It’s time to get your spring break plans in order, and if you’re looking for some fun in the sun, the Caribbean is a prime destination. But with thousands of islands (although only a few dozen are inhabited) to choose from, that doesn’t narrow things down much. That’s why we at Oyster have created an A to Z (well, actually, an A to V) guide to the Caribbean, so choosing your island and resort will be a piece of cake. First stop: Anguilla.
The boutique Anacaona has two pools.
Anguilla is a tiny British territory that covers fewer than 40 square miles and is a popular spot for couples and celebs (Sofia Vergara went on a girls’ trip to the island) due to its small size and upscale vibe. Visitors must either fly to St. Martin and take a short ferry to the island, or fly in directly (by way of a small seaplane) from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Thus, getting to the island can be pricey. So once you’re there, we’d recommend staying at the boutique Anacaona in the island’s West End. Though its not quite as luxe as the CuisinArt or Viceroy, it offers access to the same gorgeous white-sand beach as the neighboring Viceroy – through an off-property path — as well as to the nearby Greg Norman’s golf course and a few restaurants, and its prices are considerably lower. With two small pools, a great restaurant serving Caribbean fare with a twist, and a massage hut on the beach, the hotel is a good pick for value.
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Dogs love chillin' during vacay as much as humans do!
Dogs are man’s best friend, so it can be hard to part with our pooches when it’s time to go on vacation. But some find it literally impossible, so instead choose to bring Fido along — and we fully support this. After all, you may have been working like a dog but so have they! So it’s time to let them enjoy some fun in the sun, too. Here are some of our favorite pics of dogs enjoying a little getaway.
While there are many great budget-friendly hotels in the Caribbean, the islands are also known for their luxury properties, where guests are treated to day trips aboard yachts, couples are offered massages in sumptuous spas, and rooms are twice the size of a New York apartment (although, we guess it’s not too hard to be). We’ve compiled a list of our favorite luxury hotels in the Caribbean so you can start planning what to do after your new year’s resolution of winning the lottery (that’s not a new year’s resolution, but, really, who hasn’t had that on the list for at least a decade?) comes true.
All guests have a butler on call 24/7 assigned to their room.
Bringing tranquility to otherwise-crowded Paradise Island, the 105-room Ocean Club’s personal butlers, beautiful pools (one for adults, one for families), restaurant from Jean-Georges, and access to Atlantis’s water park, casino, and other attractions make it one of the Caribbean’s best resorts.
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Celebrity chef restaurants have fast-become the brag-worthy accessory to luxury hotels. Nowadays, the likes of Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Gordon Ramsay call multiple hotel kitchens home, but the ultimate indulgence comes when you can chow down on fame-broiled [Ed. Note: We couldn't help ourselves] chateaubriand in the comfort of your very own suite. The hotels with the most bragging rights are going a step above by not only offering a gourmet experience in the dining room, but delivered to your door as well. Oyster has had the pleasure of sampling many delicious celebrity chef room service menus. Check out six of our favorites here:
Celebrity Chef: Jean-Georges Vongerichten
A private dinner in paradise just got even more delicious, courtesy of Jean-Georges.
The Hotel: One&Only Ocean Club
Bringing a sense of tranquility to the otherwise-crowded Paradise Island, the One&Only Ocean Club’s personal butlers, beautiful pools, and access to Atlantis’s water park, casino, and other attractions make it one of the Caribbean’s best resorts. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Dune restaurant is just the icing on the cake at this luxe resort. But what delicious icing it is — that you can have delivered straight to your room. Serving innovative French-Asian cuisine punctuated with Bahamian herbs and influences, Dune offers a mouth-watering and chic dining experience, suite-side.
Oyster’s Menu Pick: Roasted Peking duck with shallot confit, asparagus, shitake, and lilly bulb stir fry.
Are you on Santa’s Naughty or Nice list this year? We’ve seen a lot of good and bad behaviors during our travels over the last year — and maybe dabbled in both as well! So we know every dirty little secret, or shiny gold star, that you’ve been part-and-parcel to on vacation. But if you’re not sure where you stand in Santa’s twinkling eyes, we’re here to help. You can find out whether your favorite hotel amenities will get your stockings stuffed full of goodies or weighed down by coal this holiday season with our quiz. So check out which list you’re on!
The Naughty List:
1. Have you stripped down?
Clothing optional resorts like the Desire Riviera Maya can see some X-rated action.
For some travelers, itsy bitsy bikinis or revealing Speedos just don’t cut it — a vacation isn’t a vacation without a little nudity. Luckily for them, some hotels are redefining casual dress with policies that let guests bare it all (or almost all), like the couples-only, clothing-optional Desire Resort & Spa Riviera Maya. A little voyeurism never hurt anyone — but don’t be surprised if your nude antics land you on the naughty list this winter.
