Finding Paradise in Tahiti – The Brando – Tetiaroa

Imagine a place, far far away, somewhere close to the equator, in the middle of the South Pacific, 17.0000° S, 149.5500° W to be precise.

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A place where you will find yourself blinking your eyes, just to make sure it is real.

A place with colors so intense, like you’ve never seen them before.

A place where you hear the gentle lapping of  waves, the light humming of a honey bee every now and then, and a bird screech ever so often.

A place filled with the smell of sea salt, warm air, and tropical plants.

A place where you become one with nature, where time seems to stand still, and all of a sudden you feel at peace with yourself. It is as if you had arrived in paradise and the paradise’s name is Tetiaroa.

Beach at The Brando

The atoll of Tetiaro is located in French Polynesia, also referred to as Tahiti, in the outer parts of the Society archipelago to be precise. Until about 2 years ago, the atoll was known by very few (non Tahitians that is).

Marlon Brando had discovered this paradise when scouting possible locales for the movie “Mutiny of the Bounty.” He was immediately fascinated by this particular collection of motus, their incredible beauty and unique ability to make one feel that much closer to paradise. In 1967 Marlon Brando succeeded in acquiring the atoll and for many years Tetiaroa was his paradise, a place where he, his family and close friends, could escape to.

the brando, atoll, tetiaroa, tahiti, brando, aavtravel, french polynesia

Marlon Brando however, wasn’t just a wealthy celebrity. He was also a visionary. He dreamed of an island paradise that would be a model of sustainability. He wanted Tetiaroa’s natural beauty and everything it had to offer, preserved. He wanted to create a center for research and education, that eventually could benefit the entire world.

Although Marlon Brando died in 2004, his dream to create a self-sustaining, top-class, luxury resort that acted as a center for guests, residents, as well as scientific research, became reality. Today, Tetiaroa is likely one of the most unique resort properties you can imagine. Not only is it unlike anything else, it is also very exclusive and the hotel buzz is brimming with many people wondering, if this concept and idea can survive.

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Whether it will or not, only the stars can tell (and there are plenty on Tetiaroa where stargazing is at its best). And whilst the idea might seem crazy to some, the product and concept is solid. The resort is top-notch, every detail paid attention to. The food, despite the fact that you find yourself miles out in the South Pacific, is flawless. The service is impeccable and very personable. You feel welcomed to paradise from the moment you step off Air Tetiaroa’s plane.

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What originally seemed like a place that could quickly become boring, turned almost immediately into a place you would never want to leave.

Here are a few of my favorite images taken during my stay.

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stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Having personally traveled to Hawai’i, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, and Tahiti, she can help you create a wonderful South Pacific experience. To plan a trip contact her at

Finding Paradise at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana

Late afternoon, I am gently floating at the edge of the perfect infinity pool, overlooking the beautiful beach of Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. All I can hear are the gentle waves of the ocean, some birds screeching and the distant chill out music. The peace and calm is incredible. Until, all of a sudden, a dark, saddled horse flies along the water’s edge. Shortly after, a rider is coming in sight, trying to catch the escaped stallion. A fleeting glimpse of excitement before everything becomes still again. But wait, there sprints the resort’s heavy set security guard towards the resort grounds. What is going on, I wonder and then I see. The dark stallion has taken a drastic turn and instead of continuing to run along the beach, decided to escape through the middle of Zoetry’s beautifully manicured grounds.

zoetry agua, pool, punta cana, honeymoon, ocean, aavexplorationsThis is the most excitement and action I got to experience during my time at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. But then again, the people that stay here are looking for anything but excitement and action. It is an oasis of tranquility and relaxation, and it is beautifully done. Guests stay here because they want to escape the hectic world, take a holistic approach, both via organic food as well as spa indulgences.

