Warning: These jet-setting newlyweds have tales that will induce wanderlust.
Planning a wedding is a lot of fun, but planning your honeymoon? That's even better. After all, it's the getaway you're going to want (and likely need) after the many hours you spent pouring over the details of your ceremony and reception. Plus, there's something extra magical about planning that first trip with your forever partner. The best part about choosing a honeymoon locale and finalizing the details of your trip is that you're making decisions solely for you two to enjoy. No wedding guests to please, no hair and makeup appointments to be on time for, and no having to worry about whether or not everyone's having a good time.
Not sure where to head for your own honeymoon? Here, 10 jet-setting newlyweds share their wanderlust-inducing trips to South Africa, Bali, Antigua, Iceland, and beyond—and their adventures are sure to get you dreaming about your own postwedding getaway.
Grand Tour of Italy
The Couple: Brett and Krista Smith, Charlotte, North Carolina, residents who said "I do" at Key West's Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria Resort.
The Plan: The ultimate Italian getaway, with stops in Venice and Rome and on the Amalfi Coast. "We were supposed to go to Italy a few years ago with my family, but someone got sick and we had to cancel," says Krista, an event planner. "We always wanted to go together, so it was a no-brainer."
Stay to Remember: Krista describes hotel Bellevue Syrene (from $370 per night), in Sorrento, as her dream home, with its bright pops of color and romantic white curtains blowing in the wind. For Brett, a consultant, it was all about the views. "The property overlooked dramatic cliffs, and from our balcony, we could see the ocean below and for 20 miles in every direction," he says.
Dream Dinner: It took some convincing, but Brett finally agreed to splurge on dinner at Positano's La Sponda, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the iconic Le Sirenuse hotel. They had a different wine with each course, and the service was the best they've ever had. According to Krista, "I looked over midmeal, and he was chewing with his eyes closed. Plus, Brett never posts pictures, and he put one up." In other words, money well spent.
Take to the Water: In Positano, Brett kept insisting on renting a boat and piloting it himself— but Krista, a self-proclaimed "chicken," wanted to hire a professional. In the end, he won out, steering them through the water as they sipped Champagne and listened to music. "We had no idea where we were going, and I was so happy he made me do it," she says. "It was my favorite part of the entire trip."
Adventures in Venice: Their time in the City of Water included pizza at Antico Forno, a quintessential gondola ride (complete with prosecco), a visit to St. Mark's Basilica—and getting lost in a rainstorm. "Our phones died, so we couldn't map ourselves back," says Brett. A gelato-shop owner helped them find their way, but first they hung out with some locals at a neighborhood pub.
Photography: Getty Images2 of 10
The Couple: Cristian and Summer Gonzalez-Mendez, married in St. Augustine, Florida.
The Plan: Two weeks at Walt Disney World. "It can be a romantic getaway—you just have to know what to do," says Summer, who works in public relations for Visit Florida. That meant making time for special activities, like horseback riding at the Campsites at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort, Jet-Skiing on Bay Lake, and spending two days at a spa. Meals were chosen carefully, including a 9 p.m. table at Capa, on the 17th floor of the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, to watch fireworks. And for extra comfort, they booked a business suite at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort (from $191 per night).
Photography: Cirano83/Getty Images3 of 10
New York's Greatest Hits
The Couple: Jeff Hanlon and Rem Jurado, who live in Richmond, Virginia, tied the knot at Picchetti Winery, in Cupertino, California.
The Plan: A week in the Big Apple. Rem is from the Philippines and grew up learning about America from television and films. "Everything looked like New York City," he says. Jeff, the director of customer care for an internet company, wanted to show him the real thing. It didn't hurt that they're big Broadway-musical fans.
Dream Dinner: A meal at chef Thomas Keller's Per Se is the pinnacle of many a foodie's dining experiences—and Jeff and Rem made sure to savor every bite during their nine-course meal. "I'm a really picky eater," says Jeff, "but for that one night, I ate everything." Rem especially loved the chocolate course. "They brought out a box, and you picked the truffle you wanted," he says. The romantic touch: The restaurant printed up custom menus in honor of their honeymoon.
Curtain Call: Over the course of their urban escape, the couple saw four shows: Kinky Boots, Aladdin, Chicago, and If/Then—after which a friend, who's a theater electrician, was able to get them a chance to stand on the stage. "If/Then was where Hamilton is now, so we tell people we stood on the Hamilton stage," says Rem, who (with Jeff) co-owns a residential cleaning company.
Hotel to "Book": On previous trips to Manhattan, Jeff always chose the cheapest place he could find, but this time he wanted something unique (and close to the Theater District). Their home base was the book-themed Library Hotel (from $199 per night), where the staff are called "librarians" and each of the 10 floors is named after a Dewey Decimal System category, such as Literature or Philosophy.
