Alex Creange

Aruba, Jamaica, Ooohh we wanna take ya…to the Caribbean for $125/night. Okay, we know those aren’t the exact lyrics, but it’s true: We did some research so we could give you the deets on the best budget picks in the Caribbean this time of year. The price: $125/night. The dates: November 1st through 8th. And we’re off!

Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort, Aruba: $139/night

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Renovated in 2010, the Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort is bright and modern, if a bit plain. The lush garden setting sits alongside a nine-hole golf course and is across the street from the beach. There are three distinct dining options, free nightly entertainment at neighboring hotels, a kid’s club, and two large outdoor pools. We know it doesn’t quite make the $125/night budget, but it’s still a solid deal. And if you’re not sold, check out the Tropicana Aruba Resort & Casino for $116/night — and we’re positive you’ll be fine with the $23/night upgrade.

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techLet’s face it, the way we travel has changed — a lot. Thanks to technology, we have instant access to information – and lots of it. We no longer blindly trust a travel agent to plan our vacations anymore. Instead, we research, we study, we read, and we wait to book a hotel room until after we’ve scanned through Oyster’s honest photos and unbiased reviews, of course. And in our world of “apps,” where we can download just about anything onto our phones, studying, researching, and planning our vacations has become easier than ever. So here’s a story of a time when a lack of travel apps ruined a travel experience — and when their presence saved one.

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In our original post, we brought you from Nantucket to Kauai and everywhere in between, offering perfectly captured glimpses of our country’s most beautiful vistas. But we’d be biased if we only shared our stunning photos of the United States. So we packed our bags and headed to Europe in search of its best vantage points. Here are 13 of our favorites…

Fretheim Hotel, Norway

Norway

For travelers interested in exploring Norway’s natural wonders, there’s no better starting point than the Fretheim Hotel. Located in Flam, a popular departure point for fjord cruises, the Fretheim offers some pretty breathtaking views of its own. With its floor to ceiling windows, the Fretheim’s popular restaurant has an unobstructed view of the beautiful valley and nearby harbor.

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We here at Oyster.com don’t call ourselves travel experts for nothing — it’s because our staff has traveled the world and tested out thousands of hotels, restaurants, and activities. So today we’re bringing you an inside look at exactly how we uncover what we discover; namely, by giving almost everything a shot. Oyster writer Alex Creange gives us her first-hand account of her first-time experience with paddle boarding.

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Stand-up paddle boarding is kind of like the kale of water sports — one day no one’s ever heard of it, the next it’s the leafy green (hrrmm, aquatic activity) de rigueur. Just flip through any magazine these days and you’re bound to see a toned and tanned celebrity paddling through the waters of some exotic locale. Though the origin of stand-up paddle is not completely known, it is thought to most likely have Hawaiian or Polynesian roots. Which is why, on my recent trip to Oahu, I felt compelled to give it a try. I just had to see what this new craze was all about! Plus, looking like a celeb while commandeering the waters of the Pacific didn’t sound half bad either.

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Don’t get us wrong, we love a good mega-resort just as much as the next person. But sometimes the large crowds, all-you-can-eat buffets, and 24-hour casinos make for an overwhelming stay. When we seek quieter, more intimate getaways, we head to these cottages, inns, and bed-and-breakfasts for some R&R.

Hidden Pond, Maine

Hidden Pond

If you’ve ever dreamt of living in the wilderness, but cringe at the bare bones nature of Thoreau’s stay in Walden, then consider Hidden Pond; it’s got all the seclusion and beauty you crave, with the upscale amenities you can’t live without. Spread over 60 acres in Kennebunkport, the individually decorated bungalows and cottages are cozy, with bright pops of color and some cabin-esque touches (think Ralph Lauren meets woods). The tree house-like spa is a nice perk, as is the organic vegetable farm, and the outdoor bar and restaurant with awesome seating around a fire pit.

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Whether it’s overlooking a beach, set in the middle of a desert, across the water from a lit-up metropolis, or tucked away on a remote and picturesque hillside somewhere, there’s nothing quite like a hotel with amazing views. This is why we’ve trekked from coast to coast seeking out the best views this country has to offer (tough work, but someone’s got to do it). Here are 13 of our favorite spots with breathtaking vistas.

