it’s a hotel tradition


Traditions surround us: brides wearing white for their weddings. Kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland. Throwing a coin in Rome’s Tivoli Fountain so that you’ll return. It’s fun when hotels develop a tradition of their own, too. Here are a few hotel traditions that you can take part in, from Florida to Hawaii to Guatemala.


The Sunset Bell at Sandpearl Resort

Back when the Clearwater Beach Hotel resided where the Sandpearl Resort (Florida) is now, the ringing of a bell called guests to supper. Every evening at sunset, the ring it made meant different things to different people. To some, it signified the end of a day lounging in the crystal blue water. To others, it signified another delicious meal. Nowadays, a different guest (usually a child) is chosen each evening by the resort’s mascot, “Ridley the Turtle,” to ring the bell. It is done in tribute to the day’s passing and the evening’s future. 

Photo courtesy of Sandpearl Resort.

MarcoIsland_fireNightly Sunset Celebration at Marco Island Marriott Brings the Fire 

Every night at sunset guests of the Marco Island Marriott (Florida) and patrons of Quinn’s restaurant can enjoy an incredible spectacle on the beach. At the start of sundown one guest is selected from the crowd to bang the gong. The sound of the gong symbolizes the start of the performance: a Polynesian fire dancer honors sunset each night with a traditional blowing of a conch shell while entertaining guests with a 15-minute fire dance on the resort’s private beach.   

Photo courtesy of Marco Island Marriott.

sheraton maui cliff divingCliff Diving at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa 

Across the country and the Pacific Ocean, the Sheraton Maui ends each day with a Cliff Dive Ceremony. As the sun begins its slow dive into the ocean, torch lighting signals the nightly ritual of Lele Kawa (cliff diving). Legend tells us the last chief of Maui, Kahekili (Thunderer), proved his spiritual strength by leaping from sacred Pu’u Keka’a to the Pacific. With sunset painting the sky, a young cliff diver honors his heritage each evening by re-tracing footsteps in the sand on Kaanapali Beach. A chant of old Hawai’i begins the progression of our warrior; the echo of the conch shell announces his arrival. He leaves a trail of glowing torches surrounding the lagoon as he makes his way to Black Rock. Upon reaching the summit, he offers his torch to the ocean below, casts his flower lei into the sea, and finally takes the breathtaking dive from Black Rock into the rolling surf below.

Photo courtesy of Sheraton Maui.

worry-dollWorry Dolls at Casa Palopo, Guatemala

In addition to the traditional chocolate on your pillow, Casa Palopo gives each guest a set of miniature, handmade Worry Dolls. Before going to bed, tell one worry to each of the dolls (they come five to a pouch), then place the dolls under your pillow. According to legend among the Guatemalan highlands, the dolls will take your worries away while you sleep. 

Photo courtesy of

I’m running out to get a worry doll right now…

Have you come across a hotel tradition that you took home with you?


a different way to take your cuppa joe


photo courtesy of

Traveling, I’ve heard people raving of their favorite spots to grab a cup, or watch a roast. Vanessa from TurnipSeed Travel loves the coffee found in Maui, while Pola of Jetting Around sips hers at a favorite shop in Chicago.

Sunday’s National Coffee Day, so I thought I’d share a few different ways to enjoy your next cup of coffee – whether that be a new destination, a new drink, or a new experience all together.

New Orleans’ Windsor Court Hotel’s The Grill Room offers an impressive flaming Café Brulot, a culinary tradition in NOLA. The cocktail is infused with brandy and spices through a siphon that was made popular during the Prohibition. For a regular cup, you’ll also find the “Windsor Court Blend” of coffee created by Orleans Coffee Exchange and available for purchase.

photo courtesy of Rome Cavalieri
photo courtesy of Rome Cavalieri

The Grand Wailea jumps in on the coffee action it’s own coconut blend of coffee cultivated at nearby Molokai Island called “Ulu Niu” in collaboration with the resorts Executive Chef Eric Faivre and Coffees of Hawaii.

Italy’s well-known for its coffee, and the Rome Cavalieri has made a name for itself, too. The property is now offering a new selection of cappuccinos, macchiatos and coffees, including a gold cappuccino topped with gold dust for its Golden Anniversary. Coffee with bling!

Coffee in New York State? Sure! The Finger Lakes region serves up Java Gourmet and Keuka Lake Coffee Roasters, fusing coffee and food into an award winning, artisanal, coffee-based specialty food company.

Guests at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, Michigan, can indulge in three unique coffee cocktails as they overlook the skyline of the city on the 27th and 28th floors of the hotel’s glass tower atCygnus 27

OK, let’s talk spa!

The Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San Jose is itself located on a coffee plantation, and offers a Costa Rican Coffee Scrub in its Kuö Spa.

