The World’s Best Luxury Honeymoons
According to the Oxford Dictionary, “luxury” is defined as “a state of great comfort or elegance especially when involving great expense”. I think it’s fair to say that luxury means very different things to different people. And it doesn’t necessarily have to mean spending a great deal of money.
Couples who are “time poor”, may feel that the greatest luxury is having time together, privacy and unplugging from the digital world. Others may seek a honeymoon full of spa treatments and pampering. Or maybe it’s a love of the natural world that fuels your notion of luxury. But of course, the travel industry thrives on pushing the boundaries of conventional luxury which means lavish accommodation and, more than anything, high levels of service.
Whatever your personal dreams, here’s my guide to luxury honeymoons.
All the bells and whistles
There’s nothing like a millionaire’s private island to get married life off to an impressive start. Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands offers Celebration Weeks during which couples can book a room for just the two of you. If you have the budget, you can rent out the entire island.
Other Caribbean properties that stand out from the crowd include Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain in St Lucia. Rooms have no fourth wall and look out over the spectacular Piton Mountains. The private island resort of Parrot Cay by COMO in the Turks & Caicos is favoured by many Hollywood stars for its gorgeous villas and outstanding spa, the Shambhala COMO Retreat.
The tiny Caribbean island of Anguilla is a hideaway for those seeking high-end luxury with top resorts including Cap Juluca with its Moorish architecture and the Four Seasons with its rooftop suites with private pools. Malliouhana was one of the most spectacular refurbs of 2015.
For a castaway resort with a heart of gold, Song Saa in Cambodia elevates barefoot luxury to new heights, whilst keeping its eyes firmly on community renewal and conservation.
There are certain hotel brands that are world renowned for their superior luxury. Belmond is one, Four Seasons is another. Go on honeymoon to Thailand with Cox and Kings and you’ll find two of their best properties, the Belmond Napasai and the Four Seasons Koh Samui, both oozing with class and attention to detail.
Mauritius has carved out a niche for itself as being an island that’s big on five-stars with high levels of service and attention to detail, especially when it comes to weddings and honeymoons. Many resorts have dedicated wedding and honeymoon planners such as the Heritage Le Telfair. Another tried and tested favourite is Trou aux Biches, and if you want to push the boat out, book a Beach Front Senior Suite with pool, or two-bedroom pool villa.
The Maldives is another mecca for honeymoon luxury with resorts upping the ante on romance with increasingly lavish and designer-led over water villas, plush spas and high-class restaurants. Niyama stands out for its creative flair.
Another Indian Ocean destination that offers bells and whistles luxury is the Seychelles, home to private island resorts such as Denis Private Island as well Raffles Seychelles on the island of Praslin and Banyan Tree Seychelles on the main island of Mahe.
One&Only Resorts are some of the most luxurious on the planet and the recently opened One&Only Hayman Island is a special place to honeymoon in Australia’s Whitsunday Islands. Book the penthouse and you’ll be waited on by a dedicated butler who contacts you even before you arrive to personalise your honeymoon experience.
Aman is another high-end hotel chain whose devotion to style and luxury has created an entire cult of followers called Aman Junkies. Amanwella in the 17th-Century Dutch town of Galle and Amangalla on the sandy shore of Tangalle are sublime properties in honeymoontastic Sri Lanka where couples can combine culture with beaches and adventure.
Luxury spa and wellbeing
If you’ve had a particularly stressful build up to your wedding day, or you just fancy a honeymoon that has rejuvenation at its heart, then a spa or wellbeing-based honeymoon could be the answer. And luckily some of the world’s top resorts are big on spas and take wellbeing and pampering very seriously, yet guests still feel like they are in a regular honeymoon resort – there’s no longer the connotation that this kind of honeymoon is to do with abstinence or suffering. Quite the reverse!
One of my favourite places in the world is Parrot Cay mentioned above, for its utterly beautiful Shambhala COMO Retreat. It radiates wellbeing but is also very romantic as couples feel bound in a mutual experience. Its sister property in Bali, the COMO Shambhala Estate is equally beguiling and possibly even more spiritual in its Balinese setting. Alternatively head to the Spa Village Resort Tembok Bali where a relaxing daily spa treatment is included for all guests.
