Much to my surprise, I found there’s a better option to the time honored Bed and Breakfast establishment. As we make the slow and often dubious transition into adulthood, there are all sorts of odd things that we pick up. One of those nuggets is that Boutique-y Hotels are a step up from the old Bed and Breakfast of yore. Let me explain.
There’s been a long standing understanding that when a couple wants to go on vacation, they either go somewhere exotic and pay an arm and a leg, or they go to a bed and breakfast. The exotic part is great—Hawaii, the Caribbean, maybe even South East Asia or, if you really like the party scene, then Cancun. But they’re super expensive.
Hawaii is really expensive and Cancun is barely worth the nearly-American priced hotels. So if you have plenty of money these are all great options, but you’ll just get the same thing as a Holiday Inn with a view. (Not to downplay the views, which is why you go in the first place! But there’s a better way.)
More locally, there has always been the Bed and Breakfast option. The humble, kind-hearted and maybe even tummy-filling B&B experience. However, there are some downsides. First off, you’re staying in a house with a family. Or at least an older couple that wakes up very early. When I go on vacation, I’m usually trying to get somewhere out of the house. I don’t want a living room, or someone else’s kids running around (I have kids, so I get to say this)—I want an escape.
Last week, I found a beautiful alternative to those two options! The Boutique Hotel is perhaps the frilliest, lamest sounding name. But I promise these havens of pure relaxation in truly exotic locations are worth it. A Boutique Hotel usually has a specific theme, whether yoga (suspiciously often), horse-back riding, painting or surfing.
But the theme isn’t what really sets them apart, but rather the service, tranquility and privacy. Last week, my wife and I spent several days on Mancora beach in northern Peru in a place called KiChic. Much like the term boutique hotel, the name is a bit corny—it’s a phonetic version of Spanish’s que chic, or how chic.
That aside, we were on the water, fell asleep to rolling waves and woke up for walks along the beach. The service was also incredible and the food blew my mind into a semi-hallucinogenic state of awe-struck joy and gastronomic pleasure. Every meal was served in your choice of over a dozen private tables, each nestled somewhere around somehow compact but incredibly compartmentalized and secluded property—we used walky talkies to call for refills! But most importantly, we had our privacy and didn’t feel like we were hanging out in someone else’s living room. Oh, and absolutely no kids allowed.
The experience cost less than $200 per night for a couple with only a few days notice and in the height of the tourism season. And while the flights were $700 a head, the gourmet food (there were actually two on-site chefs!) was between $10 – $20 a plate, and breakfast was included.
The point is that the whole thing cost about $2500 for four nights of indulgence. And there were multiple sessions of yoga throughout the day to help you feel better about your indulgences, on top of the surfing and ocean-side runs. For what it is, it was much, MUCH cheaper than the majority of tour packages that run you $4000 – $5000. Even the CostCo travel packages start around $3200 for 4 nights—starting to get out of our price range.
The kicker was multi-pronged, however—to be sure. It’s not a single 6 hour flight from DC to the Caribbean, nor was it click and done –no one was holding our hand. It was a combination of 3 flights each way that took a whole day—or night—of traveling. And we designed the trip ourselves, which did take a few evenings of pouring over options.
But that said, for what it is, the international boutique hotel option is a ton better than a Bed & Breakfast. B&Bs can easily cost over $200 a night, and rarely offer the complete and sincere tranquility I experienced last week—plus you probably still have to pay $200 – $300 per flight for extra-local destinations. The traditional way of getting tropical not only costs far in excess of $200 a night and the flights are still around $700 a pop. Plus, gourmet food in Hawaii is orders of magnitude more expensive than what we paid last week.
That said, I grew up on B&Bs. I loved them as a kid. My Chicago-bound family stayed a week with a group of friends at the Indiana Dunes—the Midwestern equivalent of Virginia Beach. I loved the beach, the sun and I loved the place. A B&B is perfect for families and especially, as was our case, groups of families. There are good times to use them.
But if you’re truly looking for an escape with your significant other, this is the way to go. There are destinations like this tucked away across the Caribbean, Latin America, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia. All you have to do is look, and be a bit adventuresome.
If you’re willing to try something new on your next vacation, you’ll not only have a hell of a story next Monday, you’ll also have saved a few grand compared to pre-done packages. We have kids, and we managed to find a bit of extra time to plan this—so if you’re single, you have no excuse for paying for these vanilla travel packages. Plus, you only live once!