Three Great Girls Trips
Whether an annual tradition or a once-in-a-lifetime reunion with your college ride-or-dies, a well-planned getaway with your besties can serve as the emotional, spiritual, or simply fun recharge you’ve been craving—depending on the destination. The three options below—a posh city escape, an adventure seeker’s paradise, and a don’t-take-your-robe-off-all-week wellness retreat—have a little something for every girl gang.
London has something for everyone, which is what makes it just right for a little-bit-of-everything girls-only weekend: Explore its iconic shops, wander its pretty parks (from Regent’s to Kensington Gardens, Hyde, and St. James), go to fancy afternoon tea, and later, post up at a trendy bar. But most of all, it’s nice to wander and admire the city in good company. Paring down our favorite London spots was a tall order, but we eventually settled on the essentials that are particularly well-suited for a girls getaway, beginning with hotel options in the heart of everything. (If you’re staying in the city for a longer stretch of time, see our London guides for more.)
4 Richmond Mews, Soho | +44.20.7559.3000
Part of the prestigious Firmdale group, The Soho Hotel is situated on a relatively quiet street in what is an otherwise a bustling neighborhood, within walking distance of the theater and Chinatown. Also within walking distance are Barrafina (best tapas in town) and Burger & Lobster, which as the name suggests, serves up a really solid lobster roll. Each of the ninety-six surprisingly spacious rooms have been individually decorated—unheard of for a hotel of this magnitude—but all share a decidedly English mix-and-match aesthetic (florals and stripes here, ikats and plaids there). In the lobby, the eclectic vibe translates to a giant Bottero cat, more print-on-print action, and lots of floor-to-ceiling windows. Stop by the Refuel Bar for an evening cocktail or afternoon tea service.
40 Dover St., Mayfair | +44.20.7499.8581
If someone in your girl gang is a member of (or knows a member of) The Arts Club—lucky—this is a no brainer. At the end of 2015, the club opened sixteen gorgeously-appointed hotel rooms on the upper floors of their space, decorated in an old-school, classically art-deco style with chevron hardwood floors, huge headboards, and claw-foot tubs. (GP also says that they have the most comfortable sheets she’s ever slept on.) Plus, a stay here comes with 24-hour butler service; access to all of the club’s bars, restaurants, like Kyubi for Japanese food and a phenomenal oyster bar, and community areas; and the Mayfair location, in the middle of everything, is ideally situated for shopping outings and the best brunch in London at the iconic Wolseley.
Brunch & Tea
9 Conduit St., Mayfair | +44.20.7659.4500
Using bold décor choices and a selection of art from some of the city’s youngest talents, Mourad Mazouz has transformed the two floors of this restored 18th century building into an important cultural destination, complete with three lounges for tea and cocktails and two full-fledged restaurants. For unapologetically girly afternoon tea, make a reservation at The Gallery, famous for its lush pink chairs (and everything), which features more than 200 of David Shrigley’s quirky sketches. If you want to come for breakfast, do the Louis XV-styled Parlour. Either way, take a trip to the loo—the colorful ceiling and egg-shaped toilet pods amuse.
208-212 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill | +44.20.7313.8050
Plan to spend at least a few hours walking around dreamy Notting Hill, home to a rainbow’s collection of houses and the seemingly endless Portobello Road Market. Daylesford Organic Farm in Gloucestershire, has a cafe here on Westbourne, off of Portobello Road, that serves a morning brunch (buttermilk pancakes, black quinoa porridge with cashew nut cream), as well as an afternoon brunch with additional lunch items (including their Recharge and Detox salads). Pick up some snacks for the hotel room after you finish eating. Also nearby is Granger & Co, a super popular brunch spot with a line around the block.
181 Piccadilly, Piccadilly | +44.84.5602.5694
In addition to being an upscale retailer of quality products like tea, coffee, and jam, Fortnum & Mason is famous for its high tea. The Gallery high tea is the most traditional, and The Fountain offers a light meal with their tea service.
Brook Street, Mayfair | +44.20.7629.8860
Live piano and violin (sometimes even a double bass) accompany the much-acclaimed tea menus here. You’ll find a variety of small-batch Tregothnan English Estate blends, which are the perfect companion to the finger sandwiches, warm scones, and clotted cream. Their famous Marco Polo jelly is not to be missed, neither is a walk through the Art Deco lobby to check out the stunning sweeping staircase.
400 Oxford St., Mayfair | +44.20.8001.2340
The department stores in London are truly next-level, and Selfridges is one of the best in the world. While the layout is refreshingly easy to navigate, no two visits are the same as there’s always something new in the works, be it a pop-up shop or temporary exhibit, but the legendary Shoe Galleries always merit a lot of browsing time.