Top Sites: The couple checked off basically everything a tourist would want to see and do, from a carriage ride through Central Park to a dinner cruise with Bateaux New York on the Hudson River. Among the highlights was a tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. "It was so fascinating to see," says Rem, "especially since we're a nation of immigrants." They also got up early on a drizzly morning for a taping of Today. "The crowd wasn't too big, so it was easy to get in—and we spotted ourselves on TV!" says Jeff. "And Neil Patrick Harris was a guest, which I thought was apropos."
Photography: Courtesy of Nambiti Hills Private Game Lodge4 of 10
Seeing South Africa
The Couple: Bronx, New York, residents De'Anna and Kimbrad Fraser, married in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The Plan: Two weeks in South Africa. The couple did it all, enjoying the bustle of Cape Town, the exhilaration of a safari, and the refreshing salt air of the coast.
Animal Planet: Lions and cheetahs and zebras, oh my! There was no shortage of wildlife sightings during their time in the bush. "We saw a herd of elephants in a field as the sun was coming up," says De'Anna, a finance manager. "They looked so big but were so gentle and quiet." Nights meant luxury suites at Nambiti Hills Private Game Lodge (from $220 per person per night, all-inclusive except lunch and drinks).
City Sights: In Cape Town, the couple went one speed: fast. On their itinerary was riding the cable car to the top of Table Mountain and visiting Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. They also explored Bo-Kaap, a neighborhood of Crayola-colored buildings, stopping for Cape Malay cuisine at Biesmiellah. "It was all about seeing everything, not about relaxing," says Kimbrad, a production accountant at a creative agency.
Coast With the Most: The pair hit the road for a voyage that included the famed Garden Route—which stretches 202 miles between Mossel Bay in the west and Storms River in the east—making frequent stops and eating fresh seafood in picturesque beach towns like Knysna.
Best Sips: In the Cape Winelands, Kimbrad fell hard for Delaire Graff Estate, in Stellenbosch. "The lush landscape was so green, and the food and wine were amazing," he says.
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The Couple: Canadians Ricky and Allison Robertson, married in New Brunswick.
The Plan: To circumnavigate Iceland, starting from Reykjavik, in just over a week. They booked rooms ahead of time—in a different place almost every night—but left the days to chance. They explored a geothermal field, saw towering waterfalls, climbed a volcanic crater, and traversed mountains in a rented Volkswagen Golf. "On one drive, we reached a point so high that we were level with the clouds," Ali says. Along the way, they drank glacier water and ate fresh-caught cod at L'Abri (Hafnargata 9, Fáskrúđsfjörđur). Halfway through the trip, the duo lucked out with a surprise upgrade to the honeymoon suite at the Welcome Hotel Lambafell (from $116 per night), a cozy log cabin–style inn.
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Photography: Courtesy of Chapung Se Bali Resort & Spa6 of 10
Bali—Off the Grid
The Couple: Jacqueline and Derrick Stevens, who met in college and currently live in Belgium, where Derrick is a captain in the U.S. Army. They wed on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
The Plan: To spend 17 days in Bali. Their honeymoon wish list—rainforest and beach for her; good food and beach for him—led them to this Indonesian island for the ideal mix of relaxation, adventure, and culture. "When we grew tired of poolside hangs and afternoon massages, we hiked and explored the Tegalalang rice terrace and temples," Jacqueline says.
Villa, Sweet Villa: Why stay in a hotel when you can live like royalty (without paying a king's ransom)? Jacqueline was a fan of the hillside Villa Sidemen (from $158 per night), in a remote area that doesn't get many tourists. "It had an insane view of the valley and Mount Agung, and was so private and relaxing," she says. Derrick's top pick was Chapung Se Bali Resort & Spa (from $165 per night), just outside of Ubud; its eight stylish villas are done up in lots of wood. "A glass door slid open, and you could jump from the inside of the room into our private pool," he says.
Local Life: Accidental adventures are always the most memorable—like the time the couple went for a hike and came across villagers going about their everyday lives, including one cutting brush with a machete and others bathing in a river. "They stopped to chat with us when they were done," Derrick says. "That was real, raw Bali—a really unique moment."
Some Like It Hot: The couple sought out traditional—and spicy—cuisine at restaurants like the tiny Melting Wok Warung (Jalan Gootama 13) in Ubud. Standout dishes included mie goreng (fried noodles with chicken, beef, or seafood) and nasi campur (a mixed-rice dish with meat and veggies).
Beach Finale: A ferry ride east are the speck-size Gili Islands, where a horse and carriage is still a common means of getting around. (Biking and walking are used, too.) On Gili Trawangan, they stayed at Pondok Santi (from $262 per night), a former coconut plantation. Then it was off to Gili Meno, the most deserted of the islands. "We just snorkeled, swam, and wandered," Jacqueline says.
Photography: Courtesy of Hotel Casa Antigua7 of 10
Prewedding Guatemala Getaway
The Couple: Jonathan and Raelynn Pring, who got married in Phoenix.