The resort grounds are beautifully lush with swaying palmtrees and many flower bushes. Three story palapa buildings containing luxuriously spacious suites, sprawl out along meandering pools. Zoetry Agua reminds me of Tahiti. But wait, we are in the Dominican Republic, not far from all the mega resorts that call Punta Cana their home.

zoetry, agua, punta cana, aavexplorations, allinclusive, palapazoetry agua, zoetry, punta cana, swim up, all-inclusive, aavtravelEvery suite at Zoetry Agua has a wonderful outdoor area and people here like to enjoy the privacy of their rooms. Who can blame them though, they are truly gorgeous. Some are laying out reading books. Some are engaged into a loveable embrace chatting away. Some are here with friends, gathering in one of the suites’ swim-up pools.
zoetry agua, all-inclusive, penthouse suite, aavtravelzoetry agua, punta cana, beachfront suite, plunge pool, aavtravelThe world seems perfect and there is nothing to worry about. Guests at Zoetry Agua keep to themselves but are friendly when engaged. The suites are great, spacious, every comfort provided. I really enjoyed the subtle, Balinese style décor, the Bulgari amenities as well as the awesome steam wand provided. I also liked that there was a decent hair dryer. My daughters and I have an ongoing discussion about how often toilet paper is of bad quality at hotels. Well, I am glad to report that Zoetry has excellent toilet paper.
zoetry agua, punta cana, penthouse suite, dominican republic, aavtravelDespite all the beauty, arriving on a Sunday was not ideal. Much of the resort staff is off and service is very slow. During my 4 hours along the beach and pool area, I was not once offered a drink. I ran into some guests that had been there for a while and they told me that this had been the first day it happened. And they were right, come Monday beach waiter service was readily available. There was way more staff visible around the property, eagerly cleaning and taking care of all guests’ needs. Always a smile, always a friendly hola. A truly welcoming atmosphere.
zoetry agua, punta cana, beach, oceanfront, all-inclusive, aavtravelMany of the staff do not speak enough English and oftentimes have trouble answering even the most basic questions. Personally, it is something I like, as it makes you engage more with the local culture, learn some words in a different language, and use your hands and feet to communicate. It is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding.
zoetry agua, piragua restaurant, punta canaThat evening I went to dinner at Piragua. The menu looked exciting and I opted for a tuna sashimi, followed by a pumpkin cream soup. Main course was chicken on a lemongrass sauce with couscous. The sashimi was good, very thinly sliced, almost like a carpaccio. It had slightly too much soy sauce. The pumpkin cream could have been excellent, but unfortunately was lukewarm. The chicken skewers were served in a Teriyaki sauce which, since it was supposed to be lemongrass, I didn’t expect. The food tasted good with the exception of one skewer that was undercooked. The passion fruit chocolate mousse combo was excellent but lacking in presentation. All in all I would rate my food experience as good, not excellent, but still better than many other all-inclusive resorts. Breakfast was a similar experience. Some ingredients weren’t in the omelet I ordered which still tasted fine. The bacon was overcooked, the sausages good but cold. Again, I didn’t eat badly but since this is a luxury all-inclusive resort, I expected more.
zoetry agua, breakfast, egss, all-inclusive, aavtravelAll around, I had a wonderful stay at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana and would go back in a heartbeat. The property is so beautiful, the pool area absolutely stunning and the beach peaceful, secluded and well maintained. The relaxing atmosphere of the resort is hard to come by at an all-inclusive and it is wonderful not having to worry about being able to snag a palapa, or find a great chair by the pool. With only 96 rooms it feels like a privilege to stay here. I also loved that wifi was easily available and reliable throughout the property.

zoetry agua, punta cana, all-inclusive, aavtravelstefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is a Honeymoon & Destination Weddings Specialist. She is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at



Review — Excellence Playa Mujeres Resort, Mexico

Unlike many other resorts in Cancun and the Riviera Maya, Excellence Playa Mujeres is located North of Cancun in an area called Playa Mujeres Resort. This unique, 930 hectare piece of land is nestled between the Caribbean Ocean on the east and the Chacmochuc Lagoon  on the west. Ancient history, undisturbed tropical plants were waiting to be revealed, including a 1,200-year-old Mayan Temple which was studied, restored and opened to guests for tours.

The drive along the small coastal road will keep you guessing what to expect until you pass through the gates and finally pull up in front of Excellence Playa Mujeres’ impressive lobby. The welcome at Excellence Playa Mujeres was one of the best we’ve ever received. It was heart-felt, welcoming and despite it being our first time, made us feel like coming home.

