Great Honeymoom Destinations

>> April 9, 2010

Kauai, HI

HELICOPTER TOURS
Soar over the Na Pali coastline, into Waimea Canyon (the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific") and alongside the Jurassic Park waterfall. Two companies that get rave reviews are Inter-Island Helicopters (Tel: 800-656-5009, interislandhelicopters.com) and Air Kauai Helicopters (Tel: 800-972-4666, airkauai.com).

SEA TOURS
Another way to explore the dramatic Na Pali coast is by boat. Tours leave for a several-hour cruise of the coastline, showing off hidden beaches and caves and usually stopping for snorkeling. Na Pali Catamarans (Tel: 808-826-6853, napalicatamaran.com) is a good bet because it leaves from Hanalei, close to the Na Pali shore.

HIKING
Kauai has dozens of first-rate hikes—through jungles, over cliffs, and along beaches—but the Kalalau Trail is the most rewarding of them all. The 11-mile trail extends from the end of the road on the north side of the island, but you can only do the first two miles without a camping permit. Every bit of the trail snakes in and out of the woods along the Na Pali cliffs, making for spectacular vistas and great spots to catch your breath and smooch while taking it all in.

KAYAKING
Honeymooners with energy to burn can take paddles in hand and explore Kauai with their own two arms. There are two main kayaking adventures: on the rivers or on the ocean. River kayaking is a bit easier, and you can feel intrepid without being sore for days. Kayaking up the Na Pali coast is stunning, but it’s serious work and is best done with a night of camping in the middle. Outfitters Kauai (Tel: 808-742-9667, outfitterskauai) has river- and ocean-guided trips.

Wine Country, CA

Among the reasons the Wine Country is ideal for a honeymoon is that unlike such places as Paris or Florence there are no must-dos or must-sees. But there are plenty of options for wine lovers, gourmands, outdoorsy types and even lazybones. Your concierge can help you shape your itinerary. Every resort has special relationships with local businesses that offer activities like hang gliding, hot-air balloon rides or horseback riding. Hiking and biking trails abound as well. And of course you can always stay at your lodgings and swim laps, take a yoga class or get a facial. After you’ve paid your exercise dues, hire a town car through your trusty concierge and visit some wineries (see our suggestions below).

ARTESA VINEYARDS & WINERY
1345 Henry Rd.
Napa
Tel: 707-224-1668
artesawinery.com

This winery used to produce sparkling wines based on parent company Cordoníu’s Spanish varieties. Now, after a modern face-lift and addition of sculpture and paintings by local artist Gordon Heuther, the winery sells primarily still wines, striking out in areas other wineries in the region don’t touch. The Carneros District, whose rolling hills you can see from the hilltop perch at Artesa, is perfect for pinot noir and chardonnay, but the winery also makes wonderful sauvignon blanc, albarino and tempranillo. You can try them all while gazing out at the gorgeous views. Don’t try to get married here, though. It's been said that a bride showed up once in full regalia and had to be turned away.

COPIA
500 First St.
Napa
Tel: 888-512-6742
copia.org

This food-lovers mecca in downtown Napa has so many things to offer it seems the folks running it never want you to leave. You can wander through the organic herb-producing Edible Gardens ornamental, watch cooking demonstrations, join a wine-tasting group or eat lunch at Julia’s Kitchen (named for Ms. Child, of course). Copia—its full title is Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts—is a foodie church, and events have been developed to celebrate every occasion, season and holiday. Yes, you can get married in the garden—even if you are inviting a thousand people.

THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA
2555 Main St.
St. Helena
Tel: 707-967-1200
ciachef.edu/visitors/gs

The other C.I.A. This one offers cooking demonstrations, tasty meals and a fetching terrace on which to linger and decide what to do next. Check the Web site for upcoming classes, but you even can learn a thing or two just stopping for lunch or dinner: The kitchen is open, and it’s better than the Food Network because the cooks are right there making your meal. The menu usually includes some classics, such as French onion soup and cioppino as starters, roasted chicken or day-boat scallops for main courses and crème brulée for dessert. The huge stone building is impressive, and the service is superb.

DEL DOTTO VINEYARDS
Del Dotto Caves
1055 Atlas Peak Rd.
Napa
Tel: 707-256-3332

Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves
1445 St. Helena Highway
St. Helena
Tel: 707-963-2134
deldottovineyards.com

If you want to taste wine amid marble columns, Venetian chandeliers and vaulted ceilings, visit the new bar at this over-the-top winery. Make a reservation for a private visit to the caves, hand-dug in 1885, where you can taste from the barrels and nibble on Parmesan. There is nothing else like this in the Napa Valley—or anywhere for that matter. The estate's grand entry hall can be rented for private parties, if you have the wardrobe to match it.

