By admin | July 22, 2009 - 4:31 pm - Posted in, Reviews


For the past year (well, from April 2008-July 2009), I have been a reporter at, a travel site that just launched this June. Like most startups, Oyster’s origins were shrouded in mystery until recently. For starters, we didn’t want the competition to know what we were up to. Also, it took us about a year to decide on a name (I fought for “Sherpa” and lost).

As one of Oyster’s first reporters, I got to travel all around Aruba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Miami and New York, reviewing and thoroughly photographing 45 hotels in my wake. Here, in no particular order, are my favorite reviews from a year of whirlwind reporting:

Shelborne Beach Resort


What the The Golden Girls would look like if the cameras kept rolling 20 years on — everything was a shade of yellow, sometimes several all at once. At best, buttercup; at worst, buttermilk. On the plus side, these quiet and affordable digs are in the heart of raucous South Beach party scene.

Ritz-Carlton South Beach

Ritz_ThumbRemember Hector Elizondo’s hotel manager in Pretty Woman? Remember how nice he was to Julia Roberts, even though she was clearly a prostitute? I rolled up to the Ritz-Carlton in dirty jeans and a rumpled shirt expecting to feel out of place, but everyone made me feel like I belonged.

Melia Caribe Tropical

Melia_Thumb Gorgeous buildings, objets d’art and high-design eateries notwithstanding, being devoured by mosquitoes is a downer. The otherwise pristine room was splattered with the detritus of previous massacres. The second I turned the air-conditioning down from arctic, the suckers came flooding in.

Fontainebleau Resort Miami Beach

Fontainebleau_Thumb A Miami icon since 1954, this sprawling art deco complex built by the legendary Morris Lapidus. But contrary to its sexy ad campaign, it’s a family hotel at heart (albeit a really high-end one). And while  celebs come out for gala events, the resort lacks the Delano’s “Look, there’s Jamie Foxx” cache.

Natura Park Beach Ecoresorts

NaturaPark_ThumbCanadian spring break meant an influx of college kids. I asked one teen if he thought the food was good. “Well, I threw up a lot,” he said, “but that’s mostly because of tequila.” Sounds about right. An elderly guest got straight to the point: “Who doesn’t like this place? Someone who doesn’t like life!”

Moxons Beach Club

Moxons_ThumbBuilt like a layer cake, its terraces and breezeways work their way down from the cliff to the remarkably clear waters below. With only a bar, a restaurant and a small pool, Moxons feels more like a lodge than a hotel, but it serves the best breakfast in Jamaica!

Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino

Renaissance_Thumb Popular with flight-crews, a waitress at the Renaissance asked if I was a pilot. She said it was because I was “gorgeous.” What? Why would I make this up? Anyhow,  the hotel is dominated by a huge projection of Duran Duran’s “Rio” and 30-somethings looking to have a good time.

Gran Bahia Principe Ambar

Ambar_Thumb The adults-only end of this humongous resort is a much appreciated tantrum-free zone. And really, the place is huge — I could probably live here all hobo-like, turning up at different buffets and bathing on the beach and NO ONE would notice! Seriously.

Club Ambiance


If you’re gonna knock back rum like this, the kids are best left at home. My Standard Room looked like it was out of the “Boogie Nights,” with flowers suggestively strewn on polyester bedcovers and a TV turned to the Playboy Channel (courtesy of the bellman, and done with a knowing wink).

Mondrian South Beach


A top favorite, the Mondrian was designed by Dutch design sensation, Marcel Wanders to look like “Sleeping Beauty’s castle, brought up from the sea by a team of superheroes.” But the shiny white interior looks nothing like the bottom of Biscayne Bay, and the bow-shaped pool is thoroughly modern.

Sanctuary Cap Cana Golf and Spa

Sanctuary_Thumb1Confession #1: My stay coincided with a Spanish food festival hosted by the hotel. Confession #2: The Sanctuary was my first real (not all-inclusive) hotel after two weeks of buffet lines at all-inclusive mega-resorts. Confession #3: Oyster was footing the bill. But that doesn’t make it any less of a fairytale.

Shore Club

ShoreClub_Thumb The waiters at Ago, the hotel’s ground floor restaurant, freaked out when I tried to take pictures of the pool. I turned to the guy sitting one table over and muttered, “Jeez, what’s their deal?” And then I took a closer look at him. It was Jon Bon Jovi. So basically, now Bon Jovi thinks I’m one of the paps.

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1 Comment

  1. July 23, 2009 @ 3:48 am

    […] the Delano’s “Look, there’s Jamie Foxx” cache. Natura Park Beach Ecoresorts … Daily […]