Wedding fashions have evolved over the course of two decades and popular wedding songs have evolved from Whitney Houston’s soaring rendition of “I Will Always Love You” to Ed Sheeran’s mellow and soulful “Thinking Out Loud.”
One thing that hasn’t changed much since Grace Ormonde Wedding Style was founded in 1998, however, is the timeless appeal of a romantic honeymoon in one of the world’s most exclusive destinations—from the beaches of the Caribbean to exotic islands in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, the ageless beauty of Greece and the Amalfi Coast to the wild wonders of an African safari.
A lot of honeymoon destinations may be called “paradise,” but only the Seychelles can boast of being the legendary location of the Garden of Eden. Located on the equator in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, the Seychelles are made up of more than 100 islands with lush forests and pristine beaches, including Praslin, where Adam was reputed to have met Eve in the Vallée de Mai. The palm-filled valley is a popular excursion for honeymooners staying at the Four Seasons Maldives, where treehouse-style villas enjoy hillside views of the ocean and Petite Anse beach below.
The reefs and atolls of the Maldives make these Indian Ocean islands an idyllic setting for diving and a mecca for marine life. Scores of five-star resorts are set on tiny islands, many with thatched-roof villas daisy-chained over the ocean itself.
Privacy and personalized attention are assured at small luxury hotels like the Constance Moofushi, with beach and overwater villas just a short jaunt from the South Ari Atoll, one of the world’s top dive spots. At the Havufen Fushi private island resort on Kaafu, you don’t even need to leave land to get fantastic views of tropical fish and live corals: The 43-bungalow resort boasts the world’s first underwater spa.
Even among such secluded destinations, the Six Senses Laamu stands alone as the only resort in the isolated and beautiful Laamu Atoll. Like many of the best resorts of the Maldives, the Anantara Kihavah is reachable only via a magical seaplane ride, touching down practically at the doorstep of the resort’s private pool villas.
Koh Lipe is known as the “Maldives of Thailand”—a magical island in the Andaman Sea ringed with white sand beaches and brilliant turquoise waters. The history and hustle of Bangkok and the beach party scene of Koh Phi Phi Don, Koh Pha Ngan, and Krabi each have a place in your honeymoon itinerary. But when you’re ready to wind down, head to the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui, which sits on the island’s finest beach and has luxury villas, excellent restaurants and a pampering spa scattered among its groves of coconut palms.
Bora Bora and Tahiti are the heart of French Polynesia, famously “discovered” by Captain Cook and vividly portrayed on canvas by artist Paul Gauguin. Honeymooners can color their own romantic dreams in the overwater villas first made famous in the lagoons of these islands. Turtle Island is the exclusive domain of celebrities; this ultra private Tahiti resort has just 14 “bure” villas scattered across a 500-acre private island.
Bora Bora also has a profusion of romantic resorts with bungalows arrayed over sea—the Conrad Bora Bora Nui offers this pinnacle of private accommodations, where couples can see fish swimming just below their feet and step out each morning into the warm, shallow waters of the island’s picturesque lagoon, with Mount Otemanu rising in the near distance. Movie star Marlon Brando once described Tetiaroa as “beautiful beyond my capacity to describe,” and this private island can be yours to put into words at The Brando, an authentically Polynesian-style resort with a mere 35 rooms, and lagoons and “motus” (small islets) waiting to be explored by kayak, paddleboard and outrigger canoe.
The islands of the Caribbean have been top honeymoon destinations for more than half a century, attracting celebrities, royal lovebirds and romantic couples with swaying palms, long white and black sand beaches, and a warm and welcoming culture moving to a calypso and reggae beat.
Anguilla’s collection of 33 beaches are among the most beautiful in the world, and many are home to distinctive resorts with fabulous dining, including Cap Juluca with its Moroccan-inspired whitewashed guest villas and elegant Pimms restaurant, and the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla, where the unforgettable Cobà restaurant sits on a bluff overlooking the sea. The oceanfront villas and residences at the Four Seasons Anguilla are exquisitely appointed hideaways for discriminating honeymooners.
Like the islands of the Indian and Pacific oceans, the Caribbean has exquisite private island resorts like Petit St. Vincent and Palm Island in the Grenadines and Kamalame Cay in the Bahamas. The Ocean Club, formerly the One&Only and now a Four Seasons hotel, has been the most exclusive hotel on Paradise Island since it opened in 1962; guest rooms, swaying hammocks, and Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Dune restaurant sit directly on the beach.
The Jeffrey Beers designed Cove hotel at the nearby Atlantis resort is a refined retreat that offers easy access to the casino and Aquaventure waterpark, a great choice for honeymooners looking for lively action well past dark. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, where private beach cabanas are the perfect relaxation spot after a day spent hiking or biking this lush, laid-back island that channels the spirit of the old Caribbean.
Mexico’s Riviera Maya combines the beauty of a Caribbean beach resort with Mayan culture and history, including the opportunity to tour Chichen Itza and Tulum and explore the colonial city of Mérida. Honeymooners love the NIZUC Resort and Spa as a low-key and private alternative to the high-rise hotels typical of Cancun. In addition to elegant waterfront villas, the resort has great diving on the Mesoamerican Reef just offshore.
> Written by Bob Curley