Top 10 honeymoon destinations for globe-trotting newlyweds

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Top 10 honeymoon destinations for globe-trotting newlyweds

From England's greener pastures to the Costa Rican wilderness, the best honeymoon destinations are those that promise romance, adventure – and luxury or boutique hotels with bags of style. Read on for our pick of post-wedding paradises…

Laura Holt

BY Laura Holt28 May 2019

From a honeymoon in England’s greener pastures to the most romantic enclaves in Costa Rica’s rampant rainforest, the best honeymoon destinations are those that promise romance, adventure – and luxury or boutique hotels with bags of style. Read on for our pick of post-wedding paradises…

ENGLAND

Why go? Recently, the UK minibreak has been booming and these doorstep rediscoveries have rekindled a desire for a honeymoon in the UK’s wide wild moors, dales and downs, fair Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, coasts of many colours and dynamic cities.

Stay Whether your idea of romance is petticoats, hand-holding and clipped accents (or four-poster rattling à la Bridgerton’s more blush-inducing scenes) or perhaps unbridled trysts by craggy coves, England has a stately home or coastal manse for playing it out. For the former camp, Thyme has all the halcyon rusticity its name conjures up; ceilings are criss-crossed with wood beams and strung with chandeliers, the walled garden is all set for simpering strolls, and its 17th-century cottages have aged very gracefully. The whole place smells heavenly too, from the spa bothy with its botanical steams and soaks to the Baa bar’s herbalicious cocktails, and requisite country pub the Swan will show you warm country hospitality and pour you some pints of ‘round ‘ere’ brews.

Or, further south – buffeted between Atlantic-blustered Trevose Head and sedate, well-heeled Padstow – the Pig at Harlyn Bay adds an alluring stormy edge to its signature cosiness with a sultry, swelling-wave and wine-dark palette and maritime antiques. And indulgences come readily, with a summertime terrace for fresh lobster and ice-cream sundaes (ideal for sharing); the famed 25-mile menu with vodka-soaked pork shoulder, fat crab cakes and 35-day-aged steaks; and the region’s best cideries, distillers and brewers supplying the bar. It’s altogether more seductive than Poldark when he sheds his shirt.

Smith tip London is perhaps one of the best destinations for a city honeymoon, especially for literary lovers who can’t help but be wooed by the Mayfair Townhouse, where decor not only nods to Oscar Wilde and PG Wodehouse, but a whole backstory has been dreamt up for fictional former residents, the Renard family.

GREECE

Why go? It’s no secret that the country’s a romantic at heart – it’s practically the law to be paired up in Santorini – but now’s the time to avoid the most popular honeymoon destinations in Greece and combine marital bliss with some serious self love (in the wellness sense of the word, we mean…). Dinkier islands have acquired spotlight-luring boutique hotels that put mindfulness front and centre, so couples can have a holistic start to married life.

Stay We can’t help but crow about the Rooster, a rare bird on Antiparos – a Cycladic island whose natural beauty and seaside serenity are only recently getting the recognition they deserve. Owner Athanasia has been enamoured since her holidays there as a child; and realising the sense of inner peace she found there, she set about building a hotel to harness its powers. In strutteth the Rooster, where each spacious suite and villa has a private pool, a terrace with a soul-lifting view and sheltered outdoor shower (hey, who doesn’t feel fancy-free after an alfresco scrub in the buff). Romance comes in the form of homemade picnics on the wild beach nearby or late-night cocktails in the hotel’s ‘secret garden’, but you may also discover that the couple who gong-bathes and engages in a Grecian fire ceremony together stays together.

An excellent honeymoon destination if you’re on a budget, Oku Kos may not be quite so hidden away, but the revitalising powers of its Hippocrates-inspired massages, Asian-inflected fish dishes and mezcal-muddled cocktails – in rooms with a sultry mod-rustic look – cannot be denied. And the on-site concept store sells all the covetable accoutrements in your room with which to bulk up your trousseau. And, it’s serenely adults-only, too.

