Ahh, the honeymoon…. This splendid tradition has origins in the old days when bridal tours were the way young couples got to know each other, both physically and on an experiential level. Though initially not terribly popular – many frowned upon honeymoons as a spendthrift extravagance and a dangerous subjection of what doctors then called woman’s “frail health” – it didn’t take long for the honeymoon to become forever entrenched in our collective longing. During the late 1800s the honeymoon tradition caught fire and the flames of passion have since been continually stoked.
Today, most everyone jumps at the chance to run away with their love, and many see it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore some far-flung corner of the world they’ve only dreamed about. They long for sleepy bungalows, abandoned beaches, rest and relaxation with a loved one, and who knows – maybe even the odd adventure or two. But making your honeymoon a great experience doesn’t mean you have to break out the passport. The United States of America has some wide borders – a continent’s width or more – and there are plenty of great honeymoon escapes in the US. If you’re looking to get out and explore the wild unknown with the love of your life, here are some great options.
Kauai and Maui Island Hop
Hawaii has long been atop the list of best honeymoon escapes the world over. The easy-breezy lifestyle, glistening rainforests, rugged coastlines, and, of course, spectacular beaches mean that Hawaii has got it all. Ingratiate yourself in ultra-luxury or camp in sleepy bungalows or enjoy a Bed and Breakfasts in-between – whatever kind of island escape you’re looking for, you can find it in these magical islands.
Don’t like being stuck indoors? Not a problem – Kauai is the eco-lover’s paradise. Huge banyan trees and king palms lead the way down to the Wailuku and Wailua rivers where you can find lovers kayaking through the jungle’s birds of paradise. The flat roads and small hills make a sun-drenched bike for the local Hawaiian Shave Ice all the more enjoyable, and hiking the Na Pali coastline is both free and spectacular. If you want to make it an adventure, you can backpack through the Na Pali coastline, and see where they buried the bravest of the Hawaiian kings.
Maui, on the other hand, is often considered a mix of modern amenities and rugged nature. On Maui you can explore the wandering mountainside and bamboo forests of the Hana Highway, while returning to home base in, say, to go paddle-boarding and bar hopping in Lahaina at your leisure. Maui is all the aspects of Kauai with a distinctly Maui twist. And from Maui, it’s easy to hop over to the even-even-more-untouched island of Lana’i.
Stay: While in Maui, stay in the Ho’oilo House outside of fun and festive Lahaina, and wake up with rainbow mountains at your back. This wooden bungalow has personality, privacy, and an outdoor shower – a great to start the day before going to paddleboard or snorkel the cove.
Eat: Dinner is at Aloha Mixed Plate with traditional Hawaiian fare and feet-in-the-grass coastal views, and then on to Fleetwood’s for some rooftop live music. For a truly unique and romantic experience, eat and watch the Old Lahaina Luau right on Front Street. Tiki torches blaze against the open Pacific sky and you and your loved one will feast on traditional Hawaiian fare while watching one of the highest-rated luaus in all of Hawaii.
Do: Dawn at the Haleakala Crater is worth the trip alone, and probably one of the most romantic places on earth to propose (but I suppose that portion of the trip is behind you). Bike from the top of the crater down through Eucalyptus groves and take a road-trip out to Hana where you can ride horsebacks and explore old pineapple plantations and ancient horse ranches. Be sure to sample some of the Kona-grown coffee, as well as some delicious pineapple and the famous 7D dried Mangoes.
Napa, Wine Country and Spa
Napa and Sonoma honeymoon escapes are not just for the wine and food lover, though the name might ring synonymous. There are so many romantic things to do in Napa and Sonoma. You’ll find quaint country charm, a small but lively nightlife, some great spa packages and, of course, the world class wine and food you’ve come to expect. But beyond just tasting wine, there’s plenty more ways for a culinary enthusiast experience the area. You can check out cooking classes, ride horses through the vineyards, take a hot air balloon to see the valley from above, and even custom-blend your own wine.
