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Planning your honeymoon can be one of the most exciting things surrounding your wedding. It gives you a chance to relax after all the craziness of wedding planning and fully enjoy being newlyweds. When deciding where to go, there are a few
things to consider.

Go somewhere neither of you has been before. You’ll make incredible memories as you experience a new destination, culture, food, and more together. Pick a spot that has activities similar to what you like to do for fun at home on the weekend. If you typically are active and don’t enjoy sitting around, a beach destination with nothing to do but sit under an umbrella might not be the best choice. If you still want a beach destination, choose an island that has adventure activities, like St. Lucia for hiking or Costa Rica for zip-lining, so you can have the best of both worlds. Be realistic about your timing. Those 5:30 a.m. flights on the Sunday morning after your reception are brutal, and you don’t want to spend your honeymoon sleeping. Consider waiting until Monday to leave so you have a day or two to rest. If you’re traveling a long distance, you may even want to schedule your honeymoon a few weeks after the wedding so you’re rested and ready to fully enjoy the trip. Some people do a "minimoon," where they spend a few days after the wedding in a closer destination and then take their big honeymoon later. A delayed honeymoon is good for ensuring you go to the destination at the best time of year or avoid the peak season (the Caribbean can be very expensive over the festive season, December-January, or packed with families during spring break). If you want to go to a top destination but don’t have the budget, consider the off season. You can often get incredible value and avoid crowds.

Here are some out-of-the-ordinary destinations to consider:

South Africa

South Africa has so much to offer–food, culture, wine, history, and, of course, wildlife. Cape Town is stunning, with mountains jutting up from the coast to create a jaw-dropping setting.

When in Cape Town, you can hike, shop, go out on the water, visit Robben Island, drive to the Cape of Good Hope, and dine in some fabulous restaurants. And don’t forget about the Cape penguins at Boulders Beach!

About an hour or so outside of Cape Town, the Winelands are scenic and peaceful. There is an abundance of hotel options, from boutique to cream-of-the-crop five-star properties like La Residence to Airbnbs.

If you want the beach as well, you can venture outside of Cape Town to Hermanus. During certain times of the year, it is a prime spot for whale watching.

You can’t go to South Africa and not go on safari. Get up close and personal with "The Big Five" (lions, rhinos, cape buffalos, elephants, and leopards) during an unforgettable safari experience. It’s hard to put into words how incredible (and terrifying) it is to have a male lion standing five feet from you looking deep into your eyes. You’ll quickly realize you’re closer to the bottom of the food chain out there in the bush!

Croatia

Croatia provides a fabulous combination of history and gorgeous vistas. Explore Roman ruins in Split or walk along the wall of the old city in Dubrovnik (Hint: it’s also where they film Game of Thrones) On the coast, enjoy views of sapphire-blue water and be sure to experience Croatia by sea with a day on a yacht.

Portugal

Portugal is a great European destination for couples who already have been to the major European cities or just want to do something different. Lisbon has a thriving art and culture scene, while the Douro Valley is a wine lover’s paradise. Portugal also has gorgeous beaches (look up Algarve) for a little R&R and fabulous golf. For a longer trip, you could easily combine it with Spain.

Belize

Belize, specifically the Ka’ana Resort in San Ignacio, is great for honeymooners because it offers a balance of relaxation and adventure. Some of the top things to do in the area include snorkeling with whale sharks, reef diving in the second longest barrier reef in the world, and trekking in the Rio Bravo Conservation Area or Cockscomb Basin Forest reserve to spot jaguars. It’s also easy to get to Tikal in Guatamala to see the oldest and largest Mayan ruins.

Brazil

UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa, a Virtuoso property in Trancoso, Brazil, is the perfect destination for honeymooners who want to get off the beaten path and have a truly authentic experience. The hotel is on a UNESCO-protected town square and is made up of 10 private casas, each with a unique design, intermingled among the houses of the locals. Anderson Cooper loved this destination so much, he built himself a house here (and it’s part of the hotel’s offerings).

Take a short walk over to the beach and relax at one of the world’s best beach bars, explore the historic town of Trancoso (on foot or on horseback), or enjoy the spa, cooking lessons, and water activities also offered.

New Zealand

If you love adventure, New Zealand is the place for you. Sky diving, bungee jumping, hot air ballooning, and hiking are just a few of the many adrenaline-pumping activities you’ll have to choose from. At the end of a long day of adventuring, relax in a hot mineral pool or explore vineyards. This country has many small, private resorts like Otahuna Lodge in Christchurch or The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. You can also easily visit Fiji before or after for a longer trip.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua has been rising in popularity as a Caribbean alternative that has both beaches and a venture. The country appeals to those who enjoy Costa Rica, but are looking for a destination that isn’t quite as popular (or expensive) as its neighbor to the south. Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa is a luxury boutique hotel that has surfing, a pristine beach, golf, and yoga. There also are eco-friendly lodges that
offer a more holistic vibe.

Bali

Bali, Indonesia is a beautiful destination where you can immerse yourself in its centuries-old spiritual culture. The stunning island is known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, white sand beaches, and colorful coral reefs. Explore temples, rivers, and lush rolling hills. Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is a top-tier romantic resort with exceptional service, huge rooms, and plenty of privacy.

New England

If you want to stay in the United States, the New England coast is a fun option. Stay at a stunning hotel in a charming town, like the Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, or drive up the coast stopping at smaller properties along the way. There are several Relais & Chateaux properties, so you know fabulous food will be involved!

Mexico

No, not the typical all-inclusive, wall-to-wall couples Mexico experience. The Viceroy Zihuantanejo is on the Pacific Coast and hints at what Cabo used to be before becoming majorly developed. The property sits on 5.5 acres with naturally sheltered waters so the ocean is warm and calm. Do a tequila and ceviche tasting at the Coral Bar (There are over 50 labels of tequila–ole!).

–By Brooke Drinkard Whatley for Brownell Travel
Photos courtesy of Brownell Travel and Viceroy Hotel Group

This story appears in Birmingham magazine’s Fall/Summer 2017 Weddings issue. Subscribe today!

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