Enough with Jamaica. And the Bahamas, too. The Poconos? Please. If you’d prefer not to vacation with the honeymooning hordes, then read on. These 12 international destinations range from tropical beach getaways to luxury adventure safaris to unique cultural escapes. All promise that special thing you didn’t get on your wedding day—ultimate privacy.
THE BEACH HONEYMOON
What the castaways on “Gilligan’s Island” had is what honeymooners are paying big bucks for today. You’ll get that stranded-on-a-desert-isle feeling at Petit St. Vincent Resort—plus gourmet meals and complimentary Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries. (Ginger would have swooned.) A privately owned island, 40 miles south of its far larger neighbor, St. Vincent, Petit St. Vincent has two glorious miles of white sandy beaches ringing its 113 forested acres. During the day, guests snorkel, hike or hire a sailboat and cruise the Grenadines island chain. There’s no danger of bumping into anyone else on your vacation if you don’t want to. The island only accommodates 22 “castaways,” the owners and their seven Labrador retrievers and about 40 attentive staff members. Want a pina colada? Just raise the yellow flag by the mailbox in front of your private stone cottage. Don’t want anything? Raise the red flag and staff will steer clear—until you’re willing to be “rescued.”
Say, I Do: Isolation is hard to come by. Getting to Petit St. Vincent involves a flight to Barbados, a puddle-jumper to Union Island and finally a speed boat ride to the island. Nightly rates start at $585 for two people, including meals. 954-963-7401, http://www.psvresort.com
Bora Bora is the stuff of South Pacific cliches: swaying palm trees, crystal clear water, beautiful beaches and an exotic French Polynesian culture. It’s far less built-up than neighboring Tahiti but not so isolated that you’ll run out of things to do. For sweet seclusion, head to Bora Bora Lagoon Resort, located one mile from the main island of Bora Bora on Motu Toopua, a remnant of an old volcano. It’s the only commercial property on the island and lies in a lagoon that James Michener, that old romantic, called the most beautiful in the world. Here, it’s all about the overwater bungalows, each with sections of glass floors through which to watch the colorful marine life swimming below. There are dozens of day and evening cruises available, including the opportunity to combine several nights at the resort with an overnight on a yacht. For a special treat, request a “motu picnic.” The resort will transport you to a deserted island by outrigger canoe, and while you snorkel and enjoy the solitude, the crew will whip up a gourmet lobster lunch complete with table, chairs, umbrella, fine linens, china and silver, all set in 2 feet of water.
Say, I Do: Doubles start at $525. 800-860-4095, http://www.boraboralagoon.com
OK, let’s get something straight right off: Cap Juluca doesn’t quite fit the mold of these other getaways. Hardly uncharted territory, it might be the hottest honeymoon resort in the Caribbean right now. It’s been voted the No. 1 Caribbean resort two years in a row by Travel + Leisure; best service, rooms and design by Conde Naste Traveler; and the third best resort in the world by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report. Celebrities visit for its discreet, laid-back charms. Kevin Bacon, Bruce Willis, Denzel Washington, Janet Jackson, Kevin Kline and Liam Neeson have all dug their toes in the sand here. But we figure if Kevin Bacon can go somewhere and feel undisturbed, then you can, too.
Set on 179 acres on the southwest coast of tiny Anguilla in the British West Indies, the resort overlooks the mountains of St. Martin and shockingly blue Maundays Bay. Two miles of white sand—what some call the prettiest beach in the entire Caribbean—is just outside your Moorish-style villa. Cap Juluca provides plenty of other diversions: an aqua golf driving range, bunker and putting green, windsurfing, water-skiing, snorkeling, a full-service spa, two outstanding restaurants and, of course, opportunities for celebrity spotting.
Say, I Do: Doubles start at $345. 888-858-5822, http://www.capjuluca.com
THE ADVENTURE HONEYMOON
Marriage is an adventure, so you might as well start off with one, right? Since the early 1980s Sabi Sabi has been the luxury South African safari resort. The eco-friendly lodge is located in the southern section of Kruger National Park, one of the wildest and best preserved game parks in all of Africa. Armed trackers (this isn’t a theme park, you know) escort you on day or night-time tours of the bush, as you search for the park’s 300 bird and 200 animal species, including lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, elephant and cheetah. You’ll undoubtedly see more wildlife than guests: the resort has fewer than 30 rooms, spread throughout three distinct lodges—which are almost as cool as the scenery. The recently opened Earth Lodge boasts 12 posh suites with private butlers and a dining room set underground; the Bush Lodge, filled with African art, overlooks a busy waterhole, and the original Selati Camp, furnished in a 19th-century railway theme, has eight thatched suites, oil lamps and spectacular views of the African plain.
