Travel — 04 May 2013
Summer travel: Checking into boutique hotels

Got the summer travel bug? Next time you’re booking a hotel, consider going boutique. Boutique hotels vary by property, but tend to be more intimate, distinctive and personality-driven than their counterparts. Think pet accessories, daily wine tastings and personalized staff service. Here are some to check out, from close to home to the West Coast.

Miami/Miami Beach

Miami is certainly having its moment. The city is constantly buzzing – whether for the Heat playoffs, Art Basel, the Miami International Boat Show, the Food Network Wine & Food Festival, the Sony Open – nearly every month brings another good reason to head south. Next time you cross county lines, consider spending the night in a boutique hotel. The Standard ( brings serenity to the west side of Miami Beach. Located in the quiet Venetian Islands neighborhood, the spa-centric hotel offers a hamam mud lounge, cedar sauna, sound pool, waterfront yoga and walking distance to Lincoln Road and the burgeoning Sunset Harbor area. The Conrad Miami ( brings crisp comfort to the business traveler. Located in the middle of Downtown, the 319-room hotel pairs skyline views with two rooftop tennis courts and 24th floor spa. Alternately, head to Kimpton’s EPIC hotel ( on the banks of the Miami River. A stone’s throw from Brickell, the EPIC treats guests to morning coffee & tea service, a daily hosted wine hour and a pet-friendly environment. Work up a sweat in Exhale spa then reward yourself with dinner at Zuma, one of Miami’s marquee restaurants (reserve ASAP if you’d like to eat between 7-10 p.m.).

—Valerie Schimel

Orange County, Calif.

Mountains, beach and 12 glorious months of sunny 70-degree days await in Orange County. About an hour between Los Angeles and San Diego, the towns of Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa offer a taste of the good life. Doryman’s Inn ( bills itself as Newport Beach’s only oceanfront hotel. The 10-room property pairs classic Victorian designs (think canopy beds and sunken baths) with modern conveniences like flatscreen TVs and gas fireplaces. Casa Laguna ( brings bed and breakfast convenience to South Coast Highway. Emphasis is on intimacy and romance (occupancy is limited to two people per room) and guests are treated to daily gourmet breakfast and wine & hors d’oeuvres. Ultimate luxury awaits at the Montage Laguna Beach ( Set on an oceanfront bluff, the 248-room property delivers 30 landscaped acres of beauty, comfort and service.

Valerie Schimel

San Luis Obispo.

SLO, a college town whose farmers market takes over Higuera Street every Thursday night, is a tempting destination in any year. The beach is a short drive, as are the wineries of Paso Robles and the rustic little town of Templeton. (In downtown SLO, you’re about 190 miles north of Los Angeles, about 230 miles south of San Francisco.) The 17-room boutique Granada Hotel ( opened in the fall in a converted ’20s building. The popular restaurant Luna Red (, offering “global tapas” and a big wine list, has moved to a larger downtown space with a big patio. The restaurant and bar Sidecar ( has been open since late 2011. And the Madonna Inn (, which is to kitsch what the Matterhorn is to mountains, last year added horseback riding, two pink tennis courts, winter ice skating and a bike path to downtown. More info:

—Christopher Reynolds
Los Angeles Times

Austin, Texas

It’s a college town, music town, river town and tech town, in constant renewal. The 296-room Hyatt Place Downtown ( opened in April. In summer, expect the opening of the 123-room Lone Star Court (, designed to suggest a ’40s roadside motor court, at the Domain mall in northwestern Austin. Meanwhile, the high-end Travaasa ( spa and resort, which opened in 2011 about 30 minutes outside town, has 70 guest rooms that overlook the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Rates start at about $275 a day. The seven-room Heywood Hotel (, a “nonhosted” boutique property that opened in December 2011 in eastern Austin, is aimed at guests who want stylish design but don’t need staffers on-site between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. (Rates typically are $200 to $300 a night, children discouraged.) For dinner, you might try Barley Swine (, which opened in late 2010, emphasizing locally sourced ingredients and made GQ’s list of best new American restaurants in 2012. For movies, there’s Violet Crown Cinema (, a four-screen downtown art house (opened 2011) that mixes general release movies with documentaries, foreign works and independent films; there’s also a bar and café. Before you book anything, consider the South by Southwest conferences and festivals (, almost universally known as SXSW,  which run each year in March and boost hotel demand in a big way. Oh, and for a rainy day, bear in mind that the LBJ Presidential Library ( reopened last year after a yearlong renovation. More citywide info:

—Christopher Reynolds
Los Angeles Times


Travelers may know of Ixtapa, a private getaway on the Pacific coast of Mexico known for its high-end hotels and world-class amenities, but now neighboring Zihuatanejo may get its moment in the sun.

The historic fishing port, just 10 minutes from Ixtapa and offering the lovely Playa la Ropa beach, will get a spruce-up, thanks to a rehabilitation project funded by the Mexican government.

The project includes remodeling and revitalizing Zihuatanejo’s downtown area in a style of architecture inspired by Mexican architect Enrique Zozaya, who thinks landscape should shape design rather than design imposing itself on the landscape.

“The goal behind the revitalization of Zihuatanejo’s downtown is to create a style that is iconic to this area,” said Javier Aluni, secretary for tourism for the state of Guerrero.

“For example, Acapulco is known around the world by its famous cliff divers. We hope that with the rehabilitation of Zihuatanejo’s downtown, this unique style and architecture will become the destination’s icon, making it recognizable around the world.”

  Other attributes of the area, according to Aluni:

Grouped together, the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo area offers guests a range of accommodations, from small hotels and boutique properties to high-end, all-inclusive resorts.

In TripAdvisor’s 2013 Travelers Choice Awards, the hotels and beaches of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo topped the lists in several categories, including: best hotels in Mexico, most romantic hotels, best family hotels in Mexico and Mexico’s most popular beach. Among the hotels and beaches ranking at the top of the lists were Club Med Ixtapa Pacific, Cinco Sentidos Hotel, Capella Ixtapa, Casa Cuitlateca and Playa la Ropa, Zihuatanejo’s pretty bay.

— Rosemary McClure
Los Angeles Times



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