No Limit Honeymoon
March 11, 2008 8:14 AM   Subscribe

No Limit Honeymoon. My new wife and I would like to go on a 2 - 2 1/2 week honeymoon. We will go anywhere in the world and want somewhere outside of the States or Europe. We will spend up to 20k US. She is not much into roughing it. We would like to be 50% active, and 50% chilling. We like to be pampered, we like to eat, we like to party, we like to swim, we like to relax. Where would you recommend we go based on the above? Hawaii, Australia, Thailand, Croatia, Zanzibar? Anyone have a outstanding honeymoon story or all around awesome place(s) they have visited? Set us up with an outstanding trip that will not be forgotten.
posted by kaizen to Travel & Transportation (42 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Go to India (Goa, specifically). You can experience true adventure for a fraction of the cost and live like a king.
posted by wordsmith at 8:19 AM on March 11, 2008

Wow, if I had that much to spend on my honeymoon it would, without question, involve diving with Great Whites in South Africa. That would, obviously, fall under the active half.
posted by lampoil at 8:25 AM on March 11, 2008

I would go mountain biking in BC.
posted by Mister_A at 8:28 AM on March 11, 2008

For bang for your 20k, South America is a true bargain right now. I recently researched a trip to the Argentine Pampas for my boss. We found this place, which is just jaw-droppingly beautiful, huge, remote, and out-of-the-ordinary.

(I corresponded with the owner - an American guy and his family who bought the land years ago - and they do lots of different kinds of visits. Luxury retreats, monastic work-vacations, horse riding and hunting trips, spa vacations, etc.)
posted by minervous at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

A cruise might work for you. Doesn't even really matter what ports of call you choose, the overall vibe sounds like a cruise would be a nice fit. Spa services, pools, lots of partying, all the food you could ever want. You can spend one day exploring Australia and the next relaxing by the pool while sipping fruity drinks. In this case, roughing it would be a small cabin, and you can always upgrade to a larger cabin/suite and still be well under your budget.
posted by ml98tu at 8:30 AM on March 11, 2008

Have you thought about Costa Rica-- my mate and his girlfriend stayed in an amazing place, no neighbours for miles, right in the jungle, very high end. Active volanco in the distance-- lava running down the side, mind blowing.

For a bit of excitement you can go ziplining through the tree-lines, go animal spotting, got a nice coast. Not sure about the party-life, as they went primarily for a romantic stress-free getaway.

You'll be hard-pressed to spend anything near 20k on the trip, though. I'm tempted to say the housing was only 3kish a week, struck me as a great place for a group holiday, the 'house' was big enough for 6 people. Food is excellent and cheap.

I'll find out the name of the place if you're interested-- just drop me a mail.
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:30 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

A couple of years ago, I won a holiday to Mustique, a small, private island in the Carribbean where people like Mick Jagger have mansions. It's tiny (only a few miles across), beautiful and because not many people go there, extremely quiet and relaxing. You'll often have massive white beaches completely to yourself. In terms of activities, the snorkeling/scuba diving is terrific - clear waters, and more importantly, just not many other people around. You can also take catamaran trips which are great fun.

For slightly less corporate view than on the official site, I put some pics up on Flickr.

As it's a private island, Mustique is very expensive. And in some respects, yes, it's just an island in the Caribbean and just a beach holiday. However, it's the fact there's so few other people there that makes it an outstanding place, particularly for a honeymoon - it's as close as you'll ever come to being on your own desert island with your new wife, and as such, pretty much perfect. Certainly that's what my wife and I thought :)

(Plus you get to fly there from Barbados in a turboprop plane that totally resembles the ones in the A-team.)
posted by Sifter at 8:33 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Walk the Queen Charlotte Track in New Zealand. It's a 71km walk over 4 days spending 3 or 4 (1 day off) nights in hotels along the way.
posted by jontyjago at 8:34 AM on March 11, 2008

turtle island looks pretty memorable, as far as beach vacations go.
posted by domino at 8:43 AM on March 11, 2008

If I had $20k to spare I'd be in Iceland next week.
posted by sjl7678 at 8:43 AM on March 11, 2008

We toured all over Thailand by train - while you could afford the first class sleepers, we found them boring and antiseptic. The regular sleeper class was as nice as any very high-end train in Europe, with amazing service and a laundry on the train that churned out the whitest starched sheets I've ever seen.

