fter two of years of Covid-induced wedding turmoil, honeymoons are back on.
From the romance of an 18th-century antique-filled chateau in a sleepy French village to the sunrise spectacle of galloping wild horses at the surf’s edge on a forgotten Indonesian island, let these alternative honeymoon destinations whet your appetite.
Because, after the last few years, you deserve to go somewhere truly special.
Isla Secas, Panama
When it comes to central American honeymoon hotspots, Costa Rica and Belize are perhaps the obvious contenders. But we’d like to nudge you politely in the direction of Panama, or, more specifically, Isla Secas, 20 miles off the coast on the Pacific side of the country.
A luxury eco retreat sleeping just 18 people, this is one of the most buzzed about openings of the year. The resort owns 14 islands in the archipelago, but the hotel and rooms (spacious casitas made from reclaimed wood) live on just one island, while the rest have been left undeveloped and ready for exploring.
Pick your favourite and head off with your SO, bottle of champagne in hand, for your own private island picnic. The draw at Isla Secas is the marine life with manta rays, sharks, turtles and even humpback whales during migration all calling the glistening, fertile waters home. The hotel boasts some impressive eco stats – 100 per cent of its power is solar-generated, for example; and all food waste is dehydrated down and used for compost. Isla Secas isn’t showy or glamorous. It’s subtle, understated and one of the most special spots on the planet.
Best time to visit: January – April
It’s likely that you’ve heard of Amangiri in Utah. If you haven’t, you will surely have seen it all over Instagram. One of the most recognisable hotels from the exceptional Aman group, it’s in the heart of the canyon-filled Painted Desert and its clever polished concrete buildings seem as if they have been carved directly into the rugged landscape. It doesn’t get more remote than this, but for couples seeking a real back-to-nature experience (with all the usual 5* luxuries, of course), look to Camp Sarika.
A tented retreat a short drive or hike away from the main property with pit-fire cuisine, cosy campfire nights, and all the usual Aman trimmings, like the brand’s outstanding spa treatments. The emphasis here is on adventure with hiking, climbing and horseriding high on the agenda, so probably not one for the fly and flop brigade. For a truly magical honeymoon experience, book a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the glowing Navajo Mountains.
Best time to visit: Spring (April – May) and Autumn (September – October)
If you and your new Mr or Mrs are more cosy than Caribbean, head north for the wild beauty of Scotland. Hole up at Nord 57, a chic Scandi-style cabin just across from Skye on the shore of Loch Duig in Wester Ross; or check into the much lauded and art-filled pub-with-rooms Fife Arms in Braemar near the Cairngorms.
Don’t like to stay in one place for too long? Why not hop aboard the Belmond Royal Scotsman for the finest way to see the Highlands. Itineraries start at three nights and go up to seven.
Best time to visit: Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November)
Wa Ale island, Myanmar
This destination is a schlep (about 24 hours from London’s Heathrow via planes, cars and boats), but, boy, is it worth it. Wa Ale is the first hotel to open in Myanmar’s untouched Myeik Archipelago and here you’ll find barefoot luxury on a remarkable private island resort in what feels like the middle of nowhere in the Andaman Sea.
The whole place feels tailor-made for once-in-a-lifetime romance – it’s even got a Honeymoon Beach for crying out loud. Eleven luxury tented villas sit along the shore of the calm cove and three cosy treehouses perch in the treetops with views of the ocean. Watch turtles hatch on the beach, kayak through the island’s mangrove rivers and unwind with a private couples’ massage in your villa while the champagne sits on ice.
A guilt-free honeymoon, 20 per cent of Wa Ale’s profits go to the Lampi Foundation set up to protect the Lampi Marine National Park in which the resort sits. Plus, you’ll find sustainable practices throughout, like solar power, rain water harvesting, and biodegradable packaging. Go now before everyone else discovers – and falls in love with – it.
Best time to visit:January to April and October to December
São Tomé and Príncipe
Skip the Seychelles for the relatively undiscovered nation of São Tomé and Príncipe in the Gulf of Guinea off Africa’s Atlantic coast. The rainforest-covered islands cover all the key honeymoon requisites – deserted palm-fringed, white sandy beaches; jungle retreats; and blissfully few tourists – plus they follow Greenwich Mean Time so no energy-sapping jet lag to contend with.
South African billionaire Mark Shuttleworth owns the top hotels and nearly all of them can be found on Principe, the smaller of the two islands, which is a 35-minute flight from São Tomé’s small but charming capital of the same name. Bom Bom is a laidback beach resort, Roca Sundy is a tastefully converted former plantation and Sundy Praia Lodge is the tiny nation’s first five-star resort. Snorkle, dive, beach-hop and gorge on chocolate from one of the country’s many cacao plantations.
