1. French Polynesia
Few places on the globe inspire more awe than this group of 118 islands, which include, most famously, the emerald-carpeted outposts of The Islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora. Also helping it clinch the top spot: the buzzy July 1 opening of the Brando, an ecoluxe sanctuary on the private island of Tetiaroa, where Marlon Brando and his wife, Tarita Teri’ipaia, once lived. Spend your honeymoon planted in one of this French territory’s legendary overwater love nests, or puddle jump between otherworldly diving sites and to-die-for atolls. Wherever you wander, you’ll have heavenly views of the infinite sea.
Go ahead, try to honeymoon here and not fall in love. Its 20 regions offer an embarrassment of romantic riches, from the simple pleasures of al fresco dining on a piazza in Florence to the rich history of the floating city of Venice—not to mention the ruins of Rome, the jaw-dropping cliffs of the Amalfi Coast, and the vineyards of Tuscany. It’s no surprise this boot-shaped nation claimed the top spot on our list in 2012 and 2013.
The iconic silhouette of Diamond Head on Oahu’s Waikiki Beach is only a prelude to what lies beyond. Killer surf breaks, traditional Polynesian resorts, and a warmth that permeates all of the eight major islands—no wonder this volcanic chain has been a go-to honeymoon destination for three generations. Pick your pleasure: Oahu, with the bright lights of Honolulu and the drama of the North Shore; Maui, with its fun-loving vibe and celeb-magnet resorts; Kauai, with its jaw-dropping cliffs and waterfalls; the Big Island, with its sputtering volcano and black-sand beaches; or Lanai, home to pineapple plantations and two superluxe hotels. Hit at least a couple of isles now, then come back for your anniversaries to see the rest.
Courtesy of Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation
You need a big reason to travel all the way to this Indian Ocean archipelago; getting here is not easy. So there’s no better time than post wedding, when the two of you have the ultimate excuse to snorkel above the Technicolor reefs, lounge in an over-lagoon bungalow, and try to find the spot where the blue sky meets the horizon. Or maybe just the spot where Kate and Wills retreated after their big day!
Courtesy of South Africa Tourism
5. South Africa
It’s not just about safari-going anymore. Yes, you can see the Big Five in Kruger National Park, but you can also taste extraordinary sauvignon blancs in Franschhoek, dine on Cape Dutch cuisine in Cape Town, even bungee jump or shark-cage dive where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Diversity: South Africa has it to spare. The only problem is how much to squeeze into a 10-day honeymoon.
The quintessential South Pacific archipelago delivers authenticity in boatloads. Perhaps due to its isolation, it’s retained its culture, music, thatched-roof architecture, and dance in an organic way that few other island nations can best. Which is why you come here for your honeymoon—to marvel at what nature can do with one sneeze of a volcano, at how generous and warm Fijians can be, and at how unspoiled these 332 verdant islands surrounded by pure waters have stayed and, any visitor would hope, will remain.
7. St. Lucia
Few Caribbean islands have topographical diversity. (Read: Most of them are pretty flat.) But not so St. Lucia. Its palm-carpeted landscape rises to the iconic Pitons, two volcanic peaks ready for visitors to photograph, climb, or just ponder. And the resorts on the island—they know how to promote their best asset: Most have strategically placed windows and verandas that let couples admire the view without any other distractions. Butlers are here, but they know when to make themselves scarce.
8. St. Barts
A slice of
France in the heart of the Caribbean, St. Barts lets you shop at Cartier, dance on the tables after a rib eye at Le Ti, mingle with rock stars at Eden Rock, and breakfast on truly exquisite croissants. (The isle’s meat, cheese, and wine are flown in by Air France, natch.) So don’t sweat it if you don’t feel like getting on a transatlantic flight for your honeymoon; you can have all that Frenchness—plus a seriously photogenic beach—just a few hours from home. Getty Images
You don’t even need to leave your resort’s grounds to feel immersed in Balinese spirituality. Look out of your teakwood-and-thatch room and you’ll see
women in sarongs doing their morning offerings; walk down any lane and you’ll find statues of Hindu gods tucked into every wall’s crevice. Yogis and New Agers adore the Indonesian island, but so do couples in search of escape, inspiration, and enough rice paddies and temples to fill a Twitter feed. Getty Images
10. British Virgin Islands
The BVIs don’t have any “big name” brands, which is half their appeal. The other: 60 islands of just 30,000 residents and nearly as many snorkeling and dive spots. Which is probably why Jay Z and Beyoncé love it here, along with Taylor Swift. They can island hop (sailing’s a thing here) or stay at a private-island resort, of which there are many (Peter Island, Scrub Island, Guana Island, Cooper Island). They can meet the most fascinating people (like Foxy of Foxy’s Bar on Jost Van Dyke, pal of Keith Richards) and escape the crowds in luxurious, turquoise-hued seclusion. How’s that for a honeymoon destination?