Say, I Do: Sabi Sabi is an hour’s flight or five-hour scenic car ride from Johannesburg. Doubles start at $500 per night. http://www.sabi-sabi.com
If you’d rather explore the rain forest than the African bush, check out Costa Rica’s Lapa Rios, a bungalow hideaway perched 350 feet above the Pacific in its own thousand-acre nature reserve on the remote Osa Peninsula, a region National Geographic called “the most biologically intense place on earth.” Lapa Rios strikes the right balance between eco-friendly adventure and luxury. It has just about every outdoors activity available—from early morning birding hikes (Lapa Rios means “Rivers of the Macaws”) to swimming with wild dolphins to shaman-guided medicinal treks and night nature walks. Its 14 thatched bungalows nestled within the rain forest are simple yet comfortable and all have views of the crashing Pacific.
Say, I Do: Rates start at $178 per person for double occupancy and include all meals. http://www.laparios.com
If you ever wanted to be stranded on a desert isle with your beloved, here’s your chance. About 60 miles from Panama City in the Pearl Island Archipelago, lies Isla de Coco, an uninhabited, 25-acre double island, joined by a white sandy beach. (If the Pearl Islands or Islas Perlas sound familiar, it’s because one of the archipelago’s islands served as the set for “Survivor,” installment No. 7.) This is truly a desert isle, with no running water, electricity, telephones or any other people for that matter. It’s up to you to bring your own tent and supplies to last as long as you plan to stay. Spend your day gathering wood from the pristine tropical forest, swimming and fishing for supper in the turquoise waters—or doing whatever castaways do. Bring a shovel: It’s rumored that the famous Treasure of Lima is buried here.
Say, I Do: Rental of Isla de Coco costs $100 a day. The larger Isla del Rey, which has an airstrip, is only a 10-minute boat ride away. When you book the island you can arrange for boat transport. If you really fall in love with Isla de Coco, buy it. It’s for sale at $325,000. See http://www.vladi.de for details.
THE CRUISE HONEYMOON
Cruises are among the most popular honeymoon activities, but picking the right one is important if you don’t want to feel like an extra on “Love Boat.” There are plenty of unique alternatives to the mainstream buffet-and-bingo floating hotels. Star Clipper offers a tall ship “mega-yacht” experience aboard authentic re-creations of the classic sailing clipper ships that ruled the waves during the 19th century. Its classy flagship, the Royal Clipper, is the first five-masted, full-rigged sailing ship to be built since 1902, and is the largest true sailing clipper ship in the world. The 439-foot yacht carries 227 passengers and 105 crew members, of whom 20 are needed just to handle all the sails. (The ship’s tallest mast is the size of an 18-story-tall building.) Onboard there’s a regal “Edwardian décor,” three swimming pools and the Captain Nemo Underwater Spa and Lounge, with floodlit underwater views through submarine portholes when the ship is anchored. Best of all, because the clipper ships are smaller and more maneuverable than the big cruise boats, its Caribbean ports-of-call are far more intimate and varied. You’ll visit tiny gems like Iles des Saintes, Tobago Cays, Jost van Dyke and Norman Island, where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “Treasure Island.” Star Clipper also offers luxury cruises to intimate locales in the Far East and the Mediterranean.
Say, I Do: Cruise rates start at $1,495 for a seven-night voyage. 800-442-0551, http://www.star-clippers.com.
For a completely different on-the-water experience—one that’s sure not to make you seasick—head to the United Kingdom and rent your own canal boat. These cigar-shaped, motor-powered vessels can accommodate from two to 10 (in case you’re in a family-moon way). After a quick training course, you’re free to explore the Welsh and English highlands, cruising through verdant countryside and past thousand-year-old castles. All boats come fully equipped with hot and cold running water, flush toilets, central heating, showers, fridges, microwaves, color TV and CD players. Choose from nine itineraries throughout central England and Wales, docking along the way at little towns and villages for dinner at a pub or overnight at a countryside inn. Best of all, you don’t even need to know port from starboard.
