Visit Charleston at any time of the year, and you will be treated to a bounty of unforgettable dishes. Countless new restaurants are helmed by a generation of innovative chefs, while families are keeping local institutions going strong through the generations. Travelers serious about experiencing a destination through its foods and flavors, however, should consider timing their visit to coincide with the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival at the end of January.
We designed an itinerary with the oyster festival as its focus, but it includes other opportunities to explore the city’s exciting food scene. During your stay you’ll meet local suppliers, artisanal producers, and leading chefs—and taste their creations.
Lowcountry Oyster Festival
Each year, in Late January, the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival takes place at Boone Hall Plantation. It features shucking contests and oyster-eating competitions, as well as live musical performances and a food court where leading Charleston restaurants serve samples of their signature dishes.
Arrive in Charleston
Hand picked Havens
Your base in Charleston will be one of two new hotels, theGrand Bohemian Hotel or The Spectator Hotel.
The Grand Bohemian Hotel, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, is on Wentworth, just off of King Street. The 50-room hotel eschews the four-poster beds and vintage furniture found at many Charleston properties in favor of a bright, colorful, and dramatic decor. It has its own art gallery, and Eleve, a restaurant serving contemporary American cuisine with views of the skyline.
Two blocks away, the Spectator Hotel is another notable newcomer. The interiors are inspired by 1920s style, and rooms have private patios with views of the French Quarter—one of Charleston’s oldest neighborhoods—or the steeple of the historic St Philip’s Church.
Your first taste of Charleston comes courtesy of Poogan’s Porch, the city's oldest independent restaurant. While it is located in a Victorian house, the interpretations of classic Southern dishes are decidedly contemporary. It’s only a 10-minute walk down Meeting Street from the Grand Bohemian to Poogan’s Porch, yet we recommend dropping into some of the stores along the way.
After your meal, set out to explore historic Charleston. It’s about a mile and a half from White Point Garden, at the tip of the peninsula, to Marion Square, near the northern end of historic Charleston, making the area ideal for leisurely strolling. But if you would prefer a carriage or rickshaw tour or a bicycle rental, we can arrange it. (Also, if you are staying at the Spectator, the hotel provides complimentary use of their bicycles.)
Return to the Grand Bohemian for a personal wine-blending seminar. Even serious oenophiles will learn some new aspects of wine appreciation from the hotel’s sommeliers and you will end the 90-minute session with a bottle containing your own personal blend.
Tonight you will dine at Hall’s Chophouse on King Street. The restaurant has all you would hope for from an old-school steakhouse, starting with the clubby feel, paneled walls hung with vintage prints, and comfortable leather seats. The steaks are flown in from Chicago, while the she-crab soup and shrimp & grits on the menu are reminders you are in Charleston.
A Chef's Tour of Charleston
Start your day with the Chefs’ Kitchen Tour with Culinary Tours Of Charleston. You’ll go behind the scenes, and into the kitchens, with some of the chefs who have led the city’s culinary renaissance. On this three-hour tour, you’ll walk and dine—learning from top chefs as you eat your way through town, ending with artisanal pastries and coffee.
After a morning of grazing, you’ll be able to wait till later in the day to eat again. Head over to the Charleston City Market after your tour, where you can shop for both gourmet and craft gifts, including sweetgrass baskets. You can also stop into some of Charleston’s many historic churches as you explore the neighborhood.
In the late afternoon, head to Virginia’s on King for a southern supper. You’ll eat your fill of popular South Carolina dishes: boiled peanuts, tomato pie, chicken and dumplings, and crab cakes.
Lowcountry Oyster Festival
Today you’ll head out to Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, roughly 20 minutes by car from your hotel, for the highlight of your trip, the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival. This estate counts 738 acres and was founded in 1681 as a cotton plantation. You’ll have a chance to explore the house and grounds before joining the festival fun, showcasing oysters from South Carolina and Virginia along with live musical performances all day. Gloves and shucking knives are given away at the event, and you’ll soon get the hang of shucking oysters with the help of friendly, knowledgeable locals. Vendors sell local and imported beers and wines, and there are also a number of food trucks serving dishes besides oysters.
Depart from Charleston
Have breakfast at your hotel or fit in a stop at Hominy Grill, one of Charleston’s go-to breakfast spots, before heading to the airport for your flight back home.
NORTHERN BAJA+GUADALUPE VALLEY, MEXICO
Baja California Dreaming
The northern part of Baja California has a unique combination of appeals: stunning desert landscapes, an emerging wine region producing award-winning cabernet sauvignons and shirazes, and pristine beaches both on the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. Add in opportunities to explore the area’s exciting restaurant scene and learn about the indigenous peoples of the region, and the result is a fascinating destination for a Mexican vacation that’s just over the border from San Diego and yet feels worlds apart.
