peru: the inca combo
TOUCHDOWN: The magic begins in Cusco, an hour by air from Lima and once capital of the Inca Empire. Book into Inkaterra La Casona, a Relais & Chateaux property that occupies a 16th century manor house, originally built on the site of empire-founder Manco Capac and later home to prominent Spanish conquistadors. Located on a quiet plaza, the luxury boutique hotel’s rooms, lobby and restaurant—appointed with Inca artifacts and Spanish colonial style—encircle a beautiful courtyard. Each of the 11 suites features a different layout and size, yet all have amenities like TV, WiFi and heated floors in common. Catering to newlyweds, a 3-day Celebration package includes a celebration cake and champagne pack, a romantic dinner with wine, and one de-stress massage and foot therapy session per guest. With accommodations in a Suite Plaza room, the cost is $849 pp, including breakfast and a teatime spread.
NEXT: By rail, the couple will be wonder-bound to the mountaintop royal citadel of Machu Picchu, recently elected a New 7th Wonder of the World. Sitting in the foothills beneath South America’s top sightseeing attraction is the award-winning Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, which brings its honeymooning guests up-close and personal with the crown jewel of the Inca Empire. At the same time the luxury hotel provides free, daily guided nature tours on its 12 acres of Andean cloud forest—teaming with hummingbirds, draped in orchids. While honeymooners could really stay longer here—perhaps to take a full-day hike on the Inca Trail—a 3-day Romantic Retreat package includes train station transfers, champagne and special souvenirs, breakfasts, lunches each day at Cafe Inkaterra, an evening Pisco sour cocktail, dinner (private and candlelit one night) in the main restaurant, and a privately guided tour of the mountaintop site of Machu Picchu. Prices range from $934 pp in a Superior Casita to $1,550 pp in a Suite Inkaterra.
(866) 242-2889 or inkaterra.com
argentina: a romantic duo
TOUCHDOWN: Buenos Aires, South America’s most cosmopolitan capital, has a well-deserved reputation for serving up the thickest steaks and the sexiest tangos. And in Argentina, newlyweds have a chance to begin a new life together at two delicious havens, which couldn’t be more different. In Buenos Aires, the most elegant locale is La Recoleta quarter and the place is Algodon Mansion, occupying a landmark belle epoque building and featuring 10 spacious suites with state-of-the-art luxuries, including 24-hour butler and concierge services, a fine dining restaurant, library bar, heated rooftop pool, a spa offering wine-based treatments, tastings in the wine cellar, fine dining in its chic restaurant, and the hotel’s showpiece—a waterfall splashing from the roof to the ground floor lobby.
NEXT: Fly an hour northeast to Iguazu Falls, a spectacle of waterfalls, whose 275 cataracts spread for 2.5 miles, its waters spilling through the rainforest and separating Argentina and Brazil; both sides are sensational enough to be designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. The hotel offering honeymooners the best “falls” seats in the house is the Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa, for it enjoys a magnificent and exclusive location right inside the national park. This means not only easy touring of this flora- and fauna-rich reserve, but hiking around after the crowds have left. Most important, the hotel is only steps from the Upper and Lower circuit trails that take guests right along and over the cascades. Half of the hotel’s 180 rooms face the jungle, the others have river views. Additionally, all three restaurants vie for the world’s best views, with the main one called Garganta del Diablo, Devil’s Throat, after the highest and most spectacular of all the falls. Other facilities include an outdoor pool and fitness center/health club, and honeymooning guests will not want to miss the chance to go ziplining and rafting over and under the falls.
brazil: the romantic road to rio + buzios
TOUCHDOWN: The romantic road leads first to Rio de Janeiro, a magical city totally oriented to the beaches by day and good time samba clubs by night. Consider a dazzling start to a honeymoon with a stay at the landmark Copacabana Palace, a member of Orient-Express Hotels, and following a $20 million refurbishment, now more glamorous than ever. In addition to a great location on Copacabana Beach, the art deco property offers spacious and elegant rooms and suites—all with new furnishings and expanded and redesigned bathrooms. A deluxe Beach View room starts at approximately $740 per room per night, with breakfast; when booking a Celebration package, the hotel adds welcome amenities such as sparkling wine, flowers and truffles. All guests enjoy the largest pool in Rio, a rooftop tennis court, a fitness center and palatial 3-story spa, complete with two dual-treatment suites. For dining, there is the sophisticated Cipriani Restaurant or the poolside Pergula Restaurant.
