From the jaw-dropping Big Sur to the wide open spaces of Yosemite National Park, with theme parks, surfing, wine routes, glam cities and dramatic beaches in between, California is a place of incredible diversity. If you’re the kind of couple that wants to pack a million honeymoon experiences into a couple of weeks, The Golden State is for you.
How could I not include Venice – one of the all time classic honeymoons with iconic hotels such as the Cipriani. Everyone from Lord Byron to George Clooney has been beguiled by this floating city. Take a gondola ride, sigh over the Bridge of Sighs, tour the Doges Palace, appreciate art at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, explore the glass works of Murano and sunbathe at The Lido.
The mere mention of Zanzibar sends a tingle up my spine. This castaway island, where Arabia meets Africa, is one of the world’s truly exotic destinations. The Residence Zanzibar offers five-star honeymooners pool villas and an exquisite spa – plus a 20% discount and other goodies such as champagne sundowners on the jetty.
For a shorthaul honeymoon island to beguile you with its exotic mix of sea, volcano and mountains, plus the ever-present scent of lemon trees, Sicily and its dozen off-shore islands deliver a great destination for romance. And best of all, you get to choose from cutting edge resorts such as Verdura to old-school gems like The Ashbee.
Italy is a top spot for romance, but Puglia goes largely under the radar. Explore the Baroque splendour of Lecce, Alberobello’s fairytale streets and unspoilt Adriatic beaches. Honeymoon hearts will skip a beat on arrival at Sardatur’s collection of luxury hotels – the five-star Borgo Egnazia with its sexy pool villas, the charming Masseria Cervarola and historic Il Melograno for example.
With an exotic romance you’d expect to have to fly long-haul to find, DDG Retreat is a short hop to the hills of southern Spain. Stay in one of six intimate casas, each individually styled – some have a plunge pool, hot tub or alfresco bed for sleeping under the stars. Venture out to explore Andalucía and the Costa del Sol and pamper yourselves in the spa.
There’s a powerful romance about American road journeys from Jack Kerouac’s On The Road to legendary tales of driving California’s Big Sur. For honeymooners who crave the freedom of the road, a fly-drive is the perfect bonding adventure. Exsus ups the ante with a convertible Mustang, America’s best boutique hotels and insider tips on top restaurants and activities.
Mojitos and fat Cohiba cigars at the ready when you honeymoon in Cuba, the Caribbean’s most colourful and vibrant country. From the delights of Old Havana with its jazz clubs and historic hotels where the likes of Hemingway checked in, to the colonial town of Trinidad, now a Unesco World Heritage Site, Cuba boasts great beach retreats and eco lodges.
Madeira has cast off its fuddy-duddy image and offers everything from extreme sports to extreme natural beauty. Quintas are Madeiran manor houses converted into boutique hotels in a garden setting. Expect spa treatments, horse riding, golf, levada walks and whale watching. A great short-haul option with year-round sunshine.
‘It’s who you know’ couldn’t be more apt than when honeymooning with Enchanting Travels – a company with the inside track on delivering the most original of romantic tours whether it’s a look at Mumbai’s booming modern art scene or exploring the Rajput glories of Udaipur. And with people on the ground, any last minute tweak to heighten the romance is as good as done.
Mozambique is a honeymoon hotspot well worth getting married for! Africa’s Indian Ocean is at its most exotic here, with hideaway hotels, traditional sailing dhows, sand dune camping, exquisite seafood and all within reach of a full-on safari. In my mind, Mozambique satisfies that yearning for a new frontier with a generous helping of feet-in-the-sand chic.
There are plenty of family-friendly all-inclusives in swanky Barbados, but only one for couples only. Sandals Barbados, opened in January 2015 on the iridescent white sands of Dover Beach in the lively south of the island, is the ultimate all-inclusive with everything from gourmet dining to scuba diving and yoga. You can even tie the knot for free.
Honeymooners will be bowled over by St Kitts’ natural beauty and creativity. Choose from a wide mix of hotels from plantation chic to an “all singing and dancing” resort. And when you’re not cocooned in your love-nest, take a rainforest hike, visit neighbouring Nevis and ‘lime’ the night away at a rustic beach bar.
If I were searching for a Maldives honeymoon, there would be two resorts at the top of my list: Niyama and Huvafen Fushi. The former is pushing the boundaries of cool in the Indian Ocean, whilst the latter is the pioneer of barefoot luxury. Bag yourselves an overwater ocean bungalow and let real life drift away.
Practically on the doorstep and boasting some seriously stylish hotels, southern Spain best suits an early or late summer honeymoon to catch the best climate and avoid the crowds. Seville is a spectacular starting point with its gold-encrusted Alcazar Palace. Add Cordoba and Granada, and you have three sumptuous honeymoon cities for the price of one.
Couples that play together, stay together. If you share a love of cycling, Headwater has come up with inspiring routes, some off-road. Romantic itineraries include gastronomic routes in Piedmont and Chianti. And the best thing is, your bags are taken from hotel to hotel for you. They’ll even get the wine orders in.
All your safari dreams come true at Ulusaba, Sir Richard Branson’s private game reserve in South Africa. Honeymoon packages include champagne, massages and a private dinner. Spectacular weddings are held under an Amarula tree surrounded by flaming torches. Book the exclusive Cliff Lodge which includes a private spa room.
Sure it’s an offshore banking hub, but it has more flora and fauna than the Galapagos. In-the-know honeymooners board the 40-minute flight from Grand Cayman to Little Cayman for world class diving at Bloody Bay Wall and parties at The Hungry Iguana. Population: 150. Charm: off the scale. It doesn’t get much more laid back than this.
Closer to Africa than Italy, Sardinia is a tried and tested honeymoon hotspot, especially in late spring and early autumn. Honeymoon boltholes range from the all-singing all-dancing Forte Village with its choice of eight hotels and some of the best sports and spa facilities in the Med to luxurious boutique hideaways such as L’Ea Bianca Resort.
What an incredible way to start married life. The buzz of Cape Town with its iconic Table Mountain and nearby winelands contrasts wonderfully with the adventure of spotting the Big Five on safari. And what better place to unwind than Mauritius, renowned for its pampering hospitality. An odyssey that’s bound to cement your vows.
One of the original design hotels in a spectacular jungle setting, The Datai Langkawi has always stayed ahead of the in-crowd. Pool villas have private plunge pools with built-in Jacuzzi and day bed for intimate lounging. The Beach Club bar has dreamy Andaman Sea views or you can explore the surrounding rainforest by mountain bike.
Robinson Crusoe couples are in for a treat. With just 15 islands over two million square km of Pacific Ocean, The Cook Islands are exquisitely cast away. Head to Rarotonga for a lush island experience; take a scenic flight to the incredible Aitutaki, and write a postcard home from One Foot Island. Combine with New Zealand if you have time.
A member of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition collection, Kasbah Tamadot is a magical oasis just outside Marrakech in the clear air of the Atlas Mountains. Book a luxury Berber tent with private pool, enjoy intimate dinners set up specially for two, try the Hammam spa and explore the area by foot, mountain bike, 4X4 or mule.
It’s all aboard Star Clippers’ handsome vessels for a ship-shape honeymoon evoking the era of Captain Cook. Whether you want to laze on deck under fluttering white sails or help with the rigging, you’ll feel like you’re discovering new worlds as you stop at intimate ports of call which the big cruise liners simply can’t reach.