In The Reluctant Traveler with Eugene Levy, which is newly streaming on Apple TV+, the award-winning actor and comedian cautiously hesitates when faced with out-of-his-comfort-zone travel challenges. Yet, while Levy, whose acclaimed (2015-2020) sitcom Schitt’s Creek, co-created with son actor Dan Levy, pivoted around the fictional quirky Rosebud Motel, Levy readily embraces The Reluctant Traveler’s eight luxurious, distinctive hotels (see below). Read, too, my interview: Actor Eugene Levy On Going from Schitt’s Creek to The Reluctant Traveler. For additional travel ideas about things to do, eat and see at these destinations, go to Apple Maps’ “I Just Love” by Eugene Levy.
Rovaniemi, Finland: Arctic Treehouse Hotel
In Finland, cozied on the Arctic Circle, 500 miles north of its capital city Helsinki, the cool Arctic TreeHouse Hotel provides warm amenities — from steamy saunas to hot cinnamon-and-clove-infused glogg (mulled wine) sipped near a welcoming lobby fireplace. Featured in The Reluctant Traveler’s Episode 1, this enchanting hideaway, tucked near the city of Rovaniemi, is fringed by woodland, wildlife and wide-open sky — a breathtaking backdrop to glimpse the ethereal green-ribbon dances of the Aurora Borealis. The property feels like a snow-kissed fairytale.
Imaginatively, the reception building is shaped like a five-pointed snowflake. Its RAKAS (meaning beloved) Restaurant & Bar highlights Scandinavian ingredients and flavors, such as cold-smoked salmon tartare, smoked-sliced moose with lingonberry mayo and roasted reindeer filet with Lappish potato pyre and fried cèpes.
Lap up Lapland’s lively diversions, such as wilderness sled and sledge rides pulled by snowmobiles, reindeers or husky dogs; toboggan slides; snow-shoeing hikes; wool-sock nature walks; kick and fat bike outings; and ice water floats (while wearing buoyant brrr-thwarting wetsuits). About his splashy jump into a frigid lake, Levy told me: “I hit the water and my first reaction was gleeful laughing. It felt so good. And that shocked me.” Afterward, recharge at the Syvä Wellness Nest for a rejuvenating facial treatment and soothing massage.
La Fortuna, Costa Rica: Nayara Tented Camp
Perched on a clifftop, Nayara Tented Camp in La Fortuna is a verdant wonderland. In Costa Rica, residents proudly talk about the country’s pura vida (pure life) — a heartfelt mindset to appreciate simple contentment. This joyful spirit is woven into the tapestry of the Nayara company purview. Featured in The Reluctant Traveler’s Episode 2, this sustainable, socially responsible, conservation-committed eco-sanctuary nurtures community life.
Its glam canvas-tented guest rooms, which are positioned for prime vistas of rainforest canopy and famous Arenal Volcano, unveil deluxe niceties: clawfoot bathtubs, outdoor double showers (one of my favorite travel indulgences) and terraces replete with hammocks and hot spring-fed plunge pools. Cheer its cocktail and wine bars, as well as the range of restaurants at the nearby sister properties of adults-only Nayara Springs (with Amor Loco, a Relais & Chateaux restaurant) and Nayara Gardens. Choose among casual and fancy palate pleasers: tapas bar, northern Italian bistro, Asian-Latin-American fusion eatery and a fine-dining salute to Mediterranean dishes dashed with Middle Eastern flair.
In an outdoor pavilion: complimentary daily yoga class. Open to the air, too, is its enticing full-service spa, enveloped in rain forest. Massages, scrubs and wraps implement local organic coffee beans, volcanic mud and chocolate clay made from organic cocoa beans to attain skin-smoothing results. Naturalists guide guests along trails blooming with plants, trees and flowers, as well as through jungle, on dry lava fields and across hanging bridges. Spy frogs, howler monkeys, hummingbirds, parrots and sloths. Revel, too, in more sportive jaunts, such as volcano hiking, horseback-riding, zip-lining, rappelling down waterfalls, fishing and white-water river rafting. “I have an incredible fear of heights,” Levy told me. “Yet I forced myself to…walk on a suspension bridge 180 feet above a rainforest…. This show has, of course, coaxed me to try things that I would have never tried. I am very glad that the opportunity came to do this. Because I would have gone my entire life without having done it and never truly known what I missed.”
Venice, Italy: The Gritti Palace
Iconic and prestigious, The Gritti Palace, a 16th-century palazzo that once housed nobility, is a fantastical hotel — meticulously embellished and celebrity-flocked. Featured in The Reluctant Traveler’s Episode 3, this Grand Dame has repeatedly refreshed itself, fine-tuning exacting service and updating its interior with sumptuous fabrics, custom-made furnishings, rare antiques, Murano glass chandeliers and modern conveniences. It is a delicious deep dive to allow yourself to fall under the spell of its swirl of art and culture.
