Each hotel is being equally honored in no particular order.
Romance. It’s not just about ardor, passion, seduction, and the kind of love that leads to canoodling in the corner or to partnering up for a long life together. No, romance can also mean glamor, fictiveness, fantasy, exoticism, and heart-quickening allure. In fact, it can be that feeling something big is happening to you that will certainly change your life. I had that sense recently while standing in the ornately magnificent Kohinoor Suite at the extraordinary Oberoi Amarvilas with my daughter, gazing from our window at India’s premier icon, the Taj Mahal. For couples on a sexy tryst the Taj Mahal clearly embodies the purpose for their jaunt. After all, the splendorous Mughal-style monument was built as a love letter by an emperor to express his grief at the death of his beloved wife. But, standing with my daughter — in the heart of regal, colorful Rajasthan in our lavish suite (which had recently been occupied by Kate and William for heaven’s sake) and gazing out across the hotel’s nine-acre garden and gleaming pool at the marble dome — transported us to an otherworldly, indeed, a romantic mindset, an apt attitude for a quixotic ramble through India. In the Kohinoor Suite, the Taj Mahal can also be viewed from the bathroom and terrace, but guests will also see the marble dome from other suites, not to mention common rooms. A noble hotel, awash in enchantment, Amarvilas is as breathtaking for mother-daughter travelers as besotted couples.
Whether a sybaritic bath tub, a grand bed, an overwater bungalow, a herd of elephants outside your door, an iconic view, or a cozy snug, what constitutes romance varies. Each of the following hotels whisper sweet romance in their own way.
St. Regis Bora Bora
A place sketched from a thousand hues of blue, white sand beaches, an ancient volcano, and myriad motus (tiny islands), many holding their own resort, Bora Bora lives up to the hype. Expect to leap from your personal deck into the lagoon or watch the fish swim below you via the see-through floor panel in your overwater bungalow — a room built on poles to straddle the water like the most perfect boat. At St. Regis Bora Bora, you’ll find the biggest villas and suites in the South Pacific. A huge retreat, though chill, it offers myriad activities and dining options. Navigate by bike or by chauffeur-driven golf carts to enjoy two swimming pools, a marine life-stocked Lagoonarium, restaurants galore, and activities from spa to quad tours. Better yet, deepen your infatuation as you wait for breakfast — delivered in a canoe to your overwater villa.
Grand Hotel Bristol, Rappalo, Italy
Gushing flirty dolce vita at every turn, inspiring dolce far niente in the most provocative way, this recently re-imagined, pink, Art Nouveau palace in characteristic Rapallo on the Portofino Coast epitomizes why Italy woos and tantalizes us every time. Perched hillside, with commanding views of the rollicking sea and colorful Portofino on the horizon, Grand Hotel Bristol serves up superior gastronomy, has a buzzy but intimate bar, displays heart-stirring art throughout, and invites seductive repose in its Erre Spa, a European-style, multi-station spa with everything from Kneipp stations to a fire room. No doubt, the climax (no pun intended) is the immense circular bathtub in the seafront Riviera Suite. Expect a bottle of bubbly, mirror messages with love quotes, fresh flowers, rose petals, and a few lovestruck surprises along the way.
Kokomo Private Island, Fiji
On a private island amongst the unsullied Kadavu Islands, south of the Fijian mainland, Kokomo brings those day dreams of tropical passion you once harbored to uncensored fruition. Encompassing 140 hauntingly beautiful acres, the all-inclusive destination comprises just 21 villas, each with infinity pool spread along two pristine beaches. For larger groups, five Grand Residences cap a hilltop. Not just a pretty face, Kokomo dedicates itself to sustainability with a 5.5-acre organic farm and hydroponics garden, free-range chickens, bee hives, and eco strategies across all aspects of the resort’s operation. Diving, fishing, yachting, snorkeling, and long naps enwrapped in each other’s arms add to the fun.
