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2012 Top Honeymoon Destinations – #1

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Romance, scenery, history, museums, sight-seeing, cozy towns nestled on rugged cliffs above crystal-blue water.   

#1 Honeymoon Destination – Italy

Rome. Sicily. Venice. Naples. Florence. Amalfi Coast. Tuscany. There are so, so many places to go and see. But where in Italy should you spend your honeymoon? That might be the most challenging question to answer. Because there are so many places in Italy that seem tailor-made for a romantic vacation of any kind, you almost can’t go wrong. Almost.

Here are our top Honeymoon Picks!

  1. Tuscany – Sure, the whole “Tuscan Sun” thing has been played out, and you’re bound to run into more tourists in Tuscany’s famed hilltowns than Italians during some parts of the year, but there’s a reason people keep coming back to this region of central Italy year after year. It’s bloody gorgeous.
    With mist-covered green hills punctuated by spire-like cypress trees winding along on either side of the driveway to someone’s ancient and beautiful farmhouse – those places exist, and with remarkable frequency, throughout Tuscany. The food can be amazing (and inexpensive), the wine is legendary, and there’s nothing quite like sharing a moment in a cobbled piazza with your sweetheart – preferably over gelato.
    You can base yourselves in a quieter hill town for the bulk of your honeymoon, just to make the most of the relaxed atmosphere, but unless you hate art you really can’t spend time in Tuscany without visiting Florence for a couple of days. Otherwise, towns like San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino, and Pienza are worth considering (make sure you know which ones have train stations, as that can be an issue if you’re not planning to rent a car).
  2. Amalfi Coast – Images of the Amalfi Coast are enough to make any traveler drool, and especially anyone planning a honeymoon. Who doesn’t love the thought of sun-drenched beaches and pastel-colored buildings cascading down hillsides? And when you add the fact that this part of Italy is a playground for the rich and famous, it makes it even more alluring.
    There are several towns which make up the Amalfi Coast (including one actually called Amalfi), and several more on the coast nearby which aren’t technically part of the Amalfi Coast but are close enough to make getting back and forth for day-trips easy. There are also a few islands just off the coast itself which take the whole sense of honeymoon luxury up another few notches.
    The town of Positano is one of the best-known in this area, and a favorite destination for a romantic Italy vacation. Other towns worth considering for your home-base are Amalfi, Ravello, and Sorrento. And if the islands sparked your interest, look for a place on Capri, Ischia, or Procida.
  3. Sicily – This may seem like an unusual suggestion on a honeymoon destination list, but it may be the ideal honeymoon spot for people who want to experience more of the “real” Italy – the more intense Italy – and, perhaps even more important, those who want to escape the crowds.
    This is where tour guides in Italy go on vacation. Sicily is the biggest island in the Mediterranean and enjoys warm weather all year long – in fact, it’s downright stifling in summer, so it’s a great spot for a fall or winter honeymoon.
    If you want more than just beautiful beaches on your honeymoon, however, Sicily doesn’t disappoint. The island is home to both Roman and Greek ruins, and some very high-end resorts from which to experience it all. Resort towns like Taormina and Cefalù have been welcoming sun-seekers for ages, but don’t expect traveling through these places (or anywhere else in Sicily for that matter) to be as straightforward as travel is in other parts of Italy. Knowing some Italian is a good idea, and having a spirit of adventure is almost a prerequisite. If you go, you’ll be rewarded with warm weather and warm people.
  4. Italian Lakes – The lakes region in Italy is a popular honeymoon destination & overall a popular vacation spot, and it’s easy to see why. There are several lakes in the northern part of the country, any of which would make a great base for a honeymoon (which one would depend in part on whether you wanted to stay put and lounge about or make day-trips elsewhere, as some are more well-connected than others).
    The most famous lake is probably Lake Como (home to George Clooney) among others in the rich and famous set, but Lake Maggiore would be a close second. The good news is that you can visit many of the towns on one lake, or a couple towns on each lake, if you’ve got the time and the right transportation. How decadent does a lake-hopping honeymoon in Italy sound?
  5. Liguria – Also called the Italian Riviera. The Cinque Terre are to budget travel what the Amalfi Coast is to luxury travel. With both places, you get the same kind of coast-town atmosphere and multi-colored cliffside houses, but with the Cinque Terre you’re brushing by backpackers carrying books – whereas on the Amalfi Coast you could be rubbing shoulders with the vacationing elite. But all the focus of the backpacker/budget travel set on the Cinque Terre has somewhat overshadowed the other beautiful towns on the Ligurian coast.
    Many of the towns along Liguria’s coastline have the same kind of scenery you’ve come to expect from places like the Amalfi Coast and the Cinque Terre, but most of the non-Cinque Terre towns aren’t nearly as visited as those on the Amalfi (at least by non-Italians). And although the water you’d be lazily staring at isn’t technically the Mediterranean (it’s the Ligurian Sea), you’re not likely to notice.
    Iif you’ve ever looked into taking a Mediterranean cruise, you may recognize the name Portofino – it’s a popular port of call, and (like some of the Amalfi Coast towns) more of a high-end vacation spot. But nearby towns like Santa Margherita Ligure, Portovenere, and Rapallo are other towns you might want to consider as a seaside base for your Italian honeymoon.
  6. Sardinia – The other big island off Italy’s coast besides Sicily is Sardinia – and it’s even more remote and less populated. Sardinia might be a better choice for a honeymoon in Italy if you’re more of an intrepid traveler, are planning to rent a car, are hoping to do some active outdoorsy stuff on your honeymoon, and still want to have a gorgeous sandy beach nearby to recover after a strenuous hike.
    Sardinia may be most famous with travelers for its beaches (yes, including some of Italy’s nude beaches), and one beach town on Sardinia was even named the #1 “emerging destination” for 2009 by Trip Advisor. Sardinia’s beaches (especially on the Costa Smerelda) are some of the most popular August holiday destinations for Italians, who make it so you almost can’t see the beaches themselves for all the bodies on them. So if you’re looking for a beach town in which to escape the crowds, you might need to look elsewhere (but at least you’d be surrounded by Italians!).
    Beyond the beaches, Sardinia is also a great spot for those who love hiking, sailing, mountain biking, kayaking, and other outdoors activities. In fact, many of the guided tours on the island are just about outdoors activities and have nothing to do with the beaches at all. Still, it might be nice to know the beaches are there if you want them.
  7. Venice – While there are valid reasons why you might want to avoid Venice on your honeymoon, there are also few places that can match the canal city for overall romantic impact and “wow” factor. And if you do it right, you can avoid (or at least avoid getting hung up on) the things that people will warn you about when it comes to Venice, leaving you with nothing but happy honeymoon memories.
    Venice isn’t the kind of place suggested for an entire honeymoon, unless you’ve got bottomless pockets, because it really is an expensive place to stay. But the city does warrant a couple of days, if only to experience the bliss that is early-morning Venice before the day-trippers arrive or late-night Venice after they’ve left. There’s nothing more perfect for a honeymoon “to-do” list than to simply wander through beautiful alley-like streets, getting utterly lost and having only your newly-minted spouse for company. Bonus points if it’s a little chilly out, requiring extra-close proximity while strolling.
    In order to truly love Venice, you’ll need to make a little bit of effort. So, if you’re in the market for an Italy honeymoon that basically runs on auto-pilot once you arrive, then look elsewhere. If you don’t mind meeting Venice halfway, however, then it comes highly recommended.

