By Sarah Sekula, Published in Orlando Wedding magazine
Newlyweds these days want more than a room in a prime locale; they want to be fully immersed in local culture: horseback riding along the Hawaiian coast, wildlife-watching in the Grand Tetons, or learning ancient Mayan medicine techniques. It’s a trend that’s catching on around the world, and more and more forward-thinking hotels are offering memorable “experiential” getaways that are meant to be shared with the one you love.
Hana, Maui, Hawaii
This lush, all-inclusive resort is located on the eastern side of Maui, the more secluded side of the island. So when you want alone time—together—it’s easy to find. You’ll be in a sprawling sea ranch cottage, after all, with a private and dramatic view of the ocean. Likewise, when you want to venture out, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Once you settle in, take your pick from authentic Hawaiian experiences. For starters, learn to play the ukulele or try your hand at the ancient art of throw-net fishing. You can even learn the proper way to husk a coconut.
If you’d prefer a less strenuous activity, order a picnic lunch from the hotel and just lounge oceanside. The best part is: If you and your new spouse spend the day at one of the nearby beaches, you’ll likely have it to yourselves. Continue the relaxation by getting a massage and ending the day with a yoga session in the hotel’s open-air studio.
Spend a relaxing afternoon in the Travaasa Hana hotel’s oversized Jacuzzi or take a dip in your own private hot tub on the porch of your sea ranch cottage overlooking the ocean. Water activities include traversing the coastline by kayak. travaasa.com/hana
Four Seasons Jackson Hole Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Not only is the Four Seasons Jackson Hole surrounded by epic ski runs, it’s also a stone’s throw from both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. In other words, it is the perfect launching pad for adrenaline thrills (read: snow-cat skiing, snowboarding, heli-skiing and wildlife watching) no matter the season. Get out in nature and sign up for the resort’s wildlife safari, which is available year-round. These intimate tours (limited to five guests) are led by an in-house wildlife biologist and naturalist. Be on the lookout for elk, bears, mountain lions and bighorn sheep.
At the Four Seasons resort in Jackson Hole, being outdoors is the name of the game. Couples enjoy spacious lodge-style accommodations at the foot of the snow-capped Rockies. Take the resort’s wildlife safari tour and you’ll have an opportunity to see the area’s wildlife up close, or spend an exhilarating afternoon carving up fresh tracks on the slopes. fourseasons.com/jacksonhole
Sandos Caracol Resort & Spa Riviera Maya, Mexico
This seaside resort located along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula immerses guests in local culture from the get-go. You can begin your stay with a language lesson; then head over to the Mayan Herbalist and EcoClub Nursery to discover ancient remedies of traditional Mayan medicine, including native plant and herbal treatments for the entire body. You’ll even have the chance to plant indigenous species around the property that have great significance to the Mayan culture.
Guests may also take part in the Xcalacoco Experience, an event viewed by ancient Mayans as the beginning of a new era in humanity. Participants are invited to “live Xcalacoco,” which teaches guests Mayan history through environmental activities and allows them to discover the local culture and reconnect with nature.
Part of getting to know the local culture is spending time in the waters of Sandos Caracol—swimming, sailing and snorkeling. Then take part in the Xcalacoco Experience and learn about local history and customs, as well as ancient Mayan medicine techniques. sandos.com
Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort Ocho Rios, Jamaica
At the Riviera Villa & Great House on this 45-acre seaside getaway, you can be rough and rugged by day—wrangling a big catch while deep-sea fishing, zip lining through the forest canopy and scuba diving among the candy-colored marine life. By night, you can retire to your own private luxury villa, where you’ll be surrounded by the scent of night-blooming jasmine as you take in dreamy vistas of the St. Ann Mountains. And if you feel like taking a midnight swim? No problem, since each villa has its own swimming pool.
It’s a dream come true for foodies, too. Sumptuous global cuisine is available at the property’s 15 different restaurants. After dinner, head over to the plantation-style Great House, a bluff-top manor where you can listen to piano tunes while roaming through the resort’s glorious gardens.
Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort gives couples the opportunity to get away from it all. The beaches are ideal for swimming and scuba diving, where the vibrant coral reefs are home to abundant marine life. And, at the end of the day, you can head back to your villa for an intimate dip in your private pool. sandals.com
Singular Patagonia Patagonia, Chile
What better way to experience life in Chilean Patagonia than by horseback riding with a real-life gaucho past the snowcapped Andes? Guests at Singular Patagonia—a 100-year-old cold-storage plant that has been transformed into a super luxe hotel and national historic landmark—have the chance to visit a working ranch and learn the basics. Tomas, a native Patagonian who knows the history of the remote and storied area, leads guests up hills, across streams and past fields of grazing cattle.
The concept of the hotel is focused on providing an authentic Patagonian experience. In other words, you’ll be mingling with the people, learning the customs, visiting the areas where these pioneers worked, navigating the coastal inlets where the first canoeists traveled and admiring the incredible landscapes that generations have enjoyed.
After a day of adventure, bump up your cooking cred by taking an interactive cooking class with Chef Laurent Pasqualetto. Learn to create authentic Chilean specialties using locally grown and sourced ingredients. Or tour the hotel for a dose of the area’s colorful history.
Once an industrial cold-storage plant, Singular Patagonia has been renovated to reveal exposed brick walls and wooden beams. Explore the area on horseback, and after your day’s adventures, cozy up to the bar, which was once a general store. Then enjoy a meal prepared by the resort’s chef. thesingular.com