Hawaii

We here at Oyster.com don’t call ourselves travel experts for nothing — it’s because our staff has traveled the world and tested out thousands of hotels, restaurants, and activities. So today we’re bringing you an inside look at exactly how we uncover what we discover; namely, by giving almost everything a shot. Oyster writer Alex Creange gives us her first-hand account of her first-time experience with paddle boarding.

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Stand-up paddle boarding is kind of like the kale of water sports — one day no one’s ever heard of it, the next it’s the leafy green (hrrmm, aquatic activity) de rigueur. Just flip through any magazine these days and you’re bound to see a toned and tanned celebrity paddling through the waters of some exotic locale. Though the origin of stand-up paddle is not completely known, it is thought to most likely have Hawaiian or Polynesian roots. Which is why, on my recent trip to Oahu, I felt compelled to give it a try. I just had to see what this new craze was all about! Plus, looking like a celeb while commandeering the waters of the Pacific didn’t sound half bad either.

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Kids may not fret about mortgages and car payments but they’ve still got plenty of reason to de-stress. There’s dating blues, red-marked math exams, bad selfies, embarrassing parents, Justin Bieber drama — and that’s just the short list! So why not treat them to a little time at the spa — just like Mom and Dad! Yes, there are plenty of hotels out there that cater not only to adults but also to tots who need a decompressing massage or a pick-me-up pedicure. Here are our six top picks for hotel spas where kiddies can come along.

Nickelodeon Suites Resort, Orlando

Nickelodeon Suites After your kid has been walking for hours around a hot Orlando theme park, those little feet could use a nice soak! But the Nick Suites‘ kid spa offers way more than just pedicures and polish. Young guests can do everything from getting ‘inked’ with airbrush tattoos to requesting funky hair braids and feather extensions. Aside from having a super cool spa, this property is also one of Orlando’s best options for families. The property’s 777 suites, all with kitchens or kitchenettes, are spacious and well-designed to sleep families. Bonus: the on-site water park is the perfect spot to show off those freshly-painted toes!

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Whether it’s overlooking a beach, set in the middle of a desert, across the water from a lit-up metropolis, or tucked away on a remote and picturesque hillside somewhere, there’s nothing quite like a hotel with amazing views. This is why we’ve trekked from coast to coast seeking out the best views this country has to offer (tough work, but someone’s got to do it). Here are 13 of our favorite spots with breathtaking vistas.

St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

The St. Regis Princeville is rumored to be Hawaii’s most impressive beach resort…and after our stay here, we wholeheartedly concur; the rumor is true. Situated on Kauai’s northern coast, the St. Regis overlooks stunning Hanalei Bay. Not only is it — and its view – simply gorgeous, but this hotel also has several restaurants, an incredible pool, and a lovely beach with calm waters and excellent snorkeling.

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Newsflash! Visiting the world’s most expensive cities doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be forced to stay in the world’s most expensive hotels. Though the suite life can be tempting when hoteling in the globe’s most affluent destinations, what’s feasible for the rich and famous often doesn’t align with what’s feasible for the rest of us. Thankfully, there are fantastic budget options in pricey towns that offer a lot of bang for your buck — so you can use that extra cash towards your eight-euro bottle of water. From London to Singapore and back again, we’ve got the lowdown on hotels that won’t break your bank…in cities that threaten to do just that! Though some cities are even too rich for Oyster’s blood — we’ll get to you soon Lausanne! — here are our top picks for the best budget stays in the world’s most expensive cities.

London: Generator Hostel London
Price: $39/night

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The Generator Hostel represents a new type of high-end “hostelling” which puts a real emphasis on creating fun, chilled-out atmospheres conducive to interaction between guests. The Generator is one such property and is a good choice for both young solo travelers and groups, offering dorms for up to 12 people as well as private rooms (though some are cramped). The cafe, bar, and cinema room are all great spaces to relax, and the hostel’s event program is a nice touch. There are few properties with as good a central London location that also promise such a snazzy vibe on the cheap in the world’s most expensive city.

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Even if you never took an astronomy class in college, you can still appreciate looking up at the night sky and seeing an infinite number of twinkling stars. Stargazing is often associated with camping or the viewing of once-every-few-months meteor showers, but — with so many stars in the sky — it can really be done whenever…the where is more important. Secluded areas away from the bright lights of the city are best for admiring the flickering sky and searching for constellations, and some hotels in these secluded spots are best suited for stargazing as well. Whether they have their own telescopes on hand or offer stargazing sessions with an astronomer, these 12 hotels provide perfect settings for an evening enjoying the view above.

