Value Hotels

August is an antsy month. Back to school madness descends upon parents, kids, and coeds alike, with everyone looking to squeeze in one last shore run before class starts up once again. Then September rolls into town with the first inklings of crisper weather — and the lure of the shore is only heightened. But where to go? For many East Coasters, a quick trip to Southern neighbors where the sands are still toasty and the waves still refreshing is dampened by the threat of Mother Nature’s finest beast: The Hurricane. The Gulf Coast becomes a ghost of what it once was, and Caribbean tourists flock to other beachfront locales where winds and rain aren’t so rampant. But for the brave of heart (who are more scared of a high price tag than some high winds), traveling to the eye of the storm means gorgeous, uncrowded beaches and tranquil luxury resorts at extremely reasonable rates. It goes without saying that safety comes first, and booking a trip during this time of year to some of our favorite Gulf and Caribbean destinations won’t always pan out. So make sure to double check with your favorite weatherman and get the scoop on how the winds are swirling across the Atlantic before you purchase. (You can always hit up these hurricane-proof spots if you’d rather not risk it.) But if you’re ready for a little adventure on the cheap, here’s a selection of Oyster’s favorite hurricane hideaways to get you started on your end-of-summer getaway!

1. The SPA Retreat Boutique Hotel, Jamaica

Negril

A peaceful and beautiful resort, The SPA Retreat Boutique Hotel was designed to be a true escape for couples and small groups that want to relax, be pampered, and enjoy a quiet getaway in Negril, Jamaica. For adults only, the intimate hotel (which maintains a maximum 47 visitors) features individual cottages, all-inclusive packages for dining at the on-site restaurant and bar, a variety of spa services, and an incredible view of the Negril cliffs plunging into the Caribbean Sea. Read More »

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As summer comes to a close and Labor Day fast approaches, it can only mean one thing — school is about to be back in session. Of course, degrees and majors are important (kinda, sorta). But when choosing their collegiate home for the next four years (or five or six — no judgement; it’s the best years of your life), many high school seniors also consider the nightlife, history, and culture of the college towns. Taking a trip to these locales offers potential students an opportunity to check out the scene — and it’s also fun chance to explore a young, vibrant college town and relive co-ed life — without the homework — for those who have already attended plenty of college reunions in their day. Here are 10 hotels to visit the next time you want to go back to school — but you can trade in the projects and essays for interesting sights and delicious meals.

Hotel Commonwealth, Boston

Hotel Commonwealth

Some of the most well-known universities call Boston home, so it’s no wonder the city’s population contains a large amount of students. Harvard, MIT, Boston University and Brandeis make up just a small handful of the Boston area’s higher education options. Rich in history, Boston can be as educational as it is entertaining. When you go, make sure to check out a few of the college campuses and perhaps opt for a stay at the 148-room Hotel Commonwealth, one of the most well-rounded boutique hotels in Boston. With its classical furnishings, large rooms, and impressive array of services, it captures the spirit of the city like few others. It’s also a quick three-minute walk to Boston University.

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Sweden and Norway typically conjure images a la Frozen: Stunning icescapes punctuated by the rogue reindeer or a flash of brilliance from the Northern Lights. But there is more to these Northern European countries than meets the eye — and it’s not all winter and chill. When hockey season ends and the sun comes out to play, Scandinavians flock to the coastline for summering on the shore. Whether boating along their country’s rugged oceanfront or exploring its lakes, Scandinavians embrace the warm weather with gusto. There’s also phenomenal hiking, golfing, and other athletic activities to enjoy, as well as island hopping and shopping, so Norway and Sweden are both wonderful, not to mention atypical, holiday vacations to squeeze in before the summer’s over. Check out our favorite stays and activities in Scandinavia.

