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Choosing between artsy Melbourne, seen here, and beach-y Sydney isn't easy.

Australia is a big country. With an extremely diverse landscape and culture, the “Down Under” offers something for every kind of traveler. But deciding where to vacation when visiting for a limited amount of time can be difficult. Even the country’s two largest cities — Sydney and Melbourne– are two very different sides of the same coin. Both offer gorgeous architecture and a boat load of culture, but where one gets top marks for an eco-friendly attitude and a hipster vibe, the other is renowned for its beaches and bold attitude.

The rivalry between the cities is legendary, dating back as far as their foundings. While Sydney was originally built with very little urban planning as a massive jail for English convicts, Melbourne was a settler’s destination, constructed as a European metropolis with a grid of streets (one point for Melbourne!). Both bustling, rough-and-tumble Sydney and up-and-coming Melbourne experienced population booms in the late 1800s, establishing themselves as the largest cities — and most bitter rivals — early on. But which is superior? The decision isn’t an easy one: Canberra was even made the country’s capital back in the day just so as not to fuel the fires between the two cities. Today, visitors have to make that choice for themselves — but with a little help from Oyster, of course. Get the lowdown on our favorite aspects of these Aussie cities and then make your decision!

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The Deluxe Pier View King Room at the Blue Sydney - A Taj Hotel

The Deluxe Pier View King Room at the Blue Sydney - A Taj Hotel

The unique Blue Sydney was originally a 1,310-foot long wharf built in 1911 on Woolloomooloo Bay on Sydney’s shores in Australia. The architecture and decor of this boutique manage to retain the hotel’s historic nature, mixing bits of the industrial warehouse look with chic, modern touches. The 100 rooms and lofts (some with marina views) have a posh, nautical style with velvet-y blue throws and wood-beamed ceilings, as well as updated amenities such as iPod docks, flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi (for a fee). On-site features include a sleek indoor pool and a modern — if cramped – fitness center with iPod connectivity. Part of the Taj Hotel chain, the Blue Sydney is certainly one of the most luxurious hotels in the city — located in a popular dining destination, near high-end restaurants and bars. The hotel’s own on-site hot spot, Water Bar, is an impressive cathedral-meets-warehouse lounge with an extensive food and cocktail menu, stylish seating, stunning high ceilings and an overall ultra-cool ambiance. But it’s location is a bit removed from major Sydney attractions, such as the Central Business District, so plan accordingly if you’re looking to check out all the sites on foot. Wanna know more? Check out more photos of the hotel after the jump or read our review now>>

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Whether you’re a total pro or a complete amateur, there’s nothing quite like the rush of surfing. And for us here at Oyster, there’s nothing quite like the rush of finding the perfect hotel either. So we’ve combined these two awesome feelings to come up with nine amazing surf destinations…and some pretty great hotels to go with ‘em.

Honolulu

Sunset-Surfing-in-Waikiki-Oahu-Hawaii

World famous Waikiki Beach is the perfect place to catch a wave. You won’t be alone, however, as this sandy stretch receives more than four millions visitors every year. Waikiki abounds with surf shops and instructors, making it easy for pros to brush up on their skills and first timers to learn the tricks of the trade.

Where to Stay: Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa

When it opened its doors in 1901, the Moana Surfrider was Waikiki’s first hotel. Now that it shares the spotlight with a multitude of others, guests will appreciate Moana’s old-world ambiance. Though the hotel is often packed with people, it sits on one of the nicest stretches of Waikiki Beach, perfect for surfers and non-surfers alike.

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We have seen some beautiful sites during our travels around the world. But don’t take our word for it (although you should; we are experts) — many of our favorite places are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which means they are “places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity and as such, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.” And there you have it — spots that make this list are absolutely stunning. To date, there are 911 sites on the list and we have seen a ton of them. But to make things a tad more manageable, we’ve parred it down to 9 sites that you’ve just got to see. And if you can make it to all 911, then by all means go for it!