Fun Italian Facts:

  1. Italians drink 600 cups per head a year, according to one study!
  2. Italy’s birth rate is one of the lowest in the Western world, and with one-fifth of the 59.1 million population over 65, there are more grandparents than grandchildren!
  3. Population: 59.1 million
  4. Capital: Rome
  5. Giuseppe Garibaldi Italian military hero, fought (and won) enough wars for 10 men. Helped unify Italy.
  6. Prime Minister: Silvio Berlusconi
  7. Currency: Euro
  8. Terms of endearment: amore mio – my love ; delizia – delicious one ; dolcezza – honey/sugar ; pollastrello/a mio/a – my little chicken

    Rome Colosseum

When to Go
April to June, September, and October; July and August are hottest months, and also may be the most crowded

Thank you so much for following our 2012 Top Honeymoon Destinations Countdown! There have been some amazing and incredible places to travel for that special time! Have you already gone on your honeymoon? Where did you go? Are you just booking your vacay? Where are you going? What’s most important to you? We love to hear feedback and stories!

2012 Honeymoon Destination Countdown – #2

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Adventurous, beautiful, nature, tropical, mountains, beaches, rural. The perfect honeymoon destination for active couples.

#2 Top Honeymoon Destination of 2012: Costa Rica

Playa Samara, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is well known for its adventures – from zip line tours, hiking, white water rafting, jungle walks, beautiful beaches, and it’s great surfing. Travel experts are claiming now that Costa Rica is one of the most “up and coming” honeymoon destinations.  For the adventurous couples, Costa Rica is heaven.

