This is one of the most anticipated and indulgent holidays you’ll ever take, so naturally expectations are high. Once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as champagne picnics on uninhabited islands, diving with whale sharks and staying in over-water villas with their own chef tend have long lured happy couples. But now action and adventure are a top priority for newlyweds who have already taken sun, sea and sand holidays together numerous times – anything from gorilla encounters in Uganda to tandem skydiving in New Zealand. And twin-centre honeymoons – city and spa, safari and sand – are also very popular. Some things never go out of honeymoon style, though: a big bed, amazing views, fantastic food and top-notch service.
30 wooden water villas line a crescent boardwalk in the lagoon, and these are furnished with large four-poster beds and private sunbathing decks with daybed and loungers. It’s also home to Lighthouse, one of the loveliest Indian Ocean restaurants; open-sided, set over water and circular with tables dotted around the edge, you really feel like you’re dining alone together in the middle of the ocean.
Read the full review: Baros, Maldives
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, Tahiti
Each over-water villa is a pocket oasis, complete with broad bed, private deck with steps to the sea and a freestanding bathtub beside sliding doors which, when opened, reveal views of Bora Bora’s Mount Otemanu across the lagoon. It’s the sexiest tub in the world. The private beach, cathedral-like spa with couples’ massage room and poolside cabanas are also fabulous. Over-water suite from £625.
St George’s Caye Resort, Belize
If you’re on a budget but want the over-water suite experience, St George’s Caye is a great option. The six thatched-roof cabanas built on stilts in the Caribbean Sea are simply furnished with a mosquito-net draped bed, private bath, hammock on the porch and little else for a Robinson Crusoe-vibe. When you’re not snoozing in the hammock, Belize is on your doorstep, which means some of the best scuba diving in the world and Mayan ruins to explore.
Pangkor Laut, Malaysia
Surrounded by rainforest and pristine sandy beaches on a private island off the west coast of Malaysia, Pangkor Laut is honeymoon gold. Standing elegantly on stilts in Emerald Bay, each wooden sea villa has a king-sized bed, balcony and enormous bath with sea views. Two pools, yoga deck and rainforest walks are calming diversions, or you can book treatments at the Spa Village, which offers ancient Malay, Chinese and Thai healing rituals.
Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge, Panama
Wonderfully remote, this Bocas Del Toro eco retreat isn’t a renowned honeymoon escape but it should be. The nine green and yellow over-water cabanas, connected to each other and the restaurant via walkways, have a downstairs living area and veranda with a ladder plunging into the sea. It lies in 150 acres of protected rainforest and mangrove reserve, and everything’s powered by solar energy. Prices include snorkelling, kayaking, breakfast and candle-lit dinners.
Set on a bluff jutting between Meads Bay and Turtle Cove Beach on the north-west coast of the island, Malliouhana is a dreamlike world unto itself. It is surrounded by the hypnotic Caribbean Sea. Facilities include tiered infinity pools lined with yellow ruffled umbrellas and a luxurious spa with island-inspired treatments like a warm seashell massage or an avocado butter facial.
Read the full review: Malliouhana, Anguilla
Gecko Beach Club, Formentera
Formentera, 30 minutes by ferry from Ibiza, has gorgeous, secluded stretches of sand, but the only really stylish place to stay to take advantage of them is this Migjorn beachfront hideaway. Lounge around the pool, bike to a beach, return and sink onto a giant white day bed to watch the sunset. Then repeat. If you want to push the boat out, book an upstairs Gecko Suite for its massive terrace with sea views.
Read the full review: Gecko Beach Club, Formentera
Fundu Lagoon, Zanzibar
On the tranquil island of Pemba, only accessible by boat, Fundu is the epitome of barefoot honeymoon chic. Although the setting is wild and remote, the 18 tented safari-style bungalows are surprisingly swish, most on a hillside but four edging the eye-poppingly perfect white sand beach, of which you’ll never tire of taking pictures. Surrounded by pristine coral reef, this is also an excellent place for diving and snorkelling.
You can’t go wrong with an Aman hotel – and Amapuri, the first resort the upmarket chain opened, is still the best. Pansea Beach, which it overlooks, could be a blueprint for paradise so perfect is the sand lapped by the warm, turquoise Andaman Sea. Luxury Thai-style pavilions are scattered among the palms and the level of romance is off-the-scale, from sunset cruises to candle-lit dining.
Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa, Cook Islands
Step ashore on Bligh’s Beach and marvel at the white, white sand, then check into one of the nine new beachfront bungalows facing Sunset Beach, or bag an over-water wooden bungalow. The real star here, however, is the lagoon dotted with uninhabited sandbars. Take a boat trip to Honeymoon Island where you can plant a coconut palm together and enjoy a lunch of freshly caught fish.
Samode Safari Lodge, India
Samode has raised the bar for wilderness safaris in India. When you’re not out spotting tigers in neighbouring Bandhavgarh National Park, you can chill out together in one of the 12 villas. Each has a sexy indoor/outdoor bathroom, dressing room and sitting room. The main lounge, with fireplaces and comfy sofas, is the heart of the lodge, there’s also a spa, gym and pool.
Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Uganda
Deep in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in western Uganda, this eco lodge of eight permanent en suite tents offers the chance to see more than 113 species of mammals, including elephants and mountain gorillas, one of the rarest mammals on the planet. After a day of adventure, relax on your raised tent’s veranda then enjoy dinner a deux around the campfire.
Pikaia Lodge, Galapagos Islands
Hotel locations don’t come more staggering than this: atop an extinct volcano on Santa Cruz Island ringed by a marine reserve that’s one of the seven underwater wonders of the world. It’s the first design-led, carbon neutral accommodation in the Galapagos. Guests are invited to hop aboard the hotel’s luxury yacht to follow in Darwin’s footsteps and visit islands sheltering marine iguanas, sea lions, blue-footed boobys and giant tortoises. Back at your sustainable modernist base there’s an infinity pool to enjoy. Unforgettable.
Belmond Savute Elephant Camp, Botswana
Watch elephants drink and hippos wallow at the waterhole adjacent to Savute, a heaven-sent place in Chobe National Park. Your accommodation will be one of 12 swish en suite tents covered by African thatch with timber deck, mosquito net-swathed bed and his and hers vanity units. When you’re not out on game drives tracking lion and hyena, there’s an elephant-proof pool to dive into and, at night, a traditional fire-lit boma to dine in.
andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania
A decadent lodge set high on the rim of the vast Ngorongoro Crater, a Unesco World Heritage Site stretching from the Rift Valley to the Serengeti and sheltering a haven of wildlife including the Big Five. It’s not a rustic experience, we’re talking personal butlers, crystal chandeliers, antiques, claw-foot bath tubs sprinkled with rose petals - but hey, this is your honeymoon. Fun extras include picnics in the crater, Maasai cultural visits and bush walks.
Activity and adventure
Misibis Bay, Philippines
Segways, zip-lines and dune buggies are all exciting ways to explore Misibis Bay’s eco park and surrounding forests on Cagraray Island. And if that’s not enough to get your pulses racing, the resort also offers whale shark interaction tours, where you can snorkel alongside the world’s biggest fish, or sightseeing from the Misibis helicopter including whizzing around the top of the Mayon Volcano and peering down at lava fields, Nag-Aso Lake and Legazpi City.
Tierra Patagonia, Chile
On the eastern edge of the Torres del Paine National Park this unique hotel has serious wow factor, from the 40 rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and minimalist Scandi design-style to the living roof. Once you’ve stopped gawping at the architecture and view, it’s time to pick from the 30-plus excursions; boat journeys past icebergs, riding with gauchos, hiking to the base of the Torres and condor viewing are all available.
Huka Lodge, New Zealand
Horse riding, kayaking, white water rafting, bungy jumping, skydiving, quad biking; however you want to get your honeymoon kicks, it can be arranged at this elegant hunting lodge on Lake Taupo and the Waikato River. Lodge rooms are elegant, but for total privacy book the Owner’s Cottage, which has a view of the mighty Huka Falls with outdoor dining table, fireplace, private chef and butler.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru
Colourful Peruvian alpaca blankets, local artwork and views of the Vilcanota River fill the 85 rustic casitas of this whitewashed, red-roofed Andean village-style property. It’s not five-star, but its location set amid 12 acres of cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu, is unbeatable. On site, there’s a library, 'Andean eucalyptus sauna', spa treatments and a small pool.
Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
If you’re craving a back-to-nature honeymoon, pick this. Set in the remote Costa Rican rainforest on the banks of the Pacuare River (you can only reach it by boat), days pass too quickly with activities such as guided jungle tours and white-water rafting on offer. Back at base, newlyweds will want to spend at least one night in the Canopy Honeymoon Suite, a treetop retreat reached via a private suspension bridge.
