Multisport Resorts

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, Travel Guide 1997-1998

Multisport Resorts

At Drake Bay, on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, I could have passed my days pleasantly enough at the

"Who are you?" barks Astanga yoga guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois at visitors to his home-based studio. Since his hospitality usually dwindles from there, a better place to hang with the many Western yoga students drawn to this southern India town is an eatery known as Nagarathna's. No IHOP this: It's just a modest house in the sleepy Lakshmipuram neighborhood. Every morning save Saturday and new-moon and full-moon days (it's a Brahman thing), the sari-clad Nagarathna scurries among her patrons delivering the menu verbally. It always includes ginger tea (too strong), fresh fruit salad, and tasty staples like dosas or idli. Everyone minds his own tab, since the calculating goes on in Nagarathna's head, and please shut the gate on the way out--the cows aren't shy.
        — Andrew Tilin
Âguila de Osa Inn listening to birdcalls, or lounging in my airy, high-ceilinged room while looking out across the bay, or watching lines of ants advance on the remains of the fruit drink I might have spilled on the polished hardwood tables in the lodge's open-air dining room. Instead, I busted my gut from sunup to sundown.

A typical day began with a morning horseback ride along the beach and up into the rainforest. Then, leaving the horses to whatever they do in their spare time, I took up the company of a blue morpho butterfly and trekked a jungle trail that led to a waterfall. Before lunch, there was time for a brief long-shore sea kayak adventure — the adventure coming when I tried to land on a beach where the surf was breaking with greater force than I had judged. And in the afternoon I went scuba diving in the waters off Ca±o Island, where the apparent mating dance of a group of moray eels commanded my attention in the way that only sharp-toothed creatures in the throes of passion — and in my immediate vicinity — could. By sunset, about all I had energy left for was watching the ants advance on my spilled fruit drink. In the high season (November 1-April 30), doubles cost $110 per person based on double occupancy, including all meals; call 011-506-232-7722. — Bob Payne

It's the beach you hope to see when you set down your suitcase: powdery, porcelain-white, nearly empty, and running for 14 miles. Grace Bay is that beach, on Providenciales's northeast shore in the Turks and Caicos. Complementing the perfect beach is the Grace Bay Club, a Spanish-village-style retreat set above the dunes, its golden stucco buildings blending with sun and sand. There are fountained courtyards and stone balustrades, columns and arched entries, and passages tiled in decorative clay. All 21 suites have a kitchen; they're done in Philippine rattan and wicker and laid out with Turkish rugs and art from Haiti, Brazil, and Guatemala.

At the watersports hut you can choose an ocean kayak or windsurfer, sunfish or Hobie Cat, and cruise across warm and slurpy Grace Bay, sometimes called "The Caribbean's Biggest Bathtub." The resort can hook you up with dive boats that make daily runs to underwater walls that go from 35 to 6,000 feet and are prowled by eagle rays and nurse sharks. Smaller motor boats are the best way to see the nearby uninhabited islands — like Iguana Cay, where iguanas pour across the shore as you pull up, and Big Water Cay, with water the color of Midori.

From October to December 20, junior suites are $355-$375, one-bedroom suites are $395-$565, and two-bedroom suites run $675-$895; from December 20 through April 13, junior suites cost $495-$535, one-bedrooms are $555-$815, and two-bedrooms run $895-$1,255. Rates include airport transfers, continental breakfast, snorkel excursions, and use of bicycles and watersports equipment. Closed September. Call 800-946-5757. — Stacy Ritz

Tucked between ocean sunsets and the sheltering lee of 10,000-foot Haleakala, the Renaissance feels like old Maui amid the string of resorts and condos that make up master-planned Wailea. Large lanais and French-shuttered sliding doors overlook 15 acres of tropical gardens and a crescent of beach, the view framed by fronds of coconut palms. It's a big place that somehow seems intimate — even a third-floor room feels like an open-air, beachfront cottage.

Tumble out of that room and you encounter, in order, a fitness center, a clover-shaped pool, a 1.5-mile beachfront walk/jog path, and the best watersports center in Wailea, which rents boogie and surfboards, sailboats and windsurfers, and ocean kayaks. Surf and sailboard lessons are held on-site, as are scuba classes. Or just don snorkel and mask and swim with the fish along Mokapu Reef in front of the hotel — it's as colorfully abundant as any of the sites that require a half-day boat tour. Double rooms range from $290 to $515; call 800-992-4532. — Bob Howells

This is the desert? An hour from the furnace of Phoenix, you awaken in your Ralph Laurenesque casita to the perfume of orange blossoms outside the window and a chorus of birdcalls reminiscent of the rainforest in Belize. Then comes the muted rumble of hooves, 360 of them, as the wranglers bring in the horses for that dude-ranch staple, the morning ride. But you have selected another steed for today's jaunt through 20,000 acres of rolling hills, mesquite, and giant saguaro cactus: a mountain bike.