1. Hotel J; Nacka, Sweden 

hotel j

This nautical-themed, boutique hotel has a secluded, out-in-the-country feel perfect for summering in Sweden – but in reality, it’s only a 10-minute drive from central Stockholm, making it convenient as well as picturesque. Though the suburban area of Nacka, one of the city’s business hubs, can be relatively quiet at night, the Hotel J has an excellent waterfront restaurant that’s often bustling. Nacka is well-regarded among sailing enthusiasts and spa-goers, making it an apt choice for a holiday. Read More »

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

The Caribbean oftentimes musters up images of massive beach resorts. Even some of the most luxurious options can be teeming with crowds that filter from the various restaurants to the packed beaches to the lively pool scene, frequented by both splashing kids and partying co-eds. But during our travels around the islands, we’ve also found plenty of quiet hidden gems. These beachfront boutiques have the look and vibe of a casual oceanside hut – but nonetheless deliver a hotel-like experience with on-site amenities and activities, and quaint, well-designed rooms. Explore our 10 favorite low-key properties on the Caribbean sands.

Coyaba Beach Resort, Jamaica

 Coyaba

For travelers who want to enjoy a resort experience but still prefer a more intimate hotel, the Coyaba Beach Resort is an attractive upper-middle-range option. The 50 plantation-style rooms are spacious, and guests won’t feel crowded or cramped at the private beach (even though it’s small). An all-inclusive option lets guests dine and drink on the property, and couples will likely appreciate the spa services, lush gardens providing shade and privacy, and the quiet pool.

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Maybe it’s the summer heat that’s getting to us, but lately we’ve been loving the idea of showering outdoors. We guess we’ve just decided that there’s no better way to cool down and wash away inhibitions than with an outdoor scrub down. Since we think you might be feeling the summer heat, too, here’s a list of 10 of our favorite hotels that have private outdoor showers — some even have outdoor baths!

GoldenEye Hotel & Resort, Jamaica

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GoldenEye’s cottages and villas are hip and stylish without seeming out of place in Jamaica. Jalousie shutters and hardwood floors add an authentic island feel, while luxe details such as clawfoot bathtubs and kitchens featuring designer appliances are a cut above what is found at most other Jamaican resorts. All units have views of either the serene lagoon or the ocean, and come with private porches equipped with lounge chairs, tables and chairs, and even kayaks. But we love the outdoor showers (and bathtubs!) where you can soak and soap in a beautiful, open-air garden setting.

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openerStarwood’s Aloft brand prides itself on offering modern, fresh, and fun properties, so it’s not much of a surprise that their latest project involves a…futuristic robot?! (Well, maybe it’s a little bit of a surprise.) The “Boltr” — named A.L.O. — is designed to step in when human staff gets backed up at the reception desk. A.L.O also performs basic tasks like moving towels and linens throughout the hotel. It may even deliver your breakfast-in-bed room service order! In lieu of cash, guests are encouraged to tip the bot with reviews and tweets. Positive reviews are rewarded with a little robot dance. It’s hard to tell if this is one more step towards the inhuman direction the hospitality industry is taking (other examples include iPad ordering and express checkout), or just a great way to get the Aloft some publicity. Starwood global brand leader Brian McGuiness has described the robot as having “the work ethic of Wall-E, the humor of Rosey from The Jetsons and [it] reminds me of my favorite childhood robot, R2-D2. We are excited to have it join our team.” There’s no word yet on just how many robots Aloft will roll out or where. [Skift]

Check out some of our favorite Aloft properties after the jump. We’ll be sure to update you on any future robot run-ins >>

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For travelers on a budget, a jaunt to the Mediterranean might seem off limits. Known for its gorgeous scenery, temperate climate, sumptuous cuisine, and sky-high price tags, the area is often thought of as a playground exclusively for the rich and famous. But we believe everyone deserves a fabulous vacation and a trip to the Mediterranean is, well, fabulous! So our team of Oyster investigators has searched high and low to find hotels across the Mediterranean that are a little more wallet-friendly  than you’d expect. (We don’t expect any thanks and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves but, sure — you’re welcome). Here are 11 of our favorites.