A 35 minute drive from Cancun’s International Airport will take you to this all-inclusive resort, catering to adults 18 and over, looking for romance or wishing to escape on a relaxing getaway. Excellence opens its arms and makes you feel special.

Excellence Playa Mujeres Cancun aavtravelOne of Excellence’s key strengths is the beautiful, state-of-the art spa. One of the reasons why this resort isn’t just great for people in love but also friends looking for a rejuvenation getaway. A huge hydro-therapy awaits, several massage packages, everything you could possibly want to relax and get pampered. Miilé Excellence Resort Spa is the ultimate retreat for your mind, body and soul where relaxation is natural.

Excellence Playa Mujeres Spa

Excellence Gourmet
Excellence Playa Mujeres offers nine wonderful and unique restaurants. The themed locales are authentically decorated and create a world of their own. Whether you wish to dine in a traditional Mexican Hacienda style restaurant, eat at the hip sushi bar, or are looking for an Indian dinner, gourmet dishes await. Best of all, Excellence makes it easy, no dinner reservations required. Day or night, there are 11 bars that will quench your thirst. Did anyone say signature cocktails? Never forget to ask for one.

Adult-only all-inclusive fun
There are so many options included in your stay that you’ll never be bored. Walk the two mile white sandy beaches, or swim in one of the seven pools located on resort. Feel like just laying back and relaxing? Close your eyes and let yourself truly relax in an outdoor jacuzzis or in an in-pool whirlpools. As a guest, you’ll have access to the fitness center, jogging and bicycle trail and the use of non-motorized water sports, such as: Hobbie Cats, windsurfing boards, sea kayaks, snorkel gear and paddle boards. There’s also table tennis and billiards, darts, board games, archery and rifle shooting available. And don’t forget about access to the Main Theatre for a night of entertainment and fun!

Excellence Mexico aavtravel travel

Excellence Playa Mujeres is also located within walking distance of the marina and the Playa Mujeres Golf Club that was designed by golf pro Greg Norman. The 18 hole, par 72 course is challenging and features beautiful views that you can’t get back home. Imagine yourself teeing off on one of the lagoon and ocean-front holes.

Romancing in style
Excellence is the perfect place for a romantic escape. Whether you just want to enjoy each other, tie the knot, or celebrate your marriage, Excellence will welcome you with open arms and has a package that meets your need. Celebrate your love with a romantic night on the beach having a private sunset dinner. Or dining in-room on your rooftop terrace. Looking for a romantic way to propose? Contact us, we have some ideas (wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise!).

Excellence Playa Mujeres is a dream come true to those who stay. From the gorgeous resort, to the multiple dining areas, endless activities and five-star accommodations, your stay will feel luxurious. Enjoy the stress-free lifestyle the Caribbean has to offer.

Have you stayed at Excellence Playa Mujeres? Please share your experience in the comment section!

For more info and to contact us visit


Loosing Track of Time at The Caves

A visit to The Caves resort was one of our highlights during the recent stay in Negril, Jamaica. This unique gem is perched above and built into Negril’s steep cliff and cave side.negril-pic1

A narrow road winds along the coast directing us to the resort, making it easy to miss the hidden entrance. A small light blue gate, just big enough for a mini-bus, is the only entrance at the resort, which is hidden behind walls. The driveway is so small that there is hardly enough space to turn your car. The lobby consists of a small, two-story building with a blue fenced in front porch; nothing fancy, just pure Jamaican country charm. It’s like arriving at a friend’s home.

As we arrive, the hotel sales executive was the first to provide us with a warm Jamaican greeting. Filled with pride and excitement, he escorted us on a small winding path to show us the highlights of the property. The stone path leads us through beautiful gardens, which guide us to a few unique cottages. We then approache Macka Tree; right below is a giant carved-out bluehole where visitors can jump into, at their own risk. The bluehole directs the swimmer to a cave that soon approaches the wide open Caribbean Sea.

As we move further, we walk towards the edge of the cliff that leads to a small spa. The spa is very discreet, but incredibly beautiful with remarkable service to satisfy your needs.

Our tour continues by walking along the cliff’s edge again. We climb down a steep staircase towards the cave structures. Small terraces approach, and lead us to the first cave that invites guests to lounge and sunbathe while viewing the ocean below. Inside the cave it was so peaceful and secluded that it felt like the property was yours. The first cave was designed for guests to dine in private. At night, the inside of the cave fills your sight with beautiful candles and the sound of waves crashing below.

