Our Top Picks for Lifestyle-Transforming Destinations

See recent posts by Jane Reynolds

OK, so even though Oyster.com is a travel website and our main goal is to deliver the truth about hotels, we also secretly moonlight as a life coach. That's right, we can dole out advice on waaaay more than just hotels; don't forget -- we helped you get over your ex, offered Lindsay Lohan some sound legal advice, and dissected the key moments in Kris and Kim's "marriage" (if you can call it that) that lead to the split. So yeah, we're basically the new-and-improved Dr. Phil with a ton of travel tips to boot. To help transform your lifestyle, we scoured the globe and found the destinations best suited for changing your life for the better. (We guess some people can handle the total transformation at home but a vacation is always nice, right?) So grab a friend who's also in need of a little improvement and head to Oyster's top five picks for transforming your life! Check 'em out below or on Shape.com.

Sunday Farmers' Market; Washington, D.C.

Sunday Farmers’ Market; Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

Ranked by PETA as one of the most veg (and vegan)-friendly cities in the country, Washington, D.C. is the perfect spot to transform your diet. Going vegetarian is all the rage (Meatless Monday, anyone?) — it’s been proven to be good for your heart, your skin, and your immune system – and D.C. has tons of vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants. But even if you’re just looking to increase your veggie intake without completely swearing off meat (I mean, have vegetarians never had a hamburger before? Hard to give up, don’t you think?), D.C. is a good place to be. With the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” nutrition initiative, the capital is all about you getting your three to four servings of fruits and veggies (each!) every day.

Firefly at Hotel Madera

Firefly at Hotel Madera

Treat Yourself at Hotel Madera

The first step is getting there, so once you’re in D.C. and you’re ready to re-discover the joys of veggies (or discover them for the first time if your parents considered pizza a vegetable — oh wait, Congress does), congratulate yourself by checking in to the hip Hotel Madera. What it lacks in amenities the hotel makes up for with its jewel of a restaurant; Firefly. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the space has a whimsical atmosphere with its candle-lit tables and nature-inspired decor. The American menu focuses on organic and local ingredients, so you can get your fill of fresh veggies!


Try the risotto, packed with roasted squash and pickled mushrooms or the tasty (and gluten-free!) eggplant parmesan.

Public Gardens; Boston, MA

Public Gardens; Boston, MA


Boston is continually ranked as one of the most stress-free cities in the country. Stress has a large (and negative) impact on your day-to-day life – it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and migraines. Even if you are employed and don’t have to deal with a long, jarring commute (two major factors in a person’s stress level), you can suffer from second-hand stress if you’re surrounded by continually frazzled folks — you know, people like Jenna, who made quite a splash on the season premiere of The Bachelor. That’s why Boston is a great place to visit to work on transforming your lifestyle – with a positive health initiative, a great healthcare system, and active (and employed) residents, it can inspire you to free yourself of worries. Even if you can’t make it to Boston, adopt the relaxed Beantown attitude through meditation or yoga – the less stress in your life, the better.

The Lifestyle Room at the Mandarin Oriental; Boston, MA

The Lifestyle Room at the Mandarin Oriental; Boston, MA

Treat Yourself at the Mandarin Oriental, Boston

The 148-room Mandarin Oriental in the Back Bay area has a 16,000-square-foot spa, plus extraordinary service and some of Boston’s most luxurious standard rooms that can help you reach inner zen in no time. The feng shui-like decor features large windows, calming neutral colors, comfy day beds and soft lighting. And the spa offers Asian-inspired treatments that will be sure to de-stress even the most frazzled guest.


The Oriental Essence massage, designed for the “stressed executive” will have you feeling like a new person in just an hour. Have a lot of time to spare — and a lot of stress in your life? Indulge in the Aqua Ritual treatment. Over two hours long, it begins with a hydrotherapeutic bath and ends with a relaxing body wrap — with a massage, a scrub, and a Vichy shower packed in between.

A park trail; Seattle, WA

A park trail; Seattle, WA


If you enjoy breaking a solid sweat (or just a bit hyperactive), you’ll want to head to Seattle, which was recently ranked the most active city in the U.S. It may rain 150 days out of the year, but that doesn’t keep the city’s residents from heading outdoors (or at least to the gym) to get a good workout in — and it probably doesn’t hurt that they’re all hyped up on Starbucks, too. Seattle-ites also watch less TV and play fewer video games to avoid couch-potato status (currently held by Lexington, Ky. – the least active city in the country). So do like the locals do and run along the beach at Discovery Park, bike part of the Urban Trail System, or kayak on Lake Union – anything that gets your heart pumping is a good start to getting fit and transforming your lifestyle.

