St. Martin/St. Maarten

There’s cozy and then there’s spooky. And when it comes to the cavernous spaces of some of our favorite hotels, we’ll just have to let you be the judge. The dark corners and vaulted ceilings of these lair-like rooms often simply add a little extra oomph to the sultry ambiance of a romantic restaurant or a sexy spa, but we still can’t help but get a little spooked in these windowless spots. Here are six hotels that are home to some pretty cool (and kinda creepy?) caves.

Grotto Bay Beach Resort, Bermuda

Grotto Bay Beach

Bermuda’s Grotto Bay Beach Resort is home to the mother of all caves. Natural grottos can be found on the property, and weekly cave crawls explore the grottos’ vast nooks and crannies. Guests are free to swim and snorkel on their own, but if the idea of this makes you a bit tense, have no fear — the spa’s sole treatment room can be found in the subterranean space. The hotel’s private beach is also available for swimming and water sports.

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Sun and sand is great and all, but some (us included) would argue that a beachy setting gets better when the clothes come off. Not only is it totally freeing (as a vacation should be), but it’s also economical — no need to buy a new bathing suit or pay to check your bag! So come and get the skinny on our favorite nude beaches.

1. Haulover Beach, Miami

Though Miami is topless-friendly just about everywhere, Haulover Beach is the only true nude beach in this spring break hotspot. The waters are crystal clear, the soft sand is debris-free, plus there are tons of on-beach amenities. Haulover has lifeguards (in swimsuits, unfortunately), food and drink vendors, and plenty of organized activities like birthday-suit volleyball…although we recommend not going for the save.

Where to Stay: Mandarin Oriental, Miami 

Secluded on an island overlooking Brickell Bay, the 326-room Mandarin Oriental offers a private retreat for couples, business travelers, and anyone else seeking an escape from the crowd. Chic, Asian-inspired decor, a three-level spa, and modern fitness center help soothe jangled nerves, while oversized rooms with water views offer ample opportunity to decompress.

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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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The Inn on the Blue Horizon is one of our favorite B&Bs in the Caribbean.

We love the quaint, homey vibe that comes with bed-and-breakfasts. And when they’re located beachside, where mega-resorts are more often the norm, they feel even more like hidden gems. Plan your next getaway — or just dream about it — by clicking through our slideshow of the best B&Bs on the beach. Many dot New England’s coast, but some, like this first one, are further flung — and just as fabulous.

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Look at the water! Guests can see the crystal blue ocean from just about everywhere on the property.

The low-key, down-to-earth Grand Case Beach Club in picturesque — you guessed it! — Grand Case has an authentic island vibe with bougainvillea-draped, cottage-style buildings and two serene beaches. The pool is tiny, as are studio rooms, but it’s still a gem for travelers intent on quiet, beachside relaxation, plenty of on-site activities, and lush tropical grounds — all within walking distance of the island’s best restaurants, cafes, and bars. And the ocean alone is enough to make this hotel a great pick. So as we say every week, sit back, relax, and soak up the goodness that is the Grand Case Beach Club in beautiful St. Martin.

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Bluest sky meets bluest water at the Bleu Emeraude.

Opened in 2009 and still gleaming, the intimate 11-room Bleu Emeraude is aptly named, as it sits along a peaceful crescent-shaped white sand beach, where the water is the bluest shade of blue. Modern rooms are sleek with updated electronics, designer furnishings, and white-on-white decor that puts the focus on the stunning ocean views. Though the hotel sits on a particularly busy street and has virtually no amenities beyond the beautiful beach, it is just a short walk away from the culinary mecca of Grand Case, and its reasonable rates make it a great value pick on the island. So as we say every week: sit back, relax, and soak up the goodness that is the Bleu Emeraude.

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While there are many great budget-friendly hotels in the Caribbean, the islands are also known for their luxury properties, where guests are treated to day trips aboard yachts, couples are offered massages in sumptuous spas, and rooms are twice the size of a New York apartment (although, we guess it’s not too hard to be). We’ve compiled a list of our favorite luxury hotels in the Caribbean so you can start planning what to do after your new year’s resolution of winning the lottery (that’s not a new year’s resolution, but, really, who hasn’t had that on the list for at least a decade?) comes true.

One&Only Ocean Club – Bahamas

All guests have a butler on call 24/7 assigned to their room upon arrival.

All guests have a butler on call 24/7 assigned to their room.

Bringing tranquility to otherwise-crowded Paradise Island, the 105-room Ocean Club’s personal butlers, beautiful pools (one for adults, one for families), restaurant from Jean-Georges, and access to Atlantis’s water park, casino, and other attractions make it one of the Caribbean’s best resorts.

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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.

Rockhouse Hotel, Jamaica

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.)

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There’s something — should we say a certain je ne sais quoi — about getting away to a spot that’s completely different. A different culture, different food, different people, a different language — all of these things can make you feel worlds away from home (in a good way, of course). And when we’re choosing a destination, we often can’t help but be drawn to French-speaking locales. After all, French is the language of love, and we feel pretty glam when we’re casually searching through our translator conversing with locals in francais. But Paris is sooo last year. (Okay, so that’s a lie — Paris is always fabulous. But work with us here.) So why not visit a French-speaking spot that has, say, a beach as well? Or skip away to a European lakeside locale where French is the official language. If you want to immerse yourself in the French culture, France is certainly not your only option. Check out some of our favorite French-speaking destinations not in France.

Destination: St. Barts

Nicknamed St. Barts, St. Barthelemy in the French West Indies has been a playground to the rich and famous for several decades. Nestled among the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea, it was a French colony until 2007 when St. Barts officially became a “separate overseas collectivity.” French is spoken by many locals (although almost everyone on the island can speak some English) and much of the cuisine has a French flair. This, paired with the fact that almost all food products are imported from France, means meals can be pricey. Seafood, however, including conch — an island specialty — is caught locally. The well-heeled venture out to St. Barts not only for its gourmet restaurants, but also for its high-end designer shops, secluded beaches, and exclusive location. Celebs such as Jimmy Buffet, David Letterman, and Steve Martin own property on the island and are frequent visitors.

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It’s the first official summer Friday, and while temperatures outside are soaring above the 90s, here at Oyster HQ we’re using the power of our imaginations (and our Oyster Shots!) to transport ourselves to some cooler beach-side glamour. In particular, the exclusive La Samanna resort on the French side of St. Maarten has captured our eye with it’s fabulous beach and bohemian bar, Baie Long. Offering a sophisticated setting for cooling off on a hot day, this Moroccan-themed bar is even celeb-approved: Famed guests such as Jackie O (could you find ANYONE chicer?) have sipped cocktails in this bright, airy lounge. So what are you waiting for? Order up a strong one and start your weekend off right!

Baie Long Bar at the La Samanna

Baie Long Bar at the La Samanna

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