It's cold and dreary outside. The mania of gift-buying season is bearing down upon you. Extended family is starting to circle like vultures. The holiday season can be overwhelming. Though it's often merry and bright, the holidays can also leave you exhausted. So when the last gift is unwrapped, you've kissed your mother-in-law good-bye, and you're ready to collapse in your easy chair, know that the folks here at Frommer's understand. We encourage you to sneak away, just you and your loved one, for some sorely needed rest and relaxation. What better time to begin planning a romantic escape for Valentine's Day? We asked our local romance experts (aka our editors) to tell us their favorite romantic getaways spots. Here's what they had to say.
Getting Cozy at the Lodge at Torrey Pines, Southern California
Picture this: The warm glow from a gas-log fireplace fills your room, which is decked with a leather chaise, Tiffany lamps, and California-inspired paintings. These Craftsman-style accommodations feel at once regal and cozy, elegantly accentuated with wood and dark hues. Below your window are a pool and the 18th hole of a world-renowned golf course -- impossibly green and immaculate with the Pacific Ocean rolling behind it. You're in Southern California, but worlds away from the glitz that often marks the region.
The 170-room Lodge at Torrey Pines (tel. 858/453-4420; www.lodgetorreypines.com; doubles from $575), 15 miles north of San Diego, is ideal for a romantic getaway. Sign up for a couples massage at the Lodge's 9,500-square-foot spa or take in the stark beauty of the nearby Torrey Pines State Reserve. Dine in the resort's signature restaurant, A.R. Valentine, or let the helpful concierge point you to the superb Marine Room (www.marineroom.com), where waves wash against the windows and the food's as good as the view. Couples can tee off at the Torrey Pines Golf Course (www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com), site of the 2008 U.S. Open. Others will opt to spend a day in "America's Finest City," San Diego -- perhaps exploring the museums and grounds of lush Balboa Park or renting a sailboat in Mission Bay (www.aboutmissionbay.com). Of course, you'll want to save some time for the area's pristine, cliff-flanked beaches. You'll encounter the country's finest weather here -- sunny with mild temperatures -- which provides a welcome respite for those who've had their fill of the snow. Offering everything from natural beauty to refined elegance, cozy isolation to nearby urban culture, the Lodge at Torrey Pines is a haven for couples wanting to stoke the flames of their romance. The gas-log fireplace helps, too! -- Matthew Brown
Off-Season Romance in Boston
Boston is beautiful any time of year, but a mid-winter getaway to the historical city can be an extra-special trip. With the annual throngs of tourists usually not arriving until March or April, Boston in wintertime can be a magical, cozy place. With or without snow on the ground, the crisp, cold air; the exquisite architecture and storied buildings; the beautiful neighborhoods and public spaces; and the old city charm provide a singular backdrop against which to smooch, snuggle, or otherwise canoodle with your loved one.
Book a room at the Nine Zero hotel (tel. 866/906-9090; www.ninezero.com; doubles from $295), where comfort and service abound. Rooms are spacious, the linens are heavenly soft, and the bathroom toiletries are top of the line. The afternoon wine reception in the lobby is sure to kick off your evening on a festive note. Another fabulous hotel option, and ideal for kicking the romance and sophistication up a notch, is Fifteen Beacon (tel. 877/XV-BEACON; www.xvbeacon.com; doubles from $395). The boutique hotel doesn't skimp on a thing. From the free Lexus car service offered to all guests to the deliciously comfortable beds and luxuriously appointed rooms, the hotel will certainly help you pitch your woo.
Spend your days wandering the city's unique neighborhoods. The North End, the city's famous old Italian neighborhood, is one of my favorites. It has plenty of shops and delicious restaurants to investigate. Stroll through its picturesque streets, stumble upon the Old North Church or Paul Revere's house, then duck into a small cafe on Hanover Street for a cappuccino and a freshly baked pastry treat. If upscale shopping is more your cup of tea, head for Newbury Street, just off the beautiful Boston Common and Public Gardens, where you're sure to find something to remember your trip by. Or perhaps you want to soak in some hallowed history while you're in town. Hop the T (Boston's public transit) or take a cab over the Charles River to Cambridge, where you can stroll the grounds of Harvard University and its neighboring laid-back college neighborhood. No matter how you choose to spend your time in Boston, you're sure to come across something unique and charming around every corner. Hold tight to your beloved, and discover this romantic city together.
Honeymooning in Patagonia
I haven't even been to my favorite romantic getaway yet, but I've fallen in love with it already.
