FROM strolling barefoot on the sandy shores of Waikiki, to exploring medieval European castles or the exotic city of Seoul, Armed Forces Recreation Center resorts provide an array of affordable, world-class vacation opportunities for eligible guests.
The AFRCs are operated by the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command. Eligible guests include active-duty and reserve-component servicemembers, retirees, current and retired Department of Defense civilians, delayed-entry recruits and Family members.
Room rates are based on a sliding scale according to pay grade, so junior servicemembers and their Families can afford the same accommodations general officers might enjoy. The resorts have the same force protection measures found on Army garrisons, ensuring safety and security.
CAPE HENRY INN AND BEACH CLUB
THE Cape Henry Inn and Beach Club is located on Fort Story, Virginia Beach, Va., on the Chesapeake Bay"one of the most popular vacation destinations on the Eastern seaboard. Cape Henry embodies the simple joys of beach living, with views of bottleneck dolphins and awe-inspiring sunsets over the bay.
The inn offers a variety of comfortable lodging to fit all vacation styles, from luxury suites with kitchenettes and private balconies to bungalows, log cabins and cottages on the beach with bayside decks.
The inn sits on the edge of a bustling tourist area, with historic sites, nature walks, whale watching, museums, shopping and dining, all minutes away. Nearby Jamestown, established in 1607, was the first permanent English settlement in North America. The Hampton Roads area is also home to Williamsburg, where travelers can get a glimpse of colonial life.
DRAGON HILL LODGE
BY contrast, the Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul, is nestled in the heart of a thriving metropolis. The lodge, on Yongsan Garrison, is minutes from downtown Seoul’s historic landmarks, shopping districts and the beautiful Namsan National Park.
Despite its towering buildings and neon-lighted streets, Seoul preserves its historic spirit, traditions and culture. Modern coffee shops share sidewalk space with street vendors and traditional teahouses. Visitors to the city also have access to a wide range of cultural events, parades and festivals.
The Dragon Hill can also help guests arrange vacation activities ranging from unique shopping trips in the heart of Seoul to tours of ancient temples, with stops at traditional entertainment venues, ski slopes and amusement parks.
EDELWEISS LODGE AND RESORT
EDELWEISS Lodge and Resort in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, may never be called a thriving metropolis. Fifty-six miles from Munich, the resort sits at the foot of the Bavarian Alps and offers guests views of alpine vistas, Olympic-quality skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing and hiking.
The resort features intimate rooms with spectacular views from private balconies, cozy cabins and camping facilities. The staff coordinates daily activities, ranging from guided tours of historic European castles to tandem paragliding from nearby mountaintops.
The resort has an indoor pool, hot tub, spa, wellness club, massage services, casual and fine dining and a comfortable lobby with a fireplace.
John Kelmelis, a recent guest, summed up his stay: “Our military deserves the best vacation experience" and you provide it!”
HALE KOA HOTEL
FOR those who love both beaches and mountains, the Hale Koa Hotel on the pristine shores of Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, offers a 72-acre recreational oasis.
Surfing, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, hiking and golf outings can be arranged through guest services, and guests will also find easy access to tennis and racquetball courts, sand volleyball, swimming pools and spa services.
In the evenings the resort offers magic shows, local music and traditional dance exhibitions, and what some describe as the best luau on Waikiki Beach.
“I just returned from 15 months in Iraq, and this was my dream vacation. The Hale Koa exceeded all of the rave reviews I had heard about it,” wrote Shannon Holdsclaw, a Fort Huachuca, Ariz., Soldier, in a letter to the hotel. “Thank you for providing such an outstanding facility for military personnel and their Families.”
SHADES OF GREEN
Back on the mainland, the Shades of Green resort, located in the heart of the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, offers friendly hospitality and choice accommodations, and is a premiere vacation destination for Families.
Surrounded by cascading waterfalls, tropical gardens, Koi ponds, several swimming pools and two world-class golf courses, the resort also offers guests free transportation to the Disney theme parks and early admission to select resort attractions.
When guests stay at Shades of Green, the question is not, “What is there to do?” but rather, “How much can we fit into one day?”
Perhaps the most important benefit to staying at any Armed Forces Recreation Center is the fact that all guests are members of the military Family"people who serve together and share life experiences.
As one guest at the Shades of Green explained, “If it suddenly dawns on me that (my husband) is leaving in three days to go back to Iraq, and I break down in tears, I’m surrounded by people who understand, have been there and can help.”
Because the resorts are owned and operated by the U.S. military, room rates and merchandise purchased on the properties are tax exempt, an added value to the budget-conscious vacationer. The resorts also frequently offer discounts and specials.
For more information, visit www.afrcresorts.com.