There’s nothing quite like the sense of discovery one feels when arriving at a hidden gem hotel — a truly special spot that is intimate, remote, underrated, or all of the above. Some people like to brag to their friends about their insider find; others prefer to keep it all to themselves. Of course, we at Oyster have never been good at keeping secrets.
It’s time to get your spring break plans in order, and if you’re looking for some fun in the sun, the Caribbean is a prime destination. But with thousands of islands (although only a few dozen are inhabited) to choose from, that doesn’t narrow things down much. That’s why we at Oyster have created an A to Z (well, actually, an A to V) guide to the Caribbean, so choosing your island and resort will be a piece of cake. First stop: Anguilla.
The boutique Anacaona has two pools.
Anguilla is a tiny British territory that covers fewer than 40 square miles and is a popular spot for couples and celebs (Sofia Vergara went on a girls’ trip to the island) due to its small size and upscale vibe. Visitors must either fly to St. Martin and take a short ferry to the island, or fly in directly (by way of a small seaplane) from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Thus, getting to the island can be pricey. So once you’re there, we’d recommend staying at the boutique Anacaona in the island’s West End. Though its not quite as luxe as the CuisinArt or Viceroy, it offers access to the same gorgeous white-sand beach as the neighboring Viceroy – through an off-property path — as well as to the nearby Greg Norman’s golf course and a few restaurants, and its prices are considerably lower. With two small pools, a great restaurant serving Caribbean fare with a twist, and a massage hut on the beach, the hotel is a good pick for value.
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Winter may be firmly upon us now in the Northeast, but that doesn’t mean we have to write off warm weather entirely. The Caribbean isn’t too far away (especially for us East Coasters), and some island hotels are featuring wonderfully affordable rates this time of year. You may have to forgo a few luxuries to stay on budget, but designer toiletries are highly overrated, right? So pack your bags and get ready to hit the beach for a few days — or a few weeks! Oyster has the skinny on the Caribbean’s best value stays.
Dive right into the Caribbean Sea from your room at the Rockhouse.
The Rockhouse is a lush, laid-back Jamaican resort offering gourmet dining, morning yoga, a premium spa, and best of all, a gorgeous cliff-side location on Negril‘s coast. Sure, there’s no fitness center and rooms lack TVs and Wi-Fi, but its unplugged vibe is just why some guests come. Plus, with rates usually falling below $200, it’s a steal compared to similar resorts — such as the slightly chicer Caves — in the area. (NB: Children under 12 are not allowed on the property.)
Here at Oyster, we pride ourselves on intensively visiting, photographing, and reviewing every single hotel we feature on our site. Our photos are undoctored and honest, but on our travels, we’ve found that the hotel’s marketing photos can be heavily retouched or cropped mysteriously. Our Photo Fakeouts are legendary — just look at the Sexy Lady Phenomenon — and we felt it was only appropriate that as we expand our coverage, we expand our Fakeout repertoire, too. So today, check out our new find: with some helpful editing, a tiny, skyscraper-surrounded pool becomes a tranquil oasis at the Holiday Inn Express San Juan. See for yourself »
America has spoken! The faces of our government may not have changed too much in recent days, but some of the laws that make it up sure have. After all, the 2012 elections brought about a lot of firsts on the national and state level, including (but not limited to) famous victories in Colorado and Maine. In honor of some new state laws (that have surprised — and delighted — and outraged — quite a few people), we’re hitting the road to take full advantage of our rights as U.S. citizens. Come along for the ride!
The Vote For: Legal Highs
You can get Rocky Mountain High at the Hotel Monaco in Denver
While federal laws may keep a tighter leash on the whole situation, several states this election passed marijuana laws that allow pot possession. Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and older, and
we some people we know are ready to break out the Cheetos and spark up a fat one (and, yes, the law allows non-resident protection under new legislation).
To celebrate these state’s historic firsts, visitors and locals can book a room at the super-chill (and somewhat trippy) Hotel Monaco in Denver. The boutique hotel boasts a great downtown location for convenient munchies options, quirky and stylish rooms to get creative in, and free evening wine receptions so you can share all of your very important ideas (or at least they’ll seem so at the time) with strangers. Read More »
The Madison One-Bedroom Suite at The Mark; New York, NY
1. FACT OR FAKEOUT? Emma Stone, Russell Crowe, Naomi Watts, Jonah Hill and Marc Jacobs were all spotted hanging out in The Mark’s lobby during Hurricane Sandy.
2. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino will offer a free weekend stay in the property to every guest that posts pictures on the hotel’s Facebook or Twitter pages proving that he or she voted today.
3. FACT OR FAKEOUT? P. Diddy recently crashed his car right outside The Beverly Hills Hotel after another driver swerved in front of his Cadillac Escalade.
4. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Four Seasons’ $71,000 Around-the-World Tour By Private Jet package includes a stop at the Four Seasons Hualalai, which was selected due to its convenient on-site landing strip.
5. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta is offering an $87,000 spa package that includes stem cell treatments and hair transplants.
Check out the answers after the jump!
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If you have an upcoming vacay booked for the Caribbean, don’t despair — plenty of resorts are up and running after the storm. And even if you don’t have a trip planned, we know many travelers grow attached to their favorite hotels and vacation destinations; a reader wrote us just the other day asking how her favorite resort in Jamaica was doing post-Sandy. So Oyster.com decided to let her — and all of you — know how each of your favorite islands in the storm’s path fared, and share the recent social media updates from some of our favorite resorts in each place.
Sandy did make landfall in Jamaica as a Category 1 hurricane, and the island suffered one death and $16.5 million worth of worth of damage (crops such as coffee, bananas, and coconuts were all impacted). But tourist resorts for the most part were only minimally affected.
Half Moon is fully operational, and had no damage aside from some fallen tree limbs and debris.
Oyster’s Post-Sandy Resort Pick: Half Moon, Jamaica
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This morning’s mini-break comes courtesy of Villa Montana Beach Resort, in the Puerto Rican town of Aguadilla. Although it doesn’t have the glitz that hotels on the Condado in San Juan may share, it offers an incredible stretch of secluded beach, several gorgeous outdoor pools with bars, and a more romantic, quiet vibe. Who needs nightlife when you can hang out one of those amazing, coral lounge chairs — sunrise, all day, and well past sunset. So as we always say, take a deep breath, sit back, relax and soak in the goodness that is Villa Montana’s beach.
The beach in Aguadilla is way quieter than some of Puerto Rico's more party-oriented hotels located in San Juan.
It happens to us every morning — as we’re commuting to work, we doze off and imagine we’re part of the strings of tanned, lean bodies flocking to the beach, surfboard in hand — instead of on the subway. Well, it’s time to stop daydreaming, get your boss to approve your time off, and catch the next flight out of town — we’ve shared our favorite spots to practice the most popular and coolest summer sport. And whether you are an experienced surfer or just looking to learn, rest easy: we’ve got you covered.
Sunset Surfing in Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii
Hawaii is known as the Mecca of surfing, but Oahu’s North Shore is the icing on the cake. It’s probably not for amateurs, though, as waves are a good size and are better enjoyed with a little practice (not that we’d be the ones to to tell you). Some of the world’s top surf competitions take place here, and anyone who’s ever been on a surf board will recognize names such as Pipeline, Log Cabins and Waimea Bay — home to some of the best waves around. Granted, the island can get crowded, but few places in the world boast waves like these.
Best Spot to Surf: Turtle Bay, Radz and Graters are arguably the best, as they are all open to the swells of the northernmost spot on the island. All are for experienced surfers and close to each other.
Best Spot to Sleep: Turtle Bay Resort is a 448-unit resort on the scenic, isolated North Shore with an unbeatable array of amenities — two 18-hole golf courses, a stable, helicopter rides — plus five miles of shoreline with wonderful waves, and great restaurants.
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The Villa Montana Beach Resort; Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
What’s more relaxing than hearing the sound of the waves gently lapping against the fine golden sand while you snooze under a palapa? (Answer: Nothing. Duh.) Whether planning a family trip, a romantic tryst, or a long weekend away with friends, choosing the best beach is probably as important — or more — as booking the right hotel for your vacation. But nobody said it was easy to decide, with the many gorgeous options we’ve curated just for your (rainy day) viewing pleasure.