Barbados

Our Newest Photo Fakeouts

by Jane Reynolds on January 30, 2013

Oyster's photo of the pool at the Marigot Beach Club

Here at Oyster, we pride ourselves on intensively visiting, photographing, and reviewing every single hotel we feature on our site. Our photos are undoctored and honest, but on our travels, we’ve found that the hotel’s marketing photos can be heavily retouched or cropped mysteriously. Our Photo Fakeouts are legendary — just look at the Sexy Lady Phenomenon — and we felt it was only appropriate that as we expand our coverage, we expand our Fakeout repertoire, too. So today, check out our slideshow of our newest finds!

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“Caribbean” and “all-inclusive” go together well. After all, the Caribbean is synonymous with snoozing on a rope hammock between two palm trees, not lifting a finger — and all-inclusive resorts allow you to do just that. In fact, with everything pre-paid and all amenities included, you don’t even have to open your wallet! We here at Oyster have seen dozens of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, and while it’s not easy to single just one out, we do have a list of our very favorites, from a secluded spot on gorgeous Turks and Caicos to an adults-only oasis in hopping Cancun, and from small boutiques with tons of character to sprawling resorts with every amenity imaginable. If you’re ready to get pampered, check out our top picks for the most luxurious all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, and start planning your trip!

Parrot Cay and COMO Shambhala Retreat, Turks and Caicos

World-renowned COMO Shambhala Spa is  an upscale, tranquil spot with outstanding treatments.

World-renowned COMO Shambhala Spa is an upscale, tranquil spot with outstanding treatments.

Accessed via a 30-minute boat ride from Providenciales, this 1,000-acre all-inclusive resort on a private island is the definition of tranquility. With an incredible infinity-edge pool, world-renowned COMO Shambhala Spa, waterfront Balinese-style villas, doting service, and more than three miles of pristine beaches, it’s easily one of the most luxurious and romantic options in the Caribbean.

  • Our favorite perk: Lotus Restaurant is located by the beautiful infinity-edge pool and features light Caribbean and Asian food, and stunning ocean views.

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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.

One&Only Ocean Club – Bahamas

All guests have a butler on call 24/7 assigned to their room upon arrival.

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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Winter may be firmly upon us now in the Northeast, but that doesn’t mean we have to write off warm weather entirely. The Caribbean isn’t too far away (especially for us East Coasters), and some island hotels are featuring wonderfully affordable rates this time of year. You may have to forgo a few luxuries to stay on budget, but designer toiletries are highly overrated, right? So pack your bags and get ready to hit the beach for a few days — or a few weeks! Oyster has the skinny on the Caribbean’s best value stays.

Rockhouse Hotel, Jamaica

Dive right into the Caribbean Sea from your room at the Rockhouse.

The Rockhouse is a lush, laid-back Jamaican resort offering gourmet dining, morning yoga, a premium spa, and best of all, a gorgeous cliff-side location on Negril‘s coast. Sure, there’s no fitness center and rooms lack TVs and Wi-Fi, but its unplugged vibe is just why some guests come. Plus, with rates usually falling below $200, it’s a steal compared to similar resorts — such as the slightly chicer Caves — in the area. (NB: Children under 12 are not allowed on the property.)

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Here at Oyster, we pride ourselves on intensively visiting, photographing, and reviewing every single hotel we feature on our site. Our photos are undoctored and honest, but on our travels, we’ve found that the hotel’s marketing photos can be heavily retouched or cropped mysteriously. Our Photo Fakeouts are legendary — just look at the Sexy Lady Phenomenon — and we felt it was only appropriate that as we expand our coverage, we expand our Fakeout repertoire, too. So today, check out our new find: a shrinking Jacuzzi at the Sugar Cane Club Hotel & Spa in Barbados. See for yourself »

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Sometimes the honeymoon isn’t about the locale (OK, well maybe a little bit), but rather about the hotel itself. Some of the finest properties around the globe are offering up unique, sexy services to ignite their burning desires (and/or fires). And rather then spend every last minute planning your honeymoon when you have SO MUCH ELSE to do, we figured we’d finagle the deets for you in advance. So brides, sit back, relax and enjoy these ideas brought to you by hotels across the globe. You can thank them later when you’re just positively glowing.

1. Book your stay at an adults-only resort.
Try: Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Barbados

Beach at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Barbados

The beach's umbrellas seat two. Coincidence? We think not.

Sprawling across 11 acres on the west coast of Barbados, the property is situated closer to the waterfront than others in the area, due to it being built before legislation forced future resorts to build further inland. The pink Colonial-style Fairmont Royal Pavilion feels quite romantic thanks to its design and offers two restaurants and bars, as well as free afternoon tea on the terrace. Because there are only 72 rooms, the beach never feels crowded. Excellent amenities include an outdoor pool , tennis courts , and free non-motorized water sports. Plus, NO ONE under the age of 18 is permitted at the resort. Did someone say bliss?

