Flights of Fancy
If You’re All Partied-Out
Couples whose perfect afternoon consists of nada can take refuge in this surprisingly low-key Caribbean escape.
Sure, you could kayak, jet-ski, or parasail. Or take a day trip to nearby St. John or Tortola. But why bother? The pool is calling, the blenders are whirring, and planning excursions seems too much like…work. Long seen as a pit stop for souvenir-hungry cruise ship passengers, 32-square-mile St. Thomas has a less-traveled side. With its always-perfect Caribbean climate, impossibly soft sand, and perpetually warm sea, the island (beyond downtown) is yours to wander—or take in from a beach chair.
The sprawling 479-room Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort sits on a peninsula with breathtaking views. Honeymooners should book ocean-side rooms, which feel more like private bungalows, in the resort’s Morning Star section. Extend your lethargy by lingering over after-dinner drinks and cigars at Havana Blue, the resort’s chic Latin-fusion eatery and martini bar (340-776-8500, marriott.com).
Have Havana Blue set up an über-romantic, seven-course dinner on the beach; star dishes include beef carpaccio with ginger coulis, and five-spice duck confit (340-715-2583, havanabluerestaurant.com). Or, head to Grande Cru, where you can gawk at mega-yachts while dining on lobster-and-citrus salad. Don’t miss the Samba, a martini made with chili-pepper vodka and mango purée (340-775-8278, igymarinas.com/grandecru).
Kick off the day at Morning Star Beach with a seaside couples’ massage. When you’re ready to wander off-property, sunbathe in the company of iguanas on palm-lined Bluebeard’s Beach (formerly Limetree Beach). In need of some one-on-one time? Try the sand at the oft-deserted Secret Harbour. In the evenings, sunset sails depart from Charlotte Amalie (340-774-2992, adventurecenters.net). If you need a break from sand and sea, do some high-end shopping in Yacht Haven, a 10-minute ferry ride from the resort, or browse the downtown jewelry shops. –Donna Garlough
If You’re Sporty
From lush rainforests and an unspoiled coastline to a bumping downtown scene, this bilingual island offers endless opportunities to get out and move.
Puerto Rico is not all waterparks and Bacardi. San Juan is a bustling hub with upscale shopping, historic forts, and the hip SoFo district. Savvy travelers go to Isla Verde for white sand and fewer crowds, then decamp to the rainforest for eco-touring. On the island’s east side are the golf courses of Fajardo, a resort-heavy town that brags one of the world’s only bioluminescent bays. Vieques—an almost untouched Latin version of Martha’s Vineyard—is a 90-minute ferry ride away.
The 416-room Ritz-Carlton San Juan sits on a powder sand beach and has a 12,000-square-foot spa. Honeymooners should splurge for the superluxe Ritz-Carlton Suite (787-253-1700, ritzcarlton.com). At El Conquistador Resort, Las Casitas Village suites include an infinity pool, 24-hour butler, and access to the hotel’s private Palomino Island (866-317-8932, elconresort.com). If it’s quiet you crave, hit the child-free Bravo Beach Hotel in Vieques, where the two-bedroom oceanfront villa has indoor-outdoor dining space, Frette linens, and, best of all, no phone (787-741-1128, bravobeachhotel.com).
The shrimp tacos at Old San Juan’s Dragonfly pair perfectly with the restaurant’s tart mojitos, and the subterranean room sets a dream-like dining experience (787-977-3886, parrotclub.com). For flash and fun, check out the Asian-Latin eatery Budatai in Condado (787-725-6919, budatai.com). The rooftop Café Amapola (787-392-9811, cafeamapola.com), meanwhile, is the best place for mofongo, a tasty local plantain dish. On Vieques, the Bravo Beach Hotel serves fresh diver scallops by its candlelit pool.