A few days at Sea View Resort on Koh Chang, the last of the rainforest islands (in one of their bougainvillea-encrusted bungalows on the cliff above the ocean, rather than in the hotel), sunning on the beach and kayaking to the various tiny nature preserve islands just off the coast; a few days wandering the markets & nightmarkets in Chiang Mai, and maybe a couple of day trips here and there up into the mountains to visit famous wats or various hilltribe areas. While Krungthep itself is congested and can be not that romantic, a few days there at the beginning or end might be fun too - rent a boat and her captain for the day and spend all day exploring the myriad rivers and canals, stopping at tiny island temples and floating markets, drop by the holy city, etc.

For 1/4 your budget you'll have an amazing, 4-star vacation with the nicest accomodations and incredible meals and transportation. Keep the remainder, or make one of the orphanages in Chiang Mai incredibly happy (and feed the kids for 2 years) with the rest.
posted by luriete at 9:43 AM on March 11, 2008

(plus, first class sleepers in Thailand = you are shut off from everyone else, and get mediocre western food for meals; regular second-class, which are nicer than the nicest American trains, get GREAT thai food and you can walk around the cabin, too)
posted by luriete at 9:44 AM on March 11, 2008

I asked a similar question about my honeymoon yesterday here, if you're interested in any South Pacific island getaways....
posted by Grither at 9:47 AM on March 11, 2008

Our honeymoon was very similar to what you're proposing.

For the first half, we flew to the South Island of New Zealand, and did tons of active stuff there in Queensland, Christchurch, and continuing up north. We spent a few nights on a B&B located on a sheep ranch, and capped it off by hiking the Milford Track. AMAZING.

After that, we spent a couple of days on the North Island, which, frankly, was sort of underwhelming. But then we flew to Australia...

We did all of the active biggies: Uluru and a bit of the outback experience, a couple of fun active nights in Sydney, and then ended off up north on Hayman Island for luxurious Barrier Reef diving and pampering. SUPER AMAZING.

Totally, enthusiastically, lovingly recommended.
posted by AngerBoy at 9:49 AM on March 11, 2008

I'd recommend browsing around some of the Small Luxury Hotels of the world. A lot of the "private island" type resorts are in the Maldives.
posted by mattbucher at 9:54 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, if you want it to be 1/2 active and 1/2 pampered I'd suggest something like: A week of active travel then a week long high end totally pampered cruise in the same area. You can do this pretty much anywhere - Croatia, Turkey, South America, etc. The fact that the cruise comes after the other travel makes it that much better. As an example we did a Macchu Pichu / Argentina vacation followed by a cruise up the coast of South America and through the Panama Canal - I would highly recommend something similar, but even that cost less than half your budget.

One thing to keep in mind is that you may have no limit money but you do have limit time. Even assuming you go for 2.5 weeks you're losing basically 10% of your time going to Australia or Asia (assuming you're leaving from the US). South America still takes a while, but at least the time change is minimal.
posted by true at 9:56 AM on March 11, 2008

Here's a vote for thailand. We did this late last year for our honeymoon.

We broke our 3 weeks in to two parts and are incredibly happy we did so.

Part 1 - REI Adventures trip trekking through Northern Thailand, we made some incredible friends and were exposed to a lot more of Thailand than we otherwise would have been. It wasn't physically challenging but there were a couple of days of hiking and sleeping in villages, which we though were the highlight of the whole trip, about 10 days.

Part 2 - Phuket, about 10 days in a nice hotel enjoying nice dinners and relaxing days. Going back I think we would probably not go to Phuket, too many tourists like us and maybe stay up in Chiang Mai or go to central Thailand.

On trains in Thailand, go second class diesel express if traveling for a while. I wouldn't consider 3rd class unless you're interested in the experience. The 1st class sleepers are ok, but as mentioned the food isn't too great.

As I am a big guy I would recommend that if you're going to go somewhere that requires 10+ hours on a plane that you setthe money aside for a 1st class ticket and then work your budget for your stay, trust me in this, you'll enjoy the trip so much more if you're not recovering from the flight.