DI ROSA PRESERVE: ARTS & NATURE
5200 Carneros Highway
Napa
Tel: 707-226-5991
dirosapreserve.org

Of several noteworthy places to view art in the Wine Country (see also Artesa, above, and the Hess Collection, below), this is perhaps the most stunning. Rene di Rosa was a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper before he decided to move to the country and buy several hundred acres of Carneros land. He grew grapes for a few decades, but after selling his vines to Seagram he concentrated on collecting contemporary works by Northern California artists. Stop by anytime to visit the large Gatehouse Gallery, but you can only see the full—wildly diverse—permanent collection on guided tours for which reservations are required on Saturdays and recommended during the week. Guides also conduct nature walks through the 121-acre preserve, which is across from Domaine Carneros (see below).

DON'T CALL IT CHAMPAGNE

Though they can’t call it champagne, many California sparkling-wine makers use the classic methode champenoise. Two palatial stops in the Sonoma Valley are Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyard (23555 Carneros Highway, Sonoma; 707-996-7256; gloriaferrer.com), one of the few wineries that hosts weddings, and J Vineyards and Winery (11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg; 707-431-3646; jwine.com) known for its J Sparkling Brut. The venerable French house of Moët & Chandon branched out to the Napa Valley with its Domaine Chandon (1 California Dr., Yountville; 707-944-2280; chandon.com). The outdoor tables look out over a lawn and huge oak trees. Equally pretty views can be had from the striking château of Domaine Carneros (1240 Duhig Rd., Napa; 707-257-3020; domainecarneros.com), the domestic partner of France's Taittinger champagne house.

GRGICH HILLS ESTATE
1829 St. Helena Highway
Rutherford
Tel: 707-963-2784
grgich.com

While working at another Napa Valley winery in the mid-1970s, Croatian-born winemaker Mike Grgich gained international attention at a now-notorious Paris tasting session when his chardonnay received a higher rating than all the competing French white burgundies. Shortly thereafter, he started his own winery, whose wines are simple, clean and consistent. His chardonnay doesn’t undergo the malolactic fermentation that creates the butter and oak notes that have been so popular for so long. Instead, you taste the fruit and its natural acidity in a well-balanced blend. Come to the unpretentious tasting room for a bit of the Wine Country the way it used to be, with the added benefit that Grgich is now following the wonderful trend in California of growing his grapes biodynamically and organically.

THE HESS COLLECTION WINERY
4411 Redwood Rd.
Napa
Tel: 707-255-1144
hesscollection.com

Hess is among the Wine Country's best art-winery combinations. Its founder, Donald Hess, was a bottled-mineral-water mogul in Switzerland who came to the valley to extend his empire in the 1970s. The United States wasn’t ready for his product, so he made wine instead. And he started collecting work by contemporary artists. Hess' taste is world-class. You can visit his winery and tour rooms filled with works by Francis Bacon, Frank Stella, Anselm Kiefer and Andy Goldsworthy. Don’t miss Hommage (a.k.a. the burning typewriter) by Leopoldo Maler. Then visit the tasting room and try the estate wines made from varietals including malbec, syrah and viognier. Hess is seven miles off the main highway, but it’s a swell escape and the grounds are tree-filled and serene.

JOSEPH PHELPS VINEYARDS
200 Taplin Rd.
St. Helena
Tel: 707-963-2745
jpvwines.com

Phelps, a construction engineer who became a winemaker in 1972, has kept many of the bottles he’s enjoyed. When you are in the tasting room off the Silverado Trail overlooking the soft, gorgeous Spring Valley and the vineyards and mountains to the west, look up and imagine all the stories behind the bottles on the ledge near the ceiling. Then try the wines. Phelps is known for cabernet and two blends: insignia (cabernet, merlot, petite verdot and malbec) and le mistral (made from Rhone varietals). The winery also produces a syrah and a viognier. Tours and tastings are by appointment only; if you are a member of Phelps wine club you can call to book the picnic table.

RUBICON ESTATE
1991 St. Helena Highway
Rutherford
Tel: 707-968-1100
rubiconestate.com

Francis Ford Coppola doesn’t just make movies. He also makes wine and markets products at his winery that include olive oil, pasta, ceramics and everything else you need to take a bit of the Coppola vision home with you. For $25 you get a three-day pass to Rubicon Estate (known until recently as Niebaum-Coppola) and a wine tasting. You can also request free entry to visit just the store area or the cafe. The grounds are exquisitely maintained, with well-landscaped trees, gravel paths and the centerpiece: the vine-covered château that dates from the late 1800s. The upstairs has historical artifacts that tell the story of the estate’s founder, Gustave Niebaum, and there are artifacts and antiques related to filmmaking.