When I was recently deciding where to take the ultimate romantic trip -- my honeymoon -- Patagonia immediately stood out. Described in Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia as "a vast, vague territory that encompasses 900,000 square kilometers of Argentina and Chile," this region offers an amazing topographical range. From the granite peaks of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine to the region's flat pampas and emerald fjords, Patagonia's geography is varied and famously stunning. There, my husband-to-be and I will get to do outdoorsy things such as camping and horseback riding, as well as touring glaciers and spotting penguins. We'll also have a number of lush resorts on hand, such as Hotel Explora Salto Chico (tel. 22/066060; www.explora.com), where we can simply relax and soak in the amazing surroundings.
Ultimately, Patagonia seems like a perfect place for my fiancé and I to check out what Frommer's South America calls "the world's most beautiful natural attractions," while avoiding the crowds of top honeymoon spots like Hawaii. I can't think of anything more romantic than that.
For info on Patagonia, visit www.patagonias.net or read the Frommer's guides to Argentina, Chile, or South America. --Jennifer Reilly
Romantic Adventure, Indy Style: Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Indiana Jones always got the girl. It's possible it was the chiseled jaw and bullwhip, but I like to think Indy just knew how to show a lady a good time. His romantic getaways were usually bejungled and dangerous, and to a mysterious, ancient place. The ruins of the 12th-century Khmer capital of Angkor, Cambodia, meet all of Indy's criteria.
The best way to experience Angkor Wat is to fly into Siem Reap, the French-colonial town to the south that acts as a gateway to the ruins. Siem Reap has experienced a spike in tourism lately, so a wide range of hotels and restaurants are present, particularly around the Old Market area. For a truly romantic and luxurious experience, book well ahead at The One Hotel (tel. 012/755-311; www.theonehotelangkor.com); as its name indicates, there's only one suite, so you'll get the undivided attention of the staff. Dr. Jones liked to rough it, but he probably never had the option of a private rooftop Jacuzzi, outdoor shower, and private chef. For a more economical stay, try the Auberge Mont Royal D'Angkor (tel. 063/964-044; www.auberge-mont-royal.com), a boutique inn with an excellent restaurant and pool. If you end up venturing out for a meal, you'll have to decide between French, Vietnamese, Thai, traditional Cambodian, and a whole host of other food choices. I'd check out Madam Butterfly (tel. 016/909-607) for traditional Khmer fare by candlelight.
Of course, the ruins are the main attraction here; plan to spend at least 4 days wandering through the jungle. Watching the sunrise from Angkor Wat, the single largest religious structure in the world, is a popular activity, but the object of your affection won't even notice the other tourists when the red sun clears the moat. Angkor Thom, the Bayon, and Preah Khan are also staggeringly magnificent, and there are more than a thousand other structures in the forest, so you and your sweetheart can conveniently get lost. There are no velvet ropes, no liability waivers, and no one to see you sneak away for moment here and there. -- Emil Ross
Rainforest Romance in Costa Rica
On a recent hike around Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano, my guide, Jose of Costa Rica Wonderland (tel. 506/479-7676; www.costaricawonderland.com), compared the conical structure to a woman -- fiery and unpredictable. Sounds like the perfect backdrop for a memorable trip full of passion with your loved one.
The volcano offers a gorgeous spot to pop the question (though you have to work a bit to get there). A 1-mile hike takes you through both light and lush greenery before bringing you to the remnants of the volcano's last big eruption in 1992. The lava here is rock (so getting down on one knee might hurt a bit), but once you climb your way up the massive pile, you're rewarded with a spectacular 360-degree view that encompasses the volcano, Arenal National Park, and Lake Arenal.
There's not a more romantic place to stay in the area than Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort (tel. 877/277-8291 toll-free U.S. and Canada, or 506/519-1900; www.tabacon.com), known for its natural thermal springs, award-winning Grand Spa, and luxurious ambience and amenities. Reserve a Deluxe Forest room for its terrace with rainforest views and the giant mosaic-tile Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. After you've spent the earlier part of the day hiking around the volcano, book an early evening treatment at the spa, where all treatments are done in private outdoor bungalows. The Idyllic Massage ($180 per person, 105 min) is intended for couples, and combines a Swedish massage, a hydrating milk-and-fruit face mask, and detoxifying volcanic mud foot mask. After you've both been kneaded and rubbed, spend 25 minutes in the bungalow's private Jacuzzi sipping on sparkling wine and nibbling on fresh fruit and chocolate under the rainforest canopy.
