9 Dream Romantic Getaways
If you and your boo are long overdue for a vacation, we've got ideas—and we're talking seriously romantic ones at that. It's time to feel the love again, people.
St. John, US Virgin Islands
It’s not unusual to find yourself alone on one of St. John’s pristine coves—it's the smallest of the three islands within the USVI, and 60 percent is protected land, after all. Check into Caneel Bay, the only hotel located within Virgin Islands National Park, founded by ecotourism pioneer Laurance Rockefeller in 1956. The property is all romance, with access to seven sandy beaches, Sunfish sailboats, and snorkeling gear for sunset dives. Pack a picnic with provisions from Sam & Jack's Deli in Cruz Bay and follow the Reef Bay Trail past ancient petroglyphs, waterfalls, and sugar mill ruins. Come evening, head to Ocean 362 at Gallows Point Resort for gorgeous views accompanied by pan seared local tuna and lemongrass crème brûlée.
Big Sur, California
There are few places in the world so stunning they make your eyes ache, and Big Sur happens to be one of them. Make your way south on Highway 1 from San Francisco, stopping just before Bixby Bridge; the spot provides the perfect photo op and there's usually at least one other visitor who can snap a few shots of you and your man. Fuel up for a morning hike at Big Sur Bakery, then hit the trails running (between the redwood groves) at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. For lunch, check out the casual Nepenthe, with its famous Ambrosia Burger, and an outdoor patio that looks out on the Pacific. Or, you can take it up a notch at Sierra Mare, where Chef John Cox pairs dishes like Oregon lamb rack and celery root agnolotti with an award-winning wine list. As for where to stay, you can't go wrong with a clifftop suite at Post Ranch Inn (if you can swing the price tag), or check into one of Ventana Inn's fireplace rooms. The hotel is home to a stellar spa and two pools (one of which is clothing optional).
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Paros and Antiparos, Greece
This pair of islands in the Cyclades offer all the charm and romance you'd expect from a trip to Greece, but without the crowds. Make your base the boutique Beach House hotel on Antiparos, where the powdery sand has umbrellas at the ready and the open-air beach bar and restaurant serves fresh fish and standout Greek wine. Take a day trip to the larger island of Paros, just a ten-minute ferry ride away. A lunch of grilled prawns and mussels saganaki at the waterfront Sigi Ixthios in Naoussa is a must. Work off the meal with an afternoon stroll in the narrow alleyways lined with one-off shops and art galleries in the mountain village of Lefkes.
Very little has changed over the years in this Flemish city and that’s precisely the attraction. Roam the narrow streets and take in the gorgeous chocolate displays in shop windows—one of our favorite stops is Dumon, with a cozy hot chocolate bar and a selection of artisanal confections. Go for a climb up the Belfort for a bird's eye view of town or go for a bike ride along the Bruges Art Route, past galleries, shops, breweries, and the city's top landmarks. The Hotel de Tuilerieen is the perfect home base, housed in a converted 15th-century patrician house with views of the Den Dijver canal, an indoor pool, and an intimate bar that serves a wide range of Trappist beers. For a memorable dinner, the tiny but stellar De Stove just off Market Square is the spot for freshly caught fish and seasonal Belgian dishes like guinea fowl with gratin dauphinois.
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If you love the outdoors, then Kauai is your place. You can dive, surf, hike, bike—all with stunning mountains and beaches as your backdrop. The highlights? A trek along the dramatic trails of Waimea Canyon National Park, dubbed "the Grand Canyon of the Pacific;" a boat ride alongside the Na Pali Coast (you may recognize these dramatic, otherworldly cliffs from their appearance in Jurassic Park); and a surf lesson with the folks at Hawaiian Surf Adventures, who will have you up and riding the waves in no time. Unwind with a couples massage beneath the shade of a thatched roof bungalow at the Grand Hyatt Kauai's Anara Spa, then toast the trip with a glass of champagne at St. Regis Princeville's alfresco bar. Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Kauai Grill is the ideal spot for a late romantic dinner; feast on pan seared mero with Malaysian chili sauce and short rib osso buco-style while taking in the swoon-worthy views of Hanalei Bay.