Smith tip For a stay that’s as angelically white and lavishly tiered as a wedding cake, try Amanzoe in the eastern Peloponnesian peninsula. You’ll each get a free hour-long massage as part of your Smith Extra, and taking drinks on the raised, circular sea-facing terrace will make you feel on top of Olympus.

PUGLIA

Why go? A honeymoon in Tuscany may seem like the go-to option in Italy, but the heel of the boot – a formerly overlooked region – is arguably the country’s hottest destination, a reputation supported by the slew of romantic hotels popping up from the forested north to the craggy coastline at its most southerly point. A honeymoon in Puglia promises fulsome olive groves, ancient villages (many with the signature conical trulli buildings) and deliriously tasty food.

Stay Run the length of the region, making pit stops at vineyards and timeless towns rich in history. Start at La Peschiera in Monopoli, one for the water babies, with its private beach and seven (yes, seven) pools, ensuring deep-blue views from your terrace. Rooms are simply dressed, but most have a veiled four-poster, the bar’s cocktail game is strong, and seafood dinners by the water are so fresh you’ll think the fish just leaped onto your plate.

Next, head inland to ‘white city’ (although more of a small fairy-tale town these days) Ostuni. At its heart there’s labour of love Paragon 700 – once 18th-century Palazzo Rosso, now one of Italy’s most exciting new openings after an outstanding renovation. It’s a wildly romantic honeymoon destination now the frescoes have been sensitively touched up and colourised, antiques from all over the world (including South African bomas and Indian gazebos repurposed as bath tubs) have been shipped in, and Ostuni’s largest private garden has been pruned and primped. A stay that’s as stand-out as its redbrick facade.

Then, set course for Lecce, the ‘Florence of the south’, for a spell at Palazzo Bozzi Corso, a magnificent 18th-century home that showcases the city’s more modern leanings with its impressive collection of big-deal designer furnishings and artwork. And, at the tip of the heel, Palazzo Daniele pulls off a similar trick, with its aged frescoed walls and artfully unfussy Ludovica and Roberto Palomba furnishings.

Smith tip We’re not ones to chase celebs, but Justin Timberlake made an inspired choice by having his Italian wedding at Borgo Egnazia. This stylish, sprawling stay has honeymoon-ready rooms in bridal whites.

MALLORCA

Why go? Perhaps you’re chasing some late-season sun, perhaps you want to combine culture, coast and some very fine cuisine, or perhaps you want to be swept off your feet by the historic romance of the Old Town and the sage- and saffron-hued vistas inland. Whatever the draw for you, a honeymoon in Mallorca will be an amor-filled tonic after the whirlwind of the wedding.

Stay If you choose to honeymoon in the Balearic Isles, prepare to divvy up your affections between your beloved and daydream beaches, ancient hamlets and cosmopolitan Palma’s many enticements. To cover all bases, we recommend a road trip in Mallorca from the city to the countryside, and the arrival of two new hotels will make where to stay a no-brainer. Sant Francesc Hotel Singular sits pretty in Palma’s Old Town and its effortlessly stylish rooms – some with beams and daintily painted ceilings, all with artworks by important Spanish painters and dapper designer furnishings – are all set-dressing for romance. Palma’s a popular honeymoon destination for its sand-dusted coast (the seafront’s all set for idle walks), top-drawer tapas bars and Gothic monuments, so explore by day, then return for ‘golden hour’ to sip sangria in the rooftop solarium as the sun sets.

Less than an hour’s drive away in Santanyí is the Soldevila-Ferrer family’s country pile, Sant Francesc’s sister stay Can Ferrereta, which they’ve also adorned with important artworks (you’ll spot the odd Miró on the walls here) and once again shown impeccable taste in the furnishings. Alongside original arched doorways and stone walls, there’s a sleek rustic look (think repainted barn doors and wicker accessories), plus bath tubs couples can get cosy in, mod four-posters and a cypress-dotted garden (with a pool).