Its culinary team excels. “I do love Italian food,” Levy told me. Kickstart your day with an Italian espresso and pastries. Al fresco Gritti Terrace (weather permitting), which overlooks the Grand Canal and parades of gondolas, is a lovely lunch and afternoon tea setting. For an elegant meal, select Club del Doge Restaurant, which upholds the best of Venetian cuisine, stirring buzz into seafood, pasta, risotto dishes and more. Extend the evening at Riva Lounge with its appealing cocktails. Savor a classic Bellini cocktail to toast the va-va-Venetian vibe. And eye Bar Longhi’s martini cart. The Gritti Epicurean School orchestrates hands-on cooking classes and wine-tastings.
The Gritti SPA-Sisley Paris specializes in phytoaromatic treatments and lists a range of massages, facials, mani-pedis, foot-baths and makeup makeovers. For a singular thrill, book the Riva Yacht Experience, in which Gritti’s own sleekly handsome Il Doge, an Aquariva speedboat, is commandeered for personal sightseeing through Venice’s northern and southern lagoons. There are four set-tailored itineraries or an individual rendezvous can be plotted. La dolce vita!
Canyon Point, Utah: Amangiri
The positive energy of Utah’s Red Rock Country is evident at the 600-acre remote Amangiri resort in Canyon Point. Featured in The Reluctant Traveler’s Episode 4, this all-inclusive hotel by sophisticated Aman Resorts is architecturally synergistic: clean-line concrete buildings and minimalistic aesthetic visually blend with desert landscapes that extend over canyons, gorges and mesas. Spacious, well-appointed suites — some with sunroofs, outdoor lounges and private pools — instill calmness. Natural materials, such as white stone floors and natural timbers, are incorporated throughout.
The Amangiri Restaurant, with wood-fired oven, displays an open-plan kitchen. Its inventive menus amply satisfy. “I did have the best pancakes of my life at the Amangiri,” Levy told me. Try key crafted dishes, influenced by Navajo and Southwestern U.S. foods, that further the resort’s sense-of-place, such as elk tenderloin with pickled cactus and bison spring rolls. Private dining can also be staged at the Fireside Pavilion and other desert areas, such as the Sunset Trail and Chinle Site.
Unwind at Amangiri’s cold plunge and step pools, sauna, steam room, fitness center, as well as pavilions equipped with floatation therapy and yoga. Explore various skill-level hiking trails. For adrenaline-seekers, ride UTVs and quest after the Via Ferrata Challenge and Cave Peak Stairway. Nearby is the Navajo Nation, whose lands encompass mesmerizingly gorgeous geological slot canyons. “It was an extremely memorable and beautiful time that I had in Utah with the Navajo Nation. Meeting terrific young men. Visiting their families,” Levy told me. On an excursion, visit the vast reservoir of Lake Powell to jet-ski, kayak, stand-up paddle board or boat. Also consider a trip to extraordinary Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. Even just remaining still in order to contemplate the majesty of hundreds of pristine miles that unfurl from Amangiri can be a moving journey.
Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives: Kudadoo
Paradise found. For many far-flung globetrotters, the word paradise is synonymous with tropical island. Swaying palm trees plus turquoise sea plus white sand beaches plus secluded locale add up to an irresistible sum of pleasures. In Maldives, a nation of equatorial islands in South Asia’s Indian Ocean, Kudadoo, a petite isle (the Lhaviyani Atoll), is exquisite. Featured in The Reluctant Traveler’s Episode 5, solar-powered Kudadoo is dedicated to sustainability. An all-inclusive, Kudadoo fabulously offers unlimited treatments at Sulha Spa and all water sports. This pearl in a sea of Maldivian gems stands out.
A circular walkway loops together the over-the-water villas. Their wooden floors, furnishings and walls, as well as marble dressing rooms and stone bathrooms, are swanky — yet also imbued with the peaceful ambience of a ryokan, thanks to Japanese architect Yuji Yamazaki.
On the other side of the island is the main building, containing dining areas and other communal public rooms, where gatherings are often festive. Food options are plentiful. Chefs prepare what guests desire. The culinary team reaches out to inbound customers before their arrival, in order to plan unique menus and stock specialty ingredients. Levy, who describes himself as a “meat-and-potatoes guy,” requested a hamburger with all the fixings. It was served to him at a linen-covered table on a picture-perfect beach. His verdict? Best. Burger. Ever. Butlers look after guests, arranging meals, activities, spa treatments and sightseeing. A romantic honeymoon choice, as well as a family playscape, Kudadoo can also be ideal for a corporate retreat.