Looking for a classic New England coastal getaway without the hefty price tag of Nantucket or the Hamptons? Check out the hamlets along Maine's southern coast. A long list of outdoor adventures will fill your days here while your evenings will be spent tucked away at charming inns, Dark and Stormys in hand. The Spruce Point Inn Resort & Spa in Boothbay Harbor, has an outdoor pool overlooking the ocean, free use of kayaks, miles of onsite hiking trails and sweet, cozy cottages (they even have pet-friendly room options should you want to pack your pooch). From there, you can take day trips to storybook towns like Rockport, home to Salt Water Farm, which offers cooking classes throughout the year, and Damariscotta, where Schooner Landing serves killer oysters, lobster rolls and sundowners.
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Willamette Valley, Oregon
Foodies and wine lovers who'd rather skip the crowds in Napa and Sonoma should head to Willamette Valley, renowned for its Pinot Noir and spellbinding views. There are more than 200 wineries in the area, and self-guided tours are easy to do by bike. Don't miss a tasting of the rich reds and Pinot Gris at Red Ridge Farm, followed by a picnic of local cheeses, nuts, and cured meats. Looking to impress your loved one with more than wine? Reserve a champagne breakfast and hot-air balloon ride over the valley with Vista Balloon Adventures. Then relax at the Allison Inn & Spa, where the "Ever-After" couples treatment (yes, it really is called that), includes a deep tissue massage and a spa lunch for two with chocolate truffles.
If you don’t fall in love strolling hand-in-hand along the canals of this city, then there may be no hope for you. The city's waterways are lined with colorful row houses and are illuminated at night by the glow of moored houseboats. Trips here are all about getting lost and stumbling across great galleries and shops; spending afternoons whiling away time at waterside cafés; drinking beer and eating regional cheeses. Make like a local and rent a bike to pedal through Vondelpark, stopping at the Rijksmuseum, home to famous works by Dutch masters Rembrandt and Vermeer, and to the nearby Van Gogh Museum. For the city's best shopping, there's De 9 Straatjes made of 9 cobblestone streets filled with one-off boutiques and art galleries. Don't miss Pontifex, which sells all manner of candles, essential oils and ointments. Nearby, The Dylan is a great spot for a post-retail pick me up; "High Wine," between 3 and 6 p.m. pairs four bottles with small plates for about $50 per person. Saturday mornings are for visiting the Noordermarkt, in the Jordaan neighborhood. The fresh stroopwafels—two skinny waffles stuck together with a thin layer of caramel—are a must-try.
TOUR TO BOOK: The best way to take in Amsterdam might be by water. During this private dinner cruise along the Zaan River, you'll glide past windmills and through locks while sipping bubbly, stopping every so often to dine at three different restaurants in various villages as you make your way from Zaandam to Zaanse Schans—and back again.
This Indonesian idyll has something for everyone. The town of Ubud plays host to food and music festivals, galleries and museums; the bustling beaches around Seminyak are full of young party-goers; and more than 1,000 Hindu temples and emerald rice terraces dot the island. Oh, and the hotels are hands down some of the most romantic in the world. Choose a beach-front suite or boutique sleep nestled in the wilds of the national park. One of our favorites is Alila Villas Uluwatu, on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. The villas have private pools and personal butlers, and the hotel is a short distance from one of the island's most memorable cultural experiences: the Kecak Fire Dance which is performed at an ancient seaside temple at sunset. Save the 100 Candle Dinner at Swept Away—Samaya Villa's riverside restaurant—for your last night. Perched over the Ayung River, dine on chicken sate, slow roasted Balinese duck, and sweet potato rice as you watch the water come alive with 100 candles and thousands of flower petals.
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