Boutique Hotels

During our travels this summer, we’ve visited some amazing urban destinations, where our days have been filled with the cacophony of cars, and live music pouring from local bars and clubs after dark. And while these urban adventures are almost always exciting, they’ve taught us better than anything else that sometimes you’ve just gotta get outta the concrete jungle and into the wild! Luckily, you don’t have to disappear into the African bush (unless you want to!) to interact with nature, or mingle with some of the spiny, furry or feathery locals. These six hotels can get you up-close and personal to some serious wildlife — without sacrificing your creature (we love a pun) comforts. So pack your camera and binoculars; it’s time to make your escape!

1. andBeyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp, Botswana

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This ultra-remote, luxurious safari lodge on an island in Botswana‘s Okavango Delta isn’t a hotel, it’s an experience, where everything — including the excellent food and the guided excursions (game drives, bush walks, river cruises) — is included in the price of the stay. andBeyond Xaranna guests can get up close to exotic wildlife on both land and water (think: lions and hippos), and even arriving to the property is an adventure, requiring transport by small plane, safari vehicle, and a boat. The nine safari “tents” are fully screened in and thoroughly high-end, with huge soaking tubs, four-poster beds, lots of wood, and private pools. The decor blends rustic charm with bright, contemporary style — not an obvious combination, but it mostly works. And don’t be surprised if you spot an unannounced guest hanging around the dining areas!

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

Many see summer as the perfect time to get away with the family: The kids are out of school, and with “summer Fridays” and several long holiday weekends, that family vacation you keep meaning to take can actually become a reality. But we gotta say, there’s something to be said for leaving the kids at home and planning a summer escape a deux. We promise there’s still plenty of time for family bonding (like, you’re basically responsible for your spawn till they’re 18), and after all, it’s important to get away with your significant other for some alone time to keep that spark alive. So here we bring you the ten best adult-only hotels in the U.S. for a romantic couple’s trip.

The Mermaid & The Alligator, Florida Keys

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The Mermaid and The Alligator is a nine-room upscale bed and breakfast housed inside a historic Victorian estate. The owners have taken great care to renovate the home with bold and vibrant decor and updated furnishings. Located on Truman Street in Key West, three blocks from popular Duval Street, the home is a quiet and peaceful area – thanks in large part to its “no children under 16” policy — that is steps from the heart of the entertainment district. There is a lush interior garden with hammock, lounge chairs, and plunge pool.

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

Just getting to a destination can be part of the thrill of a vacation. And even if winding roads, long boat rides, and flights on tiny planes aren’t necessarily your idea of fun, the rewards of all that travel — i.e., tranquil, relaxing locales, far removed from the crowds — are often more than worth it. Throughout our travels, we’ve been to a handful of super-remote resorts and hotels — and we’ve made it back to share them with you! Although to be honest, we really didn’t want to leave any of the ones that made our list. Venture into the wild, and over hill-and-dale, at these ten super remote hotels around the world.

1. andBeyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp, Botswana

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This luxe camp is located on an island that is part of a massive, 62,000-acre wildlife preserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Arriving to the hotel requires a flight in a small plane, a short ride in a safari vehicle, and then a boat trip to the lodge’s dock (during which guests will first get to experience the delta’s natural beauty). But the hotel is more an experience,  where everything — including the excellent food and the guided excursions (game drives, bush walks, river cruises) — is included in the price of the stay.

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The summertime beach vacation is a much-awaited annual tradition for many. As soon as the weather turns warm, families, couples, and singles alike, flock to shorelines near and far.  Don’t get us wrong — the beach will always hold a special place in our hearts. But when sandy toes and sunburn get to be too much, here are ten great alternatives to the typical beach getaway.

1. Bluffton, South Carolina 

Situated along the May River and bursting with Southern charm, Bluffton might make you feel as though you’ve been transported into a Nicholas Sparks novel. It’s part of a peaceful, beautiful region along the South Carolina coast known as Carolina Lowcountry, where salty marshes meet mossy forests. The Palmetto Bluff real estate development features a small, picturesque village, private homes, an 18-hole golf course, numerous recreation facilities, and a beautiful hotel.

Where to Stay: The Inn at Palmetto Bluff

Stay at the beautiful hotel, of course! The Inn at Palmetto Bluff provides the ultimate Coastal Carolina retreat with all the trimmings…think wrap around porches, rocking chairs, and tons of Spanish moss.  After your first leisurely stroll along historic River Road, you’ll think a quiet winding river really may be better than a packed sandy beach.

