We’re already a month into 2011 (and close to Valentine's Day), so I’m sure you’ve begun thinking about when you can get away with your sweetheart – for an anniversary or birthday – and where to go. Here’s a roster of my favorite ideas:
January: New Zealand You missed out this year, but that gives you time to save for next year and see one of the world’s most beautiful places. It offers a superb mix of outdoor adventure (from hiking to bungee jumping) and excellent food and wine (amazing lamb and world-class pinot noir). It will be summer, so plan ahead and allot two weeks as the North and South Islands combined are about the size of California.
February: Costa Rica This jungle-meets-beach playground – home to loquacious howler monkeys, luminous blue morpho butterflies, and next Monday’s episode of The Bachelor” – is close enough to enjoy on a five- or six-night getaway. Most flights are into the capital, San Jose, but if you plan to explore the Pacific Coast, you can fly into Liberia. Another option, a seven-night cruise on Windstar (www.windstarcruises.com), which also visits neighboring Nicaragua.
March: Italy If you’ve always wanted to visit Rome, Florence, and Venice (shown above at left), this is a great time for lower rates and sparser crowds. The weather can be variable – from the high 40s to the mid-70s – but amore is always in the air, so start in Rome and work your way north (trains are affordable and fast) to Florence and then Venice, giving yourselves at least three nights in each city.
April: Bermuda The season has begun but won’t really kick in until after Easter (April 24), so it’s a great time to experience this charming and nearby (two hours from NYC) island. Pristine, photogenic, and pink (from the neat little houses to the beautiful beaches), this British colonial outpost is ideal for a relaxing three- or four-night getaway.
May: Hawaii The kids aren’t yet out of school so the Aloha State is still mostly a couple’s paradise. Settle in at one resort if you wish, but it’s fun and easy to island hop. If you have five nights, pick two islands (great combos are Maui and Lana’i for pampering, and Kauai and the Big Island for adventure) or add two nights on Oahu (Waikiki has made a glamorous comeback) if you have a week.
June: Bali If you’re in the mood for exotic, or have a new house to decorate, head to this one-of-a-kind Indian Ocean isle. Although part of Indonesia, Bali is home to people who practice a form of spiritual and ritual-rich Hinduism in temples brimming with flowers and incense (shown at left). Balinese resorts and spas are amazing and its people are talented musicians, dancers, and artisans, crafting exquisitely carved statues, beds, and tables as well as housewares and jewelry. Bring an extra suitcase.
July: Iceland It’s just a five-hour flight from New York and the sun’s up for 21 hours in Reykjavik, which charms with shops and cafés and then gets decadent as its nightclubs pulse with Icelanders who know how to party. Couples looking for quirky romance can definitely find it in the land of Bjork and the Blue Lagoon (the otherworldly thermal pool that’s a must-try) and the volcanic landscape and adorable Icelandic horses make for great photo-ops.
August: Alaska Enjoy some of Mother Nature’s finest handiwork on a seven-night cruise through the 49th State. Active couples can heli-hike, kayak, or zip-line in ports such as Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, while spectator types can ogle Windex-blue glaciers and breaching whales or shop for duty free gems. Princess (www.princess.com), Celebrity (www.celebritycruises.com), Royal Caribbean (www.royalcaribbean.com), and Norwegian (www.ncl.com) all sail here.
September: Greece It’s still hot and sunny on sexy Mykonos and picturesque Santorini, so pack your swimsuits and simply relax beside a clifftop pool as you surrender to the endless blue-and-white view. Island hop – also consider Crete and Corfu – before ending in Athens with a pre-sunset climb up to the Acropolis for a sweeping city panorama.
October: India The monsoons have ended and tiger season has begun, so it’s the perfect time to experience the vibrant majesty of historic Rajasthan. A great 10-day itinerary starts in New Delhi and takes you to Udaipur (stunning lakes and palaces), Jaipur (massive fortresses and palaces) and Ranthambore National Park (tiger safaris), before ending in Agra at India’s must-see romantic monument, the Taj Mahal (shown at left).
November: Napa Valley The grapes have been picked so the crowds have dispersed, but daytime temperatures still reach the mid-60s and the heaviest rains have yet to hit. There are plenty of wine-centric diversions (not to mention spas) to be enjoyed in towns like Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga and you can begin or end with a stay in eternally romantic San Francisco.
December: The Caribbean One of this region’s best-kept secrets is that hotel rates generally remain at or near their off-season lows until just before Christmas, making early December a great time to snag a deal. Foodies should consider Anguilla or Barbados. Water-lovers should think about Grand Cayman, Turks & Caicos, the Bahamas or the British Virgin Islands (shown at right). Nightlife types should look into Puerto Rico or Aruba. And nature lovers should check out St. Lucia or Jamaica.
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