Smith tip Even the best honeymoon destinations in the world can be improved upon by booking a superlative suite – in this case, it’s the La Torre Studio, formed of the hotel’s former watchtower and dovecote. Here you’ll have an expansive private roof terrace and a Jacuzzi with panoramic views. And, if you book it with the adjacent Privilege Room and Junior Suite you can have the whole floor to yourselves.

VIETNAM

Why go? Because Vietnam is one of the best beach-honeymoon destinations we can think of, with extraordinary luxury hotels in the most paradisiacal parts. And Earth lovers can indulge in good conscience, as many hotels here are hot on eco-friendly practices.

Stay With acres of lush jungle to spread out over, turquoise bays with picturesque rock formations and stepped rice paddies, tropical honeymoon destinations like Vietnam have the edge when it comes to hotels that make you go weak at the knees. Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho in particular makes us come over all unnecessary, with its wanton natural beauty, come-hither private beach and come-to-bed, um, beds – many four-poster and facing the gloriously green surrounds or sparkling waters. It’s a bit of a social butterfly, with three restaurants to skip between, two tennis courts, a spa and yoga studio, but each standalone villa – built to evoke the traditional local architecture – is tucked into a secluded spot.

The Six Senses group have two properties for a honeymoon in Vietnam, both with unique charms, but Six Senses Ninh Van Bay just edges its way into our affections a little more for its sense of privacy (guests have to arrive by boat), butlers as standard and green outlook (staff get involved in beach clean-ups, keep the coral reefs safe and plant plenty of new trees). The thatch roofed dwellings all have private pools and have a Robinson Crusoe gone rom-com feel – wooden bath tubs and veiled beds are privy to the best views in the house and each has a private pool and champagne in the minibar. Cheers to that.

Smith tip Frankly, we can’t think of anywhere more romantic than a ‘wine cave’ and it turns out Six Senses feels the same – private dinners of juicy lobsters and thick steaks, paired with some very fine pours, are held in their bottle-lined cavern.

INDONESIA

Why go? The world’s biggest island nation has 17,000 idyllic specks to choose from, so for beach-seekers Indonesian honeymoons are a no-brainer. But where to go? With your pick of paradise there’s something to suit everyone. Try Bali for buzz, beachside hangouts and jungly seclusion; lesser-trodden Sumba for surfing and romantic seclusion; and crowd-free Moyo Island for luxury camping beside the Flores Sea.

Stay Bali may be Indonesia’s most popular honeymoon destination, but you needn’t find yourself elbow-to-elbow with gooey-eyed newlyweds. Get to know the relatively unexplored north coast from eco lodge Plataran Menjangan Resort & Spa, which stands amid the mangroves and rainforest of West Bali National Park – all the better for spying teeny pudu deer, diving to find submerged statues and taking nocturnal safaris. Or hop along one island to Lombok Lodge, where chef Jiwa Raga cooks up five-course fine-dining meals each night, which makes it especially fortuitous that your Smith Extra is a candlelit beachside dinner for two. While here take a trip to a Sasak village to take a deep dive into local culture and to meet the holy eels at Pura Lingsar temple.

And where to next on your Indonesian honeymoon? Midway between the Malaysian mainland and Borneo, Bawah Reserve is another perfectly private escape in the Anambas archipelago, reachable by seaplane. There may not be any TVs here (to encourage you to engage with the natural world), but there are lagoons for snorkelling in, a baker’s dozen of beaches to sunbathe on, an open-air cinema for screenings and a wine cellar to poke around in.

Smith tip We have an idea for a honeymoon that’s a little extra. Push the – quite literal – boat out with Sequoia Yacht, a two-suite, just-for-you vessel, which sails three itineraries around the Coral Triangle: to the reefs of Raja Ampat, the dragon-roamed shores of Komodo and the storied spice isles of the Moluccas.