Say, I Do: Rates depend on season and length of trip. See http://www.anglowelsh.co.uk for more information.
A dhoni is a 65-foot wooden fishing boat, typical in the Maldives. But the dhonis at Dhoni Mighili Island are far from typical. These one-time work boats have been re-imagined as luxe sailing yachts, outfitted with king-size beds and Frette sheets, Philippe Starck bathroom fittings and 20-inch LCD screens with Bose DVD surround-sound theaters. Each dhoni comes with its own crew to take you wherever you want, whenever you want. Your thakuru, or personal butler, helps with arranging snorkeling or scuba diving, day trips on the island and serves you dinner at sunset on deck. If you’d rather not spend the night at sea, each dhoni is mated with its own beach bungalow on Dhoni Mighili, set within tropical forest along a pristine lagoon.
Say, I Do: Rates start at $500 per person, per day and include all meals and activities. http://www.dhonimighili.com
THE CULTURAL HONEYMOON
About 225 miles northwest of Mexico City lies one of the country’s best-kept travel secrets. The Spanish colonial town of Guanajuato, set in central Mexico’s highlands, contains a fascinating mix of cobblestone streets, pastel-colored buildings, garden plazas and its famous underground pedestrian passageways. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988, Guanajuato has its share of 18th-century churches and excellent museums, including the Diego Rivera Museum, which houses many of the artist’s paintings in the building where he was born. In town, shop for traditional majolica pottery, pajaritos jewelry and baroque silver work. The place to stay is La Casa de Esp’ritus Alegres or House of Good Spirits, a bed and breakfast hacienda—loaded with folk art—that dates to the 1700s.
Say, I Do: International flights arrive in Le—n, about a 20-minute taxi ride to Guanajuato. Rates at the La Casa de Esp’ritus Alegres start at $145 per night. http://www.casaspirit.com
Before considering a honeymoon in the Azores, a refresher on where it’s located might be helpful. Comprised of a chain of nine islands, the Azores lie smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and form the closest European land mass to America. What’s fascinating about this little-visited country is its incredible variety: The Azores offers the pumice-pocked volcanic topography of Hawaii, the lush green countryside of Ireland and the red-roofed architecture of Portugal. Spring is the best time to visit when millions of pink, white and blue hydrangea blossom, and festivals and bullfights literally occur every day. Of the nine islands, Terceira is the most romantic. Its main town, Angra do Hero’smo, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was the pit stop for European vessels traveling to the New World, and developed an international flavor accordingly. Here, you’ll find excellent seafood and wines, beautiful pottery and an 18th-century fort overlooking the harbor. Accommodations vary from rural guesthouses to several new luxury hotels, such as Terceira Mar Hotel, which is right on the ocean and within a short walk to shopping and restaurants in downtown Angra.
Say, I Do: The Azores are only a four-hour plane ride from Boston (home to many Azorean immigrants) on Azores Express (http://www.azores-express.com). Doubles at Terceira Mar Hotel start at $120. http://www.bensaude.pt. See http://www.azores.com for general travel information.
Venice is undoubtedly one of the most romantic cities in the world. But if you’re looking for something a little more off-the-beaten track, honeymoon in the Venice of the North: St. Petersburg. It’s got all the waterways and ancient architecture of that famous Italian city, plus some of the greatest museums, ballet companies and symphonies in the world. A little cold? Maybe, but some snow only adds to the Dr. Zhivago romance of the place.
Created by Peter the Great in 1703 to be his “window on Europe,” St. Petersburg is the cultural treasure of Russia, one with a decidedly European outlook. There are more than 100 theater companies and 140 museums, including The Hermitage, and its vast holdings of more than 3 million objects of art. In between visiting museums and palaces, hit Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare, for shopping, cafes and the ultimate in people-watching.
Say, I Do: The grandest roost in town is the Grand Hotel Europe, with its 1875 baroque facade and art nouveau interior. Doubles start at $310 per night. http://www.grandhoteleurope.com. For more information on visiting St. Petersburg, see http://www.travel.spb.ru.