Less than an hour from San Juan, La Marquesa Forest Reserve hosts zip line canopy tours, while El Yunque rainforest is unbeatable for hiking (787-444-0110, canopytourpr.com; 787-888-1880, elyunque.com). In Fajardo, kayak through a mangrove-lined nature preserve into Las Croabas Lagoon, where everything in the water glows at night (787-888-2887, elyunque.com). Wild horses roam the isle of Vieques, and you’ll need a 4 x 4 to get around. Off-road your Jeep to one of the isle’s deserted beaches or secret fishing spots (vieques-island.com). –Sascha de Gersdorff
If You’re Foodies
The only thing you love more than each other is fine wine and cheese. Book a flight to our country’s premium gourmet getaway.
Far too many honeymoon-centric destinations focus on the views and the activities, leaving guests to wander buffets in search of something edible. Refined palates would do well in San Francisco. Ever since Alice Waters opened her groundbreaking restaurant Chez Panisse, innovative groceries, cafés, bakeries, and bars have flourished throughout the city. The town brims with independent eateries, lively al fresco coffee shops, low-lit wine bars, and some of the nation’s best fine dining. Overindulging is likely; but fortunately, the city’s steep hills provide ample workouts for the calorie-conscious. (But really, it’s your honeymoon—live a little!).
Right off the revamped Embarcadero, the Hotel Vitale became the city’s "it" address when it opened in 2005. The 199-room hotspot’s Penthouse Landmark View Suite affords panoramic vistas—"Look, honey, there’s Alcatraz!"—limestone bathrooms, and Fresh toiletries (415-278-3700, hotelvitale.com). For unsurpassed luxury, sink into one of seven suites at the Mandarin Oriental; several have terraces and soaking tubs (415-276 9888, mandarinoriental.com).
At the newly remodeled Fifth Floor, lauded chef Laurent Manrique cooks up seductive California-French fare like duck bouillon with duck confit croquettes, and oxtail and Japanese eel in Bordelaise sauce. Book early and plan to splurge (415-348-1555, fifthfloorrestaurant.com). For casual comfort food, the new 1300 Fillmore in Pacific Heights serves a sensational black-skillet fried chicken (415-771-7100, 1300fillmore.com). And in up-and-coming Hayes Valley, chef Jessica Bonecutter brings a fresh, local approach to the no-reservations Bar Jules. Her menu changes daily depending on what’s in season. (415-621-5482, barjules.com).
EAT SOME MORE
The mother of all indoor-outdoor greenmarkets, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market takes place each Tuesday and Saturday. A few of S.F.’s top boîtes, including the trendy Slanted Door, have moved in alongside food stands like the Cowgirl Creamery and Hog Island Oyster Company (415-291-3276, ferrybuildingmarketplace.com). Power up at local favorite Blue Bottle Coffee in Hayes Valley, a counter serving organic blends you’ll never find at Starbucks (510-653-3394, bluebottlecoffee.net). Or stop into Bourbon and Branch’s "Beverage Academy" for cocktail-making lessons (415-673-1921, bourbonandbranch.com). Wind down at Soma’s new Terroir, a "natural" wine bar that pours chemical-free blends from all over the world. (415-558-9946, terroirsf.com). –S.de G.
If You’re Urban Sophisticates
Who needs the beach (or that vicious sunburn)? Couples with culture on their minds find attractions galore in this chic city.
You’ve seen Paris. You’ve done Rome. You want a taste of Europe on your honeymoon, but traipsing from one tourist trap to another is so unappealing. Luckily, there’s Amsterdam, a canal-strewn city that blindsides visitors with its hospitality and charm. Unlike the continent’s flashier destinations, where your guilt compounds with every "must-see" you miss, this gem is less about sightseeing and more about simply being. Tiny alleys and picturesque squares provide a backdrop for early walks and late-night smooches; colorful flower markets, canal boats, and locals buzzing around on bikes lend the city a euphoric air. Spend your afternoons sampling Dutch chocolate and wandering along the hundreds of bridges. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have getting lost, guaranteed.
