Rio de Janeiro

A hotel has “made it” when it’s honored as a Relais & Chateaux property. After all, established in 1954 in France (mais bien sur?!), this exclusive association is made up of just about 500 hotels and restaurants, combined, that introduce guests “to a deeper, truer understanding of the Art of Living.” Or, in much simpler Oyster terms, they show guests a darn good time by providing gorgeous rooms, luxurious facilities and amenities, and top-notch service. We’ve been lucky enough to have stayed in quite a few of these R&C properties (don’t get too jealous — as hotel experts, we also have to stay in spots like this), and here bring you the real creme de la creme of the best of the best.

1. Saint James Paris

St James

It makes sense to start in grand Paris, non? With a sweeping private entrance surrounded by green lawns and an impressive fountain, the upscale Saint James is a rare find in Paris — in fact, the 19th century manor is considered the only chateau-hotel in the city. It’s fitting that the hotel is located in the wealthy 16th arrondissement (and yes, valet parking is included). The 48 rooms and suites are large by Paris standards, and decorated in plush luxurious fabrics. But the common areas are more impressive — especially the black and white grand staircase on the main floor. The terrace is a beautiful spot for lunch on a nice summer day. And there’s also a small fitness center, a spa, and a gourmet restaurant. The rates here are steep, but guests who want to experience luxury in Paris (and can afford it) should give the Saint James a look.

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An old fable tells the tale of the city mouse and the country mouse (or the city oyster and the country oyster in our case — we know, it’s a bit of a stretch). The story ends with a precautionary warning: cities are crowded, dangerous, and unsavory. But, here at Oyster, we’ve never met a city we didn’t like! Though they may be a bit busier than the countryside, cities are hubs of history, culture, and entertainment. So we suggest you leave the quiet country behind and give the city a whirl. Here are eight megacities (cities with populations of over 10 million people) we can’t get enough of.

New York

new york

Some call it the Big Apple, others the “City That Never Sleeps,” but no matter its name, New York is truly one of the greatest cities in the world. With a population of nearly 24 million people, New York’s magnitude may at first seem daunting, but this city’s crowds are part of its splendor. The large population is incredibly diverse, which means visitors have access to every type of restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue imaginable. Amongst innumerable, unique neighborhoods, visitors will discover iconic skyscrapers, world class museums, fantastic shopping, and all around vibrancy.

Where to Stay: Mandarin Oriental, New York

The Mandarin Oriental is located just across the street from the lively Columbus Circle. With decadent, yet sleek ,decor and sweeping views of Central Park, the Mandarin Oriental is a wise choice for guests seeking a more modern twist on classic upscale choices like The Plaza or The Pierre.

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world cupOne country. 12 stadiums. 32 teams. 64 games. The FIFA World Cup — the world’s most popular sporting event, which draws over three billion viewers — kicks off (who doesn’t love a sporting pun?) June 12 in Brazil. And though soccer is the very life-blood of South America, this year’s tournament marks the first time since 1978 that the games will be held in a South American country. Now, American fans may have a dismal reputation among the world’s soccer fanatics (except for our friends in the Pacific Northwest — we see you, Seattle), but that just means that now is the perfect time for redemption, especially considering that this year’s World Cup is bound to be a particularly electrifying tournament. Here, Oyster lets you in on some trade secrets for watching, cheering, and attending the games. Pack up your jersey — but, please, leave your vuvuzellas at home — and get ready for a month of offsides, red cards, penalty kicks, and goals. “Ole ola!” Read More »

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As temperatures across the United States continue to drop and snow continues to fall, we here at Oyster can’t help but ask ourselves if we’ve entered the next Ice Age. While we’re sure our Olympians across the pond wouldn’t mind Sochi suffering from a similar deep freeze, we personally would rather do without the slippery sidewalks and freezing rains Mother Nature has seen fit to drop on our doorsteps. The lure of sun and sand has never been stronger. If you just can’t stand it one second more, here are eight destinations where temperatures are soaring over 80 degrees right now.

1. Hot spot: Puerto Rico
Current Temperature: 87 Degrees

el conquistador

For a warm-weather escape close to the States, Puerto Rico is an excellent choice in the Caribbean. With temperatures in the high 80s, you’ll be able to enjoy the pristine white-sand beaches and outdoor amenities like horseback riding and golfing available at the top-notch El Conquistador Resort, a Waldorf Astoria property. Read More »

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A new year is upon us, and you know what that means – time to plan your 2014 vacation, of course! And you, being the trendsetter that you are, are planning to go to somewhere on the cutting edge. Well, we’re here to help. This year is an especially good time to visit these five destinations, which have new growth, new tourism offerings, or special events happening only in 2014. Check ‘em out!

