Value Hotels

We love the Florida Keys for so many reasons: the sun, the sand, the seafood, the sunsets, the nightlife… And fortunately for most East Coasters, the Keys are easy enough to reach that a weekend getaway to the beach (that doesn’t feel rushed) is totally doable. Not to say that you’ll want to leave, but at least your travel time with be short enough that you’ll have plenty of time to chow down on key lime pie and sip on margaritas even during a quick trip. On our recent jaunt to the Keys, we visited a slew of adorable properties and confirmed what we’ve believed to be true for some time — the Florida Keys are home to some of the cutest boutique hotels EVER. From a two-room hotel on a quiet street to a luxe adults-only property on its own private island, here are our ten favorite boutique hotels in the Florida Keys, NEW on Oyster.com!

Casa Morada

Casa Morada

Okay, so it’s not that small. But boat rides, fishing charters, and dive trips are just some of the perks available at Casa MoradaInspired by a laidback Caribbean lifestyle, this upscale 16-suite boutique hotel is perfect for couples looking for a romantic getaway, whether for a honeymoon or just because. Situated right next to the ocean in the middle of the Florida Keys on Islamorada, the hotel provides a peaceful and serene atmosphere with hanging hammocks and lots of fun and free activities like yoga classes, kayaking, and bicycle rentals. Compared to nearby hotels, this property offers great value with spacious and upscale rooms with water views.

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The Caribbean, the West Coast, and North America’s ski resorts…. During the winter months, these spots are bustling with tourists who are either looking to escape the cold, or are seeking it out for that fresh powder. But summer months see their crowds dispersing for destinations like the beaches of the East Coast, Europe, and theme parks around the world, where temperatures are generally high — as are the prices. That’s why we think it’s a great idea to not overlook your favorite wintery getaway as a possible summertime escape. Not only are hotel rates nearly cut in half, but winter destinations can be just as fun (dare we say more so?!) in the summer as they are during peak season. Here are eight popular winter destinations where you can enjoy an amazing, and affordable, summer getaway!

1. Cancun

Fiesta Coral

Not surprisingly, Cancun’s busiest months are those around winter and spring breaks, when hordes of college students descend upon the white-sand shores to party and lounge poolside. Even early June, though it technically falls during low season, can be a busy time for Cancun tourism as families treat their tots to summer vacations. By the end of the month, however, this beach destination starts to clear out — which means beautiful, uncrowded waters and great deals on hotels. It may be warm, but the crystal-clear ocean is right at your toe tips and the culinary scene is still bustling. September sees particularly low rates — but be prepared for potential hurricane weather!

Where to Stay: Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Resort & Spa

While not all-inclusive, to which many guests attribute the resort’s quiet atmosphere, the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Resort & Spa has three restaurants; three poolside bars, including a swim-up bar; and a lobby bar. The extensive and beautifully designed spa, billed as the only in Latin America with a 10-step hydrotherapy program, is a big draw.

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Fairy tales have been bewitching readers long before Emma Swan wandered into Storybrooke on ABC‘s “Once Upon A Time.” In fact, these stories of heroes and magic, and goblins and trolls, have been entrancing the masses ages before even the Brothers Grimm decided to pen some of history’s most memorable tales. The reasons for this preoccupation with folklore vary: Some people pine for their favorite characters and others wish for a world where magic spells and potions can be bought and sold at your local witch’s hut.

But perhaps the most alluring part of a fairy tale is the setting, filled with grand castles, forbidden forests, and charming villages galore. These fascinating worlds come to life before our eyes thanks to the rich descriptions of our favorite fairy tale authors. And there’s good news for all of the dreamers out there: Many of these otherworldly settings were inspired by real life destinations around the world. Now we all know Sleeping Beauty’s castle was based on the gorgeous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, and that Colmar, France could be La Belle et La Bete’s hometown, but what about lesser known fairy tales? From Sicily to Scotland, we have the scoop on some of the most idyllic lands of folklore that are just waiting to be discovered — and, of course, the dreamy hotels where you can almost imagine Prince (or Princess!) Charming awaiting your hand for a dance.

