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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the hotelIt’s been a tough couple of years for Atlantic City, thanks in no small parts to the destruction Hurricane Sandy left in its wake. So as hotel experts who, like, really, love hotels, we kinda hate to break the news that yet another AC resort — this time, the luxe new-kid-on-the-block Revel — has announced it will be closing its doors. Over $1 billion in debt and with no potential bidders, the casino resort is the second of four hotels in recent months to close in the city; the Trump Plaza is scheduled to close in September. But let’s reflect on happier times, shall we? Like when Kanye announced that now-wife Kim Kardashian was pregnant during a concert at the resort. Or when Michelle Obama attended a Beyonce performance there. Or when our hotel expert got to nosh on these delicious fish tacos during her stay! We hate to use a pun, but we guess Revel just never got to experience beginner’s luck.

Take a walk down memory lane after the jump with pretty pics of this doomed property >>

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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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How is it already August?! This summer may be swimming by — we have some pretty hardcore party scars to prove it — but it’s not over yet. The sun is still shining, so in our book that means that there’s still time for clear booze and colorful sundowner cocktails. And, since there are only a few more summer Fridays to squeeze in before the school year starts, here’s a list of hotels that won’t throw salt in your summer party game (but they just might throw it in your margarita!). So, Cheers! Salud! Skål! Proost! Party like the summer’s almost over because, well, we hate to break it to you — but it is.

Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas

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The swank Hard Rock is off the Strip, but it knows how to throw a party, particularly at the pool. Home of Rehab (arguably Vegas’ best pool party), go-go dancers in the casino, live music at The Joint, partying at Vanity nightclub, and stylish cuisine at Nobu or Ago, this sinful Strip property has earned lots of Oyster Awards for partying. Arguably even more so than the Palms, Hard Rock is one of the most unapologetically hedonistic hotels in Las Vegas. It’s a place where wanna-be rock stars and, well, real rock stars come to party, gamble, and trash their hotel rooms. Of course doing so will cost you, or your record company, a fortune.

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Happy National S’mores Day! Yes, today is National S’mores Day and it’s one summer holiday we think everyone should celebrate! The first official s’mores recipe was published by the campfire-savvy Girl Scout Handbook in 1927, and it has remained a sweet favorite thanks to its chocolatey deliciousness that gets people asking for “some more.” Needing only three simple ingredients – graham crackers, toasted marshmallows, and chocolate bars – s’mores are the go-to dessert for fireside dwellers, both young and old. We found 12 hotels that love these sweet concoctions as much as we do and are great spots for roasting marshmallows over a fire pit. Grab your family, friends and neighbors and get cooking!

Carmel Valley Ranch, Monterey County

Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel Valley Ranch is a 500-acre property offering modern luxury in a rustic, bucolic setting, with tall oak trees, organic gardens, and rolling vineyards. The ranch’s many features include two outdoor pools — the River Ranch Pool, featuring a splash zone for kids, and the Lodge Pool — as well as an 18-hole golf course designed by Pete Dye. Rooms have small private decks and travertine fireplaces, but we recommend heading out to one of the seven fire pits. Every night a (free) s’mores bar is set out at the Lodge Restaurant for guests to enjoy. That’s an amenity we wish every hotel had.

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We hate to toot our own horn (or do we?), but we here at Oyster are kinda famous for our photo fakeouts. Basically, we put the photos that we took at hotels in person next to the hotels’ marketing photos to see if they line up. Well, spoiler alert: They often don’t. Whether it’s some sneaky cropping, over-the-top staging, or serious editing, marketing photos frequently make properties appear way more luxe (or modern or serene) than they actually are. During our travels we’ve found plenty of hotels guilty of a little marketing magic, and our latest round of fakeouts is no exception. Click through here to see some major fakeouts!

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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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Honeymoons, anniversaries, or just weekends away can be made all the more romantic with a bottle of champagne for drinking and a hot tub for soaking. But it can kinda kill the mood if you have to share the whirlpool with other hotel guests, or if it’s nestled up alongside a pool teeming with splashing tots. That’s why we’ve found some hotels that offer private whirlpools — either in luxurious bathrooms or on lovely wooden decks — in various room types so your jetted bath time won’t be disturbed. Here are our 11 favorites — we just couldn’t narrow it down to 10.

The Fairmont Kea Lani Maui

Fairmont Kea Lani Maui

Wailea’s aptly named Fairmont Kea Lani is a “white heaven” indeed — its 450 units sit on a 22-acre beachfront property that includes four pools, four restaurants and one lounge, access to world-class golf, some of Maui’s largest rooms, and a relentless dedication to service that rivals the nearby Four Seasons. The Two Bedroom Villa pictured above is definitely for deep-pocketed patrons that want a romantic getaway. The spacious villa has a separate living and dining room area, but its most alluring feature is the terrace with a private jetted pool and gorgeous views of the water.

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It’s hard to pick just one spot to visit in Southern Italy. After all, it seems that every corner of the region is rife with beautiful scenery, architecture, and attractions. But if you’re just in the area for a quick trip, it’s worth starting your time in Sorrento. A laid-back, seaside town set on a cliff, Sorrento is surrounded by some of Italy’s more popular tourist destinations – Naples and Pompeii to the north; the island of Capri just offshore; Positano and the famed Amalfi Coast to the east. With a large selection of hotels and easy transportation options, it’s the perfect home base for a southern Italian vacation. Aside from being a gateway to other areas, Sorrento is also a lovely place to stay. Scented by lemon groves and offering stunning views of the Bay of Naples, its Old World charm remains intact, with a maze of beautiful, cobbled backstreets and an assortment of quaint shops. Here are six of our favorite Sorrento hotels.

Grand Hotel Royal

Grand Hotel Royal. Sorrento, Italy

Grand Hotel Royal. Sorrento, Italy

Grand Hotel Royal is set dramatically above the Bay of Naples, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open out onto the well-manicured garden and pool overlooking the bay. It’s only a short walk from Piazza Tasso, popularly considered the center of Sorrento’s old town, and the area’s train station is also a few minutes walk away. There’s frequent service heading towards Naples, with stops at stations that offer access to the Herculaneum and Pompeii. The ferry station with service to Capri is close by the hotel as well.

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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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