Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, your anniversary, a weekend you’d like to spend with your significant other, or even your wedding, the following five spots are sure to provide romantic getaways you’ll never forget.
For those of you on the go, all of these locations have gorgeous scenery and plenty of outdoor activities, but if you’re looking for low-key, they also offer quiet, relaxing settings as well.
1 – North Shore O’ahu
Settled in the 12th century, the North Shore O’ahu is a romantic Hawaiian paradise with ancient cultural sites, plantation era buildings, and lots of cafes, boutiques, and, of course, surf shops–not surprising for the place with some of the biggest waves in the world. The beaches, nature parks, and all-around breathtaking landscape offer opportunities for walking, hiking, surfing, skydiving, gliding, golf, and horseback riding–and also for just lying around and enjoying the scenery.
If you want to eat like a local, try traditional Hawaiian plate lunches, freshly caught North Shore shrimp, and shave ice. Some sites you shouldn’t miss include the Waimea Falls botanical gardens and the Polynesian Cultural Center, run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where you can see live hula performances and how poi is made.
If you enjoy the nightlife, Waikiki is the place to be, although do know that it’s bound to be crowded.
2 – Napa Valley
Also known as Wine Country, the Napa Valley in California has become one of the hottest vacation destinations in America with 4.7 million visitors annually, second only to Disneyland in California tourism. What can be more romantic than being surrounded by wine?
The first vineyard in the Napa Valley opened in 1858 and the first winery in 1861, giving this area outside of San Francisco a rich history; learn all about it on historical walking tours in places like Yountville, a charming town that has retained its rural roots while tourism has grown up around it.
Aside from wine-tasting and winery tours, other popular activities in the Napa Valley include biking through the vineyards, gourmet sampling, golf, shopping for antiques, and spa visits, but one of the best ways to see the vineyards is from above–hot air balloon rides are affordable and offered daily and are especially evocative at sunrise and sunset.
3 – Lake Tahoe
Mark Twain said, "To obtain the air the angels breathe, you must go to Tahoe." Situated two-thirds in California and one-third in Nevada, Lake Tahoe is simply one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It doesn’t get more romantic than that, especially since the sun shines there about 75% of the year.
Its unique name comes from the Wasino Indian name of this spiritual, sacred site: Da-ow-a-ga. When explorers Kit Carson and John Fremont arrived at the second deepest lake in the US in 1844, they heard "Tahoe" from "Da-ow"; the name was officially adopted in 1945.
Winter sports from skiing to snowboarding are popular activities at Tahoe, but it’s also great for biking, fishing, and hiking and for just soaking in the peaceful silence; there are also casinos and clubs on the South Shore, and if you get caught up in the romance of Lake Tahoe, there are 20 wedding chapels in the area ready to perform your ceremony.
4 – Savannah, Georgia
Southern hospitality abounds in Savannah, founded by General James Edward Oglethorpe in 1733. From its Waving Girl statue on River Street to its Landmark Historic District with cobblestone streets and gardens, Savannah is one of the most welcoming and well-preserved cities in the country.
During a walking or ghost tour of Savannah, you can admire the Greek Revival-style architectural details of the Historic District Mansion, the ironwork of Forsyth Park Fountain, and the sheer grandeur of the Mercer House, made famous in the 1997 film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Also check out the First African Baptist Church, home of one of the oldest African-American congregation in North America.
Stay in one of Savannah’s 45 historic inns and bed and breakfasts, and for an even more relaxed city tour, enjoy a carriage, trolley, or riverboat ride on the Savannah River. If you’re in the mood for beach fun, head to Tybee Island, 18 miles east of Savannah.
5 – Martha’s Vineyard
An island seven miles off the coastline of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard is made up of six towns, each with its own unique character. The entire island is nine miles wide and 23 miles long, which means you can explore a good bit of it in just a weekend.
Along with a gorgeous coastline, the pride of "The Island" are its five lighthouses (West Chop, East Chop, Edgartown, Gay Head, and Cape Poge) along with the fact that it has retained much of its New England historical charm–the only chain store is Dairy Queen, there are no malls, and the highest speed limit you’ll find is 45 mph. The towns offer walking tours, including ghost tours with legends of past residents and visitors.
Along with usual water activities like boating and fishing, you can also go horseback riding or ice skating, play tennis or golf, visit museums, or go on nature walks, especially romantic strolls on the beach at sunset.
Additional photos credits: North Shore O’ahu: IrishMBO on Flickr, Napa Valley: ah zut on Flickr , Lake Tahoe: Heavenly Valley