A honeymoon isn’t just any trip. It’s the trip of a lifetime and it should be filled with moments that will make a lifetime of happy memories.
That’s why it’s so important to choose the right place, one that suits your own style and tastes. What do you enjoy doing as a couple? That’s a good place to begin when planning this landmark vacation together.
Do you both love exploring new places or is your idea of a great trip to hang out in a familiar locale? Do you dream of flying off into your life together or driving a couple of hours to your honeymoon nest? Do you have a taste for the exotic or prefer something more low-key?
Sun and Sand: The Caribbean
The tried-and-true honeymoon destination for New Englanders is a Caribbean island. The very name conjures up visions of swaying palms, tall fruity rum drinks and soft evening breezes.
And some of those islands have direct flights from Boston. Norwegian Air began flying to Martinique from Boston last winter, but this French enclave (it’s actually a full department of France) is still off the beaten tourism path for Americans. That makes it especially appealing, as you’ll find the beaches uncrowded and the locals unjaded by mass tourism.
The lively village of Trois Ilets, overlooking the broad bay south of the capital and within taxi distance of the airport, is a good spot to choose, with beaches of soft white sand, turquoise blue waters and lots of dining options. There’s lots to do there: sailing, kayaking through the mangroves and day cruises.
Two resorts to consider are Hotel Bakoua (hotel-bakoua.fr/en/home) and the smaller boutique Hotel La Pagerie (hotel-lapagerie.com/en), both set amid tropical gardens. Hotel Bakoua has an infinity pool and some rooms have direct beach access; La Pagerie rooms have private terraces and the pool has a swim-up bar.
Find your own private stretch of sand and surf, drink French wines and Champagne (this is part of France, so they’re both bargains here), eat buttery warm croissants for breakfast and dine on steak frites (the island beef is a specialty) or seafood from both the Atlantic and Caribbean (the waters of both wash Martinique’s shores).
And the rum is superb mixed with local tropical fruits.
If you’d rather have all the white sand and rum in an entirely English-speaking setting, JetBlue flies direct from Boston to Martinique’s neighboring island of St. Lucia, where resorts range from low-key seaside bungalows to the ultra-luxe Sugar Beach (viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/sugarbeach), set in 100 acres of rain forest overlooking its own private beach.
Dreaming of one of those over-the-water bungalows, but thought you’d need to go to Tahiti to find one? Not so. Sandals Resorts (sandals.com) has opened an enclave of thatched-roofed romance on St. Lucia, each complete with all-inclusive luxuries that include private transfers, butler service and unlimited fine dining with 24-hour room service.
All this with a mile of sheltered beach and views that make you never want to close your eyes.
Europe’s Tropical Island: Madeira
You can be pretty sure you’ll be the first kids on your block to honeymoon on the lush island of Madeira, part of Portugal, but set alone in the mid-Atlantic. SATA, the Azorean Airlines, now flies there from Boston, and even with the airfare considered, this island won’t break your honeymoon budget.
Luxury hotels such as the stylish Savoy Saccharum, with ocean-view rooms, fine dining and a magnificent spa are under $100 a night. The Saccharum is perfect for a getaway for two, set on a dramatic cliff-lined coast with multiple pools and three restaurants.
Its sister resort, Savoy Royal Hotel (madeiraroyalsavoy.com), is in Madeira’s lively capital of Funchal, with ocean views and a broad sea-front terrace of swimming pools, palms, cafes and places to lounge in the sun. Spacious rooms and suites have all the modern amenities, but the hotel has the elegance and attentive service of a classic grand hotel.
Estalagem Quinta da Ponta do Sol (pontadosol.com), is accessed by an elevator to its cliff-top setting, where you can look almost straight down into a pretty little village square. The boutique hotel, with its black-and-white rooms, excellent restaurant, lantern-lit terrace and infinity pool with lofty views, has the intimate air of a small luxury inn.
Restaurant do Forte (en.forte.restaurant) is set in an old fort overlooking the sea, and the nearby narrow Rua de Santa Maria is filled with restaurants, but its main attraction is the colorful painted doorways, decorated by local artists.
The island is covered in lush green trees and flowering plants, and tropical fruits grow everywhere. Funchal alone has three major show gardens, including the romantic Monte Palace Gardens, where flower-draped paths wind down through lush tropical forest with fountains and pools.
