Newlyweds are supposed to think of all-inclusive resorts when researching honeymoon destinations, right? Well, I suppose that’s mostly true, but some of us are wired differently and are more interested in honeymoon destinations off the beaten path. Luckily, there are plenty of romantic honeymoond ideas out there that stray from the tourist trek.
Now full disclosure, I have not had several honeymoons. That said, I love off the beaten path travel and have stayed at a number of hotels in overlooked destinations that would clearly make for a unique and memorable honeymoon. To expand the reach, I’ve connected with a number of fellow travel bloggers to provide this breakdown of the best honeymoon destinations off the beaten path.
Suchitoto, El Salvador
Honeymooners often turn toward Costa Rica when it comes to Central America. But the time I spent in colonial Suchitoto, El Salvador (right after my actual honeymoon in Costa Rica, ironically) felt like the perfect honeymoon destination for an off the beaten path traveler. Words like “charming” and “quaint” get thrown around far too often, but Suchitoto fits the bill with its quiet, cobblestone streets, brightly-colored buildings of orange, red, white and blue, and smalltown family atmosphere.
In just a few days, I was nodding and saying hi to people who recognized me on the street. It hardly seemed like the town I read about, the epicenter of left-wing guerrilla group FMLN that battled the ruling government during El Salvador‘s especially bloody Civil War. Some FMLN political posters hung around, but the country had clearly come a long way from those dark days.
Los Almendros de San Lorenzo
Los Almendros de San Lorenzo is the obvious place to stay for a honeymoon in Suchitoto, El Salvador. Hosts Fernando and Nathan make you feel like an honored guest (so long as you catch them while you’re in town) and the property itself is the stuff of a romantic fairytale. Their colonial-style abode blends in off the street but sprawls into an impressive, art-lovers estate once you walk inside. There’s the pool in the back with a bar, restaurant, and elevated views of the town.
For honeymooners, do what I did and stay in the ‘Nido de Los Almendros,’ which is a separate apartment wedged into a typical Suchitoto street. There’s a bit of a hill just outside the large, stately wooden door that separates you from the sounds of local kids laughing as they play. Natural light fills the tall windows and you have your own private garden terrace with a Jacuzzi pool that overlooks the lake and the Northern Mountain Range. Few honeymoons could match such a retreat.
Looking to see more of the region? You can sign up for a number of tours through Los Almendros de San Lorenzo, including an indigo workshop, a handicrafts tour, a trip along the flower and coffee route, a trek through ‘Parque de los Volcanes’ or the park of volcanoes, and plenty more.
You can read more about my time in Suchitoto in Talking Tico.
Moneasa, Arad County, Romania
Tucked away in the Codru-Moma Mountains and well-known as a health resort, Moneasa, Romania may not appear to be a textbook honeymoon destination. That is unless you love to chill, hike, and hide away from the hustle-bustle of Arad, located just 100 kilometers away. Bring your swimsuit if you plan your honeymoon during summer as there are a public and many private pools at various hotels and B&Bs. Also, don’t forget your hiking shoes and backpacks to take on all the trails in the area (and yes, they are well marked).
Interested in seeing more of the area? Arad, the county’s capital, is just 100 kilometers from Moneasa. Further to the west, Szeged (in Hungary) is another great choice. If you want to ski, Arieseni is just 39 kilometers from Moneasa, while Vartop is only 33 kilometers away.
Pensiunea Mayumi Moneasa
Given its remote location, there aren’t many lodging options in Moneasa. Luckily there’s Pensiunea Mayumi Moneasa, which has done especially well with couples who gave the hotel a 9.6 rating on Booking for a two-person trip. You can keep things simple here by sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the Romanian countryside.
– Cris, Looknwalk.info
Pico Bonito National Park, Honduras
Like El Salvador, Honduras is another Central American country that’s dismissed from most travel itineraries because of negative connotations fueled by mass media. Again, also like El Salvador, mainstream media have good reason to cover the very many problems Honduras and Hodureños are facing. Their job isn’t to spread happy news of, say, a relaxing jungle retreat in the middle of an ecological paradise. If they did, they’d write about Pico Bonito Natural Park — 564 square kilometers (218 square miles) of pristine green space that was established as a national park in northern Honduras on the first of January, 1987. Pico Bonito has since transformed into a birder’s mecca and is a point of pride among locals.
The Lodge and Spa at Pico Bonito
An important piece of the Pico Bonito puzzle is The Lodge and Spa at Pico Bonito. This resort appears to check the sustainability boxes for eco-conscious travelers and hiring locally is important to the lodge’s operation. Everyone from hotel staff to hiking guides, birding guides, and the masseuses are local hires from the greater La Ceiba region. The Lodge and Spa at Pico Bonito gives you the isolated jungle feel that draws so many honeymooners to more traveled corners of Costa Rica, but you truly feel on your own in your quiet, elevated cabana.