1. Statue of Liberty, New York City

statue of liberty

We’re starting local — for us, at least. A beacon of hope for travelers to New York City since it was dedicated in 1886, the Statue of the Liberty is one of the most-recognized and beloved National Monuments in the United States. Visitors can walk to the top for sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline from the statue’s crown, and many visit Ellis Island at the same time to round out their historical and cultural trip.

Where to Stay: The Ritz-Carlton New York Battery Park

As expected of the luxury brand, this Ritz property boasts gorgeous rooms, top-notch service, and a long list of amenities. Some rooms feature views of the Statue of Liberty.

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King Room at the Mansion on Forsyth Park; Savannah, GA

King Room at the Mansion on Forsyth Park; Savannah, GA

1. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Autograph Collection, which owns hotels such as the beautiful Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah, has a Facebook tool that analyzes your handwriting and recommends a holiday experience based on the findings.

2. FACT OR FAKEOUT? A woman was arrested for spending the night on a couch in the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel‘s lobby.

3. FACT OR FAKEOUT? Sharon Osbourne was caught vacationing at the Esperanza Resort in Cabo San Lucas with a man that was not her husband.

4. FACT OR FAKEOUT? DoubleTree Hotels, a Hilton Hotels brand, has designed a clear vinyl hotel room complete with a bed, a bedside table, and a dresser. The company plans to open several pop-up, see-through hotels in New York, Sydney and London in 2013.

5. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The FBI raided the Helly Nahmad Gallery at The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel in New York last week as part of an investigation into unlawful gambling.

Check out the answers after the jump!

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San Francisco's Chinatown stands ready to celebrate the Spring Festival.

In just a week, Chinese New Year kicks off! And we want to give you plenty of notice so you can start planning how — and where — you’ll celebrate. Also known as the Spring Festival, this holiday consists of two weeks of feasting, lion dances, lantern lighting, and much more. After all, it is the most important holiday in the Chinese lunar calendar, so festivities necessitate indulgence. Millions of people around the world will celebrate with gorgeous decorations, rich foods, and stunning firework displays — and we here at Oyster can’t wait to get in on the action at some of our favorite Chinatowns around the globe. We’ve got you covered on where to ring in the Year of the Snake, but no matter where you choose to kick things off, Oyster wishes you a prosperous new year or, as they say in Mandarin, Gong Xi Fa Cai! Read More »

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At this point in the season we’re all more than ready for some sun and high temperatures. You only need to check your friends’ Facebook statuses to know that you’re not the only one who’s feeling a little cranky about the recent cold snap. Heading to Miami, or an island in the Caribbean, may be the easiest way to escape the winter chills. But we tend to forget that the U.S.’s winter season can be the best moment to visit tons of great destinations in the Southern Hemisphere and just above the Equator, where the sunny, warm days are in full swing and the dry season starts to kick in. Whether you’re looking to trek to the top of a volcano or discover historic sites in a big city, we’ve got the destination for you. Check out our top picks for escaping the cold, and start packing!

For the Adventurous Type: Costa Rica

The Arenal Volcano is one of the top attractions in Costa Rica, and it is still possible to see some fumaroles activity.

The Arenal Volcano is one of the top attractions in Costa Rica, and it is still possible to see some fumaroles activity.

Costa Rica can be anything from a peaceful oasis to a crowded and touristy spot depending on the time of the year and the region visited — but it’s still far less developed than most popular beach destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean. December through April is the best time to visit, as rainfall drops to a minimum, and days are long and sunny. The country is home to hundreds of diverse habitats, making it easy to enjoy beach days, eco-tourism, and outdoor adventures all in the same trip, and without having to travel long distances. The geography is infinitely varied, ranging from rugged coastlines and bustling towns to misty forests and active volcanoes.

Rico Tico Bar & Grill boasts gorgeous ocean and jungle views.

Rico Tico Bar & Grill boasts gorgeous ocean and jungle views.