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As obviously travel-biased folks, we cannot understand how a bride can spend an average of $30,000 on a wedding — instead of on an incredible vacation. But hotels these days are making it easier than ever to do both, that is, honeymoon and wed at the very same location. Check out five of the most luxurious destination wedding escapes around — brides, we promise you’ll be drooling to get away instead.

1. Fairmont Mayakoba, Riviera Maya

El Puerto Restaurant at the Fairmont serves up delicious Mexican grub.

The adults-only infinity pool is perfect for soaking up some sun post-nuptials.

With beautiful architecture and grounds, the Fairmont Mayakoba is the most picturesque spot to wed on the Playa del Carmen in Mexico, and few properties in the area can match the unrivaled level of privacy the resort offers. Although rooms are set amidst lagoons and tropical forests, they’re well-equipped and modern featuring upscale bathrooms with glass-enclosed showers and separate jetted tubs.

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Decked out in its signature pink, the Sandy Lane in Western Barbados is the creme-da-le-creme of luxury hotels around the world. While its superb service and long list of amenities are all top-notch (there’s even a Rolls Royce available to chauffeur you), Sandy Lane’s highlight is no doubt its white-sand strip of beach. So pretend you’re in one of those lounge chairs — with a matching fruity cocktail — take a deep breath, relax, and soak in the Monday morning goodness that is the beach at Sandy Lane.

Beach at Sandy Lane; Barbados

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With the venue, caterer, florist, photographer, bridal party gifts, rehearsal dinner, hair and makeup, etc, etc, etc, even a wedding on a budget can end up costing a pretty penny. [Ed. note: Sorry to any bride-to-bes whom we may have just given major anxiety. But honey, that list was just the tip of the iceberg.] So often a super-luxe honeymoon to top it all off is out of the question. But hey, everyone deserves a honeymoon. After all the planning, prepping, and smiling for guests whom you definitely didn’t invite (“Oh, so your my mom’s neighbor’s daughter’s friend? I see!”), a romantic getaway will be just what you need to kick off your wedded bliss. That’s why we at Oyster have found five fabulous beachy honeymoon spots that’ll be kind to your new joint bank account. (Or separate! hey, we’re all about independence here) And just because they’re budget-friendly, it doesn’t mean these spots sacrifice style. They’re also some of the most quaint, peaceful, and romantic hotels around. So relax: Your wedding will be perfect (we promise) and no matter what, you’ll be able to follow it up with the romantic trip that doesn’t break the bank.

Book a Flight to: St. Lucia

We dieeee over the beach at The Still Beach House.

We dieeee over the beach at The Still Beach House.

Stay at: The Still Beach House

Though this island of friendly people and gorgeous beaches has recently seen an influx of tourism, it maintains a sense of unspoiled, exotic beauty that gives it great appeal for a romantic getaway. The Still Beach House, along Soufriere Bay, is a quaint, budget-friendly inn perfect for penny pinchers. There’s little in the way of amenities — in fact, the only extras are direct access to a public beach (that’s, by the way, totally gorgeous) and a breezy restaurant and bar –  but adventurous couples will find the hotel’s location exceptional and its accommodations satisfactory. Not only does the inn offers incredible views of Petit Piton — which appears at arm’s length from every room’s private balcony — the landmark is also within walking distance of Soufriere, so there’s lots of local flavor to be found. And with just five rooms, Still Beach guarantees newlyweds peace and quiet.

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If there’s one thing we’ve learned this summer it’s that the Brits are classy. From the Diamond Jubilee to the ongoing Olympic games, it’s clear that Her Royal Majesty recognizes true luxury when she sees it (and isn’t afraid to parachute out of a helicopter, either…but that’s a whole other story). While we all might be wishing our way to London right now, it might be easier – and just as fabulous – to visit some of the Royals’ favorite hotels beyond the British Isles. They can’t take their castles with them when they travel, but Queen Elizabeth II and company do find some of the most elegant, indulgent properties to call home when touring the globe. Just don’t forget to pack your finery when traveling to these hotels – they are, after all, literally fit for a queen.

Home Away From Castle: Half Moon, Jamaica

Half Moon Entrance

Regal Entrance to Half Moon, Jamaica

Since opening in 1954, Jamaica’s Half Moon resort has played host to many a royal, including HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, HRH The Prince of Wales, and HRH Princess Margaret. This exclusive resort is built on a perfectly shaped crescent beach (hence its celestial name), and is known for its timeless, understated luxury across every nook and cranny of its 400 acres. Classic design, attentive service and quality cuisine are abound – even at the swim-up bar. But what truly sets Half Moon apart from other resorts is its endless breadth of activities. Guests can swim with dolphins in the resort’s private cove, play tennis or golf, windsurf, kayak, choose from a myriad of spa treatments…the list literally goes on for a bit. With so many options (even if HRH chooses only to soak in the Jamaican sun), the island’s status as member of the British Commonwealth, and Half Moon’s dedication to service and taste, it’s no wonder the royals feel right at home here.

Oyster’s Fave Royal Amenity: Half Moon’s Equestrian Center gets it major British brownie points. Polo is as British as tea and crumpets, and at Half Moon the boys (Their Royal Boys?) can work on their form, beach-side.

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