Villaggio Colostrai, Sardinia

Villaggio Colostrai

Villaggio Colostrai is a budget traveler’s best bet in Sardinia. The hotel offers a free breakfast buffet, nightly activities for adults and children, and free parking. Rooms are pretty basic, and the hotel doesn’t offer Wi-Fi, but its manicured grounds and incredible pool, with sweeping views of the Mediterranean, will certainly make up for any shortcomings.

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Hay! How about a visit to the ‘ole barnyard for your next getaway? Hotels on working farms allow you to leave the fast-paced city life behind — at least for the weekend — and hit the country to hone your farming chops. But don’t worry; the farmtastic resorts that make our list offer all the amenities of a swanky hotel. It’s more like they just happen to encourage guests to rise with the roosters as well. With so many animals roaming about and so much open land to explore, you may just want to pull in the reins on your texting habit and take a digital break during your stay, too. (Again, not to worry — you don’t have to.) Just be sure to pack the overalls, buckaroo – your hands may get dirty!

Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort; Solvang, CA

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Set on a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort is the kind of place that breeds cowboys. It’s a step back in time to the Old West, but with all the amenities. Expect charming, western-style rooms, and plenty of ranch activities. At the Barn Yard, guests can help bottle-feed goats, calves, miniature horses, and sheep. Animal lovers can also gather eggs, and groom and exercise the animals in the corral. Cart rides with miniature horses are a favorite among younger guests, while grownups can ride into the sunset on one of the property’s beautiful thoroughbreds.

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How is it already August?! This summer may be swimming by — we have some pretty hardcore party scars to prove it — but it’s not over yet. The sun is still shining, so in our book that means that there’s still time for clear booze and colorful sundowner cocktails. And, since there are only a few more summer Fridays to squeeze in before the school year starts, here’s a list of hotels that won’t throw salt in your summer party game (but they just might throw it in your margarita!). So, Cheers! Salud! Skål! Proost! Party like the summer’s almost over because, well, we hate to break it to you — but it is.

Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas

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The swank Hard Rock is off the Strip, but it knows how to throw a party, particularly at the pool. Home of Rehab (arguably Vegas’ best pool party), go-go dancers in the casino, live music at The Joint, partying at Vanity nightclub, and stylish cuisine at Nobu or Ago, this sinful Strip property has earned lots of Oyster Awards for partying. Arguably even more so than the Palms, Hard Rock is one of the most unapologetically hedonistic hotels in Las Vegas. It’s a place where wanna-be rock stars and, well, real rock stars come to party, gamble, and trash their hotel rooms. Of course doing so will cost you, or your record company, a fortune.

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We’ve been spending our summer in Italy. Tough, we know. And we’ve visited some pretty amazing hotels during our stay. We’ve toured gorgeous palazzos, stepped into rustic farmhouses, and perused canal-side properties. But some of our favorite hotels have been those tucked into the hills of the Italian countryside, where natural thermal baths are considered standard. (But, with calming waters, soothing temperatures, and beautiful surroundings, are anything but.) Here we bring you three totally romantic Italian escapes — made all the more romantic with sexy thermal springs for an utterly relaxing, rejuvenating vacation.

Hotel Saturno Fonte Pura

Hotel Saturno 1

An intimate, family-like atmosphere pervades this hotel and spa in the Tuscan countryside. The 25 rooms are laid out around well-kept grounds, and the conscientiously maintained outdoor pools are sourced from the hotel’s private spring, one of Saturnia’s famous naturally occurring thermal waters. These two thermal pools are the hotel’s main attraction, and are kept at their naturally occurring temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). A hot tub and a full menu of spa services round out the options; many guests have claimed that, since the owner changes the pool waters daily, the facilities are the cleanest in town. Other perks include the excellent restaurant, which serves local fare in a country-style dining room, the lovely grounds, and the sweeping views of the countryside. 

Hotel Saturno 2

Hotel Saturno 3

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