Let’s be honest. One of the best parts of getting married is taking off for the honeymoon afterward. The prospect of sun, sand and romance (complete with froufrou umbrella drinks) is enough to make a bride giddy with anticipation. But with catalogs worth of sunny options in front of you, how do you even begin to choose one?
You can fly to most islands in the Caribbean in six hours or so — just enough time for a magazine, cocktail and a nap. The best time to go is January through April or November and December because the rainy season is May through October and hurricane season is the end of August through October. There are thousands of beaches and hundreds of resorts in the area; we’ve chosen five. These all specialize in privacy, seclusion, first-rate service, awe-inspiring settings and romance. All that’s left for you to do to is pick out a bikini, grab some suntan lotion and get ready for the trip of a lifetime.
Caneel Bay, A Rosewood Resort
Location: Within the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John Island
Who Would Love It? Couples looking to truly get away from it all — no television, radios or phones here to distract you from each other. The resort was built to mesh with the environment, too, so it’s artfully tucked into the beautiful landscape that surrounds it.
The Draw: Caneel Bay boasts seven white-sand beaches bordering 170 acres of national park. The grounds are natural and quiet, with no distracting digital reminders of modern society. Guest rooms and suites are decorated with natural woods, native stone, handcrafted furniture and richly woven fabrics. For the wellness oriented, the on-grounds Self Centre offers meditation, yoga, Pilates, t’ai chi, Jing Energy Flow Therapy and wellness consulting services. The resort also offers guests complimentary scuba clinics, movies, afternoon teas and more.
Honeymoon Highlights: St. John remains the least commercial and most low key of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, accessible only by boat or ferry. Its white, sandy beaches — often called some of the most beautiful in the world — are shaded by seagrape trees and coconut palms.
Romance Factor: Take off on a sunset cocktail cruise, then learn to give soothing massage with couples massage lessons.
What to Do: Scuba and snorkeling excursions, tours of the Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins and the first Moravian church ruins.
Insider Information: “St. John is absolutely beautiful, the beaches are pristine,” says Peg Indermaur, vice president of Jensen Travelon in Chagrin Falls. “It’s a laid-back wilderness to enjoy — and you must try one of the sunset cruises.”
Sandals Grande Antigua
Resort & Spa
Location: Antigua Island
Who Would Love It? Couples looking to relax and leave the details of the day up to the resort. It’s all-inclusive, which means no worrying about where to go for lunch and dinner every day, and no fussing around about a daily budget.
The Draw: This resort, in a charming, Caribbean village setting on Antigua’s best and most famous beach, was voted the World’s Most Romantic Resort and is a recipient of the prestigious Five-Star Diamond Award. It includes a new all-suite Mediterranean Village. The suites are known as “rondovals” (suites in the round) and each has its own private plunge pool. The resort offers a selection of dining at nine world-class restaurants, and top-tier suites include butler service.
Honeymoon Highlights: Antigua is small — only 14 miles long and 11 miles wide — but it features 365 beaches (one for every day of the year). It is a Caribbean wilderness, with hundreds of seldom-explored coves and white sand inlets to discover. St. John, the nearby capital city of Antigua, is an inviting place to experience the friendly culture of the island, and it even offers several elegant casinos with Las Vegas-style gambling.
Romance Factor: Treat yourself to couples massages on the beach. Wind down with a candlelit beach dinner for two followed by some sunset gazing. For a little more adventure, try snorkeling.
What to Do: ATV tours, circumnavigation cruises, catamaran cruises, powerboat tours, Jeep tours, canopy tours, deep-sea fishing, Shirley Heights sunsets, bird watching.
Insider Information: Karen Cavadas of Twinsburg Travel (the world’s top-selling travel agency from 2003-2006 for Sandals and Beaches Resorts) says to get a great deal, the best month to travel is after the Easter holiday break through the summer and fall. In winter you’ll pay high season prices.