The Plan: A week in Guatemala—two months before the big day. "Once we opened our café, The Teapot, we wouldn't have downtime," says Jon. "So we did it backward!" In the colonial city of Antigua, mornings began with breakfast at Hotel Casa Antigua (from $63 per night). "I loved sipping coffee in the tree-lined courtyard," says Rae. They took a guided trek through lush jungle up Pacaya volcano, ending with roasting marshmallows on molten lava. Then it was off to Lake Atitlán, where they explored the surrounding towns and shopped in the vibrant markets.
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The Couple: Jasmine and Brian Petersen, a graphic designer and restaurant manager, respectively. The Astoria, Queens–based duo exchanged vows in Central Park.
The Plan: Three weeks in Thailand. Jasmine, who is half Thai, had not been back in more than 20 years. "Brian had never been there, and I wanted him to meet my family and show him my favorite parts of the country," she says. Their whirlwind tour took them to Bangkok, north to Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, and south to the stunning beaches of Koh Phi Phi, Railay, and Koh Samui.
Family Matters: Most couples meet each other's relatives before or during the wedding—but Brian's first experience with most of Jasmine's extended family was in a private dining room at Rosabieng, a traditional Thai restaurant in Bangkok. "There were all these beautiful, happy people," he recalls, "and they were so quick to embrace me."
Monkeying Around: Primates made appearances multiple times during the getaway. In Chiang Mai, Jasmine and Brian signed up for an adventurous zip-lining excursion at Flight of the Gibbon. It's named for the endangered apes that live in the trees—and the couple were lucky enough to spot one. And at laid-back Railay beach, "my most vivid memory was of the monkeys," Jasmine says. "There were so many, just running wild."
Temple Tours: The trip included Jasmine's first visit to Chiang Rai, which is home to the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)—a place that's been on her bucket list for years. "The sheer visual spectacle of this temple, with its mirrored tiles blinking in the tropical sun, was a sight to behold," she says. They also checked out the more macabre though no less spectacular Black House (Baan Dum), which is filled with animal pelts, bones, and taxidermy.
Standout Stay: They saved the most luxurious hotel for last: Vana Belle, a Luxury Collection Resort (from $336 per night), in Koh Samui, where their suite came with butler service and a private pool. "We pampered ourselves silly with spa treatments and spent most of our time lounging on the beach," Jasmine says.
Photography: Courtesy of Jumby Bay, a Rosewood Resort9 of 10
The Couple: Michelle Simon, a TV producer, and Arlen Simon, a health-care data analyst, who wed in their hometown of Los Angeles.
The Plan: A week at Jumby Bay, a Rosewood Resort (from $1,150 per night) a luxe private-island resort in Antigua. Two days in, a suite became available—and with the upgrade came an outdoor bathtub. "We were really lazy," Michelle says. "We ate and drank to our hearts' content, relaxed by the pool and in our hammock, and dozed in the shade of the beach cabanas." An attempt to go snorkeling was dashed due to jellyfish—but they managed to sneak in a rum tasting and took in the stunning sunsets every night.
Photography: Fotoguy22/Getty Images10 of 10
Driving the American Southwest
The Couple: Scott and Sydney Johnson, who got married in front of 20 relatives in her parents' backyard in Palos Verdes, California.
The Plan: The newlyweds, who live in Los Angeles, built their road trip around their shared interest in a single destination: Arizona's Antelope Canyon. They stayed at quirky hotels, went on hikes, and explored—relying on Scott's trusty Prius along the way. "We both have a deep passion for everything the Southwest has to offer," he says.
Memorable Meals: Throughout the trip, the couple sampled their fair share of chiles rellenos—and the best, according to Scott, were from the Adobe Bar in Taos. Those and the Navajo tacos from Joe & Aggie's Cafe (928-524-6540)—a Route 66 icon in Holbrook, Arizona—"left a lasting impression on me," he says. In Taos, Sydney (a vegetarian) was a fan of the fried-avocado tacos and corn muffins at the Love Apple. "I still dream about them," she says.
Room With a View: There's a reason the Navajo-owned View Hotel (from $109 per night) got its name—its 95 rooms and 29 premium cabins look out onto the otherworldly Monument Valley. "Everyone is out on their balcony as the sun sets," says Sydney, who works for a smart-home company. "It’s the most magical place we stayed."
Step Back in Time: The duo fell hard for Jerome, Arizona, an old mining-turned-ghost town that has slowly come back to life (current population: about 450). Their favorite spot was Paul & Jerry's Saloon (928-634-2603), which has been open since 1887. "The bartender was friendly and welcoming, and he introduced us to everybody," Sydney says. "He brought us into this little community for the night. We loved the small-town feel."
Top Treks: They took a lot of hikes—but their trip through Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park really stood out. "It has a similar vibe to Joshua Tree, in the sense that you feel like you're on another planet," says Scott, who works in advertising. And while in Taos, they walked down to the Rio Grande Gorge on a trip through Wild Earth Llama Adventures. The woolly animals carried all the fixings for a gourmet lunch, set up right in the wilderness.
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