By definition, honeymoon travel is special — once-in-a-lifetime special. So, a lot rides on finding a memorable locale, one where little luxuries give way to romance and personalized service blends with privacy.
Whether newlyweds remain stateside or head overseas, prefer beach respites, or tucked-away countryside retreats, options — and good ones, at that — abound.
This is especially true of boutique properties. Transformative, all-out-indulgent accommodations that cater to a handful of guests are intimate and often rich with details to write home about.
Following are nine dream locations, including two in South Africa, which has been described as a “world in one country,” with a landscape that varies from fynbos-stippled Table Mountain National Park and the cliff sides of Cape Town to the wild tranquility of Botswana.
Forty 1° North
Intimate and LEED-certified, this “green” waterfront property in the historic town of Newport, R.I., is a marina-style hotel that caters to yacht enthusiasts, who can arrange to dine by boat. Its 28 contemporary guest accommodations feature in-room iPads, complimentary newspapers, floor-to-ceiling windows, and generous balconies that overlook the harbor. Some rooms also have fireplaces. The most unique feature of all may be its rooftop apiary, which buzzes with some 40,000 bees that produce more than 100 pounds of wildflower honey each harvest. It’s not surprising, then, that the property’s restaurants — one of which is dockside —aren’t afterthoughts. The menus incorporate herbs grown on site and organic, locally sourced ingredients. (Rooms start at $395/night; 41north.com.)
Inn at English Harbour, Antigua
Perched on a hillside along an arc of powdery white sand, this Colonial-style hotel has a sea view. In addition to enjoying the infinity-edge pool, guests may take in the turquoise Caribbean and sailboat-dotted harbor. Privacy is to be had en suite within the main split-level building or one of the property’s single-level cottages, which are capped with wood-shingled roofs. Décor features mahogany details and bathrooms with green slate-tiled showers. Amenities include tennis courts, a private beach, a fitness center, and such complimentary activities as snorkeling and kayaking. There’s also a spa specializing in aroma-therapeutic treatments for individuals and couples and a dramatic flagstone-trimmed restaurant that’s known for its extensive wine cellar and waterside setting. (Rooms start at about $960/night; theinn.ag.)
Jardins Secrets in Nimes, France
This respite in southwest Provence is flanked by lush gardens and anchored by a bougainvillea-swathed 18th-century villa with 14 guest rooms. The property is near the Musée d’Archéologie and Les Arènes de Nimes. Appointed with regal furnishings, rich paintings, and silk draperies, it features a pool that’s surrounded by landscaped grounds with abundant flower plantings, fragrant orange and olive trees, and palms. An on-site spa furthers the luxury experience that one might never suspect exists behind the private walls in an unassuming part of town. (Rooms start at about $330/night; jardinssecrets.net.)
San Camp, South Africa
Provided you’re traveling between mid-April and mid-October, this seasonal, tented camp is perched amid palm trees on the edge of Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Spend days on safari, roaming the vast landscape, taking nap breaks, and reading in solace in a billowing white tent that’s outfitted with modern luxuries and dark-wood furnishings that evoke a vintage Out of Africa feel. (Rates start at about $500/person, per night, although you’d be wise to spring for a private guide; unchartedafrica.com.)
Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Private — and beyond posh — this location is Zen-meets-Mayan with its flora-and-fauna freshwater lagoon. The all-villa property is in a gated “community” with mangroves, low forests, dunes, coral reefs, and direct access to the Caribbean. The 107 hideaway-feeling living spaces range from accommodations with landscaped grounds, in-ground pools, and outdoor showers to others with separate living and study pavilions; outdoor jetted tubs; private decks with panoramic views; and bathrooms with steam showers. Guests can take a boat tour to see nature up close, tee off at the golf course, which encompasses jungle, mangroves, and ocean views; or book a therapeutic spa appointment, emphasizing restorative, healing Asian treatments. There’s also an on-site gallery and top-tier restaurants that specialize in contemporary Thai and Mediterranean-inspired cuisines. But it’s just as nice to lounge at the oceanfront pool. And although guests do use bikes to navigate the sprawling property, the rooms are so inviting that it’s hard to justify leaving the accommodations at all — even if booking private beach or aboard-boat dinners are worthy distractions. (Rates start at about $805/night; banyantree.com/en/mayakoba.)