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Sure, your wedding day may be the most memorable day of your life, but there’s still plenty of pressure for the precursor proposal to be a noteworthy occasion. It can be an intimidating undertaking, and many choose to pop the question in a special place so the whole experience feels particularly luxe. Fortunately, numerous hotels have picked up on both the need for something special and the need for a little help; from offering proposal packages with diamonds already included, to lending a helping hand with customized engagement plans, these six resorts go the extra mile in (almost) guaranteeing engagement success.

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City

Nestled in the heart of Old Quebec, the Fairmont Le Chateau has lured celebrities and reality show stars with its charm. It was even the spot where NFL Quarterback Jesse Palmer and his lady love Tara enjoyed a date on ABC’s The Bachelor. This seductive resort provides breathtaking pop-the-question scenic backdrops of the St.Lawrence River. Toast your happily-ever-after at the hotel’s wine and cheese bar before heading back to the luxurious Van Horne suite for a night to remember.

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We love the Florida Keys for so many reasons: the sun, the sand, the seafood, the sunsets, the nightlife… And fortunately for most East Coasters, the Keys are easy enough to reach that a weekend getaway to the beach (that doesn’t feel rushed) is totally doable. Not to say that you’ll want to leave, but at least your travel time with be short enough that you’ll have plenty of time to chow down on key lime pie and sip on margaritas even during a quick trip. On our recent jaunt to the Keys, we visited a slew of adorable properties and confirmed what we’ve believed to be true for some time — the Florida Keys are home to some of the cutest boutique hotels EVER. From a two-room hotel on a quiet street to a luxe adults-only property on its own private island, here are our ten favorite boutique hotels in the Florida Keys, NEW on Oyster.com!

Casa Morada

Casa Morada

Okay, so it’s not that small. But boat rides, fishing charters, and dive trips are just some of the perks available at Casa MoradaInspired by a laidback Caribbean lifestyle, this upscale 16-suite boutique hotel is perfect for couples looking for a romantic getaway, whether for a honeymoon or just because. Situated right next to the ocean in the middle of the Florida Keys on Islamorada, the hotel provides a peaceful and serene atmosphere with hanging hammocks and lots of fun and free activities like yoga classes, kayaking, and bicycle rentals. Compared to nearby hotels, this property offers great value with spacious and upscale rooms with water views.

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Every vacation should leave you with a certain bounce to your step, but at the Solar Do Castelo Hotel in Lisbon, you’ll actually get to learn from example. The property’s resident fowl friends — read: a friendly family of peacocks — strut about the courtyard, gardens, and alleyways, hoping to impress guests. This ostentation (yes, a group of peacocks is actually called an ostentation) roams about the grounds of this unique boutique property, which is the only hotel within the walls of the medieval village surrounding St. George’s Castle. It’s quiet, and rich in history; the hotel has preserved a large part of the architecture, and has also added a small museum of artifacts off of the lobby. The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 6th century, during which time the Romans, Visigoths, and eventually the Moors claimed ownership of it before Portugal’s first king Afonso Henriques captured it in 1147. He dedicated it to St. George and used it as Portugal’s official royal palace for many years.

Today, the Solar Do Castelo Hotel isn’t dripping in actual crown jewels, but the hotel’s feathered tenants do give the property a royal ambiance. Take enough lessons from them, and soak in the rich history surrounding you at St. George’s Castle, and you’ll be strutting like King Alfonso or (King of the Soccer Pitch) Cristiano Ronaldo in no time. See more photos after the jump! Read More »

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Fairy tales have been bewitching readers long before Emma Swan wandered into Storybrooke on ABC‘s “Once Upon A Time.” In fact, these stories of heroes and magic, and goblins and trolls, have been entrancing the masses ages before even the Brothers Grimm decided to pen some of history’s most memorable tales. The reasons for this preoccupation with folklore vary: Some people pine for their favorite characters and others wish for a world where magic spells and potions can be bought and sold at your local witch’s hut.

But perhaps the most alluring part of a fairy tale is the setting, filled with grand castles, forbidden forests, and charming villages galore. These fascinating worlds come to life before our eyes thanks to the rich descriptions of our favorite fairy tale authors. And there’s good news for all of the dreamers out there: Many of these otherworldly settings were inspired by real life destinations around the world. Now we all know Sleeping Beauty’s castle was based on the gorgeous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, and that Colmar, France could be La Belle et La Bete’s hometown, but what about lesser known fairy tales? From Sicily to Scotland, we have the scoop on some of the most idyllic lands of folklore that are just waiting to be discovered — and, of course, the dreamy hotels where you can almost imagine Prince (or Princess!) Charming awaiting your hand for a dance.