Read the full review: Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
North Island, Seychelles
For a total blow-out, it has got to be North Island. Seamlessly blending bespoke eco luxury (it has just 11 villas) with absolute relaxation, it’s a paradise island of white sand beaches and granite boulders where high-profile guests such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who honeymooned here, can completely switch off. As much a conservation project as a resort, giant tortoises roam, rare birds tweet in the treetops and the rich marine life is heaven for snorkellers.
Read the full review: North Island, Seychelles
Taprobane Island, Sri Lanka
A two-and-a-half acre tropical fantasy located just 100 metres off Sri Lanka’s south coast and reached only by wading through knee-deep water or on the back of an elephant (yes, really). Once you’ve arrived it’s an oasis of palm trees, beach, infinity pool and an octagonal villa built in the Twenties by an eccentric Count. A staff of six, including a chef and butler, have catered to the whims of royalty, film stars and recluses as well as honeymooners.
Cocoa Island by COMO, Maldives
Yes it’s the Maldives, but forget cutting-edge design and self-conscious furnishings: Cocoa Island is charmingly simple. All 33 villas are inspired by dhonis (traditional Indian Ocean sailing boats), and you can step straight off into the sea. Ringed by a white sand beach, its COMO Shambhala Spa is a treat and a restaurant serving delicious Maldivian delicacies is the only other thing you really need.
Read the full review: Cocoa Island by COMO, Maldives
The Brando, French Polynesia
Once Marlon Brando’s private retreat, his eight children united after the film star’s death to create this new super luxe resort on Tetiaroa Island accessible only by private plane. The island is now home to vast thatched villas, each with a slice of private beach, pool and media room. There’s plenty on offer to idle the days away – treatments in the Varua Spa, paddleboarding to an uninhabited island or visiting the environmental research station to discover more about the island’s wildlife.
Read the full review: The Brando, French Polynesia
Song Saa, Cambodia
Serenity reigns at this all-villa island resort on an archipelago 30 minutes by boat from mainland Cambodia. Overlooking a deserted golden beach, 27 villas are dotted between palm trees or set over the sea and all have private decks and plunge pools. The diving is fabulous – the owners created a marine reserve – and rates include all meals and most drinks, so there’s no shocking bill at the end of your stay.
Belmond Cipriani, Venice
Who wouldn’t be seduced by a private boat ride across the Venetian lagoon? It’s the only way to reach glamorous Cipriani, which sits on Giudecca Island opposite St Mark’s Square. Everything at the hotel is splendid - Murano glass chandeliers, antiques, the gold ceiling of Oro Restaurant, Olympic-sized pool – and there are few activities more romantic than sitting on the club terrace gazing across to Piazza San Marco with a glass of Champagne in hand at sunset. It’s little wonder George Clooney stayed here when he married Amal Alamuddin.
Read the full review: Belmond Cipriani, Venice
Four Seasons Hotel, Prague
Converted from three historic buildings in the Old Town on the banks of the Vltava River, Four Seasons Prague is a place of repose. Rooms are elegant yet up-to-the-minute; book a premier river room for fabulous views of Prague Castle or Charles Bridge. The hotel’s much feted restaurant, CottoCrudo, includes a raw bar where the freshest seafood are prepared before you. For extra honeymoon magic, treat yourselves to a private night at the opera followed by vintage Rolls Royce transfer and dinner on the hotel’s rooftop.
Read the full review: Four Seasons Hotel Prague
Byblos Art Hotel, Verona
You’ll wander jaws-to-the-floor in awe of the modern works of art scattered all over this colourful 18th century villa – Damien Hirsts, a gold Kate Moss statue by Marc Quinn and Anish Kapoor pieces. Beautiful gardens, large pool and first-rate dining are the icing on the arty cake (it’s a popular wedding venue too). When it’s time to discover Verona, book a night at the opera and drop by Juliet’s house for a chance to recreate Romeo’s balcony wooing scene.
Shangri-la Paris, Paris
For the best views of the Eiffel Tower in the city, book a suite at this painstakingly restored palace. If you can afford it, splash out on a split-level Eiffel duplex suite, where the tower looks close enough to touch. If you can drag yourselves away from that view, book a table at the hotel’s restaurant Shang Palace, Paris’ first Cantonese restaurant to gain a Michelin star.
Read the full review: Shangri-La-Paris, Paris
Hotel Bellevue, Dubrovnik
The views of the Adriatic from this modern cliff-top hideaway at Miramare Bay are breathtaking and available from every wood and cream suite. Launch yourselves into crystal-clear waters from the pebbly beach below, then enjoy some post-dip Mediterranean bites on the terrace at Nevera restaurant. An indoor pool and quality spa are welcome extras and a sunset stroll from the Bellevue to Dubrovnik’s Old Town is fabulous.
