Silicon Valley

The heated pool at the Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize is just on surprisingly luxe green amenity

We don’t mind sacrificing a little comfort during our travels if that means reducing our carbon footprint. But then again, not all eco-conscious hotels call for lights out and cold showers. The 10 hotels that make our list of those with the best eco-friendly perks aren’t all LEED-certified, but they still know that going green makes guests and Mother Earth happy. So here’s our salute to some great stays that are doing their part to reduce, reuse, and conserve with these awesome green amenities.

 

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Everyone knows that we here at Oyster.com love freebies. After all, we talk about them a lot — and we mean a lot. But when you’re shelling out hard-earned cash for your hotel room, it’s nice when the hotel recognizes that and throws in some perks “just because.” We’ve already gone through the freebies we love, and honestly kind of expect, but we’ve yet to go through all the freebies that really took us by surprise — and sometimes even made us laugh! Some you can bring home with you, some are just on loan, but all of these amenities are funky, looney, and downright fabulous.

Toys for Adults at Hotel Avante, Silicon Valley

Have fond memories of your childhood at Hotel Avante.

Get your mind out of the gutter. Those are not the kind of toys we are talking about — and we would definitely not be okay with them if they were on loan! Instead, Hotel Avante offers adult guests good old-fashioned toys in each room. Called “executive toy boxes,” they include toys such as Slinkys, yo-yos, Etch-a-Sketchs, and Rubik’s cubes, and are meant to be used as inspiration — or even just distractions — for business travelers burning the midnight oil. But if you’re a leisure traveler, we won’t tell — go ahead and have some fun!
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We kind of hate to be sharing our best-kept secrets, but it’s our job, after all. So today we’re opening the vault of our favorite hidden gem hotels in California. From quaint, oft-overlooked boutiques in Los Angeles to tucked-away spots just minutes from the beaches of Carmel, we have nine picks for our favorite unknown (until today) hotels in the Golden State. Just please use some precaution when passing on the details — we don’t want to have to share these spots with just anyone.

1. Tradewinds Carmel

Surrounded by lush foilage, Tradewinds is a quiet sanctuary just a short drive from the beach.

The 28-room Tradewinds Carmel has a Zen vibe throughout the hotel — from the courtyard, complete with Buddha statues, a small waterfall, and a tranquil fire pit, to the rooms, decorated with Asian printsstalks of bamboo, and orchids. The rooms are large and feature well-decorated bathrooms with nice soaking or Jacuzzi tubs, but like many small hotels in Carmel, the Tradewinds lacks a fitness center and a spa (though in-room spa treatments are available). Still, it’s a quaint, cozy pick and is just a short drive from the beach.

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Let’s face it: Traveling can bring out the inner germaphobe in even the most adventurous of us, and for good reason. There are lots of health risks encountered in your hotel room that you won’t necessarily find at home, from mold to industrial cleaning product residue. Didn’t even cross your mind ’til now? Well, fear not — more and more hotels are offering solutions, so your next hotel stay can be cleaner and safer than ever before. Read on to find out what to be wary of — and what you can do about it.

The Orchard Hotel in San Francisco uses chemical-free cleaning products.

The Orchard Hotel in San Francisco uses chemical-free cleaning products.

The Risk: Chemical Cleaning Products

The chemicals in cleaning products used in many hotel rooms can make you sick — and routine exposure (road warriors, take note) can be life-threatening. Exposure to the carcinogens in cleaning products can increase cancer risk, while endocrine disruptors found in many pesticides, detergents, and disinfectants can confuse body hormones and cause fertility problems or even miscarriages.

The Solution: Chemical-Free Cleaning Products

Eco-friendly hotel initiatives are growing increasingly popular, and these days many hotels are being recognized for their efforts by organizations such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). So don’t be afraid to ask hotel staff about the cleaning products they use, or check out our research here. One of our favorite LEED-certified hotels is The Orchard Hotel, which was at the forefront of this movement. Among the very first LEED-certified hotels in San Francisco, the Orchard uses chemical-free cleaning products — among many other impressive green practices.

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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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Business trips sometimes offer welcome changes of scenery — but long days chock-full of meetings, luncheons (where a permanent smile is required), and early-morning (or late-night!) workouts squeezed in at the hotel gym can make them downright exhausting. But if you’re lucky enough to be sent to a good destination, all the downsides can be worth the perks. Silicon Valley is a major business hub and, as such, most hotels in the area cater to those traveling for work with well-equipped gyms, up-to-date business centers, and comfortable rooms. And some also cater to those looking to let loose after a day of schmoozing meetings. After all — work hard, play hard — right? We’ve picked our favorite business hotels in Silicon Valley where mixing business with pleasure is easily done. Check ‘em out! And then get back to partying work.

