Proposal-Worthy Destinations: The World’s Most Romantic Spots
Big moments deserve big backdrops—and ideally, a little bit of privacy, too. We chose some of our favorite knee-dropping destinations from around the globe—and asked veteran luxury travel agent, Shawna Huffman Owen, for some recommendations (how awesome is it that she works with her dad?)—where you can revel in your engagement with the person you just happen to love the most in the world. While these are all pretty perfect for a honeymoon (some are more luxe than others), the beauty of going before you get married is that you won’t be too wiped out from the party to actually enjoy yourself.
1 Kayenta Rd., Canyon Point, UT | 435.675.3999
Located in the remote canyonlands of Utah, Amangiri boasts some of the best sunsets we’ve seen anywhere: The sky constantly changes as the sun shifts across the desert, bathing the already-dramatic buttes and mesas in pink and purple light. The resort itself is built into the landscape, and though the architecture is sleek and modern (the corresponding interiors are classic examples of the Aman’s brand of neutral, pared-down luxury), it all essentially blends into the rock. The surrounding desert offers plenty of activities, from rafting to horseback riding to hiking—even private plane rides over Lake Powell. If the food were just a little bit better, it would be one of the more perfect stays in the United States (and there aren’t really any other options nearby).
1471 W. Millers Cove Rd., Walland, TN | 865.380.2260
Buttermilk biscuits with a view. Equal parts luxury hotel, world-class kitchen, and working farm, this 4,200 acre resort in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains is both stunning and a destination for foodies. For one, it sits in the midst of the rolling hills of the Smokies, and for two, you can either do nothing or join in on the intensive calendar of activities, like truffle hunts, photography workshops, wellness weekends, and cooking events with celeb chefs including David Chang and Hugh Acheson. They just redid their spa, too.
180 Rutherford Hill Rd., Rutherford, CA | 707.963.1211
Set up on a hill above an endless—and undulating—vista of vineyards, Auberge du Soleil has been maintaining the luxury standard in Napa for 30 years. Though it’s since spawned two sister hotels (Solage and Calistoga Ranch), Auberge du Soleil is the reigning patriarch in Napa Valley, particularly when it comes to old-school indulgences and creature comforts (the other two spots are a bit more modern and laid back). Here, the cottage-like rooms are organized into private little villages (they all feature patios and terraces). With two Michelin Stars, Auberge’s main, global-inflected restaurant draws a crowd that swells well beyond hotel guests—the Japanese breakfast is particularly dreamy. Don’t miss the spa: While hotel treatments often aren’t that great (particularly for their generally inflated price-tags), this was one of the best massages we’ve ever had, particularly because it was followed by a soak in the outdoor bathtub. Meanwhile, Quintessa Winery, one of our favorites, is just across the street.
37 Beach Ave., Kennebunk Beach, ME | 207.967.2321
Kennebunkport is sort of the quintessential New England hamlet—and the beaches of Maine, while not the best for swimming, are stunning in their own way. The award-winning restaurant here is located in a historic barn that’s been on the property since colonial days, and is staffed by old-school, tuxedoed waiters. During the day, you can explore the town or check out the surrounding area by bike or canoe. Ask the concierge to arrange for a picnic basket, which you can bring along for a beachside lunch near one of the area’s idyllic lighthouses. While summer is peak season in Maine, it’s pretty great in the fall, too.
1 Many Glacier Rd., Babb, MT | 303.265.7010
Located on the other end of the Going to the Sun Road on the eastern edge of the park, this is inarguably one of our favorite hotels in the world. There are few amenities—the towels are more like washcloths and you won’t find fancy shampoo in the shower—but the Alpen-themed lodge, which dates back to 1915, sits on the edge of the surreally beautiful, glacial Swiftcurrent Lake. While rooms here tend to book up far in advance, it’s a sprawling place, and if you’re persistent, something usually opens up. The food is not going to blow your socks off, but it’s pretty much the only option, and after a long day of hiking, it’s totally sufficient. You can leave from here, on foot, for a handful of the park’s best hikes, including Grinnell Glacier and Iceberg Lake, though the lodge lobby, complete with a gigantic fireplace, is a nice place to canoodle away a day or evening. Like with all the Glacier lodges, there are no TVs in the rooms, and there’s no cell service throughout the park, making this one of the few places where you can truly check out.
452 Royalton Turnpike, Barnard, VT | 802.234.9999
Originally a country home for journalist Dorothy Thompson and her novelist husband Sinclair Lewis, this adults-only, all-inclusive luxury hotel still has the feel of a bohemian writer’s retreat. Woodsy, outdoor activities including cycling, canoeing, and picnicking (skiing in the winter) are all on offer. Indoors, Twin Farms’ art collection, which includes pieces from David Hockney and Jasper Johns, is outstanding. You’ll find 10 individually themed cottages dotted throughout the Vermont forest, which means that you might end up in a fisherman’s lodge, or a Moroccan respite with mosaics and a tented ceiling. Meanwhile, the chef prepares a fresh, set menu daily, and consults you on your preferences before you arrive. The customized meals and wine pairings are part of the deal, and what’s better, they’ll set up dinner anywhere, meaning you won’t have a meal in the same place, twice.