Riviera Maya

EXPERIENCE PYRAMID POWER
About an hour inland and harder to reach, Cobá was a much larger, more important city than Tulum; some 50,000 people are estimated to have lived here. Though it's now largely overtaken by jungle, Cobá is worth visiting for its main pyramid, Nohuch Mul, the highest in the region and providing wonderful views. Because the site is so large, bicycles are available for rent. They're pretty rickety, though, and the pathways between the structures are rutted, so you're better off walking. Wear sturdy shoes.


GET ADVENTUROUS
There are plenty of ways to get your adrenalin pumping north of Tulum at Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park (Highway 307; 52-984-877-8535; hiddenworlds.com), but the most unusual one is the SkyCycle Canopy Adventure. Strapped into a tricycle-like contraption, you pedal along cables strung on jungle treetops before descending, donning a snorkel, dipping into a sinkhole and then reboarding your device. One of the unadvertised adventures is bumping through the jungle along an unpaved road to get to the launching area. Not for those with a fear of heights (or unpaved roads) but a wonderful combination of sensations. Other options include rappelling, zip-line grabbing and otherwise defying gravity. See also Alltournative Off Track Adventures in the Go Off-Track section, below.

GET WET
The Great Maya Reef, a coral extravaganza second in size only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, lies off the coast, and a unique underground river system flows beneath the land, creating a honeycomb of underwater caverns and cenotes, limestone sinkholes created by erosion. The cenotes were sacred to the Mayans—not only were they a source of fresh water, but when shafts of sunlight from the surface illuminate the huge stalactites and stalagmites, they also look magical. These days they help make the Riviera Maya a magnet for water-sports enthusiasts, especially divers. You must be specifically certified for cenote diving—for those already PADI certified, a one-day course, offered by many local outfitters, will usually qualify you—but snorkeling in these cool pools is equally rewarding.

GO BIOSPHERIC
Don't miss the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (Highway 307, Riviera Maya mainland, south of Tulum Village, Tulum Avenue between Beta and Osiris Streets, Tulum Town), which was designated Mexico's first UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. Hike through the forests, kayak on the lagoons and explore the reserve's small Mayan ruins. Its tropical forest, grasslands, wetlands and offshore waters are home to a vast array of wildlife—more than 330 types of birds, as well as such endangered species as jaguar, puma, tapir, manatee and marsh crocodile, so bring along binoculars. A group like Centro Ecologico Sian Ka'an (52-984-871-0522; cesiak.org) can arrange all necessary transportation and equipment.

GO OFF-TRACK
Alltournative Off Track Adventures (800-507-1092, 52-984-803-9999; alltournative.com) follows up a guided tour of Cobá with a visit to a contemporary Mayan village. This involves walking through a jungle to learn about local flora and fauna, grabbing a zip line and hurtling over a cenote or rappelling into one. Depending on your trip, you'll dine on traditional Mayan cuisine before or after your adventure.
LEARN

Get a head start on married life at Los Dos Cooking School (52-999-928-116; info@los-dos.com; los-dos.com), which offers culinary classes and conducts excursions designed to teach you how to prepare your favorite Yucatán dishes at home. The classes are held in the colonial city of Mérida, an excellent base for visiting major Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza, but it takes four or five hours to drive there from most Riviera Maya locations. Plan on an overnight stay, minimum, if you're interested in this tasty course.

RELIVE THE MAYAN ERA (PAST AND PRESENT)
Whether you're interested in history, aquatics, archeology, botanics or shopping, you'll find something to like at Xcaret (Puerto Juárez Highway, Kilometer 282, Chetumal; 52-984-871-5200; xcaret.com), part theme park, part natural attraction, all very well done. The many activities that take place include snorkeling in an underground river, swimming with dolphins (reservations required), scuba diving, strolling expansive gardens and visiting (real) Mayan ruins and a (fake) Mayan village with a colorful crafts market. The evening cultural show is one of the best of its kind, with lots of dancing, acrobatics and chanting. Especially impressive are the Papantla Flyers, who whirl around a very tall pole, and the scantily clad men who play an ancient ball game called pok-ta-pok.