For something very special, head to Ananda in the Himalayas, a spa resort dedicated to mind, body and soul. Located on the Royal estate of the Maharaja of Tehri-Garhwal, it’s surrounded by the Himalayan foothills and the holy river Ganges. A Couples Connect package includes exotic therapies, personalised couples yoga and a rose petal bath.
For something totally on trend, dedicate your honeymoon to exploring the Hot Springs of Japan. InsideJapan Tours has the inside track on its legendary hot springs, staying in ryokan inns. Of course, if you go all that way, it’s great to combine with some city action in Tokyo and Kyoto, where there are fabulous five-star hotels with impressive urban spas.
For stand out spas in Europe that combine romance with well being, I would opt for Forte Village in Sardinia with its Thermae del Parco Spa specialising in effective sea water, salt mud and sand treatments, or Sir Rocco Forte’s five-star Verdura Resort in Sicily. Also consider the Borgo Egnazia Hotel Villa Golf Spa in Puglia, with its Aveda Vair Spa, which specialises in life changing programmes. Anything from detox to feeling lighter.
For a UK spa honeymoon, Gilpin Lake House is a Relais & Chateaux sanctuary with six suites set in vast private grounds with a new lakefront Jetty Spa, indoor swimming pool and of course the lake itself to lift body and soul. Its Jetty Spa Trail is especially designed for couples and is a combination of dual pampering and invigorating treatments.
The luxury of privacy
In our overly connected world, where we’re all chasing our tails online, with demanding work schedules and a wedding to arrange, sometimes the greatest luxury a honeymoon can provide is privacy.
There’s no coincidence that high profile celebrities usually holiday in villas, shunning even the most sophisticated hotels, for the privacy they afford. The Caribbean has some of the most wow-factor private villas in the world, many sold through Oliver’s Travels on islands such as St Barths and Bequia where the luxury quotient rises.
In Europe, Simpson Travel offers a high quality selection of villas for two in Corsica with private pool. Casa Barrachi is a restored bergerie in a totally secluded location with spectacular views near Porto Vecchio. I also love Le Hameau Sant’Andria just outside St Florent.
If you prefer all the facilities of a hotel but still place privacy as a high priority, The Residence Zanzibar is infused with all the flavours of this castaway island. Book a pool villa retreat where pools are big enough to swim and hide yourselves away for an idyllic week or two.
Vamizi Island Lodge in Mozambique has just 13 villas on the beach with high levels of personalised service whilst The Cook Islands are just about as remote a destination as you could wish for, halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. Find privacy at the castaway Pacific Resort Aitutaki in a Polynesian style bungalow.
‘Small is beautiful’ is certainly proved correct at the 10 members of Essential Detail in the Caribbean. Each hotel is privately owned and run with a strong passion that shines through everything from the décor to the service. Top of my list are the retro-chic Bequia Beach Hotel, and Jamaica Inn which puts 1950s glamour back into Jamaica.
Essence of the Caribbean is a great Caribbean tour operator which guides you both to tucked away small hotels, B&Bs and eco lodges that you won’t find in mainstream brochures, such as Maca Bana eco lodge on Grenada and A Stone’s Throw Away in the Bahamas. These places are where genuine local culture wins through for a honeymoon stay rich in experiences.
One of my favourite small hotels in the Caribbean is Laluna on the Spice Island of Grenada. Its Italian owners have a background in fashion and this boho chic really shines through.
If you love France but just can’t find that boutique bolthole you know is out there, check out i-escape Hip Hideaways with gems like Domain Les Roullets in Provence, an adult-only, five-room B&B with decadence at its heart.
Turkey is growing in its choice of small luxury gems and the adult-only Mandarin Boutique Hotel has just eight rooms with king-size four posters and a Jacuzzi for two and lovely private terrace for breakfast.
For low-key boutique luxury, the quintas of Madeira are (mostly) hidden gems, and well worth a look.