Stay at the Vintner’s Inn, an intimate, four-diamond luxury inn located on the hills of Sonoma. With a view of the 92-acre plantation from your window, as well as some excellent eats from the signature restaurant (John Ash & Co) in-house, a relaxing spa, and some of the area’s best Pinot Noirs on hand, this is an excellent wine and foodie escape for honeymooners. In Napa Valley, St. Helena’s Wine Country Inn is a bed and breakfast with large private cottages and plenty of spaces to relax (including a picture-perfect porch swing overlooking the vineyards); Younvtille’s luxe and modern Hotel Yountville offers free bikes to explore the town’s tasting rooms and gourmet restaurants, like the famed French Laundry.
Do: From here, consider spending a day on a biking tour of the area’s vineyards, or heading to Oxbow Market in Napa where you’ll see Napa living at its finest. Wine bars, beer stalls, oyster shucking, arts, crafts, and sustainable yields – all in this one market that’s a social meeting place as much as a market. Open from 9am -7pm daily, bring your wine to the oyster bar, grab a cupcake, and rub elbows with locals – Oxbow market is a great way get a bit of the local feel while indulging in your inner tourist. Afterward, catch some live music further down the road in the western-styled Opera House (built in 1880), or go kayaking in one of the nearby watersheds.
Eat at Tra Vigne. Cozy and candlelit, this beautiful Napa escape is a staple for its Italian cuisine redolent of Tuscany. Either dinner or Sunday brunch are great options, and be sure to take a peek at their wine selections – enough here to do Napa proud. Farmstead in St. Helena is the place to go for farm-to-table food with an upscale twist, and when you tired of all the wine, check out the creative cocktails at Goose and Gander.
Experience Southern Charm in Charleston
There’s no denying the charms of Charleston. A warm, hospitable people, a slower pace of life, and that easy way people seem to approach the notion of having a good time – the southern US sometimes feels like it’s a different country entirely. If you decide to take your honeymoon in the South, both New Orleans and Charleston should be on your radar. You’ll find love in every hundred-year-old oak tree, plantation house, sprawling lawn, and marshy waterway you come across. Shrouded in both history and mystique, the culture and sights and smells you’ll find here truly are in a class of their own.
South Carolina’s Charleston takes the cake as a historic town with a lively young feel. Long the bastion of powerful plantations, winding waterways, and beautiful boardwalks, today’s Charleston is undergoing a foodie-craze, and a bit of a cultural renaissance.
Stay: at Kiawah Island. Noted by both National Geographic and Frommer’s as one of the best honeymoon destinations around, this little island is a sanctuary far from the reaching hands of developers yet located only 30 minutes outside of downtown Charleston. Here you and your loved one will discover all that makes the Carolinas grand. You can walk secluded beaches, take sandy bike paths through forests that lead to marshy lagoons, and wile away the evenings watching the sunset from your wooden-planked porch waiting for fireflies to appear.
Do: See the Old City Market in historic Charleston. The neighborhood here is steeped in history, yet new in appearance and feel. Check out the local basket-weavers, eat some delicious local food, and stroll the downtown area looking for a place to grab some signature sweet tea and soak up some of the area’s fine atmosphere.
Eat at Slightly North of Broad. This eclectic bistro is rapidly gaining popularity for its locally sourced food, fun energy, and healthy alternative to the traditional Julia Child method of southern cooking traditional to the area. Drink some sweet tea – it’s a southern favorite.
Or New Orleans
New Orleans is probably best known for its Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest celebrations, but the true meat of the city lies in its culture – which wafts from every corner Po-Boy deli and blues-filled bar. Honeymooners that escape to New Orleans find themselves in a long-parade of French Quarter mansions, Creole-cuisine themed restaurants, and soft, moonlit cicada serenades.
Stay: At the Hotel St. Helene, just next door to the iconic Napolean House (great for romantic cocktails and the ever-popular muffaletta). This historic and newly renovated luxury hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and known for its gorgeous courtyard, the ferns that sprout out of the rustic patina on the walls, and for being right in the middle of everything worth seeing in the French Quarter.
Do: Stroll Woldenberg Park at sunrise or sunset and listen to the saxophone wail alongside the wide Mississippi, or ride a gondola in City Park. Be sure to catch a plantation tour or two, or take an always fascinating exploration into the bayou on a fan-boat tour.
Eat to your heart’s content at one of New Orleans excellent restaurants. Café Degas is iconic New Orleans with hearty French Cuisine and a lovely lighted patio, while the Columns Hotel is as an Uptown mainstay.
