Orange County

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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Hotels are offering some pretty creative butler services these days to attract guests’ attention. Many of these offerings may be gimmicks, but we couldn’t help but wonder — what do these specialty jobs actually involve? We’ve rounded up some of the craziest butler services we’ve come across, from surf butlers to soap butlers.

Hotels are offering specialized butlers to do everything from picking your perfume to tracing your ancestry.

Hotels are offering specialized butlers to do everything from picking your perfume to tracing your ancestry.

Fireplace Butler

There’s nothing worse than selecting a fragrant-but-quick-burning birch wood when you’re trying to make the night last. Luckily for suite guests at the Taj Boston, they need not worry about picking the wrong wood for a relaxing night by the fire thanks to the Fireplace Butler who can be used by guests of any room with a fireplace. The butler service even comes with a seasonal menu – wood menu, that is. Read More »

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Sunset in Antigua

Gorgeous sunsets can be found all year-round, but summertime is a particularly nice season to take in a beautiful dusk view with a mai tai in hand. We’ve shown you some incredible sunsets before, but we’ve created a second edition of amazing views we’ve seen more recently. From Caribbean beach destinations to bustling metropolitan cities, we found 10 more incredible sunsets from our travels around the world.

 

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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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Are you on Santa’s Naughty or Nice list this year? We’ve seen a lot of good and bad behaviors during our travels over the last year — and maybe dabbled in both as well! So we know every dirty little secret, or shiny gold star, that you’ve been part-and-parcel to on vacation. But if you’re not sure where you stand in Santa’s twinkling eyes, we’re here to help. You can find out whether your favorite hotel amenities will get your stockings stuffed full of goodies or weighed down by coal this holiday season with our quiz. So check out which list you’re on!

The Naughty List: 

1. Have you stripped down?

Clothing optional resorts like the Desire Riviera Maya can see some X-rated action.

For some travelers, itsy bitsy bikinis or revealing Speedos just don’t cut it — a vacation isn’t a vacation without a little nudity. Luckily for them, some hotels are redefining casual dress with policies that let guests bare it all (or almost all), like the couples-only, clothing-optional Desire Resort & Spa Riviera Maya. A little voyeurism never hurt anyone — but don’t be surprised if your nude antics land you on the naughty list this winter.

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Who hasn’t dreamed of traveling like royalty, sleeping in some of the world’s most expensive suites, and eating in Michelin-starred restaurants? The time and money for that kind of trip can be tricky to come by, but it’s always good to be ready just in case the opportunity arises, right? We here at Oyster have been lucky enough to have visited thousands of hotels around the globe and across the states. The U.S. is known for having high standards when it comes to hotels, and hotels stateside offer some of the most decadent services around. So we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite luxury properties in the States for those planning a luxe trip — and for those who just like to dream. Enjoy!

The St. Regis New York

Rooms feature decadent decor and opulent bathrooms.

Rooms feature decadent decor and opulent bathrooms.

There are dozens of ultra-luxurious hotels in New York, but The St. Regis is second to none, with a refined atmosphere, extraordinary service that includes butlers on call 24-hours, Clefs d’Or concierges, a signature bath menu, gorgeous guest rooms, a great Fifth Avenue location (the better for shopping), and a stunning Beaux Arts lobby. (Phew! That was a long list.) It won’t come cheap, but the level of luxury offered here is not found in any other hotel in the city.

  • Our favorite luxe amenity: The packing and unpacking services offered by the guest’s personal butler

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Batter this than a concrete wall, huh?

Better this than a concrete wall, huh?

No one likes to work out in a depressing basement with stuffy air and no natural light, but sometimes travelers have to take what they can get. After all, many hotel fitness centers feel like afterthoughts, with a few rusty machines crammed into a sad little rooms in forgotten corner of the hotels. But some hotels go above and beyond to provide an appealing space for travelers to work out, with large windows overlooking the city, the mountains, or the beach! Check out our 12 favorite hotel fitness centers with awesome views — and don’t forget to pack your workout clothes!

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We’ve all heard celebrities complain about how difficult it is to be famous — and we understand that sometimes you just want to grab a coffee without having a dozen paps photographing your every move. Still, when sponsors regularly put you up in $7,000-a-night Presidential Suites that we can only dream about, please excuse us if we’re not feeling all that sorry for you. But to be fair, we here at Oyster are just as guilty as the next person of loving all that’s glitter and glamour, so we’ve been checking out where some of the top celebrities have stayed. Keep reading and discover the stars’ not-too-shabby digs!