STRIKE A POSE
Say om: When in Tulum, stretch your muscles and quiet your mind. There is no shortage of yoga studios in the area, but we recommend the classes at Maya Tulum (888-515-4580; mayatulum.com), as they are often led by some of the best practitioners in the field. Yoga is offered twice a day for $12 per class.

SWEAT
Several resorts on the Riviera Maya feature temezcals, sweat huts used in pre-Columbian ceremonies. The ritual involves sitting in total darkness with one or more people, including a spirit guide or shaman, and then dipping into the sea after you've sweated—and bonded—sufficiently. Cherie Blair, the wife of the former British prime minister, took a lot of heat for venturing into a temezcal on the Riviera Maya a few years ago—it was considered a bit too woo-woo. But if you're not in public life, group perspiration can be cool. Spa Itzá in Playa del Carmen (5th Avenue and 12th Street; 52-984-803-2588; spaitza.com) supplies its own version of the temezcal called a vapor lodge—perfect for detoxing after a night of over-imbibing.

VISIT THE RUINS OF TULUM
Tulum is Mexico's most-visited ruin, both because of its beauty—it's perched high on a limestone cliff, its brooding gray walls poised dramatically against the azure Caribbean—and because of its proximity to Cancún, some two hours away by car (Playa del Carmen is less than an hour's drive away). Highlights include the two-story Temple of the Frescoes, depicting the world of the Mayans in a series of faded wall paintings. Just beyond it, at the edge of a 40-foot cliff, the Castillo is the tallest, most impressive building on the site; it may have functioned as a watchtower. To avoid the tourist crush and the high-noon sun, plan an early-morning or late-afternoon visit.

Turks and Caicos

BEACH-BUMMING
There are a whole lot of sandy stretches to choose from on these 40 isles. The international diva, of course, is Provo’s Grace Bay Beach, with its 12 miles of cake-flourlike sand lined with fancy resorts—though it never feels too crowded. (It was named after Grace Hutchings, an early settler who spent her honeymoon here in 1892.) If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a secluded castaway vibe, you’ll want to head to Long Bay Beach on the southeast coast, Malcolm Beach near Amanyara at Northwest Point or the mid-south coast’s Cooper Jack Bight and Turtle Tail. You’ll find good snorkeling off the sands at Smith’s Reef, Coral Gardens and Treasure Beach, on the other side of Turtle Cove from Grace Bay. Off Provo, castaway is the norm, as at Half Moon Bay in North Caicos, Mudjin Harbour in Middle Caicos and Grand Turk’s Pillory Beach and White Sands Beach.

UNDAH DA SEA
As a local T-shirt puts it, "This is a small drinking island with a diving problem." Well, there certainly are amazing dive sites throughout the TCI, particularly off Grand Turk (such as the spectacular walls in the Columbus Landfall National Park) and Salt Cay (great reefs and the 1790 wreck of HMS Endymion). Provo has a 6,900-foot vertical drop off Northwest Point, and Middle Caicos the biggest cave network in the Caribbean. Dive Provo (649-946-5029, 800-234-7768; diveprovo.com) can show you around and provide certification courses. Even if you don’t dive, there’s plenty of excellent snorkeling, especially at Smith’s Reef, Bight Reef and Coral Gardens; you can also try SNUBA (no certification needed) at Windsong Resort (649-241-7010; snubaturksandcaicos.com). Don’t want to get wet? Provo’s Reef Peepers (649-941-8605; reefpeepers.com) runs glass-bottom boat trips, and Undersea Explorer (649-231-0006; caicostours.com) offers a semi-submarine jaunt.

SAIL AWAY, SAIL AWAY
Throughout this boaters’ bonanza, plenty of sailing outfits offer a huge variety of options: snorkeling, picnic, or sunset cruises, around Provo or out to the many cays and beaches of TCI. A number of them will pick you up at your hotel. One of the best is Sail Provo (649-946-4783, 649-231-6178; sailprovo.com), which features an excursion to see the incredible mating ritual of the marine glow worm Odontosyllis, which lights up the sea spectacularly. Other good ’uns include Catch the Wave Charters (649-941-3047), Kenard Cruises (649-232-3866; kenardcruises.com) and Sun Charters (649-231-0624; suncharters.tc). For something a little more private, call Beluga (649-946-4396; sailbeluga.com).

