By Sarah Sekula, published in Destination Weddings & Honeymoons
With the I do’s checked off the list, it’s time for a dose of pure honeymoon bliss. Today, post-wedding getaways are anything but typical. Here’s what’s next in the world of romantic travel.
“Many couples may not consider themselves foodies but are very interested in eating like the locals,” says Brenda Llamas Young with Encore Romance Travel.
And it’s no surprise. “Food tourism is the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry,” says Erik Wolf, executive director and founder of the World Food Travel Association. In fact, a study the association sponsored found that almost one-third of travelers seeks out food-centric locales.
If you and your mate are in that 30 percent, Santiago, Chile, is a safe bet. The city sparks buzz for its insanely good street food, legendary sandwich shops and chic wine bars. Plus, the nearby wine region of Maipo is nicknamed the Napa Valley of Chile; a visit to its Concha y Toro vineyard is a must.
Get off the grid in rural Bali, Indonesia. Jacada Travel offers a tour (from $2,838 per person) where couples take early morning visits to the market, learn cooking tips from local experts, explore rice terraces and peruse the uber-cool night market. Stay at the brand-new Ritz-Carlton Bali, opened early 2015.
“As international travel becomes more accessible, the volunteer honeymoon has gained wider appeal,” says Michele Gran, co-founder and senior vice president of Global Volunteers. “This focused effort enables you to see each other in a different light and provokes conversations that may not occur in daily life.” Think: Playing parents to hundreds of baby sea turtles as they make their way to the Caribbean from a Cancun beach.
For Kris and Jena Douglas, who married in 2009, that meant volunteering at an orphanage in India. “I loved the children,” says Jena. “The experience put my life into perspective.”
Other do-good options include the Ambassadors of the Environment program at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, where guests help with the endangered blue iguana breeding program, as well as the coral-restoration project at Buddy Dive Resort in Bonaire, where honeymooners can help grow staghorn and elkhorn coral and go home feeling like heroes.
“Clients who have been to many of the popular honeymoon spots request this type of trip,” says Katie Rahr Kapel, owner of Mode Travel Agency, Inc. “They want to go somewhere none of their friends has been and learn something while they’re at it.” Katy and Mike Hetherington-Keys, who honeymooned in May 2014, hired an instructor to sail them through Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. By the end of the seven-day jaunt, they were both certified sailors. “It took lots of studying and hard work and wasn’t your typical be-pampered honeymoon,” says Mike.
Want adventure without hours of instruction? Daredevil couples opt for volcano boarding in Nicaragua or kloofing (essentially canyoneering, but way better) in South Africa (shown). For something a bit tamer, try swimming with whale sharks in Mexico.
“Attitudes have changed,” says Paul Joseph with London-based Health and Fitness Travel. “In the last two years, there has been a steady increase of couples wanting to go on fitness and wellness honeymoons.”
Case in point: the rise of sight running — sightseeing meets cardio. City Running Tours offers a fun way to get to know many major U.S. cities. Take San Francisco, where you’ll run past Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39.
For something more immersive, stay at Travaasa Hana on Maui (rooms from $350), Hawaii’s only all-inclusive resort, and center the whole honeymoon on fitness (seaside circuit training and openair yoga) and wellness (daily meditation and lomilomi massages).
A recent survey by YouGov Global shows 43 percent of recently married couples plans to take a mini-moon — a shorter, less-expensive honeymoon — right after the wedding, with plans to take a longer one later. A mini-moon suited Sean and Natalie Hennessy, who married in Nipomo, California, in July 2014. Post-wedding, they took a weekend trip to Monterey, California, for picnics, surfing and scenic drives. “We paid for our wedding, so we couldn’t afford to go on a large honeymoon,” says Natalie. “But we plan to go to Hawaii next year.”
For those who live in the northern United States, consider hopping up to Mont Tremblant, Quebec, for a ski weekend. Or lounge on the beach in Bermuda, a two-hour direct flight from New York City on six major airlines.
Ecotourism is big — really big — growing between 10 and 30 percent annually and accounting for more than 20 percent of all international travel, according to a study by the World Tourism Organization. Jeff Cremer, marketing director for Rainforest Expeditions (think Amazon accommodations where tapirs and macaws roam), cites a 15 percent growth in his company during the past year.
Christy Ruth and Christian Marks chose ecocentric Costa Rica for their honeymoon. Their home base: Arenal Nayara Hotel & Gardens, in the foothills of Arenal Volcano (it received a Certification for Sustainable Tourism from the Costa Rica Tourism Board). “We rappelled down a waterfall, hiked to the volcano and snorkeled at Tortuga Island,” says Christy. “We’re both adventurous people who wanted to experience natural beauty as much as possible.”
After all the Skypeing, emailing and Pinterest scouring involved in a wedding, it’s no wonder couples want to slip off the grid. “There’s been an increase in getaways far from the crowds,” says Deb Miller, owner of Edge of Wonder Travels, a travel agency specializing in custom honeymoons. “This has been especially true of city dwellers whose honeymoon is a chance to take a break from the hustle and bustle.”
Kristie Reba and Christopher Wallace knew they wanted to really escape on their honeymoon. For them, Petit St. Vincent — a private-island Caribbean resort sans TVs, phones or Internet in its 22 luxury stone villas — offered exactly that. “It was secluded and tropical,” says Kristie. “Disconnecting allowed us to slow down, enjoy our surroundings and connect with each other.”
CruiseCompete, a website that helps users find the best values for their cruise, sends out an average of 25,000 quotes per month. Why the interest? Value and ease make cruises a no-brainer for the couple looking for a one-stop shop, says Tara Festa, a cruise specialist at Travelworld vacation consultants. Where else can you relax by a pool, get a massage, dine at award-winning eateries and visit multiple countries without packing and repacking?
Raychelle and Chris Bartlett cruised for five days and liked that they were going somewhere exotic without the stress of coordinating the accommodations or having an agenda. “We did a few excursions, like exploring ancient Maya ruins and swimming with dolphins,” says Raychelle. “But otherwise we didn’t plan a thing.”