Spa offerings include everything from a private or couples massage to a Temazcal sauna experience that includes rubbing mud over your skin in a traditional, indigenous sweat lodge. Speaking as someone who’s not typically drawn to spas, I found The Lodge and Spa at Pico Bonito to be the exception to my rule. Of course, it doesn’t have to be all about relaxing. Active honeymooners can just as easily sign up for a hike to Unbelievable Falls or sail to Cayos Cochinos — an archipelago where the indigenous Chachauate continue to live (and speak their own language) under the shadow of the far more-traveled Útila island.
Dana, Jordan itself is a 500-year-old village that primarily sticks out for preserved elements of 19th Century Bedouin life. From here you’re within a hike or short drive of Wadi Dana, a natural gorge, and the phenomenal Dana Biosphere Reserve where it feels like the next best thing to hiking on Mars to a non-Jordanian. Though the idea of this being a great off the beaten path honeymoon destination didn’t hit me until I was watching the sunset while sitting on the village rooftops. Even those of us with the shells around our hearts couldn’t deny the romanticism of such a view.
In Dana, you won’t find an overwhelming stock of hotel properties. To the contrary, hotels are blissfully limited and blend in quite well to the existing village. I stayed at the Dana Hotel where there’s very much a family atmosphere. During a May visit, I was greeted by an American from California who first stumbled across the property during her own Jordanian backpacking trip. She has since regularly come back to volunteer to help with the business’ operation. Given the ease of communication, she showed me to my room — which was a private room outside of the hotel’s office property and mixed discreetly into the village.
There’s also Mahmoud, a Bedouin who offers hikes of the Dana Biosphere Reserve. Around halfway through the jaunt, he found a shaded rock overhang to cook up some tea — a staple of Jordanian culture. Mahmoud shared stories of growing up in a Bedouin tribe while he expertly bounced around the rock ledges while leaving me to the simple hiking trail. At the end, it was easy to see why the woman from California had happily been making an annual return to Dana.
Romantic picnics and riverboat cruises? Check. Spa treatments and a gourmet breakfast in a chic little B&B? Absolutely. A champagne toast after a hot air balloon flight followed by a quiet gondola ride? Just say the word. Stillwater, Minnesota just might be the most romantic little city you’ve never heard of.
Located along the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, this riverfront town offers a friendly, small-town feeling and endless charm just 26 miles from downtown Minneapolis. The 11-block historic downtown shopping district is chock full of sweet little restaurants, local boutiques, art galleries, bookstores and antique shops housed in original brick buildings. Five steep, outdoor staircases that date back to 1857 tempt honeymooners with beautiful views of the St. Croix river bluffs and artfully restored period homes from Stillwater’s logging town boom days.
The Rivertown Inn
Explore these historic neighborhoods on foot, on a tour aboard the cherry red Stillwater Trolley, or book a room in one of the many pretty inns and B&Bs to really bask in Stillwater’s atmosphere. The Rivertown Inn offers opulent suites and bedchambers named for romantic literary figures like Lord Byron and Christina Rossetti, a gourmet breakfast and a nightly wine and hors-d’oeuvres social hour, as well as cozy fireplaces, spa-quality whirlpool baths, summer picnic packages (complete with blanket and basket) and a room service menu that includes flowers, champagne, chocolates and even poetry.
Speaking of spas, Just For Me Spa offers a full menu of spa services in a rustic cabin in the woods. Make a day of it with a private couples’ massage, a soothing sauna session and rest and relaxation in the Himalayan Salt Cave sanctuary.
At sunset, set out on (or above!) the quiet waters of the St. Croix. May through October are the best times for a private gondola tour with Gondola Romantica or a paddleboat ride aboard Stillwater River Boats, but Stillwater Balloon takes lovebirds high above the Stillwater hills all year long, making this pretty river city a smart choice for honeymooners in all seasons.
— Alicia Underlee Nelson, Prairie Style File
Tranquil temples, historic monasteries, serene cemeteries and a giant Buddha might not strike most people as particularly romantic. But if you’re reading this, you’re not most people. So a hike through the forests and temples of Kamakura, Japan is for you.
The seaside city boasts 65 Buddhist temples and 15 Shinto shrines tucked away in almost impossibly atmospheric forests around the city, all easily accessible by the streetcar-style Enoden train, bus or on foot. For all its seclusion, Kamakura is still less than an hour by train from Tokyo, making it popular with day trippers, but if you avoid weekends and public holidays, you’ll be able to enjoy the treasures of this ancient city in relative peace.