Kruger National Park, South Africa: Kruger Shalati, The Train On The Bridge
Within the approximately 5,000,000-acre Kruger National Park — one of Africa’s most important game reserves; home to the Big Five: buffalos, elephants, leopards, lions and rhinos — Kruger Shalati, The Train on The Bridge is an innovative resort built on historic Selati Bridge, a former railroad track, above the Sabie River. It is here where, almost 100 years ago, visitors to this park first traveled by train overnight to witness wildlife. Featured in The Reluctant Traveler’s Episode 6, this now stationary engineering feat — with three swimming pools, decks, dining area and bar — bestows a superlatively immersive South African adventure.
The bespoke guest rooms, inspired by 1920s rail safaris, are mostly upcycled train cars. Work by local artists and craftspeople are integral to the decor. In-room massages, reflexology and facials are available by Dee’s African Mobile Spa. All meals, afternoon tea and beverages are included, as well as two game drives daily. Toast Kruger’s spectacular beauty at sunset, when guests raise their glasses for sundown cocktails.
“I really felt an affinity for the landscape and the wildlife,” Levy told me. “It was a very touching experience — an outdoor experience that turned me around.”
Lisbon, Portugal: Verride Palácio Santa Catarina
An increasingly trendy tourism treasure, Portugal delightfully surprises. Lisbon, its coastal capital city, boasts seven storied hills, a forward foodie scene and colorful Azulejo ceramic tiles generously mounted on hundreds of sidewalks and building walls. Featured in The Reluctant Traveler’s Episode 7, Verride Palácio Santa Catarina is the former home of an 18th-century count. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World (an excellent resource for more than 500 independently run properties in 80 countries), the hotel is within walking distance of myriad attractions: museums, galleries, shops, belvederes and gardens. Meander cobblestone streets; ride trams and funiculars.
On the hotel’s top floor is chic restaurant SUBA (meaning climb up). Large windows in the pretty light-filled dining room showcase dreamy cityscapes. Masterful menus excite with both Continental and Portuguese cuisine, creatively devised and presented. The rooftop bar, with pool, has 360-degree views. Relish a glass of port wine, its grapes grown in Portugal’s picturesque Douro Valley, while regarding terracotta-topped buildings, palm trees, the Tagus River and boats galore. Saúde!
The modern au courant guest rooms are garbed in maritime shades of blue, gray and cream. Its two exceptional suites go full rococo with ornamentation from an earlier lavish era. Lisbon is a time-traveler’s friend, where yesteryear and today captivatingly mingle.
Tokyo, Japan: Hoshinoya
Within walking distance of Tokyo’s formidable yet graceful Imperial Palace, HOSHINOYA — featured in The Reluctant Traveler’s Episode 8 — is set in a black monolithic high-rise, its exterior sheathed in a lattice of leaf-like patterns. Amid the pulse of this capital city’s financial district, the hotel reveals a hushed interior heartbeat, a shelter of tranquility. There is a gentle feeling of intimacy here, as staff aim not only to fulfill guests’ requests, but also often to anticipate their wants. From the moment a guest steps through the entry door, carved from a cypress tree, which is opened and closed by a kimono-wearing greeter, personalized guest care prevails.
Dozens of details steer guests to a greater understanding of Japanese customs. Guests slip off their shoes, placing them into bamboo boxes, to walk the tatami-lined entrance hallway. Ikebana floral arrangements impress. In time-honored ryokan configuration, each guest room floor of six units is constructed with an ochanoma lounge, where seasonal teas, sake, sweets and other delicacies are served. In guest rooms, kimonos are available for use. Shoji screens veil windows. Deep bathtubs invite a lingering soak. Pillowy linens dress beds. Its accolades-earning restaurant spotlights seasonal Japanese ingredients and superb seafood procured directly from favored local farmers and fishermen. Skilled in stellar French kitchen techniques, the chef artfully constructs dishes that are memory-making.
“Tokyo was a great experience,” Levy told me. “I always thought, nah, it’s too busy. Too many people. Don’t like sushi. But going there was an eye-opener…. Quite amazing.”
On the hotel’s top two floors, a spa-like onsen is fed by saline-rich hot spring water channeled from far beneath the hotel. There are gender-segregated indoor and outdoor bathing areas. High-walled chambers surround the two open-air rooftop spaces — erected for guests’ privacy (as traditional onsen birthday-suit relaxation is encouraged) and to prompt guests’ eyes skyward toward uplifting views.