Boutique Hotels

For many of us, long days at the office, stress, and errands can get in the way of a healthy lifestyle. So we often look at our vacations not as a chance for a calorie binge (well, not always), but as a chance to hit the reset button and get back to our exercise and fitness regimens. And those who do manage to stay fit year-round may not want to part with their healthy lifestyle choices when they go away for a week or two. After all, there’s a lot to be said for the mind-body connection — and considering that September is Yoga Month, it feels like there’s no better time for a calming, healthy getaway. From a rustic yoga retreat to a luxe private island escape, these are the 14 best spots for a health and wellness vacation.

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, Bahamas

Yoga Retreat

Those looking for a relaxed vacation with some yoga thrown in should look elsewhere. This is a serious ashram by an established group (there are nine Sivananda Yoga Ashrams throughout the world) and the 5:30 a.m. wake-up bell proves it. Guests focus on postures, breathing, positive thinking, and meditation, and have some free time to take advantage of the beautiful beach setting. Seemingly a world away from neighboring mega-resort Atlantis, this five-and-a-half acre oasis has a range of accommodations from tents to Beachfront Suites (most rooms have shared bathrooms, though). Two vegetarian meals are prepared daily right after each two-hour yoga class , while morning and evening satsangs (a mix of meditation, chanting, lectures, singing and dancing) help create a sense of community. Extra workshops and lectures are built into the daily schedule, and there’s a wellbeing center for massage treatments and Ayurvedic body treatments.

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Step inside… The 32-room Hotel MC San Jose is a chic boutique (NEW on Oyster) with stylish details and plenty of friendly warmth and personality from the small staff. A pretty selection of cacti, palms, and shrubs makes the entrance to the hotel even more inviting, and it backs onto a cheerful garden, full of greenery, trees, and blossoming flowers. The interior is cheerful, too. Shiny tile floors, comfy white couches, and funky lighting make for a pleasant lobby. Thoughtful details include unique sculptures, colorful modern art on the walls, potted plants, and magazines and brochures to peruse. Glass doors let in ample sunlight. It’s located a five-minute walk to a beautiful beach, restaurants, and shops in a picturesque coastal town. Simple, elegant, mostly all-white rooms (some are more stylish than others) include free Wi-Fi and free mineral water, and some have gorgeous ocean views. There’s a small but lovely outdoor pool, a spa with a sauna, a pretty relaxation terrace, and a garden. 

Click through the jump to see even more beautiful pics of what makes a truly unique (and affordable) boutique on the Spain’s Mediterranean coast >>

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With everything that’s going on in the world today, it’s nice to occasionally be reminded that simple things do exist — and they’re what counts, right? So sometimes a holiday in the big city surrounded by tall buildings, swarms of people, and a constant cacophony — while invigorating — doesn’t quite match the mold in mind for your relaxing getaway. Cue: a visit to America’s Main Streets — the cute and quaint places that remind us of our roots and that it’s perfectly okay to spend the day sipping lemonade from a rocking chair (after all, you are rocking). Luckily, for every hundred or so shiny glass hotel towers crammed onto big city blocks, there are a handful of adorable hotels in quaint towns with classic character and cozy features. So head towards Main Street — because there’s nothing more comforting than nibbling on a warm slice of Americana and admiring the view from a friendly wraparound porch. Here are our top ten picks.

Hob Knob, Martha’s Vineyard

Hob Knob

Centrally along a quaint stretch of Main Street, the Hob Knob is a welcoming bed-and-breakfast with a well-landscaped yard and wrap-around porch. Of course, in high-tourist season the prices reflect its status as a popular boutique — but in a lot of ways, you do get what you pay for. Rooms are spacious and comfortable with Berber carpeting, luxurious European linens and bathrobes, lovely Classic American-cottage decor (though some rooms feel more tended to than others), and pretty bathrooms with marble sinks. Other highlights include the free organic, full-farm breakfast, and the fact that downtown Edgartown is a short walk away. This place isn’t really geared toward families, though — children under the age of seven aren’t allowed, and teens would likely be bored by the lack of a pool on-site.

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We have travel experts visiting and revisiting destinations around the world every day, and we love when the fresh photos of gorgeous locales start to roll into our offices. Now that fall is approaching (we know, we hate to bring it up – but Labor Day coming and going kinda already did), we’re getting particularly excited about tree-filled spots and landscapes chock-a-block with hills and fields…and few places in the world do that better than the Irish countryside. Fewer places still do that better than these gorgeous hotels nestled away in the Irish country. So without further adieu, we bring you eight of the most beautiful hotels in the Irish countryside — and many of them are brand-new on Oyster!