Palazzo Papadopoli, Calle Tiepolo 1364, Sestiere San Polo, Venice, Italy | +39.041.270.7333
Sited on the Grand Canal, the recently opened Palazzo Papadopoli-turned-Aman-resort looks hands-down insane: Built in the 16th century, it’s surrounded on both sides by gardens, and topped by ceilings painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Unless you pull up in a water taxi, it’s a bit of an adventure to find the entrance—getting lost in the maze of Venice’s tiny streets on your way back from dinner is unavoidable, and really really fun. Once you do find your way home, grab a nightcap at the candle-lit bar. All in, it’s clearly a total once-in-a-lifetime hotel.
Oia Santorini 84702, Cyclades Islands, Greece | +30.228.607.1480
The seven whitewashed suites that make up this breathtaking Santorini Villa are so painfully romantic that we really wouldn’t recommend coming here without a significant other. There’s not much to do other than take in the views from a private sun deck or simply wander the maze-like property while you wait for your spa appointment. There’s an outdoor champagne bar on the cliff in Oia overlooking a dazzling zero-edge pool, which at sunset time literally glows with oranges and purples; at night, it’s illuminated with lights, too.
Castiglion del Bosco, Montalcino, Italy | +220.127.116.11.70.78
Situated in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Val D’Orcia, this centuries-old estate south of Siena is truly incredible: Beyond the fact that you walk amidst remnants of walls from the 1100s, it’s surrounded by Brunello di Montalcino vineyards, there’s a world-class golf course, on-site truffle hunting, and the food is unbelievable. There’s a fancy restaurant, but there’s also a casual pizzeria—and kitchens in the villas where you can feast on bread and incomparably sweet tomatoes.
Ballyfin, County Laois, Ireland | +318.104.22.168.55866
Just outside of Dublin, this incredibly lavish, lovingly-restored mansion has a pretty insane land-to-guest ratio. While there are 15 bedrooms, they sit on a lush, 600-acre estate. This will matter to you if you ever opt to leave the house, which is inarguably epic (it boasts an insane art collection, a well-stocked library, billiards, along with one of Ireland’s best organic farm-to-table restaurants). Should you want to stretch your legs, there are acres of immaculate gardens, lake fishing, clay pigeon shooting, tennis, archery, falconry, and easy access to golf. Incidentally, there’s an indoor pool and spa, too.
Via Regina, 40, 22012 Cernobbio, Italy | +39.031.3481
Perched at the edge of Italy’s fabled Lake Como, Villa D’Este is sort of the king amongst kings when it comes to old-school Italian luxury. The building is classic Italian stucco (it was built as a summer home for Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio in 1568), and the experience is as luxe as you would expect—between Venetian glass chandeliers, a pool that floats out onto the lake, and a state-of-the-art Turkish bath, there’s no detail that’s left unattended. As many rooms have gorgeous views of the lake, you don’t need to do much more than open the drapes for an epic backdrop, but the 25 acres of appropriately lavish Renaissance-style gardens that surround the hotel don’t hurt either.
KM 19.5 Ctra. Transpeninsular, San Jose del Cabo, Baja California, Mexico | +52.624.144.2800
The crown jewel of the Rosewood resort family, Las Ventanas is situated between the historic town of San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. The limestone suites are outfitted with original artwork, wood-burning fireplaces, and ample outdoor space. Up the romance quotient by consulting the appropriately named Department of Romance—a group of specialists dedicated to infusing your holiday with extra special touches (couples massages, elaborate moonlit dinners). At the spa, guests adhere to a four elements-themed treatment menu: grounding Earth, nurturing Water, balancing Fire, and energizing Air.
Montenahuac S/N, Punta de Mita, Mexico | +52.329.298.4242
Iman means magnet in Spanish, and Imanta really does draw you in. It’s one of the best resorts we have ever been to—totally secluded and authentic. Located in a perfectly remote area outside Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Gold Coast, where the softest sand beach meets 250-acres of dense tropical rainforest on the ocean. It’s the kind of place where you can horseback ride through the jungle and end up on the beach. It feels truly one of a kind here, with no hint of commercial chain. Fish dishes are based on what is caught fresh that day. All the rooms have floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors that open up to beautiful outdoor stone bathtubs and showers.
Manggis, Bali | +62.363.41333
Bali’s lush forests and crystal-clear oceans make it a pretty romantic destination regardless, but the accommodations at Amankila take everything next level with isolated, stilted villas that are situated at the perfect height for optimal ocean views. If you take the walkways through the jungle from your room, you’ll find yourself at a three-tiered infinity pool with tiling that perfectly matches the dreamy green-blue hue of the bay it overlooks. The attentive service here is everything you’d expect from an Aman, and the concierge will set up one of the many adventures available from this isolated spot, including trips to a perfect beach, surfing, scuba diving, and more. But with cozy rooms, private patios, a great terrace restaurant, and suites with private pools, you probably won’t want to leave at all.
Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bumthang, Kingdom of Bhutan | +975.2.331.333
This Aman holding in the mountains of Bhutan is actually split up between five different properties, each one with its own lodge, in a different alpine valley. A trip here stands out because you’ll have the chance to learn about the unique culture in the area—upon arrival, you’ll be paired with a driver and guide who will show you their country, based on your own curiosity and needs. We definitely recommend hiking to see Tiger’s Nest, a Buddhist monastery built into the mountainside that’s thought to be the first place where Buddhism was practiced in the Kingdom. The lodges themselves are an Aman-take on traditional Bhutanese style, and they’re set up like homes, with 5-8 rooms in each one. Find an evening to stargaze—the sky up here is unmatched.
Teti’aroa Private Island, Arue Tahiti, French Polynesia | +689.40.866.366
Much like Marlon Brando fell in love with Tetiaroa while filming Mutiny on the Bounty (he purchased the land for him and his wife Tarita in 1967), you’ll be instantly charmed by the island’s coconut palm groves and white-sand beaches. To further his commitment to sustainability, Brando enlisted the help of hotelier Richard Bailey to build the world’s first ever post-carbon resort. Though by no means cheap (the all-inclusive rates start at $2,700 per night) The Brando is all about making special occasions even more special with romantic activities and indoor/outdoor accommodations—complete with sleek decor, plunge pools, and outdoor bathtubs. The island’s restaurants serve dishes comprised of ingredients plucked from the resort’s own organic fruit orchard and veggie garden.
Thailand | +66.53.910.200
This tented camp in Thailand is an excellent option if you like adventure. A stay here will prominently feature elephant treks, boat outings along the river, and visits to the local Thai market. That said, this isn’t exactly a NOLS outfit—luxury tents feel incredibly isolated in the jungle, yet feature outdoor showers and hot tubs, luxurious bedding, and comfortable porches for sipping your morning tea. The service and in-house restaurant are incredible, and despite being isolated at a tent camp, the spa treatments (guests rave about the massages) want for nothing.
Kunfunadhoo Island, Baa Atoll, Republic of Maldives | +960.660.0304
The Soneva family of resorts may be situated on some of the most gorgeous land in the world, sure, but what really gets our hearts beating faster is their dedication to a form of tourism that goes beyond sustainable. It’s called Slow Life, which breaks down to: Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences. Here, you truly disconnect from all the business at home, and connect instead with a stunningly, pristine landscape (including a UNESCO protected coral reef). There are 55 villas on stilts here, and while we’ve recommended it as a family destination for its nine-bedroom options, the one-bedroom villas—most of which have a private pool and beach views—are incredibly isolated and romantic.
Laucala Island, Fiji | +22.214.171.124.07
Malcolm Forbes purchased this Fijian island back in 1972 as a personal retreat, and for many years it was exactly that. It’s actually Dietrich Mateschitz (most famous as the billionaire inventor of Red Bull) who had the vision to turn the island into the exclusive resort it is today. The entire experience here is really intimate, with only 25 residences scattered across the property’s beaches and hills. Each one is more luxurious than the last, with amenities like personal butlers, private swimming pools, and hidden yoga platforms, and service that’s available to meet every possible need. When it comes to the classic private-island, white sand beach, luxury saltwater escape, you really can’t top this place.
Kruger National Park, South Africa | +27.21.683.3424
Everything about this safari camp is achingly chic (to the extent that it’s Michael Kors’ favorite vacation destination), from the leather and canvas washed interiors, to the long pool. Of course, that’s kind of just a side note to the fact that it’s in the middle of South Africa’s Kreuger National Park, meaning that you get to take your laps in the morning to the sound of giraffes tussling nearby. There are also incredibly views of the N’wanetsi river. Keep in mind that a safari isn’t for those who don’t want to wake up in the morning (or hate being confined to a car for most of the day). Rates include two game drives per day, walking safaris, and all meals and drinks (there’s a great wine cellar). It’s shutting down at the end of the year for a very brief renovation, so keep that in mind.
Sparta Farm, Sabi Sand Sildtuin, Mpumalanga, South Africa | +27(0)13.735.5653
The suites at Londolozi Game Preserve walk a thin line of luxury while maintaining the feeling that you’re out in nature. Outfitted with wide doors and windows that open to the Sand River, the stone huts (even the slanted roofs are made from granite slabs) feel like they’re part of the land, with private, heated pools that mirror the floor of the riverbed. Of course, the real draw here is the safari adventures in Kruger Park, and Londolozi’s guides have a great track record for finding some of the more difficult animals to see, along with plenty of lions, elephants, hippos, and more. As a bonus, Londolozi has a great reputation for conservation and community support in the area.