NEXT: Hit the highway for the 2-hour drive to Armacao de Buzios—aka Buzios, the sleepy fishing village that awoke when Brigitte Bardot set foot and bikini on shore in 1964, triggering the blossoming of a hip resort often called the Brazilian Saint-Tropez. The award for the most beautiful and stylish hostelry in town goes to Insolito Boutique Hotel, spilling down a rocky hillside to beautiful Ferradura Beach. This secluded, high-style, informal hideaway offers a champagne welcome to its lush tropical gardens, two infinity pools, private yoga sessions and pampering massages. There are 17 guestrooms and three suites, each furnished with Brazilian themes (black culture, natural Brazil, music, visual arts and literature); all have luxury amenities: LCD TV, CD/DVD player, WiFi, iPod dock, king-size bed, cozy robes, wet bar and stylish bathroom. Recommend your clients come to Buzios for the beauty of the beaches, 26 of them, and by day take a beach-hopping cruise aboard one of Insolito’s two guest-only boats, or go water skiing and wake boarding. By night, guests enjoy alfresco rooftop candlelit dining or stepping out on the town to restaurants, bars and music venues along Rua das Pedras.
costa rica: the quintessential honeymoon
TOUCHDOWN: Far and away the leading destination for honeymooning in Latin America, Costa Rica offers a choice of either its San Jose or Liberia airports. If Liberia, tell couples to head straight south to the Nicoya Peninsula; they can rent a 4WD at the airport for the 4-hour drive to Santa Teresa (we recommend they do not do this at night).
The preferred choice is landing in San Jose, which offers up sophisticated and informal restaurants; appealing artisan boutiques; a lovely indoor market; Mercado Central; and top-rate museums. While sightseeing, newlyweds can enjoy a night or two in a patio room at the idyllic boutique property, Hotel Grano de Oro, relax in one of the rooftop jacuzzis, and have an intimate dinner (signature dish and “deelish”: the sea bass encrusted in macadamia nuts) in the hotel’s excellent restaurant.
NEXT: Proceed by car (30 minutes) to Florblanca Resort, a stunning and serene resort sitting along one of the best surf beaches on Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline, the 5-mile Santa Teresa Beach Break. And while riding the waves is a natural reason for visiting, the resort’s remote location, casual vibe and effortless romance are the real draws.
Honeymooners will enjoy yoga, kickboxing and dance lessons in a world-class dojo (martial arts training area), as well as exploring Santa Teresa and the surrounding area on horseback or astride bicycles built for two; ziplining at Canopy del Pacifico; and taking a guided hike in the Cabo Blanco Wildlife Reserve, the oldest protected area in the country and a jewel of nature at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica’s largest community of brown boobies nests here). And of course surfers’ paradise begins right beyond a couple’s seaside verandah.
Consider that Florblanca has 11 luxury oceanside villas stair-stepping down to the beach, furnished with air conditioning, king-size beds on raised hardwood platforms, tasteful art pieces and swinging hammocks. Each has a large open-air living room and stone-floored “rainforest” bathrooms. The grounds blend into the tropical environment, with a waterfall swimming pool and an open-air yoga studio. The impressive Spa Bambu has a giant jacuzzi and treatments like hot stone massages and Costa Rica coffee scrubs. This is the kind of place where monkeys dangle from trees as couples dine on world-class meals and sip tamarind mojitos and fine wines against a Pacific backdrop.