We’ve created an itinerary that covers all the highlights of Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe. It’s perfect for the travelling gourmet who also wants to explore the natural beauty of this part of Mexico.
Hand picked HavenEl Cielo Winery & Resort. The expansive winery boasts 56 suites, 20 villas and two 2,800 sq ft Presidential Villas with wraparound terraces, wine refrigerators and private fire pits. Their restaurant Latitud 32 pairs local wines paired by their on-site oenologist with Baja Yucatan fusion plates like grilled octopus, truffle potatoes, pork belly tacos with mole negro.
A Master Class in Wine
We’ve arranged for a private wine tour of the Valle de Guadalupe, where you’ll begin at the wine museum and then have opportunities to meet some of the winemakers who have made the valley famous for its distinctive varieties. It’s a spirited tour of one of the world’s most surprising wine regions.
Travel to Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe
Fly to Tijuana where you will pick up a rental car and drive to the nearby Valle de Guadalupe. (Alternatively, the drive from San Diego takes about two hours.) If you take the coastal route, you'll pass through the seaside town of Ensenada. Long a popular port for visitors to Mexico, the waterfront is lined with hotels and cantinas that have been operating for more than a century. Fuel up at the most acclaimed of the city’s ceviche stands, La Guerrense, with fish pulled straight from the sea.
Afterwards continue on to the Valle de Guadalupe, roughly 45 minutes to the north of Ensenada. A celebrated destination for wine and olive oil, it entrances visitors with a desert landscape, rolling hills, and blue skies. Your base for the next two nights will be the six-room Villa de Valle Hotel, which has its own vineyard. Next door, at one of the area’s best restaurants, Corazon de Tierra, Chef Diego Hernandez Baquedano creates dishes that take advantage of ingredients at their peak of ripeness. From perfectly balanced vegetable broths with local seafood to fennel ice cream, the restaurant’s menu is full of inspired surprises.
Surfing and Microbrews
You’ll spend the morning surfing on some of the best beaches in what has been called "the birthplace of surfing in Mexico," namely, San Miguel or Punta San Jose, 29 miles south of Ensenada. After facing off against the waves, return to Ensenada for lunch at Cocedora de Langosta, Here, the owner/chef David González Nishikawa serves fish dishes using the freshest fish and shellfish sold at the city’s and region’s markets.
In the afternoon, we've arranged a tour of craft breweries, like the Old Mission Brewery and Wendlandt Cervecería. Pale ales, heavier stouts, and fruitier Belgian-style brews are created at the state’s 80-some microbreweries but only a few of them export to the United States—you have to come to Baja to try them.
At the end of the day, you’ll return to the Valle de Guadalupe for a dinner with a vineyard view at Finca Altozano or Deckman’s.
A Private Wine Tour
Today you’ll delve into the valley’s wine scene starting with a private tour of the Museo de la Vid y el Vino (the Museum of the Vine and Wine). The exhibits at the museum cover the history of winemaking in the region, beginning with the first vines planted by Spanish missionaries here. The distinct features of this area’s terroir are explained, as well as the varieties of wines and blends that are characteristic of the Valle de Guadalupe.
After you have a background on the area’s wines, you’ll continue on to Mogor Badán and tour their farm market, gardens, and cellars. The winery has the distinction of being one of the few in Mexico to produce chasselas, wine made using a rare sparkling variety from Switzerland. Your next stop on your wine tour will be the Viñas de Garza, where the owner Armando Garza will lead you on a private tour followed by a wine tasting. You’ll end your excursion with a long multi-course lunch at Laja in a rustic barn and owned by Chef Jair Téllez, one of Mexico’s most acclaimed chefs.
After your meal, a short drive will bring you to Adobe Guadalupe, a six-room bed and breakfast located in a hacienda surrounded by 60 acres of vines. If you’re interested in sampling some more wines, the owners will be happy to pour you samples from their bottles—or pour a glass, and head to the Jacuzzi to savor the sunset.
A Hike in the Hills
On your fourth day, a guide will meet at your hotel in the morning for a hiking excursion in the mountains around the Valley of Guadalupe. You’ll soon learn that the desert here is surprisingly fertile—if you stop to take a closer look at native species like the chaparral broom bush and the yucca plants that are abundant here.
Your guide will also provide an introduction to the culture of the Kumeyaay Indians, who have lived in northern Baja California and the area around San Diego in the United States for thousands of years. You will return to the Adobe Guadalupe late in the day, and then we'll provide recommendations for dinner at one of Guadalupe’s restaurants based on your tastes.
