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Saving the Best for Last


Take a dip at month-old Alila Cha-Am in Thailand.  

THE SHOESTRINGS
A tight budget doesn’t have to be a turnoff; here’s to romance on the cheap.

AMAZON, PERU
Best Time to Go: September
Hours From NYC: 9
Romance Factor: High

There’s more to Peru than Machu Picchu. Two-thirds of it is covered by Amazon rain forest that’s easily accessible from the mini-metropolis of Iquitos. Venture deep into the sultry jungle and its myriad tributaries on a river cruise aboard the affordably luxe M/V Aqua (from $1,950 per person for a three-night all-inclusive trip; aquaexpeditions.com). The 140-foot vessel specializes in haute Andean cuisine, like grilled bass seviche, served in between daily treks. After hiking through the wildlife-filled Pacaya-Samiria National Park, adjourn to one of twelve air-conditioned cabins with panoramic 50-foot riverfront windows.


GALILEE, ISRAEL
Best Time to Go: May
Hours From NYC: 13
Romance Factor: Moderate

To experience Israel’s burgeoning wine industry, head for the lush vineyards of northern Galilee. Visit the Dalton Winery (dalton-winery.com or 011-972-3-751-8922), a top estate that produces about 600,000 bottles annually, and schedule a guided tour and tasting followed by an alfresco kosher lunch with snowcapped Mt. Hermon towering in the background. Couples afflicted by Cabernet-induced drowsiness should check into the Scots Hotel in Tiberias (from $220, meals included; scotshotels.co.il). Perched on the Sea of Galilee, the former church hospital dates back to 1885 and has a vaulted wine cellar for predinner drinks.


BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Best Time to Go: November
Hours From NYC: 12
Romance Factor: High

Live it up in Buenos Aires, an urbane, Euro-Latino capital where the dollar still commands respect. Order tenderloin medallions from a sizzling spit at La Cabaña (011-54-11-4814-0001), a high-end steakhouse in posh Recoleta. Work it off with a shopping spree for two: Felix (011-54-11-4832-2994) stocks snug-fit button-downs and slim-cut ties for men, while Varanasi’s (011-54-11-4833-5147) structured silk dresses are favored by women who crave an affordable Prada alternative. Try on your new duds at retro-chic Home Hotel (from $120; homebuenosaires.com).


CHA-AM, THAILAND
Best Time to Go: January
Hours From NYC: 20
Romance Factor: Very High

Located two-and-a-half hours south of Bangkok in the Gulf of Siam, the former fishing village of Cha-Am is emerging as the capital’s answer to the Hamptons. Take cover at month-old Alila Cha-Am (from $180; alilahotels.com), an ultraminimalist oasis designed by young Thai architect Duangrit Bunnag, who has a thing for dark woods and polished limestone. Retreat to the five-room spa for a honey-and-jasmine body scrub or hole up in your suite: Each has a massive flat-screen TV, home-theater system, and romance-ready mood lighting. If splurging, book one of seven pool-villas and indulge with a midnight swim.


ST. JOHN, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
Best Time to Go: February
Hours From NYC: 5
Romance Factor: Moderate

Measuring a mere 28 square miles, St. John is the smallest—and sleepiest—of the U.S. Virgin Islands, with few of the cruise crowds and megaresorts of its two larger siblings. Almost entirely a protected national park, the island offers some of America’s lushest—and last—rain forests and hidden beach coves. For stellar sea views, check in at Maho Bay Camps, Inc. (from $80; 800-392-9004 or maho.org), an ecocompound in the heart of the Virgin Islands National Park. All 114 tents dot the tropical forest and are connected via a series of staircases and walkways, making flashlights essential at night. Though lacking an en suite bathroom, each tent comes equipped with a small stove and ice cooler along with a deck shrouded in foliage for extra privacy.