Westward Look Resort, Tucson

Westward Look Resort

This renovated guest ranch is Tucson’s oldest resort and one of its most popular. Outdoor activities abound at the upscale property, which offers three saline pools, horseback riding and hiking trails, volleyball, basketball, and eight tennis courts. Big rooms and two highly regarded restaurants at Westward Look Resort overlook the serene mountains and city lights. Nature is everywhere at this property with the various gardens, including a butterfly and hummingbird garden. Another highlight is the telescope on hand, perfect for guests to view the desert night sky. If that’s not enough, travelers can drive about an hour and a half to the Kitt Peak National Observatory; it’s home to the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes and hosts nightly observing programs.

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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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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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Lights, camera, action! Over the last several decades, hotels have played important roles in the film industry. Some iconic scenes — like Julia Roberts and Richard Gere bathing in Pretty Woman – will forever be a part of cinematic history and were actually filmed at hotels, instead of on sound stages. Most hotels that make it to the big screen are (for obvious reasons) primarily in Los Angeles and New York, but many others across the country get scouted to become shooting locations as well. So we’ve found 9 hotels all over that have been prominently featured in movies. Even if you never become a movie star yourself, you can at least visit these properties and feel like you’re walking through a film set. And sure, you’ll happily sign a few autographs.

Beverly Wilshire Beverly Hills – A Four Seasons Hotel

Beverly Wilshire

Let’s start with the iconic Beverly Wilshire – a top luxury pick for business or leisure, families or couples. With beautiful guest rooms, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, and a great spa, pool, and fitness center — plus doting Four Seasons service, it’s a classic five-star property. The hotel was featured prominently in the 1990 film Pretty Woman and it’s certainly proud of this; you can even borrow one of the many DVD copies from the concierge’s library. In the film, Julia Roberts plays Vivian Ward, a Hollywood prostitute who’s hired by Richard Gere’s wealthy businessman character. Their relationship develops over their week-long stay in the Presidential Suite at the hotel. From the couple soaking in the suite’s luxurious tub to Vivian walking through the lobby with numerous bags from shopping on nearby Rodeo Drive, the hotel received a lot of screen time in the classic rom-com.

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Honeymoons, anniversaries, or just weekends away can be made all the more romantic with a bottle of champagne for drinking and a hot tub for soaking. But it can kinda kill the mood if you have to share the whirlpool with other hotel guests, or if it’s nestled up alongside a pool teeming with splashing tots. That’s why we’ve found some hotels that offer private whirlpools — either in luxurious bathrooms or on lovely wooden decks — in various room types so your jetted bath time won’t be disturbed. Here are our 11 favorites — we just couldn’t narrow it down to 10.

The Fairmont Kea Lani Maui

Fairmont Kea Lani Maui

Wailea’s aptly named Fairmont Kea Lani is a “white heaven” indeed — its 450 units sit on a 22-acre beachfront property that includes four pools, four restaurants and one lounge, access to world-class golf, some of Maui’s largest rooms, and a relentless dedication to service that rivals the nearby Four Seasons. The Two Bedroom Villa pictured above is definitely for deep-pocketed patrons that want a romantic getaway. The spacious villa has a separate living and dining room area, but its most alluring feature is the terrace with a private jetted pool and gorgeous views of the water.

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Forget rusty aluminum chairs and fraying towels — these top hotels cabanas only come equipped with first-rate finds. Here’s a roundup of our favorite poolside bungalows designed for discerning loungers: Picture plush seating, shade, salty ocean air, and fancy extras, all right by the pool so you can take a dip whenever you please. These 10 cozy nooks also dazzle with high-tech features and jaw dropping views.

Viceroy Anguilla

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Offering the ultimate in poolside luxury, Viceroy Anguilla provides guests with their own private poolside oasis. Cabanas come with sofa beds, lounge chairs, and gourmet treats. After all, opened in 2009, the Viceroy is the most modern property on this tiny island — and arguably the most luxurious. The Kelly Wearstler-designed resort manages to mix an upscale look with a laid-back, beachy feel, and features sleek lines, modern amenities, numerous art installations, earth tones, animal prints, and wood, stone, and gold accents throughout.

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