Partying in the Florida Keys
Key West in widely known as a party destination, but its white sand beaches, pastel sunsets, and the warm waters of the Gulf make also make it an ideal honeymoon destination for those who prefer a more lively scene. With great views of the Caribbean to your south, an Afro-Caribbean take on seafood, and an active music scene, everything in Key West seems brighter, more upbeat.
Key West itself is a great honeymoon escape because it’s close to so much. Whether it’s underwater diving, relaxing on the beach, or seeing the various communities that comprise the Keys, Key West is your jumping off point.
Stay at the Southernmost House historic inn. A Key West icon, staying here is like journeying back in time. Carved wooden beds, brightly colored walls, and a sleepy Bed and Breakfast feel make the Southernmost House Historic Inn a place for lovers. In the morning you can sip your coffee while watching the sun rise over the rippling Gulf, take a dip in the zero-entry pool, or walk down to Duval Street, where the avenue awaits your window shopping desires.
Do: see Hemmingway’s House, dive with the sea turtles on a shipwreck dive, or watch the sunset in Mallory Square, the center of Key West’s historic district. Grab a glass of wine at one of Duval Street’s many restaurants, then walk the quiet beach at Fort Zachary Taylor to watch the moon rise in its large southern glory.
Eat at Louie’s Backyard – this Caribbean-American restaurant has one of the best views of any restaurant anywhere. For sunset and a glass of wine? Heavenly. With some signature Key-Lime Pie for dessert? Other-worldly.
Getting active in Glacier National Park
This honeymoon escape destination is for those who love the outdoors and the great big expanse of North American sky. If your idea of a honeymoon retreat involves plenty of mountain air, horseback riding through forests, river trips, fly-fishing, or just hiking the great outdoors, Glacier National Park should be just the ticket.
Glacier National Park is more than the usual National Park, though. Taste a whiskey distillery tour, explore old logging towns, Stand-up Paddleboard, kayak, or just float down a lazy river – Glacier National Park has the all-star lineup you’re looking for.
Stay: You have some options on where to stay when you visit Glacier National Park. A great base of operations would be Glacier Park Lodge. Located in East Glacier Park, the glacier lake setting, available golfing, swimming, horseback riding and day spa are great for those who love to mix a little relaxation with their rugged outdoors.
For those that appreciate more seclusion and privacy will likely fall in love with the Swiss-styled Great Northern Chalets. Located just 1 mile from West Glacier, these garden lined chalets boast stunning views, seclusion, and a prime location for all outdoor activities stemming from Glacier National Park.
Do: Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road – this roadway and engineering marvel spans 50 miles of the parks interior and is best driven in the morning, with a camera planted firmly in the backseat. Take a private boatride on one of the park’s many lakes, or consider a guided horseback trail ride to learn about the areas abundant flora and fauna.
Eat: at the Belton Chalet. Located in West Glacier, Montana, this is the intimate fine dining experience you’ve been looking for. Dine among historic walls and candlelight with the wild outdoors just beyond the window.
Go over-the-top in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is not only the shotgun wedding capital of the world – it’s also one of the preeminent honeymoon escapes in the US. Everything is bigger, grander, and more audacious here, including the area’s wonderful abundance of romantic activities, outdoorsy fun, relaxing spas, and unbeatable amenities that make Las Vegas a honeymoon escape destination of choice.
Stay at the Bellagio. This is top of the line when it comes to honeymoon suites, and definitely comes with the price tag to match. If you can stomach it, the Bellagio’s comfortable elegance can’t be matched. Floor-to-ceiling marble, the finest linens, king-sized beds, and fireplace suites overlooking the world-famous fountain show in the hotel’s entrance make the Bellagio the hot-spot for honeymooners.
Do get a couple’s massage at one of the many fine spas in the area. For the ultimate in luxury, head over to the Dragon Couples’ Suite at the Mandarin Oriental. Private steam showers, adjacent treatment tables, a view of the strip, personal soak tubs, and private vanities make this the best couple’s spa treatment in Vegas.
Eat at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Las Vegas. Without a doubt the best view at dinnertime, the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Las Vegas positions you directly across the fountain show at the Bellagio. With a fine wine list, excellent French cuisine, and superb service, all you need is your spouse, and your honeymoon retreat is complete.