Romantic Getaways in 2019: Go Here, Not There

When you’re planning a romantic getaway, it’s easy to fall back on reliable standbys — Hawaii, Paris, Napa. After all, they’re across-the-board gorgeous, super accessible, and on everyone's bucket list. The only problem? The secret’s out. So where should a couple who wants classic romance without the crowds go? Our editorial team spent hours nailing down a list of the world’s most romantic spots, then used our own mix of proprietary data and editorial insights to find the best alternatives for each. The result? A mix of off-the-radar destinations sure to make you re-think those Valentine’s Day plans, anniversary trips, and any other romantic getaways you have planned this year. 

01 of 13

Love Hawaii? Go to Belize

Beach in Belize

 Matt Anderson Photography

Address
Belize

Much of what couples love about Hawaii can be found in Belize for a fraction of the cost and much closer to home. This small Central American nation (just a 2.5-hour flight from Houston) boasts mouth-watering seafood, lush rainforests, gorgeous beaches, and some of the best scuba diving in the world—all without the sky-high prices you’d find in Hawaii. But don’t mistake lower costs for lower quality. Belize has plenty of the posh resorts and creature comforts you’d find in the United States, including speaking English and paying with U.S. dollars, but it does it with a warmth and pace that’s perfect for a sultry beach getaway. Robyn Correll

02 of 13

Dreaming of Paris? Try Montreal

Horse drawn carriages in front of the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal

 Henryk Sadura

Address
Montreal, QC, Canada

Paris is inarguably a romantic destination—the prominent art scene, haute cuisine, and even the velvety French language all support its well-deserved nickname as the City of Love. But what we can argue is that you’re able to find a certain Parisian je ne sais quoi elsewhere without the transatlantic flight. Stroll through Old Montreal, and you’ll feel as if you’re walking the streets of Paris—you’ll pass charming boutiques tucked away on cobblestone alleys, cozy cafés (stop for a sip in Café Myriade below Club Monaco or Crew Collective & Café, housed in a former bank), and the stunning Notre-Dame Basilica (a must-see on any visit to Montreal). The city also boasts several fine dining restaurants that serve up both original dishes and unique spins on traditional French cuisine—make reservations in advance for popular spots like Toqué and Garde Manger. The better exchange rate also makes it the more affordable of the two cities, so you can shop and dine without worrying about blowing your budget. Jamie Hergenrader

03 of 13

Thinking Aspen? Go to Jackson Hole

Jenny Lake during the winter in Jackson Hole Wyoming

RiverNorth Photography

Address
Jackson Hole, Wyoming 83001, USA

Couples looking for a fantastic alternative to Aspen’s iconic slopes need look no further than Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The skiing is every bit as good and the laidback atmosphere is a welcome respite from the often hectic pace of Aspen. After a day on the slopes you’ll find plenty of quiet dinner spots in town for a romantic night out, although the famous Mangy Moose routinely offers live music for those looking for a more lively scene. The nearby Granite Hot Springs are a great way to escape winter’s chill while an evening gondola ride to the top of the mountain offers amazing views from a heated terrace that overlooks the town below. Kraig Becker

04 of 13

Considering Iceland? Go to the Azores

 

Atmo-Sphere / Getty Images 

Address
Azores, Portugal

A paradise of rugged volcanic landscapes, healing thermal waters, road trips winding past waterfalls and through tiny coastal towns, Iceland is undeniably romantic. But for a nearly identical itinerary, minus the tour bus traffic (for now), consider the Azores, an Atlantic archipelago plotted almost 1,000 miles off of the coast of Portugal. Sao Miguel, the most developed island of the group, began receiving regular non-stop Delta flights from JFK in 2018 and is a postcard-perfect platter of crater lakes and hydrangea hedgerows accented by hot springs and pineapple farms. But head further afield to find untouched islands like Pico, where rare whales and dolphins inhabit the waters offshore of ancient volcanic vineyards. On Pico, rent a car to explore foggy mountain-top roads and hidden swimming holes with waterslides and squid lunches. Consider a quiet stay at the design-focused Casas de Incensos, where a rugged dirt road leads to a small group of traditional cottages of volcanic rock (and an infinity pool). Elspeth Velten