Lawcus Farm Guest House, Kilkenny

lawcus farm

This rustic property is a solid pick for those travelers who want a slice of traditional pastoral Ireland. The emphasis is squarely on a homey, farmhouse vibe with turf-burning fires and friendly hosts offering a personal touch. The rustic charm carries over into the rooms, some of which have pretty views of the surrounding countryside. The grounds are a real high point and guests can experience the property to the fullest through outdoor activities that include fishing on the river and feeding the farmyard animals. There’s little else quite like it in the area, and prices are pretty reasonable for this level of cozy comfort.

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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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During the summer, it’s almost impossible to stay indoors come happy hour. While the cooler months — spent with friends crowding in cozy bars and huddling by the fire — are fast approaching, there’s still time for some rooftop boozin’ — and fortunately, enjoying the sun and stars with a drink in hand is made easy at some of our favorite hotels. Offering stunning vistas and delicious cocktails, these rooftop bars are destinations unto to themselves in cities far and wide.

1. Refinery Rooftop at The Refinery Hotel, New York City 

refinery

The Refinery Hotel is a stylish urban boutique in New York‘s Garment District, located in a historic building that was once a tea salon and hat factory. The property’s past inspired its present industrial-chic design, and small details such as decorative milliner’s tools pay homage to the building’s former function. The property’s cool rooftop bar — aptly named Refinery Rooftop — offers gorgeous views of the Empire State Building and a rotating menu of seasonal cocktails designed by Alex Ott. Reservations are recommended at this swanky spot where DJs are known to perform on Thursday and Friday nights — but guests of the hotel may have a leg up on getting through the door.  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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August is an antsy month. Back to school madness descends upon parents, kids, and coeds alike, with everyone looking to squeeze in one last shore run before class starts up once again. Then September rolls into town with the first inklings of crisper weather — and the lure of the shore is only heightened. But where to go? For many East Coasters, a quick trip to Southern neighbors where the sands are still toasty and the waves still refreshing is dampened by the threat of Mother Nature’s finest beast: The Hurricane. The Gulf Coast becomes a ghost of what it once was, and Caribbean tourists flock to other beachfront locales where winds and rain aren’t so rampant. But for the brave of heart (who are more scared of a high price tag than some high winds), traveling to the eye of the storm means gorgeous, uncrowded beaches and tranquil luxury resorts at extremely reasonable rates. It goes without saying that safety comes first, and booking a trip during this time of year to some of our favorite Gulf and Caribbean destinations won’t always pan out. So make sure to double check with your favorite weatherman and get the scoop on how the winds are swirling across the Atlantic before you purchase. (You can always hit up these hurricane-proof spots if you’d rather not risk it.) But if you’re ready for a little adventure on the cheap, here’s a selection of Oyster’s favorite hurricane hideaways to get you started on your end-of-summer getaway!

1. The SPA Retreat Boutique Hotel, Jamaica

Negril

A peaceful and beautiful resort, The SPA Retreat Boutique Hotel was designed to be a true escape for couples and small groups that want to relax, be pampered, and enjoy a quiet getaway in Negril, Jamaica. For adults only, the intimate hotel (which maintains a maximum 47 visitors) features individual cottages, all-inclusive packages for dining at the on-site restaurant and bar, a variety of spa services, and an incredible view of the Negril cliffs plunging into the Caribbean Sea. Read More »

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If you suffer (we use the term lightly) from an intense devotion to wine, you will feel right at home at these wino-friendly hotels. We must say, we’ve uncorked the best of the best with these seven getaways. Many are near the best grape stompin’ vineyards in the country, or either offer expansive wine lists, classes for newbies, or wine-infused spa treatments — or all of these things! Just be sure to bring a clean palate; you’ll have plenty of opportunity to unleash your inner connoisseur.

Bernardus Lodge, Carmel Valley

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Set on 26 pristine Carmel Valley acres awash with vineyards and lavender, The Bernardus Lodge is a hit with pinot aficionados. Guests can unwine (get it?) at the spa with a chardonnay pedicure before uncorking in the tasting room. The restaurants here stock 25,000 premium bottles of wine, including 10,000 bottles from the Bernardus Vineyards and Winery near the resort.

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