Active Travel

Nothing manmade can rival Mother Nature at her finest, and this summer is a fabulous time to visit the country’s most gorgeous natural wonders. Whether you’re planning a cross-country road trip or a quick weekend getaway, our home states are themselves home to some pretty breathtaking sights that are worth a visit. From Yosemite National Park in California to Hawaii’s vast natural glory, these nine spots are the most beautiful natural wonders in the U.S. — and arguably, in the world. Oh, and of course, we give you great hotel recommendations nearby for each (and many actually boast views of our top Mother Nature picks).

Haleakala National Park

1. Haleakala National Park, Maui

Considered a sacred spot by many locals, Haleakala National Park is Maui’s most-visited attraction, bringing in 1.3 million visitors annually. Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano, literally means “House of the Sun,” a fitting name considering the spectacular sunrises that can be viewed from the summit.

Where to Stay: The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas

Not your typical time-share, this multifaceted Kaanapali resort features amenities that rival the area’s mid- to high-end hotel chains — fitness center, kids’ club – along with massive, stylish units and an atmosphere heavily geared to families.

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Finally, the temperatures across the states — and around the world — have begun to rise and it’s got us itching to get out in the great outdoors. While exploring completely unchartered territory can be quite the adventure (sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a not-so-good way), we’re the types who prefer resort camping grounds; the tent is already assembled, the amenities are plentiful, and staff is on hand should you need some assistance — way better than having to ask the creepy guy in the neighboring tent, in our opinion. Here are our five favorite resorts for camping this spring and summer.

El Capitan

1. El Capitan Canyon, Santa Barbara

Twenty miles north of Santa Barbara, situated on 300 acres of canyon wilderness, El Capitan Canyon offers a camping, or “glamping,” experience with enough modern conveniences to satisfy travelers who would rather just semi-rough it. Guests stay in cabins, tents, or yurts; only cabins have en-suite bathrooms. All accommodations have electricity and wooden floors. El Capitan Canyon provides the fun and adventure of camping but with many of the comforts of a hotel.

 

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It’s officially slugger season and the Oyster gang can’t wait to check out a game. Although we may be divided between the Yanks and the Mets here in NYC, one thing we all can agree on is that there’s nothing quite like a spring day at the ballpark. And we’re sure that from coast to coast, other ball fans are donning their jerseys and prepping their gloves for some fly ball action at their own home stadiums. But which cities are the best for ballplayers and fans alike? Where are the fans most loyal, and the stadium just right? Now granted, this is a question that could illicit more fights than the upcoming Dodgers versus Giants showdown in October. But we’re brave enough to give it a go… Here are Oyster’s eight favorite cities for baseball, as well as the MVP hotels nearby. Batter up!

1. St. Louis 

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If there ever was an ideal baseball city, St. Louis would be it. It’s not just that the Cardinals’ fans are fantastic, or that they consistently sell out their stadium to cheer on the home team. It’s not just that the team itself — 2013′s World Series runner-up — is consistently one of the best in the league. And it’s not just that Busch Stadium III is one of the most gorgeous around, or that management in St. Louis is superb. It’s all those things rolled into one big baseball diamond.

Stay: Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark

Not just any hotel in St. Louis can get away with using the word “Ballpark” in the name, but the Hilton — with its unmatched view of Busch Stadium — rightfully claims the moniker. Plus, the trendy rooftop bar boasts 360-degree views, ideal for game nights.

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With the arrival of warm(er) weather, the Great Outdoors have officially begun beckoning and we here at Oyster can’t wait to pack up some supplies and make for the trail head. The United States offers some of the most varied and stunningly gorgeous terrains in the world that make the perfect backdrop for a back-to-nature hike, whether you’re looking for a one-day jaunt or hoping to make a vacation out of the entire experience. No matter your ideal trail or fitness level, we’ve got you covered coast-to-coast with the best trails for an awesome hiking adventure. We’ve even included one spot you’ll have to cross the Pacific to get to! Break out the rucksack and dig up your hiking boots, because here are nine of the best hikes in the United States… as well as the best hotels nearby for each.