18-22 Haymarket, Picadilly | +44.20.7518.0680
Boasting five floors of designer labels, including exclusive designer collaborations, this wildly creative, gallery-like space is complete with sculptures, taxidermy, and art objects. Whether you intend to bust out your wallet or not, the store is one of the city’s more inspired spaces. (You’ll stumble upon plenty of boutiques in the West End area, but Liberty London in Soho is another standout among the big shops, which again, are unlike stores anywhere else.)
Dinner and Drinks
123 Clarendon Rd., Holland Park | +44.20.3321.5400
This is Argentinian restauranteur Juan Santa Cruz’s very first venture in London, a restaurant with a seriously clubby feel serving up European dishes with a slightly Argentinian bent—their numerous veggie sides are incredibly delicious. With dark, velvet-clad walls, a stunning copper bar as a central fixture in the middle of the dining room, and decidedly dim lighting, this eatery has serious sex-appeal.
42 Albemarle St., Mayfair | +44.20.3011.5900
Modeled after a Raj-era Indian sports club, Michelin-starred Gymkhana balances old-world interiors with some of the finest Indian food in London. The food is served family-style: Tikkas, Biryanis, Saags, including a bunch of vegetarian options, made all the more exciting by Gymkhana’s amazing bread.
34 Rupert St., Soho | +44.20.7439.8777
With a focus on the food of Jerusalem, the décor here is sleek and fun, as evidenced by the deep jewel-toned leather banquettes and hot pink neon lights. There’s a long, bustling bar serving drinks and dinner to walk-ins from the short and shareable menu. For a table in the dining room (neither overly fancy or super casual), reserve well in advance as this is one of the more popular restaurants in London. The “Plancha” dishes, like a rich and creamy polenta with buttery layers of mushroom, asparagus, and parmesan, are insane.
1 Chiltern St., Marylebone | +44.20.7073.7676
A girl’s trip provides a solid excuse for some scene-y indulgence. Get your fill of cocktails at Chiltern Firehouse, André Balasz’s restaurant/hotel, which is outfitted by Studio Ko, who seamlessly integrated original features (the building is an old firehouse station, dating back to the 1880’s) like the fireman’s pole, brick, tilework, and fire doors with velvet seating, glitzy marble bars, and old-fashioned, flower-print carpeting.
Bankside | +44.20.7887.8888
The Tate features modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present day in a huge renovated power station on the Bankside of the Thames. The outstanding Tate Collection, which is free to visit, is complemented by a series of contemporary art exhibitions that rotate through. Of course, London has it’s fair share of quality museums, but the Tate Modern is at the top of the list, especially following the museum’s recent renovation and expansion, which were completed this summer. After browsing the galleries here, follow GP’s favorite London walk: Head down to the river and then meander east along it toward Westminster Bridge. Take the foot path over the iconic bridge (you’ll see Big Ben on the other side), and then continue into historic, beautiful St. James Park, which leads to Buckingham Palace. After you see the royal home, head back in the other direction, taking Pall Mall, which connects to the central hub of Trafalgar Square.
Goods Way, King Cross | +44.844.815.7121
New this season is the opening of the prestigious Donmar group’s temporary 420-seat space at King’s Cross Theatre, which is playing revivals of Phyllida Lloyd’s bold, all-female productions of Julius Caesar, Henry IV, and The Tempest. On a handful of dates, deemed Trilogy Days, you can buy a ticket to see all three Shakespeare plays in a row. (Also noteworthy: Everything artistic director Emma Rice has put on in her first season at the Globe has been magic, so many are looking forward to their upcoming winter season, which moves indoor to Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.)
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Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast
For the last ten or so years, Tulum and Costa Rica have been go-tos for quick and easy beach getaways down South. More recently, Nicaragua, which has long since shaken its not-so-great reputation for safety, has been put on the map thanks to a few smart expat entrepreneurs and savvy locals with the openings of new hotels and restaurants in both Grenada and further south in the surf town of Tola-Las Salinas. Here are two of our favorite getaways—both remote enough to unplug, practice yoga, and even carve out some blissed-out hammam time.
Playa Manzanillo, Guacalito de la Isla | 505.2563.7161
Perched on the raw, wild cliff overlooking the Pacific, Mukul brings a dose of open-air luxury to this quiet stretch of Nicaragua’s coastline. There are twelve beachside villas and twenty-three treehouse-like bohios, on the property— both styles do a great job of bringing the outdoors in. (Think sugarcane twig headboards, carved teak tables—a private plunge pool and ocean views come standard.) If you really want to spread out, the six-bedroom, 20,000-square foot Casona Don Carlos compound can be booked when the resort owners family isn’t in residence. The spa is top-notch with its Turkish baths and Indonesian massages. (More on that later.) For meals, the hotel has several dining options on site, ranging from canopy dining on the beach to fine dining at La Mesa, where Nicaraguan-inflected dishes include a yellow fin tuna confit with chili oil and blue crab ceviche.
