Kauai

“America the Beautiful” was originally a poem written in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates, who was inspired to pen the historic words after taking a memorable — and clearly, scenic — cross-country train trip from Massachusetts to Colorado. In the late 1800s, such a trip might have been grueling, but it was nonetheless considered exotic — whereas nowadays, it sometimes seems travelers aren’t impressed unless they’re crossing vast oceans and getting multiple stamps on their passports. But America is still the fair beauty of Bates’s poem, and tons of gorgeous sites and settings can be found right in our backyards. Even better, local travel is often relatively cheap and easy: There’s no currency exchange, language barrier, or passport required, and even if you do fly, flights are certainly less expensive than those to far-flung international locales. Here are six amazing sites in the U.S. that you’ve got to see. (And don’t worry. If you really must cross an ocean to feel like you’re on vacation, we have some U.S. destinations where that is a necessity as well).

Bioluminescent Bay, Puerto Rico

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If you’ve ever questioned whether the U.S. could be exotic, the Bioluminscent Bay in Puerto Rico’s Fajardo will have you properly convinced. Just a short drive from Old San Juan, this famed “Bio Bay” puts on nature’s most magnificent light show: At night, when the bay is inky black beneath the light of the moon, microscopic plankton glow turquoise as you paddle or swim through the water.

Where to Stay: El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is just about as close as you can get to the Bio Bay. Even better, this luxe resort offers some of the Caribbean’s most epic views.

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Rain usually isn’t an element vacationers seek; in fact, it is often purposely avoided, whether that means picking a rain-free destination or visiting a spot during its dry season. Yet some of the rainiest destinations around the globe are also the most beautiful, and they are all the more enticing during their wet seasons when the crowds are few and the natural surroundings are lush. Here are eight spots where we’ve found the silver lining; these rainy destinations are gorgeous, and definitely deserve a visit this spring.

Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is one of the wettest destinations in Central America, but it’s thanks to the constant rain that it is also one of the most beautiful. The country is home to lush rainforests, dozens of national parks with a rich diversity of flora and fauna, and long white-sand beaches. If you visit towards the end of the spring, you’ll be traveling during Costa Rica’s rainiest season which means crowds are fewer (in fact, Costa Rica is still relatively undeveloped and uncrowded year-round compared to its Caribbean counterparts), the surroundings are uber-lush, and, also like spots in the Caribbean, rain often lets up for sunny mornings.

Where to Stay: Lapa Rios Ecolodge & Wildlife Reserve

Lapa Rios, located in the remote coastal rainforests of the Osa Peninsula, is Costa Rica’s original luxury eco lodge. This is the opposite of a Cancun-style beach resort — guests come to the upscale Lapa Rios to enjoy the spectacular surroundings, learn about sustainable tourism, and re-connect with nature.

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Hawaii attracts about seven million visitors annually and it’s no wonder; with a beautiful natural landscape, rich culture, and vast range of activities, it is one of the most diverse destinations in the U.S.  No two islands of the six-island chain are the same, and even different areas and coasts of a single island can vary drastically. This can make it difficult to choose an island for your vacation, but it also means that all kinds of travelers can find what they’re looking for — and fortunately, travel among the islands is relatively easy and stress-free. So whether you plan on island-hopping throughout your trip, or prefer to pick one island that’s best suited to your needs, our handy island guide will make planning your Hawaiian getaway a breeze.

If you want…

A little bit of everything: The Big Island big island

It makes sense that the largest island (larger, in fact, than all the other islands combined) would be the most diverse, and those who seek a well-rounded experience will love the Big Island. Between fiery volcanoes, cascading waterfalls, white-sand, black-sand, and even green-sand beaches, blossoming meadows and snow-capped mountains, the options are seemingly endless. Visitors can sunbathe and snorkel by day and stargaze from frigid mountaintops by night.

This clean, affordable condo property in Waikoloa Village on the Kohala Coast offers an uncommon level of privacy: It’s located inside a gated community and surrounded by a golf course. Ranch-inspired buildings house multi-room units, complete with full kitchens and washer/dryers, and property features include an attractive (if small) infinity pool and an open-air fitness room.

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If you and your honey have VIP taste when you travel, you’ll be in good company at these romantic resorts. All of them have made headlines for hosting celebrity couples, from Brad and Angie at Caneel Bay Resort in the U.S Virgin Islands to, most recently, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and his girlfriend at Half Moon in Jamaica (where he either did or did not suck her toes in a hot tub, depending on whether you believe the New York Post). So what makes these resorts special enough for the likes of Hollywood royalty (and in some cases, royalty royalty)? We’ll give you the inside scoop.

Half Moon, Jamaica

Half Moon, JamaicaWhen Eliot Spitzer and girlfriend Lis Smith vacationed together at Half Moon, Jamaica in early January, they made headlines for some racy hot tub behavior (specifically, Spitzer was reported to have sucked on Smith’s toes). The report turned out to be unreliable, but we imagine the pair had a lovely time at Half Moon even without the toe-sucking. The 400-acre resort has two miles of pristine beach, a dolphin lagoon, horse stables, and a spectacular spa; it’s fit not only for American political royalty (JFK and Jackie stayed here long before Spitzer) but actual royalty (Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and The Prince of Wales have also visited). Read More »

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This year just might be the year that you finally go on that once-of-a-lifetime trip. Right? Even if it’s not really in the cards – or the budget—there’s nothing to stop you from at least planning your dream trip. Just the way you’re planning to lose that holiday weight. And quit smoking. So go on – make it your New Year’s travel resolution to stay at one of these gorgeous, truly special hotels. We have a feeling it will be a whole lot more fun than tackling the other items on your resolution list.

