Travel

The Best Under-the-Radar Honeymoon Destinations in the US

Sanibel Island Florida
Sanibel is a city in Lee County, Florida. | Tanvir Ibna Shafi/Moment Open/Getty
Sanibel is a city in Lee County, Florida. | Tanvir Ibna Shafi/Moment Open/Getty

Get the “I dos” over with. We all know the best part of the wedding is when it’s all over, especially when you get to be lovesick dummies on an amazing beach or dropped in the middle of a farflung locale, just the two of you.

And while honeymoons in the US are great -- most are only a quick flight or drive away, meaning you can start off your sexy trip for two a lot sooner -- some destinations can easily be overrun with other lovey dovey couples. Luckily, there are some truly Instagram-worthy, trip-of-a-lifetime honeymoon ideas right in our backyard, and if you’re looking for privacy (aka not being surrounded by other honeymooners) there are a lot of unique, uber-romantic getaways. Good news: After that more-expensive-than-you-planned-for wedding, you won’t be breaking the bank either. Check out these under-the-radar locales in the US. All very local, without being overrun by other heart-eyes-emoji’d couples.

You can only access Dry Tortugas by boat or seaplane.
You can only access Dry Tortugas by boat or seaplane. | Boogich/E+/Getty

Dry Tortugas Islands, FL

OK, this one is for the adventurous couple who is looking to sleep under the stars (and maybe check “sex on the beach” off the bucket list). Dry Tortugas Islands -- a seven-island archipelago -- is 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. What makes it great for honeymoons is its sheer seclusion. You can only access the isles by boat or seaplane. No hotels here, folks -- which means you’ll need to apply for one of the few available campsites.

Don't leave without: Snorkeling -- it’s one of the best places to spot wildlife under the sea in the country. You’ll catch sea turtles, coral, and lots of other marine life.

Hocking Hills State Park, OH
Explore some of the seven hiking areas in the park. | StevenRussellSmithPhotos/Shutterstock

Hocking Hills State Park, OH

Though not typically on Cupid’s route, Ohio does have a few surprises in store for lovers. Take, for instance, Hocking Hills State Park. Perfect for the outdoorsy couple, it spans more than 2,300 acres about an hour south of Columbus and is known for its dramatic waterfalls and beautiful rock formations. The state park is a beautiful place to explore, whether you and your boo are looking to hike, bike, fish, or camp (or all of the above). Not into the idea of camping and everything that comes with it (peeing in a bush doesn’t exactly scream “honeymoon”)? There are several cabins in the area available for rent -- and some even have a private hot tub.

Don't leave without: Explore some of the seven hiking areas in the park. And definitely don’t miss the notable rock formations like Old Man's Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Ash Cave, and Cedar Falls.

The Boulders Resort & Spa
Treat yourself to a couples massage at the Waldorf Astoria spa at Boulders. | The Boulders Resort & Spa

Carefree, AZ

With a name like “Carefree,” how could you not honeymoon here? Desert honeymoons are all the rage in more well-trodden destinations like Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. But since you're all about trailblazing, make like the tumbleweeds and get you here. This Arizona small town has all the elements of a great Southwestern getaway, with red rocks, cacti, and lots of history. For a truly fantastic five-star honeymoon experience, check into the Boulders Resort. Tip: Phoenix and Scottsdale are just 40 minutes away, so if your honeymoon calls for an evening of high energy, you won't be disappointed. Feeling touristy? Take a walk in the Wild West at nearby Frontier Town.

Don't leave without: Rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and then treating yourself to a couples massage at the Waldorf Astoria spa at Boulders. And while you’re walking down Easy Street, make a stop at the Carefree Desert Gardens -- a truly stunning, totally free 4-acre botanical garden.

Woodstock, Vermont
Situated around lakes with never-ending foliage, this 300-acre resort of 27 cabins is picturesque AF. | Canoe Bay

Chetek, WI

Wisconsin? Really? Sure, they know their football and cheese, but neither are particularly romantic. That said, Wisconsin is home to a romantic secret that will, in fact, have you thinking longingly about the Badger State: Canoe Bay, just outside Chetek. Situated around lakes with never-ending foliage, this 300-acre resort of 27 cabins is picturesque AF. What’s more, the resort was designed with romance in mind, as the property is adults-only, each cottage made just for two. Standard features in every room are a king bed, fireplace, private deck, and two-person whirlpool tub. (Insert winky face.)