The luxury of wilderness
Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world. A whopping 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on earth. If that feeling of wilderness and oneness with nature is your idea of luxury, then Madagascar will tick all your boxes. Rainbow Tours offers a unique 11-night honeymoon taking in beach, rainforest, reefs and abundant wildlife, staying at tranquil lodges.
Indonesia is often known by honeymooners for Bali, but look beyond and you’ll discover the less developed island of Lombok and the incredible wildernesses of Java with funky places to stay such as Jiwa Jawa Resort near Mount Bromo where a sunrise expedition is a must.
At the other extreme of the planet, The Arctic offers honeymooners a delicious snowy wilderness. Book with Artisan Travel and you could be ensconced in a Treehotel in Sweden or a glass igloo with overhead views of the Northern Lights.
Luxury city hotels
For real urbanistas, you can’t beat a top notch city hotel. Venice is a hub of grand dame hotels, none more so than the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, where the likes of George Clooney come for their wedding celebrations.
The Andalucian cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada bring Spanish style to your honeymoon. Hospes hotels are particularly romantic such as the Hospes Las Casas Del Rey de Baeza in the centre of Seville.
I would define a “contemporary” luxury hotel these days, not just as a place whose architecture is clean and interiors strikingly modern, but a hotel that has fresh ideas about service and responsibility to the local community and environment.
The Sarojin on Thailand’s Andaman Coast has all these attributes as well as being incredibly romantic. It’s design is neutral with stone floors and crisp linen sheets, there are pleasingly angular wooden cabanas by the blue tiled pool to hide yourselves away in behind simple drapes, but more than that the service is designed to make your honeymoon special with experiences like private dinners by a waterfall and snorkelling off the Lady Sarojin, a 38ft luxury boat.
Over in New Zealand, Hapuku Lodge raises the bar for modern hotel architecture and design with its contemporary villas making the most of the stunning natural setting.
Nowhere does old-school glamour like the South of France. You just have to say the names, Cannes, Nice, St Tropez and Monte Carlo for images of pink champagne on tap, natty beach clubs and iconic hotels such as Le Negresco.
Over in the Caribbean, if you want a flavour of how Jamaica felt in the 1950s when people like playwright Noel Coward and Bond author Ian Fleming lived there, you only have to book into Jamaica Inn to feel the old school vibes.
Luxury camping (otherwise known as glamping)
North Africa and the Middle East is the home of Bedouin style camping. The Berber tents at Kasbah Tamadot in the Lower Atlas Mountains of Morocco are some of the most luxurious camping you could wish for. There are plenty more options out there in the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara.
Over in Oman, its deserts offer romantic glamping in Nizwa and the Wahiba Sands where honeymooners get a sense of the real Arabia staying in Desert Nights Camp in one of 30 Bedouin style tents. Fabulous activities range from dune bashing to sunset camel rides.
Safari getaways are often demanding, with early starts and active days, so the more luxury you can afford, the more magical your honeymoon may be.
Botswana is home to the incredible Okavango Delta and some of the most romantic camps in Africa including Pom Pom Camp, Selinda Camp and Zafara Camp.
Kenya has an impressive mix of vast open plains, intimate camps and diverse wildlife along with a beautiful coast line with white sand beaches. Its lodges are up there with the best including Elsa’s Kopje in the Meru National Park and Cottars 1920s Safari Camp close the Masai Mara.
Tanzania and Zanzibar is another winning combination of safari and beach. Alternatively Lake Malawi and Zambia offers a combination of bush walks and dhow cruises with iconic places to stay such as Stanley Safari Lodge.
South Africa is a honeymoon no brainer with its cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, wine route, and incredible lodges such as UlusabaPrivate Game Reserve where honeymooners are treated to twice-daily game drives, daily safari walks, two pools, a Aroma Boma Spa, tennis courts and private dinners.
And of course a South African safari can easily be combined with a beach stay in Mauritius.
For a safari honeymoon with a difference, the stark beauty of Namibia with its vast dunes and shipwreck-strewn Skeleton Coast is hard to beat. Highlights include exhilarating flying safaris and the wildlife rich Etosha National Park.