1. Sicily, Italy 

sicily

Sicily remains one of the most intriguing regions of Italy. A mix of cultures — including Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, and African — provide the island with a heady history filled with intrigue. You can see the blend of cultures reflected in the island’s cuisine, architecture, language, and — yes — folklore. Fairy tales from Sicily have all of the traditional components: heroes and heroines, magic and might. But they also have some surprising twists that make them entirely their own. In Sorforina, for example, our titular heroine is a well-educated young woman, the daughter of a Sicilian merchant, who falls in love with a young, belligerent prince. The tale of their love affair is tortured, filled with artful witchcraft and steamy seduction (this is an Italian fairy tale, after all). It is a fairy tale of its own unique making, filled with the wry and unabashed sarcasm Sicilians are known for in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

Stay: Grand Hotel Villa Igiea  

The Grand Hotel Villa Igiea offers a magnificent and ornate example of Sicily’s 19th-century architectural history — as well as a plausible backdrop for our Sorforina. Visitors have noted that this is considered one of the best, if not the best, hotel in Palermo. The grounds are spectacular, and the outdoor pool was built to incorporate ancient stone ruins. Inside, there’s a romantic bar with vaulted stone ceilings and wall frescoes. Read More »

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It’s no secret that space in New York City is limited, which makes it all the more precious and expensive. Unfortunately, for budget travelers in particular, this means not much lodging — that you’d actually want to stay in — is available outside of hostels. Fortunately, in the last few years the Big Apple has seen its own take on Japanese-inspired capsule hotels pop up, and these spots are dedicated to making the best use of tight spaces (and budgets!) without sacrificing style. Trust us, we’ve stayed in some small spaces during our travels — but no place does small quite so chicly as these three NYC “pod” hotels. These are the perfect budget hotels for a stay in Manhattan as they are modern, stylish, compact, unique, and efficient — just like NYC. (Besides, how much time do you really spend in your hotel room?)

1. Yotel

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Born out of a desire to create luxurious accommodations in compact spaces, Yotel began as a by-the-hour hotel system in various London airports. In 2011, NYC became home to the first standalone, brick-and-mortar incarnation of the brand. Located two blocks from Time Square, Yotel’s intuitively efficient rooms are well-steeped in style, and display a futuristic design with high-tech convenience built right in. Well-thought-out floor plans mean rooms never feel cramped (well, I guess we can only speak for ourselves…), while monsoon showerheads and heated towel racks prove you don’t have to skimp on comforts. Rooms here may be small, but the hotel isn’t shy when it comes to common spaces. With 18,000 square feet of lounging and dining space, including a 7,000-square-foot trendy rooftop terrace, Yotel gives you plenty of über-hip bang for your buck.

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Forget no-frills lodging; today’s new brand of hostels offers cool decor and plenty of perks. Sounds too good to be true? Well, we’ve got the scoop on hostels that pack a wow factor with upscale amenities, contemporary comforts, prime locations, and good food. Plus, with fun social scenes and affordable rates, they have all the ingredients for a pleasant stay without breaking the bank. Join us as we step into the (little-known) world of modern hostels.

Hostelling International – New York

hostelling_intl_nyWithin walking distance of Central Park and numerous subway lines, Hostelling International in New York City offers an affordable stay on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This well-run property has both private and shared rooms, free Wi-Fi, a theater room, game room, café, several lounges and a private patio/garden. To keep guests (mostly in their 20s and 30s) entertained, the hostel organizes daily events like city tours, pub crawls, and in-house comedy shows.

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Throughout our travels we’ve seen over-the-top luxurious rooms, themed rooms, massive rooms, just plain weird rooms, and everything in between. But for some rooms that we’ve gotten the chance to explore, there’s no better way to describe them than just, well, cool. Whether they’re located in caves or decked out in all-over orange (you’ll understand in a minute), these ten picks are some of the coolest hotel rooms in the world.

1. The Suite of Orange at Hotel Estherea, Amsterdam

 Hotel Estherea

Hotel Estherea takes a maximalist approach to its interior design, and treads the fine line between plush extravagance and gaudiness with aplomb. This is particularly apparent in the lavish Suite of Orange, which lives up to its name; decked out in various shades of orange with plenty of mahogany touches, it features a gorgeous chandelier and high-tech amenities such as massive flat-screen TVs and iPads upon request. The hotel’s location on the Singel canal is picturesque, and well positioned for exploring Amsterdam‘s attractions.

