If you’re yearning for a romantic beach honeymoon with all the tropical flourishes and lots of high-end amenities, look no further than the sunny, island-dotted Caribbean. Here, some palm tree-perfect destinations that are affordable too.
Photography: Thomas Heart Shelby
The island of Puerto Rico embodies all the excitement of foreign travel without the hassle. Since it is a U.S. territory, the dollar rules, English is widely spoken and—the best bonus of all—you don’t need a passport. The capital city, San Juan, is a direct flight from most U.S. gateways.
The Old San Juan section of the city, founded in 1521, is a perfectly preserved colonial jewel box, with twisting alleys and porticoed yellow stucco houses. If the notion of nesting here for a few nights entices you, you’ll be smitten by Hotel El Convento. Set in a 358-year-old former convent, its rooms charm guests with Spanish Gothic wood furniture with wrought-iron accents and postcard rooftop views of the surrounding area. By day you can poke around Old San Juan, taking time for a leisurely lunch of watermelon gazpacho and creative tropical salads in the hotel’s Patio del Nispero restaurant (room rates start at $300 per night, per room, and include extras like a bottle of bubbly for newlyweds; elconvento.com).
El San Juan Hotel & Casino, in the city’s beachfront Isla Verde district, conveys the cha-cha excitement of a sexy, glamorous Latin casino resort. Allow yourselves to be lured out of your poshly modern beachfront room; it’s an adventure just to linger over chilled mojitos in El San Juan’s swank retro lobby. The hotel’s casino, fantastic pool, gorgeous beach and stylish Koco Restaurant will seduce you, too (rates for the Love & Lust package start at $320 per night, per room, and include casino chips, chilled champagne and fruit upon arrival, as well as a daily buffet breakfast and one dinner; three-night minimum stay; elsanjuanhotel.com).
A half-hour east of San Juan sits the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa, a handsome full-service resort set on a spectacular bluff overlooking the Caribbean, with staff who seem to understand just when you want pampering—or privacy. The Rio Mar’s spacious rooms feature furnished terraces and innovative “clean air” ventilation. An array of packages offer free nights, airport transfers and meals at the resort’s 11 eateries and lounges (romance packages start at $319 a night and include accommodations, daily breakfast buffet and champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries upon arrival, plus a room upgrade if available; wyndhamriomar.com).
The all-inclusive vacation was practically invented on this sunny, spirited isle, and today Jamaica beckons honeymooners with several fabulous resorts that allow you to leave your wallet at home.
The Sandals “luxury included vacations for people in love” include everything imaginable: meals, drinks, tips, scuba diving and more (like weddings). Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa, on the most perfect crescent of Negril’s long, friendly beach, has Swim-Up River Suites featuring ocean views, giant plasma TVs, mosaic-tiled bathrooms and private access to the resort’s lazy river pool. The property also features eight new Plantation Suites in mahogany and marble, with tented four-poster king beds and (clothing optional!) private plunge pools (room rates start at $390 per person, per night, all-inclusive; sandals.com). On Sandals Cay, a private offshore island with secluded coves and sunbathing spots, Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort & Private Island welcomes guests to its River Suites and the Great House, which resembles an old Jamaican manor. Get dressed up and experience the resort’s exceptional restaurants like the Royal Thai—its menu is studded with such delectable dishes as Fran Kuning, trout fillet steamed in coconut milk, and Daging Bali, spiced beef cooked in a soya sauce. Travel Tip: All Sandals Resorts frequently offer such deals as fly-free programs, multiple-night discounts and more (room rates start at $250 per person, per night, all-inclusive; sandals.com).
SuperClubs all-inclusive honeymoons even cover your nuptials, if you’ve forgotten that minor detail (a three-night minimum stay applies). One of the chain’s premier properties is the adults-only, 226-room Grand Lido Braco Resort & Spa, which has earned Four Diamonds from AAA. The elegant Grand Lido Braco is designed like a Jamaican village, with cobblestone walks, galleries and boutiques and plenty of kissing nooks. The Grand Lido Braco is hailed for its five restaurants, which serve fresh-caught seafood and delicious international cuisine. Between meals, frolic in your love nest, splash along the hotel’s flawless beach or try its free scuba diving—just don’t scuff your mani-pedi. That’s part of the package too! Honeymoon perks include a category upgrade at check-in, if available; champagne waiting in your suite, and your seventh night free (room rates start at $189 per person, per night, all-inclusive; grandlidobraco.com).
