Adobe Stock | Martin M303
After a back-to-back season of limited honeymoon locales, faraway destinations once again beckon couples with wanderlust.
By Lisa Dukart and Marilyn Odessor-Torpey
At the height of the pandemic, honeymoons saw a dramatic shift. Between stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions across the globe, many couples opted to postpone plans until options improved worldwide. Others chose to take minimoons, or shorter trips to nearby (i.e., drivable) destinations.
As travel restrictions ease with more vaccinations, honeymoon planning is underway again—and inventory is going quickly. “Plan early, because there is reduced space to sell and many rescheduled honeymoons have already been set up into 2022,” says Lisa Whitmarsh of Accent on Travel in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. She also recommends having a few backup locations.
Jamie Jones, president of WhirlAway Travel in West Chester, Pennsylvania, notes that availability is especially limited with more remote and exclusive experiences. She recommends planning a high-end destination honeymoon as early as the time of engagement. “Get the date secured for the wedding, and then start planning the honeymoon,” she says.
Here, we explore seven honeymoon locales—and the hottest sites—of the moment, with many providing moderately easy entry from the United States with a negative COVID-19 test. Be sure to review guidelines carefully with your resort or host.
Cinque Terre, Italy
These five tiny fishing villages along the Ligurian Coast on the Italian Riviera are like “a step back in time,” says Bob Older, owner of Creative Travel Inc. in Newark, Delaware. “And fall is the perfect time to visit.” Ride the train through the scenic mountainside past centuries-old, pastel-colored homes built right into the rugged cliffs. For even more spectacular views, hike the trails connecting the villages, all situated within Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The most popular of Cinque Terre’s 75 miles of trails is the 7-mile Santiero Azzurro (Blue Path), rewarding trekkers (it’ll take you about six hours) with breathtaking seascapes, ancient architecture and vineyards. Grapes and wineries abound in this area best known for dry whites—a perfect pairing with local seafood—as well as sciacchetra, a dessert wine made from dried grapes.
In Monterosso al Mare, the largest of the five villages, old-town quaintness sits adjacent to beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters. For those who appreciate antiquity and charm, each of the villages offers just that. Older recommends staying at Hotel Stella Della Marina, a 17th-century establishment with posh amenities.
Nestled in the South Pacific, Hawaii’s eight majestic islands feel a world removed but of course don’t require a passport for U.S. citizens. Jones says many couples visit two islands while here, and Maui and Kauai are the most popular, although there is in uptick to the island of Hawaii.
Known as the Valley Isle, Maui is the second-largest island in the archipelago. Its diverse beaches and the soaring Haleakala National Park—where visitors can see Haleakala Crater, a dormant volcano sitting at 10,023 feet above sea level—are two main attractions. The island boasts 120 miles of coastline and over 30 miles of white, black and red sand beaches ideal for sunning, swimming or snorkeling.
With its rugged coastline, Kauai is the fourth-largest island and boasts tropical rainforests, epic waterfalls and iconic cliffs along the Napali Coast. It’s the perfect island for adventure, and some are only accessible by air or sea. A helicopter tour is one of the most magnificent ways to take in the views.
At the foot of the 14,000-foot Matterhorn, the country’s highest peak, Zermatt resembles “a beautiful Christmas village,” says Gretchen Bowker, president of Chester County Travel Inc. in Exton, Pennsylvania. But perhaps the first thing you’ll notice is absence of noise—no cars are allowed here.
In the old part of town, houses and barns date back 500 years, but even newer buildings evoke a fairy-tale vibe. Everything in this town of only 6,000 residents is inspired by three cultures—German, Italian and French.
It’s an idyllic destination for winter sports enthusiasts, boasting the region’s highest slopes for year-round skiing and snowboarding. There’s even heliskiing for the heli-experienced, as well as lessons for novices. What’s more romantic than “shooshing” under the moonlight in the Alps?
It’s a nine-minute cable car ride to the Matterhorn Glacial Paradise, where national ski teams hone their skills in the summertime, and the platform offers 360-degree vistas. On a clear day, you can spot Mont Blanc in France and Italy’s Grand Paradiso.