1 Redonda Bay, Tola, Rivas | 917.338.2116
Step into a rainforest tree house at Aqua Wellness Resort, a twenty-four room eco-friendly lodge, which specializes in healthy locavore dishes, sea kayaking and surfing. Slightly more rustic than its neighbor, Mukul, Aqua offers views of Redonda bay and constant wildlife spotting (there’s no shortage of howler monkeys and iguanas) as you walk along the network of wooden bridges that connect the resort grounds. The treehouses, which rest on stilts to minimize impact on the primary forest, feature cathedral ceilings, exposed rafters, and teak rainfall showers. The low-slung, platform beds are wrapped in bed white linens for a Zen-like vibe. Some of the suites feature an outdoor Balinese shower, too. Meals are served on the white sand beach at the open-air restaurant, which serves up a mix of Nicaraguan and American dishes. Chef gets his produce from a nearby organic farm and catch of the day comes from a neighboring fishing village. The menu changes daily depending on what’s freshest from the on-site herb garden, but they’re always happy to customize vegan or gluten-free options.
On the Shore
What’s nice about your location on the Emerald Coast is that you’re in prime surfing country—both Aqua and Mukul are within miles of surf spots Manzanillo and Colorado. Mukul resort has teamed up with local outfitter TropicSurf, and they’ll arrange everything from lessons for first-timers to guided trips out to Popoyo.
The nice thing about being tucked away on this stretch of coastline is that you’ve got gorgeous white sand beaches right outside your door. But if you want a taste of local flavor, it’s worth making the 1-hour trip down to this surfer’s paradise. While the beach can get a little crowded, there’s a sand-rock bottom and a consistent swell that’s good for all levels. Should you want to get out on the water, book a sunset catamaran trip with Nica Sail n’ Surf out of San Juan Bay— it includes a ceviche lunch, open and swimming at a private white-sand beach with water so clear you’ll think you’re in the Caribbean.
At Mukul, guests have access to the 1,670-acree reserve of Guacalito de la Isla right in their backyard. Here, the staff will arrange two-hour-long hikes through the nature trails, like La Finca where sightings multiple species of monkeys, tropical birds and iguanas make their home. The hike’s highest point will offer a 360-degree view, including a look at neighboring Costa Rica in the distance.
If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s worth trying ash boarding down the side of a volcano, which is, well, exactly what it sounds like: this new-fangled sport lets visitors head through the volcanic ash of Cerro Negro strapped to a board. It’s a short helicopter ride to Cerro Negro, from there, it’s an hour hike to the top. Guests are given a short training session, and set up with the proper gear.
Spa & Wellness
Playa Manzanillo, Guacalito de la Isla | 505.2563.7161
The spa at Mukul is pretty special—it consists of six separate sanctuaries, each with its own look and feel, aimed at harnessing a different healing tradition. The best part? They’re all 100 percent private, so there’s no waiting around in the common areas with guests. We liked the hammam, with its Turkish/Moorish architecture, and traditional sweat bath. The five-step detox program includes a Middle Eastern body scrub.
1 Redonda Bay, Tola, Rivas | 917.338.2116
At Aqua, yoga classes take place under one of two open-air, palm-thatched roofs—one offers a view of Redonda bay, and the other is tucked back into the forest. There are several yoga retreats throughout the year, or guests can sign-up for a rotating roster of daily classes (vinyasa, restorative, beach yoga) and meditation. Wellness director Chloe Porter and her team are happy to tailor a program to your needs, including scheduling nutrition consultations, health coaching, and Thai massages.
Tribal Hotel Calle Cuiscoma, Granada | 505.2552.0037
It’s worth stopping over in Granada for the night on your way back to Managua, where the majority travelers fly in and out of. (From here, it’s fifty minutes to the airport.) The town itself has plenty of old-world charms—tree-filled plazas, cobblestoned streets, a saffron cathedral, and a promenade overlooking Lake Nicaragua, the country’s biggest lake. On a quiet block in town, the seven-room, expat-run Tribal Hotel is full of global influences: white-washed walls are inspired by the oldest house in Granada, a black-and-white patterned staircase is reminiscent of fabric the owners found in Kenya. Rooms are small, but you’ll want to spend most of your time hanging around the palm-lined pool in one of the lobby’s day beds. Breakfast includes coffee, tropical fruit, and locally baked bread.