1. Kalalau Trail, Kauai, HI 

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Gorgeous trails snake along Kauai’s stunning coast, and the Kalalua Trail is one of the most stunning, with beautiful sweeping vistas from atop the cliffs. Visitors can choose to hike a portion of the trail for a day excursion, or make an extended trip out of it: The entire trail is about 22 miles and can take three to five days to traverse. It’s often regarded as one of the finest — and most varied — coastal trails in the world, with challenging, muddy slopes and steamy tropical temperatures. Hikers can explore Kalalua Valley, home to enchanting waterfalls and lush foliage, or choose to rest up on the beach.

Stay: Hanalei Colony Resort

No TVs or phones here; instead, you get rare oceanfront views and easy access to hiking along the (practically adjacent) Na Pali Coast. The pool is small, housekeeping only comes every third day, and there’s little on offer  at the free breakfast aside from bagels. But the 48 two-bedroom condos with full kitchens are worth the downsized features. Read More »

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For those who crave that electrifying rush of adrenaline, a week of lying on the sand is not an ideal vacation. Beachside rest and relaxation can do wonders for some, but others find their R&R with a solid jolt to the nervous system; cue the adventure-vacation combination! Whether you’re surfing waves, chasing storms, or heli-skiing mountaintops, these eleven destinations all hold the promise of a heart-pounding getaway. Ready? Set? GO!

1. Surfing Pipeline, Oahu

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Adventure seekers have been visiting the Hawaiian islands for centuries. The state’s rugged, lava-formed terrain offers challenging — and stunningly beautiful — hikes and climbs, and the volcanoes themselves present unique thrills. But, of course, the main pulse-racing draw is surfing the menacing waves and rip curls that crash against the islands’ shores. The biggest and baddest waves roll in off of a reef break on the North Shore of Oahu at Banzai Pipeline. Many surfers have made a name for themselves at this spot, which is also home to some of the most intense surfing competitions in the world, including Pipe Masters. Adrenaline seekers who know their way around a wave — and are serious swimmers — can’t miss a trip here.

Stay: Turtle Bay Resort

This 448-unit resort on the scenic, isolated North Shore — just minutes from Banzai Pipeline — features an unbeatable array of amenities. There are two 18-hole golf courses, a stable, helicopter rides, and five miles of shoreline.  Read More »

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“America the Beautiful” was originally a poem written in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates, who was inspired to pen the historic words after taking a memorable — and clearly, scenic — cross-country train trip from Massachusetts to Colorado. In the late 1800s, such a trip might have been grueling, but it was nonetheless considered exotic — whereas nowadays, it sometimes seems travelers aren’t impressed unless they’re crossing vast oceans and getting multiple stamps on their passports. But America is still the fair beauty of Bates’s poem, and tons of gorgeous sites and settings can be found right in our backyards. Even better, local travel is often relatively cheap and easy: There’s no currency exchange, language barrier, or passport required, and even if you do fly, flights are certainly less expensive than those to far-flung international locales. Here are six amazing sites in the U.S. that you’ve got to see. (And don’t worry. If you really must cross an ocean to feel like you’re on vacation, we have some U.S. destinations where that is a necessity as well).

Bioluminescent Bay, Puerto Rico

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If you’ve ever questioned whether the U.S. could be exotic, the Bioluminscent Bay in Puerto Rico’s Fajardo will have you properly convinced. Just a short drive from Old San Juan, this famed “Bio Bay” puts on nature’s most magnificent light show: At night, when the bay is inky black beneath the light of the moon, microscopic plankton glow turquoise as you paddle or swim through the water.

Where to Stay: El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is just about as close as you can get to the Bio Bay. Even better, this luxe resort offers some of the Caribbean’s most epic views.