A PINCH O’ PAMPERING
Far from all the resorts on Provo have spas, of course; if you’re really rarin’ for a rubdown, it’s Spa Tropique (649-231-6938; spatropique.com) to the rescue. Recovering New Yorker Meryl Cooper and her staff are now soothing and coddling other refugees in her cozy three-treatment-room day spa on the upper floor of a little Grace Bay shopping plaza called Ports of Call, along with outposts at Ocean Club, Ocean Club West and the Sands. (And their mobile server is happy to make house calls.) The Caribbean Coma package provides reflexology, hot stones, a European deep-cleansing facial and a full scalp massage—though you can also just grab a salt scrub or seaweed wrap. And you can pick up some of their very own Body Tropique salt scrub, foot scrub or aromatherapy to go.

CATCH CONCH FEVER
You’ve spotted this mighty mollusk on menus all over the island; wanna get to the bottom of what this conch business is all about? At Provo’s eastern end, Leeward, the staff of the Caicos Conch Farm (649-946-5643; caicosconchfarm.com) will show you how they raise the more than 5 million Queen conchs they supply to top island establishments like Amanyara and Bay Bistro: in trays, tanks, ponds, and (underwater) pastures. Founded in 1984 by a Navy engineer from Mystic, Conn., who got shipwrecked down here and never left (you can still eyeball his boat), it’s quite an operation. One of the highlights is a visit with Sally and Jerry, a pair of "trained" conchs. (You’ll just have to see for yourself.) There is, of course, also a gift shop (see Shop).

IT’S A GRAND OLD TURK
OK, "grand" may be pushing it, but to catch a slice of the Old Caribbean (not to mention what the Turks and Caicos are like outside the somewhat rarefied vacation isle of Providenciales), hop a puddle-jumper or a ferry over to the smaller island of Grand Turk (turksandcaicostourism.com/go/en/grand-turk.html) and the TCI’s sleepy capital, Cockburn Town (pop. 3,700). This handful of streets filled lined with ramshackle historical buildings is visited mostly by divers and day-trippers from the cruise ships that now call regularly. There are some shops and restaurants with local color, plus the prefab new cruise-ship center (see Shop) and a handful of appealing guesthouses (see Sleep). The small Turks and Caicos National Museum (Front Street, 649-946-2160; tcmuseum.org) is definitely worth a look for its shipwreck and Lucayan artifacts, historic photos and material relating to the U.S. space program (no joke—John Glenn splashed down near here).

GET REALLY SALTY
If you have to choose just one puddle-jump from Provo, you might be even more interested in Salt Cay (saltcay.org), a 2 1/2-square-mile UNESCO World Heritage Site (and a Turk, not a Caicos, by the way). It was once the hub of the salt industry and the de facto capital of these islands; now only about 65 people live in the picturesque stucco cottages among abandoned salt flats, vine-covered dunes, acacias, casuarina pines and palms—and 100-plus wild donkeys. You can lunch at Island Thyme Bistro (except on Wednesdays) or the Green Flash Café at Deane's Dock, have a look at the 18th-century church in Balfourtown, hike, take a dip and scuba or snorkel. Pick up a self-guided tour brochure from any island business.

ADD TO YOUR CAY COLLECTION

If you’re sports/adventure/nature enthusiasts or simply intrigued by some of the other island getaways, there are weeks’ worth of possibilities throughout these islands—some with tiny populations, others with none—sprawled across 93 square miles. The largest, rugged Middle Caicos, has a frigate bird sanctuary, craggy cliffs and really cool caves (the Caribbean’s largest system), which you can visit. Plus, of course, fab beaches. On the so-called Garden Island of North Caicos you’ll find Kew, the TCI’s best-preserved plantation, and colonies of pink flamingos, among many other birds. Tiny Little Water Cay’s specialty is thousands upon thousands of rock iguanas. South Caicos and West Caicos boast bodacious wall diving and boffo birding—and in West Caicos, the Ritz-Carlton Molasses Reef is slated to open in late 2008.

FAB FESTIVALS
The TCI doesn’t do Carnival or Junkanoo like other Caribbean islands—things tend to be more low-key. But a couple of festivals dreamed up just a few years ago have really caught on. November ’08 marks the fifth year of the Conch Festival (conchfestival.com), when local chefs compete for the best dish, while belongers compete in conch knocking, skinning and blowing. There are also a treasure hunt and a sloop race—and did we mention there’s a lot of drinking? The day before is the Lobster Fest, which also involves a dance contest and a beach party. In late July and early August comes the Turks and Caicos Music and Cultural Festival (musicfestival.tc), also launched in 2003 and held at Turtle Cove Marina, during which local bands mix with such international stars as Ashanti, Jeffrey Osborne, Gregory Isaacs, Shaggy, the Haitian dance band Tabou Combo and BeBe Winans.

{information about locations pulled from Brides.com}

1 thoughts:

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