Monthly Archives: January 2016

How to Maximize Sun During Your Winter Travels

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 12, 2015.

Months of long wintry nights and cloudy grey days can take a toll. Darkness raises the body’s levels of melatonin (an important sleep hormone) and sun deprivation in winter can lead to exhaustion and depression. Many of us combat the winter blues by heading to warmer and sunnier destinations for relaxing getaways. Here are the best tips for making the most of winter vacations, including how to plan your trip and where to head for sunny skies.

Plan Your Trip with Weather in Mind

Taking weather into account when booking your trip can prevent headaches and hassle down the road. If traveling by air, prioritize booking a direct flight. That way you won’t be dependent on weather conditions in connecting cities to make connections. If a direct flight isn’t available, try to connect in a southern city to minimize cancellation risk. Regardless of where you connect, it’s important to allot plenty of time at each step of the trip and leave a buffer for weather delays. Flying in the morning can also help: Airports aren’t yet bogged down with delays, and if a flight is cancelled, there will be more options for getting to your destination later that day.

Relax on the Best Tropical Beaches

For winter sunshine, tropical climates are always a safe bet. Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean are popular destinations, and there are some gorgeous domestic options as well. All-inclusive resorts such as the Le Blanc Spa Resort in Cancun, Mexico offer excellent travel deals as well as luxurious accommodations in sight of the Caribbean Sea. For a varied and rich experience in nature, head to Costa Rica, where travelers can take a zipline through the rainforest, hike a volcano, or learn to surf. Travelers who don’t want to break out their passport can always head for Florida’s famous sun. Enjoy the vibrant nightlife in Miami by staying on South Beach at The Palms Hotel & Spa, or relax in the Keys at one of their many laidback hotel options.

Soak Up Rays with Skiing and Snowy Activities

The beach isn’t the only place to get a winter dose of vitamin D. Northern destinations can be quite sunny as well, and the lure of skiing and winter sports will encourage travelers to spend more time outside soaking up the sunshine. Enjoy snowshoeing and basking in hot springs at the gorgeous Lake Tahoe, or enjoy the famous slopes in Aspen, Colorado. For an international experience, head to Innsbruck, Austria, where the snow resting on the buildings of lovely old town will look like a fairy tale come to life. Wander through the Christmas Markets with a mug of mulled wine and admire the handmade wooden toys and beautiful woollen clothes. The Grand Hotel Europa makes a perfect base of operations to explore this beautiful city nestled in the Alps.

Beat the Crowds in Southern Cities

Winter is the perfect opportunity to visit southern cities out of peak tourist season. Head to Nashville, Tennessee for the Music City Bowl in December and take a Holiday Wassail Tour at the lovely Belle Meade Plantation. Or explore the American southwest in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where you’ll find excellent skiing as well as beautifully crafted folk art. New Orleans is also a dream without the swarms of Mardi Gras crowds. It’s sunny and charming in the winter months, perfect for sampling the famous beignets or hearing some of the world’s best jazz.

Whether your personal paradise is a lounge chair on the beach with a tiki drink or the summit of a snow-capped mountain with a ski pole, planning a winter sun getaway can boost both your health and happiness this year. Visit a destination you’ve always loved or try something new, but just remember to bring the sunscreen.

4 Luxurious Dominican Republic Hotels

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 21, 2015.