The second cave is a Rum and Cigar bar; a unique feature to Negril, which again at night becomes lit with candles and small lights. The bar invites guests to lounge in relaxing benches and enjoy a large selection of different rums and cigars. A warm evening breeze sways through the cave as the peaceful sound of crashing waves encircle it.

The last cave was also unique. A hot tub is built into the cave and opens up to the sea through a window. From there you can watch the sunset and toast a glass of champagne.

The Caves Resort treats their guests as if they were family. It is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. Guests enjoy cooling off in the deep blue sea by either jumping or climbing down a ladder. An inviting small pool that is above sea level allows visitors to relax while overlooking the breathtaking view of the ocean. Guests enjoy participating in snorkeling and kayaking, a favorite pastime activity at the Caves. There is also a variety of food to choose from that is cooked to your liking.

Feel free to check out the pictures we took during our visit! The Caves can be a wonderful option for a honeymoon, relaxing getaway, or a destination wedding.

Honeymoon Planning – Questions you Should ask

A couple more hours before the new year! With the start of 2010 comes the beginning of the bridal season. Hundreds of brides will flock to wedding shows all over the world, shopping for wedding vendors, and also starting to think about their honeymoon.

Each wedding vendor has a certain set of questions a bride might want to ask before hiring them. Typically you might question a photographer about their package prices, how fast they will have your pictures available, how easy it will be for your guests to order from them, how much experience they have shooting weddings, and much more.

Whilst most every wedding vendor has a certain set of questions thistock2ey will be asked, I oftentimes notice that brides do not qualify the honeymoon planner/travel consultant they want to work with. Here are a few ideas/tips/questions you might want to
use when selecting your honeymoon consultant.

  • If you have an idea on where you would like to go on your honeymoon, tell the consultant. Use this opportunity to test their reaction. Are they simply acknowledging your choice, or do they actually seem knowledgeable about the destination.
  • Who is going to do the work, you, or the consultant. By that I mean, does the consultant simply hand out brochures, or does the consultant setup an appointment with you first, in order to learn exactly what it is you are looking for?
  • What type of travel is the consultant’s specialty? Do they cater to anyone, including family & business travel, or do they specialize in the romance travel sector.
  • Does the consultant travel frequently and has first-hand experience in some of the most popular honeymoon destinations and resorts?
  • Is the honeymoon consultant going to be there for you, not only during the booking process, but also once you travel?
  • And, can you relate to the consultant. Do you feel this person will be able to understand what it is you are looking for.


Many of my All About Honeymoons colleagues will be represented at bridal shows nationwide. I encourage you to visit their booth (look for the logo), and submit them to the test.

Just like your wedding, your honeymoon is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It should be the best vacation you ever take. You should feel special, you should know what to expect, and most of all, you should be able to treasure those memories forever.

all about honeymoons

Review – Romantic Getaway to Couples San Souci, Jamaica

Mid-April 2009 my husband and I were treated to 3 incredibly romantic nights at Couples Sans Souci in Ocho Rios. “Sans Souci” is French and when translated into English means “Without a Care” or “No worries” which is a cute way to refer to Jamaica’s famous tag line.

Sans Souci is a very special resort in that it is built around a mineral spring said to have healing powers. From the turn of the century, people from the small fishing village of Ocho Rios would congregate on Sundays, lining up for the whole day, to take their 15 – 20-minute turn in the mineral spring which is particularly good for rheumatism, arthritis, and skin problems. Nowadays you have the possibility to bath in these healing waters during a stay at Couples Sans Souci.

Ocho Rios has a very rugged coastline with rocky hillsides and small bays. Sans Souci was originally built along the hillside running down to the mineral springs. It was setup to become one of the Caribbean’s most luxurious beach-side complexes. In 1966 the property was bought by a Bermudian who was truly impressed by the “tropical beauty” of the place. On viewing the site with its steep elevation, Mr. Ward, the architect, remarked that it was an “exciting challenge” to his architectural skill. This was the beginning of Sans Souci, which as such opened its doors in 1984.

