Romantic Getaways

Travel Escapes for Two

Float in a glowing bay or soak in hot springs? America’s secret spots to get away without going too far.

7 Romantic Hidden Gems

You don’t have to travel far for a couple-friendly vacation. There are plenty of romantic destinations under the radar right here in the U.S. We’ve uncovered seven spots offering amazing experiences that are bound to bring you closer. By Leigh Crandall

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WILLAMETTE VALLEY

Food and wine lovers will feel right at home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley thanks to more than 200 wineries and award-winning restaurants that teem with local ingredients. Bonus: Top-notch accommodations here are generally less expensive than California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys, and tasting rooms are less crowded.  

Self-guided tastings are easy around this region, which is renowned for its Pinot Noir. But if tours appeal, there are plenty to choose from. Athletically inclined couples should sign up with Pedal Bike Tours, which offers a spin down the picturesque country roads and rolling hills of the valley and concludes with a wine tasting (and a lift back to town). For a romantic, birds-eye view of Yamhilll County, book a hot-air balloon ride and Champagne breakfast with Vista Balloon Adventures. Foodies should stop by Dayton’s Red Ridge Farms for a tasting of locally produced olive oils, followed by a picnic with gorgeous vistas of wine country.

When you’re not out and about, relax at the Allison Inn & Spa, where rooms include romance-friendly details like fireplaces and private terraces. Indulge with a region-specific treatment at the spa (like their “Divine Wine” facial) or a flight wine tasting at its onsite restaurant, JORY.

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CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK

If your idea of a romantic destination involves a deserted island, look no further than Channel Islands National Park—despite its location just off the Southern California mainland, this national park remains one of America’s least-visited. Often called “North America’s Galapagos,” the five islands it encompasses—Anacapa, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Barbara—offer endless possibilities for nature lovers.

Spend your days kayaking through the sea caves in the Scorpion Area of Eastern Santa Cruz Island, diving the giant kelp forests off Anacapa, or surfing the swells off Santa Rosa. Hikers can walk to Point Bennett on the western tip of San Miguel, where they’ll discover one of the largest gatherings of seals and sea lions in the world. Outdoorsy-types with the right gear and knowhow can take advantage of beach camping, while the less-adventurous can charter a crewed yacht with Sail Channel Islands, which includes overnight accommodations and the chance to spot whales and dolphins in the waters surrounding the islands.

Beth Harpaz / AP Photo

HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS

Nestled in the Ouachita Mountains an hour outside of Little Rock, this Arkansas town named for its naturally occurring hot springs was a hugely popular wellness destination in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly for Major League Baseball teams like the Red Sox, Pirates and Cubs, who based their spring-training camps here so players could take advantage of the healing thermal waters of the spas along Bathhouse Row.

Modern-day Hot Springs has undergone a renaissance of sorts, thanks to newly renovated spots like Quapaw Baths & Spa. Housed in a beautiful, Spanish Colonial-style building along historic Bathhouse Row, this spa is a perfect pick for couples thanks to private mineral baths and steam caves, plus packages for two that also include massages, facials, and aromatherapy. Stay at the historic Arlington Hotel & Spa, a circa 1875 property that’s hosted a long list of notable guests including Babe Ruth, Al Capone, and Bill Clinton. Sports enthusiasts can take advantage of the nearby Hot Springs Country Club’s tennis courts and golf course, while dance fans can plan to cut a rug on Friday and Saturday nights at the hotel, when the Willie Davis & Co. jazz combo plays big band music in the Lobby Bar. Art lovers can spend an afternoon browsing dozens of local artists’ studios and galleries, including the recently opened Museum of Contemporary Art housed in the historical Ozark Bathhouse building.  And, while barbecue may not be the most romantic meal, couples shouldn’t leave without sampling the smoked spare ribs at Clinton favorite McClard’s.

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KIAWAH ISLAND

While Bald Head and Kiawah are no secret to North Carolina and South Carolina natives, Northeasterners looking for a romantic island getaway without venturing as far as the Caribbean will be thrilled to discover this Southern duo.

Bald Head offers plenty of peace and quiet thanks to its no-car policy. Instead, visitors here make their way around on golf carts, which are usually included with vacation rentals—a popular way to go for couples who value their privacy and want to stay beachside. Charming boutiques and island activities like sailing and fishing are easy to come by, and there’s plenty to be had in the way of dining options. But the best days here include beach time, a golf-cart run to the Maritime Market for sundries and wine, a home-cooked dinner, and watching the sun set over Cape Fear from the comfort of your own porch.

If golf factors into your dream-vacation plans, then Kiawah is the spot for you. A 45-minute drive from Charleston, the island is home to five championship courses, including the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course, which will host the PGA Championship this year. When you’re not on the course, try your hand at deep-sea fishing, bike along the coast, or just relax and soak up the sun on the island’s ten-mile-long beach. Accommodation options range from condos and villas to beachfront vacation homes, as well as rooms at the Sanctuary Hotel, which also boasts a five-star spa with a private suite for couple’s treatments.  

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TAOS, NEW MEXICO

Gorgeous 360-degree mountain views, outstanding skiing, and an arts scene to rival sister city Santa Fe make it easy to see why this New Mexico town works well for long weekends away. Couples looking to bond over activities will find Taos offers options beyond the norm that are wonderfully, regionally specific: learn to paint where Georgia O’Keefe did, raft the Rio Grande, or trek through the surrounding mountains—on llama-back.  Less esoteric options include an afternoon spent browsing the city’s exceptional art museums, shopping jewelry boutiques for turquoise trinkets, and dining on delicious Southwestern cuisine. Best of all, a wide price-range of accommodations makes it easy for couples on any budget to visit. For a well-worth-it splurge, check into El Monte Sagrado, where rooms include romantic details like fireplaces and oversize soaking tubs. For Southwestern style on a budget, try the charming Adobe & Pines Inn, a bed and breakfast with rooms from $99 per night.

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VIEQUES ISLAND

This little island lies just eight miles off Puerto Rico’s mainland, but feels like a world way thanks to the fact that it remains largely undeveloped as it was home to the U.S. Navy until 2003. It’s still easy to stumble across beaches you’ll have all to yourself—even well-known spots like Red Beach and Blue Beach are considered “busy” by locals with just a dozen people scattered across their pure white sand.

Check into the stylish, Patricia Urquiola-designed W Retreat & Spa, which features two private beaches and an infinity pool, perfect for unwinding with a few umbrella drinks. The hotel can also arrange couple-centric activities like horseback riding or snorkeling—even an ocean kayak trip that ends with a private picnic lunch on the beach. One ultra-romantic experience not to be missed is a peaceful nighttime float along the island’s bioluminescent bay, where micro-organisms in the water make the bay glow as brightly as the stars overhead.

When you’re ready to relax, hit the W’s spa for a massage followed by a soak in a private, candlelit jacuzzi overlooking the water. For a romantic dinner, we like Next Course, a charming local restaurant with al fresco dining on a porch built in the canopy of giant, twinkle-light covered trees.