Manoir Hovey, North Hatley, Québec Canada
A world apart, this French-accented five-star Relais & Châteaux estate amid the bucolic Eastern Township portion of Canada’s Quebec region lies just 20 minutes from the Vermont border on evocative Lake Massawippi. A cozy enclave to cuddle in during any season, its seclusion amplifies its appeal for lovers who seek one-on-one time. Surrounded by woods and English Gardens, hidden away in a region known for its farming, Manoir Hovey keeps guests as busy as they want to be. Winter activities range from ice fishing and snowshoeing in winter to canoeing and tennis clinics during warmer times. Wine tasting, mixology, and gastronomy, central to the hotel’s hospitality mission, stand out year round. Yield to the ministrations of the new Spa and Nordic Thermal circuit. Room to book? Choose the Montcalm Suite for its screen porch and leafy-hued decor.
Waldorf Astoria Cancun, Mexico
Mexico is always a good idea — especially in the heady Yucatan. Sweethearts can ignite their passion as they laze beside either of the resort’s two infinity pools clad in revealing swimsuits, sipping cocktails, and practicing their love language in Spanish. From their suite, a private patio soaking tub tempts, while the Waldorf Astoria Spa Cancun refreshes and relaxes with a host of holistic rituals — each imparting aspects of Mayan culture, healing crystals, and local herbs. The concierge, adept at planning VIP moments “para dos,” has tricks up his sleeve from intimate sunset cruises to gourmet dinners on the beach. Water babies booking the 1,680-square-foot Oceanfront Swim Up Master Corner Suite will delight in its large terrace, swim up pool, and bedazzling ocean views.
Angama Mara and Angama Safari Camp, Kenya
Loving doesn’t get much more cinematic than taking your partner to a picnic in the literal spot where Robert Redford and Meryl Streep became smitten with one another in Sydney Pollack’s classic 1980 film, Out of Africa. On a sequestered kopjie (or hill) near the lodge, you’ll tipple fine wine and nibble from a gourmet picnic basket filled with items composed from this monumental safari lodge’s own organic garden. The chance of seeing a herd of elephants and other wildlife in the distance? 100 percent. Stunningly kitted out, uniquely in tune with its setting, Angama may well be Kenya’s most romantic safari outpost. With a name that means “suspended in the air” in Swahili, Angama floats above the bush on a promontory, its design-centric tents, 40-foot-long swimming pool, fitness center, and photography studio at your beck and call. Sundowners, safari drives, walking excursions, and hot air balloon rides complete your dream adventure in the Mara Triangle, where wildlife viewing happens 12 months out of the year. For an even more intimate experience, book at their lodge-within-a-lodge concept: Angama Safari Camp, nestled nearby amid the Maasai Mara. Exclusive, it has its own dedicated staff and only four tents.
Though all head-over-heels travelers will want to be sure they make a flirty quest around the island to visit all of Anguilla’s 33 postcard-perfect beaches, couples staying at swanky Quintessence will be sleeping at one of its best sandy crescents: Long Bay Beach, known for its unspoiled expanses. Ensconced in Quintessence, a 12-suite, villa-like hideaway, guests can submerge in the infinity pool, melt into couples’ treatments in the spa, dine in the private gazebo, peruse the Q art gallery, cheer the sunset with a rum punch, or be nerdy oenophiles in the hotel’s mind bogglingly immense 6,000-bottle Tuscan wine cellar. A Champagne tasting room opens in 2024. Choose the Joseph Penthouse for its unrivaled vistas and spacious balcony.
The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Fire. Ice. Hot blood. Goosebumps — you’ll feel it all during a romantic rendezvous at The Retreat at Blue Lagoon. Elegant, racy, sultry, salubrious, and irresistibly come hither, this wondrous wellness resort punctuates the inky, ancient lava fields of southern Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula. Sure to raise your body temperature and beguile you, the sexy hotspot is one of the world’s top destinations for falling more deeply under the one you love’s eternal spell. Located on the banks of the storied Blue Lagoon, edged by its own private geothermal lagoons, The Retreat has a subterranean spa where lovers can smear mud masks over each other’s bodies during a hydrating do-it-yourself-ritual. For the ultimate splurge, opt for the bi-level, design-centric Blue Lagoon Suite, with its own spa and sequestered lagoon. Don’t miss the Michelin-starred restaurant Moss for a foray into contemporary Icelandic fare.
Cover image, courtesy of Manoir Hovey; words by Becca Hensley.