Another alternative, maybe do New Zealand or Japan ?
posted by iamabot at 10:03 AM on March 11, 2008

New Zealand is a wonderful honeymoon destination with the attributes you seek, but 2.5 weeks isn't anywhere near enough time, especially if you want to include Austrailia in your trip. The scenary is gorgous (just like the Lord of the Rings movies, seriously), the economy favors US dollars and everybody (obviously) speaks English. However, it takes a long time to get around; narrow twisty roads (and you'll be driving on the left) and the country is about the size of California, but on two islands.

Costa Rica can offer you luxury accommodations within close reach of great opportunities for hiking, animal spotting, beachy fun, etc. which is a more honeymoonish way of balancing the pampering and the exploration. Arenal is the volcano referenced above (there are others) and there are hot spring resorts nearby; you can sit there drink in hand, and watch the eruptions. There's a lake there which is one of the world's premier windsurfing spots. Manual Antonio is a beautiful national park (a percentage of tourist-related revenues support the park system) adjacent to a gorgeous beach. You can see beautiful birds, monkees, sloths, etc. Further north and west are rain forests with different beautiful birds, irridescent frogs, etc. Driving is easy but the roads aren't great (the Pan American Highway is often a rutted and unpaved mess).

Whatever you do, have a great time and congratulations!
posted by carmicha at 10:21 AM on March 11, 2008

Seconding the Maldives. With that kind of budget you can stay at one of the better island resorts in a gorgeous overwater bungalow. You can dive, swim, fish, etc for the active stuff, eat well and meet people from all over the world. We honeymooned there, got dive certified while we were at it, and wished we could have stayed longer. Depending on where you stay you may be the only Americans, but everyone speaks English and the resorts even use the American dollar for currency.
posted by JaredSeth at 10:23 AM on March 11, 2008

If I had $20k to spare I'd be in Iceland next week.

I'd be with sjl7678 on this if it were summer (what season are you thinking about?) I just saw pics from a colleague's vacation. Iceland is living up to it's name right now.
posted by originalname37 at 10:25 AM on March 11, 2008

The Ice Hotel.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:36 AM on March 11, 2008

Consider the Canary Islands. Close enough to Africa for a couple of excursions but with all of the European amenities without actually being in Europe.
posted by prk14 at 10:38 AM on March 11, 2008

A cruise to Ecuador and scientific tour of the Galapagos Islands for half of what you are thinking of spending. See one of the most beautiful, natural places on Earth in total luxury!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:49 AM on March 11, 2008

The Seychelles. Diving, hiking, paddling, sun, sand, spectacular people and geography. Since you will probably need to go to Europe first (to get the flight--Paris, London, Frankfur, etc.) and Africa (Nairobi or Kenya for refueling), you could also add those locations to the itinerary for a well-rounded trip.
posted by cocoagirl at 10:58 AM on March 11, 2008

I'd recommend the Maldives as well. I've never been there myself but everyone that I know that has goes on endlessly about it. If I had 20k kicking around I'd be there in a heartbeat (especially in winter!).
posted by purephase at 11:18 AM on March 11, 2008

Mauritius? Same argument as for the Seychelles.
posted by idb at 11:40 AM on March 11, 2008

nthing Maldives, it's supposed to be the shit.

As for real world experience, Bora Bora on one of the motu's is nice.
posted by tdischino at 11:53 AM on March 11, 2008

Another vote for the bottom bungalows, etc. Your plane will probably stop in Dubai on the way there anyway so if I were you, I'd work that into the trip.
posted by sarelicar at 12:16 PM on March 11, 2008

Ambergris Key is off the coast of Belize and very close to the second longest barrier reef in the world. Do your introductory scuba courses at home before you leave, then get fully certified down there. Belize also gives you access to some fantastic ruins as well. The bartenders on Ambergris kept us loose and happy and charged us very little.
posted by waraw at 12:27 PM on March 11, 2008

No one else is talking about Hawaii, but I've been researching a trip in April for me and NortonDC and there's a reason why lots of people honeymoon there. From everything I've seen, it's just really beautiful. If you have 2 1/2 weeks, you could split your time between two islands (I'd suggest Maui and Kauai) and get a range of activities in. We are going to see a sunrise from the top of a volcano on Maui and then bike down it, go ziplining in the mountains, drive around the famous coast of Maui in an open top vehicle, hopefully go on some snorkeling and whaling tours, and maybe try to get scuba certified if there is time. If you went to Kauai, which is perhaps more lush than much of Maui, you may also want to take a helicopter tour. Or, if you went to either island in May, after the whales have left, you may want to do jet skiing or parasailing or other watersports that open up then.