While Madeira rises dramatically out of the ocean with a scenic cliff-lined shore and no real beaches, you can take a ferry to neighboring Porto Santo to frolic in miles of white sand and gentle surf.
For a thrilling day exploring the island’s steep mountainous interior, take a Jeep tour with an English-speaking guide from Mountain Expedition (mountainexpedition.pt). You’ll want to stop for a walk along one of Madeira’s famous levadas, the series of narrow canals that carry water from the mountains to irrigate farms. Footpaths alongside these bring walkers through UNESCO-acclaimed forests to waterfalls, caves, ruined mills, tiny hamlets, rare orchids and spectacular views of the inland mountains.
A Jeep trip leads to magnificent viewpoints and coastal towns high above the ocean. A good lunch stop at one of these is at Quinta do Furão (quintadofurao.com/en-gb), perched atop soaring cliffs in Santana, on the north coast.
Close, but a World Apart: Maine’s Coast
There’s a mystique to the Maine coast, one that makes names like Camden, Boothbay Harbor and Rockland sound like a faraway places. Spend lazy days at the beach, find romantic viewpoints above the sea for a picnic-for-two, eat fresh-from-the-sea lobster on a wharf, hold hands under the billowing sails of a sloop out of Camden and stroll through glorious coastal flower gardens.
Or get adventurous and explore a bay or estuary in a kayak-built-for-two. The options go on and on, and you can go “home” each evening to a cozy country inn or a chic beachside resort.
Set in a natural landscape, above a long beach on Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland, Inn by the Sea (innbythesea.com) blends very modern comforts of a full-service resort with old-fashioned sun-and-sand-and-spa atmosphere. Guest rooms have full walls of glass opening onto private balconies, where cushioned chairs invite relaxing to enjoy the view over the inn’s wild garden and the sea beyond.
Between the garden and the sea, the long white-sand beach stretches in both directions for swimming, sunning, sand castles, picnics and long moonlight walks. The beach, the inn’s own excellent restaurant and a sybaritic spa mean you could spend an entire honeymoon here without leaving.
An even shorter drive from New Hampshire and Vermont is classy little Kennebunkport, Maine, where the tree-shaded streets are lined with restored homes of prosperous 19th-century ship owners and captains. One is now the Captain Jeffords Inn (captainjefferdsinn.com), a romantic B&B where a couple can be as secluded as they choose in the large, beautifully appointed Arundel room, on the second floor at the end of a private hallway. A fireplace adds romantic ambiance to the double whirlpool tub in one corner. Return from a day on the beach (a trolley will take you to your choice of these) or a few hours browsing in the village shops and galleries, for complimentary afternoon tea at a table in the garden that surrounds the mansion, or in the glass-surrounded solarium.
You don’t have to join other guests for breakfast at the large table in the dining room – there are plenty of cozy tables for two. The inn’s honeymoon package includes a chilled bottle of Champagne, complimentary Champagne flutes, hand-dipped chocolate-covered strawberries and a dozen roses.
Overlooking the harbor full of sailing ships in Camden, Hawthorn Inn’s Carriage House (camdenhawthorn.com) offers the privacy of a separate entrance and a full wall of windows above the garden so you can enjoy the view. The inn’s “Cocooning Package” is a perfect way to de-stress from all the pre-wedding pressures. It includes a bottle of wine and a selection of Ducktrap River smoked seafoods on arrival, complimentary pick-up of dinner from a Camden restaurant so you can dine “at home,” and your hot breakfast delivered to your room in the morning.
If the idea of exploring the Maine coast and staying a couple of nights each in several cozy stops sounds appealing, Inns Along the Coast (innsalongthecoast.com) can help you plan a carefree honeymoon itinerary. Along with assuring you comfortable, luxurious places to stay, Inns Along the Coast selects those where resident owners are experts on their hometowns and can suggest the best places to eat, romantic spots for picnics and attractions based on your own interests — from brew pubs and distilleries to little-known gardens.
Stillman (Tim) Rogers is a travel writer and photographer, author of “It Happened in New Hampshire” and co-author of “New Hampshire Off the Beaten Path.” He blogs about travel news and destinations at bestgetaways.wordpress.com.