Striped beach umbrellas nestled together like cogs and terrycloth towels smothered nearly every inch of sand. As we stood before the sea of people and hollering vendors hawking their wares, we struggled to recognize the postcard-perfect cove we saw online.
Though having traveled the world on our honeymoon the past six years, we know a thing or two about tenacity and were determined to find our slice of paradise. We trudged past the throngs of sunbathers and through the shallow waves until we reached a rocky outcropping. We scaled the boulders, jumped over tide pools, and tiptoed past a sea lion–until we found it: a pristine beach cove with waves gently lapping on the sand and only two sets of footprints.
While you can make any beach destination fabulous with a sense of adventure and humor, we’re going to save you the guesswork (and the rock climbing). Since we left on our honeymoon in January 2012, we’ve been scouring all seven continents for the world’s most romantic destinations. And after road tripping 28,000 miles around North America this year, we’ve also discovered how many seductive retreats are on our own coastline or just an island hop away. From rocky coves backed by rain forests to little known tropical isles, these are our 10 favorite beaches for couples looking to get away from it all.
10 Best Beach Vacations To Get Away From It All
Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Sea stacks shoot out of the sea and waves crash on beaches made for tide-poolers and beachcombers. It’s a windswept coastline at its best, but it gets better. It’s at the foot of one of the U.S.’s only old-growth rainforests, glaciated mountain peaks, and hundreds of miles of hiking trails in Olympic National Park. The whimsical Domaine Madeline in Port Angeles is at the gateway to the park yet tucked away on a seaside bluff. Enjoy breakfast on your patio then take a drive up to Hurricane Ridge for views over the San Juan Islands and hikes for every level.View Hotel
This skinny island, just a ferry ride from busy Nassau, is fringed by 135 beaches—in white and pink sand. Nary a stoplight or chain restaurant, this is the Bahamas at its most idyllic. Stay at the north end of the island with a beachfront villa at The Cove. Standup paddleboard around the sea cliffs, take a boat to dive some of the Bahamas’ best shipwrecks, or fish for your dinner (the sushi chef will prepare your catch). At low tide, ride bikes to Queen’s Bath, ocean-filled rock pools warmed by the sun, for a heavenly dip.View Hotel
As soon as you step foot on the ferry to Nantucket, island time takes hold. Feel the breeze, order a pair of Cisco beers, and kick back on the sundeck until you see the sailboat-studded harbor come into view. Walk the cobblestone streets lined with colonial buildings and clapboard homes. Behind their 18th-century facades, you have posh boutiques, wine bars, and farm-to-table restaurants. Right downtown and walking distance to the beach, 21 Broad Hotel has chic style and flair. Enjoy their BYOB social hour on the porch and freshen up for dinner with a Vitamin C shower (yes, it’s a thing).View Hotel
Cape May, New Jersey
Forget what you think you know about the “Jersey Shore.” This historic seaside village at the tip of the Cape May peninsula is pure charm. With Grand Victorian homes, lively walking streets, beautiful beaches, and a lighthouse to catch views of both the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, it’s the “Jersey” locals like to keep for themselves.
Get the best blend of old and new with a couple of nights at the Carroll Villa Hotel. On the national historic register, this 19th-century building has been decorated with vintage modern style and a dash of beach bohemian. Surprise your honey with the “romantic package” (chilled champagne, chocolates, and a long stem rose) and your stay will be that much sweeter.View Hotel
Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Dubbed the Amazon of Costa Rica, Tortuguero makes a stroll on the beach feel like a safari.
Sandwiched between the Caribbean Ocean, the Tortuguero River, and 11 different habitats (including rainforests, mangroves, and lagoons), this region’s biodiversity attracts wildlife in droves. Known as one of the Caribbean’s best sea turtle nesting beaches, the island welcomes tens of thousands of mamas and babies to its shores each summer. Choose the luxurious and adventure-savvy Tortuga Lodge, where massive green iguanas stroll around the chic cabanas and spider monkeys swing from the trees outside your room. For added romance, the lodge can arrange a private boat ride and dinner on a secluded riverbank before a guided stroll with the sea turtles.View Hotel
Drive north of Sonoma wine country along the legendary Pacific Coast Highway, and you’ll find dramatic sea cliffs, redwood forests, Victorian houses, and a vibrant art scene in this laid-back beach town. The historic Stanford Inn by the Sea is perfectly situated at the edge of town and the mouth of the river. Rent a hand-carved redwood canoe and paddle upstream to watch the resident sea lion colony at play. Return to the inn for a meal cooked with ingredients from their bountiful organic farm, then take dessert in a private corner of the garden. Digest with a walk on Big River Beach and continue your stroll into the heart of town for an evening of art galleries, quaint pubs, and dining in 19th-century-homes-turned-cafes.View Hotel
While most tourists head straight to Key West, this central island has some of the Keys’ only soft sand beaches, plus incredible scuba diving in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (the only barrier coral reef in the States). Tranquility Bay Resort is a fabulous base camp to relax by the turquoise Gulf of Mexico. Take a snorkel or dive trip to Sombrero Reef to swim alongside vibrant corals and tropical fish. Onshore, don’t miss the Turtle Hospital, a fascinating and heartwarming tour by the non-profit, rehabbing sea turtles.View Hotel
Barahona, Dominican Republic
On the opposite end of the country from the famed Punta Cana, this little-known region in the Southwest is the Dominican Republic’s best kept secret. With white sand beaches backed against lush green mountains, turquoise rivers tumbling Larimar gems, a dynamic UNESCO biosphere reserve, and some of the friendliest people, it’s a place to keep close to the heart. Check into Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge and stay in a room with a private infinity pool overlooking the ocean or one of their brand new river suites with glass walls that slide open to hear the water babbling and birds singing.View Hotel
Bar Harbor, Maine
One of Maine’s most picturesque towns is also the gateway to the only national park along the Atlantic Ocean, Acadia. Explore the park’s incredible coastline with hikes like the ladder-climb up The Beehive, ascend Cadillac Mountain for views of the town and the Cranberry Islands, then return for a lobster dinner and a show at the historic Criterion Theatre. More contemporary than the classic New England B&B’s, the Harborside Spa & Marina knows what couples are looking for. Virtually all rooms have balconies and are plenty sumptuous. Indulge in the full-service spa or pop next door to their sister property, the Bar Harbor Club, for a large outdoor pool and sundeck or a round of tennis.View Hotel
Mexico is known for their beaches and colonial cities, but no place combines the two like Mazatlán. A sweeping bay dotted with islets is set before colorful Spanish mansions, beautiful plazas, and an opera house that always has a cultural performance on tap. While there are many all-inclusive resorts in the “Golden Zone,” staying at Casa Lucila on Olas Altas beach in the centro historico is Mazatlán at its finest. Stroll the promenade, hike to the tallest natural lighthouse in the Americas, and day trip to Las Labradas, ancient petroglyphs carved into beach boulders that appear and disappear with the surf.View Hotel