Things to Do:

  1. Zip Line Tours – Also known as Canopy Tours, Costa Rica is famous for these. With some lines up to a half a mile long and 600 feet up in the air, it’s no wonder why it takes adventure-seekers to new limits! Couples are sent swinging through the canopy of a forest by cables and harness and will absolutely love every minute of the adrenaline rush. This is a once-in-a-lifetime must-do for a honeymoon.
  2. Swim under Waterfalls – The mountaineous terrain in the jungle have incredible benefits – waterfalls! Take a jungle hike to some of the most breathtaking views in the world.
  3. Hot Springs – with some of the most active volcanos in the world, so come incredible hot springs!
  4. Snorkling – with oceans on both sides of the country, there is plenty of things to see under the clear waters!
  5. Surfing lessons – Costa Rica has many surfing hotspots. The best time of year to surf is from November – August.
  6. Fishing – Costa Rica has some of the best Sport Fishing in the world and is the first country to practice catch and release fishing. The Pacific side has incredible fishing for Sailfish, Marlin, Dorado, Tuna, Wahoo, Roosterfish, Snapper, and more. The Caribbean side and Northern regions of Costa Rica are famous for big Tarpon and big Snook. Over sixty-four world records have been caught in Costa Rica. Half day, Full day and Multi-Day Trips are available. They love to eat turtles.
  7. Golfing – Costa Rica is also know as a haven for some of the most lush, tropical golfing environments in the world. At any course, you can expect to an ensemble of exotic, indigenous animals; jungle; mountainous terrain; and a surreal, blue ocean painting a brilliant, seclusive experience.
  8. Relax on the Beach – Once the adventure wears off, you can always relax on one of the beautiful beaches of Costa Rica. They come in all shapes, sizes, and amount of people. The lion’s share of beach tourism is concentrated on the Pacific side, in the Central Pacific region near San Jose, the Nicoya Peninsula, and in the dry tropical forests of Guanacaste. Less touristed, but no less beautiful are the beaches in the tropical rainforest of the souther Pacific coast near Corcovado National Park, or on the exotic, rastafarian, eco-tourism paradise of the Caribbean side.

When to Go:

Because Costa Rica is located between eight and 12 degrees north of the Equator, the climate is Tropical year round. However, the country has many microclimates depending on elevation, rainfall, topography, and by the geography of each particular region. In general, the best time of year to visit weather-wise is in December and January, when everything is still green from the rains, but the sky is clear.

  1. High Season – The high season in Costa Rica is also known as “summer” or “dry season.” It runs from December – April with the main attraction being the weather. You will have less of a chance that it will rain on you &  in some areas (notably Guanacaste) the wildlife is concentrated near shrinking water sources and easier to spot.
    Be forewarned: because it is the high season, it is harder to get reservations, everything is relatively crowded and the prices are higher. From Christmas until the end of the first week in January, and Easter week are double jeopardy periods with lots of international travelers, and many Ticos traveling (the beaches are especially crowded).
  2. Green Season – Also known as “winter” or “the rainy season.” This season streteches from May-November and has been dubbed the ‘green season’ by the tourism industry.  The best part about travelling during this season is a reduction in prices and crowds! And, even in the rainy season, days often start sunny, with rain falling in the afternoon and evening.  If you are thinking about a trip to Costa Rica during the green season, don’t let the weather stop you.

2012 Top Honeymoon Destinations – #4

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Beautiful beaches, stunning displays of nature, adventures & thrills of all kinds.

New Zealand has often been overlooked as a honeymoon destination in favor of Australia, but this beautiful island nation’s natural beauty (including both beaches and mountains), excellent wine region, and a plethora of sports, recreation, and sightseeing options are helping New Zealand to come into its own as a paradise for the newly married. The country is made up of two main islands – the North and the South – and is roughly the size of Great Britain, but with far fewer residents. Thus, New Zealand has a particularly uncrowded feeling, which is very popular with honeymooners.

What To Do:

New Zealand is often called the adventure capital of the world (after all, the Kiwis invented bungee jumping), and there’s no better way to get into the spirit than with a death-defying plunge from the top of Shotover Canyon, just outside of Queenstown. If that sounds too terrifying, you can soak in Shotover’s vistas a host of other ways. Hop a jet boat along Shotover River to zip between jutting rock walls in a passage barely wider than the boat itself. More serene is the skyline gondola, which slowly travels to the top of Bob’s Peak for expansive vistas of South Island’s sublime surroundings. Here are a couple of ideas for you & your love to do while honeymooning in New Zealand.