609 Calle Real Xalteva, Granada | 505.2552.4325
A coffee shop by day, the space turns into a lively restaurant at night with a menu of internationally-inflected dishes like roast vegetable lasagna, beetroot puree served with herbed yogurt and steamed Ticuantepe asparagus. Grab a seat in the back in the lush open-air courtyard or near one of the table fans to fend off the humidity. During the day, you can’t go wrong with a coffee and pastry to go. Don’t miss a walk through the back courtyard where there’s a charming selection of Nicaraguan designs—woven clutches, leather bracelets, sundresses as well as artwork by local painters—for sale.
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Set in Sedona’s Boynton Canyon on what many consider to be sacred energy vortexes (everything here is executed with deep reverence and respect for the Native American cultures that first called it home), Mii Amo was built for physical and emotional healing—in fact, it’s where GP goes for her annual girls getaway. The spa’s nineteen rooms are situated around a heated outdoor pool with stunning views of the canyon’s red rocks in every direction. Walk inside, and you’ll be greeted by an indoor pool and cozy fireplace for reading, and the spa’s Crystal Grotto, a circular space around a quartz/petrified wood centerpiece where healers perform a morning ritual to begin each day. Mii Amo sits on the same property as the larger Enchantment resort, which means you have all the private intimacy of a small spa with the resources of a larger complex, like guides for exploring the canyon itself. Management encourages guests to go everywhere, including the fresh juice bar and health-minded restaurant, in their robes (part of what makes this the ultimate girls trip), so all you’ll need to pack are hiking boots, lounge pants, and an outfit for the plane.
Four-hand massage is becoming a signature at many spas nowadays, but the Abhyanga style, which is based in Ayurvedic wisdom, is much harder to come by. Two therapists work together to remove toxins from the body at the cellular level, and finish the treatment with the ancient Ayurvedic practice of pouring oil on your forehead to stimulate the pituitary gland.
Sedona’s striking red clay is a signature of the area’s landscape, but it also has detoxifying and anti-inflammatory properties. After a light exfoliating scrub and wrap (which also includes cacao for softening), therapists will apply oils infused with some of the area’s aromatic native herbs—sage and juniper are particularly potent—as part of a deep, detoxifying massage. We recommend requesting this treatment during the day, and requesting one of their many rooms with a view of the canyon.
The Great Outdoors
Many of Sedona’s winding mountain bike trails make their way along the valley floor, which is perfect for beginners, as they’re fun and challenging without feeling too dangerous. It’s a surprisingly fun outing for a small group of friends—ask for George, who’s an excellent coach and very knowledgeable about the area’s natural features.
With the aid of a pair of binoculars, you’ll be able to see the ruins of cliff dwellings that belonged to members of the Sinagua Tribe, which inhabited Boynton Canyon more than 3,000 years ago. You can hike any of Sedona’s well-marked trails on your own, but it’s worth bringing a guide for this particular outing, as everyone on site has plenty of knowledge to share about the geography and the history of the Sinagua and other tribes who inhabited the valley.
Mii Amo periodically hosts retreats and workshops on site for deeper emotional work, or simply a more thorough dive into a specific therapy, like feng shui or yoga. As treatments are primarily solo endeavors, retreats make for a nice way to experience the magic of Mii Amo with friends—and if you’re on your own, you’ll certainly make friends, as participants tend to get close over the course of their week together. All the therapists (both home-grown and guests) here are great, but we’re particularly fond of Gita Wagner; she’s an on-site life coach and therapist with the kindest presence and a knack for getting right to the heart of issues.
If you’ve never had a Tarot reading before, it can actually be a very therapeutic experience—there’s something about attuning yourself to the more subtle forces in your life that’s calming, and connects you more deeply with your intuition. Try to schedule one for the end of your trip, as it’s also a great way to strategize about bringing the state of calm you’ve created at Mii Amo back into your normal life. We highly recommend Mary Ranjana, who also does really good astronomy readings.
You could certainly spend your entire stay without ever leaving the property, but if you do find yourself with cabin fever, the sweet town of Sedona is a great escape. Reserve an hour or two to wander around the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, where you’ll find plenty of crystals, turquoise, woven rugs, and other quirky takeaways.
L’Auberge de Sedona is another stunning Sedona property, and while Mii Amo is outfitted with a great health-centric restaurant (menus change nightly so you don’t get bored) and a recently installed fresh juice bar, it’s always fun to explore the surrounding area. Cress is situated right along the creekbed, with a prix-fixe menu and an excellent wine list.
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