Zen Buddhism flourished in Kamakura in the 13th century and the city is home to the Five Great Zen Temples of Zen Buddhism. They include Kenchō-ji, the oldest Zen temple, and training monastery in the country and the soaring bamboo grove at Hokoku-ji Temple. Shinto shrines like Zeniarai Benten, where you can wash money inside a cave dedicated to the water god and (hopefully) cause it to multiply, are equally lovely and mysterious to non-worshippers. But you don’t have to be religious to appreciate that beauty of the towering entrance gates, the elegant teahouses, manicured gardens and the tranquility of the cemeteries and walking paths along the sacred sites.
The Great Buddha of Kamakura, constructed in 1252, is one of the city’s greatest treasures. You can stand inside this massive bronze statue (it’s over 13 meters tall), which survived an unexpected dip in the sea during a tsunami and has stood on the Kotoku-in Temple grounds since 1495.
When you’re ready to relax, take the train to nearby Enoshima Island for sandy beaches, more temples and caves, hot spring onsen spas and (on clear days) a view of Mt. Fuji. Stay at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) like Iwamotoro Honkan, which offers tatami mats for sleeping, multi-course Japanese meals and relaxing baths in quiet caves.
Then head to Lover’s Hill, overlooking the sea. It’s said that couples that ring The Bell of Ryuren together will be spiritually united forever. (If you just smiled or said, “Awwww,” you might just be a romantic after all. Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me.)
— Alicia Underlee Nelson, Prairie Style File
Mafia Island, Tanzania
A few waves south of famous and often crowded Zanzibar, Mafia Island is the perfect getaway for those newlyweds who are looking for relaxing ambiance, gorgeous sunsets, and silence.
Surrounded by isolated sand banks and tiny coral reefs, the Tanzania pearl builds her charm on virgin beaches, pristine green waters and scattered palm trees that sing along with the fresh breeze. A few villages and even fewer boutique resorts invisibly mingle with the lush vegetation of the island, creating a world of peace and wellness.
Life in Mafia is slow. Local fishermen lazily sail off for their catch of the day and young boys spend entire mornings fixing boats and knitting nets. A couple of sandy steps from them, in the quiet of the Marine Park one can walk forever without encountering a living soul.
On a more practical level, Mafia is one of the few African beach destinations that is not affected by the tide issue. Here, the sea does not disappear miles away as it does elsewhere. On Mafia, a refreshing swim is always close at hand.
Mafia is also the land of secluded, stunning resorts. Our pick is the Butiama Beach, a 13 bungalow hotel that sits directly on a strip of sandy beach. The place has a fascinating local touch and effectively mixes luxury with simplicity. The Italian owner is discreet but very attentive to each and every guest, and her influence can be deeply appreciated in the delicious restaurant cuisine.
This location is perfect for honeymooners because it simply has it all — sun, crystal clear water, palm trees, and solitude. On one hand, it is the typical tropical paradise where you can spend your days doing nothing. On the other, the island offers a great array of excursions and adventures. You can find anything from whale watching to whale shark swimming, reef snorkeling to kayaking, and even cultural tours and sailing boat cruises.
— Francesco Minghini, Trip it Easy
The Garden Route, South Africa
When you say ‘Africa’ and ‘honeymoon,’ normally people think of a luxury safari. However, this year my husband celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary by opting for something different. We went to South Africa for a month-long road trip, driving across the country from Cape Town to Johannesburg — starting with the Garden Route, a 190-mile (300-kilometer) route from the Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River near Port Elizabeth.
The Garden Route was one of our favorite places in South Africa. It’s easy to access and move around for Africa first-timers like us and it includes a variety of things to do, from hiking and kayaking to game driving, canopy tours, and even bungee jumping. Because the trip was such a big treat for us, we agreed to stay only at unique accommodations, be it a chalet in the forest, a surf hostel, a villa in the Cape or a 19th-century colonial house.
Kurland, Plettenberg Bay
During our week along the Garden Route, the Kurland Hotel was by far our favorite hotel. You need a little luxury when you’re celebrating a relationship, and this spectacular hotel shows care even in the smallest details, like the freshly-cut roses left on the bedside tables or the fluffy scones served during tea time. The rooms are located in Cape Dutch villas, all with a private balcony and plunge pool, a veranda and a small garden
Guests also have access to a swimming pool as well as bicycles and an ATV that can be borrowed for free to tour the hotel’s expansive grounds, including a polo pavilion and tea plantations. Horse riding is another popular activity at Kurland. You can arrange a guided tour of the grounds on horseback and there’s a Shetland pony for the youngest guests. Foodies will also be well taken care of. The hotel chef prepares dinner and breakfast with fresh, seasonal ingredients, including local and international specialties.
-Margherita Ragg, The Crowded Planet
Did we miss someplace? Of course we did. Let us know in the comments.