  1. Auckland – As the largest city in New Zealand, Auckland is famous for its busy harbor, where you can take a harbor cruise or scuba dive at Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World to see sharks, stingrays, and other marine life. While here, visit the Auckland Museum, the historic volcanoes and Parnell Village, which is a shopping area made up of historical buildings converted into boutiques and specialty shops.
  2. Queenstown – Take in the Queenstown Winter Festival in late June, a 10-day extravaganza that includes snow sports, concerts, fireworks, and a Mardi Gras-style parade. Queensland also has a rich assortment of museums, galleries, and gardens.
  3. Rent an RV – It may not seem overly romantic, but it will give you access to most parts of the country while providing basic accommodations. Keep your eyes open for the various i-SITE visitor information centers, which dispense brochures and advice, and will handle local bookings for you.
  4. North Island’s Bay of Islands – This stunning area has beautiful resorts with access to fishing, diving, whale watching, mountain biking, hiking, picnicking on a private island, and gourmet food and wine. Be sure to ask about honeymoon packages.
  5. Rail travel – Very popular in New Zealand, with scenic trips throughout much of the country. The route between Christchurch and Greymouth is said to be one of the top train journeys in the world. Of special interest are the historic boutique steam trains, which can be booked for up to two weeks. One popular route takes you from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island, with frequent stops along the way for you to explore and sightsee.
  6. Lord of the Rings” –  If you’re a fan, be sure to make time for a guided tour of the movie set, and explore Middle Earth on foot, by car, by helicopter, or by mountain bike. (Some of the sights used for the movie are accessible to everyone; others require that you sign up for a tour to gain access.)
  7. Wine Tours & Tastings – Wine connoisseurs will find much to love in New Zealand, and both islands offer many choices for wine tours and tasting. Plan to visit the Marlborough Region, Queenstown or the Central Otago Region for an opportunity to enjoy both food and wine. You can set out on a tour on your own or take a guided tour, but don’t miss a chance to taste the country’s Pacific Rim cuisine and pair it with local vintages.
  8. Attention Daredevils -You will love the Shotover Canyon Swing above the Shotover Gorge near Queenstown. Sit in a swing and freefall nearly 200 feet off the cliff, then blast across the river. The Southern Alps are perfect for rock-climbing and mountaineering, and you can also heli-hike, ski, horseback ride or go caving on various parts of the islands. Water sports abound: jet boating, diving, kayaking, rafting, fishing, and seaplane safaris. Golf is also extremely popular, and some of the most dramatic courses include Carrington on the North Island, Kauri Cliffs and Gulf Harbour near Auckland, and the beautiful Jack’s Point course on Lake Wakatipu.
  9. National Parks– New Zealand has 14 national parks and preserves, including the marine reserves such as Poor Knights, which is a dive site of world renown. Also take time to investigate the heritage of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people. The Maori weaving is especially beautiful, and can be seen at local galleries and shops. In February, visit the Matatini Maori Performing Arts Festival in Auckland, where there is a tribal marketplace.

    Anaura Bay, Gisborne, New Zealand

 

When to Go:

New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere; therefore, all seasons are the opposite of those in North America, Europe, and other Northern Hemisphere locations. There really isn’t a bad time to travel to New Zealand.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  1. Annual holidays – most Kiwi families take their main annual holidays between mid-December and the end of January, which puts enormous pressure on accommodations in major summer beach destinations. During the Easter break and school holidays in April, June to July, and September to October, it also pays to reserve well in advance.
  2. Ski Destinations – Ohakune, National Park, Methven near Mount Hutt, Wanaka, and Queenstown fill up quickly — reserve early and be prepared to pay higher winter rates. In most other areas, though, you’ll be paying lower rates during the winter months (Apr-Aug). In some summer-peak areas, the winter also means that tour, lodge, and adventure operators may take advantage of lower tourist numbers and take their own holiday breaks, closing their businesses for 1- to 3-month periods.

Weather

New Zealand’s climate, especially by Northern Hemisphere standards, is pretty mellow for much of the year. You’ll find a far greater seasonal difference in the South Island than in the subtropical North, and don’t believe anyone who says it never gets cold here or that there are no extremes. In Central Otago, winter temperatures are often 14°F (-10°C) and sometimes as low as -4°F (-20°C), with summers up to 100°F to 104°F (38°C-40°C). By comparison, the northern part of the North Island is subtropical. That means lots of winter/spring rain, and often daily light showers.

The west coast of the South Island can get up to 100 inches or more of rain a year on its side of the Southern Alps, while just over the mountains to the east, rainfall is a moderate 20 to 30 inches annually. Rain is also heavier on the west coast of the North Island, averaging 40 to 70 inches annually. Milford Sound, though, beats the lot; it’s the wettest place in the country, with a phenomenal 365 inches of rain a year.