The biggest challenge in planning this trip is trying to get the timing right between the fun active stuff we want to do and the lazy, relaxing stuff we want to do.

I know, it's a bit of a cliche to go to Hawaii for your honeymoon. But you've got $20K and 2.5 weeks, which is about 3-4 times as much money and almost twice as much time as we do. If you haven't been to Hawaii before, and you want to do it sometime, this might be a really good time to do it because it can be pretty expensive. Also, it seems like just about the right amount of time to get 2 islands in.

Wherever you decide to go, if you are going for 2.5 weeks, I would suggest against simply going to very classy but isolated resort somewhere, because one of you (probably you) may get your fill of rest and relaxation and will want something to do besides the beach or the rare daytrip. Also, some people here are suggesting that you start off with a very active honeymoon and then wind up with alot of relaxation -- that is okay as long as you and/or your fiance is not going to be stressed out from planning the wedding, in which case you may way want to start with some relaxation.

Good luck. Whatever you do, I hope you create lots of meaningful memories for the both of you!
posted by onlyconnect at 12:28 PM on March 11, 2008

Someday -- it's going to happen, damn it -- I'm going to go on a walking tour of the Alps. I'll hike all day in beautiful surroundings, not carrying more than lunch and my camera. Then I'll spend the night in a excellent hotel, eating good food and sleeping on a comfortable bed. The tour company will drive my luggage on to the next hotel while I set off on the next day's hike.

Maybe you could do it now, and let me know how it goes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:10 PM on March 11, 2008

Giraffe Manor in Kenya would prove to be unforgettable.
posted by explosion at 1:19 PM on March 11, 2008

I can't recommend Hawaii enough...especially Maui...we spent almost two weeks on various islands....range of hotels from the hip fun all the way to the posh and very relaxing (Hotel Hana-Maui). The people were amazingly have plenty of activities...snorkeling, hiking, massages, shopping, etc etc...

If you want something out of the U.S., maybe look at Tahiti...from what I understand its like Hawaii but more exotic and exclusive. Many of the Luau performers in Hawaii go to Tahiti ever year for a competition. Culturally it is likely very similar with the the very friendly Polynesian attitude.
posted by UMDirector at 2:34 PM on March 11, 2008

I 4th cruising.
Lots of pampering and food, and your in port just long enough to enjoy the scenery and not be burdened with usual vacation logistic nightmares.

Have an amazing time!
posted by doorsfan at 2:53 PM on March 11, 2008

I'm going to offer a differing opinion on cruises. I went on one and won't do another. First off, you better like saltwater. I was looking forward to a little swimming on the ship since I'm not a huge saltwater fan. Imagine my thrill when I found out the pool we were lounging around was filled with that same saltwater. Oops. Also, as for the time on the ship, I was pretty bored. The shows all seemed cliche and ummm, aimed at an older crowd, to put it nicely. And eating. And eating. And more friggin eatin. The food was good, but it seemed like all there was to do was stuff your face and bake in the sun around the saltwater pool. (and gamble, which was fun, but I didn't have quite 20K to blow, lol) So that's my own 2 cents on that. I'd spend my good money elsewhere.
posted by CwgrlUp at 4:06 PM on March 11, 2008

wow. congrats!

with a budget like that, you can go anywhere.

i'd consider how far away you want to travel first; time zone changes and travel time will eat into a time-limited trip. my wife and went to zanzibar as the start of a endless honeymoon and it took us the better part of a week to feel like normal people again (after the travel, the wedding, and a phd...). not that we minded at all doing absolutely nothing but drinking beer and watching the beach. (shooting star resort on kiwengwa beach, zanzibar, is significantly lower than your budget but really, really nice). lots of people do z'bar in combo with a safari and man, are the safaris worth it if you pick a good company.