Jade Mountain, St. Lucia

Jade Mountain Resort, St. LuciaJade Mountain is consistently rated as one of the best hotels in the Caribbean (and often as the best hotel in the Caribbean) – and it’s not hard to understand why. This ultra-romantic resort offers decadent suites, most with private infinity pools and all with jaw-dropping views of the iconic Pitons and the Caribbean Sea. Guests can also expect organic cuisine, doting service, and plenty of privacy and tranquility. Read More »

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Let’s face it: winters are tough. When it gets dark at 4:30 p.m. and there are sheets of freezing rain outside, it’s hard not to fantasize about getting out of dodge. But choosing where to escape to can be overwhelming; with so many options, where does one begin? Luckily for you, planning vacations is one of our favorite things. We’ve selected some of our favorite winter getaway destinations and shared what we love about them — as well as a top hotel pick for each.

Kauai

St. Regis Princeville, KauaiWhy We Love Kauai: Kauai is less developed than its more popular neighbors, Oahu and Maui — and arguably more beautiful. Its lush terrain, placid beaches, and dramatic cliffs provide the backdrop for numerous Hollywood visions of untamed, other-worldly paradises. Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Jurassic Park films, and the 2005 version of King Kong were all filmed here. The 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon, the lava-rock seawater pool at Queen’s Bath, and the remote, towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast are among the world’s most beautiful natural attractions.

Where to Stay: St. Regis Princeville

The 251-room St. Regis Princeville is considered by many to be the premier luxury option in Hawaii, and given the stunning setting overlooking Hanalei Bay, it’s hard to disagree. Guests can expect warm, sophisticated decor, suites with personal butler service, world-class golf, and a memorable breakfast buffet on a terrace with gorgeous ocean views. Read More »

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If you’re planning a trip to the Aloha State and have the budget to splurge, we’ve got you covered. These nine hotels are jaw-droppingly gorgeous and utterly decadent, from the elegant rooms to the tasty restaurants to the impressive pools.

St. Regis Princeville, Hawaii

St. Regis Princeville, Kauai St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

The 251-room St. Regis Princeville is considered by many to be the premier luxury option in Hawaii, and given the stunning setting overlooking Hanalei Bay, it’s hard to disagree. Guests can expect warm, sophisticated decor, suites with personal butler service, world-class golf, and a memorable breakfast buffet on a terrace with gorgeous ocean views. The discerning clientele this resort attracts will find little to fault, though if one had to nitpick, the formal dress code might not appeal to everyone, and food prices — as one might expect at this caliber of property — are steep. The location on Kauai’s lush, ruggedly beautiful northern coast makes for natural beauty that’s unparalleled, but rain is more frequent here and the beach, though lovely, doesn’t have the finest sand. Read More »

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Having a pool in your hotel is always a great perk when traveling in the summer, but there are many other seasonal hotel amenities that can make a trip special. Part of our job here at Oyster is to experience the property in full, and we never miss a chance to make the most of our visit. We’ve done everything you can imagine, from zip-lining in a snowstorm to bird-watching binoculars in hand — all for the sake of a complete review. These are our favorite summer amenities and where to find them.

Loaner bikes: Paradise Point, San Diego

The best way to explore this private island is on a bike.

The best way to explore this private island is on a bike.

Plenty of hotels offer loaner bikes for guests to use during their stay, but few are located on a 44-acre private island where the best way to explore is on two wheels. Sea World San Diego and Pacific Beach’s shopping and dining are just a short bike ride away – so leave the car in the hotel’s parking lot and enjoy the sea breeze in your hair.

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Couples take note:  It’s not necessary to leave the country to experience some of the world’s most romantic hotels. We love exotic locales, but those looking for something closer to home can find some truly decadent escapes right in our own backyard. Our five favorite picks all have lovely waterfront settings on oceans, waterfalls, or lagoons, as well as pampering service and ultra-luxurious accommodations. Check ‘em out!

The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina

The Cottage Suite - River View, Inn at Palmetto Bluff

The Cottage Suite - River View, Inn at Palmetto Bluff

This “inn” in Carolina Lowcountry, really more akin to a sprawling estate, provides a one-of-a-kind experience that uniquely blends southern history and almost otherworldly natural beauty: rivers, misty marshes, old oaks draped with wispy Spanish moss, and salty breezes. The main hotel building looks like a classic southern mansion, and the 50 Cottages and Cottage Suites are simultaneously homey and utterly luxurious, with working fireplaces, screen porches, and gorgeous bathrooms. The multi-bedroom Village Homes are also luxurious, but lack some of the nuances of the cottages. Guests can enjoy a range of recreational facilities, including golf, bicycling, tennis, croquet, kayaking, and swimming (in the two pools), and the luxury spa is highly acclaimed. It’s not an overstatement to say that the Inn at Palmetto Bluff is one of the most special properties in the entire country.
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One Bal Harbour Resort bathrooms have some of the best views in the Miami.

Some people prefer to read a magazine in the restroom, but we’d much rather gaze out over a stunning view. There’s nothing we love more than exotic sights, no matter where we’re taking in the view — the shower, tub, or elsewhere. From Hong Kong to Miami, Boston to Barcelona, here are our favorite hotel views from the best seat in the house.

 

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