Seasons

  1. Spring (Sept, Oct, Nov) — This is a beautiful time to visit — the countryside is flush with new green grass, baby lambs, and blooming trees. Christchurch in the spring means blossoms, bluebells, and daffodils in abundance; Dunedin is a splurge of rhododendron color. The weather can still be very changeable right up to mid-October, so come prepared with light rain gear. In the South Island, it’s still perfectly normal to get late snowfalls in September.
  2. Summer (Dec, Jan, Feb) — This is peak tourist season, so you’ll pay top dollar for accommodations and airfares. Book early to avoid disappointment — this also applies to the major walking tracks, such as Milford, for which you should make bookings 6 months ahead. Beaches all over the country come alive, and boaties flock to the water. Fresh fruit are falling off the trees. (You must try Central Otago cherries and apricots; the apple district is Hawke’s Bay.) And everyone should see Central Otago when the lupines are flowering, with brilliant colors etched against blue skies and golden tussock.
  3. Autumn (Mar, Apr, May) — Personally, I think the best time to visit is February through April. The temperatures are pleasant (still hot in Feb in most parts), and even in April you’ll be wearing summer clothes in the upper North Island. The most spectacular autumn colors are found in Queenstown, Central Otago, and Christchurch. Keep Easter and April school holidays in mind, though, when accommodations may be tight in some areas.
  4. Winter (June, July, Aug) — If you’re a skier, you’ll be heading to Queenstown, Mount Hutt, Canterbury, or the Central Plateau in the North Island — and paying top dollar for the privilege. Otherwise, if you travel elsewhere during this period, you won’t need to prebook much at all (except during the July school holidays). You’ll find some excellent rates — just don’t expect great things from the weather.

Holidays

  1. National public holidays include New Year’s Day (Jan 1), New Year’s Holiday (Jan 2), Waitangi Day (Feb 6), Good Friday (varies), Easter and Easter Monday (varies), ANZAC Day (Apr 25), Queen’s Birthday (first Mon in June), Labour Day (last Mon in Oct), Christmas Day (Dec 25), and Boxing Day (Dec 26).
  2. Regional holidays include Wellington (Jan 22), Auckland (Jan 29), Northland (Jan 29), Nelson Region (Feb 1), Otago (Mar 23), Southland (Mar 23), Taranaki (Mar 31), Hawke’s Bay (Nov 1), Marlborough (Nov 1), Westland (Dec 1), and Canterbury (Dec 16). Regional holidays are always observed on a Monday. If the date lands on a Friday or weekend, the holiday is observed on the following Monday. If it falls earlier in the week, it is observed on the preceding Monday.
  3. School holidaysconsist of three midterm breaks — in April, June to July, and September to October — that last for 2 weeks each, plus 6 weeks for the December holidays. Kiwi families do much of their traveling during these periods, so be sure to reserve early.

    Sunset – Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

 

2012 Top Honeymoon Destinations – #5

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Exotic. Tropical. Paradise. True island living.

2012 Top Honeymoon Destination #5: Barbados

A beautiful coral island with fantastic beaches and friendly locals, Barbados offers the visitor many attractions including art, music, nightlife and history as well as some excellent restaurants. For the more adventurous, scuba diving and snorkelling is a big attraction along the coral reefs that fringe the shoreline.

Known as one of the lushest islands in the Caribbean, Barbados is a fabulously fun destination with it’s “bajan” accent. While Barbados is the No. 1 honeymoon destination for couples from Great Britain, more and more Americans are discovering the beauty and sophistication of Barbados as well.

Here you find all elements for perfect romance: The lulling sounds of the relentless surf, balmy air, warm sun and water, and incredible Barbados sunsets.

Barbados: Things to See / do

Barbados Museum – Housed in an early 19th-century military prison, this museum has engaging displays on all aspects

Barbados Wildlife Reserve  – A walk-through zoo opposite Farley Hill, with short paths that meander

Sunbury Plantation House – Built between 1660 and 1670, the handsome Sunbury Plantation House was painstakingly restored

Tyrol Cot Heritage Village – A traditional Bajan village built on the former home of Sir Grantley Adams, first premier …

Welchman Hall Gully – A thickly wooded ravine with a walking track and nearly 200 species of lush

 

When To Go to Barbados:

The best time to go to Barbados is during the cooler, drier months of late winter and early spring (December through May). Mid-December to Mid-April is also the peak tourist season when prices are higher and hotels most crowded.

 

Fast Facts:

Full Name: Barbados

Capital City: Bridgetown

Area: 432 sq km (167 sq miles)

Population: 264,000

Languages: English (official)

Religion: Protestant (67%), Roman Catholic (4%), none (17%), other (12%)

Currency: Barbados Dollar (B$)

2012 Top Honeymoon Destinations – #6

Exotic. Beauty. Beaches. Adventure.

6. Thailand

Thailand continues to surprise visitors with its ever-expanding roll call of hidden beaches, offshore reefs, wildlife parks, mountain forests and cascading rivers that host year-round outdoors adventure – perfect for an active honeymoon holiday.

