Is it better to celebrate a honeymoon by decompressing on the beach or by enjoying an island’s best restaurants (or golf, or…)? That’s right: There is no right answer. In the “CHIC Punta Cana and Club Med Zen Oasis” onsite review (page 30) I show how two new adults-only hideaways in the same place—and both based on the all-inclusive model—offer quite different experiences. Here you’ll find some other honeymoon destinations whose strengths appeal to different markets.
Beach Lovers’ Love Nests
While Sandals Royal Caribbean’s over-the-water suites, which will open Nov. 15 and fetch $4,321 a night, have gotten loads of buzz, the new digs at Sandals Negril, where I just stayed in Jamaica, rate kudos, too. So does the resort itself.
Whereas so many Caribbean resorts have short beachfronts, which makes for a lot of Garden View or Partial Ocean View accommodations, the 226-room Sandals Negril occupies a lot that’s just the opposite: a band that hugs a 1,700-ft. stretch of Negril’s fabled Seven Mile Beach. The beach isn’t deep (e.g. from the walkway to water’s edge), but between its length and the decision to keep this a low-rise resort, there’s plenty of sand for everyone, and the water is so warm and calm that couples float in the sea until last light. Tennis, the Red Lane Spa and poolside entertainment are other options, but the beach is the focus here.
That, and some newly renovated rooms. I stayed in one of the entry-level rooms (from $570 per couple) and enjoyed the calm elegance of its white walls with dark wood accents and the quietude of the 3100 block. I also stayed in a Grand Luxury Club Level Ocean View Room with a tranquility tub on the patio and another in the bathroom (from $728), and that’s the ticket for honeymooners. Or even better, the Caribbean Honeymoon Beachfront Two-Story One BR Butler Loft Suite with an outdoor soaking tub; a sitting room with a wet bar, Bluetooth sound system, and smart TV; and on the second floor, an airy bedroom and bath with another tub, rain shower, and skylight.
Country Club Love
The Cambridge Beaches resort in Bermuda serves honeymooners who enjoy things like golf, dress stylishly for dinner, and hope others will do the same. Occupying a 300-year-old property near a nature preserve, this Preferred Boutique adults-only resort has four beaches, an artfully designed infinity pool, a Swimex lap pool, an excellent spa and fitness center, yoga classes, and a croquet lawn. There’s a putting green, as well, and the concierges book tee times for guests at Tucker’s Point, Port Royal, Riddell’s Bay, and Bermuda’s other legendary layouts.
One of the resort’s three excellent restaurants, Tamarisk, has made Travel & Leisure’s best dining list for Bermuda. For visiting other restaurants as well as Bermuda’s historic sites, museums, shops, and beaches, Cambridge Beaches can arrange moped rentals, this being one of those rare countries where riding a moped looks dignified.
Cambridge Beach’s 87 rooms are in white cottages that dot a flowers-and-palm trees garden. Some have traditional furnishings, others look contemporary, and all have balconies or patios. A Classic Water View Room starts at $400, but I’d suggest trading up to a 540-sq.-ft. Deluxe Ocean View Room (from $640; request one with a whirlpool tub) or a Petite Water View Suite (from $770).
Martinique is such a connoisseurs’ paradise that even its rhum (a.k.a. rum) distilleries have AOC status. Its restaurants reflect the happy marriage of French, Afro-Caribbean, and other cuisines as well as the presence of extraordinary chefs like Jean-Charles Bredas, a Martinican who has worked in some of Manhattan’s best restaurants and now oversees a breeze-cooled, hilltop dining room with award-winning gastronomy, the eponymous Le Bredas. Another star, Guy Ferdinand—a.k.a. Chef Hot Pants—has put his beach restaurant, Le Petibonum, on every foodie’s bucketlist (oh, that tuna ceviche!).
Near Les Trois-Ilets, a resort town across the bay from Fort-de-France, Zandoli restaurant at boutique hotel La Suite Villa combines wacky art with sublime dishes like Iberian pork yakitori. The restaurant at Plein Soleil, another boutique charmer, offers Nathanael Ducteil’s Franco-Caribbean cuisine and a curated wine list. It’s also a romantic place to stay for a honeymoon, what with its large accommodations, serene atmosphere, views of the Atlantic Ocean, and a location from which guests can drive to Martinique’s best beaches, Fort de France, myriad rhum distilleries, museums (including one dedicated to coffee and chocolate), and the forested uplands to the north.
Plein Soleil’s 16 rooms in five Creole-style villas include some favorite honeymooners’ spots, particularly the Garden Suites (from $277). With vaulted ceilings, contemporary furniture, stylish baths, and private plunge pools, these are restful places for recuperating from the last meal, planning the next one, and doing whatever else moves you. After all, this is a honeymoon. The hotel also has a main pool, a library, a bar, massage therapists who make house calls, and an air of sophisticated relaxation.
Honey, We’re Bringing the Kids
Why? Because nowadays, that’s sometimes the best option for couples with children, be they from this union or previous ones. The trick is to pick a place where people can enjoy family time and some adults-only time. This is where Hilton Rose Hall comes in, and it doesn’t hurt that parents pay nothing for children age 5 or under.
This 488-room all-inclusive resort in Jamaica hugs a fine stretch of beach with a watersports facility, but it’s about more than the beach. Not only are there supervised activities for children so parents can have some honeymoon time, but this Hilton also has a water park, Sugar Mill Falls, whose seemingly archaic aquaduct help make it one of the most tasteful of such facilities I’ve seen. This is one of several Hilton amenities that families enjoy together, along with a half dozen or so restaurants. And when the kids are enjoying the supervised programs, the newlyweds can play tennis, go sailing, play golf on the Cinnamon Hill course, use the jogging track and fitness center, visit the spa, or relax and hoist a rum punch in honor of their new marriage.
You could book a room for as little as $265, but I’d suggest the 740-sq.-ft. Oceanfront Suite (from $819; $75 per night for kids age 6-14), with a bath for the kids in the living room. Or even better, an Oceanfront Royal Suite with a refrigerator and a lot of space: 1,110 sq. ft.
Cambridge Beaches: cambridgebeaches.com
Hilton Rose Hall: www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/jamaica/hilton-rose-hall-resort-and-spa-MBJRHHF/index.html or travelagents.hilton.com
Plein Soleil: hotelpleinsoleil.fr/?lang=en
Sandals Negril: sandals.com/main/negril/ne-home/ and taportal.sandals.com/landing/