Four Seasons Silicon Valley at East Palo Alto

Forget the indoor gym -- the Four Seasons has an outdoor fitness room by the pool.

Forget the indoor gym -- the Four Seasons has a fitness cabana by the pool.

This Four Seasons reflects the legendary service and commitment to quality of the luxury brand. Upscale touches are everywhere, from the beautifully manicured grounds to the sleek wood-paneled lobby to the spacious rooftop pool (where attendants offer guests free sunscreen). The spa, pool, and Quattro restaurant are all top-notch, and the rooms are bright and modern with floor-to-ceiling windows, marble bathrooms with deep soaking tubs, and large flat-screen TVs.

Work: The hotel offers over 7,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, complete with ballrooms, flexible board rooms, and catering service.
Unwind: The stylish rooftop pool features private cabanas and bar service, as well as an outdoor workout area.

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As the Hotel-Tell All, Oyster is very well-traveled when it comes to hotels. We’ve seen it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly. So around this time last year, we came up with a list of 11 things we hate about hotels. And trust us, we really hate them (don’t even get us started on daily resort fees…). But tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we realized that, sure, hotels can do some annoying things, but hotels give us plenty to be thankful for, too. So this time, we decided to come up with a list of 11 things we love about hotels.

11. 24-hour room service

Breakfast in bed at The Surrey in New York City

Breakfast in bed at The Surrey in New York City

Even Mom won’t whip up an omelet for us when we just gotta have one at 4 a.m. But at hotels with 24-hour room service, guests can have their pick of tasty treats no matter the time of day or night. And even better than 24-hour room service is 24-hour room service with a menu dreamed up by a celebrity chef. Hotels such as The Surrey and Mercer Hotel, both in New York City, are known for their celebrity chef restaurants and room service menus.

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Makena Beach and Golf Resort -- Maui, HI

Golf Course at Makena Beach and Golf Resort -- Maui

A round of golf can always do a body good. Sure, golf can be one of the most frustrating sports on the planet, [Ed. note: We've seen a few snapped clubs in our day.] but there’s nothing like the feeling when you sink that putt for eagle. (Not that we can speak from personal experience, per se, but we’ve heard stories.) So what could possibly make hitting the links even better? Gorgeous ocean views, duh. For all you golfers out there – Hi, Dad! — we found twelve beautiful hotel golf courses around the globe that have killer vistas to boot. Pack your clubs and get ready to work on your swing–these spots will be sure to inspire you to play your very best.

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For travelers with a bit of acrophobia, some of the world’s most gorgeous spots are also the most terrifying. These nine hotels, from a cliff-side sanctuary to an uber-luxe mountaintop retreat, will test travelers who are even a little scared of heights. The views may be endless, but for some, so is the vertigo.

Think you’re ready to live on the edge? If so, proceed — with caution.

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You know what New Year’s Eve means: cocktail dresses, wild parties, a midnight countdown, and just hours until your New Year’s resolutions kick in. It can be tough to start in on your new diet-and-exercise regimen — especially after a night of raucous debauchery — so we’ve come up with the top six last-minute active getaways to help you jump start your goals for 2012. You will have never looked or felt better! We have a destination for every kind of woman in every kind of location (with great deals to boot) so getting in shape will be fun – we promise! Whether you like to burn calories whizzing down the slopes or want to start fresh with a detox and yoga, we have a spot for you. Check out Oyster.com’s top picks for active getaways below, or on Shape.com!

The rock wall in the fitness center at the Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa

The rock wall in the fitness center at the Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa

For the party-girl: Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa Miami Beach in Miami

Some of you will undoubtedly be hitting up the clubs in Miami Beach for a wild New Year’s Eve. So for all you party girls out there, the Canyon Ranch Miami Beach is the perfect choice: It has a slightly more relaxed vibe than other Canyon Ranch resorts (so there will be no judgment for your escapades the night before) and it offers about 40 free fitness classes everyday (so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to burn off the calories from the New Year’s Eve champagne toast). The Canyon Ranch brand is synonymous with good health and the Miami Beach outlet is no different; guests sign waivers that they will not smoke while at the resort, the restaurant serves healthy options off of a menu with detailed nutritional information next to every item, and the massive fitness center includes dozens of cardio machines and a rock-climbing wall. Best of all, starting on January 1st, the hotel offers a four-night Your Stay, Your Way package for guests staying in room types of the Ocean Palm suite or higher, which entitles them to a $400 credit that can be used towards the spa, the shop, and the restaurant. So after a sunset yoga class or a beach conditioning workout, you can order an icy, alcoholic beverage by the pool (albeit low-cal and flavored with acai juice) – hey, you’re still a party girl at heart.

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