Decor and Design

This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

Covered in sandy beaches, surrounded by the Aegean’s blue crystalline waters, and featuring traditional smooth white architecture against dark volcanic rock, the Cyclades are some of the most famous islands in world. With outstanding beauty and sweeping sea views from almost every angle, it’s not surprising that this gorgeous collection of Greek Isles has goddess origins. According to Greek mythology, a small set of sea nymphs infuriated Poseidon, God of the Sea, and thus promptly found themselves turned into tiny islands. While legends of Greek deities may have come and gone and changed over time, these islands remain — and as dazzling as ever. Lucky for us mere mortals, some of the hotels found here are just as stunning as the Cyclades themselves. Be them “God’s-eye-view” boutiques cut into volcanic cliffs, ultra-luxe properties nestled along the turquoise waters of the Aegean, or traditional caves boasting breathtaking architecture, these are some of the Cyclades’ most stunning hotels.

Aenaon Villas, Santorini

Aenaon Villas

This small hotel on the island of Santorini is comprised of seven luxury villas featuring fireplaces, private verandas, and high-end decor details. Elevated atop the less crowded northern curve of the area’s caldera, Aenaon Villas is set up for upscale couples searching for a private retreat (there are no children under 12 permitted — instead, there’s room service and personal butlers). Aesthetically pleasing, the hotel presents tall stone walls curving around a traditional blanched-white facade with cutout windows and archways. Dark earth tones, reminiscent of mud or clay, are painted in window and door frames and accent the stone walls.

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A hotel has “made it” when it’s honored as a Relais & Chateaux property. After all, established in 1954 in France (mais bien sur?!), this exclusive association is made up of just about 500 hotels and restaurants, combined, that introduce guests “to a deeper, truer understanding of the Art of Living.” Or, in much simpler Oyster terms, they show guests a darn good time by providing gorgeous rooms, luxurious facilities and amenities, and top-notch service. We’ve been lucky enough to have stayed in quite a few of these R&C properties (don’t get too jealous — as hotel experts, we also have to stay in spots like this), and here bring you the real creme de la creme of the best of the best.

1. Saint James Paris

St James

It makes sense to start in grand Paris, non? With a sweeping private entrance surrounded by green lawns and an impressive fountain, the upscale Saint James is a rare find in Paris — in fact, the 19th century manor is considered the only chateau-hotel in the city. It’s fitting that the hotel is located in the wealthy 16th arrondissement (and yes, valet parking is included). The 48 rooms and suites are large by Paris standards, and decorated in plush luxurious fabrics. But the common areas are more impressive — especially the black and white grand staircase on the main floor. The terrace is a beautiful spot for lunch on a nice summer day. And there’s also a small fitness center, a spa, and a gourmet restaurant. The rates here are steep, but guests who want to experience luxury in Paris (and can afford it) should give the Saint James a look.

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New York City is a one-of-a-kind town. So it only seems right that your stay in the Big Apple be one-of-a-kind as well. Forget chain hotels with cookie cutter appointments: In NYC, there is a new and exciting hotel waiting to be discovered on nearly every street corner (you just probably haven’t noticed them before). Whether you want to stay in a classic brownstone that doubles as an art gallery, or you prefer a high-design, budget-friendly hostel, New York City has it all — and Oyster has been lucky enough to have seen them all in our travels. Here are a dozen of our favorite unique hotel stays in New York City.

1. The Inn at Irving Place

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This charming, cozy inn is a hidden gem — quite literally. There is no hotel sign at all, and from the street, the two 19th-century, red-brick townhouses that make up the property could be mistaken for residential homes. And it’s this — coupled with an attention to detail and old-world charm – that sets this quaint boutique hotel apart from the rest of the city’s smaller stays. The Inn at Irving Place‘s 12 rooms have been individually decorated with period antiques and fireplaces, and feature modern amenities, such as flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and free Wi-Fi. The property lacks most of the amenities of larger hotels, including a fitness center and a full restaurant — but it does offer an elegant tea salon (the famous Lady Mendyll’s), a central location a block from Union Square, and an intimate feel that’s hard to come by in bustling New York City.  Read More »

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rooftop pool

Electra Palace Hotel Athens is a beautiful luxury property with 150 rooms in the neighborhood of Plaka. The grounds and facilities are gorgeous, featuring an outdoor garden with manicured lawns and a pavilion where guests can enjoy the free breakfast. The rooftop restaurant, pool, and surrounding deck offer stunning views of the Acropolis. The hotel has a spa with a large indoor and hot tub, as well as a fitness center. Rooms offer classical decor with crown molding, wooden floors, and area rugs. From the gold lettering and five stars crowning the hotel’s entrance to the five-tiered chandelier hanging from the lobby ceiling, Electra Palace specializes in opulent details and fabulous stays. 

See more beautiful pics of the Electra Palace after the jump >>

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During our travels we’ve stayed in the cutest, quaintest, and tiniest of hotels. And while we love the intimate and peaceful vibe that many smaller properties can offer, sometimes staying near the action just isn’t enough. We want to be in the thick of it. That way we can to go into full-on relaxation (read: lazy) vacation mode and have everything we could ever want right at our fingertips. Why should you have to jump in a car (or even worse — on a bus) just to meet a few people, see a show, or dance the night away? Luckily, these 12 massive village-style properties don’t think you should; in fact, they are hoping you won’t! Packed to the brim with communal conveniences like multiple restaurants, several pools, nightclubs, theaters, tons of activities, kids programs — even grocery stores, pharmacies, and bowling alleys — some of these places are so big they have on-site shuttles and maps to get you where you want to go amid sprawling grounds. And with enough rooms to house populations in the hundreds and thousands, they promise to be teeming with tons of potential new pals. It may take a village to create your perfect vacation — but at these properties, it’s worth it!