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The beauty of reading a good book is that it transports you to a whole different world — without ever costing you a penny. Whether James Joyce guides you through Dublin or Hemingway fixes you a drink from his home in Key West, literature opens pathways to other dimensions that never require a passport. But sometimes the imagination needs a dose of reality to fully grasp the whole picture. Other times, an author’s words so imbue a reader’s mind, he or she cannot help but pack up bags to experience the same sights, sounds, and smells that gave birth to a favorite novel. Poets, novelists, and playwrights give us a little bit of their world on every page — and now it’s our chance to take a bit more for ourselves. The best destinations for book lovers are enumerable: Every person has a favorite author, and every author has a different world view. But there are some spots around the globe that possess just a bit more of a literary spark than others. So pack your bags — and your favorite paperback — because we’re going on a trip perfect for any bookworm.

1. Dublin, Ireland 

dublin

The Irish have a reputation for storytelling, and with good reason. A UNESCO City of Literature, Dublin the home of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and countless other prominent literary figures — and you can visit several of their homes during your visit. At Trinity College, visitors can take a look at one of the most famous books in the world, The Book of Kells, dating back to 800 A.D. And, once night comes, be sure to take part in the Literary Pub Crawl that takes you to some of the city’s best pubs with an acting troupe in tow portraying some of your favorite scenes from Irish literature. The James Joyce Museum, the Dublin Writers Museum, the Chester Beatty Library, and the Long Room at Trinity College are among other popular literary sites.

Stay: Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa

The Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa is located about half an hour northwest of Dublin’s city center. The historic property — an 18th-century castle turned Georgian house, turned convent, turned hotel — sits on beautiful green grounds, making it a popular spot for weddings and events. The location allows visitors to see more of the country that inspired Ireland’s great writers, and with a library, restaurant, three bars, and several golf courses nearby, there is plenty to keep guests entertained. Read More »

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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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While a nautical theme can make for fun hotel decor all year round, we can’t help but enjoy it a little more in the summer when the timing feels particularly fitting. After all, during warmer months we love the idea of being out on the open seas, wind in our hair… until we think about how crowded and gross cruise ships can actually be. Considering the many recent mishaps on ships and boats — some of which actually proved to be quite dangerous — as of late, we’d rather enjoy a nautical theme from dry land, thank you very much. Fortunately, we’ve visited plenty of hotels that make you feel like you’re first mate — without actually having to set sail.

Amstel Botel, Amsterdam

Amstel Botel

The 175-room Amstel Botel, a former river cruiser converted to a floating hotel, sits by the industrial NDSM wharf, a growing outpost of Amsterdam’s underground art scene. The Botel is decorated like a European ferry, and is a no-frills budget-friendly option for visitors. Central Amsterdam is a 15-minute free ferry ride away. Kids may enjoy the experience of staying on a boat, but the property is more popular with value-minded couples and groups. Luxury seekers and visitors hoping for a charming European hotel should look elsewhere, but those searching for a boat-like vibe without having to leave the dock will find the nautical decor fun and charming.

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Beyonce isn’t the only one with a message for all the single ladies out there — a growing number of hotels, in an effort to target single female travelers, are offering women’s-only rooms and floors. These range all the way from shared hostel accommodations to entire floors of upscale business hotels. So for the hostel dorm rooms we’re pretty much on board – we know we wouldn’t love having to possibly change in front of strange dudes — but we’re a bit conflicted about having women’s-only rooms and floors in nicer hotels, where it’s less a matter of practicality and more of a marketing gimmick. These properties are targeting well-heeled businesswomen with female-oriented amenities such as curling irons and glossy fashion mags; some may find it convenient, others a bit insulting.

We can see that it might be nice to leave the yoga mat and nail file at home for those who often pack up all their supplies for just a short weekend getaway — but other women may find the selection of amenities discriminatory (after all, I’ll take the standard NYTimes over Cosmo any day). Also, for hotels with women-only floors (rather than select rooms), there’s an implied security element — it’s as if the hotel is promoting a way for women to stay safe and non-sexed on their next business trip. (Kind of like, er, staying in a convent.) What do you think — are women’s-only floors convenient or anti-feminist?

To help you decide, we’ve rounded up nine properties around the world with dedicated dude-free accommodations.

The Georgian Court Hotel, Vancouver

georgian court

The women’s-only Orchid Floor has 18 rooms, all equipped with extra amenities for women, including flatirons, curling irons, yoga mats, ladies emergency kits, and lifestyle magazines. The upscale hotel is on the edge of Downtown Vancouver, within walking distance of numerous Vancouver attractions.

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