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05 of 13

Adore Vermont? Go to Wisconsin

Sunrise over Lake Michigan in Wisconsin

 James Brey

Address
Wisconsin, USA

We’re declaring it: Wisconsin is the Vermont of the Midwest, and it’s an ideal destination for a cozy weekend away. The comparison might seem unlikely, until you start unpacking these states’ charms. Rolling countryside? Check. Brisk winter weather that practically demands quality fireplace time? Check. Cheese? You already know the answer to that one. Add in quality leaf-peeping and some 1,000 miles of Great Lakes coastline, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a season that doesn’t invite some romance in Wisconsin. Our recommendation: Base yourself at The Pfister hotel in Milwaukee (one of the reasons we declared the city 2019’s best spot for romance) and embark on day trips. Outdoorsy couples can explore Devil’s Head mountain (115 miles northwest) for wintertime skiing and summertime golf or hiking. Art-loving couples can stay in the city and admire the Milwaukee Art Museum’s striking Santiago Calatrava-designed building; inside, find the largest collection of pieces by Wisconsin native Georgia O’Keefe. And beer buffs should make a pilgrimage to New Glarus Brewery, about 100 miles from Milwaukee. The brews are arguably as famous for their taste as they are their scarcity—Spotted Cow is one of Wisconsin’s most popular craft beers, but the brewery never distributes outside of the state. Molly Fergus

06 of 13

Love Napa? Go to the Valle de Guadalupe

Vineyard and winery at sundown in the Valle de Guadalupe

 Jorge Malo Photography

Address
Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico

Napa needs no introduction when it comes to romance—decadent food, gorgeous views, and all the wine make Northern California a no-brainer for couples’ getaways. But crowds and price can easily sour a day at the vineyards. Our suggestion? Visit the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s unfussy wine region that is every bit as gorgeous and delicious as Napa—not to mention convenient and less expensive. The region is just 90 miles south of San Diego in Baja California; more than 100 wineries (and counting) call the Valle home, making it the fastest-growing wine region in the world. For a treat, base yourself at Encuentro Guadalupe, a sleek, glass-and-steel boutique hotel perched in the mountains overlooking the Valley. The property puts you in the middle of the action, but we wouldn’t blame you for staying here the entire time. The hotel’s 20 eco-lofts are surrounded by the property’s own vines, which produce Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Nebbiolo; sample them all in the on-site tasting room, which is also open to the public. If you do choose to leave property, consider booking a car service to tour the region—the local roads aren’t always easy to navigate, and you’ll get to indulge in all the tastes you’d like. Companies like Boca Roja offer custom packages for groups. Molly Fergus

07 of 13

Dreaming of Bali? Go to Tahiti

 shalamov / Getty Images

Address
French Polynesia

Re-think a romantic rendezvous in Bali, and head to Tahiti instead. You'll still wake up to the pastel skies and cerulean seas you've been dreaming about, but you'll be trading in the crowded beaches of Bali for the more secluded ones of Tahiti. For your stay, splurge on one of the many overwater bungalows, which are ideal for going straight from bed to water in complete privacy, the ultimate romantic indulgence—keep an eye out for rays, sharks and colorful parrot fish circling beneath! And while you could spend your entire vacation soaking up the sun on Tahiti, you can also hop on a quick flight to Rangiroa Atoll (a ring-shaped coral reef), one of the largest in the world. Even though the flight makes it feel very accessible, you'll still feel a million miles away as you and your partner explore the Blue Lagoon, dive or snorkel in the turquoise waters, and relax on the picturesque beaches that are clear of crowds. —Kait Hanson

08 of 13

Thinking USVI? Go to Puerto Rico

 Megan Vazquez / EyeEm 

Address
Puerto Rico

For a passport-free island escape, skip the USVI, and head for Puerto Rico instead. (No, you don't have to have tickets to Hamilton to make your Borinquen retreat a romantic one.) Contrary to popular belief, most of the island is back up and running in the wake of 2017's devastating Hurricane Maria, and locals need your tourism dollars more than ever. In San Juan, explore buzzing bars and restaurants on Ocean Park's Calle Loiza, and spend an afternoon and evening wandering the colorful streets of Old San Juan, with stops at legendary bars La Factoria and El Batey. Don't miss dinner and salsa dancing in the streets at La Placita, a square in the Santurce neighborhood that comes alive at night. Spend a day exploring the steamy El Yunque rainforest, and then cool off in the pool at the newly renovated and reopened El San Juan hotel, one of 137 that are currently operating as normal across the island. Elspeth Velten

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09 of 13

Considering Greece? Go to Sicily

Greek ruins in the Valley of the Temples in Sicily

 

Kevin C Moore / Getty Images 

Address
Sicily, Italy

Greece and its dozens of islands have long drawn honeymooners and lovebirds seeking breathtaking beaches, iconic archaeological sites, authentic cuisine, and local culture. But as an alternative to the chaos of Athens and the crowds of Santorini, consider Sicily. Italy’s largest island has earthy, character-filled cities, a culture and dialect distinct from the mainland, and interesting, flavorful cuisine influenced by its proximity to North Africa. The island is ringed by beautiful beaches and hidden coves that invite exploring. And at the stunning Valley of the Temples and elsewhere, it even has ancient Greek ruins. Best of all, once you arrive on Sicily, no further no island-hopping is required! Elizabeth Heath