The Fitness Center at the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle

The Fitness Center at the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle

Treat Yourself at the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle

If you call Seattle home – congrats you active person, you! If not, when you head to Seattle on an active getaway, you may want to stay at the Four Seasons, one of the top luxury hotels in Seattle. The hotel offers some of the best views in the city as well as spacious, comfortable rooms, a rooftop infinity pool, a tasty restaurant, and a 24-hour fitness center. So even if it’s raining, you can squeeze in a great workout on your vacay.


Fusion workouts are all the rage right now — there’s yoga-lates, spin-lates, and core fusion just to name a few — and they’ve been listed as a top fitness trend to look out for in 2012. Many of these fusion workouts are taught in classes but you can do the DIY version in the hotel’s fitness center. Mix up some cardio with weight-training or cool down after your run with some downward-facing dog or other relaxing yoga positions — you’ll feel great afterwards and you’ll be on the cutting-edge of fitness!

Paddle-boarding at Waikiki Beach; Honolulu, HI

Paddle-boarding at Waikiki Beach; Honolulu, HI


Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, is one of the happiest cities in the country – and it’s no surprise, considering that the ocean breeze and sunny skies make for perpetual vacation-like conditions. To be ranked as one of the happiest cities, there’s a strict criteria, but Honolulu passed all of the tests with flying colors: Everything from personal life evaluation and physical health to emotional health and work satisfaction is considered in the equation. (Maybe it’s because plenty of residents are pro surfers so hanging ten is their 9-to-5 — how could you not be happy?). Outdoor exercise is one of the best ways to boost your endorphins – get your heart rate up (and work on your tan) surfing, paddle-boarding or simply swimming in Hawaii’s clear waters. Smile!

Starlight Luau at the Hilton Hawaiian Village; Honolulu, HI

Starlight Luau at the Hilton Hawaiian Village; Honolulu, HI

Treat Yourself at the Hilton Hawaiian Village

The largest resort in Hawaii is a veritable village, with five towers, five pools, 20 bars and restaurants, 90 shops, direct beach access and a separate lagoon. The crowds can get big and the lines long. But for families and other Waikiki vacationers looking for a self-contained resort with loads to do, the Hilton is a top choice.


When in Honolulu, you’ve got to go to a luau. A Hawaiian tradition, the luau is a celebration with performances and a feast; they often take place at weddings and birthday parties, and are a tourist-favorite in the 50th state. The Starlight Luau at the Hilton takes place five nights a week. It’ll be hard not to have fun at the luau which features several performances (including fire sword swallowers), a buffet dinner, and enough booze to get guests on stage!

Bicycle in SoHo

Bicycle in SoHo

New York City

It may be a bustling metropolis – with tons of traffic and a skyline dominated by high-rises, but New York City is nonetheless one of the greenest cities in the country. How? Well, residents are great about recycling and a vast majority of them commute to work – we’re talking about a “carpool” in the hundreds when you think about the hordes of people on the subway! Even more green, New Yorkers often choose to walk – always a healthy choice – rather than hail a cab and with Bloomberg’s recent kiss with Lady Gaga expansion of bike lanes, cycling has become a popular mode of transportation. The greener you live, the healthier you (and the earth) are – it’s a win-win!

Park View Room at The Pierre - A Taj Hotel; New York City

Park View Room at The Pierre – A Taj Hotel; New York City

Treat Yourself at The Pierre – A Taj Hotel

An elegant, historic hotel, the Pierre offers a taste of grand old New York to those staying in any of its 189 small but freshly renovated guest rooms, complete with high-end Frette linens, marble bathrooms, and updated amenities like flat-screen TVs and iPod docks. Plus, the hotel is right across the street from Central Park so you can easily go for a stroll in the tree-lined park — or just take in the view from one of the Park View rooms.


Central Park is a must-visit when in the Big Apple. Head to the boathouse where you can rowboats, paddleboats, and kayaks. It’s a great workout, it (can be) romantic, and best of all — it’s green!


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