Florida

For those looking to ditch the typical 300-square-foot hotel room in favor of a more spacious pad, you are in luck. These days, more and more hotels are catering to the ever-growing crowd that seeks a home-away-from-home vibe by offering guests super-sized suites with tricked-out amenities. Whether its granite kitchen countertops, extra wiggle room, stunning views, added bathrooms, or a bevy of French doors — these hotels all give that spacious apartment vibe any claustrophobic would approve of. And to be clear, these feel less like our tiny studio apartments in NYC and more like the sprawling penthouse pads we can only dream about. So dream on >>

Aqua Soleil Hotel & Mineral Water Spa, Greater Palm Springs

Aqua Soleil

The larger rooms at Aqua Soleil look straight out of a Pottery Barn or West Elm catalogue. Each suite comes with a king bed, kitchenette, and large balcony with a view of the San Jacinto Mountains, as well as two flat-screen TVs with DVD players and a nice bathroom with a walk-in shower. (Some rooms even have their own personal pool!) This mid-range, 95-room hotel has limited curb appeal, but once on the property’s grounds, guests will find it is attractively landscaped and includes desert flora, a pool and spa filled with mineral water, and seating areas gathered around fire pits.

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There’s something so cozy about watching a movie, both solo and with a crew. If you don’t want to hole up in your room with pay-per-view while on vacation, there are many hotels where you can still catch a flick without leaving the property. Some hotels offer movie nights for their guests – whether it’s curled up on a comfy couch indoors or outside lounging by the pool — giving vacationers a chance to unwind in front of a big screen. Many are geared toward little ones so that parents can enjoy some alone time, while others are a chance for travelers to meet and participate in activities together. No matter if you’re away on business or having a family vacation, grab some popcorn, sit back, relax, and watch the show. We definitely give the following 10 hotels two thumbs up!

Bitter End Yacht Club, British Virgin Islands

Bitter End Yacht Club

The Bitter End Yacht Club, snuggled into a steep hill on the scenic North Sound, is a relaxed, family-friendly resort. The tech-free rooms (no TVs or Wi-Fi here) feature stunning views from the balconies, and the sliding doors allows breezes to sweep through; some rooms do not have air-conditioning but most guests find they don’t miss it. While some rooms could use renovations, guests are here for the white-sand beaches that offer plenty of water sports and relatively calm waters. Although popular among couples, the hotel also caters toward families; each night two movies are screened at The Sand Palace, next to the lobby. The movies are all rated G, PG, or PG-13 and popcorn is provided. Adults may want to send their kids to watch the movie while they enjoy a meal at the Clubhouse Grille next door.

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Remember how exciting it was to go on school trips to the aquarium? Getting an up-close look at marine life – from tiger sharks to stingrays – was always an enchanting experience. Well it turns out aquariums are a fun sight at any age… and they certainly add a tropical, under-the-sea vibe to otherwise bland spaces. That’s why it’s no surprise that a good number of the hotels we have visited have installed fish tanks to add a cool oceanic feature for kids and adults to enjoy without having to suit up. Several of these hotels have gone above and beyond in bringing the awe factor to their aquariums. In typical grandeur Vegas fashion, three of its properties made our list, but you’ll want to visit all seven spots!

Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas

Mandalay

The giant, 3,215-room Mandalay Bay offers a wave pool and streaming lazy river pool for kids, as well as a quality spa, lively bar,s and premier cuisine for adults. But everyone can enjoy the 1.6-million-gallon Shark Reef Aquarium with about 2,000 sea creatures on display, including 15 different kinds of sharks. In one of the exhibits, visitors can experience an almost 360-degree view of the fish and sharks swimming about; another displays the bright jellyfish. If just looking isn’t good enough, there’s a popular Touch Pool, where guests can touch sharks, rays, and horseshoe crabs.

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It may be particularly fun during the summer months, but thanks to a variety of species and waters around the world, fishing is a sport that can be enjoyed year-round. Peak seasons vary from fish to fish, but as long as you’re on a river, by a lake, or bobbing atop the ocean, you’ll likely get a bite. And no matter if you’re an experienced angler or a novice on all things baiting and hooking, fishing can be a great activity for your vacation itinerary – particularly for families since the little ones can participate as well. We’ve picked 10 hotels that are perfect properties for grabbing a rod and heading out to the water. Now go reel ‘em in!

Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Florida Keys

Cheeca Lodge

The 114-room Cheeca Lodge was one of the original luxury properties on Islamorada, dating to 1946 and earning plenty of celebrity cachet over the years (high-profile guests have included George W. Bush). The property was rebuilt after a fire gutted its main building in 2009, and it now has bright, spacious rooms with tropical-luxe decor and massive bathrooms. The lush grounds are especially pretty at night, with Tiki-torch-lit paths. But the hotel’s beach is manmade — there’s even a rock ledge on the water’s edge. There’s a private fishing pier on the property and guests can rent fishing rods for free. You’re bound to have a fun time since Islamorada advertises itself as the “sport fishing capital of the world.”

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Summer is such a gift: the warm weather, the laid-back vibe, the beachy music, the opportunity for more travel, the sunsets. Here at Oyster, we’re really big fans of the latter two, and we often get to enjoy them both at the same time. (Not to say that we don’t love watching the sun sink down into the Hudson from our home base in New York City, but there’s something particularly special about taking in the sunset from an exotic locale.) We’ve watched the sun bid adieu to the day in numerous destinations around the world, and we’ve picked out the seven summer sunsets you’ve just GOT to see.