We all long for an occasional taste of the tropical island life, especially during cold winter months. The Dominican Republic is the quintessential Caribbean experience wrapped up in a tourist-friendly package, palm trees and all. You’ve almost certainly seen some of its gorgeous white-sand beaches adorning calendars, and you may have heard excited, inspired tales about snorkeling in the calm cerulean waters lapping at its shores. But nature isn’t all you can experience here; cities are dotted with picturesque colonial buildings, and the friendly Dominicans love their lively fiestas.
If you’re thinking about heading to this Caribbean paradise, here are some places you can’t miss:
1. Punta Cana
You’ve likely heard the name Punta Cana before because it’s the most talked-about city in the country. Punta Cana boasts the island’s most luxurious resorts, which line its most prized beaches. Here, you can live a leisurely life of extravagance in one of the most pristine landscapes in the Dominican Republic. In fact, why not go all out? Book a stay at the Barcelo Punta Cana for an all-inclusive adventure. Whether you’re solo, with a partner or you have the whole family in tow, this resort has plenty to do and even features six international restaurants in its bounds.
2. Santo Domingo
If you’re looking to throw a Dominican city into the mix, this should be at the top of your list. Though Santo Domingo is the country’s capital, many tourists fly in and out without spending any real time there While there’s nothing wrong with that, Santo Domingo does have a lot to offer if you dedicate some time to it. Stay at the Sheraton Santo Domingo to combine the best of coast and city. You’ll also be conveniently close to the UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Colonial Zone. And no matter where you choose to stay, you’ll never be far from the salsa and meringue clubs that give this city its signature flair.
3. Bayahibe
Searching for a more down-to-earth town with a prominent ecological vibe? Bayahibe is just the place. Known for its nature and wildlife, Bayahibe also features the brilliant beaches that are a signature of this island country. You could call Bayahibe the flower child of the Dominican, but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo luxury to enjoy all it has to offer. Search for Hipmunk deals at the Dreams La Romana Bayahibe, an all-inclusive beachfront resort near three of the country’s finest ecological treasures — Parque Nacional del Este, Saona Island and Catalinita Island.
4. Puerto Plata
One of the best places to snorkel, this can be considered one of the Dominican Republic’s adventure capitals. From horse riding on the beach to ziplining in nearby jungles, this port city offers much more than meets the eye. To escape the bustle of downtown, stay at the Lifestyle Tropical Beach Resort and Spa, located right on Cofresi Beach. Puerto Plata is also one of the finest jump-off points for whale-watching excursions, so don’t miss the chance to marvel at the incredible humpbacks as they make their way through the warm waters off the Dominican coast.
While these four destinations are some of the Dominican Republic’s finest, they’re far from all that this small Caribbean nation has to offer. If you’re into water sports, visit Cabarete for the region’s best windsurfing and kitesurfing. The island has some surprisingly profound mountains — the highest in the Caribbean — and there are plenty of trails and waterfalls within them waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re keen on watching baseball, partying in accord with the carnival spirit or simply relaxing among jungle-lined beaches, the Dominican Republic is an excellent place to add to your bucket list.

Barcelona: The City With Something for Everyone

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 21, 2015.


The seaside center of Catalonian culture, Barcelona, is one of Spain’s most scintillating cities. Top travel destinations often claim to “have it all,” but this is particularly true for Barcelona, where tourists can marvel at Gothic and Modernist architecture by day and sway to the saucy rhythms of Iberian party music by night.

Barcelona is cosmopolitan yet historic, charming yet wild and filled with sublime flavors and Michelin star restaurants. The city’s renowned gastronomy draws on unique influences from the Basque country and Catalonian region, creating a hip mix of modern and traditional Spanish flavors you won’t find anywhere else, even within Spain itself.

Sound captivating? It is. The shorter your trip to Barcelona, the longer you’ll want to stay, but then again, the longer you stay, the harder it is to leave. It’s no secret that Barcelona draws you in almost immediately, but now the only question is: Draws you into where? Hipmunk hotels in Barcelona are some of the finest in the world, and you’ll wish you never had to check out.

Art and Eats: Hotel Arts Barcelona
Not many hotels can claim to be more unique than this — a skyscraper located right on the beach with unparalleled views of the Mediterranean. As its name suggests, Hotel Arts celebrates the artistic spirit at the core of Barcelona. Your taste buds will go wild with the hotel’s six different restaurants featuring renowned chefs and exquisite cuisine. As far as architecture goes, the hotel considers itself part of Barcelona’s recent “cultural renaissance,” which means if you’re looking for a place in step with this dynamic city, this is it. Sip specialty drinks at a pool adjacent to the glistening Mediterranean Sea and sit in the shadow of Frank Gehry’s famous fish sculpture, one of the city’s most celebrated contemporary works of art.