After a hearty breakfast of huevos rancheros, you’ll head out today on a horseback ride through the desert. Arrangements will be made based on your skill level. Even if you have never ridden a horse before our outfitter will provide a horse happy to trot along at a leisurely pace. Your ride will end at a food truck in the middle of the desert, where you meal will be paired with local wine.
In the afternoon you will continue on to your hotel for the night, El Cielo Winery & Resort. You may recognize this hotel from its many appearances in design, fashion, and travel magazines. It consists of a number of freestanding “eco-lofts” and “eco-villas” overlooking the valley below. Enjoy dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Origen, before returning to your room under a sky blazing with stars.
Depart for Home, or Your Next Adventure
It’s time, unfortunately, to depart from Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe, and this morning you will head back to Tijuana to return your car and fly home. Unless we've convinced you to continue exploring Mexico and you are headed on to Cabos, La Paz, or any of the other cities near the Baja Peninsula.
A Culinary Adventure in Bermuda
Bermuda is a tropical island paradise known for its decidedly British flair, island spirit and divine pink sand beaches. However, what many people don’t realize is that Bermuda offers an impressive food culture, and share in this culinary custom trip, exactly where you should dine. This itinerary is specially designed to whet your appetite. By day you explore the island, perusing museums and art galleries, hiking secluded shores and calling “fore” on famous golf courses. And afterwards, you sample the finest meals Bermuda has to offer, from local specialties like spiny lobster and mussel pie to chefs who are masters at preparing dishes from around the world.
Hand Picked Haven: Rosewood Bermuda
A 240 acre waterfront gem overlooking Castle Harbour, Harrington Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Only 88 renovated rooms show their cottage style architecture, plantation shutters and modern interiors. Dining options about here at steakhouse Island Brasserie, Suv Verde Italian outpost, Tucker’s Bar, Conservatory Bar & Lounge, Spa & Poolside dining and the alfresco Beach Club Restaurant.
Gibb's Hill Lighthouse. Climb the 185 steps in the Gibb's Hill Lighthouse to building up an appetite before a meal at the recently renovated Dining Room, featuring dishes from around the world.
Island Views and Bermudian Flavors
You fly into Bermuda and get whisked away to the elegant Rosewood Tucker's Point. Relish the scene from your veranda before heading to Hamilton for your first culinary experience in Bermuda at Tribe Road Kitchen. This popular gastropub has a long menu of tasty burgers and sandwiches—fuel to explore the island, including a climb up the 185 steps to the top of Gibb's Hill Lighthouse. One of the world's first cast-iron lighthouses, it has panoramic views of all of Bermuda. After returning to your hotel for a rest, leave time to explore more of Hamilton before heading to dinner at Ascot's Restaurant, noted for its award-winning continental cuisine, such as the signature Barbary duck.
18-Hole Courses and 10-Course Meals
Start the day with your preferred tee-time at Tucker's Point Golf Club. The Charles Bank-designed course boasts 18 holes with spectacular sea views. After you have finished your round, spend the afternoon by the Rosewood Tucker's Point pool, resting up for the exquisite Point 360: The Murals Experience at the hotel's The Point restaurant. Inspired by the Pan Am Sky Club murals on display at the restaurant, Chef Gerry Adams will take you on a 10-course culinary journey around the world, from cumin-spiced lamb evoking the bazaars of Beirut, to five-spice scallops that transport you to the street markets of Hong Kong. Bermuda is represented, of course, by rockfish with peas and rice.
Museums and Maki Rolls
The culture of Bermuda is on display at the island's myriad museums. At The Bermuda National Gallery, you can explore exhibits that include art and artifacts spanning more than three centuries of Bermuda's history. At The Keep, the imposing fortress adjacent to the Royal Navy Dockyard, The National Museum of Bermuda showcases Bermuda's history as a British military outpost, while The Verdmont Historic House Museum offers the chance to explore one of the island's best preserved 17th-century mansions. For dinner, you dine al fresco on the terrace at Harley's Restaurant, overlooking Hamilton Harbour as you enjoy indulgent fare like sushi rolls featuring fresh-caught fish and truffle-crusted filet mignon.
Bird Watching and Spa Pampering
Spend the morning hiking the cliffside trail of South Shore Park, with picturesque views and fantastic birdwatching as longtails ride the updrafts. We can also arrange a unique Bermuda experience—catch and cook with a local fisherman, who will teach you how to prepare your catch and cook it on the spot. Reward yourself with an afternoon at Rosewood Tucker Point’s Sense Spa. The 12,000 square foot retreat’s The Bermuda Triangle is a trio of treatments: restorative rain-splash therapy, a massage with locally sourced aloe, and a citrus facial. Revitalized, celebrate your last night at the historic Tom Moore’s Tavern, with local specialties like fish chowder with black rum and sherry pepper.