Jamaica isn’t just a Caribbean island, it’s also a social hub. Easy to get to and blessed with wide beaches, lush hillsides, and glittering waterfalls, it has a rich culture that permeates everything, from the ska that wafts through the beach shacks to the island-time vibe that dictates a slow pace to the jerk chicken and Blue Mountain coffee plantations. But it’s also varied. You want to party it up with celebrities? Go to Goldeneye, owned by the man who made Bob Marley a global star. You want to kick back with a Red Stripe and not think about the price of dinner? Check into an all-inclusive Sandals, of which there are seven. It may be a cliché, but here it holds true: In Jamaica, there really is something for everyone.
Oh, France, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways: your City of Light, your effortless chic, your sumptuous hotels, your coastal charm. There are so many iterations of this European country—one of the most visited by Americans, and certainly by honeymooners—we would never dare pick a favorite. Whether you want to visit the place where real Champagne comes from or dance on a table at Nikki Beach in Saint-Tropez or just stroll the Marais in Paris, France promises something new to discover with every visit.
Vive la France!
The country is almost as famous for its blow-your-mind beaches as it is for its creation of the Olympics—and democracy. In Santorini, tumbledown whitewashed villas set off the sapphire sea. Art lovers make the pilgrimage to the hilly island of Hydra, where poets and avant-garde painters have long retreated for inspiration. On
Crete, endless swaths of sand give way to unreal turquoise, teal, and green waters. Why choose? Hire a boat (or hop on a cruise) and tick off as many islands from your bucket list as possible. Courtesy of Jim Stephens
The quintessential Caribbean escape is just a direct flight away. Here, powder-white beaches are the envy of neighboring islands, and lobsters are so plentiful, they’re cheaper than chicken. A range of resorts dot the British Overseas Territory, from Moroccan-inspired follies to luxury all-inclusives and villas that could wow a billionaire. But what Anguilla does best is offer a backdrop of white and blue on which couples can make their own Instagrammable memories, uninterrupted by crowds.
Courtesy of Seychelles Tourist Office
This playground of 115 islands scattered across the Indian Ocean is a sanctuary for some of the rarest species of flora and fauna in the world—not to mention some of the more rarefied resorts on the planet. Snorkel, cuddle, hang out on a hammock, and look for those giant Aldabra land tortoises that occasionally mosey on by.
16. Turks & Caicos
Direct flights and magical Grace Bay Beach are just two of the reasons that Turks makes the list of top honeymoon spots. The others: Groovy hangouts, like the Gansevoort, whose pool perimeter is more like a club scene. A culture that’s actually being embraced by the younger generation—which means visitors can once again participate in the annual winter Maskanoo, a Carnivale-like celebration that dates back to the slave trade. And local customs like diving for conch shells from Da Conch Shack and having fresh fritters just pulled from the sea. We also appreciate the mix of Eurochic families, young couples, and stylish Americans that gives the island a global vibe. All that three hours from the East Coast—what’s not to worship?
With the turquoise waters and pale sands of the Caribbean on one side and the inky depths of the Pacific on the other, Mexico offers infinite options for every kind of beach lover. For those who want a little nightlife with their days in the sun, there’s Cancun. Love celeb-style luxury? Check out the haute hotels of Los Cabos. Just want to chill? Consider the Riviera Maya or the Riviera Nayarit. But sun and sand are not the end of Mexico’s story. It’s also rich with culture, from the villages of Oaxaca (where mole was born) to the candy-colored haciendas of colonial cities like San Miguel de Allende. And since Mexico and the U.S. share a continent, all of this magic is just a short plane ride away.
They call it the Vegas of the Caribbean, so easy is it to elope in this two-island country, which includes Barbuda. (Kellie Pickler and Kyle Jacobs did it on the private island of Jumby Bay in 2011.) But there’s a lot more than just relaxed residency laws to draw couples here. Incredible service is a hallmark, and the storied resorts have been luring repeat visitors for 50 years. (We mean you, Curtain Bluff.) A beach for literally every day means you’ll never have to tread the same sand twice, no matter how long your honeymoon lasts. Should you require some more vibrant entertainment, Antigua has more than 150 restaurants, bars, and barbecue spots—our favorite of which is Shirley Heights, whose Sunday cookouts with steel bands and dancing are the stuff of legend.
Courtesy of Visit England
Our language is the same, but there the comparisons end. England is a country of ancient legends and preserved villages that is part of Europe but also all its own. Where else can you see a play in the same theater that Shakespeare originally performed his, walk through age-old stone circles that still defy meaning, or spend the night in a castle that dates to William the Conqueror? We’re especially fond of the Cool Britannia cheekiness that prevails in so much of this country of 55 million. You can’t walk into a Cotswolds hamlet or
Downton-esque manse—never mind step into a hipster hotel overrun with royals, reality-TV stars, and politicians—without having a laugh with a local. Courtesy of Tourism Australia
From Uluru in the Outback to the Great Barrier Reef to the sophisticated (but still chill) city of Sydney, Oz has it all. Plus koalas. And emus. And kangaroos that surf (no joke). Come back with stories of bold shirazes, private isles, and aboriginal culture and be the envy of all your friends.