Spring is for lovers, and plenty of domestic and Caribbean destinations are rolling out the red carpet for you to unwind with your sweetheart. Whether you want to hop on a beach cruiser on the Florida Panhandle, bite into Charleston’s sizzling-hot food scene or cuddle in a hammock in Tulum, there are so many places where you can celebrate your love.
1. San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
Along the beach in Baja California Sur, San Jose del Cabo is a classic 17th century colonial town with cobblestone streets, art galleries and restaurants pouring Mexican wines, which are quickly capturing the attention of wine critics. Cozy up over a three- or five-course tasting menu at Casiano’s or cocktails at La Osteria, an open-air pub where U2 dropped by for an impromptu performance last year. Instead of a big resort, choose an intimate boutique hotel like Hotel Casa Natalia, which offers a spacious spa suite complete with a hammock among its rooms. Plan to be there on a Thursday evening for the town’s Art Walk, and schedule brunch at Flora’s Field Kitchen on Flora Farms, a darling farm-to-table paradise.
Home to Crane Beach, named one of the world’s sexiest beaches by Concierge.com, Barbados is a nonstop flight from Miami and San Juan. Once on the island, check into the coastal-chic boutique-y The House. It has just 34 suites, so you’re practically guaranteed privacy, and it’s adults-only, which means no children splashing at the pool. A butler waits on you hand and foot, and the “Romance Getaway” package folds in a beachside dinner for two, a bottle of Champagne with fresh strawberries, and a spa treatment for two.
3. Charleston, S.C.
With cobblestone streets, plantations canopied in Spanish moss and a rich history dating back to the 17th century, Charleston – one of America’s oldest cities – is ground central for romance. Opt for an inn snug on King Street, flush with wonderful eateries (like The Macintosh, with chef Jeremiah Bacon, who cooked at Le Bernardin and Per Se in New York City) and intimate wine bars (cozy up to wine, charcuterie and cheese among historic artifacts at Bin 152 in the French Quarter). Retire to Fulton Lane Inn or Kings Courtyard Inn, sister inns where you can enjoy breakfast by a blazing fireplace in your own room.
4. Rosemary Beach, Fla.
Just down the Panhandle from rowdy Panama City Beach is Rosemary Beach, one of a cluster of New Urbanism communities along the Gulf of Mexico. Book an adorable cottage through Rosemary Beach Cottage Rental Company and you’ll be a short walk away from sugar-white sands and emerald-green waters. You’ll find restaurants and watering holes on Main Street – enjoy cocktails at the Havana Beach Rooftop Lounge at the 2-year-old The Pearl and seafood entrees at Restaurant Paradis, a local favorite. Rent a beach-cruiser bicycle to explore the tiny town, or catch a wave of adrenaline on a stand-up paddleboard or in a kayak.
5. Tulum, Mexico
Savvy travelers who love the beach but crave peace and quiet bypass Cancun and go 90 miles south to rustic Tulum. The nearby ruins provide for a fun day trip and a primer in the region’s Mayan heritage, and there are beachfront hammocks on private decks (perfect for cuddling) and meals cooked in a wood-burning oven, including charred-pepper salsa, waiting for you back at hip little hotels like Zamas, on a former coconut plantation. You can book a massage in your room, and you can snorkel just off the shoreline without bumping elbows with strangers.
6. Catalina Island, Calif.
Just an hourlong ride on a high-speed ferry from Long Beach, San Pedro or Dana Point – all near Los Angeles – this laid-back island was spotlighted as a romantic weekend getaway in the 2011 film “Like Crazy.” New this year is the island’s first destination-resort spa, the 15,000-square-foot Island Spa Catalina, which has an ocean-view deck and uses island-grown botanicals in spa treatments. Hold hands across the table at Ristorante Villa Portofino and, come nightfall, sit by a firepit and watch the stars from the courtyard at Pavilion Hotel.
7. Winter Park, Fla.
Ditch Disney for the romantic town of Winter Park, just a few miles from Orlando. The Alfond Inn, which opened two years ago, boasts a mod black-and-white décor and an outdoor pool, and it’s home to a stunning art collection. Hamilton’s Kitchen blends Southern-style cuisine with modern and farm-to-table flair, like hometown preserves (Heavens to Betsy) and maple crème fraiche topping Chef Bill’s French toast for brunch. Stroll the shops, eateries and bars along the main drag in town (or give the nearby Scratch – hot with locals – a whirl), and dial it back a few decades with a boat ride on the Chain of Lakes, which offers a view of the town’s lakefront mansions. The world’s largest collection of Tiffany glass is downtown at Morse Museum.
8. Scottsdale, Ariz.
With golf courses and spas by the dozens, Scottsdale has long been a haven for R&R. Couples can indulge separately or together in both and still find plenty to do in the evening. Check into the The Saguaro, a colorful boutique property from Joie de Vivre Hotels in Old Town, with orange-hued rental bicycles and meals designed by Iron Chef winner Jose Garces. Or opt for a quiet desert setting at The Boulders, Waldorf Astoria Resort, with its 33,000-square-foot spa, two golf courses designed by Jay Moorish and night hiking, mountain biking and rock-climbing excursions.
9. Soufrière, St. Lucia
Lush with tropical foliage, St. Lucia is a popular honeymooners’ destination – and for good reason. There isn’t a sweeter spot than Sugar Beach, away from the port and in the Soufrière area along the island’s west coast. Check into Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort for the ultimate in privacy. Up on a hill, private bungalows – with a plunge pool and crisp all-white décor – overlook the famous Pitons and sugar-white sand beach. To access the resort’s spa (a collection of huts), you must cross a wooden bridge. Stray from the resort to play in the famous mud baths at Sulphur Springs, or walk hand-in-hand to Diamond Falls in the six-acre botanical gardens of Soufrière Estate.