Where do you go for a romantic holiday? That depends. Some people get all mushy just thinking about a side-by-side couple’s massage at a pricey destination spa. Or feeding each other oysters at some far-off coastal resort. Others need a shot of adrenaline to ignite those love flames — say, a bit of heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies or a predawn hike up an Indonesian volcano (an active one). The short answer is that romantic moments are where you find them, which isn’t necessarily where you expect to find them. We’ve pulled together some ideas for romantic destinations that are slightly off the radar. Who knows? You might just get lucky.
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
It’s hard to resist the romantic sway of this dreamily exotic town (the “love” setting in Elizabeth Gilbert’s travel memoir “Eat, Pray, Love”). Perched on the green slopes of Bali’s central mountains, Ubud is small in population but long on memorable things to do. Balinese dance is a mesmerizing must-see, as is a mellow walk along a rice paddy. The commercial district is jammed with art galleries, interesting restaurants and shops selling Indonesian crafts and fabrics. There is, indeed, a monkey forest at the bottom of Monkey Forest Road. And if you happen upon a procession of locals carrying aloft a colorful tower, just fall in line. They’re likely headed to a cremation ceremony and it’s cause for celebration.
Loreto, Baja California, Mexico
Set your alarm for half past dark because the sweetest treat for lovers in this town on the Sea of Cortez comes not with the sunset but the sunrise. The sun creeps over Loreto’s offshore islands with a dazzling display of pink and blue until a fiery red awakens the cobalt sea. Despite its popularity among off-the-beaten-path tourists, Loreto remains blissfully tranquilo. It’s all about understated pleasures — an arm-in-arm stroll along the malecon, a fresh fish dinner in a thatch-roof restaurant or a visit to the 17th-century mission. Outdoor adventures like fishing and kayaking and bike riding are popular. While Loreto proper lacks the sort of beach that attracts the hedonistic hordes, a 30-minute panga ride will deposit you on an idyllic beach at Isla Coronado.
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico
Little wonder that Cabo San Lucas is so popular with lovers. The setting is one of the most romantic anywhere. The desert meets the sea at land’s end here in a breathtaking crescendo of crashing waves and dramatic rock formations. Cabo San Lucas is arguably Mexico’s premier luxury destination in no small part because its five-star resorts know how to please. Want to pop the question with votive candles spelling “marry me” on a moonlit beach? How about rose petals sprinkled in your bath water? A campfire supper under a starry desert sky? As they say around here, “No hay problema.”
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Host to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Whistler Blackcomb ski and snowboard resort is popular for its long vertical drop, deep snow and warmish temperatures. But not all the action takes place on the slopes. Whistler is as romantic a winter destination as they come. You can cap off a day on the mountain with a soak in a steaming hot tub and a mulled wine around an outdoor fire pit. At night, the lights at alpine-style lodges bathe the European-esque village in a warm glow. Nonskiers will find much to entertain. Try dogsledding through a snowy forest, ice-skating or a hot-stone massage at one of many spas.
It’s easy to see why this least populated of Hawaii’s six main islands was chosen as the backdrop for Elvis’ “Blue Hawaii,” the 1961 film that featured one of the King’s biggest hits, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” With scenery this romantic, who could? On the north shore are the soaring cliffs of the Napali Coast, the historic Kilauea Lighthouse and lovely Hanalei Town. The east side is known for its golden beaches and groves of coconut palms. The south shore has popular Poipu Beach, where you can see humpback whales December through May. You can’t leave without a stop at dramatic Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
—Anne Burke, Custom Publishing Writer