Deluxe villas with ocean views start at $550; however, extra special is Honeymoon House (villa #11), high above the Pacific, with amenities such as an oceanfront bedroom with sliding doors opening to the sea, jacuzzi in master bath, and private beach access. Newlyweds can request dinner in the private palapa over the pool, have a sunset drink and sushi served in the villa, enjoy breakfast in bed or a couple’s massage. The cost for two starts at $775 per night.
panama: city + beach + canal combo
TOUCHDOWN: In Panama City, you’ll find the 70-floor Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower is hard to miss. Its sail-like tower stands out on the Punta Pacific waterfront, overlooking the ocean and the lines of tankers making their approach to the Panama Canal. The hotel makes the most of its unique position with floor-to-ceiling windows—sliding doors to balconies in deluxe guestrooms—and grand vistas on the 13th floor pool deck, sporting a hip Miami vibe and offering not only six pools (two of them dizzying infinity pools), but day-to-night entertainment including dining in the romantic, low-lit Tejas Seafood Restaurant & Bar. Other features are 369 rooms, three restaurants, glamorous wine bar, nearby golf courses, and fine staff service. The hotel’s 2-night Romance package makes for a good start in fun-filled Panama City: accommodations in a Deluxe Ocean View room, a 3-course dinner for two at Tejas, breakfast daily (in room or restaurant buffet), 50-minute massage, and roundtrip airport transfers. The cost for two starts at $1,130, with additional room nights at $261.
Panama’s wow factor is indeed the Panama Canal; in 2014, the Canal re-opens as a bigger, better and wider waterway. Couples can take a fascinating look from the observation platform at Miraflores Locks visitor center, or for even better photo-ops, take a full transit cruise tour of this historic waterway between the oceans.
NEXT: Head out along the Pacific Ocean 80 minutes from the city, beach bound to JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort in Rio Hato, a lovely and secluded retreat, reminiscent of a Spanish finca. Laid out hacienda-style with courtyards and mini plazas, the 114 super-spacious, beautifully furnished, amenity-filled rooms and suites come with balconies or terraces overlooking the pool complex and the ocean beyond. Amenities include a signature spa, workout/fitnesss center, three restaurants, three pools and a lovely stretch of beach with butler service for sunbathers. Right on the 1,000-acre property, guests can tee off for an 18-hole round of golf on the Nicklaus-designed course, go horseback riding, enjoy watersports, fishing and sailing; offsite action includes river rafting, birdwatching, ziplining and craft shopping in El Valle de Anton. In short, there’s lots to enjoy at this most exclusive—and yes, romantic—of Panama resorts. On offer is a Couples Getaway Experience, including breakfast, $50 meal credit, bottle of champagne, two 30-minute spa treatments per stay and late check-out; based on a 2-night minimum, the price ranges from $444 to $719 per night, depending on selected room.
zoom’s enjoying a boom in gay travel
“Gay travel has seen remarkable changes and growth in the past decade,” reports Joel Cabrera, co-founder of Zoom Vacations, “and as global prejudice continues to fall, lesbian and gay travel is evolving in exciting, powerful ways. We are poised to meet this evolution, providing the most modern, fun, stylish vacations possible and creating unique experiences for our travelers.”
According to Cabrera, while Zoom does the research on every aspect of a tour planning and scouting, one key to the company’s success has been working with creative local ground operators who make sure that guests are always well taken care of in respectful environments.
Among its worldwide Gay Travel Tours, the three top-selling destinations are Cuba, Israel and Peru. Cabrera finds “Peru is just full of magical places, and we try through our special events (Thanksgiving dinner aboard the Orient-Express train) and experiences (capturing the energy of Machu Picchu in the company of a shaman) to feed the hearts, souls and minds of our travelers.”
Zoom’s next 8-day Gay Peru tour departs on Nov. 23 and is priced at $4,699. Featured are luxury accommodations in Lima, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cusco.
Gay Argentina has been one of the travel company’s most popular trips for many years. As birthplace of one of the most beloved gay icons (Evita) and the only country in South America with legalized gay marriage, it’s no wonder that LGBT travelers feel so comfortable here. Cabrera expands to “add to that its friendly residents, incredible food, brilliant architecture and cutting-edge fashion, and you have a gay traveler hotspot like no other.”
Buenos Aires combines with Iguazu Falls on this year’s 7-day Gay Argentina trip; it departs on Nov. 1 and is priced from $2,999. Four nights are spent at the five-star The Axel, a gay-focused hotel in San Telmo, where history, bohemian-chic and the gay scene mix. Accommodations in Iguazu are for two nights, staying at the Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa.
(866) 966-6822 or zoomvacations.com