Dominican Republic

During our travels we’ve stayed in the cutest, quaintest, and tiniest of hotels. And while we love the intimate and peaceful vibe that many smaller properties can offer, sometimes staying near the action just isn’t enough. We want to be in the thick of it. That way we can to go into full-on relaxation (read: lazy) vacation mode and have everything we could ever want right at our fingertips. Why should you have to jump in a car (or even worse — on a bus) just to meet a few people, see a show, or dance the night away? Luckily, these 12 massive village-style properties don’t think you should; in fact, they are hoping you won’t! Packed to the brim with communal conveniences like multiple restaurants, several pools, nightclubs, theaters, tons of activities, kids programs — even grocery stores, pharmacies, and bowling alleys — some of these places are so big they have on-site shuttles and maps to get you where you want to go amid sprawling grounds. And with enough rooms to house populations in the hundreds and thousands, they promise to be teeming with tons of potential new pals. It may take a village to create your perfect vacation — but at these properties, it’s worth it!

Grand Paladium Bavaro Resort & Spa, Dominican Republic

Dominican

The 674-room Grand Palladium Bavaro is spread over spacious grounds (guests also have access to two sister properties) offering an incredible selection of 15 bars, five buffets, and eight restaurants. Walking shoes are recommended, but family-friendly amenities, lower prices than some neighboring properties, and renovated rooms are big draws. In 2014, the resort added 178 units — including a swim-up suite option overlooking the beach (a great pick for honeymooners). Kids and their parents will appreciate the outstanding kids’ club, but take note: the beach can get crowded.

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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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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

The Caribbean oftentimes musters up images of massive beach resorts. Even some of the most luxurious options can be teeming with crowds that filter from the various restaurants to the packed beaches to the lively pool scene, frequented by both splashing kids and partying co-eds. But during our travels around the islands, we’ve also found plenty of quiet hidden gems. These beachfront boutiques have the look and vibe of a casual oceanside hut – but nonetheless deliver a hotel-like experience with on-site amenities and activities, and quaint, well-designed rooms. Explore our 10 favorite low-key properties on the Caribbean sands.

Coyaba Beach Resort, Jamaica

 Coyaba

For travelers who want to enjoy a resort experience but still prefer a more intimate hotel, the Coyaba Beach Resort is an attractive upper-middle-range option. The 50 plantation-style rooms are spacious, and guests won’t feel crowded or cramped at the private beach (even though it’s small). An all-inclusive option lets guests dine and drink on the property, and couples will likely appreciate the spa services, lush gardens providing shade and privacy, and the quiet pool.

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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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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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Summertime always gets us nostalgic, particularly when we think back to our busy days and peaceful nights spent at summer camp. Everything was just simpler then, right? Counselors chose the activities, the kitchen staff provided all the grub, and at night the soft sounds of nature — plus the fact that you were dead-tired from the day’s adventures — put you right to sleep. Well, you may be all grown up now, but you can still relive those days — and bonus: no need for matching uniforms. When summer was just beginning to hint its arrival, we told you about the best hotels stateside for pitching a tent (and we threw in a Botswana property just for good measure). So this time, we’re focusing solely on international destinations where you can experience a new kind of summer camp-like getaway that’s adults-friendly (and most are kid-friendly, too). Check out our top picks for outdoorsy, campy properties outside the U.S.

Camping Village Rochette, Tuscany

Camping Village Rochette

Billed as a high-end camping village, this property has some fun amenities — a striking pool, a Turkish bath, and tennis courts — with bungalows of various sizes spread out over a large wooded area about 500 meters from the beach. Some of the newer, larger bungalows are on the luxurious side; ones at lower price points are a little on the shabby end (although they may be more reminiscent of a summer camp stay than the others). The property offers numerous play areas for kids, as well as daytime and nighttime activities, and it has an on-site market so guests can make use of the in-room kitchens. The hotel also provides a shuttle to the nearby seaside town of Castiglione della Pescaia.

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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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Travel may be our specialty, but fortunately our time hitting the road to visit hotels and show you what they’re really like has granted us plenty of time to also hit the links. We’ve teed up at some pretty amazing courses — at some equally amazing resort properties — and each round has had something special about it. But some of our very favorites have been those with spectacular views. So what if you double-bogey when all you can see is crystal-clear ocean for miles? (Well, maybe don’t answer that.) Here are ten courses with amazing views that are worth a trip.

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

 Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica

The Four Seasons‘ par-72 championship golf course, designed by Arnold Palmer, has panoramic ocean views from four of its holes, and the surrounding forests are rich with wildlife (including both howler and white-faced capuchin monkeys). It’s a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, meaning its construction was, and its operation is, more environmentally sensitive than your typical golf course.

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One way to up the ante for your next vacation? Pick an uber-remote destination. A remote locale of course means some extra time spent traveling, but when that translates into an extra peaceful setting that not only feels, but is, miles away from home, it makes it well worth the journey. We’ve logged hundreds of hours in our efforts to find some of the world’s coolest, most secluded hotels. So here we bring you ten of the world’s most remote resorts in gorgeous, virtually untouched, and totally tranquil settings.

1. Arenal Nayara Hotel & Gardens, Costa Rica

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This 12-acre hilltop property not only sits on beautiful, uber-remote grounds – with unobstructed views of the Arenal Volcano – but even the rooms have an ultra-private vibe, with each being a separate bungalow tucked into the lush surroundings. Special touches include outdoor garden showers and decks with whirlpools and hammocks.

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BulgariHotelDubai-001In the hotel landscape of Dubai, luxury tends to take on a whole new meaning. Top brands have pushed the boundaries when it comes to gorgeous designs and stellar amenities here, where the best of the best seems to be expected at all times. Continuing this tradition, it was announced last week that another jewel would be added to the Emirate’s startling hotelier crown: Italian fashion house — and designer hotel extraordinaire — Bulgari has plans to open a new hotel in Dubai in 2018. Read up on more details after the jump. [Hotel Chatter]

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