Monterey (credit: Thinkstock)
After months of wedding planning followed by a ceremony celebrated with friends and family, newlyweds deserve some quiet time together on a romantic honeymoon. While summer is often the most popular time of year for weddings and honeymoons, a romantic winter getaway can be equally as memorable, and oftentimes more affordable. Regardless if the preference is lounging on white sandy beaches or snuggling next to an open fire when it’s cold outside, couples have a multitude of choices for that perfect winter getaway. Here are five U.S. destinations to consider for that unforgettable winter honeymoon.
Even in winter, it’s difficult to find a more romantic honeymoon destination than the beautiful Monterey Peninsula along California’s rugged Central Coast. Featuring a number of extravagant resort hotels, fine dining, spectacular oceans views and even flourishing wineries, this area is filled with endless lodging possibilities for honeymooners. All of the top resorts and hotels offer a honeymoon or romance package, which typically include exceptional amenities like a champagne dinner for two, a couple’s massage and a signature bottle of wine. Suggested places to stay include Bernardus Lodge and Spa, Carmel Valley Ranch and Quail Lodge in the Carmel Valley, the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, and L’Auberge Carmel and Doris Day’s Cypress Inn in Carmel-By-The-Sea, consistently named one of the world’s most romantic cities. Similarly, the extraordinary dining experiences can be found at multiple places in the area, with recommendations like Aubergine, Casanova, Le St. Tropez, Lucia and Rocky Point Restaurant. Lastly, couples planning a honeymoon in this region should not overlook Big Sur, less than an hour’s drive from Carmel. World-renowned for its stunning coastal vistas, Big Sur offers a number of romantic places to stay, most notably Ventana Big Sur and Post Ranch Inn, both widely considered among the best hotels in the world.
There are a number of reasons why many honeymooners and vacationers favor the Hawaiian Islands as a winter destination. Some may visit to get away from gloomy winter weather on the mainland while others come for romantic resorts surrounded by enrapturing natural beauty. While the Big island of Hawaii, Oahu and Maui are the most popular choices for a romantic getaway in paradise, the island of Kauai is far less touristy and perhaps the most ideal setting for a dream Hawaiian honeymoon. Known as the Garden Island, Kauai Is consistently mentioned as one of the world’s best islands from leading travel review sites like Travel+Leisure, U.S. News Travel and Forbes. The oldest and westernmost of the main islands of Hawaii, Kauai is home to dozens of romantic hotels and high-end resorts, such as the St. Regis Princeville Resort, Koa Kea Hotel and Resort, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa and even more affordable yet intimate spots like the Courtyard Marriott Kauai at Coconut Beach. For fine dining, honeymooners have multiple options for a romantic candlelit dinner on the island, such as Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt, Red Salt at Koa Kea, Oasis, Wahooo Seafood Grill and Gaylord’s Restaurant at the Kilohana Plantation. Lastly, a sunset dinner cruise, traditional luau, a couple’s spa treatment or simply a walk on the beach are all romantic activities to consider for couples during their fabulous honeymoon stay.
Key West, Florida
Although Florida’s dry season typically lasts from late October through April, it can get very chilly during the winter months in certain sections of of the Sunshine State. But along the Florida Keys at the southernmost portion of the continental U.S., it almost never rains in winter and temperatures average in the mid-70s. While there are many intimate destinations throughout the chain of tropical coral islands such as Key Largo and Islamorada, Key West offers the largest and most diverse collection of romantic overnight accommodations, from glamorous resorts to whimsical beachside cottages. Some of the most spectacular hotels feature private beaches, such as as the Southernmost Beach Resort, Casa Marina and The Reach, but many other hotels like Hyatt Key West Resort, Parrot Key Hotel and Ocean Key Resort are equally as impressive. For fine dining in Key West, honeymooners may wish to celebrate at places like Latitudes, Santiago’s Bodega, Hot Tin Roof or Michaels Restaurant.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
With a host of romantic hotels, world-class cuisine, a laid back and friendly atmosphere and Ski Santa Fe just minutes away, Santa Fe can easily serve as the perfect setting for a truly romantic winter honeymoon. America’s oldest capital city is also a remarkably affordable destination in comparison to most other popular honeymoon destinations across the country, especially during the colder months when cozy in-room fireplaces are in peak demand. La Posada de Santa Fe, Hacienda and Spa at Hotel Santa Fe, Inn and Spa at Loretto and El Dorado Hotel and Spa are among the many stunningly beautiful and romantic places to stay, each featuring unique structures as magnificent examples of Native American and Spanish Colonial architectural styles. For couples seeking a more secluded honeymoon getaway, Four Seasons Rancho Encantado is another exceptional choice, located about 10 miles north of downtown Santa Fe. The fabulous Chef’s Table at the Four Seasons’ Terra Restaurant, presented by the talented James Beard Award-nominated chef Andrew Cooper, can be an amazing culinary experience for newlyweds. But there are several other phenomenal restaurants within this unique culinary destination as well, such as owner-chef Matt Yohalem’s IlPiatto; Luminaria Restaurant, headed by celebrated chef Marc Quiñones; Old House Restaurant and Eloisa, at the Drury Plaza Hotel, led by John Rivera Sedlar — once named one of the top 10 chefs in America.
With majestic mountains, snow-covered evergreen trees and picturesque villages, romantic winter destinations can be found throughout the Rocky Mountain State. While couples might be first drawn to Aspen or other enchanting places for a Colorado honeymoon, the town of Vail always seems to be at or near the top, and is more affordable than its leading competitor more than 100 miles away. Home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America, Vail has all of the look and feel of a classic alpine village, complete with European-styled chalets, unique boutique stores and spellbinding beauty. Despite having a population of just over 5,300, Vail offers a wealth of romantic hotels and fine dining establishments. Among the finest places to stay for honeymooners include Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, Tivoli Lodge, The Sebastien and perhaps the most photographed hotel in town, Arrabelle at Vail Square. For a romantic dining experience, newlyweds have a number of local places known for their intimate settings and extraordinary cuisine, such as Sweet Basil, Atwater on Gore Creek, Matsuhisa Vail — led by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa — Swiss Chalet with its Wine Spectator Award-winning wine list and the celebrated French restaurant La Tour.
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com