Couples looking for a different spin on dinner for two can arrange a Gala Dinner in a private bungalow ($300) set amongst the resort's botanical gardens and surrounded by rainforest foliage. The mood is set with rose petals, candles, music, and wine, and a personal waiter and chef (request Carlos and Francisco) ensure that the only thing you have to worry about is your dining companion. If all this isn't enough to make you melt, the Chocolate Trio dessert -- a chocolate cupcake filled with warm chocolate and served with vanilla ice cream -- surely will. -- Anuja Madar
The Best of All Worlds in Vancouver & Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
The problem with a romantic getaway is that it requires two people. You probably have a hard enough time deciding where to go for dinner with your would-be getaway partner, let alone choosing a vacation destination. You like fine dining, hustle and bustle, and dreamy cityscapes; your partner loves flowers, fireplaces, and the seashore. A great compromise might be a trip to Vancouver and Victoria, two cities fewer than 80 miles apart (as the crow flies), which can be easily combined in one trip. Metro Vancouver is Canada's third-largest city, and a mecca for foodies and fashionistas; Victoria is a well-preserved British colonial city, complete with gardens and cobblestone streets.
Start your trip in Vancouver, the gem of Canada's west coast. Avoid the city's tourist traps and get straight to its romantic core. Fill your shopping bags with local produce, fresh pastries, and handmade jewelry on a trip to Granville Island; submit to the whims of Canada's greatest chefs, perhaps at Lumière (2551 W. Broadway; tel. 604/739-8185; www.lumiere.ca) for French food, or at Tojo's (1133 W. Broadway; tel. 604/872-8050; www.tojos.com) for sushi; and take an evening stroll past glittering glass high-rises and luxury yachts along the seafront promenade.
In Victoria, you'll trade those glass skyscrapers for Old World architecture and blooming flowers. Explore the award-winning Butchart Gardens (800 Benvenuto Ave; tel. 866/652-4422; www.butchartgardens.com), or perhaps visit the Abkhazi Gardens (1964 Fairfield Rd.; tel. 250/598-8096; www.conservancy.bc.ca), founded by a loving couple who reunited after being jailed in prisoner of war camps during World War II. Enjoy a hike along rugged coastline and keep an eye out for bald eagles, porpoises, and orcas; and end each day in front of a private fireplace or in a soaker tub in any one of the suites at the decadent Villa Marco Polo Inn (1524 Shasta Pl.; tel. 250/370-1524; www.villamarcopolo.com). -- Melinda Quintero
Long Walks on the Beach in the Bahamas
Are you looking for some serious alone time with the one you love? The Bahamas' Out Islands of Exuma and Eleuthera get my vote for the perfect romantic getaway. Head to Exuma, a long chain consisting of 365 islands, the vast majority of which are uninhabited. You can charter a boat from the capital of George Town (try Off Island Adventures, at www.offislandadventures.com) and have them drop you off at a secluded cay -- now you can spend the day at your own private beach. Some of the cays are little more than a long stretch of sandbar; the setting is completely peaceful and isolated -- you're surrounded by clear water as far as the eye can see.
If you're looking for a more luxurious retreat, try Eleuthera. This 110-mile long fishing island is famous for its lovely pink sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, and sheltered coves. Eleuthera, a former exclusive retreat that's been off the radar for many years, has been bouncing back with new resorts. One romantic place is the Cove at Eleuthera (tel. 800/552-5960; www.thecoveeleuthera.com), where you can stay in a spacious, private bungalow that opens up onto a pink-sand beach. While Exuma and Eleuthera may feel like they're in another world, they're both easy to reach from the U.S.: With direct flights from Miami and Atlanta, a long weekend escape isn't out of the question. I've never subscribed to the long-walks-on-the-beach mentality, but after visiting the Bahamas, I'd happily partake in that romantic cliché any day. Â? Jamie Ehrlich
Romance and Pie in Rockland, Maine
Windswept promontories, the sound of waves crashing, Victorian mansions, and...pie. Lots of pie. My loved one and I found all of the above to be quite romantic (and delicious) on a recent trip to Rockland, Maine. About a 90-minute drive north of Portland, Rockland is a town of about 5,000 on the rocky coast of the Penobscot Bay. We were happy to discover Rockland -- home of cozy B&Bs, an outstanding regional art museum, and more fine restaurants than you often find in a town many times its size. We took to the Berry Manor Inn, (81 Talbot Ave., tel. 800/774-5692; www.berrymanorinn.com) for both its romantic charm and its sense of humor. Owners Cheryl Michaelsen and Michael LaPosta (and their extended family) have created an ambience that's lush without being stuffy. There are full, soft beds in the suites; Jacuzzis; and dozens of singing and dancing hamster toys on the sideboard in the dining room. Michael, who dons a funny hat more often than not, passes through the common areas to make sure everyone is having a good time.