Today Sans Souci is a truly unique property which embraces its history. You can feel the love the different owners had for this place.

In 2005 Couples resorts bought Sans Souci, the Jewel of the Caribbean, situated on a high bluff of land. The property entails approximately 35 acres with terraced gardens leading down to the Spa. At the west end of the property within a small bay is a 400-foot sand beach.

Couples Swept Away
The resort is just off the main road so no long driveways or anything alike. You check-in at a desk in the lobby area where you also find the tour desk and the resort concierge. Check-in is fairly painless but the fun starts when the bellman tells you how to find your room. Sans Souci is small but pretty complicated and you can easily get lost within the small walkways (particularly on the day of your arrival).

We were allocated a suite in the D block which sits high on a bluff. We really enjoyed our suite which was large with absolutely gorgeous views. The most unusual feature was the shower which after having stayed there for a couple of days is still a mystery to me. I guess some people just have more imagination than others.

We arrived fairly late in the afternoon and we quickly learned that it wasn’t all that easy to get reservations at one of the specialty restaurants. We ended up getting a late reservation at the beach restaurant which serves Caribbean inspired fare. The setting was really gorgeous. Right at the beach, the tree lighted with small lights – it couldn’t have been more perfect. The food was very good and it was interesting to discover the different tasting foods.

The next day we signed up for snorkeling which was no problem at all. The site we stopped at was fine but for someone who snorkeled the Great Barrier reef, it wasn’t all that exciting. Other people on the boat told us that they sometimes take you to see a wreck which is pretty interesting.

Couples Sans Souci also has a great spa with very cute spa huts that are really romantic for couples massages… Since our time was limited I only tried a facial and it was very nice.

That evening we dined outside on the hilltop terrace at the Italian restaurant which turned out to be more Caribbean than Italian really. Again, the food was great and the setting truly romantic.

Nighttime entertainment is fun but it is by no means a party resort. It’s all about celebrating your love, rekindle the romance…some fun games, karaoke and a lot of cuddly dancing.

Our last day they organized the Gala Dinner which they do once a week. They spend the whole day setting up tables, food stations, decorating… just for an evening. The buffet and selection were great and it was nice interacting with other guests. For those who did not like to socialize the only other option available was room service, which by the way is available 24 hours a day and included.

Couples Sans Souci is a great resort if you are looking for a romantic place, something unusual with a Caribbean feel.

Review – Sandal’s Royal Bahamian

It’s early morning and we are taking off from rainy and cool St. Louis airport. Our direct flight to Nassau takes about 2 1/2 hours after which we land at Nassau’s airport.

The airport seems understated for such a popular and booming island, not what I would have expected. Once through security we quickly find our way to the Sandals desk from where we are guided to our transfer. Sandals transfers most of their guests in minibuses however, if you are staying in one of the higher category suites, you are treated like a celebrity and taken to the resort by private Rolls Royce or Mercedes.

After a short 20 minute ride we arrive at the Sandals Royal Bahamian. A lush winding way leads towards the main entrance, which colored in light blue is strikingly beautiful.199_0006_edited-1

At Sandals Royal Bahamian 9 restaurants, several bars and “Sandals Cay” (their private island) await. It is a small resort with beautiful, friendly people. At night fire pits set the tone and you can relax in lounge chairs scattered along the shore. The private island also offers a very romantic setting with additional dining options.

Sandals Royal Bahamian is a great place if you are looking for the ease of an adult-only all-inclusive resort. A short cab ride will take you to the casinos should you need the action :-).

Those concerned about the environment will be happy to learn that this resort is Green Globe 21 certified.

Whilst you can book Sandals resorts online I strongly recommend using a travel professional, preferably a Sandals certified specialist (such as us). There are several reasons for that.

One being that not all resorts are created equal and that there is a reason why some price higher than others. Also, not every resort is for everyone.

Sandals also has numerous room categories and finding the right one for you can be very confusing.

Another reason not to hesitate to use a travel professional is that Sandals offers a Best Price Guarantee, meaning that no one, not even the booking engine, can offer a different price on their product. What does that mean for you? You can get the expert advice without worrying about price. No matter where you book, it will always be the same.

Feel free to contact us with any questions, and make sure to check out our photo gallery

Certified Sandals Specialist