The early 19th century was when the art of honeymooning began in the modern sense. Couples would undertake a “bridal tour”, often to the French Riviera or Italy. This notion of a grand tour, or journey is still alive and well, except these days there are so many more options.
For a romantic self-drive honeymoon around Ireland or Scotland, McKinlay Kidd has a fleet of vintage and modern cars including natty convertibles and the knowhow to create the perfect itinerary for you both.
Or how about a luxury train journey? You can’t get much more impressive than the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express train to Venice.
For couples who prefer pedal power, Headwater offers luxury cycling tours across Italy with enough backup support and fine places to stay to make this a high end experience.
For a journey that offers the luxury of taking you entirely out of your everyday life, a honeymoon around the sights and sounds of Southern India won’t disappoint. Barefoot Traveller has a range of honeymoons including a 14-day Kerala honeymoon taking in Cochin, waterfalls, rain forest, temples, elephants and spice plantations.
South America offers endless epic journeys. Peru is famed for its lost Inca cities, but has far more to offer from Amazonian rainforest to Pacific surf beaches. Argentina takes honeymooners on a roller coaster of experiences from Patagonian glaciers to meandering vineyards to breathtaking lakes with cutting edge hotels to lay your heads on route.
Costa Rica lends itself to a multi-centre trip to its lush rainforest canopies, awesome surf beaches, volcanic craters and green lakes. Along the way, honeymooners can find charming boutique hotels and rustic eco loges.
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Luxury at sea
You may be a seasoned sailor or someone who has never set foot on a boat, but there’s no denying the allure of a honeymoon at sea. The Luxury Cruise Company has handpicked the very best ocean and river cruises for honeymoon couples whether you want a small intimate luxury yacht or a high cruise with operators such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises or Seabourn.
Tall ships have a special romance about them and Star Clippers has a fleet of handsome vessels for ship shape honeymoons to exotic destinations in the Mediterranean, Central America and the Caribbean.
Luxury for less
Sometimes a little bit of expert knowledge can lead you to hotels and resorts that go the extra mile on service and style without the exorbitant price tag. If you are honeymooning on a budget but still want an iconic honeymoon location such as the Maldives or the Caribbean, there are operators and resorts that won’t blow your budget.
Check out Hayes and Jarvis for value for money honeymoons to the Maldives. The things that makes the Maldives expensive is that visitors are usually on one island, so have to buy everything from the resort. The obvious solution to this is to go all-inclusive to gems such as Meeru Island.
Over in the Caribbean there is plenty of high end all-inclusive choice such as Sandals LaSource Grenada and Sandals Barbados where you can even wed for free when you stay seven nights or more. Secrets Resorts & Spas in Mexico with Kenwood Travel also offer incredible value for money luxury.
Florida offers so much more than the theme parks of Orlando and the bright lights of Miami. There are plenty of affordable fly-drives where you can discover the off the beaten track Sunshine State for less.
Villas in the Med can be a very economical honeymoon that although your self catering, feel like high luxury. Vintage Travel have a portfolio of stunning villas in Mallorca just for two. And CV Villas
The Amalfi Coast has a great choice of honeymoon villas to suit a modest honeymoon budget.
Luxury for families on honeymoon
Many couples now tie the knot when they already have children, either of their own or from previous relationships. And quite understandably the wedding is just as much about creating a new family as a marriage, so much so that the newlyweds want to take their children on honeymoon too, which calls for a luxury hotel that caters for both couples looking for romance and children looking for fun!
Vila Vita Parc in the Algarve is a tried and tested winner for honeymooners with kids in tow. There’s no question here that couples won’t get some time to themselves whilst kids continue to have fun.
The Maldives used to be a destination for divers and couples, but is increasingly opening its doors to families as dreamy resorts such as Soneva Fushi wise up to the fact that family travel has become much more sophisticated. Its new children’s Den is nothing short of a playground for the imagination…with the added benefit of being in paradise.
Last updated: 19 December 2016