1. Aruba

Aruba

Photo Credit: David Stanley

Home to some of the best sunsets in the Caribbean, this Dutch island knows how to make the most of its outrageous sunsets.  From beachfront dining to sunset cruises, there are endless opportunities to take it all in.  And due to Aruba’s location that’s (generally) outside of the hurricane belt, consistently warm and sunny weather can be experienced year round, so you don’t even have to rush to get there this summer!  Be sure to check out California Lighthouse on the island’s northwest tip for a one-of-a-kind vantage point.    

Where to Stay: Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino  

Located on Aruba’s famed Palm Beach on the island’s western coast, The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is the ideal place to watch the setting sun.  Since many rooms include large, comfortable balconies, you don’t even need to leave your chair to see the magic happen.   

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Fun, sun, and…scuba? For many, a trip to the beach just isn’t complete without the possibility of a deep sea dive. Whether you want to explore ship wrecks, meet creatures of the deep, or wonder at gorgeous coral formations, scuba diving can be a fun and athletic opportunity while you’re on vacation. Getting certified is crucial before attempting a dive, and if you choose to give it a go, we’ve compiled some of the best dive sites in North America for you to visit. Some may not realize just how many dive sites await in our own backyard!

1. Dive: Half Moon Caye, Belize

Half Moon Caye in Belize offers divers the chance to go on a wall dive–a dive in which the vertical facades of the earth’s landmasses are explored. The depths at Half Moon Caye (and really at any wall dive) are tremendous, giving you the very correct feeling that you are staring into an abyss. The waters at Half Moon Caye are particularly clear, despite the depth, so you will be able to see all manner of wildlife, including loggerhead turtles, rays, barracuda, and eels.

Stay: Portofino Beach Resort 

portofino

The professional dive shop on-site at the romantic and secluded Portofino Beach Resort is a major draw for adventure seekers. Read More »

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Summertime will soon be upon us — this week has already seen highs of 82 degrees in NYC! — and we can’t wait for long days spent strolling along the boardwalk. From Atlantic City to Santa Cruz, beach bums will strut their stuff down those sandy pathways, either taking in the views or letting loose on beachside coasters (or both!). Foodies will delight in summer treats such as saltwater taffy and Nathan’s hot dogs, and visitors can also play games, have their fortunes told, hit up unique shopping grounds, or just people-watch as the summer heat brings out some truly interesting characters. So bust out your flip-flops, spread on the SPF, and head to one of these boardwalks near you for some spring and summer fun in the sun.

1. Atlantic City Boardwalk, New Jersey

The Atlantic City Boardwalk is the oldest in the United States and the longest in the world.

First opened in 1870 and now spanning 5.5 miles, the Atlantic City Boardwalk is both the oldest in America and the longest in the world, garnering plenty of attention from East Coast visitors. Travelers fantasize about the Art Deco glamour and glitzy shows of Nucky Thompson‘s heyday while munching on saltwater taffy from the James Candy Company (in business since the early 1900s) or indulging in an order of deep-fried oreos. Others may try their luck in one of the many casinos that dot the boardwalk. Though Atlantic City was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, loyalists are helping this shore spot bounce back with a vengeance.

Where to Stay: Mainstays such as Caesars bring back loyal guests, while boardwalk newbie Revel has been a hot topic in the tabloids (Beyonce performed her first post-baby show here, and Kanye announced that baby momma Kim Kardashian was expecting during his performance at the resort).

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It may not be the Caribbean, but with this view, who on the San Juan Islands could complain about it?

An “island getaway” doesn’t necessarily translate into washing up on the shores of the Caribbean. Plenty of other islands in the U.S. boast the same laid-back, secluded feel that you can find in Barbados or Jamaica, but often come at a fraction of those sky-high all-inclusive rates; you’ll at least save some cash on airfare! For perhaps unconventional, but nonetheless awesome, island stays, check out our top picks for value, sun, and fun!

 

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Some destinations always come to mind when people think of beach getaways: Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, Miami’s South Beach, and the crowded sands in Cancun. Some spots, however, are often overlooked and it makes them that much better. Fewer people, untouched nature, you name it; underrated beach destinations are hidden gems that can be just what you’re looking for. Check out our list of nine underrated beach destinations — and make a trip before the secret is out!

Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

Vieques Island is surrounded by gorgeous, clear waters.

This unique little island offers travelers pure, undeveloped land, mainly thanks to the US Navy’s former use of a good portion of the island. The Navy left in 2003, however, and the land it once occupied is now a national wildlife refuge. Tourists to Puerto Rico often don’t leave the mainland as it takes an extra puddle-jumper to get to Vieques and there are few tourist attractions. Instead, attractions are nature-oriented: The island’s stunning, untouched white-sand beaches and famous bioluminescent bay are the highlights, but it also features walking trails, 300-year-old trees, and some of the top snorkeling spots in the country.

Where to Stay: The quaint Inn on the Blue Horizon is a smaller, more affordable option compared to the nearby W Vieques. The inn features phenomenal ocean views, pretty Mediterranean-style architecture, and wild horses roaming the grounds.

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Happy St. Patty's Day!

Image by Yuri Kuzin/iStock Photo.

Erin Go Bragh, everyone! (FYI: That means “Ireland Forever.”) With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, you’re definitely in need of a watering hole to throw back a Guinness (or two, or three) this weekend — or at least an Irish pub to fill up on some Black & White pudding. We’re pretty excited about all the beef stew and Bailey’s we plan on imbibing on March 17th; if you still need a place to celebrate, try out one of these Irish pubs in a city near you. From the Emerald Isle itself all the way to the DR, we promise a good time — and at least a few Irish Car Bombs.
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