1. Sicily, Italy 

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Sicily remains one of the most intriguing regions of Italy. A mix of cultures — including Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, and African — provide the island with a heady history filled with intrigue. You can see the blend of cultures reflected in the island’s cuisine, architecture, language, and — yes — folklore. Fairy tales from Sicily have all of the traditional components: heroes and heroines, magic and might. But they also have some surprising twists that make them entirely their own. In Sorforina, for example, our titular heroine is a well-educated young woman, the daughter of a Sicilian merchant, who falls in love with a young, belligerent prince. The tale of their love affair is tortured, filled with artful witchcraft and steamy seduction (this is an Italian fairy tale, after all). It is a fairy tale of its own unique making, filled with the wry and unabashed sarcasm Sicilians are known for in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

Stay: Grand Hotel Villa Igiea  

The Grand Hotel Villa Igiea offers a magnificent and ornate example of Sicily’s 19th-century architectural history — as well as a plausible backdrop for our Sorforina. Visitors have noted that this is considered one of the best, if not the best, hotel in Palermo. The grounds are spectacular, and the outdoor pool was built to incorporate ancient stone ruins. Inside, there’s a romantic bar with vaulted stone ceilings and wall frescoes. Read More »

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The Golden Age of Hollywood has come and gone. While Los Angeles once had a firm grip on all film-related business — movie and television alike — the industry has expanded well beyond the Hollywood Hills. In the last forty years especially, we’ve seen emerging markets in Louisiana, Toronto, and Atlanta increasingly cut into La-La Land’s share of the filming world. Where Hollywood once hosted a commanding 64 percent of the live-action films being made in the early 2000s, today that figure has dropped to around eight percent, according to a study by FilmLA. It’s a big departure from the norm — and it is only good news for people looking to get their fifteen minutes in front of the camera. We’ve rounded up the top six destinations outside of Los Angeles for aspiring actors to book their first gig, or adoring fans to potentially score some time as an extra. And we’ve included some movie star-worthy accommodations in each spot as well.

1. New York City 

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This may seem like a no-brainer, but in reality NYC only became a film industry hot spot in the 1970s when prolific directors Martin Scorcese and Woody Allen shifted their films’ focus to the Big Apple. Since then, NYC has become the clear challenger to Los Angeles’ filming supremacy. Just this year, NYC officially surpassed Hollywood for the number of TV pilots filmed in town, with Vancouver, Toronto, and Atlanta slowly creeping up behind the two industry giants. This week alone HBO’s Martin Scorcese-directed drama The Long Play begins filming its pilot in the city, as do over sixty other returning network programs. USA’s White Collar, CBS’s Person of Interest, Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, and HBO’s Girls are just some of the projects currently in play across the five boroughs. Plus, NYC has one thing Los Angeles doesn’t when it comes to acting: the Great White Way. For actors looking to pursue a career on stage, there is nowhere else to be but Broadway. Daniel Radcliffe and Neil Patrick Harris are both currently headlining shows, and Breaking Bad’s Brian Cranston just wrapped All the Way, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Play.

Stay: Mercer Hotel

The Mercer‘s 75 loft-style guest rooms, beautiful staff, personalized service and swanky SoHo location make it a go-to choice for celebrities and other fashionable members of the entertainment industry — from Leonardo DiCaprio, to fashion designer Calvin Klein, to oddball rock star Marilyn Manson, to Russell Crowe (who made headlines in 2005 for allegedly throwing a telephone at a Mercer check-in clerk). If you want to stay in a movie star-approved hotel, you can’t do much better. 

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Tuscany is a dream destination for many — rolling green hills, charming medieval towns, stone farmhouses, and acres of vineyards are what usually come to mind. But there’s a side of Tuscany many may not know about — a steamy side. No, not that kind of steamy (well, maybe that too), but steamy in the literal sense — many Italians and Europeans flock to the little town of Saturnia for its natural thermal waters. These charming properties take full advantage of this unique geographical feature.

Agriturismo Le Cascatelle

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Set among olive and fruit trees in a quiet field, this bed and breakfast consists of four simple but clean, well-stocked apartments slightly set apart from one another, furnished with the basics. A few rooms are available for rent within the compound’s main house. Wine made by the owner is available for sample and sale, and a much-lauded homemade breakfast is offered each morning at a very reasonable price. The main advantage of this location is its convenience vis-à-vis the Saturnia waterfalls (within walking distance), as well as its proximity to several towns of historical and cultural interest, including Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana. The owner organizes full and half-day mountain biking excursions for guests for an extra fee. Read More »

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