Beach ....... Local ........ Cheap ......
When winter really sets in, there’s nothing like a pink beach to make you feel warm toward your beloved again. Harbour Island in the Bahamas has practically no cars (golf carts mostly), which means not even traffic noise can spoil the romance. Book a room in the tiny, nine-room Rock House (242-333-2053 or rockhousebahamas.com), where the owners will plan fishing charters with Bonefish Joe or plant your umbrella into the rose-tinted sand.
China Beach (My Khe)
The turquoise South China Sea gently laps at this 18-mile stretch of golden sand made famous in the sixties when GIs converged here for R and R. It’s now a showcase for the kind of extreme pampering this country is increasingly known for (some call it the next Phuket). Couples should try out the villa Nam Hai (one bedroom villas start at $550; 84-510-940-000 or thenamhai.com) where the private rooms have all the good stuff like lovely ocean views, sunken lacquer bathtubs, outdoor rain showers and an attentive yet unobtrusive level of service once only experienced in Thailand. The suite also comes equipped with a cappuccino maker, an iPod and—God help you—wireless Internet service.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Take one of the island’s sixteen jungle trails—some paved, some mud-splattered, all with a squawking soundtrack of birds, bugs, and Bugio monkeys—to hidden cachoeiras (waterfalls) and romantically empty beaches. Stay beachside at the Pousada do Canto (19-3455-0986 or ilhagrande .com.ar), balcony and hammock included, for about $120. Exchange dollars for reais before you hop on the ferry, because you won’t find any ATMs—or cars—on this island.
There are no roads to Yelapa, so the tiny beach cove is accessible only by a one-hour water taxi from Puerto Vallarta. It’s gloriously calm and lacking in tourists, but there’s still strong doses of what winter escapees want most: cheap beachside micheladas to quench your thirst, beautiful hikes to waterfalls, and fascinating characters, like the beach-wandering pie lady who hawks coconut Pays de Yelapa from her head-basket. Dangle your feel in Banderas Bay and watch dusk turn to night from one of Lagunita’s cute thatched palapas (rooms from $70; 52-322-20-95056 or hotel-lagunita.com).
Although bathing together is no longer punishable by death, couples at the Cagaloglu Hamami baths (90-212-522-24-24 or cagalogluhamami.com.tr), an opulent Ottoman relic, enter separately for full-body kneadings from dedicated professionals clothed in Miami Vice–era swimsuits. Compare notes after employing the Turkish phrase for “ouch!” (Acitmak!) Pay about €40 up front; tipping is optional. (Winter rates from $320 at Four Seasons Istanbul; 90-212-638-82-00 or fourseasons.com/istanbul.)
Santa Cruz, Galápagos Islands
Laze around with Galápagos townies in this restful, unpretentious port. You should spread out your blanket on a beach like Tortuga Bay (a favorite), where you’ll share the view with sleepy sea lions, marine iguanas, and Darwin finches. Scoop into big bowls of fresh seviche, and shop for tagua-nut beads—there’s no Versace boutique for thousands of miles. When it’s your turn to nap, wake up the desk clerk at the Hotel Sol y Mar (rooms from $175; 593-52-526-281 or hotelsolymar.com .ec) to get your key.
The Lodge at Woodloch
A camp-for-adults vibe makes this year-old destination spa popular with men as well as women. Hikes, bison burgers, and alcoholic beverages are all on the menu. Snowshoe around the secluded 75-acre property, dip in hydromassage pools, or curl up on the heated-floor terraces with a paperback from the Lodge’s library. Or do nothing: Bathrobes are accepted attire everywhere except the dining room. (Beginning November 1, doubles start at $350 per person per night, meals included; spa packages start at $450 per person; thelodgeatwoodloch.com.)
Praia do Forte
After strolling down Bahia’s beaches (powder-fine sand, warm turquoise water) frisky couples can skinny-dip in hidden—but easy-to-find—lagoons. At night, the sexiest thing you can do is learn to dance Forró, a sweaty precursor to the Lambada for which you’re glued to your partner. Adjourn to a suite at the Praia do Forte EcoResort, which has private outdoor jacuzzis (doubles from $314; 55-71-3676-4000 or praiadoforte.com).
Venice broods in the dark month between New Year’s and Carnevale, when a damp mist curls up the alleys and canals. Duck into Cantina do Mori, the wine bar of the two moors, where Casanova liked to warm up with a sandwich and a glass of amarone (39-041-522-5401). Hole up in the Pensione Accademia (from $190 for a double; 39-041-521-0188 or pensioneaccademia.it).