The Celebrity: Kim Kardashian

For $8,000 you can also stay in this bi-level presidential suite.

For $8,000 you can also stay in this bi-level presidential suite.

The Hotel: Gansevoort Park Avenue - New York, NY

  • Price: Starts at $8,000.

The Gansevoort’s Presidential Suite was Kim’s pick during her stop in New York to film a season of Kim and Kourtney Take New York. The 2,700-square-foot, bi-level penthouse has an expansive terrace with city views; a dining area with a wet bar; a living room with a foosball table and a fireplace; a lofted bedroom featuring a plush king bed and a top-notch sound system; floor-to-ceiling windows, and two bathrooms, one of which has its own steam shower and whirlpool. The hotel also features a chic outdoor pool, a myriad of popular late-night spots, and a renowned Italian restaurant.

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For a lot of employees, corporate retreats are dreaded events. And for good reason: At a bad corporate retreat, you might end up singing Kumbaya in the woods with your boss or falling backwards into the arms of a coworker to “build trust.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. At Oyster.com, we’ve covered some resorts that provide truly awesome settings for company getaways. The daily schedule may still be in your boss’s hands, but at least the resorts will make the probability of being able to squeeze in some fun much higher.

Best Corporate Retreats for…

An AIG-Style Luxury Bash

The Hotel: St. Regis Monarch Beach, Orange County

St. Regis Monarch Beach

St. Regis Monarch Beach, where AIG spent over $7,000 on golf fees alone for their executive retreat in 2008.

If you’re in the mood to party like it’s 2008, look no further than the St. Regis Monarch Beach. This is the high-end hotel where AIG reportedly spent over $400,000 on an executive retreat — less than a week after the government’s $85 billion bailout of the company. (The bill included over $23,000 in spa treatments; we guess the executives had a lot of de-stressing to do after their company nearly went down the toilet.) But hey, the times are a changin’ and 2012 has seen the return of luxury corporate retreats. So go on, celebrate the fact that your company is no longer facing imminent disaster (we hope). With a gorgeous 18-hole, ocean-view golf course, eight tennis courts, a renowned spa, an excellent business center with videoconferencing technology, and a high-tech boardroom, it’s the ideal setting for a decadent company getaway.

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Oyster Decodes Hotel Points Programs is a new series where we break down hotel rewards programs and give you the inside scoop on how they can save you money.
 
Hotel point programs are not always easy to decipher, and sometimes even we (travel experts, after all) feel we need a guide to understand how they work. But it’s worth the effort it takes to decode: All are free to join, and more often than not, end up saving travelers a significant amount of cash. This week, we’re biting the bullet and starting with cracking the Marriott rewards program, which is one of the most difficult to navigate as guests can redeem their points at over 3,600 locations worldwide across 12 distinctive brands.
 
Marriott properties are divided into eight categories — depending on the hotel brand, location and type — and five tiers.  Members can earn up to 10 points for every dollar spent at Marriott hotels, as well as at Marriott’s partner airlines and rental car companies, which include Hertz, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic. They can then redeem the points earned on hotels, airlines and other services. While advantages of joining the program are numerous, the system is not always straightforward, so we’ve selected some of our favorite hotels in each category and tier where, for a certain number of points (starting at 70,000), you can enjoy a one night stay in a standard room. Start redeeming those points!

Tier 5: 70,000 points

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong - Hong Kong, China

The gorgeous indoor pool has great views and a Jacuzzi

The gorgeous indoor pool has great views and a Jacuzzi

Only a few hotels in Hong Kong deliver the Ritz-Carlton’s level of luxury. Large rooms feature decadent touches, such as plush beds with 400- to 600-thread count linens, iPods and iPod docks, Nespresso coffeemakers, and high-end toiletries. The hotel is set on floors 102 to 118 of Hong Kong’s tallest building, and while acrophobes may not appreciate being this far from the ground, the height does make for breathtaking views — that is, when the sky is clear. Highlights include a stylish indoor pool, sleek gym, and top-notch spa. The Ritz-Carlton is connected to a great shopping mall and corporate offices, and also offers easy access to the airport train and the MTR. However, its location in an up-and-coming business area west of Tsim Sha Tsui is a bit out of the way for leisure travelers.

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