Where to go:

  1. Ko Samui: Thailand’s most popular honeymoon destination is Ko Samui. This large island in the Gulf of Siam has plenty of pretty beaches to choose from and the interior of the island is covered with coconut trees and soft, rolling hills. The island is part of the Angthong Marine National Park and is just a couple of hours by boat from Ko Phangan and Ko Tao, so there are ample opportunities for exploration and activities, including kayaking, snorkeling and diving. Samui used to be known as a backpacker destination but these days luxury resorts seem to dominate the available accommodations.
  2. Krabi: Secluded Krabi is a little less popular than Samui and Phuket but no less beautiful or romantic. The dramatic cliffs, clear water and relative peace and quiet make this mainland beach destination a great place for couples.Krabi is also very close to Phuket and the other islands in the Andanman Bay (including Phi Phi) so it’s a great place to use as a base if you want to explore the rest of the region. Railey Beach, which is only accessible by boat, might just be the perfect place for a romantic getaway.
  3. Phuket: Thailand’s largest island offers visitors just about any experience they could want, including romance and luxury. Although the big, popular beaches such as Patong and Kamala are fun, if you’re looking for something romantic opt for one of the smaller beaches either in the north or south of the island. Surin Beach, Kata Beach and Naj Hark Beach are all more peaceful and relaxed than the average beach.
  4. Chiang Mai: Ancient temples, charming boutiques and vibrant street life make the city of Chiang Mai a great romantic break for history and culture lovers and foodies. If the great outdoors is more your speed, the mountainous area surrounding Chiang Mai is lush and green and offers plenty of outdoor adventure, from elephant rides to river rafting. Visitors to the Chiang Mai region typically head out on multi-day hikes, which often involve roughing it, but there are also some exceptionally beautiful luxury resorts for those who want to indulge. Within the city of Chiang Mai there are more and more small boutique hotels and resorts opening every year. Outside of the city, there are a few very romantic, very beautiful and very expensive resorts.
  5. Khao Yai: Just a few hours by car from Bangkok is the Khao Yai region, a mostly rural, mountainous area with small villages, lush greenery and the country’s largest national park. If hiking and camping under the stars aren’t what you consider romantic, the region also has a number of wineries that offer tours and tastings. They’re close enough to each other that you can easily visit the three main ones – PB Valley, Village Farm and Gran Monte – in one day. You can camp at Khao Yai National Park and the park even rents tents so you don’t have to worry about bringing gear. The wineries listed above also have their own resorts which look rustic but are in fact quite comfortable.

Things to do and see:

Sway gently atop an elephant en route to a remote hill tribe village north of Chiang Mai, hike the elevated montane forests surrounding Umphang, cool off with a swim beneath the cascades of Thee Lor Su, white-water raft the rapids of Mae Khlong or cycle alongside the famed Mekong River before crossing by ferry and biking less-travelled byways in the neighbouring country of Laos. Thailand offers an amazing choice of outdoors adventure activities, including:

