Bora Bora is a dream honeymoon destination. Photo courtesy of Bora Bora One
Welcome the return of travel with opulent, romantic honeymoon destinations that are transporting in more ways than one.
By Ann Loynd Burton & Samantha Garbarini
THE GIST: When seeking far-off destinations, it’s hard to beat the remote islands of French Polynesia, located nearly 2,500 miles from land. The famous Bora Bora, of the Society Islands, is known for its striking beauty and penchant for luxury. No surprise, the main industry on the small island (its main land area stretches about 12 square miles) is tourism. Bora Bora’s striking beauty has been written about for decades, with a dormant volcano and lush jungle at the center and aquamarine lagoon along its perimeter.
DO: Explore the main port, at Vaitape; hike Mount Otemanu (or view it from above, via helicopter); snorkel in crystal-clear waters. For this type of seclusion, glamour, and breathtaking sights, you’ll need a healthy budget, and the resorts deliver in spades.
STANDOUT STAY: If you’re the type of couple who prefer not to make polite conversation with the folks on the neighboring beach chairs, Bora Bora One is worth the splurge. Here, enjoy your own secluded, five-bedroom, private estate on 7.5 idyllic acres surrounded by the island’s turquoise waters. Rates begin at $17,000 per night.
YOU’LL LOVE: If you like to stay on-resort when abroad, there’s little reason to leave Bora Bora One, complete with its own private beach, pool, tennis courts, personal chef, and 24-hour concierge to arrange activities like snorkeling, swimming with sharks, and parasailing. —ALB
THE GIST: The second-largest island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia offers a unique combination of tropical getaway-meets-rich history. The Italian island features a variety of ecosystems, spanning mountains, woods, rocky coasts, sandy beaches, and plains — described collectively by travelers as a micro-continent. Many of Sardinia’s landscapes have been untouched since its ancient Nuragic civilization inhabited the island.
DO: For tourists, Costa Smeralda (or “Emerald Coast”) beckons with its dramatic rock formations, meandering coastline, sweet-smelling plant life (think laurel, oleander, and juniper) and aqua-blue water. If you like to mix culture with relaxation, a worthy day trip is Sassari, the island’s second-largest city. It’s home to gorgeous churches and a popular civic museum, though the city remains largely unknown to visitors. Smaller villages are worthy of exploring as well, including Castelsardo, which houses the 12th-century Doria Castle.
STANDOUT STAY: Hotel Cala di Volpe (from $1,200/night) is the epitome of glamour, stretching out over the bay like a timeless village. The hotel, originally opened in the 1960s by Jacques Couëlle, offers five-star luxury and an epicurean experience that will impress even the most avid foodie. Newlyweds in 2022 can be among the first to enjoy a redesigned lobby, special rooms, and an extra treatment room in the elegant Shiseido Spa.
YOU’LL LOVE: Hidden inlets are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving, with balmy waters that warm to 70°F in the summertime. —ALB
THE GIST: Safari seekers are pleasantly surprised by the vibrant variety of South Africa, with city life and a world-class wine region to rival The Big Five.
DO: Start your trip in cosmopolitan Cape Town, where you can pack in the sights. Ride the cable car to the top of Table Mountain; take an adrenaline-pumping plunge into a cage to dive with great white sharks; explore the region’s difficult history at Robben Island; delve into the local arts scene; snap the perfect shot with African penguins at Boulders Beach; and indulge in the city’s sophisticated dining scene. After a few days of city life, retreat to wine country, centered around the towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, where you’ll find some of the best New World white wines and gorgeous vineyards. Cap your honeymoon with the reason you most likely chose South Africa: a multiday safari in search of lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and Cape buffalo.
STANDOUT STAY: A honeymoon seems like right time to splurge on a luxury stay at &Beyond’s Ngala Safari Lodge at Kruger National Park Area (from $695/night), which blends exclusive game drives, bushwalks, and wildlife spotting with romantic, lavishly furnished cottages, a private swimming pool, and candlelit dinners.
YOU’LL LOVE: Mauritius is a popular add-on for South African honey-mooners who choose this Indian Ocean nation for its dramatic landscapes and fashionable beach resorts. —SG
THE GIST: If rugged wilderness, stone castles, and cozy nights spent by the fire are your idea of romance, then the Highlands are calling.
DO: Some may blame the sudden romantic interest in this northern region of the UK on Outlander, Diana Gabaldon’s steamy time-travel-novels-turned-TV series, but Scotland’s enticing character is nothing new. It’s hard to oversell the Highlands’ beauty, and, unsurprisingly, time well spent is often time outdoors, whether it’s trekking through purple heather, exploring historic moors and castle ruins, swinging a club at Royal Dornoch (one of the world’s best golf courses), cruising a loch, immersing yourself in clan culture at a festival, or visiting a dolphin or puffin colony. In between, be sure to indulge in the region’s culinary treasures, which also draw on the land and sea, from the finest fresh seafood (salmon, of course, but also luxurious oysters and langoustines) and wild game to stellar single-malt Scotch.
STANDOUT STAY: Carve out a few days for Gleneagles (from $570/night), Scotland’s iconic, five-star grand dame — a destination unto itself. Spread across 850 acres, the estate offers traditional Scottish pursuits, like falconry and shooting, as well as Michelin-starred dining, first-rate spa facilities, and cozy-luxe rooms with Wellies and Barbour jackets for the famously unpredictable weather.
YOU’LL LOVE: On the Isle of Skye, Talisker is one of the country’s best Scotch producers, especially for splurge-worthy, 20- and 30-plus-year-old whiskies. —SG
THE GIST: There’s a reason Thailand tops so many bucket lists. With captivating cultural sites, sugar-white sand beaches, gorgeous resorts, and one of the world’s best food scenes, it’s a dream destination that won’t blow the budget.
DO: Most flights arrive in hectic Bangkok, where you’ll dive right into Thai culture and feast like a king for just a few dollars at the night markets. Don’t limit yourself to just one region of this diverse destination: Head north to explore the cultural capital, Chiang Mai, where gilded temples, hidden waterfalls, and elephant sanctuaries dot the lush landscape. Sun-and-sand-seekers should go south instead, hopping from one paradisiacal island to another, including popular-for-good-reason Koh Samui, mellow Koh Lanta, and romantic Koh Lipe.
STANDOUT STAY: Situated in famed Phang Nga Bay, Six Senses Yao Noi (from $695/night) is the perfect, sustainably minded escapist retreat, with villas nestled into the tropical surrounds, a won’t-want-to-leave infinity pool, and enough spa treatments to fill an entire stay.
YOU’LL LOVE: Adventurous couples make a beeline for Koh Tao to get an international PADI scuba certification and, for experienced divers, to explore shipwrecks and go on night dives. —SG