The Royal Hideaway Playacar
Location: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
Who Would Love It? Newlyweds seeking an upscale, boutique resort that is the essence of pure luxury, but who still want the ease of an all-inclusive vacation. This is also the place for couples hoping to soak up another country’s atmosphere, as the resort is on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, with architecture inspired by Spanish and Mexican culture.
The Draw: Royal Hideaway owns 13 acres of lush, tropical foliage on the Yucatan Peninsula, and boasts villa rooms with private terraces, marble baths and other luxuries. The grounds feature winding waterfalls, rivers and fountains connecting villas to the main building, where guests will find six gourmet restaurants. There is also a full-service spa that specializes in advanced indigenous and international treatments.
Honeymoon Highlights: The Yucatan Peninsula is a beautiful wilderness to explore, and Royal Hideaway is just five minutes from the charming town of Playa del Carmen and 45 minutes from Cancun.
Romance Factor: Relax by the pool together while attendants bring you champagne. Or head to the beach for a relaxing, romantic massage.
What to Do: The resort is a popular destination for tennis players and golfers, and you might also try deep-sea fishing or scuba lessons.
Insider Information: Indermauer says Las Ventanas by Sergi Arola restaurant is headed up by a Michelin-starred chef from Spain. “It is just incredible,” she says, “And they’ve recently expanded their wine selection. A great resort for foodies.”
Location: St. Lucia
Who Would Love It? Couples wanting a very exclusive, private honeymoon — more of a hideaway than a resort. It’s a little pricey, but definitely one-of-a-kind.
The Draw: With only six villas and 21 suites and a dedicated, attentive staff, Ladera offers an intimate experience with personalized service. Every accommodation also features its own private plunge pool or villa pool.
Honeymoon Highlights: St. Lucia’s population is a mix of French, British and African traditions, so there are many cultures to explore, and local cuisine blends French and island tradition. Carnival is the major event on the island — it takes place each year from the end of May through mid-July. St. Lucia’s fastest-growing event is the annual St. Lucia Jazz festival that takes place in Castries.
Romance Factor: Relax together with mineral soaks in the mineral pools. Also try a couples “rainforest massage” outdoors beneath a tent in the lush, tropical spa gardens around the spa.
What to Do: Tour the resorts gardens, try scuba diving and horseback riding, or go on rainforest hikes and market tours. Each Friday night Ladera guests are invited to go by boat (weather permitting) to the quaint fishing village of Anse Le Raye to enjoy a traditional village fish fry. Before the excursion, guests can attend a mixology class to learn how to make the drink of the day.
Insider Information: Schedule one of the private dinners. You can enjoy a privately served (and very romantic) breakfast, lunch or dinner in your suite or anywhere on the grounds. “This service is definitely worth it to make a special honeymoon memory,” Indermauer says.
Vista Del Valle
Location: Costa Rica
Who Would Love It? This is a great place for adventure seekers and nature lovers. Costa Rica is a bit of an undiscovered wilderness with much to explore and adventure-based excursions to try.
The Draw: Guest cottages, which are inspired by Japanese design, have all of the amenities of home in a very private setting. Trails wind through gardens, a plantation, a private preserve and down to Vista Del Valle’s own 300-foot waterfall.
Honeymoon Highlights: Mangoes, bananas, passion fruit and other tropical fruits abound on the property. The resort rests on the edge of Rio Grande Canyon at about 2,700-foot elevation in the middle of a lush plantation, offering breathtaking views of the valley and surrounding mountains.
Romance Factor: Sit under the stars for dinner on the beach. Set off on a horseback riding adventure, followed by a couples massage and a hammock for two.
What to Do: Bird watching, hiking, horseback riding. Several quaint villages, artisan centers, several national parks, volcanoes and other favorite eco-tourism destinations are closeby.
Insider Information: “I always recommend Costa Rica to my clients,” says Amy Shipman of At Last Event Planning. She says most people don’t realize until they go how reasonably priced everything is there. “You can really have a high-end honeymoon on more of a budget. And there is just such a variety of things to see and do — something for every taste.”