritage of Santorini and elevating your wellness journey through the pleasure of wine.

Owned by modern-art collector Dakis Joannou, the YES! Hotel Group is the first hotel chain to introduce this concept of contemporary style to the Greek hotel space. With its array of 119 rooms and private suites nestled within an expansive architectural masterpiece that offers breathtaking vistas, exceptional culinary delights, and a tailored wellness journey, NOUS Santorini stands as your ultimate destination for holistic wellbeing and mindful living.

For more information visit NOŪS Santorini

J WELLNESS SPA

For the ultimate reboot, head to J wellness Spa, the newly rebranded spa at St James’ Court, A Taj Hotel.

J Wellness Spa truly is an oasis in the city with impressive spa facilities that include treatment rooms, a couple’s suite, steam sauna and relaxation area. Discreetly tucked away in stunning St James’s court it’s the ultimate wellness luxury bolt hole that cleverly fuses ancient Indian rituals with modern British luxury sensibilities.

There’s an extensive menu of pampering, detoxing and holistic treatments and spa treatments for you to choose from at J Wellness spa. Your shoulders lower as soon as you’re greeted by the friendly staff and offered the squishiest and comfiest of robes and slippers ready for your treatment.

With a plethora of treatments to choose from, picking one can be hard. If in doubt go for the new Healing Therapies, which offer a remedy whatever your wellness needs: For a reboot, go for the Svastha which uses the best Indian wellness techniques to rid you of any sluggishness and give you a new lease of life. For targeted pain relief, Nidra is a full body treatment that will dissipate all your aches and pain. For a complete detox, Shodhana combines exfoliation and massage to purge all those built up toxins.

The signature treatments are equally good, and the Indian aromatherapy massage is a great option for ultimate relaxation. The treatment is a 60-minute targeted full body massage that includes a choice of signature oil blends to suit your need: energising, relaxing and detoxifying options.

Treatment starts with a calming foot ritual and consultation and the bespoke massage that follows is completely relaxing, and effortlessly soothes out and harmonises any physical and mental tensions. You’ll feel your tension and worries dissipate as the therapist’s hands glide all over your body, encouraging lymphatic drainage, stimulating blood flow and restoring your energy and balance. The treatment does more than pamper, preen and polish, you’ll glide out looking like you’ve been given a new lease of life.

Post treatment, a snooze in the relaxation area rounds off a perfect spa experience.

Our girl Hannah Tan-Gillies ventured into glitzy Sloane Street to sample the newly-introduced Seed to Skin Treatments at the Carlton Jumeirah’s Peak Fitness Club & Spa.

Towering high above Sloane Street’s swanky luxury shops is the Carlton Tower Jumeirah. The hotel delivers Jumeirah Group’s famed Arabian hospitality and is home to Peak Fitness Club & Spa, which houses London’s largest, natural light-filled indoor hotel swimming pool.

It is also home to a state of the art gym and restaurant which offers breath-taking panoramic views of Knightsbridge and Chelsea below.

Located on the hotel’s 2nd and 9th floors, The Peak Fitness Club and Spa offers a selection of treatments and therapies designed to relax, awaken and brighten, from revitalising massages to deep cleansing facial and herbal remedies.

Its partnership with Seed to Skin Tuscany marks the first UK hotel partnership for wellbeing company and treats hotel guests to an array of relaxing new services at its Peak Fitness Club & Spa. This includes a signature ‘Candle Massage’ which we had the pleasure of experiencing.

To say that ‘The Peak’ takes your breath away is an absolute understatement. From the moment you set foot in the light-filled pool area, you are at once filled with a sense of calm. Balinese style sun loungers, separated by billowing cloth dividers, make you feel like you are in sunnier locales and offer a great spot to relax and unwind.

After an appropriate time lounging poolside, our therapist led us to one of the treatment rooms for our Candle Wax massage. A quick consultation is followed by a blissful treatment in which a massage candle, rich in skin conditioning ingredients, is delicately poured onto the skin and massaged with slow sweeping movements. Under your therapist’s expert fingers, all your worries will wash away and you will feel like a new human being after, refreshed, reborn and ready to take on another hectic week.

The Peak Fitness Club & Spa sets itself apart not just by the incredible treatments on offer and the breath-taking surrounds of the indoor pool, but also by the expert knowledge and hospitality of its staff, which is a stalwart of any Jumeirah property. We shall soon be returning for more.

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For bookings visit www.jumeirah.com