Sure, we’ve all had that cliché honeymoon fantasy of sharing a plate of spaghetti Lady and the Tramp-style in Italy, but the world is a lot bigger than that. Take your first jaunt as a legally bound couple at any of these rustic and edgy destinations that feel more like your own dream — and not someone else’s.
Rustic can mean different things to different people. In the travel space, you’ll see the Pinterest-meets-Etsy aesthetic come to life in the form of lush greenery, minimalist architecture and exposed brick in a remote setting. While most of these destinations offer high-end amenities, they’re down to earth in all the ways that’ll make you feel right at home. Here, your guide to five honeymoon spots that are off the beaten path and well worth the trek.
1. St. Lucia
“One of my top choices is St. Lucia, either to Cap Maison or Viceroy Sugar Beach,” said Tim Burke, owner of TMB Travel Concierge. “The island is a good combination of relaxation and soft adventure activities.”
Cap Maison’s beach isn’t its main draw, however, said Burke. Instead, you’ll want to sip cocktails on their famous private deck, while dipping your toes into the coral reef-lined Caribbean Sea. Viceroy Sugar Beach offers the classic combination of a stunning beach facing the two Piton Mountains, which are volcanic remains believed to have mystical powers. For a bird’s eye view of the island, you can schedule a challenging guided hike up the Gros Piton Mountain, which is less steep than its Petit Piton counterpart, then celebrate your ascent with a tour of the volcanoes and majestic waterfalls.
Skip the private jets and road trip your way through your honeymoon. Driving up the steep winding roads outlining the circumference of the Douro Valley, you might hold your breath — you’ll both think your car might roll over, and they are the most breathtaking views of vineyards and rolling hills you’ve ever seen. At the crest of the mountain lies Casa Cimeira, a historic bed and breakfast home to no more than a couple dozen guests at a time. Lively communal dinners and breakfasts are part of the experience and Wine made on-site flows like water. Even at breakfast.
Port cellars are one of the main draws in Porto, but there are so many to choose from, that if you don’t get into Cálem (arguably the city’s most popular cellar) you’ll have many awesome backups like Burmester and Sandeman. Word to the wise: samples of port can get you pretty loose after a long day of walking around in the heat, so be sure to have a bite before if you take part. Overlooking the famous Arrábida Bridge and Douro River are dozens of outdoor cafes and restaurants worth checking out.
A change of pace down south in the Algarve provides an opportunity to kayak through stunning rock formations in the Atlantic Ocean. (Hint: You can book ahead of time from an agency like Kayak Adventures Lagos or walk around the city center comparing prices and availability from various travel agencies the day before.)
“It’s truly rustic luxury and is a completely remote destination while offering the chance to spot lemurs and other exotic wildlife found nowhere else in the world. It’s the kind of place you would call heaven on earth,” said Gregory Fox, founder of Mahlatini Travel. From reefs to rainforests, there’s a chance you’ll be too busy exploring the wildlife to enjoy your bungalow’s private Jacuzzi overlooking the Indian Ocean.
I touched down on Turtle Island, Fiji two years ago, and something that the island general manager Landi Burns said has stuck with me since: “A guest found us because they Googled ‘Paradise on Earth’.” Once you sink your feet into the soft sand off the island in the center of the Yasawa archipelago, you’ll understand why. Only 28 guests are permitted on the island at a time.
You can get to know the island by mountain biking and hiking through its lush greenery and riding a horse along the shore. After your explorations, you can rinse off in either your living room Jacuzzi or private outdoor shower (covered — of course!), and tuck into freshly caught lobster for every meal (along with all produce grown on site, including all-natural stevia sweetener). And consider ending each night by participating in a traditional Fijian kava ceremony, and stargazing through your floor-to-ceiling windows. In a virtually pollution-free zone, they shine brighter than lasers.
While you probably won’t want to go to sleep because that means less time to experience the island, the beds are a throne covered in mosquito netting, making you feel like pure island royalty.
South Africa is a country of striking diversity, and that reflects beautifully in its limitless travel offerings. Susie Freeman, travel expert and owner of Susie Freeman Travel, suggested starting with the “Big Six” in Cape Town, which include Table Mountain, featuring an aerial cableway with views of the largest floral kingdom in the world; Robben Island, where you can learn about the country’s history and tour the former prison turned museum; the V&A Waterfront where you can ride a Ferris wheel and browse kitschy markets all in the same night; Kirstenbosch Gardens, a diverse botanical garden appointed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute featuring art installations and dinosaur replicas alike; Cape Point at 200 meters above sea level offering “one point one million points of view”; and Groot Constantia, the oldest vineyard in the Cape.
An hour outside of Cape Town, the Cape Winelands are worth the trek for their vibrant Dutch architecture, vineyards and country’s most notable restaurants like Overture and Cavalli. “We found a really top spot only yesterday called Angala,” said Freeman. “This boutique hotel is superbly located within easy reach of Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl.” At the intersection of rustic and boho-chic, their secluded River Cottage option features a Victorian-style outdoor bathtub enclosed within walls made of bamboo.