  1. Trekking – The hills of northern Thailand offer a wide range of trekking adventures that not only provide stunning mountain and rainforest vistas but also lead to close encounters with hospitable ethnic hill tribes. From Chiang Mai, the centre for trekking in northern Thailand, hike into the undulating hills and valleys northwest of the city to meet Lisu, Yao and Akha hill tribe people, witnessing their traditional way of life. The town of Nan on the border of Laos and Mae Hong Son on the border of Myanmar also offer hill tribe village treks. Stay overnight and learn some of the unique customs, traditions and lifestyle of each tribe. Combine this with a thrilling long-tail boat ride down the river or a white-water rafting experience or admire scenic panoramas from atop a swaying elephant.
  2. Scuba diving – Head to the Andaman Sea for exceptional diving opportunities around Phuket Island, including nearby Racha Yai and Racha Noi islands, the distant Similan Islands and the Burma Banks. Further south in Krabi Province lie numerous dive sites located around Rai Leh, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta, which include Hin Daeng (Red Rock) – Thailand’s deepest wall dive at more than 60m. Dive centres are located in Phuket’s Chalong Bay, Ko Phi Phi and Krabi’s Ao Nang Bay. For beginners, Phuket offers great dive training areas right off the beach in Kata, while those at Patong Bay, Freedom Beach, Paradise Beach and Bang Tao Beach offer easy diving in shallow 5m-deep water close to shore.  Across the Thai Peninsula, Koh Tao is one of the best dive spots in the Gulf of Thailand, followed by Ko Lak Ngam; both islands are located within the Chumphon Marine National Park.
  3. Elephant trekking – Discover the jungles of northern Thailand from atop a swaying elephant or explore the countryside around Phuket on a half-day elephant safari – great fun for the whole family!
  4. White-water rafting – Head to the northern Thai town of Pai for some of the country’s best white-water rafting adventures. Shoot rapids, paddle nature reserves and glide past canyon walls encrusted with fossils. Or try the Mae Khlong and Umphang rivers in central Thailand for serious rafting thrills.
  5. Snorkelling – The waters around the islands of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand are perfect for snorkelling. Almost every beach resort can give advice on the best local snorkelling spots and many dive centres allow snorkellers to tag along for a fraction of the cost of scuba diving.
  6. Sea kayaking – Paddle a kayak around Krabi’s Phang Nga Bay, exploring jagged isles riddled with caves, limestone cliffs and stunning beaches. Head over to Ko Phi Phi and the east side of Ko Lanta for more sea kayak adventures.
  7. Game fishing – Hook up a charter from Phuket, available year round, and chase marlin, sailfish, queenfish, sea bass, barracuda, giant trevally and mangrove jack. Local charter boat captains are familiar with the best waters for catching migratory species and can also help you land king mackerel, yellowfin tuna and wahoo. Or head across the peninsula to the island of Koh Tao and fish the Gulf of Thailand.
  8. Rock climbing – The limestone karsts that lie scattered along southern Thailand’s Andaman Coast are ideal for rock climbers. Head to east Rai Leh and Ton Sai beaches in the Krabi Province for the most challenging climbs. Local climbing schools offer tuition for beginners and provide all the necessary gear. Ko Phi Phi and Ko Yao Noi also offer interesting climbs.
  9. Mountain biking – Northern Thailand offers biking adventures from Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, where you can explore the surrounding hills and forest, bike to isolated hilltop villages and meet friendly hill tribe people.
  10. Eco-hiking tour – Experience the wild side of Thailand’s interior with a guided trek through some of the country’s finest national parks. Look out for Brahminy kites and white-bellied sea eagles on a hike through the pristine landscape of Phuket’s Sirinat National Park or try to spot some of the more than 184 bird species and 48 species of animal that live in the evergreen forests and grassland of Khao Yai National Park.
  11. Hot-air ballooning – Lift off for a pre-dawn flight over emerald rice paddies and spy distant, mist-covered mountain ranges on a ballooning adventure from Chiang Mai.
  12. Thai cooking classes – You too can discover the art of Thai cooking – just choose your favourite region and spend an afternoon or a week learning to cook some of Thailand’s tastiest dishes. Chiang Mai is especially renowned for its choice of excellent Thai cooking schools.
  13. Thai long-tail speedboat – Discover unspoiled coves, pristine beaches and soaring limestone cliffs from a long-tail speedboat on a day trip from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi. Don’t miss Maya Bay – the snorkelling here is excellent. Or head to the klongs (canals) of Thonburi in Bangkok to get a different perspective of Thai life.
  14. Shopping – Best buys include Thai silk in lengths or ready made clothes, imitation designer fashion, silver, bronze, nielloware, jewellery, plates, bowls, ornaments, temple bells, wood carvings and antiques (but beware of exquisitely-made fakes).

When to go:
The best time to visit Thailand is between November and February, when the country is mainly dry and not too hot typically averaging 83°F. Rafting is best between July and October when most rivers are swollen with monsoon rain. Both biking and trekking are best in the dry season from November to early March – but bring a sweater, as nights in northern Thailand can get pretty chilly.

2012 Top Honeymoon Destinations – #7

Black sand beaches. Mountain backdrop. Romance. Water Sports. Shopping. Spas. Fine Dining. True island living.

7. Tahiti

Created as the result of volcanic activity, Tahiti is the largest and highest island in French Polynesia. Known for its black sand beaches and striking mountainous landscape, Tahiti can be your honeymoon of serene relaxation or divine exploration. Rent a bungalow situated directly over the water and spend your week wrapped up in romance, or explore the waterfront and Le Marche in search of local treasures. Be sure to reserve a day for the coveted circle-island tour, a 71 mile route around the island!

Things To Do while in Tahiti:

  1. Snorkeling – Enjoy snorkeling in a beautiful site and dive down below the ocean’s surface in the warm current, where you can see schools of colorful fish nibbling on the coral reef. Watch hundreds of silvery needlefish asthey dart about in perfect sparkling unison.
  2. Scuba Diving  – Tahiti has a variety of sites for all levels of divers and is a good place to get certified. There are a variety of dive sites in Tahiti, with subjects ranging from wrecks to sharks. The Aquarium is where one goes to feed fish by hand. Fish come in such abundance that it is sometimes difficult to see a few yards ahead.
  3. Catamaran Cruise – The popularity of bare boat charters in Tahiti has grown tremendously over the last five years. See the island from an entirely different angle. Literally.
  4. Mountain Safari by Quad – Crossing Tahiti via the Papenoo valley. The interior of the island can be crossed on a trail that follows the large valley, rich in archaeological sites and spectacular views of impressive waterfalls, river crossings, and pure mountain streams. You can also go over to Mount Marau for a half- or full-day trip in the luxurious tropical forest.
  5. Surfing – The north coast offers good surfing, where there are both beach breaks and reef breaks. The best time to surf is actually in the winter, where there are big waves caused from storms in Antarctica and New Zealand. The southern coast of the island has the most breaks, with the exception of the Papara waves. Some of the popular reef breaks are: Taapuna pass (PK 10), Paea (PK 14,5) , Papara ( PK 36).
  6. Deep Sea Fishing – Deep-sea fishing is a very popular recreational activity for visitors to French Polynesia. Game fish include marlin, yellow fin tuna, sailfish, swordfish, mahi mahi, barracuda and other pelagic fish.
  7. Hiking – Climbing Mount Aorai (2,066 m.) is a very pleasant walk and can be done without a guide. There are many professionals offering different levels of hikes and mountain climbing of 1-4 day circuits.
  8. Explore the Three Waterfalls of Fa’arumai – Leave the circle island road at PK 22 in Tiarei to reach these three waterfalls in the valley. The Viamahuta waterfall is 90 m. (295 ft.) high and is easily reached by walking across a bridge and following a well-defined path under a cool canopy of trees. The other two cascades require more effort and time. This is a “must” stop for most visitors to Tahiti and is worth the effort.