Rest Detail Hotel in Hua Hin, Thailand
Facing the Gulf of Siam, the 62 contemporary rooms here range from beachside villas with tropical touches and balconies overlooking the water to modern, sedate rooms in the main building with deep soaking tubs and lounge-ready daybeds. Those seeking added space — and privacy — can book two-story pavilions with multiple bedrooms and living and dining rooms, some with private gardens and waterfall-accented pools. Multiple dining options include a Thai-Mediterranean hybrid and a setting for high tea. There’s also an on-site spa that specializes in soothing, aromatic Thai treatments using herbs or incorporating ancient disciplines. Guests may choose to simply unwind at the pool, take a yoga class at sunrise, or join in massage, mixology, or Thai culinary classes. (Rooms start at about $136/night but can soar to more than $15,400 nightly; restdetailhotel.com.)
Castello di Vicarello in Tuscany, Italy
This romantic, off-the-beaten-path castle has Renaissance, Moroccan, and French-inspired decorative touches offset by Indonesian antiques and Balinese furnishings. Perched on a hilltop amid an olive orchard, it’s run by Aurora and Carlo Baccheschi Berti, former fashion and advertising professionals from Milan. Luxurious rooms with original stone and brick walls feature modern accoutrements. Four of them overlook the castle’s flagstone courtyard; three others are nestled in the gardens, which are beautiful in full bloom. Aurora recently published My Tuscan Kitchen, a cookbook emphasizing Maremma-style recipes. She teaches preparation of the indigenous dishes at an on-site cooking school. Also of note, Castello di Vicarello’s organic vineyard currently produces two wines, and guests are welcome to “drink in” the beauty of the alberello-trained vines. September visitors can help pick grapes and, later, learn to incorporate them in Tuscan dishes. Fall brings the property’s first pressing of its organic olive oil. Pleasures here abound in all seasons. At the spa, which is set atop a wooden raft overlooking the olive groves, check the sauna and Turkish bath. Or wander the grounds, which come alive with wildflowers in spring and are mushroom-scented come fall. Perhaps most interesting are the wild-boar hunts organized by the property in the surrounding area. (Rooms start at about $510/night; vicarello.it.)
ABAC in Barcelona, Spain
This Antoni de Moragas-designed location delivers sophistication, style, and serenity. A haven for design-savvy couples and food enthusiasts alike, its eponymous restaurant serves Catalán cuisine with a revisionist’s touch. Its wine cellar is stocked with 900-plus bottles. Other assets include a lauded subterranean spa with hammam. After a treatment, retire to one of 15 soothing, soundproof, neutral-hued rooms, which are minimalist in feel with a décor of parquet floors, large windows, and many tech-driven perks, such as high-def Bang & Olufsen televisions, remote-control lighting and blinds, and jetted chromo-therapy tubs. Some accommodations also have terraces overlooking the grounds. The hotel will arrange for Ferraris, on request. (Rooms start at about $275/night; abacbarcelona.com.)
Ellerman House, South Africa
An oceanfront property with 11 lushly appointed rooms and a five-bedroom villa, the dramatic Ellerman offers jaw-dropping views of the Atlantic Ocean and Robben Island. Its outdoor terrace is made for sipping and swirling, given the thousands of bottles-strong wine list that features selections from the emerging and boutique vineyards that dot the picturesque Western Cape. Take time to stroll the property, mulling over works of art, including at the contemporary on-site gallery, which displays original pieces by South African masters and paintings by local artists. Not to be overlooked is its spa, which is outfitted with treatment rooms for couples. (Rates here start at about $955/night; ellerman.co.za.)