Your vows were exchanged, the bouquet was tossed, the wedding cake was shoved into your mouth and the eco-friendly bubbles were blown in place of the traditional rice throwing. Weddings are a whirlwind experience, and just making it through the whole experience in one piece is an accomplishment. Planning the big event typically starts a year out, but many brides have ideas in mind before “the question” is even popped. After dealing with testy wedding planners, unreliable caterers, family members in town and trying to fit into that dress or tuxedo, a honeymoon is a welcome getaway from what’s bound to be one of the most stressful events in your life.
There’s really no such thing as a typical honeymoon these days. Honeymooners come in all stripes, and just because it’s your first trip as a married couple doesn’t mean you have to be secluded on a tropical beach with a heart-shaped bed in your suite and champagne bubble baths every night. The modern traveler craves adventure and excitement as well, so it’s no surprise that 72 percent of honeymooners pay for extras like helicopter rides, scuba diving and other thrilling excursions, according to the popular wedding Web site, Theknot.com. Honeymoons aren’t cheap either. After plunking down an average of $28,000 for the big day, new couples spent an average of $3,400 in 2006 for a one-week trip [source: Forbes]. Modern Brides magazine polls 6,000 travel agents each year to compile their list of most popular honeymoon destinations. We’ll run down the top five of 2008 on the following pages.
If you want beautiful blue skies and sandy beaches, but crave a little history as well, then look no further than Greece for your honeymoon destination. Warm summers and mild winters combined with an average yearly rainfall of only 55 inches (1.39 meters) in Athens have made Greece a very popular choice for beachcombers who have been to the Caribbean one too many times [source: Greeka.com]. While you’re there, you can book boat trips and overnight stays to some of the Greek Islands like Crete or Mykonos, or tour historic Athens, home to the Roman Forum and the Acropolis. Even if you aren’t into sports, you’ll probably appreciate touring Olympia, site of the first Olympic Games.
If you’re into a more adventuresome trip, arrange for an ecotour. Biking and hiking trips are popular excursions, as is rock climbing. For a more relaxed activity, try a wine tour or take in some bird-watching. Greece is home to 11 wetlands and 190 bird-watching areas [source: Destination360.com]. If you want a more traditional trip and the ultimate in relaxation, you can still rent beach villas that are remote and far enough away from the tour buses and crowded beaches that you’ll feel like you’re in your own private world.
Mexico is a popular honeymoon spot for many Americans because of its proximity to the United States and the value it offers. Because of the location, plane flights to most destinations in Mexico can be had on the cheap with some advanced preparation. One advantage of a honeymoon is that it’s usually planned out months in advance so you can take advantage of the best fares. Mexico has some of the most popular resorts in Central America, so if your goal is to lie around by the pool or on the beach without lifting a finger, then it’s a good option to explore.
Americans also get a good value for their dollar in Mexico. There are expensive resorts in areas like Cabo San Lucas and Cancun, but you can also get off the beaten path in Tulum and stay in an eco-resort. Some of these eco-villages house honeymooners in small thatch huts with electricity only available during certain hours of the day. That may sound like roughing it for some, but in return, you get secluded lodgings with the ocean’s waves practically lapping at your screen door. Many of these eco-resorts also offer beach massages and excursions to swim in the warm springs or snorkel in some of Mexico’s amazing cenotes — underwater sinkholes popular with divers. Mexico is a varied country, so you can hit the beach, visit the interior jungles and mountains or if you want some nightlife, venture into Mexico City. The country’s capital city has five-star luxury accommodations, some of the best food on Earth and plenty of history to take in.
Nothing says luxury and relaxation quite like French Polynesia. During the dry season, which runs from April to September, you’ll encounter temperatures between 68 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit (20 and 28 Celsius), and it’s unlikely you’ll see much rain [source: Tahiti.com]. This makes Tahiti an ideal spot for honeymooners who want to enjoy maximum beach time. Like Greece, there are many surrounding islands if you want to plan an overnight boating trip. Bora Bora’s famous lagoon is home to some of the best snorkeling in the world.
One reason Tahiti is such a great destination for honeymooners is that it’s just far enough off the beaten path to make it less crowded than some of its island counterparts. Consider this — roughly 4.5 million tourists flock to the Hawaiian Islands each year, compared to a scant 200,000 in French Polynesia [source: Tahiti.net]. Tahitians are French citizens, with both French and Tahitian being spoken on the islands. Don’t worry, though. Tourism accounts for about one-quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), so you can bet you’ll hear plenty of English. If you go to Tahiti, you can most likely use your American dollar, or you can exchange it for the French Pacific Franc (CFP), which has a fixed-exchange rate with the Euro of 119.33 CFP. The exchange rate for the U.S. dollar varies, and as of April 2009 was 89 CFP per one dollar
Even before Hawaii was voted in as the 50th U.S. state in 1959, it was a popular vacation spot for regular folks and honeymooners alike. It held down the top spot in the Modern Brides magazine honeymoon destination poll for a solid decade until being unseeded in 2008. There are hundreds of islands that make up Hawaii over a 1,500-mile (2,400-kilometer) span in the Pacific Ocean, but the most popular three islands are Hawaii (The Big Island), O’ahu and Maui. Hawaii is home to a diverse ecosystem of jungles, mountains and beaches [source: 50states.com]. Like many of its island counterparts, you can have whatever kind of honeymoon you want in Hawaii. Luxurious resorts and beach villas can ensure five-star lodging and dining, or you can get off the tourist trail and rough it in an eco-resort.
Hawaii is also a great place to try out your more adventuresome side. Mountain biking, hiking, sea kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving, parasailing and volcano tours are just a few of the more popular excursions you can take part in on all of the islands. Hawaii is also home to some of the more scenic golf courses in the world, so both husband and wife can hit the links. And no honeymoon in Hawaii would be complete without attending a luau, a traditional Polynesian feast consisting of dance, Polynesian music and plenty of pork, poi and sweet potatoes — just a few traditional Hawaiian dishes.
As the popular Dean Martin song goes, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.” Honeymooners eager to take in some of Europe’s finest offerings need not look further than Italy. It’s got a little something for everyone — great food, wine, culture, nightlife, romance and history. Italy has enough cities of interest to merit a full few weeks to travel around, if time and your budget permits. You can start in Rome, site of the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, the Vatican and the Trevi Fountain. What’s more romantic for a newly-wedded couple than casting a coin and wish into the same fountain that Audrey Hepburn did in the classic film “Roman Holiday”? But that’s just one of more than 300 fountains in Rome .
If you really want romance, head up to Venice and take a canal ride in a gondola or tour the cobblestone streets and take in the architecture. If you or your bride is a fashionista, you may want to check out the shopping in Milan. If you want to get off the road most traveled, take the time to head south to the island of Sicily where you can stay in converted farmhouses and eat food that went from garden to table in a matter of hours. Tuscany is another good bet for honeymooners looking for some privacy in a stay at a secluded mountain villa. Art lovers can’t beat the museums of Florence, and you’re guaranteed to get great food and wine anywhere you travel across Italy. The people of Italy are warm and welcoming — just one of the many reasons it stands as the number one honeymoon spot.