ALL POSTS IN [Oyster Spotlights]

Bermuda

Despite its proximity to the East Coast of the US, this tranquil archipelago oozes British tradition (judges still wear white wigs) with a touch of Caribbean pace: Speed limits are 15 mph in the busy areas, and 20 mph in the countryside. Narrow, winding roads will lead you to breathtaking pink-sand beaches with clear waters great for snorkeling and swimming, or to some of the world’s best golf courses.

Whether you stay in the city of Hamilton or decide to go parish-hopping (the islands are divided into 9 parishes for administrative reasons), you’ll see that there’s a lot to do besides sitting in the sun on one of the wonderful beaches: centuries-old sites, a long-abandoned railway trail where you can spot exotic wildlife, great shopping, bar-hopping in St. George … And all this without the crowds of more popular destinations farther south, like the Caribbean islands or the Bahamas. Cambridge Beaches, in Sandys Parish, is one of the most stunning properties on the island, located on a sprawling 30 seaside acres. It features several private beaches, beautifully manicured grounds, and a highly-rated restaurant. If you’re looking for something slightly more low-key and family-friendly, Grotto Bay is a fabulous option, often for a reasonable rate. Though kids enjoy exploring the on-site grottos, the natural caves also add a romantic element, and couples can enjoy massages under the stalactites.

- Oyster.com Staff

Charleston

It’s no wonder why some of the most popular romance novels – Dear JohnThe NotebookThe Last Song – have been set in or near Charleston. Between the horse-drawn carriages, the colorful gardens, and the constant ocean breezes, Charleston exudes old-world romance and quaint Southern charm.

Many visitors head to Charleston in hopes of exploring the numerous historical attractions. The Citadel, a historic military college, offers full dress parades, and Civil War sites can be seen throughout the city and in surrounding areas. Many of the city’s inns and B&Bs are housed in historic buildings. The Jasmine House Inn, for example, is a beautiful, antique-filled mansion dating back to 1843, that features a pretty courtyard. The Harbour View Inn is a historic landmark, and the only waterfront hotel downtown.

And, of course, visitors also come for the beaches. There are many different beach towns within a short drive from downtown, with Folly Beach perhaps being the most popular. Tides Folly Beach looks right out over the sand, and all rooms have balconies with fabulous views.

- Oyster.com Staff

Palm Beach, FL, offers a mixture of old money and new-age sophistication, with an abundance of sunshine, grade-A golf courses, clean beaches, and even some cultural and historical exhibits. An enclave of the uber-rich, the beach destination caters to a well-established, traditionally upper-class crowd. Between Donald Trump’s exclusive spa, “Mar-a-Lago,” and the ritzy Worth Avenue, it’s safe to say that visitors need to be ready to shell out some serious green while vacationing here.

Most beaches are private, which means wide, uncrowded stretches of sand lined by beautiful oceanfront mansions and hotels. One of the most iconic spots is The Breakers, originally opened in 1896. This luxe hotel features 5 pools, two 18-hole golf courses, 10 tennis courts, 9 restaurants and 540 rooms. If you’re looking for something a bit more sleek and sexy, the Omphoy’s Asian-inspired décor, trendy restaurant, and beachside location attracts a fun, young crowd. Those looking to save some green may consider the Marriott. It’s not on the beach but amenities such as a heated outdoor, an on-site Starbucks, and a 24-hour fitness center make this hotel a solid value.

- Oyster.com Staff

Belize

Belize, a small country in Central America that shares a border with Mexico and Guatemala, is known for its lush rainforests and Mayan ruins. But it’s most famous for its snorkeling and scuba diving, which are among the best in the world: The barrier reef off shore is second only to the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, and visitors can see turtles (both green and leatherback), nurse sharks, stingrays, and a variety of tropical fish. Divers swarm the Blue Hole, a large sinkhole. The waters are clear and warm, but as in other reef destinations, the beaches are manmade; the reef prevents the breaking waves that create natural sand, and the seaweed can make swimming close to shore difficult.