Don't leave without: Getting out on the water! It’s called Canoe Bay for a reason. Take out a canoe or kayak for two, or fish or swim. After a day full of activities, schedule an in-room massage, followed by some, ahem, playtime in front of your fireplace, or in your whirlpool tub, or in your king-size bed -- whatever you’re into (we won’t judge).

sanibel island
This offshoot of Fort Myers is low-key and quiet. | Maridav/shutterstock

Sanibel Island, FL

While every other canoodling couple you know is knocking boots in the Florida Keys, you’ll want to head to Sanibel Island for a little more privacy. This offshoot of Fort Myers is low-key and quiet, perfect for honeymooners who want to spend time with the sun, sand, and, oh yeah, each other. With a shabby-chic vibe, you'll think you've stumbled into the Caribbean, minus all the other people, plus 15 miles of beaches to enjoy.

Don't leave without: Indulging in something sweet. Order anything with chocolate pudding fruit. This locally grown fruit is filled with chocolate-colored pulp, which is romantic and sexy, and perfect for candlelit dinners and/or eating it off of each other. If you're into that. (It's your honeymoon. You are.)

Gates of the Arctic National Park, AK
This park has no established roads, trails, or campsites, aka a true adventure and not for the couple that's faint of heart. | Flickr/Paxson Woelber

Gates of the Arctic National Park, AK

If nature turns you on, you'll love this next under-the-radar honeymoon. A nearly untouched expansive piece of wilderness, this national park spans more than 8.4 million acres in Northern Alaska. And when we say wilderness, we mean wilderness. This park has no established roads, trails, or campsites, aka a true adventure and not for the couple that's faint of heart. You have to get here by hiking or plane, and you'll also have to know how to pitch your own tent. If you two are big outdoors-people and have the skills to handle it, Gates of the Arctic will definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (You can also hire a guide, if you’re so inclined.)

Don't leave without: Really experiencing just how untouched this piece of the planet is. Catch the northern lights, take some shots of the wildlife, and learn from the Native Alaskan groups that still occupy parts of the park.

Grand Haven, MI
The Boardwalk offers a romantic vantage point to watch sunsets with your honey. | Dean Pennala/Shutterstock

Grand Haven, MI

If someone were to rank all the beach towns of Michigan (yes, beach towns -- Lake Michigan is no joke), this one would absolutely get top billing. And why wouldn’t it? It’s got beautiful beaches, bars (don’t miss Odd Side Ales for its cool atmosphere and unique microbrews), and plenty of outdoorsy activities to keep you busy when, um, you’re not getting busy. Rosy Mound offers a bit of a naturalistic trail through open dunes and scenic woods that abut Lake Michigan, while the Boardwalk offers a romantic vantage point to watch sunsets with your honey.

Don’t leave without: Sneaking cocktails out to the lighthouse pier for a romantic, boozy picnic.

Molokai, hawaii
Molokai Island in Hawaii is one of the most untapped, pristine destinations in the state. | Lokuttara/Shutterstock

Molokai, HI

If you're looking for beaches to see and be seen, epic surf competitions, and an endless stretch of high-end hotels, you've come to the entirely wrong place. Molokai Island in Hawaii is one of the most untapped, pristine destinations in the state. In fact, it's so off the beaten path that the island doesn't have a single traffic light. No malls here, either, so you'll have to do souvenir shopping elsewhere, but there are plenty of accommodations. It's all about nature, from rain forests to deserted beaches. This is Hawaii as it was decades ago, before everyone else in the world caught on. It’s very possible you’ll even have a Hawaiian beach all to yourselves…

Don't leave without: Visiting Kalaupapa Peninsula, one of the most stunningly beautiful places in all of Hawaii, and for the thrill seekers, hire a guide and enjoy some horsebacking along wow-worthy mountain trails.

Portsmouth, NH
What could be more cozy and romantic than a New England inn? | Jo Ann Snover/Shutterstock

Portsmouth, NH

For lovers of New England who dream of clams, sea shanties, and Emily Dickinson, a honeymoon in Portsmouth is your fantasy come true. This town is the word “quaint” embodied, but with a very real hipster twist. A food revolution has taken the town by storm, bringing with it a bevy of phenomenal dining establishments, like Black Trumpet and Street, a lively restaurant dedicated to global fare from falafel to bibimbap. The town even has its own beer festival. As far as romantic accommodations, there are plenty of inns to go around. What could be more cozy and romantic than a New England inn?

Don't leave without: Biking the outlying coast to Odiorne Point. It's damn picturesque and you'll feel refreshed breathing in all that briny air.

Rincon Lighthouse and Beach Puerto Rico
Rincon boasts the Caribbean’s best surfing and most swoon-worthy sunsets. | Marc Pagani/getty

Rincón, Puerto Rico

One word to describe Rincón? Intimate, which is quite possibly the best word to use when talking about a honeymoon destination. Not quite the frenetic scene of San Juan (in fact, nothing like it), Rincón is a far cry from the resort-flanked beaches more popular in other Puerto Rican hot spots. (And lucky you -- this makes it a cheap honeymoon destination as well, especially for the Caribbean.) What honeymooners will find here are more than eight miles of quiet beaches, lots of surfers, and a handful of laid-back beach bars and restaurants. It's all about being truly bohemian here, so leave that straw fedora and those Dolces at home.