St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

The St. Regis Princeville is rumored to be Hawaii’s most impressive beach resort…and after our stay here, we wholeheartedly concur; the rumor is true. Situated on Kauai’s northern coast, the St. Regis overlooks stunning Hanalei Bay. Not only is it — and its view – simply gorgeous, but this hotel also has several restaurants, an incredible pool, and a lovely beach with calm waters and excellent snorkeling.

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Walk around any college campus at the beginning of a new school year, and you’ll feel the energy and excitement. (Trust us. We walk through Washington Square Park every morning on the way to our Oyster offices.) A new year brings new opportunities; it’s a fresh start and a blank slate, and particularly at the beginning of the school year, it feels like anything is possible — and it is! For all of us working here at Oyster, this optimistic attitude is something we miss about our college years. So, we put our nostalgia to good use and came up with a pretty awesome list of some pretty awesome college towns. Here are 10 college towns that’ll have you thinking about hitting the books once again.

Berkeley, California

UC Berkeley

Photo Credit: John Morgan

Welcome to Berkeley, a place with mere perfect weather that’s teeming with history and culture – and corner coffee shops. It also just so happens to be home to the oldest campus in the University of California system — you guessed it, University of California Berkeley. Whether you’re looking for gourmet vegan dining, a world-renowned theatrical performance, or serious city nightlife (hello, San Francisco), you’ll find it in Berkeley.

Where to Stay: Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf Hotel

Visitors to Berkeley might want to stay in nearby San Francisco (only 30 minutes by car) for convenience. Because of its location in a tourist-friendly neighborhood, The Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf Hotel is a great option for those exploring the area.

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For travelers on a budget, a jaunt to the Mediterranean might seem off limits. Known for its gorgeous scenery, temperate climate, sumptuous cuisine, and sky-high price tags, the area is often thought of as a playground exclusively for the rich and famous. But we believe everyone deserves a fabulous vacation and a trip to the Mediterranean is, well, fabulous! So our team of Oyster investigators has searched high and low to find hotels across the Mediterranean that are a little more wallet-friendly  than you’d expect. (We don’t expect any thanks and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves but, sure — you’re welcome). Here are 11 of our favorites.

Villaggio Colostrai, Sardinia

Villaggio Colostrai

Villaggio Colostrai is a budget traveler’s best bet in Sardinia. The hotel offers a free breakfast buffet, nightly activities for adults and children, and free parking. Rooms are pretty basic, and the hotel doesn’t offer Wi-Fi, but its manicured grounds and incredible pool, with sweeping views of the Mediterranean, will certainly make up for any shortcomings.

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An old fable tells the tale of the city mouse and the country mouse (or the city oyster and the country oyster in our case — we know, it’s a bit of a stretch). The story ends with a precautionary warning: cities are crowded, dangerous, and unsavory. But, here at Oyster, we’ve never met a city we didn’t like! Though they may be a bit busier than the countryside, cities are hubs of history, culture, and entertainment. So we suggest you leave the quiet country behind and give the city a whirl. Here are eight megacities (cities with populations of over 10 million people) we can’t get enough of.

New York

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Some call it the Big Apple, others the “City That Never Sleeps,” but no matter its name, New York is truly one of the greatest cities in the world. With a population of nearly 24 million people, New York’s magnitude may at first seem daunting, but this city’s crowds are part of its splendor. The large population is incredibly diverse, which means visitors have access to every type of restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue imaginable. Amongst innumerable, unique neighborhoods, visitors will discover iconic skyscrapers, world class museums, fantastic shopping, and all around vibrancy.

Where to Stay: Mandarin Oriental, New York

The Mandarin Oriental is located just across the street from the lively Columbus Circle. With decadent, yet sleek ,decor and sweeping views of Central Park, the Mandarin Oriental is a wise choice for guests seeking a more modern twist on classic upscale choices like The Plaza or The Pierre.

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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

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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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