COSTA RICA

Why go? Why, for a taste of pura vida – the Ticos’ upbeat and easygoing attitude to life. Choose a honeymoon in Costa Rica and you could be off on Jumanji-esque adventures in cloud forests and biodiverse national parks, seeking out spider monkeys, sloths and other protected animals in the brilliantly green interior. And as beach honeymoon destinations go, Costa Rica has the goods, with strips of white and gold sand on both coasts, that beg you to come lay down a towel.

Stay Your honeymoon speed may be more cocktails and sunloungers than chasing surf breaks, but don’t discount beachy haven Santa Teresa for its board fanatics. Its white sands stretch out for miles, palms run rampant over the hillsides and a long-standing hippie community gives it plenty of pura vida energy. Even better, it’s still faint on honeymooners’ radars, with an unpaved road leading in and out of town. Check in to Nantipa and you’ll be within reach of national parks where exotic animals play, Unesco-protected beaches and dishy tropical islands. Plus, the resort’s homages to the ancient Chorotega tribe give it an authentic feel

High above the Pacific, luxury hotel Kurà is a unique honeymoon destination for its gobsmacking all-round views of wild verdure, on-high pool with underwater speakers and elevated bedrooms in both style and stature. Owned and run by a husband-and-wife architect and biologist, it’s got good looks and plenty of heart: it runs on solar power, uses drip technology to water the lush gardens, and grows many of the restaurant’s ingredients onsite. Frankly, it’s hard not to love.

Smith tip Of Nantipa’s modern and spacious bungalows, you’ll want to book one with a pool. Aside from the obvious advantages of splash-happy idling, you can ask staff to set up a floating dinner, where dishes arrive on a small raft to be enjoyed as you soak.

UNITED STATES

Why go? A honeymoon in America is one for the wishlist, and newly launched hotels with historic clout and innate hipster cred are giving honeymooners some very attractive options for their post-wedding getaway.

Stay Retro, colourful and cooler than a chilled martini, Palihouse Santa Barbara shows how the achingly hip do honeymoons. At the heart of the Presidio neighbourhood, just a few blocks from the beach, the former Santa Barbara School of the Arts is now a clubby hideaway, where interiors master Avi Brosh has tapped into his magical sense of design alchemy, taking florals, stripes, checks and colours galore to create a delightfully dissonant look using the cues ‘vintage preppy’ and ‘American riviera’. This corner of Cali could stake a claim on the best honeymoon destination in the US for its wine-tasting ops and golden coastline, but even sinking a few Palisade sangrias in the ‘secret’ Honor Bar or taking lazy laps in the pool feels rather special here.

But, if your idea of a romantic honeymoon destination is a sprinkle – or indeed heaping – of Gatsby-esque glitter, the 100-year-old, 10-acre estate of party-hard cotton baron Edgar ‘Commodore’ Perry is one of the grandest houses in Austin (a 15-minute drive from downtown). Now a luxury hotel, the Commodore Perry Estate’s been dusted down and given a fittingly eccentric makeover by Ken Fulk (think clashing prints and furnishings that span decades) and now this Texan belle is ready to host again, serving Ranch Water cocktails round the retro-tastic round pool, proffering plates of Texas toast with caviar and keeping guests thoroughly entertained.

The programme of events runs from tented picnics on the lawn to fireside nights with s’mores and bourbon to palm readings, vintage record and reserves evenings, and blind tastings. To show just how committed the hotel is to the city’s wonderful weirdness, their three-day ‘Austin Love’ itinerary involves stops for jalapeño cheddar-sausage kolaches, a deep dive into a prominent figure of the Texas Women’s Movement, kayaking around Lady Bird Lake and custom Stetson fitting.