At the city’s grandest hotel, the Intercontinental Amstel, guests stand a good chance of running into celebs or even royalty. (Our sighting? Kate Moss.) Request a room overlooking the Amstel River—the views are stupendous. Giant bathtubs, L’Occitane toiletries, and superplush towels make you feel utterly pampered, and the included breakfast at Michelin-starred restaurant La Rive ensures you’re well fed, too. (31-20-622-60-60, ichotelsgroup.com).
Aside from its chocolate and butter cookies, the Netherlands isn’t generally known for its food. Clearly, not enough critics have been to De Kas, located in a park outside of the city center. Each night features a set menu that revolves around what’s growing in the greenhouse out back. Given free rein, the chef delivers dishes like a whitefish tartare with Parmesan tuiles (31-20-462-45-62, restaurantdekas.nl). Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, also colors the food landscape: Tempo Doeloe offers a casual, authentic sampling of dishes like the spicy, coconut-flavored ajam roedjak (31-20- 625-67-18, tempodoeloerestaurant.nl). For a snack, pick a pannekoeken house anywhere. The thin, fruit-smothered pancakes are a Dutch specialty.
Seeing the city on foot or rented bike is activity enough here—given the curving streets and canals, you’re likely to be out at least an hour longer than you intended. A good way to get the lay of the land is to hop in one of many tour companies’ canal boats. Touristy, yes, but they’ll help guide your wanderings for the rest of the trip. Art lovers won’t want to miss the van Gogh Museum, an incredible collection of the famed Dutch painter’s masterpieces and sketches. (Buy your tickets in advance to skip the often hours-long line.) For functional, artful souvenirs, check out the many antiques shops located near Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. –D.G.
If You’re Explorers
Off-the-beaten-path honeymoons have gone mainstream—except for this way, way off-the-path locale.
Poised to be the next vacation spot, Cape Verde, a.k.a. Cabo Verde, is a country on the cusp. Situated off the coast of Senegal, it boasts some of the world’s most spectacular beaches, and teems with loggerhead turtles and humpback whales. For better or worse, the local government is pushing for tourism development, but the area doesn’t quite bustle yet. There’s no single face to this 10-island nation, from Cape Verde’s resort-ready coastline to its lilting, West African–influenced music to the community of European expats who now call it home. Bostonians who venture to Cape Verde land in Praia, the capital, located on the island of Santiago (São Tiago); from there, TACV Cabo Verde Airlines offers short flights to the other islands (617-472-2431).
After landing in Praia, a good night’s sleep is in order. Settle in and take a dip in the pool at Pestana Tropico, a comfortable, albeit not authentically Cape Verdean, hotel (238-261-42-00, pestana.com). When it’s time to explore, head to Boa Vista, a mostly-untouched isle where you’ll find friendly, surprisingly cozy accommodations like the four-room Migrante Guest House, a restored mansion in the port town of Sal Rei (238-251-11-43, migrante-guesthouse.com). Or try the sun-drenched Estoril Beach Resort, which boasts a bar, restaurant, and "beach club" featuring Cape Verdean cuisine and music (238-251-10-78, estorilbeachresort.com). On the island of Sal, the Hotel Morabeza offers the best of both beach and town (238-242- 10-20, hotelmorabeza.com).
Fresh fish and local stews are Cape Verde specialties; none of the best spots are the type to appear in guidebooks. So be spontaneous:
Ask hotel staff for their local favorites. In Boa Vista, one better-known eatery is Riba d’Olte, where you can often enjoy live music as you dine on cachupa, a traditional Cape Verdean stew (238-251-10-15, ribadolte.com).
Enjoying the islands’ natural beauty is the main pursuit for visitors—for now, at least. Covered with beaches, wide open plains, and lush valleys, there’s an incredible number of species that exist only on these volcanic isles. Swim, surf, hike, fish, and corny as it sounds, stop to smell the flowers. –D.G.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2008/06/flights-of-fancy/