Best time to visit: June – September
Swap the Amalfi for the Adriatic and hotel-hop down Montenegro’s sparkling coastline. Stay in One&Only’s first European outpost in the slick resort of Portonovi on the shores of the beautiful Boka Bay, which opened in late 2020. This uber-luxe hotel has its own private sandy beach (other beaches in the area are pebble), a state-of-the-art Espace Clenot wellness retreat, speedboats on hand for guests, plus Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli is at the helm of the hotel’s healthy Italian restaurant Sabia.
Then it’s off to The Chedi Lustica Bay on the shorefront of Traste Bay, the star of the new uber-swanky €1.1 billion Lustica Bay marina development. Dress to impress, plonk on a bean bag at The Rok beach bar and watch the super-yachts glide past. Finally, end on a high at Aman’s exceptionally romantic Sveti Stefan, a converted 15th-century fishing village on an island linked to the mainline by a narrow stone path. It doesn’t get much better.
Read our full review of The Chedi Lustica Bay here.
Best time to visit: May – September
Nihi Sumba, Indonesia
An hour’s flight from Bali lies the largely forgotten island of Sumba, and on the south-west coast, with its own private 2.5km stretch of beach, is the Nihi Sumba eco-resort. Famous for its world-class surf and Sandalwood horses, which are released and gallop freely along the shoreline and splash in the pristine waters each morning. A magical sight. Once the novelty of that’s worn off (it never will, of course), spend the rest of the day lazing by the pool or the beach, stretching it out in the hilltop yoga pavilion or exploring the untouched island.
The Spa Safari is a must do. A two-hour hike through rice fields, banana tree groves and even a thatched village to the secluded, over-water spa cabins. Not relaxed enough? That wedding planning is stressful, we know… so book Villa Rahasia for 24-hours. It’s the resort’s ultra-exclusive, cliff-top private villa and comes without internet but with unlimited spa treatments for the ultimate escape.
Read our full review of Nihi Sumba here.
Best time to visit: April – November
Château du Grand-Lucé, Loire Valley
We can’t think of a better minimoon spot than the converted 18th-century Château du Grand-Lucé. Originally owned by Baron Jacques Pineau de Viennay, a good pal of King Louis XV, and set in 80 acres of manicured gardens – with a heated pool – the fine art and antiques found throughout the house and its opulent guest rooms are worthy of a museum. Bedrooms are wonderfully grand with honeymoon-appropriate four-poster beds. Ask the friendly staff to whip up a picnic and head off to explore the grounds. For rainy days, there’s a spa and always a supply of excellent local wine.
Read our full review of Château du Grand-Lucé here.
Best time to visit: April – October
Twin Farms, Vermont
This one really has everything: six private downhill ski trails, ice skating rink, tennis courts, fishing, kayaking, a spa, and a private swimming pond – all set over 300 acres of beautiful New England woodlands. Honeymooners should book into The Chalet, the most romantic cottage on the grounds with its own private granite hot tub with views of Mount Ascutney and several crackling fire places for cosy nights. The real romantics should book the spa’s Japanese Furo bath for a private soak – swimwear optional. Five hours from NYC, this could make a perfect city-to-calm honeymoon.
Best time to visit: year-round
Singita Kwitonda Lodge, Rwanda
Gorilla trekking at Singita’s luxury eco-lodge will be the ultimate bonding experience for you and your new plus one for life. Sustainability is at the heart of everything the brand does, so buckle up for a guilt-free, low-impact wildlife experience to remember. When you’re not busy observing the endangered mountain gorillas, or hiking around the Volcanoes National Park, head to the spa or unwind in one of the lodge’s eight suites. All make the most of the prime location with floor-to-ceiling windows, plunge pools and roaring fireplaces. Singita has a passion for conservation and is the top ecotourism brand in Africa with long term plans to look after the continent’s wildlife. A honeymoon with a heart, if ever we heard it.
Best time to visit: May – November
Finnish Lapland and the Maldives
One of you wants sun, the other wants cosy outdoor adventures. Why choose? Instead opt for Scott Dunn’s new Mega-Moon package. Spend three nights in Finnish Lapland in the remote adults-only Beana Laponia hotel and one unforgettable night under the stars in the Golden Crown glass igloos, before jetting off for seven nights at the exceptional Milaidhoo Island Maldives. The Lapland section of this trip-of-a-lifetime could include anything from husky sledding to tobogganing – and it’s one of the best spots in the world to see the Northern Lights. In the Maldives, you know the drill: beach, eat, sleep, repeat.
Best time to visit: between November and March
Scott Dunn offers an 11-night trip to Finnish Lapland and the Maldives from £9,750 per person; scottdunn.com