Smith tip Each room at the Commodore Perry Estate has dapper distinctions, but the cherry on top is the vast Mr and Mrs Perry Suite, which has his and hers bedrooms: one serenely coral hued, the other safari themed with leopard-print carpeting, hunting scenes on the walls and a horn chandelier. As the name suggests, it’s an auspicious space for honeymooners.

INDIAN OCEAN

Why go? When weighing up the best honeymoon destinations – the Indian Ocean can claim many of them: the Maldives, Mauritius, the Seychelles – say no more… Yes there’s a private island or achingly beautiful atoll to calm even the most temperamental twosomes. Expect faultless service, imaginative excursions and barefoot luxury.

Stay With 26 atolls to choose from, and private islands for every persuasion, a honeymoon in the Maldives often elicits another ‘I do’ from just-marrieds. And, there’s an overwater villa or beachside nest to suit everyone, from accessible-to-all Baros to out-of-this-world Soneva Jani, where opulent villas come with waterslides and retractable roofs so you can gaze up at the stars. Or lower your eyes at Six Senses Laamu, where you can spy on sealife from your glass-bottomed bath tub.

And, if you want a more youthful, irreverent feel, try the Standard, Maldives, where villas are kitted out with neon rubber rings and disco balls in each bathroom. There are activities galore, ranging from fishing to spa sleepovers, and beach bonfire parties and an onsite nightclub ensure a lively escape. Another hard-to-beat retreat is Gili Lankanfushi, which aims to leave only footprints behind by protecting the surrounding marine life and serving up laidback luxury in the form of open-sided villas and restaurants. For boulder-strewn drama, set your sights on a honeymoon in the Seychelles, where Six Senses Zil Pasyon sits on the private island of Félicité with a stand-out Six Senses spa.

Smith tip Honeymooning on a budget? A wallet-friendly alternative in the Indian Ocean is Mauritius – which also happens to be a great choice for watersports, especially windsurfing. We like Salt of Palmar for its unique tropical-island style – all graphic prints and bold hues – courtesy of artist Camille Walala.

MEXICO

Why go? At the cultural crossroads between North America and the Spanish-speaking south, there are barefoot beaches, tropical jungle and Mayan ruins, all excellent reasons to honeymoon in Mexico. And, the Mexicans have a passionate approach to life – be it in their love of vibrant colour, zest for dance (seriously, pick up some steps in advance) or full-throated fiestas – and you’ll likely follow suit.

Stay A honeymoon in Tulum is the obvious choice, and for good reason, with its not-a-speck-of-sand-out-of-place beaches and laid-back hotels such as La Valise. But if you crave a car-free, TV-less existence, choose Isla Holbox – an island off the Yucatán coast, where you can swim in bioluminescent bays, snorkel with whale sharks and kayak through mangroves. It’s a swooningly romantic honeymoon destination, with boho lodgings (thatch-roofed dwellings, in-room hammocks, oversized stone bath tubs) at Aldea Kuká, where you can expect spontaneous mezcal-sipping sessions and the Day of the Dead bash has become something of local legend.

For more blow-the-budget options, head to Chablé Maroma in the Mérida jungle where you can dive into the hotel’s own cenote or work out any stresses in a temazcal (traditional sauna). Or pitch up at heavenly Hotel Esencia on the Riviera Maya, where you may witness baby turtles shuffling from their nest to the sea. For culture-seeking couples, we prescribe a honeymoon in San Miguel de Allende, a colonial city with charms aplenty to the north of the country. It’s renowned for its artistic community, and hotels prove equally creative. Try the intensely romantic Casa No Name, former home of fashion photographer Deborah Turbeville, where flowering gardens and exotic touches (a Tibetan fountain, Indian archways) really up the amor.

Smith tip Don’t overlook Mexico City: especially the La Roma neighbourhood, which has undergone an exciting transformation, with hotels such as Nima Local House Hotel.

And, if you’re at the brink-of-engagement stage of your relationship, check out our pick of the best places to propose.