Enjoy après-ski with the locals at one of the many pubs, cafés and stalls serving up music and a party atmosphere. Catch the sunset behind the Alps, complemented by the warm glow of the town’s lights.
Overnight at one of more than 100 hotels or chalets. Bowker’s favorites are Mont Cervin Palace and the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, both authentic in their alpine appearance and experience.
Dublin and the Countryside, Ireland
There is a lot that’s magical about the Emerald Isle—rolling hills sprinkled with farms and woolly livestock, ancient castles, natural formations, legend and lore. There’s also the warm hospitality, lyrical language, neighborhood pubs and a general sense of humor among residents.
Kate Moore, owner of Melted & Moved Luxury Travel, an independent affiliate of Avenue Two Travel in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, recommends starting in Dublin, then renting a car for an exhilarating drive along the west coast’s Wild Atlantic Way, one of the largest touring drives in the world.
Dublin houses a young population, many a pub, and a place called Gravity Bar, serving up pints and a 360-degree view of the city. While touristy, Temple Bar’s cobblestone streets are still worth strolling. Moore suggests treating yourself to a posh overnight at The Merion, comprising 18th-century townhouses in the heart of city within walking distance of all the best sites.
A country drive boasts views of fishing villages, picturesque towns, a centuries-old castle and Viking ruins. Along the way are numerous stop-off points where you can take in the rugged splendor of the Irish coast—among them the Cliffs of Moher, verdant formations towering over the Atlantic Ocean and the Aran Islands.
Just a brief flight from Philadelphia and surrounding airports, getting here is fast and easy. Honeymooners can choose from some 7,000 individual islands, 13 sovereign nations and 12 territories, each attractive in its own way.
Jamaica, Antigua and Turks and Caicos top Whitmarsh’s list of places. Areas such as Ocho Rios and Montego Bay in Jamaica feature abundant all-inclusive resorts surrounded by lush beaches and cool, dense rainforests.
Antigua’s mountainous elevations and many bays are home to a number of all-inclusive resorts, including some that are adults-only. Pristine beaches, scenic walking trails (Shirley Heights) and the jaw-dropping limestone arch that makes up Devil’s Bridge are all reasons to visit.
Comprising 40 islands, Turks and Caicos is most popular for the Providenciales—an area boasting modern accommodations and stunning locales like Grace Bay Beach. The seemingly infinite stretch of coast will make you feel like you’re in a world all your own. For adventurous couples, snorkeling and diving are a must.
Mexico and Central America
The Yucatan Peninsula in the southern tip of Mexico has become a popular destination for its abundance of high-end resorts, Whitmarsh says. For travelers who want relaxation and convenience, look no farther. The region houses popular areas like Riviera Maya and Cancún for beachgoers, as well as excursions to culturally and historically significant sites, like Chichén Itzá, the pre-Columbian city of the Mayans.
Farther south in Central America, Costa Rica is hugged by ocean and is beloved for its lush rainforests, white sand beaches and biodiversity. For adventure seekers, ample hiking trails, ziplines, hot springs and waterfalls beckon. With a little luck and good timing, visitors to Playa Tortuguero can see a sea of leatherback turtles at this protected nesting ground.
The second-largest and second-most-populous continent offers diverse experiences—everything from wine country to wildlife safaris and one of the tallest, most spectacular waterfalls on the planet. Covering its 11.7 million square miles would take a lifetime of trips, so focus in on what you want to see most on your honeymoon.
Jones favors South Africa, recommending a visit to both its capital, Cape Town, and the nearby Winelands. Home to more than 300 vineyards, the region is one of the largest wine producers in the world, boasting several estates and wineries to enjoy. Harvests often take place in fall—spring in the Northern Hemisphere—making it the perfect time to visit. In Cape Town, hike the iconic Table Mountain, explore the coast, visit the Cape of Good Hope, and peruse museums and restaurants.
Are palm-fringed beaches with sweeping ocean vistas your taste? Escape to Mozambique, which sits on the Indian Ocean but is buffered by Madagascar. For those drawn to natural wonders, Victoria Falls in Zambia, a short flight away, won’t disappoint. At 360 feet high and just over 5,600 feet wide, it’s one of the grandest falls in the world.