Nicaragua

Aqua Wellness Resort, NicaraguaWhy Now: Nicaragua, beloved by backpackers and surfer bums, offers many of the same splendors that draw travelers to its neighbor to the south, Costa Rica — lush rainforest, beautiful white-sand beaches, volcanoes, and rich wildlife – but it is far less developed. That is starting to change, however; 2013 saw the opening of the super-exclusive luxury property Mukul, and it’s possible that this diamond in the rough will be getting a lot more polish in the coming years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you like off-the-beaten path adventure travel – and discovering destinations before they fully “arrive” – now is the time to go.

Where to Stay: Aqua Wellness Resort
Aqua Wellness Resort is a rustic-luxe retreat set into a hillside overlooking Redondo Bay on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. The resort has eco-friendly design, lush vegetation (expect to spot wildlife such as howler monkeys and iguanas), and rooms adorned with lots of natural wood; some units include plunge pools and stunning ocean views. Read More »

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Porto Bay Rio Internacional Hotel, Rio de Janeiro

Porto Bay Rio Internacional Hotel, Rio de Janeiro

Looking to do something a little different for your honeymoon? South America has plenty of sizzling attractions to offer newlyweds, from the beaches of Rio to the steakhouses of Argentina. Romantic hotels are aplenty here, and choosing that one perfect hideaway can be just as difficult as the walk down the aisle. To help you out during your honeymoon planning, we’ve found our favorite hotels ready for romance — and we’ve taken into consideration both the splurgers and the savers. Our first pick in each destination offers over-the-top luxury (and prices), while our second choice offers a cozy South American getaway without too many dollar signs attached.

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Mixing business with pleasure? Trying to trade your business suit for a bathing suit? As much as we love getting away from the office, it’s sometimes hard to think about all the work piling up back at our desks. (Emphasis on sometimes.) So for those instances when we need to check our emails or send out those TPS reports while getting some R&R, these gorgeous tropical retreats have us covered, and with more than just a phone jack. Whether they feature ample meeting spaces, dedicated business staff, or any number of other great work offerings, these properties are sure to please any productive vacationers, so you’ll have just the right mix of business with pleasure. Enjoy your bizcation!

Work and Play At: Porto Bay Rio Inernacional Hotel, Rio de Janiero

We'd trade in our desks for this setup any day

Rio is both a beautiful beach getaway and a mountain-lined urban hub, so it’s no wonder that many of the city’s hotels try to appeal to both business and leisure guests simultaneously. The Porto Bay Rio Internacional Hotel is one of these hotels. Located directly across from the Copacabana beach and offering a stocked, 24-hour business center, the property also boasts some pretty incredible ocean views from the fitness center, meeting rooms, and restaurants, so you never really have to tear yourself away from the beach to get Johnson those TPS reports.

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The Relais & Chateaux Santa Teresa is a historic mansion turned luxurious boutique in Buenos Aires.

South America is home to some of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Whether you want to sit beachside in Rio De Janeiro or soak in views of the Andes in Lima, the top hotels in the region are prepared to cater to your every whim. With both the grande dames of Buenos Aires and the luxe boutiques of Santiago offering guests the ultimate in service and amenities, it’s hard to turn down a trip to this diverse and exciting continent. Check out our favorites (so far!) in this slideshow.

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Legado Mitico is a charming, 11-room boutique in bustling Buenos AIres.

Finding a quiet boutique in a big city might seem like a challenge, but in reality, some of our most intimate stays are tucked into the corners of the world’s largest metropolises. Offering personalized service and charming details, these petite hotels – most have less than 20 rooms –  are some of our favorites. So if mega-metropolises such as Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles might intimidate you, fear not. You can always retreat to these intimate boutiques for some quiet time amidst the bustle of the big city.

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The Marriott Wailea Resort is a romantic honeymoon locale on Maui.

Honeymoons must be two things: romantic and memorable. Any old trip to the beach is just not going to suffice for a couple’s post-nuptial getaway. But thankfully, there are plenty of unique and luxurious properties out there for newlyweds. Remote jungle hideaways, cozy mountain lodges, luxe European grand dames, and gorgeous beachfront properties are waiting with a bottle of champagne at the ready to toast your “I dos.” These romantic hotels around the world are perfect honeymoon locales; go ahead and swoon over them in this slideshow.

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