"The Moms," Michael and Cheryl's mothers, whose baked goods are a major attraction at Rockland's annual "Pies on Parade" festival, make sure that there is homemade pie available at all hours of the day and night. Help yourself to a slice in the kitchen if you're craving a late-night snack. However, it's hard to leave room for dessert. During our weekend in Rockland, we had dinner at one of New England's finest restaurants, chef Melissa Kelly's Primo -- a world-class restaurant in a restored Victorian home (tel. 207/596-0770; www.primorestaurant.com); and a couple of other contenders founded by a dedicated cadre of Culinary Institute of America grads, including chef Melody Wolfertz's In Good Company, an intimate wine bar and restaurant (415 Main Street; tel. 207/593-9110) and Dave Cook's Amalfi (tel. 206/596-0012), where the stunningly fresh seafood was a great base for the hearty Mediterranean flavors. We did more than eat and lounge in the Jacuzzi, though. We also got a dose of culture at the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center (16 Museum Street; tel. 207/596-6457; www.farnsworthmuseum.org) where the Wyeth collection has its own building, a converted church.
Pie, culture, and a romantic getaway made us note Rockland as a spot to return to again. -- Kathleen Warnock
Secluded Romance in Molokai, Hawaii
The romance of the Hawaiian Islands is hardly a secret, yet Molokai, Hawaii's fifth-largest island, remains virtually tourist-free. A little patience is required on the island whose informal motto is "Slow down: you're on Molokai," and the destination is surely not one for hardcore partiers or nightlife junkies. It's perfect, however, for honeymooners and romance seekers. The Lodge & Beach Village at Molokai Ranch (tel. 808/660-2824; www.molokairanch.com) lays claim to 65,000 acres (101.5 sq. miles) of the island's 166,400 acres (260 sq. miles). The eco-friendly Beach Village at Kaupoa Beach is best for those who like additional seclusion as well as a slightly more adventurous slant -- guests sleep in "tentalows," and the drive out to the grounds is long and bumpy -- leaving The Lodge to those more gregarious types who also enjoy extra amenities (pool, bar, restaurant, and so on).
Guests of either facility (and non-guests, for that matter) can enjoy a taste of the paniolo (cowboy) lifestyle with a ride around the ranch property. Another famous Molokai activity is taking a Molokai mule ride down the cliffs that descend into the village of Kalaupapa, still inhabited by some of the exiles who were sent there because they had Hansen's Disease (formerly known as leprosy), which was then incurable (don't worry, you're in no danger of catching it!). The journey is the real attraction here, with breathtaking views out over the sea, but the tiny town offers a few noteworthy sites related to Father Damien and the colony whose residents he heroically tended. In the main town of Kaunakakai, the Hotel Molokai (tel. 808/553-5347; www.hotelmolokai.com) offers a gorgeous beachfront dining patio: have a cocktail, watch the sunset, and, if you're lucky, enjoy some live Hawaiian music. -- Alexia Travaglini
Love, Spanish Style
A romantic destination is difficult to define. A wooden shack in the middle of nowhere could be romantic -- if you're with the right person. But, a little seaside air, rich history, and passionate culture can only help bolster the mood. Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, has all of the above.
La Rambla, the pedestrian center of the city, is constantly flowing with hand-holding couples. Flower stalls, cafes, and some of the most luxurious hotels in Barcelona line La Rambla. The Hotel Montecarlo (La Rambla, 124; tel. 93/412-04-04; www.montecarlobcn.com) offers quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of the street below. Each room has hydromassage baths that are large enough for two -- offering the perfect way to unwind from a full day of sight-seeing.
Wandering through the labyrinthine Barri Gotic, Barcelona's Gothic Quarter, is the perfect escape from the crowds on the Rambla. You never know what you might stumble upon while meandering through the narrow medieval streets; nearly every passage leads to an old church, courtyard, or square.
The salty beach air is utterly refreshing. The two main beaches are in Barceloneta: Platja Barceloneta and Platja St. Sebastia. Watch for surfers, bike-riders, and topless sunbathers -- even in October. For tapas and sangria right on the beach, head to Arenal (tel. 93/221-08-10; www.arenalrestaurant.com), which offers typical Catalan cuisine in a sleek, modern setting.
From Barceloneta, it is a short walk back toward the Ciutat Vella (Old City). Stroll along the pier, and through Port Vell (the old port), where you'll come across L'Aquarium de Barcelona (www.aquariumbcn.com) and Maremagnum, a large shopping center. The Duquesa de Cardona (tel. 866/376-7831; www.hduquesadecardona.com), located across from Port Vell, is one of the most romantic hotels in Barcelona. An elegant boutique hotel, it has a rooftop pool and terrace that overlooks the harbor. Try staying in a Junior Suite, which has two grand bathrooms (a "his" and a "hers").
Every neighborhood in Barcelona has a distinct flavor, and you can find romance in any of them. It is easy to fall in love in Barcelona. The city is infused with the passion of the Catalan people, and that passion can be contagious. -- Jennifer Polland
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