10 of 13

Enjoy Scottsdale? Go to Santa Fe

Tent Rocks Canyon at Sunrise

 Dean Fikar / Getty Images

Address
Santa Fe, NM, USA

Scottsdale’s stunning desert landscape and legendary mystical vortexes are an obvious draw for a romantic getaway, but couples looking for an equally entrancing alternative shouldn’t sleep on bohemian-chic Santa Fe. The third largest art market in the United States, this locale is perfect for culture vultures, featuring a robust selection of art galleries to peruse, a popular independent cinema owned by long-time resident (and Game of Thrones creator) George R.R. Martin, and the mind-blowing performance art of one of the country’s coolest art collectives, Meow Wolf. Indulge in unique dining options comprised of traditional New Mexican cuisine peppered with Native American influences, and take a dip in the relaxing hot springs of Ojo Caliente and Ten Thousand Waves. For the outdoorsy, the majestic Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks are less than an hour away, and Ghost Ranch, the former home of legendary artist Georgia O’Keeffe, is not to be missed. Astrid Taran

11 of 13

Considering the Riviera Maya? Go to Panama

helovi / Getty Images

Address
Panama

The Riviera Maya is well-known for being a romantic, adventure-filled getaway, with beachy vibes, Mayan noshes, cultural sites, and underground cenotes and caves. While Quintana Roo is indeed stunning and worth a visit, there’s another affordable, off-the-beaten-path destination where you’ll find luxury accommodations, flavorsome local cuisine, and cultural and ecological experiences: Panama. Intrepid travelers, who desire newfangled adventures, will not be disappointed with a visit to the crossroads of the Americas. Here, you’ll see the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal; you’ll stroll hand-in-hand with your partner in Casco Viejo’s old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site—several great eateries line the snaking streets and you can buy raspados from a street vendor; and you’ll explore the Gamboa Sloth Sanctuary and Wildlife Rescue Center. Swim, play and rest at the Westin Playa Bonita, a beach resort with stunning views of the container ships on the horizon waiting to enter the famed canal. Wendy Altschuler

12 of 13

Love Barcelona? Go to Cartagena

 Ricardo Gomez / Unsplash

Address
Cartagena, Cartagena Province, Bolivar, Colombia

Barcelona is famous for its soaring architecture (see: the epic Sagrada Familia cathedral) and for its food (ranging from casual tapas to Michelin-starred fare). Lovebirds craving similar cultural and culinary delights—but for far less money—should consider the even sexier city of Cartagena. There’s a reason why Colombia’s Nobel Laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, wrote extensively about its seductive charms. During the day, you can explore the cobblestone streets of the walled city and snap photos in front of colorful homes with elaborately carved and embellished doors and joyous sprays of bougainvilla. At night, the streets overflow with musicians and dancing. Cartagena’s prime seaside location ensures that the ceviche and fried fish are bracingly fresh; local coconut makes an appearance, from sweet and mellow coconut rice to various desserts and fruity cocktails. And unlike Barcelona, Cartagena is less than two hours away from adventure sites like Volcán de Lodo El Totumo, where you can soak in warm mud and then rinse it all off in the sea. Or you can rent a boat to cruise the nearby Rosario Islands. Stay at the Conrad Cartegena that's only a few minutes away from town but feels totally remote. Perched on an exclusive beach, every guest room has a view of the Caribbean ocean, perfect for a romantic rendevous. —Maridel Reyes 

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13 of 13

Adore Maine? Go to Cornwall, England

Lizard Point in Cornwall

Michael Breitung Photography

Address
Cornwall, UK

You've been to every lobster shack in Maine, and you know the scenic route through Acadia like the back of your hand. This year, hit the hedgerow-lined backroads of Cornwall, England's most southwestern county that lies five hours from London by car. Here, a collection of coastal towns offers a rugged combination of seafood and surf competitions. An undulating landscape of patchwork fields gives way by cliff to the Celtic Sea. Hit Padstow for a taste of local celeb chef Rick Stein's restaurant empire, or descend into tiny Fowey for the seafood platter of your dreams at Sam's. Steal a moment of silence at the Tate-run Barbara Hepworth Museum and Scuplture Garden in St. Ives (time your visit with spring blossoms for true magic). And hike the cliffs at Lizard Point to be rewarded with a beach so cerulean blue, you'd swear you were sunning on the shore of some warmer clime. For the ultimate intimate experience, spend an evening at the Gurnard's Head, a renowned country pub with rooms and a seasonal menu displaying fresh fish and foraged produce. Elspeth Velten

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Romantic Getaways in 2019: Go Here, Not There