Most tourists head to the Northern Cayes and Atolls, a string of small islands along the reef, where visitors will be a short boat ride away from world-class snorkeling and scuba diving. The Grand Caribe is a luxe family-friendly option in the area. Decor is high-end, and includes Brazilian tile floors, mahogany wood, and granite countertops. Plus, all units have private terraces with pretty pool or ocean views.

The inland Cayo District is the second most visited area, and home to beautiful countryside, lush rainforests, and perhaps the most impressive Mayan ruins in the country. When Prince Harry visited the area last year, he stayed at the rustic luxe Lodge at Chaa Creek. This eco-lodge sits on a private rainforest reserve, and myriad tours and outdoor activities are offered through the hotel. The more affordable Pook’s Hill also sits on a reserve, and offers on-site river tubing and bird watching.

- Oyster.com Staff

Ireland’s best-known nickname is the Emerald Isle, and one visit there will make it abundantly clear why: Ireland’s landscape is defined by rolling hills, dramatic green cliffs and lush forests. The country is also deservedly famous for its stunning coastal scenery, and the many famous outlooks include the Causway Coast, the Cliffs of Moher and Ballinskelligs Bay along the Ring of Kerry.

Ireland has a long, rich history, and many visitors are enchanted by its mystical Celtic past: It’s still possible to see beehive huts that once housed pre-Christian settlers; Druid stone circles; Iron Age stone forts; and gorgeous old castles. Visitors can even stay in historic castles during their visit. On a stunning lakefront, Ashford Castle was first built in the 13th century and today hosts plenty of celebrity guests. The Schoolhouse Hotel is more than 500 years younger than Ashford Castle, but it nonetheless has an historic vibe, housed in a building from the 1800s. This Dublin boutique features classic rooms with antiques, floral prints and canopy beds. If you’re looking for value, the Arlington Hotel , within a short walk of Temple Bar, is a popular choice among young travelers, and offers perks such as free Wi-Fi.

- Oyster.com Staff

Jamaica Hotels

Jamaica is a popular Caribbean getaway, and not just for college spring breakers seeking the nonstop all-inclusive booze-fest (which can easily be found). There’s also a different Jamaica: brilliant reggae, delicious jerk chicken from oil-drum pans, rugged cliffs, blue lagoons and overwhelmingly pleasant locals.

Parts of Jamaica are very easy (and thus relatively inexpensive) to get to. Visitors can fly directly into Montego Bay, which balances some of Jamaica’s classic luxury escapes, such as Round Hill Hotel, which features large, beautifully designed rooms by Ralph Lauren and breathtaking grounds, with more affordable all-inclusives, like the Iberostar, offering endless amenities (if a rowdier crowd).

With smaller-scale relaxation and better beaches, Negril is a bit out of the way (2 hours from the airport), but the drive is well worth it. Off the beach, bohemian bungalows like the Rockhouse HotelTensing Pen, and the Caves are tucked among lush vines on limestone cliffs about 30 feet above the profoundly clear water.

- Oyster.com Staff

Hilton Head

This island city, located off of South Carolina’s southeastern corner, is known as one of the best spots to vacation on the East Coast, but don’t mistake its panache for pretentiousness. This resort town is laid back, boasting calm public beaches and low-key seafood eateries.

Most of Hilton Head’s attractions are outdoors. Its championship golf courses have long been its claim to fame, but tennis and horseback riding are also big draws. Boating is a core part of the island’s history and lifestyle, and almost any type of boat is available for charter, from yachts to sailboats to fishing boats. Boaters have a great chance of spotting dolphins (sightings on dolphin tours are almost guaranteed), and everyone should make a point to see the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse. Local forest preserves offer plenty of wildlife to observe, including snowy egret, otters, wild boars, and, if you’re up for it, even alligators.