Grand Paladium Bavaro Resort & Spa, Dominican Republic

Dominican

The 674-room Grand Palladium Bavaro is spread over spacious grounds (guests also have access to two sister properties) offering an incredible selection of 15 bars, five buffets, and eight restaurants. Walking shoes are recommended, but family-friendly amenities, lower prices than some neighboring properties, and renovated rooms are big draws. In 2014, the resort added 178 units — including a swim-up suite option overlooking the beach (a great pick for honeymooners). Kids and their parents will appreciate the outstanding kids’ club, but take note: the beach can get crowded.

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

The Caribbean oftentimes musters up images of massive beach resorts. Even some of the most luxurious options can be teeming with crowds that filter from the various restaurants to the packed beaches to the lively pool scene, frequented by both splashing kids and partying co-eds. But during our travels around the islands, we’ve also found plenty of quiet hidden gems. These beachfront boutiques have the look and vibe of a casual oceanside hut – but nonetheless deliver a hotel-like experience with on-site amenities and activities, and quaint, well-designed rooms. Explore our 10 favorite low-key properties on the Caribbean sands.

Coyaba Beach Resort, Jamaica

 Coyaba

For travelers who want to enjoy a resort experience but still prefer a more intimate hotel, the Coyaba Beach Resort is an attractive upper-middle-range option. The 50 plantation-style rooms are spacious, and guests won’t feel crowded or cramped at the private beach (even though it’s small). An all-inclusive option lets guests dine and drink on the property, and couples will likely appreciate the spa services, lush gardens providing shade and privacy, and the quiet pool.

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Who doesn’t love a good theme? We’re suckers for a little kitsch every now and then, and there’s something about the wild, wild West – cowboy hats and boots and all – that’s particularly endearing and fun. A western theme conjures up good ole days of yore, and it can make a property feel especially homey. That’s why we love these seven ranch-style hotels; from upscale estates spread across sprawling grounds to cheesy cowboy-themed properties, this list has the best of the best of the wild, wild West.

Tanque Verde Ranch, Tucson

 Tanque Verde

This rustic, all-inclusive resort is a quintessential Western dude ranch surrounded by miles of gorgeous mountains and desert. The property borders Saguaro National Park East, where guests can enjoy guided horseback rides, hiking, and mountain biking. There’s also swimming, communal ranch meals, and kids’ activities, and sweeping wood-beam ceilings, stone fireplaces, and local artwork add to the ranch-like vibe.

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Maybe it’s the summer heat that’s getting to us, but lately we’ve been loving the idea of showering outdoors. We guess we’ve just decided that there’s no better way to cool down and wash away inhibitions than with an outdoor scrub down. Since we think you might be feeling the summer heat, too, here’s a list of 10 of our favorite hotels that have private outdoor showers — some even have outdoor baths!

GoldenEye Hotel & Resort, Jamaica

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GoldenEye’s cottages and villas are hip and stylish without seeming out of place in Jamaica. Jalousie shutters and hardwood floors add an authentic island feel, while luxe details such as clawfoot bathtubs and kitchens featuring designer appliances are a cut above what is found at most other Jamaican resorts. All units have views of either the serene lagoon or the ocean, and come with private porches equipped with lounge chairs, tables and chairs, and even kayaks. But we love the outdoor showers (and bathtubs!) where you can soak and soap in a beautiful, open-air garden setting.

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Hay! How about a visit to the ‘ole barnyard for your next getaway? Hotels on working farms allow you to leave the fast-paced city life behind — at least for the weekend — and hit the country to hone your farming chops. But don’t worry; the farmtastic resorts that make our list offer all the amenities of a swanky hotel. It’s more like they just happen to encourage guests to rise with the roosters as well. With so many animals roaming about and so much open land to explore, you may just want to pull in the reins on your texting habit and take a digital break during your stay, too. (Again, not to worry — you don’t have to.) Just be sure to pack the overalls, buckaroo – your hands may get dirty!

Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort; Solvang, CA

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Set on a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort is the kind of place that breeds cowboys. It’s a step back in time to the Old West, but with all the amenities. Expect charming, western-style rooms, and plenty of ranch activities. At the Barn Yard, guests can help bottle-feed goats, calves, miniature horses, and sheep. Animal lovers can also gather eggs, and groom and exercise the animals in the corral. Cart rides with miniature horses are a favorite among younger guests, while grownups can ride into the sunset on one of the property’s beautiful thoroughbreds.

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Forget rusty aluminum chairs and fraying towels — these top hotels cabanas only come equipped with first-rate finds. Here’s a roundup of our favorite poolside bungalows designed for discerning loungers: Picture plush seating, shade, salty ocean air, and fancy extras, all right by the pool so you can take a dip whenever you please. These 10 cozy nooks also dazzle with high-tech features and jaw dropping views.

Viceroy Anguilla

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Offering the ultimate in poolside luxury, Viceroy Anguilla provides guests with their own private poolside oasis. Cabanas come with sofa beds, lounge chairs, and gourmet treats. After all, opened in 2009, the Viceroy is the most modern property on this tiny island — and arguably the most luxurious. The Kelly Wearstler-designed resort manages to mix an upscale look with a laid-back, beachy feel, and features sleek lines, modern amenities, numerous art installations, earth tones, animal prints, and wood, stone, and gold accents throughout.

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