St. John, US Virgin Islands
It’s not unusual to find yourself alone on one of St. John’s pristine coves—it’s the smallest of the three islands within the USVI, and 60 percent is protected land. Check into Caneel Bay, the only hotel located within Virgin Islands National Park, founded by ecotourism pioneer Laurance Rockefeller in 1956. The property is all romance, with access to seven sandy beaches, Sunfish sailboats, and snorkeling gear for sunset dives. Follow the Reef Bay Trail past ancient petroglyphs, waterfalls, and sugar mill ruins. In the evening, head to Ocean 362 at Gallows Point Resort for gorgeous views accompanied by pan seared local tuna and lemongrass crème brûlée.
Big Sur, California
There are few places in the world as stunning as Big Sur. Make your way south on Highway 1 from San Francisco, stopping just before Bixby Bridge; the spot provides the perfect photo op .Fuel up for a morning hike at Big Sur Bakery, then hit the trails running (between the redwood groves) at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. For lunch, check out the casual Nepenthe, with its famous Ambrosia Burger, and an outdoor patio that looks out on the Pacific. Or, you can enjoy gourmet dining at Sierra Mare, where Chef John Cox pairs dishes like Oregon lamb rack and celery root with an award-winning wine list. For staying, you can’t go wrong with a clifftop suite at Post Ranch Inn or check into one of Ventana Inn’s fireplace rooms. The hotel is home to a stellar spa and two pools (one of which is clothing optional).
Paros and Antiparos, Greece
This pair of islands in the Cyclades offer all the charm and romance you’d expect from a trip to Greece without the crowds. Make your base the boutique Beach House hotel on Antiparos, where the powdery sand has umbrellas at the ready and the open-air beach bar and restaurant serves fresh fish and standout Greek wine. Take a day trip to the larger island of Paros, just a ten-minute ferry ride away. A lunch of grilled prawns and mussels at the waterfront Sigi Ixthios in Naoussa is a must. Work off the meal with an afternoon stroll in the narrow alleyways lined with one-off shops and art galleries in the mountain village of Lefkes.
Very little has changed over the years in this Flemish city and that’s the attraction. Roam the narrow streets and take in the gorgeous chocolate displays in shop windows—one of our favorite stops is Dumon, with a cozy hot chocolate bar and a selection of artisanal confections. Go for a climb up the Belfort for a bird’s eye view of town or go for a bike ride along the Bruges Art Route, past galleries, shops, breweries, and the city’s top landmarks. The Hotel de Tuilerieen is the perfect home base, housed in a converted 15th-century patrician house. with, an indoor pool, and an intimate bar that serves a wide range of Trappist beers. For a memorable dinner, the tiny but stellar De Stove just off Market Square is the spot for freshly caught fish and seasonal Belgian dishes like guinea fowl with gratin dauphinois.
If you love the outdoors, then Kauai is your place. You can dive, surf, hike, bike—all with stunning mountains and beaches as your backdrop. Enjoy a trek along the dramatic trails of Waimea Canyon National Park, a boat ride alongside the Na Pali Coast and a surf lesson. Unwind with a couple’s massage beneath the shade of a thatched roof bungalow at the Grand Hyatt Kauai’s Anara Spa, then toast the trip with a glass of champagne at St. Regis Princeville’s alfresco bar. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Kauai Grill is the ideal spot for a late romantic dinner; feast on pan seared mero with Malaysian chili sauce and short rib osso buco-style while taking in the swoon-worthy views of Hanalei Bay.
Looking for a New England coastal getaway without the hefty price tag of Nantucket or the Hamptons? Check out the hamlets along Maine’s southern coast. A long list of outdoor adventures will fill your days while your evenings will be spent tucked away at charming inns.The Spruce Point Inn Resort & Spa in Boothbay Harbor, has an outdoor pool overlooking the ocean, free use of kayaks, miles of onsite hiking trails and sweet, cozy cottages (they even have pet-friendly room options). You can take day trips to storybook towns like Rockport, home to Salt Water Farm and Damariscotta, where Schooner Landing serves killer oysters, lobster rolls and sundowners.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Foodies and wine lovers who’d rather skip the crowds in Napa and Sonoma should head to Willamette Valley, renowned for its Pinot Noir and spellbinding views. There are more than 200 wineries in the area, and self-guided tours are easy to do by bike. Don’t miss a tasting of the rich reds and Pinot Gris at Red Ridge Farm, followed by a picnic of local cheeses, nuts, and cured meats. Looking to impress your loved one with more than wine? Reserve a champagne breakfast and hot-air balloon ride over the valley with Vista Balloon Adventures. Then relax at the Allison Inn & Spa, where the “Ever-After” couple’s treatment (yes, it really is called that), includes a deep tissue massage and a spa lunch for two with chocolate truffles.
If you don’t fall in love strolling hand-in-hand along the canals of this city, then there may be no hope for you. The city’s waterways are lined with colorful row houses and are illuminated at night by the glow of moored houseboats. Trips here are all about stumbling across great galleries and shops; spending afternoons whiling away time at waterside cafés; drinking beer and eating regional cheeses. Visit the Rijksmuseum, home to famous works by Dutch masters Rembrandt and Vermeer, and to the nearby Van Gogh Museum. For the city’s best shopping, there’s De 9 Straatjes made of 9 cobblestone streets filled with one-off boutiques and art galleries. Saturday mornings are for visiting the Noordermarkt, in the Jordaan neighborhood. The fresh stroopwafels—two skinny waffles stuck together with a thin layer of caramel—are a must-try.