At the W Retreat & Spa – Vieques Island, the AWAY Spa offers the “Café con Coco Scrub,” a freshly prepared combination of Encantos Puerto Rican coffee grounds, local shredded coconut and kukui coconut oil. Yum!

photo courtesy of The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa
photo courtesy of The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa

The Zen Spa at Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino boasts a coffee-infused stress relieving treatment for business travelers called “The Executive Man.” Designed to relieve stress from head to toe, the treatment includes a “Cappuccino Buff” that uses a ground coffee exfoliating scrub for the caffeine-driven traveler.

The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa in Berkley, Calif., is offering two coffee-based treatments through December: a Coffee Fruit Anti-Aging Facial that features organic Hawaiian coffee fruit extract; and the Tropical Coffee Fruit Renewal, a full-body treatment that begins with a Hawaiian Coffee Fruit and organic sugar body scrub, followed by a massage.

So, there you go. The next time you need a cup of coffee, consider these different ways to get your caffeine fix!

celebrate an endless summer

endless summer cover

There’s essentially a month left of summer vacation, but the savings don’t end when school starts back up. Select JW Marriott, Autograph Collection Hotels, Renaissance, Marriott Resorts and Gaylord Hotels in Florida, California, Hawaii, the South, Southwest and Northeast are offering Endless Summer packages.

Available for stays through October 31, 2013 that are booked by Sept. 25, the Endless Summer packages include a room upgrade and up to $100 resort credit.

For more information on the following savings and to reserve, visit and enter promo code ZX0. Hotels and resorts participating in Endless Summer include:


  • Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa
  • Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
  • Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
  • Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina
  • JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes – rates from $229/night
  • Key Largo Bay Marriott Beach Resort
  • Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa
  • Orlando World Center Marriott  
  • Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa
  • Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld®
  • The Renaissance Vinoy® Resort & Golf Club
  • Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa
  • Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa
  • Turnberry Isle Miami, Autograph Collection


  • Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa
  • JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa – rates from $159/night
  • JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live – rates from $349/night
  • Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa


  • JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa – rates from $349/night
  • Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
  • Kauai Marriott Resort
  • Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
  • Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa


  • Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center


  • Horseshoe Bay Resort Marriott
  • Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
  • The Inn at Opryland, A Gaylord Hotel
  • Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center
  •  JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa – rates from $349/night


  • JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa – rates from $169/night
  • JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa – rates from $159/night
  • JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa – rates from $134/night
  • JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa – rates from $149/night
  • Vail Marriott Mountain Resort & Spa

For more information on these savings and to reserve, visit and enter promo code ZX0.

ice ice baby!


Ululani's Shave Ice. OMG.
Ululani’s Shave Ice. OMG.

When I was in Maui last fall, I set out on a personal mission to find the island’s best Hawaiian shave ice. Hey, someone had to do it!

Many had told me about Ululani’s in Lahaina. “Get it with ice cream on the bottom,” tweets read. And I thought to myself, “Bleah. Ice and ice cream mixed? Nasty!” But when I got to the window and mulled over the flavor options, I saw another order being prepared, with ice cream on the bottom.

Lee and his Tobi’s Shave Ice.
Lee and his Tobi’s Shave Ice.

OK, I can do this. I ordered a small (you should see the sizes!) passion orange with macadamia nut ice cream on the bottom and a sprinkling of li hing mui powder on top.

Oh. My. Goodness. I was in love!

And craved that shave ice every day of my trip. I did return to Ululani’s several times. I’m not ashamed.

However, as part of my mission I had to try others, and I did.

Local Boys' Shave Ice
Local Boys’ Shave Ice

Before taking on the Road to Hana, Lee Abamonte (a fellow travel writer and driver for the day) and I stopped by Tobi’s Shave Ice in Paia before we started out on the winding roads. It was good and tasty and refreshing, but it wasn’t Ululani’s. (Sorry, Tobi!)

Wendy Harvey, who’s local to Maui and knows her shave ice, raved about Local Boys Shave Ice in Kihei. And so I stopped for a bite when exploring the south of the island. I loved the ordering counter and took the cup filled with yumminess to the beach. What a gorgeous setting! The shave ice was good, but…

I made it back to Ululani’s as often possible during my trip, and even bought my husband a t-shirt (he wasn’t with me on the trip) to remind me of the iced goodness.

I long for Ululani’s and talk giddily about it to others who’ve had the pleasure to experience it. Nothing here in Florida comes close to its soft, silky texture.

Sheraton Maui's adult shave ice
Sheraton Maui’s adult shave ice

And then I hear about an ‘adult’ version of Hawaiian shave ice at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. What? Imagine lounging by the pool or on the beach whilst indulging in Rum Rainbow, Spiked Pineapple, or Tropical Cactus. Don’t like those flavors? You can create your own!

As if I needed another reason – when’s the next flight to Maui?

Have you had Hawaiian shave ice? Which is your favorite?