Football and Fanfare: Princesa Sofia Gran Hotel
It’s impossible to mention Barcelona without at least touching upon the one sport that rivets the population like no other. If you’re a soccer — football in Spain– fan, get in the game by staying at Princesa Sofia Gran Hotel, just two blocks from the home of the world-famous Barcelona Football Club, the Camp Nou Stadium. Wondering why the hotel has a regal rather than a sports-themed name? That’s because it’s even closer, just one short block away, from the Royal Palace. But with the hotel’s lush five-star luxury, you won’t need to visit the nearby estate to feel like nobility.

Sights and Sounds: Olivia Plaza Hotel Barcelona
Located in the midst of the hustle and bustle, Olivia Plaza Hotel is ideal for those serial sightseers. It’s just steps away from Olivia Plaza and La Rambla, the boulevard famous for shopping and entertainment. Its prime location is also right near Catalunya, a subway hub, so those looking to explore the city inside and out will have easy access to the train network. You’ll be within walking distance to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art with the classic Arco de Triunfo in the other direction, and you’re likely to see some major landmarks just by strolling the streets around this prime hotel.

Nature and Relaxation: ABaC Restaurant & Hotel
The city of Barcelona itself is so exciting that it’s easy to stay within its bounds and forget the inspiring landscapes that surround it. That won’t happen with this stylish hotel, located near the picturesque foothills surrounding the city. This proximity to nature, as well as its excellent spa and wellness center, makes Hipmunk ABaC the ideal location in Barcelona if you just want to relax and allow the vibrant spirit of the city to rejuvenate you.

Underwater Hotel Stays May Get (Slightly) More Affordable

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on January 10, 2016.


If you’ve ever dreamed of living in a pineapple under the sea, that fantasy may be one step closer to reality (only replace “live” with “stay for a few nights” and “pineapple” with “underwater hotel room”). That’s because a new proposed hotel promises to make underwater luxury stays a bit more affordable.

The proposed Planet Ocean Underwater Hotel isn’t the first underwater hotel in existence. But it does differ from existing designs in that (if successfully completed) the hotel would represent the most economical underwater stay currently on the market, with a single night’s stay clocking in at around $3,000. It would also be the world’s first fully self-contained underwater luxury hotel.

The proposal just got one step closer to being a bona fide vacation option: Managing Director Tony Webb recently received U.S. patent and trademark approval for this underwater boutique hotel room concept.


Inside the Latest Innovation in Underwater Accommodations

Webb estimates that a complete underwater hotel—made up of 12 single-unit rooms—would cost $20 million to build. But the self-contained units—each consisting of one guestroom—can also be erected on their own (so long as they’re connected to a support vessel via elevator).

The rooms themselves are located 28 feet below the water’s surface. Inside each 18’ x 12’ room, guests can enjoy luxury accommodations that include a neptune-sized bed, lounge furniture, a refrigerator, audio/visual entertainment centers, a personal bathroom, and even Wi-Fi. But why log onto an electronic device when you can enjoy panoramic window views of the ocean at all hours of the day and night?

Those anxious to take advantage of the opportunity for a luxury underwater experience will need to cool their jets for a bit, though. Currently, the proposal is in the final phase of the regulatory process, and the flagship hotel (consisting of a single unit) is deemed ready for testing. The company is experimenting with said prototype near its home base of Key West, FL; once all systems are a go, the prototype will be shipped to Cuba for testing at a resort.

If all goes well, Planet Ocean plans to invite every Caribbean island nation to get in on the action—all countries have to do is provide a mooring location for a single unit of the Planet Ocean Underwater Hotel. The company also hopes to expand into Indonesia, Hawaii, the Bahamas, and Dubai, among other international locations.

In addition to providing guests with a one-of-a-kind underwater hotel experience, Planet Ocean plans to fund and implement restoration programs designed to save the world’s most endangered coral reefs. The company has also pledged to invest in aquaculture technologies in order to help counteract environmental destruction within the world’s oceans.

Once the hotel is officially open for business, everyone will be welcome to get in on the underwater action. At $3,000 a night, a one-night stay is your most budget-friendly option. Or you can go ahead and purchase your very own single-unit Planet Ocean Underwater Hotel and moor it somewhere in the Caribbean for the low, low price of $3 million.