The wedding and honeymoon destinations El Dorado Casitas Royale, on the Yucatan's Riviera Maya, and Cavallo Point, the serene, historic resort nestled under San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, are different in many ways.
An all-inclusive, adults-only property, El Dorado Casitas Royale edges a sandy beach about 45 minutes south of Cancun, Mexico. Within its manicured grounds lie thatched roofed suites with swim-up pools, beach beds enveloped by billowing linen curtains and more than a dozen designated places to marry and hold receptions, including chapels, gazebos, piers and myriad romantic sandy patches.
Cavallo Point stands on a green swath of land surrounded by Marin Headlands and bordered by San Francisco Bay's stately shores. A former military base, the resort consists of either spacious, meticulously restored 100-year-old officer residences or newly built tranquil, eco-conscious rooms with majestic vistas and bamboo ceilings. Weddings typically occur in a refurbished nondenominational chapel or on a grassy hillside with eucalyptus trees that frame views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
However different, though, these award-winning resorts share key characteristics. Both offer exceptional food, state-of-the art spas, friendly service and customizable romantic experiences rooted in their surrounding environments and cultures.
*El Dorado Casitas Royale
El Dorado Casitas Royale benefits from the adjacent presence of its sister resorts, the older El Dorado Royale and the brand-new Generations Riviera Maya. This means that Casitas retains the intimacy of a small resort while annexing the amenities of a large complex. Casitas has seven high-quality restaurants, including elegant Italian, Pan-Asian and American. The latest dining options at Generations Riviera Maya, which allows children, boast stunning decor, water views and gourmet offerings at five distinctly themed restaurants.
The Casitas spa expanded an already large menu of body, facial and beauty treatments to encompass therapies inspired by ancient customs. Temazcal, an intense multi-hour detox for the body and soul, is conducted by a Mayan shaman in honor of the fertility goddess Ixchel and within the confines of an igloo-like sweat lodge.
For the wedding day, Generations' new spa installed an entire floor devoted to bridal services. Private bridal chambers with multiple rooms and salon facilities allow beauty services, food, drink and whatever else the bride wants to come to her.
During their stay, couples can venture on one-day excursions to many Mayan ruins, local villages, lovely beaches and the famous archeological site of Chichen Itza -- all of which can be arranged on the resort grounds.
Many hotels dot the Riviera Maya shores. El Dorado Casitas Royale distinguishes itself with strong dining and a focus on memorable weddings and romance at a good value.
For more information, go to http://www.eldoradosparesorts.com/hotels/El-Dorado-Casitas-Royale.
Cavallo Point embodies the Northern California sensibility around luxury and romantic inspiration. The air, moist from its immediate proximity to San Francisco Bay, is fragrant with eucalyptus, bay laurel, rosemary and other greenery populating the hilly grounds. The hotel's location affords an up-close view of the Golden Gate Bridge unavailable anywhere else. The hotel restored the original military buildings and built its new facilities to harmonize with the natural environment, rendering the entire resort LEED-certified.
The restaurant, Murray Circle, retained its original tin ceiling and other architectural details to create an atmosphere of casual refinement. A wide veranda, outfitted with comfy chairs and settees, invites visitors outside to linger over brunch or drinks while taking in the view. The cuisine fashions mostly local, sustainable food sources into inventive creations -- for example, juniper-cured local black cod and Sausalito dungeness crab croquette.
The wedding menus, supervised by the same chef as the restaurant, also tap into local resources and purveyors. Receptions as large as 180 people can start with cocktails around the fire pit, move indoors into historic rooms or take place on the hillside Mission Blue Lawn, with the tree-framed Golden Gate view. The turn-of-the-20th-century chapel, with its indoor balcony for musicians and overhead photography, provides backup in case of inclement weather.
The spa, housed in its own new building, revolves around a large, airy lounge with fireplaces and a large, warm outdoor meditation pool fringed by trees. Its offerings range from classic massage and beauty services to hypnotherapy and energy work.
Offsite, the neighboring seaside community of Sausalito, the cultural vitality of San Francisco and the hiking trails of the surrounding Marin Headlands and nearby Mount Tamalpais are less than 20 minutes away.
Cavallo Point has few rival resorts in Northern California until you head south to Big Sur or north to Napa. Even then, no other destination nails so much of what is specific to San Francisco and Marin.
For more information, go to http://www.cavallopoint.com.