A staple in the beautiful Manuel Antonio resort area, the 58-room Si Como No is carefully built into a lush hillside, which means great views and winding paths surrounded by colorful flowers and wildlife. The amenities are a main draw here: two pools, two restaurants, a spa, a movie theater, and a wildlife refuge across the street. Unplugged rooms aren’t particularly luxurious, but you’ll want to be spending your time outdoors anyways.

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Well, the time has finally come! We’re in the last stretch of humanity as we know it (according to the ancient Mayan calendar, at least), and we’re searching the globe for the best places on earth to spend our final days — or day as the case may be. We’ve visited every (habitable) continent and through our travels, we’ve found that whether you’re preparing for a traditional Biblical Apocalypse of fire and brimstone, or something a bit more on the sci-fi spectrum, there is a Doomsday destination for you somewhere on this fated planet. Take a look at our list and pick the spot where you’ll spend your last blissful moments.

 

Hit the beach before making your last offerings in Riviera Maya.

North American Destination: Riviera Maya, for an ancient Mayan offering

The small Caribbean district along the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula is undoubtedly the best place in North America to spend your last day on Earth. Riviera Maya not only boasts stunning white-sand beaches and some of the most majestic natural beauty in the world, but it is also home to the ruins of 7th century A.D. Mayans. The Mayans, of course, were the ones who predicted the 2012 end of the world (or maybe they just ran out of rock), and the area is having its share of “End of the World” celebrations to honor the culture with  ancient ceremonies.

Stay: Dreams Tulum Resort and Spa

The Tulum area of Rivieria Maya, where the Dreams is located, is the site of the walled cities of the Mayan culture, and the gateway to the ruins. The beachfront Dreams is only a five-minute drive from major ruins, where visitors can offer sacrifices or just say their prayers.

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Prost! Oktoberfest attendees cheers in Munich. Credit: Nikada/iStockPhoto

Sixteen days, over five million people, and — most importantly – seven million liters of beer: That’s Oktoberfest in Munich. What began as a wedding celebration in 1810 [Ed. note: Sounds like a fun wedding!] has grown into the world’s largest fair, attracting locals and tourists to the Bavarian city every September and October to down tasty traditional treats followed by long swigs of brew. Sound amazing? Yea, it’s pretty hard to beat. But nonetheless, it has inspired copycats all over the world, and they’re doing a pretty darn good job at keeping up. From Santiago to Hong Kong, Bavarian aficionados have hosted their own Oktoberfests for years: Some are traditional, some not so much, but they all harken back to their Munich origins in one way or another. So if you can’t make it to Germany this year, don’t fret. We have the scoop on the most wunderbar Oktoberfests across the globe — and the best hotels for sleeping off those delicious Bavarian brews. Prost! Read More »

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We all like to get loose on vacation, and sometimes that means bringing strangers back to our rooms for afterhours fun (no judgments here, folks). Though many of our steamy hotels make for great couples retreats, a few of our favorites stand out for their one-night-only perks. All of these sexy spots offer up comfy beds and free breakfast, just in case your date — what was their name again? — happens to stick around for bacon and eggs. So whether you’re in the mood for some hot and heavy tub action or a fireplace to cozy up next to — plus the grub to soak up last night’s hangover — each of these hotels offer a little something extra for your perfect one-night stand.

WANTED: A Sure Thing

Bathroom in The Two Bedroom Suite at the Tortuga Bay

  • Ideal Hunting Grounds: Tortuga Bay — Dominican Republic
  • At Tortuga Bay, it’s hard not to get laid. All suites and villas at Tortuga Bay have in-room Jacuzzis, which are converted into private love tubs each night at turndown, complete with scented rose petals and lit candles. The resort also hosts its share of weddings, where bridesmaids and drunk singles are practically begging to go home with whom — or what — ever. And if for some reason, the Jacuzzi and wedding party fall through, prostitution is in fact legal in the Dominican Republic.

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