Read the full review: Hotel Bellevue, Dubrovnik
Palais Amani, Fes
This restored Riad on the edge of Fes’ ancient Medina lies behind enormous gold-studded doors. Within, there’s romance by the bucket load, with 14 intricately tiled rooms overlooking an orange- and lemon-tree filled courtyard and a roof terrace with tiny bar and mesmerising views of the city. After a lie-in, tuck into a late breakfast before a massage in the hotel’s hammam or a cookery lesson.
Crosby Street Hotel, New York
There are dozens of amazing hotels in Manhattan, but for a honeymoon Crosby Street’s Meadow Suite is hard to beat. Floor-to-ceiling doors slide open to reveal a private terrace garden with more than 50 varieties of flowering plants, including aster, echinacia and blueberry. A true oasis in the heart of the city (Balthazar and Bloomingdales are just round the corner) it looks good year-round. There’s also a popular gastro pub, private screening room and roof terrace with a herb garden.
One&Only Cape Town, Cape Town
This Victoria and Alfred Waterfront resort boasts views of Table Mountain from all 91 rooms, a restaurant by Nobu and a spa set on a private island. It’s a splendid base from which to ascend Lion’s Head or for wine tastings in Stellenbosch. Handily, there’s a honeymoon registry wedding guests can contribute to, including a night in a suite or a massage for two.
Read the full review: One&Only Cape Town
Faena Hotel, Buenos Aires
A Philippe Starck-designed red brick playground in the hip Puerto Madero district, Faena is sexy and fun. In contrast to the dark, velvet curtain-clad lobby, the red and white rooms are surprisingly light with wood floors and a nod to Belle Epoque. Don’t miss dining at El Bistro, a white and gold room with unicorn heads on the wall, flamboyant tango shows at El Cabaret or late night cocktails at the Pool Bar. You’ll be assigned an “Experience Manager” on arrival who can book you anything from tango lessons to tickets to a polo match.
Read the full review: Faena Hotel, Buenos Aires
Upper House, Hong Kong
Occupying the top 13 storeys of a 50-floor block in Pacific Place, Upper House offers exceptional city views that make even the most seasoned traveller stop and stare. It’s all deliciously slick and modern, from the Asian-led design to the roof garden and one of the Hong Kong’s best restaurants, Café Gray Deluxe, on the 49th floor.
Hotel 20°Sud, Mauritius
The main restaurant at this boutique retreat lies 10 metres from the sea, so you can hear the waves lap the shore as you tuck into a six-course lobster menu or sushi prepared from catch of the day. Other options include a candle-lit meal amid picturesque ruins on a nearby private island – or how about supper on the resort’s renovated boat, the Lady Lisbeth? As with all the best honeymoon hotels, breakfast is available at any time, so if you can’t bear to leave your suite’s white four-poster, just dial room service.
Read the full review: Hotel 20°Sud, Mauritius
Le Mas Candille, France
Aside from stunning views (it’s set high in the hills above Cannes), Sheiseido Spa and beautifully furnished rooms (honeymooners book 216, with its four-poster bed and authentic French styling), you’ll rave about the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Candille. The six-course Menu Découverte, all paired with local French wines, is so delicious you’ll eat every morsel. Book a night at the Chef’s Table inside the kitchen to watch chef David Chauvac at work.
Read the full review: Le Mas Candille, France
Belle Mont Farm, St Kitts
Gastronomes will want to move into this organic Caribbean farm spread over 400 ocean-view acres on Kittitian Hill. Everything that passes your lips is either locally sourced or picked right on the farm, like lemongrass-poached lobster with dasheen risotto. Champagne Sunday Brunch has more than 30 dishes and a 12-course tapas-style tasting menu is ideal for sharing. The beach club, golf course, spa, pool and hot tub are welcome distractions.
The Sarojin, Thailand
It’s impossible not to be captivated by The Sarojin, which is why it regularly tops lists of the best places to honeymoon in the east. Dining on delicious Thai and Italian cuisine (steak with spinach tagliolini and fresh lobster) beneath a giant lantern-lit Fiscus tree is magical. Less formal but just as enchanting is The Edge, a pavilion next to the beach serving curries and noodles. Best of all though are the intimate dining experiences: champagne suppers for two beside a waterfall or on a private island after a sunset cruise.