Jamaica’s newest all-inclusive all-suites resort is Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall, a deluxe gilt-and-marble adults-only hotel within the Iberostar Rose Hall Beach & Spa resort. It’s located minutes from the Montego Bay airport, so your first afternoon is spent not in a minivan but sipping piña coladas in your lounge chairs on the beach. Your suite has a separate living room area and a patio or terrace; Iberostar also offers personalized butler and specialized concierge services, Vegas-style nightly shows and a variety of fine restaurants. The quintet here includes a steak-and-seafood grill and a French gourmet spot that calls for those high heels you packed at the last minute (rates start at $350 per person, per night, all-inclusive; iberostar.com).
Photography: Our Lucaya Resort,
The English-speaking, British-heritage Bahamas beckon American newlyweds with a variety of honeymoon experiences on its galaxy of islands—700 of ’em.
High-spirited Bahamas-bound couples couldn’t choose a more convivial spot than Our Lucaya, a resort complex on Grand Bahama Island, which lies just 55 miles from the coast of Florida. The complex’s centerpiece hotels are a Westin and a Sheraton, which hug a gentle white sand beach. The curvaceous white Westin has three pools and 740 balconied rooms, all of which promise the brand’s cocoon-like Heavenly Beds and fragrant Heavenly Baths. The Sheraton is more traditionally Caribbean in design, with white-railed verandahs edging its 478 comfortable rooms and stone arches shading its large pool area.
The hotels share two golf courses, four tennis courts, a spa and fitness center, plus the Isle of Capri casino, with table games as well as slots. Dining options range from casual Chinese andAmerican eateries at the Sheraton to the elegant Churchill’s at the Westin, a steakhouse. Steps from the hotel complex is Port Lucaya Marketplace, by day a colorful outdoor shopping destination and by night an open-air disco where you can celebrate your casino triumphs (three-night packages at the two hotels start at $1,200 and include accommodations and certain extras like a $100 daily restaurant credit and a couple’s massage; ourlucaya.com).
The Reef Atlantis is the best honeymoon value at the fabled Atlantis complex. It is imposingly set on a quiet lagoon on the Bahamas Paradise Island, which is a direct flight from many U.S. cities. Every roomy studio and suite in The Reef’s sparkling, modern 22-story tower features a water view, a terrace and a fully equipped kitchen, so you can lounge “at home.” But when you want to live the Atlantis life, it’s all waiting for you: the glittering Atlantis Casino, the Balinese-inspired Mandara Spa and the adventurous Dolphin Cay, plus 40 restaurants and bars, ranging from Mosaic’s custom buffet to Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill to the sushi legend, Nobu (room rates start at $635 per room; atlantis.com).
The latest honeymoon news in the Dominican Republic is Cap Cana, located on the island’s eastern shore. This gorgeously appointed resort area claims one of the New World’s most breathtaking beaches, with sifted-sugar sand and aquamarine waters that rival Tahiti’s. Secluded but minutes from Punta Cana airport, Cap Cana boasts a casino, a spa, a championship golf course, more than two dozen restaurants and bars, a shopping village and land and sea sports.
Sanctuary Cap Cana Golf & Spa has 176 ocean view suites ingeniously built to convey an indoor-outdoor feeling; the suites are, however, extremely private. The grounds are winsomely designed to recall a Spanish colonial town, complete with a church tower and a fortress section with adults-only suites (three-night honeymoon packages start at $2,500 and include accommodations, breakfast buffet daily, one multicourse epicurean dinner, a couple’s massage and late check-out; altabellahotels.com).
Nearby, Cap Cana’s Caletón Club & Villas offers stunning oceanfront bungalows, accented with native wood and stone and local Taino tribal patterns. Expect your own kitchen, butler service, a personal golf cart and access to the exclusive Caletón Beach Club, which features a Jacuzzi, private pool, a pillow menu, WiFi (two-night honeymoon packages start at $2,150 per bungalow and include accommodations, welcome bottle of champagne and fruit basket, and your choice of a couple’s massage on the beach or greens fees; capcana.com).
Cap Cana’s Golden Bear Lodge & Spa may just be the perfect his-and-hers honeymoon hideaway; new twosomes can score big on two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses. The resort’s pretty Magnolia restaurant dishes up fresh seafood with a spicy twist, and couples can opt for moonlit dinners for two on their terrace or on the beach. Stylish suites with sensuous tubs and private plunge pools come with special honeymoon touches like champagne, rose petal turndown service and an oceanfront couple’s spa service (room rates start at $200 per night, per room and include accommodations, daily Continental breakfast and airport transfers; capcana.com).