Travel’s Best Honeymoons 2015
Spicy Getaway in Zanzibar
This archipelago off the coast of mainland Tanzania proves that not all tropical paradises are created equal, says Bridal Guide’s travel editor, Jenna Mahoney. “Sure, it’s got the requisite endless stretches of pristine, white beaches and crystalline waters, but what sets this destination apart is its rich, eclectic history and wild interior landscape.” Dubbed the “Spice Islands,” Zanzibar was the hub of both the spice and slave trades, and its capital city, Stone Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stay at Kilindi Zanzibar, an intimate beachside retreat of 15 individually appointed, villa-like accommodations, and you’ll savor not only the scenery and impeccable service, but also the literal melting pot of Zanzibar via the hotel’s fantastic cuisine, says Jenna. Of course, a sojourn to Zanzibar pairs perfectly with a safari adventure in the Mara region of Tanzania. Stay at Alex Walker’s Serian, a semi-permanent camp, and you’ll have a private car, spotter and guide to cater to your every whim.
Great Barrier Reef in Australia
Katie Frederick, founder of the honeymoon planning service Ever After Honeymoons, recommends the Great Barrier Reef for an unforgettable romantic getaway. A favorite of honeymooners, Qualia Resort has spacious private pavilions, many with private pools. The One&Only Hayman Island has recently reopened after incredible, extensive updates, and Lizard Island will be reopening soon, too. These events are bringing a lot of buzz to this gorgeous destination says Katie. At Qualia, the beach drops are a must-do; you’ll be dropped off at a private beach with a picnic hamper and a bottle of bubbly. Another can’t-miss activity for honeymoon couples? “Taking a helicopter ride over the Whitsundays, where you can see the famous heart-shaped reef!” Katie suggests.
For those who want more than just a beach or a quiet hideaway, Shane Green, host of Resort Rescue and veteran hospitality consultant, suggests a Mediterranean cruise to take in the romance, culture and indulgences of the region. “Every day, you can enjoy a new location or experience as you travel the Mediterranean, or you can just hide away in your cabin,” Shane says. If you want something a little more exclusive and private, he recommends the small-ship, yacht-style Windstar Cruises. It won't be an easy choice, but Winstar offers cruises along the Amalfi Coast and Greece, the Veneitan passageways, and along Southern Spain.
Lodge in Private Game Reserve, South Africa
A once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa is the perfect honeymoon for a couple who wants to combine luxurious accommodations, service and cuisine with awe-inspiring scenery and adventure. Wedding Salon founder Tatiana Byron’s favorite spot is Londolozi's Granite Suites in South Africa. This uber-exclusive lodge in one of the original private game reserves consists of just 3 incredibly spacious, stand-alone suites, which feature modern interior design, huge heated swimming pools and breathtaking views of the Sand River. “After a long day tracking lions, leopards, giraffes and cheetahs, there's something magical about sitting on your suite's terrace and sipping a glass of Champagne while watching elephants walk by before heading into your room for a massage that will take you to another world,” Tatiana says.
Overwater Bungalow in Cambodia
Staying in an overwater bungalow is a dream for many honeymooning couples, as Katie Frederick, founder of honeymoon planning agency Ever After Honeymoons, very well knows. Honeymoon in your own intimate paradise at the stunning Song Saa Private Island, a pair of islands set off the coast of Cambodia with just 27 villas, either overwater or in the jungle, all featuring private pools. “French Polynesia and the Maldives are the most popular destinations for couples seeking an overwater experience, but there is another location that probably isn’t the first to come to mind — Cambodia,” she says. Honeymoon in your own intimate paradise at the stunning Song Saa Private Island, a pair of islands set off the coast of Cambodia with just 27 villas, either overwater or in the jungle, all featuring private pools. Song Saa is Khmer for “the sweethearts,” and the islands just ooze romance and relaxation. Also popular for honeymoon couples is a traditional blessing ceremony performed by a Buddhist monk at a nearby temple.
Stargazing in Atacama Desert, Chile
The reason that Bridal Guide travel editor Jenna Mahoney picks the Atacama Desert as a top honeymoon destination? Stargazing. “Hands down, there is no other place on the planet where the night skies are so spectacularly clear — a reason why the international space station ALMA is here.” You can clearly see the Southern Cross, as well as the only-in-Atacama constellation, the Andean Llama. In addition to the romantic night sky, the "mind-boggling" variety of landscapes within the world’s driest desert makes it such a unforgetable destination. The boutique Tierra Atacama is a collection of 12 villa rooms set among fragrant gardens. “The indoor/outdoor spa offers yoga, among other amenities, but the true standout is the honeymooners’ surprise experience, about which I’ve been sworn to secrecy,” Jenna says. “But let’s just say that it involves bubbles, bubbles, and some spectacular views.”
Cultural and Culinary Tour of Spain
Europe has always been a popular option for a luxurious and culturally immersive honeymoon. For 2015, Tom Marchant, co-founder of bespoke travel group Black Tomato, believes Spain in particular is emerging as a perfect honeymoon destination, with its incredible gastronomic experiences, amazing art and architecture, and luxurious properties where you can hide away. In Madrid, couples can take a private flamenco lesson and get up close to the masterpieces of the Reina Sofia and Prado galleries. In the vibrant cultural hub of Barcelona, Black Tomato Group offers a memorable honeymooner experience with a helicopter flight for a bird’s-eye view of the city.
Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands Adventure
Tom Marchant suggests that couples maximize their time away post-nuptials by combining different destinations and experiences. He says a great place to do that is Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. “This combination offers the more intrepid honeymooners incredible adventure, remote and beautiful landscapes, unique wildlife and romantic Andean lodges,” Tom says. On an action-packed honeymoon to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, couples can soak up the sights of the UNESCO-recognized city of Quito, and then trek deep into the Amazon to meet the Huaorani tribe, which was discovered just 50 years ago.
A Private Villa in St. Barts
If you're a couple who’s looking for the ultimate beach honeymoon, look no further than St. Barts. This tiny island in the Caribbean is famous for its stunning beaches, varied and delicious cuisine, and exceptional nightlife. “While outstanding hotels such as Eden Rock, Taiwana, Isle de France, Le Sereno and Le Toiny deserve all the accolades they have received, I think the best way to experience the island is to rent a villa with a pool and hot tub,” Tatiana Byron says. Be sure to select a villa rental agency with a permanent presence on the island, so it will be able to assist you in booking everything from a sunset cruise to a private chef and spa services.
Mini-Moon in a Private Cabin in Pennsylvania
“Admittedly, this is totally random, and there’s absolutely nothing of a draw in the former oil town in upstate Pennsylvania, apart from the Zippo factory. But the Relais & Chateaux Lodge at Glendorn is such a romantic hideaway that it makes my list,” says Jenna Mahoney. It’s perfect for a “mini-moon” (a 2-4 night getaway), she says, because its 1,500-acre wooded property is driving distance from Pittsburgh, NYC and Columbus, Ohio; some guests transfer or helicopter in from Buffalo, NY. First built as a family retreat in 1929, the sprawling resort in the Allegheny Mountains encompasses a main house, 12 guest cabins, 28 miles of trails, a couple of fishing lakes, a shooting center, a spa and more. “It has a throwback summer-camp feel while being totally and utterly adult in the pampering department,” Jenna adds. You can do every activity imaginable — kayaking, swimming, horseback riding, fly-fishing — or simply curl up next to the fire in your private cabin.
Meet the panel of advisors behind Travel's Best Honeymoons 2015.