Read the full review: The Sarojin, Thailand
Chedi Club at Tanah Gajah, Bali
Overlooking lush rice fields, jungle and Gunung Agung volcano near Ubud, the open-sided, thatched roofed restaurant at this peaceful Balinese retreat is a thing of beauty. Each Sunday at sunset a torch-lit barbecue is set up in the fields so guests can dine on local black pig, freshwater carp and free-range chicken plus salads from the chef’s vegetable garden. Book a cooking lesson in the open-air kitchen to learn how to create dishes like jackfruit salad and black rice pudding once you return home.
Fabulous views/romantic vistas
Grace Santorini, Greece
It’s a pinch-yourself moment the first time you catch sight of the Caldera from the whitewashed terraces of this gorgeous hotel carved into a cliff face in the north west of Santorini. Luckily that view is available pretty much everywhere, from the breathtaking infinity pool to the stylish white honeymoon suites (couples looking for added wow factor should book the Grace Suite which has its own hammam, hot tub and plunge pool). There’s even a 15th-century church a stone’s throw from the hotel, so you could marry here too.
Gran Hotel La Florida, Barcelona
Escape the hustle and bustle of Las Ramblas at this hilltop hotel overlooking the city that Gaudi made his own. Airy rooms make you feel the glamour of a bygone age – the hotel was host to Hemingway back in the day – and you can take breakfast on the terrace with a spectacular city and sea vista, or dinner as the lights twinkle below.
Set on top of a rocky escarpment in a 61,000-acre private reserve, suites are dreamy affairs with four-poster bed and timbered deck with life-affirming views across the plains to Mount Kenya. Honeymooners are invited to spend a night on a handcrafted Koija star bed rolled onto an elevated platform for an evening spent gazing at the Milky Way. As well as game drives, Loisaba also offers rafting, horseback and walking safaris.
Adler Mountain Lodge, Italy
Hidden away in the heart of the Dolomites, this remote hotel offers awe-inspiring mountain panoramas from the outdoor pool and 18 suites, plus spa treatments using local products. It’s also a year-round honeymoon destination; skiing, snow-shoe hikes, tobogganing in winter, picnics in flower-filled meadows and late-night stargazing in summer.
Oberoi Amarvilas, India
There’s an uninterrupted view of the Taj Mahal from every guestroom at this converted palace fit for a Mughal emporer. It’s not hard to imagine being a prince and princess as you stroll around the ornate gardens, or dine on delicious Indian cuisine at Esphahan while a sitar player strums. Post-dinner drinks on the hotel bar’s terrace offers captivating views of the Taj lit up at night.
Hotels with fabulous spas
Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
The Aman group’s largest spa recently opened at this swoonsome island hotel, a converted 15th-century fishing village reached via a narrow causeway. The four double treatment suites, indoor-to-outdoor granite pool, pilates studio and private hydrotherapy suites with herbal baths big enough for two, are all divine. After a day’s pampering stroll back hand-in-hand along a maze of cobbled streets to dine in the central piazza before hitting your suite.
Read the full review: Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
Borgo Egnazia, Italy
There’s much to get excited about – two beach clubs, sumptuous rooms, championship golf course - at this romantic castle-like Puglia escape high above the Adriatic, but the no-expense-spared Vair Spa is definitely the highlight. Set across two floors, treatments are inspired by the past, think Roman bath rituals and massages using local herbs.
Read the full review: Borgo Egnazia, Italy
D-Hotel Maris, Turkey
Located in a nature reserve on Turkey’s Datca Peninsula, the hotel’s ESPA spa offers all the top treatments, including a large pool, sauna, steam room and hamman. If you’re both into health and fitness, you’ll be pleased to know James Duigan (the man who created Bodyism, loved by the likes of Elle Macpherson) recently hooked up with the resort to create a workout plan and dining options – meaning you should return from your honeymoon looking more radiant than when you started.
Ponta Dos Ganchos, Brazil
Everything about this glorious resort near Florianopolis is geared towards romance; no time limit on breakfast, private cinema, 25 enormous suites, dining on a private island and secluded day beds. However it’s the tiny spa you’ll be reminiscing about on a cold grey day back in Blighty. Consisting of just three ocean-view white tents at the very edge of the resort’s peninsula, you can hear the sea below as warm breezes caress the skin during a hot stone treatment, reflexology or shiatsu massage.
Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, St Lucia
One of the most original spas in the Caribbean. Surrounded by rainforest, therapists give massages in seven treehouse treatment rooms often using lotions and potions created from fruit and herbs grown on site. When you’re not being pampered, wake late in the four-poster of your hillside pool villa then ask your butler to hail a buggy and head down to the beach.
Read the full review: Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, St Lucia