When to Go:

Tahiti’s peak season is during the summer months of June, July, and August, when the weather is dry. Temperatures  average 75 degrees during the day. In June, the largest cultural festival in the country, Heiva i Tahiti, takes place in Papeete’s To’ata Square. Expect music, dance, arts, and other pageantry. Almost every weekend in summer brings a sporting event, be it world-class surfing, a sailing regatta, an Ironman competition, or outrigger canoe races. A favorite among islanders is the Tahiti Traditional Sports Championship in mid-June, when contestants climb coconut trees and lift heavy boulders.
September and October are delightful months on the island. The July and August crowds are gone, yet you still have the same dry weather. Be on the lookout for Mahana Pae, a traditional dance show performed at Place Vaiete in Papeete throughout the month of September. A number of handicraft shows that feature local artisans dot the town this time of year.
As the calendar hits November, the humidity rises and the rainy season begins, lasting through April. This being the tropics, the rain is usually a torrential downpour that moves out quickly, with sunshine returning again. Be aware that a cyclone might threaten the island in the months of January, February, and March.

How to Save Money on your Honeymoon:

  • Off Season:Pick a travel time to visit the French Polynesia islands when it is off season. For Tahiti bungalow rentals, consider traveling at another time besides in the months of June through October. June through October is the island’s high season for tourists and rentals of Tahiti bungalows. The weather generally is always beautiful on the islands.

  • See Different Parts of Tahiti: Save money on Tahiti bungalows by splitting your vacation stay up. Consider staying half of your time in Tahiti bungalows and the other half in a regular hotel. Tahiti bungalows average anywhere from $200 – $400 per person a night and are 30% more in cost than hotel rooms.

  • Plan Ahead: Schedule your stay in Tahiti bungalows at least 6 months in advance. You might be able to save costs by booking early. The more time that is closer to your travel departure, the more you will end up paying. Also, by scheduling to rent your Tahiti bungalows early, you will be able to request and receive better amenities such as asking for hut that has a glass floor for viewing oceanic wildlife, satellite television, and choosing a secluded hut that is on the end away from other tourists.

  • Research, Research, Research: Research your options for staying in Tahiti bungalows. Different resorts, when you travel to Tahiti, offer different amenities such as a canoe breakfast. When you stay in The Manini Pearl Resort Tahiti bungalows, servers paddle your breakfast out to you. Luxurious baths in your Tahiti bungalows are included at Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa. Some even offer private balconies off of the huts which may be cheaper than another resort.

2012 Top Honeymoon Destinations – #9

Wilderness. Safari. Mystery. Adventure. Nature. Romance. Seclusion.

9. Africa

Combining a beach and safari adventure. Imagine waking up to a herd of giraffes walking past your window. Explore the wilderness by safari. Discover Africa’s wine country by horse. Bask on the beaches of Zimbabwe. See where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet in Cape Town. Walk on the white sand beaches along the turquoise water of Benguerra Island. An African Honeymoon has much to offer.

Honeymoon Destination: Africa

Some top things to do while in Africa:

  1. Go on Safari – see the “Big Five” (lions, elephants, leopard, rhino & Cape buffalo) – check out safari’s in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia
  2. Beach Relaxation – there are several beautiful beach options. We suggest checking out Zanzibar, the Seychelles, Azura Benguerra Island, or even Lake Malawe.
  3. Mountain Hiking – Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, the Atlas Mountains or even South Luangwa National Park along south Africa’s Wild Coast.
  4. Be Adventurous – As the extreme adventure capital of Africa, Victoria Falls offers you the opportunity to bungee off a bridge, swim up to the edge of the world’s largest waterfall, whitewater raft down some of the wildest rapids & see a pod of hippos and crocs living in the Zambezi river. Or, try sand-boarding in the Sahara desert.

Azura Benguerra Island