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10 Hotel Extras to Try

Hotels and resorts are now offering amazing extras, or guest enrichment programs, that include everything from fire walking and tequila making to nature preservation and holistic healing. Take a second to explore all the one-of-a-kind opportunities that await you at the world’s coolest guest enrichment programs.

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Today’s global traveller is seeking much more than just a break from the workplace while on holiday. That’s why many resorts and hotels are striving to go above and beyond to offer cool activities and adventures called “guest enrichment programs”. Here are a few areas in which the offerings are designed to enhance your stay in a more meaningful way…

(Photo credit: Shaman- Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita)

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1. Eco-Conservation and Nature Education Programs

Eco-friendly explorations and environmental give-back projects on resort property are a growing trend. Scottsdale’s Four Seasons Resort’s “Desert Preservation Hike” gives guests the opportunity to plant a cactus or native plant to ensure sustainability of their ecosystem, and Costa Rica’s Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort also has a “Plant-a-Tree” project that actor Will Smith was delighted to participate in during his stay. Since Rosewood Mayakoba’s Mexico resort is built around essential mangroves, they employ a full-time biologist to monitor and protect the environment and to enlighten visitors about their natural treasures. (Photo credit: Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort)

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2. Creature and Critter Education & Care

Florida’s Sandpearl Resort is an enthusiastic sponsor of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a local animal rescue centre where guests can meet “Winter” of the movie “A Dolphin’s Tale”. The resort also promotes marine life preservation through their Sea Life Safari Eco-Tours. Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort introduces children to wild iguana care, and Costa Rica’s Los Suenos Marriott has a unique crocodile enlightenment tour. Guests of Sarasota’s Ritz-Carlton can help ex-circus animals in need by volunteering through their programs at Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary, and guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Vero Beach can support sea turtle conservation through their “Adopt-A-Nest program“.

(Photo Credit: Clearwater Marine Aquarium)

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3. Culinary Classes & Argo-Education

Gourmet cooking classes for guests, like the professional pastry-making courses at Cusinart Resort in Anguillaare, are all the rage. At Lighthouse Bay Resort, Chef Lennox shows guests how to prepare famous Barbuda lobster the way he used to for Princess Diana and her boys. San Francisco’s Cavallo Point Lodge specializes in healthy and organic cooking instruction, and Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel invites guests to harvest black tea on their property. At Zoëtry Aqua Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, guests are treated to “The Chocolate Tour” highlighting the workings of a local cocoa plantation.

(Photo credit: Lighthouse Bay Resort)

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4. Cultural Immersions

Ancient customs are showcased at New Mexico’s Hyatt Regency Tamaya that offers authentic Native American cultural programs like bread baking in outdoor “Hurunas” (ovens), clay pottery classes, adobe brick making, jewellery creation, gourd painting and other time-honoured traditions of the Tamaya Indians. In Kyoto’s Hoshinoya hotel you can learn Zen meditation, tea ceremony etiquette, incense making and other Asian arts, while Hawaii’s Halekulani Hotel has many programs highlighting local arts and culture. Or if you want to learn the local lingo, Orient Express hotels around the world offer complimentary lessons in Portuguese, Italian, or Spanish, depending on the location.

(Photo credit: Hyatt Regency Tamaya)

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5. Wine, Spirit and Libation Lessons

Education on wine appreciation is also offered by many hotels, but Lisbon’s L’AND Vineyards Resort offers guests the opportunity to produce their own wine with its own distinct packaging and label. Many spots, like San Francisco’s Hotel Adagio, offer mixology classes to teach guests how to make creative cocktails. And in México, tequila appreciation classes are really trending, with CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort offering their own certified “Tequila Experto” and signature spirits, grown from on-site agave azul.

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6. Spiritual Cleansing & Holistic Enlightenment

Some resorts are revisiting ancient ways of focusing on spiritual growth and holistic health. Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya offers the Mayan ritual of “temazcal”, a ceremony conducted by a traditional shaman designed to harmonize the natural balance of body, mind and spirit. Scottsdale’s Boulders Resort has Native American spiritual journeys conducted by a “shamanic ceremonialist” trained in the “Twisted Hair Medicine Path”, and they also offer “Energy Field Balancing” and “Astrological Soul Readings”. And St. Martin’s Radisson Blu provides guests with instruction in the natural healing art of reflexology massage.

(Photo credit: Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya)

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7. Community Outreach Opportunities

Giving back to host communities is another popular trend. Sandals Resorts have begun “Reading Road Trip” programs encouraging guests to help increase literacy levels of school children throughout the Caribbean, and Grace Bay Resorts has an Adopt-a-School Program in the Caicos Islands. All Ritz-Carlton hotels now have their own individual “Give Back Getaway” programs and also offer a new VolunTeaming opportunity of half- and full-day projects to help local causes through the community. Guests of Hilton’s Homewood Suites are invited to donate their HHonors member reward points as cash donations to the National Coalition for the Homeless.

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8. Astronomy, Photography, & Art Instruction

Star gazing with professional astronomers is a popular pastime at many hotels, especially where night skies are unfettered by city lights, such as The Coast Fraser Tower in Yellowknife, which boasts the most powerful telescope in the North West Territories. Many of Bonaire’s scuba dive-centered resorts, such as Divi Flamingo, offer classes in underwater photography, and The Inn and Spa at Loretto offers art appreciation and painting programs during the annual March arts festival in Sante Fe.

(Photo credit: The Coast Fraser Tower)

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9. Fitness and Workout Assistance

Modern, well-equipped fitness centres, yoga and Pilates classes and even on-site personal trainers are becoming commonplace, but some hotels go that extra mile to make working out while away easier than ever. Dedicated “fitness concierges” are on hand as part of Hyatt’s “Stay Fit” programs, while Sheraton Hotels provide guests with a complimentary “Gym-in-a-Bag” with everything needed for an in-room workout. And Hilton’s Home2 hotels encourage guests to work out while doing laundry via their cool combo-purpose room called “The SpinCycle”.
(Photo credit: Hilton Home2 Suites)

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10. Offbeat Offerings & Extras

Some guest enrichment programs are really offbeat, like the fire walking instruction at Ithaca’s La Tourelle Resort, or the free ukulele lessons offered at many of Hawaii’s hotels. Club Med Punta Cana  has trapeze and circus schools for guests, and Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas provides striptease instruction. Sorrel River Ranch includes horse whispering in their equestrian programs, and Colorado’s Estes Park Center teaches important outdoor survival skills for those seeking to explore the wild mountain regions on their own.

(Photo Credit: Reynolds/Ithaca CVB)