Hilton Head has historically attracted an upscale crowd. Today, it’s a destination for the middle class as well, and has become a hot spot for families with young children. As a result, visitors will find ritzy, world-class hotels, affordable condo rentals, and kid-friendly resort options all on the same island. For those looking for that upscale vibe, The Inn at Harbour Town is located on a luxe property with 3 championship golf courses, as well as numerous tennis courts. Though the hotel’s beach club and pool are both just a short walk away, if you want to be right on the beach, the nearby Marriott is a solid option and features activities such as bicycles and volleyball courts. But the Disney resort is perhaps the most kid-friendly option, complete with 2 large on-site pools and a waterslide, several casual restaurants and plenty of watersports.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles has a reputation for being a company town, a place where everything revolves around the entertainment industry. Show business is indeed a huge part of the city, and it’s there for visitors to enjoy, from tours of movie studio back lots to celebrity sightings. But LA has so much more to offer. Scratch beneath the celluloid surface and you’ll also find rich cultural and culinary diversity, a thriving visual arts scene, and natural beauty, from beaches and mountains to great parks and un-Botoxed faces.

Hollywood and West Hollywood are great for both families and party people. Many of the city’s best known nightclubs, bars, and music venues are in the area, some within trendy hotels like the Hollywood Roosevelt. For families, proximity to major attractions like the Walk of Fame and Universal Studios Theme Park, coupled with some affordable, unpretentious hotels, like the Magic Castle, make Hollywood a great base camp.

Not surprisingly, true luxury can be had in Beverly Hills at large, iconic, amenity-filled properties like the Beverly Hills Hotel and Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire. There are also small, affordable boutique properties, like the Luxe Rodeo Drive, for those who want to spend less on their hotel and more on haute couture.

- Oyster.com Staff

Host city of the 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid is a winter sports lover’s paradise. Although summer is its busiest season, there are plenty of outdoor adventures for visitors at any time of year. And even though it’s in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains, the compact downtown center has a surprisingly diverse offering of restaurants.

Don’t let the name “Lake Placid” fool you; the actual lake is a couple miles away. Instead, the village of Lake Placid lies on the shores of Mirror Lake. Some of the state’s best mountains are found here, making it a popular winter ski spot, while summer brings travelers who want to swim or boat. Impressive fall foliage also makes it a destination for leaf peepers.

Overlooking Mirror Lake, High Peaks Resort is one of the most luxe and extensive resorts in the area. Mere moments from all of Main Street’s offerings, this 133-room resort manages to feel both central and secluded at the same time. There’s plenty to keep guests occupied on-site, including the Aveda Concept Salon and Spa, 4 pools, a lakefront area with free use of kayaks and a modern fitness center. It lacks the private beach access and the 45 holes of golf that the Crowne Plaza offers, however. If you’re looking for value, the Best Western is a great bet. Though some areas are in need of renovations, this family-owned spot features a cozy lobby, free breakfast, and amenities such as an indoor pool, a fitness center and a game room.

- Oyster.com Staff

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona is most famous for its stunning red rocks, which are particularly beautiful in the glow of sunrise and sunset, and have formed the backdrop for many a western film. The temperatures here are cooler than other Arizona destinations, thanks to the higher elevation, and Ponderosa Pines surround the city. It’s a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, with excellent biking, horseback riding and especially hiking. Some of the most popular hiking spots include Cathedral Rock, Bear Mountain, Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock.

The stunning desert-meets-forest scenery has, unsurprisingly, attracted many artists, and Sedona has become known for its numerous art galleries and craft shops. The inspiring setting has also drawn a New Age crowd; in the 1980s, the discovery of Sedona’s “vortexes” — concentrations of spiritual energy — caused alternative medicine peddlers, psychics, and vortex tour companies to make shop here.

L’Auberge de Sedona has one of the most stunning natural settings in not just the Southwest, but the country, with the picturesque Oak Creek running underneath shady trees, and Sedona’s soaring red rocks suspended in the background. Most of the luxe guest rooms and woodsy cottages come with fireplaces and private decks. It’s a popular spot for corporate retreats and romantic getaways. Families may want to check out the Village of Oak Creek — at the southernmost tip of Sedona — which offers restaurants, shops, hiking trails and Sedona’s only 18-hole public golf course. Las Posadas of Sedona is a quaint B&B in the area, with massive suites and freebies such as daily appetizers and cookies.

- Oyster.com Staff

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