Don't leave without: Taking in Rincón’s natural beauty, whether on a sunset cruise, parasailing, or horseback riding. There are also whale-watching opportunities depending on the time of year.

Encinitas, CA
Encinitas is one of the last strongholds of true California surf culture. | senai aksoy/Shutterstock

Encinitas, CA

The West Coast boasts a lot of the best honeymoon destinations in the US, but dealing with the crowds in LA and San Diego does not exactly sound like a relaxing honeymoon. So how about something literally in between? Encinitas is one of the last strongholds of true California surf culture -- and perfect if you and your honey get off on the Beach Boys. While the beaches are one of the main attractions here, landlubber couples just looking for a little sunshine can also make the most out of this SoCal hideaway. Its downtown district is packed with attractions, like La Paloma Theatre, shopping, and all the restaurants serving all the tacos.

Don't leave without: Dining at romantic Solterra Winery & Kitchen, which will douse your evening in luxurious Rhone- and Italian-style wines and Mediterranean fare.

San Juan Islands, WA
This cluster of islands is a haven for art lovers, foodies, and outdoor enthusiasts. | Edmund Lowe Photography/Shutterstock

San Juan Islands, WA

Seattle is definitely cool for honeymooners, if you like being, ugh, trendy. But for those looking to go more off the radar, take the ferry to the San Juan Islands, located northwest of Seattle. This cluster of islands is a haven for art lovers, foodies, and outdoor enthusiasts, which is basically Seattle, but minus all the people. Go sea kayaking, eat seafood, and sip a fine West Coast wine at one of its many boutique wineries.

Don't leave without: Tasting cider at Westcott Bay, the oldest cidery in Washington, and zip-lining through the forest on San Juan Island.

Texas Gulf Coast, TX
Why wouldn’t you opt for Texas over Oahu? | Denise Lett/Shutterstock

Texas Gulf Coast, TX

Why should you book your beach honeymoon in Texas? There are 367 miles of warm water and sandy stretches, that's why. Thinking of the Lone Star State usually conjures up images of steaks, really big hats, and SXSW, but when it comes to beach honeymoon destinations, you'll be surprised to know Texas offers some of the best in the country. Take a little road trip with your number one along the Texas Gulf Coast and you’ll discover loads of beaches, small towns, and even something called the Galveston Schlitterbahn (a massive, and arguably romantic, water park). With water temperatures that rival the Caribbean, cheap and delicious cantinas, and outdoor activities galore, why wouldn’t you opt for Texas over Oahu? (Not to mention, it’s definitely a cheaper honeymoon destination than Hawaii.)

Don't leave without: Camping on the beach. Or making out on the lazy river at the Galveston Schlitterbahn. Seriously, it's (cheesily) romantic.

Taos New Mexico
Taos is a haven for fly-fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hot-air ballooning, river rafting, or hot springing. | Angel McNall Photography/Shutterstock

Taos, NM

For a small-town retreat rife with Southwestern, adobe-colored culture, consider Taos. With more than 300 sunny days a year, Taos is a haven for fly-fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hot-air ballooning, river rafting, or hot springing. Plus, it’s good for history buffs too. Native Americans have lived at Taos Pueblo -- a UNESCO site -- for more than 1,000 years, and you can visit and learn all about their heritage here. What's more, unlike nearby Santa Fe, Taos is incredibly affordable (hello, much-needed cheap honeymoon destination) so you might even get to do all these things on your trip -- and enjoy some gourmet meals, while you’re at it -- and still go home with money for that down payment.

Don't leave without: Llama trekking. Because that is a thing.

Truckee, CA
This locals-only alternative to the ridiculously overpriced resorts of Tahoe has all the charm of a quaint alpine town. | welcomia/Shutterstock

Truckee, CA

Get the very best of a Lake Tahoe honeymoon without the price -- or the people. This locals-only alternative to the ridiculously overpriced resorts of Tahoe has all the charm of a quaint alpine town, minus the douchebaggery. Winter honeymooners will be able to make the most out of the slopes and then retire to a casual spot like Morgan's Lobster Shack for a romantic, laid-back, and butter-soaked meal. If winter's not your thing, opt for a summer honeymoon, which opens the door to all that gorgeous lake-time fun and enjoying a cold brew from FiftyFifty Brewing Co.