On the dirt roads you cruise, admiring nearby Vulture Peak, a 1,000-foot tower that bears a startling resemblance to Snoopy on his doghouse. On the single-track routes — horse trails, actually — you grunt and dig and curse the soft sand that occasionally sucks at your tires. Nearing home again, you catch a glimpse of an old fat guy riding an electric cart and trying to hit a small white ball into a hole. Then you dismount from your bike — and your high horse — and plunge into the swimming pool with the squealing kids.

Jacketed and bolo-tied, you head for dinner. The halibut with corn salsa is superb. As you walk back to your casita to turn in early, suddenly there is a whoosh and a whir on the walkway behind you. A young, extremely fit blond woman in Day-Glo spandex speeds by on Rollerblades. You think to yourself that dude ranches ain't what they used to be, and that this is a good thing.

Rates are $170-$299 per person per night, double occupancy (three-night minimum), and include all meals and horseback riding; add 20 percent for tax and service charge. The ranch is open October to mid-May; call 520-684-5484. — David Noland

Back in September, 1992, when Hurricane Iniki leveled large parts of Kauai, residents feared that the island would never recover. The comeback has been gradual, but worth the wait. Gone (thankfully) are the excesses of the late 1980s — faux luxury resorts sporting grandiose pillars, endless fountains, and ostentatious decor.

Sheraton Kauai Resort, reopening December 1, 1997, used its five-year layoff to completely rebuild its devastated areas and to refurbish its lobby and public areas using tropical colors and local materials. The result is essentially a brand-new hotel, elegant but not stuffy, that exudes the feeling of "old Hawaii" — a welcoming place that recalls the days when visitors arrived by ocean liner with steamer trunks packed for a month-long stay.

The resort occupies 20 acres on Poipu Beach on the island's sunny southern flank, encompassing a fitness center, two swimming pools, and three tennis courts amid lavish gardens of plumeria, hibiscus, and birds-of-paradise. Swim and snorkel in the cove off Poipu Beach, or let the hotel help arrange activities nearby: surfing, hiking, kayaking, sailing, and golf. From December 1-April 30, double rooms run $200-$290; suites are $325-$760. From May 1-December 19, 1998, doubles are $250-$390; suites are $425-$1,010. Call 800-782-9488. — N.Z.


All-inclusive resorts, where a single rate covers everything from rooms to meals to activities, are an indisputably great deal. But their ambience can vary dramatically, and a wrong choice can mean a down-the-drain vacation. You need to make sure you don't end up honeymooning at a resort full of kinetic kids, or subjecting your own kids to a high-energy singles' scene. Here's some help:

Swept Away, Negril, Jamaica Fit, upscale couples whose idea of relaxation includes nonstop diving, sailing, tennis, swimming, racquet sports, cycling — have we left anything out? The sports and fitness facilities are outstanding; the gorgeous beach and fine dining spark romance for those who aren't too exhausted. Seven-night packages, December 23-March 31, $3,332- $4,200 per couple; April 1-December 22, $3,150-$3,990. 800-545-7937; from Miami, 305-666-2021
Club Med Playa Blanca, Manzanillo, Mexico Gregarious couples and singles in their late-twenties/ early thirties who like to party all night after playing all day. This is the most intimate of Club Med's resorts (590 people max), so you're guaranteed to end up with a couple of dozen new best friends. Seven-night packages, November 15-April 25, $735 per person, double occupancy; November 22-28, $784; December 20-January 3, $1,260. 800-258-2633
Sandals Halcyon Beach, St. Lucia Couples: second honeymooners, Europhiles, die-hard romantics. Rub elbows with an international crowd at the chain's most sophisticated resort; the land and water sports are unlimited, but there's no pressure to leave your beach chair. Seven-night packages, through December 19, $1,615 per person, double occupancy; December 20-April 10, $,1,750; April 11-December 15, 1998, $1,660. 800-726-3257
Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort and Spa, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Active parents with hyperactive kids. Get waxed and buffed at the spa; dive in the marine park; sail, swim, snorkel, or wander along the beach; let the resort entertain your offspring at the kids-only restaurant. Seven-day packages, $2,045 per person, double occupancy, October-April; $1,800 May- September; kids ages 2-15 are free through December 31, 1997, $60 per night thereafter. 800-232-2437
Sans Souci Lido, Ocho Rios, Jamaica Luxury-loving, hedonistic couples and singles who only do sports if they can follow them up with a massage, facial, and cocktails on the beach. Natural mineral springs bubbling up in hidden grottoes; diving, sailing, water-skiing, and snorkeling, with professional instruction included. Seven-night packages, $3,365 per couple, September 16-December 19; $4,400 December 20-31; $3,375 January 1-April 5; $3,700 April 6-July 16. 800-859-7873 or 809-974-2353

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