uh. anyway... got distracted. i also wanted to say that another major consideration for you will be season. WHEN is your trip? if you're limited by that, large chunks of the world will be avoidable due to, say hurricane season, rainy monsoons, etc.

i will also say that hawaii is one of the nicest places on the planet. i lived there for half a year and it's paradise if you get away from the major tourist hangouts.

if i had your money and 2.5 weeks, i'd do what my original honeymoon plan was: Palau. some of the best diving in the world from an island paradise. i'd also love to see Madagascar, but i bet that's a bit too rough for your finacee. New Zealand is nice (lived in Welly for a while), but it's not so exotic compared to the US. SE Asia is great, but that's a cheaper trip you might want to save for some time when you have less money to spend.

so yeah. i'd be looking into Oceania; Palau, Micronesia, French Polynesia... never been to those places but man, do they look good!
posted by xz at 5:04 PM on March 11, 2008

Our honeymoon was amazing. Two weeks in India followed by two weeks in Nepal. A little adventure a little luxe resort, friendly drivers and guides pre-arranged. All planned by the nice folks at Absolute Asia - they will make a custom itinerary just for you if you say "lots of elephant rides and no Taj Mahal" that is exactly what you will get. Here is their website, though its a little borked for some reason. They are not cheep.

We get married, leave the states the next day, fly for eighteen hours to Delhi. Driver meets us we get to the hotel around three am local time and we are shot. But the whole staff escorts us to our room, the honeymoon suite. Seems like a lot of folks, but what do we know, its our first time in India. Maybe they don't have so much to do. The guy opens the door and not only is the room streamed with garlands, like thirty, eight foot multi colored garlands, but there is an enormous flower heart taking up the entire bed. After the staff leaves we strip down and roll around in the enormous flower heart. Clammy.
posted by shothotbot at 7:55 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you were on a budget and didn't have money like this to blow, I'd definitely go with the suggestions on Thailand and other cheaper places. But since money isn't an issue, definitely use it on Hawaii. Most of what you want to see in Hawaii is free anyway- scenic drives, beaches, etc

Yeah the Hawaii thing is cliche, but it's just SO good. You can island hop easily, with flights being anywhere from 30min-1hr and around just $60 round trip. Driving the Road to Hana in Maui as mentioned above is gorgeous and one of those fun "do it yourself" adventures were you can stop off on the side of the road, explore, then hop back in your car. Going to the Big Island and seeing the Volcano national park is also amazing; just driving around and seeing all the recent lava flow is a unique experience. There are parts where you can see the old highway roads with where the lava flowed and cut it off. Then if you want to throw in a touristy experience, spend time in Waikiki on Oahu. But you can easily drive off anywhere on that island and within 30 min to a secluded beach, drive through endless pineapple fields, or hiking spots.

On top of that, you explore on your own but you feel SAFE because you're still in the states.
posted by Jimmie at 10:19 PM on March 11, 2008

Start looking through these magazines: Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler and Departures (only for Amex card holders). Guaranteed drool fest.

Also, when you have some ideas about where to go, check out
posted by hapax_legomenon at 11:47 PM on March 11, 2008

"We like to be pampered, we like to eat, we like to party, we like to swim, we like to relax."

Bali, Indonesia. And you won't spend $20K, even eating in the finest restaurants and getting luxurious massages and spa treatments every day. Spend time both at the beach (party, swim) and inland in Ubud (best restaurants, arts, culture).

If you go anywhere far from home I suggest spending a chunk of that $20K on first class airfare so you don't have lingering back and neck pain the whole trip. And arrange to get a massage the day or day after you arrive, and again at home when you return. Long flights are brutal!
posted by Jacqueline at 12:55 AM on March 12, 2008

You might also enjoy leafing through Travel + Leisure's The 100 Greatest Trips of 2008.
posted by shothotbot at 3:41 PM on March 12, 2008

You might want to look into a Circle Pacific trip.

You can visit South America, Australia and Asia all in one go. (Though this definitely warrants more than 2 1/2 weeks).
posted by plep at 4:06 AM on March 18, 2008

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