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Trust us, we here at Oyster get it more than most people — going on vacation is freakin’ awesome. Vacations are all about fun, relaxation, and the “what happens here stays here” vibe, and when you’re on a vacay, it feels like nothing can get ya down. But some hotel websites go a little too far and market their properties by showing “guests” in absolutely euphoric (and unrealistic) states. To the point where we’re pretty sure that that kind of happy can only be reached if you’ve been dabbling in some recreational, er, “fun.” And depending on the destination, maybe you have been. But still, when we’re deciding where to stay for our winter getaway, we usually don’t base it on how happy the “guests” on the website seem to be. Nonetheless, those photos can be pretty entertaining so we rounded up some of our favorites — check ‘em out!
1. Happiest Feet on Earth
“We’re on vacation, it’s 6:30 A.M., and the kids are up and full of energy — fabulous! Sleep is overrated.” (Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta)
Photo from the Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta website.
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Skyfall comes out this Friday and to celebrate we’ve taken a walk down double-oh seven lane (which involved watching all 22 films, of course). And we’ve discovered that — just like us — Bond has a thing for traveling, and particularly, staying at ultra-luxe hotels. Whether it’s where the character was born or where the infamous “shaken, not stirred” line originated, the debonair crime fighter has left his mark on some of our favorite spots around the globe.
Today, the massive Fleming Villa remains intact, featuring its own private pool and even the writer’s original desk over which he slaved year after year.
Why 007 loves it: The GoldenEye Hotel is where it all started. Reopened in 2010 after a $50 million renovation, this Jamaican hotspot is the former residence of Ian Fleming, who came up with his famous character on the property’s lush grounds. Every year, the scribe spent several months in his ocean-side villa, writing all 14 of his famous tales of the sleek and sophisticated spy. When Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Chris Blackwell bought the property in the 1980s, he realized the appeal of the historic estate as well as its untouched surroundings and converted it into a resort.
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If you have an upcoming vacay booked for the Caribbean, don’t despair — plenty of resorts are up and running after the storm. And even if you don’t have a trip planned, we know many travelers grow attached to their favorite hotels and vacation destinations; a reader wrote us just the other day asking how her favorite resort in Jamaica was doing post-Sandy. So Oyster.com decided to let her — and all of you — know how each of your favorite islands in the storm’s path fared, and share the recent social media updates from some of our favorite resorts in each place.
Sandy did make landfall in Jamaica as a Category 1 hurricane, and the island suffered one death and $16.5 million worth of worth of damage (crops such as coffee, bananas, and coconuts were all impacted). But tourist resorts for the most part were only minimally affected.
Half Moon is fully operational, and had no damage aside from some fallen tree limbs and debris.
Oyster’s Post-Sandy Resort Pick: Half Moon, Jamaica
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Owning a private island is overrated and it’s actually a lot of work — or so we’ve heard from our many island-owning friends. You have to deal with the astronomical taxes, the development, the upkeep — it’s a full-time job (that island owners simply pay other people to do, of course). But visiting a private island? It’s as great as everyone says — and we know from experience. We’ve stayed on some gorgeous private islands in our travels, in equally gorgeous hotels and resorts. Here are six of our favorites:
The pool at Cayo Levantado features a swim-up bar as well as poolside drink service.
The details: The D.R.’s only luxury resort set on its own island, the Gran Bahia Cayo Levantado offers a relaxing atmosphere for couples and families. There are scenic beaches and beautiful pools, and we love the details in the rooms: Four-poster beds, private Jacuzzi tubs, and island-inspired artwork give them a romantic vibe.
How to get there: From the Samana airport, it’s a 45-minute cab ride to the Bahia ferry station. From there, it’s a 10- to 15-minute ferry ride to Cayo Levantado. In lieu of the ferry, you can also hire a private panga boat to take you from Samana. We never said getting to a private island is easy, but it’s certainly worth the flight (…and drive and boat ride)!
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The world has been abuzz since Apple introduced the new Apple Maps — and the chatter has not been positive. As we’re sure you’ve heard, this map app won’t be too helpful if you need, well, an accurate map. Instead, flubs such as roundabout directions, museums pinned in the middle of the ocean, and a whole list of destinations that can’t be found add up to making Apple Maps a real flop. But hey – it certainly can be entertaining (that is, if you’re not in a rush to actually arrive at a certain location). We had some fun finding just where Apple Maps would send you if you were trying to get to some of our favorite hotels. Enjoy!
The Hotel: Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic
Heading to the luxurious Casa de Campo on the coast of La Romana? Apple Maps will only get you as far as the La Romana airport, so that 10+ mile drive to the resort is up to you to figure out!
Look at what you’re missing!
The Beach at Casa de Campo
See more gorgeous photos (and an accurate map) of Casa de Campo here.
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