Go Here, Not There
Picturesque bungalows, desert retreats, and other options for the less-navigated honeymoon.
Instead of the Mayan Riviera:
BOCAS DEL TORO
Hike a rainforest, snorkel where you sleep, or get lost in a bat cave.
The Maya remains one of Mexico’s mellowest beach retreats, but Panama is just as beautiful and laid-back, and notably more affordable. Spend a few nights in Panama City at the Trump Ocean Club, opening this spring (from $250; trumpoceanclub.com). Stroll the Cinta Costera, a leafy waterfront path, to the Colonial-era neighborhood of Casco Viejo and admire Frank Gehry’s handiwork at the unfinished BioMuseo (scheduled to open in 2012). Then hop one of Air Panama’s daily flights to Bocas del Toro, where you can check into one of Punta Caracol’s nine over-water bungalows (from $344; puntacaracol.com). The solar-powered cabins hug a mile-long coral-reefed coast where you can snorkel in the crystalline turquoise waters. Venture farther afield to ogle a stalactite- and stalagmite-coated bat cave on Colón Island, or devote a day to the Zapatillas Cays, where you can hike in the lush rainforest and lounge on white-sand beaches.
Instead of Dubai:
Ride camels, shop souks, and dine by candlelight on a dune.
This oil-rich Middle Eastern hub is giving UAE neighbor Dubai a run for its money. A Ferrari theme park opened last November; this year marks the arrival of Capital Gate, a leaning tower that will house a Hyatt; and a Guggenheim outpost is set to open in 2013. Check into a sleek room at the new Yas Hotel (from $217; theyashotel.com), then shop for local goods at the Iranian and Meena souks. Pay a visit to the Sheikh Zayed mosque, the only one in the city open to non-Muslims. Book a table for Friday’s indulgent bubbly brunch at Le Royal Méridien’s revolving restaurant, Al Fanar. When you’re ready to skip town, retreat to Anantara’s Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort (from $326; anantara.com), a sanctuary two hours from the city center. Book an hourlong Royal Hammam treatment (couples rooms are available) at the resort’s award-winning spa after a guided camel trek into the desert, or take advantage of the Dine By Design service, a dune-side candlelit dinner for two.
Instead of Costa Rica:
Visit active volcanoes, miniature geysers, and a boiling lake.
Dominica, a microscopic isle in the Lesser Antilles, is best for couples who prefer sea paddling and rugged hikes to swim-up bars and frozen margaritas. Trek on foot from Titou Gorge, through the colorful sulfur springs and miniature geysers in the Valley of Desolation, all the way to Boiling Lake, the second-largest hot spring in the world. Or let adventure-tour operator Extreme Dominica (extremedominica.com) school you in the art of canyoning, a hybrid of hiking, swimming, rappelling, and climbing. Scuba dive through the coral-covered tunnels at Douglas Point or into an inky abyss at L’Abym, sea-kayak along the rocky coastline, or wade into one of the island’s countless waterfalls. Retire for the evening to a tropical cottage at Jungle Bay Resort & Spa (from $229; junglebaydominica.com) or a simple, well-appointed room at the Rosalie Bay resort (from $185; rosaliebay.com), where a spa will be introduced this year. Another opening to look forward to is the Waitukubuli National Trail, a 115-mile path that takes two weeks to navigate and snakes past the country’s towering peaks and active volcanoes.
Instead of mainland Australia:
Spot Australian fur seals, and drink in the burgeoning wine scene.
Fly or sail—the Spirit of Tasmania’s ships leave daily for the nine-hour voyage—from Melbourne to Devonport and spend a few nights in one of eight ultramodern pavilions at the Moorilla manor (from $487; moorilla.com.au). Sample the estate’s Muse wine and Moo beer, and browse the collections at the recently opened Museum of Old and New Art. Then make the scenic three-hour drive up the east coast and check into a suite at the new Saffire Freycinet (from $1,225; saffire-freycinet.com.au): Each features rain showers for two, Eames and Herman Miller furnishings, and unobstructed views of the surrounding Hazards mountains. Hike and bike the trails of the Coles Bay Conservation Area, perfect your shucking technique at the oyster farm, and book a boat trip to Schouten Island to spot Australian fur seals and albatross.
From the Summer 2011 New York Wedding Guide