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Calling all adrenaline junkies! Our hearts are in the bottoms of our stomaches just thinking about bungee jumping, but we know some of you seek out breathtaking, heart-stopping, pulse-quickening adventures on the reg. Well, if that’s what you crave, bungee jumping is just the ticket! And if you’re already game to try something terrifying, you might as well conquer the most terrifying, right?! Here are the world’s five most terrifying bungee jumps (plus, five beautiful hotels for celebrating — or sleeping — post-feat).

1. Victoria Falls Bridge, Zimbabwe

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Connecting the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Victoria Falls Bridge crosses over the second gorge of its namesake — which, as the largest waterfall in the world, is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World as well. Only the bold bungee jump from this bridge; after all, the jump plummets 364 feet over the Zambezi River, which in turn is filled with crocodiles — but the views are breathtaking…if you can keep your eyes open!

Where to Stay: Matetsi Water Lodge is located on a massive game reserve by the Zambezi River. The lodge’s 18 suites are intimate and surprisingly luxe — each suite has its own plunge pool, patio, large bathroom with separate shower and tub, and bedroom with river views.

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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

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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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Rain usually isn’t an element vacationers seek; in fact, it is often purposely avoided, whether that means picking a rain-free destination or visiting a spot during its dry season. Yet some of the rainiest destinations around the globe are also the most beautiful, and they are all the more enticing during their wet seasons when the crowds are few and the natural surroundings are lush. Here are eight spots where we’ve found the silver lining; these rainy destinations are gorgeous, and definitely deserve a visit this spring.

Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is one of the wettest destinations in Central America, but it’s thanks to the constant rain that it is also one of the most beautiful. The country is home to lush rainforests, dozens of national parks with a rich diversity of flora and fauna, and long white-sand beaches. If you visit towards the end of the spring, you’ll be traveling during Costa Rica’s rainiest season which means crowds are fewer (in fact, Costa Rica is still relatively undeveloped and uncrowded year-round compared to its Caribbean counterparts), the surroundings are uber-lush, and, also like spots in the Caribbean, rain often lets up for sunny mornings.

Where to Stay: Lapa Rios Ecolodge & Wildlife Reserve

Lapa Rios, located in the remote coastal rainforests of the Osa Peninsula, is Costa Rica’s original luxury eco lodge. This is the opposite of a Cancun-style beach resort — guests come to the upscale Lapa Rios to enjoy the spectacular surroundings, learn about sustainable tourism, and re-connect with nature.

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Hawaii attracts about seven million visitors annually and it’s no wonder; with a beautiful natural landscape, rich culture, and vast range of activities, it is one of the most diverse destinations in the U.S.  No two islands of the six-island chain are the same, and even different areas and coasts of a single island can vary drastically. This can make it difficult to choose an island for your vacation, but it also means that all kinds of travelers can find what they’re looking for — and fortunately, travel among the islands is relatively easy and stress-free. So whether you plan on island-hopping throughout your trip, or prefer to pick one island that’s best suited to your needs, our handy island guide will make planning your Hawaiian getaway a breeze.

If you want…

A little bit of everything: The Big Island big island

It makes sense that the largest island (larger, in fact, than all the other islands combined) would be the most diverse, and those who seek a well-rounded experience will love the Big Island. Between fiery volcanoes, cascading waterfalls, white-sand, black-sand, and even green-sand beaches, blossoming meadows and snow-capped mountains, the options are seemingly endless. Visitors can sunbathe and snorkel by day and stargaze from frigid mountaintops by night.

This clean, affordable condo property in Waikoloa Village on the Kohala Coast offers an uncommon level of privacy: It’s located inside a gated community and surrounded by a golf course. Ranch-inspired buildings house multi-room units, complete with full kitchens and washer/dryers, and property features include an attractive (if small) infinity pool and an open-air fitness room.

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