Don't leave without: Skiing one of the country's most fantastic slopes at spots like Northstar, Heavenly, or Squaw Valley, or white-water rafting or kayaking in the warmer months. 

getty
You’ll be able to push bales of hay off the wagon and greet the animals firsthand, too. | Richard Ligon/500px Prime/Getty

Mustang Monument, Wells, NV

Looking for a safari experience stateside? Get wild and experience all the glory of the American wild mustangs with a stay at Mustang Monument Eco-Resort & Preserve. Check into one of its cottages and be ready for an early wake-up call. As the sun is just coming up, you’ll be out on the range to watch the daily feed of some of the 450 majestic mustangs, who live on 27,000 acres of open land. You’ll be able to push bales of hay off the wagon and greet the animals firsthand, too. Later in the day, climb a mountain on horseback and stop for a picnic lunch to take in the view. End your night by pulling up a stool at the on-site saloon.

Don't leave without: Taking a trip to remote Goshute Valley, where you’ll follow an old trail to California and find 350 mustangs. You can even camp overnight for some real, quality alone time.

Hudson, NY

Just a little more than two hours north of New York City, you’ll find an upstate town that’s going through a resurgence (aka, very hipster friendly). Hudson has plenty to offer honeymooners: nearby hiking, too-cool interior design shops, and food and drink options for whatever you’re craving. Walk down Warren Street and you’ll hit lots of shops -- including a few with eclectic antiques (perfect to fill that newlywed nest of yours) as well as a bookstore that doubles as a beer bar. Yes, that’s right -- you can sip local brews and then pick up some page turners at Spotty Dog. There are lots of Airbnbs to choose from here, with some even on the water, but for the true five-star hipster experience, book a room at Rivertown Lodge. The cocktails at its bar/restaurant the Tavern are must-trys.

Don't leave without: Checking out Swoon Kitchenbar for dinner and Hudson Brewing Company for an afternoon beer flight.

Boothbay Harbor, ME  

Avoid the overrun crowds of tourists in Portland, ME, and head north to Boothbay Harbor. If being on the water and out in nature is your jam, this is the spot for you. It’s an idyllic New England coast town -- full of quaint shops, restaurants serving up fresh seafood, and lots of water and land activities. Tackle a trail on the more than 20 miles of hiking nearby, or head out in a sea kayak with a picnic lunch to Burnt Island Lighthouse.

Don't leave without: Did we mention seafood? You can’t go to Maine and not get lobster.

 DenisTangneyJr/ E+/Getty
With a quaint, easily walkable downtown, Burlington has a lot to offer. | DenisTangneyJr/ E+/Getty

Burlington, VT

With a quaint, easily walkable downtown, Burlington has a lot to offer, whether you’re honeymooning in winter or summer. In the colder months, hit the slopes at Bolton Valley or Cochran’s Ski Area -- both close to town -- then taste some cider at Citizen Cider. In summer, take advantage of being right on the water and go paddleboarding on Lake Champlain. After working up an appetite, take your own personal food tour at Artsriot Truck Stop, where every Friday you’ll find food trucks serving all sorts of mouthwatering bites that you previously swore off prewedding. Now that you put a ring on it, the time to indulge.

Don't leave without: Taking a brewery tour with City Brew Tours. Yeah, we know -- there’s a lot of booze on this list. But that’s what your honeymoon’s all about right? Spending some time drinking with the one you love.

Sure, the Willamette Valley is known for its pinot noir, but expect to find pinot gris, riesling, cabernet franc and 70-plus other varietals.
Sure, the Willamette Valley is known for its pinot noir, but expect to find pinot gris, riesling, cabernet franc and 70-plus other varietals. | Mark C Stevens/Moment/Getty

Willamette Valley, OR

Okay winos -- this one’s for you. Yes, Napa and Sonoma may first come to mind when you think of wine country, but Willamette  (rhymes with “damn it”) Valley has just as much to offer (and is less expensive -- win-win). Two-thirds of all wines produced in Oregon are made in Willamette Valley, so get ready to do some tasting. Sure, the region is known for its pinot noir, but expect to find pinot gris, riesling, cabernet franc and 70-plus other varietals. Check out Amity Vineyards, one of the region’s pioneers, or experimental Minimus Wines for a taste of what the future of the state’s winemaking looks like.  If you need a break from wine tasting (weird, but okay) rent some bikes and take in nature along the scenic bikeway. Or if you’d like a view from above, sign up for a helicopter or hot air balloon tour. With how scenic this place is, it’s quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best honeymoon destinations in the US -- so get here quick.

Don't leave without: Visiting Stoller Family Estate. Get a tour of the vineyards from the winemakers, then enjoy a tasting in its (seasonally) open-air tasting room. It’s one of the best views (and pinot noirs) in the valley.

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Meagan is a travel writer living and breathing in NYC. But if you give her a plane ticket today, she will be somewhere else tomorrow. She like tacos, music and making lists. But travel is her life.
Maria Bouselli is a Thrillist contributor.