From the glamorous Cote d’Azur to remote and rugged Botswana to cool California, Valentine’s Day has me thinking back to the myriad of beautiful and romantic destinations I’ve visited over the years filming for my PBS travel series. Whether you’re looking to ignite some passion or just need some R&R in a dreamy setting, my below top ten picks may inspire your next vacation.
Travel Tip! Planning a trip, check out some of our vacation options for the below destinations with Darley Vacations.
Isle of Anglesey, Wales: Château Rhianfa
A Grade ll-listed French-style castle hotel, Chateau Rhianfa is luxurious, yet comfortable, making it a great base for exploring Anglesey Island. Have you ever imagined what it must feel like to live like the royals? Well then, Château Rhianfa is the place for you to take your king or your queen next! This “Welsh fairytale hotel” sits regally atop idyllic gardens on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales. Take in views over the Menai Straits and the peaks of Snowdonia in this French-style castle that is centrally located, making it a great base for exploring the island.
After taking scenic drives and going on epic nature hikes amidst some of Great Britain’s most picturesque landscapes, sip on some late afternoon tea or relax in one of the lovely, cozy common rooms. Then, conclude your day by feasting on a fantastic multi-course meal in Château Rhianfa’s restaurant for a romantic dinner. The Isle of Anglesey is where Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, spent their first year of marriage after all! If you’re a couple who loves a good challenge, then we recommend that you study up on the Welsh language before your big getaway to Wales. Originating over 1,400 years ago, the Welsh language is still spoken on an everyday basis across the whole country. Here, we’ll give you a head start: Rwyn’n dy garu di—it means “I love you” in Welsh!
Botswana, Africa: Okavango Delta
Aside from being the largest inland delta in the entire world, Botswana’s remote Okavango Delta is one of the most romantic places we’ve ever been. Spend every day going on once-in-a-lifetime safari adventures and every night treating yourself to sunset, candlelit, or kerosene lantern meals right by the water. Enjoy a diverse range of meals that will be equally impeccable whether you’re at the Macatoo Camp or on your own private island!
The pinnacle of romance in the Delta is this treehouse that transforms into a loft at night. And couples, you definitely don’t want to miss out on this! Sleep in a treehouse (pictured above) transformed into your own personal loft high above the abundant wildlife and underneath the stars.
Wake up to a beautifully prepared brunch overlooking the water while watching elephants and giraffes pass by down below. We guarantee that you’ll fall in love like we did—with each other again obviously—but also, with the Delta!
California’s Central Coast: Hearst Castle & Morro Bay
We were pleasantly surprised with the several discoveries we made on a classic California road trip along the iconic Highway 1. For you outdoor lovers in love, these two spots stood out the most to us where you can daydream and experience the California way of life together: Hearst Castle and Morro Bay.
Located right in the middle—the heart, if you will—between the “Golden City” (San Francisco) and the “City of Dreams” (Los Angeles), Hearst Castle stands above the clouds at the top of The Enchanted Hill built by art collector W.R. Hearst. Escape to what quite literally feels like heaven on earth and explore the palace filled with art from all over the world, gorgeous gardens, and one-of-a-kind architecture. After a guided tour detailing the castle’s fascinating history, walk around freely, hang loose, and transport back in time in this dreamy oasis with hella stunning coastal views.
Further down south, you’ll find the charming seaside village of Morro Bay. Sustainability is what the coastal city prides itself on most— love is in the CLEAN air! Go on a guided couples kayak tour of Morro Bay National Estuary and Morro Rock, an extinct volcanic plug also known as “The Gibraltar of the Pacific” while also getting the chance to see how oysters are made by local farmers. Post-kayaking, head over to Tognazini’s Dockside Restaurant to share a dozen of those fresh oysters along with the catch of the day with a stellar backdrop of Morro Rock and ideal birdwatching. As Noah says to the love of his life Allie in The Notebook, “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.”
Travel Tip: Check out our Darley Vacations California’s Central Coast vacation and other USA trips.
Brittany, France: Saint-Malo
While everyone else flocks of to Paris, “the City of Love,” we’ll let you lovebirds and Francophiles in on a little secret if you’re looking for a more private getaway: the equally romantic but quainter city of Saint-Malo in the Brittany region of France. While we absolutely adored all of the places we visited in Brittany, Saint-Malo is the hidden gem we definitely wouldn’t want you to miss. Stroll along the cobbled streets of its old town down to its booming ferry port and feel like time travelers as you experience firsthand Brittany’s maritime origins.
Take to the water and sail at dusk with Sensations Littoral to see 17th century forts then top it all off with happy hour wine and oysters at a truly unforgettable spot. Bottoms up! (Try this experience on the Brittany, France Darley Vacation)
Martinique, The Caribbean: Tropics & Le Petibonum
A couples Caribbean vacation sure sounds nice doesn’t it? Then, you should most definitely head down to the island of Martinique, an overseas department of France in the Lesser Antilles in-between Dominica and St. Lucia. Stay in the capital city of Fort-de-France and wake up early to catch a sunrise like nowhere else over the harbor. Put on your walking shoes and explore this very walkable city—don’t miss La Savane, Martinique’s very own tropical version of Central Park. For more tropics, make sure to visit the Balata Gardens too, just outside of Fort-de-France, for treetop strolls with natural eye candy everywhere you look like unique flowers and hummingbirds in this rainforest setting. Then, venture out to Ilet Madame and snorkel in the beautiful, clear water reefs around les Fonds Blans.
Have some tartare at sunset at Le Petibonum and a cocktail, too. Reward yourselves at the end of the day by relaxing at the restaurant on a black sand beach in Le Carbet, Le Petibonum. Frolic together in the water with Planteurs, a rum punch and the island’s signature drink, in hand. Request for Chef Guy Ferdinand, better known as Chef Hot Pants (you’ll see why!) and have him slice up the catch of the day right before your eyes for the some of the freshest fish you’ll ever taste. With its pristine beaches, dreamlike rainforests, vibrant culture, tucked away fishing villages, and world-renowned rum, how could you resist the magnificent Martinique?
Hong Kong, China: Michelin Star Restaurants & Aqualuna
For a more urban, romantic getaway, our pick is the incredible city of Hong Kong! From eating some of the most delicious food we’ve ever tasted at the hottest Michelin Star restaurants to hanging out at hip rooftop spots with exquisite cityscape views, we hope you’re going to love this amazing city as much we did.
Every meal in Hong Kong offers something new at these must-dine restaurants. For dim sum delights, go to Tim Ho Wan and get ready to share dishes with your love. Yes, sharing is caring, but also, this a hallmark of the whole dim sum experience! For exquisite Cantonese blended with fine wines, you must go to Ming Court and learn a whole new approach to cooking (perhaps you’ll learn a new dish to prepare at home but be warned, it doesn’t look easy!). Lovers who love each other just as much as they love seafood need not miss out on Sing Kee Seafood Restaurant where all of their food is locally sourced from Sai Kung, “Hong Kong’s back garden.”
Out of all of the fun places we checked out for decadent cocktails, Aqualuna tops everywhere else for being the most romantic setting. All aboard this astonishing handcrafted boat with its dramatic red sails in the famous Victoria Harbor. Sit back, feel the breeze, cheers to love, and bask in the many different sights to see, the most memorable being Hong Kong’s iconic skyline. “The Loooooove Boat!” anyone?
Belgium: Brussels & Châteaus
Calling all foodies! We are head over heels for Belgium. Not only is it home to the world’s best waffles and the tastiest beers, but we had the best meal of our lives at Chef Sang-Hoon Degeimbre’s two-star Michelin restaurant, L’air du temps, in Namur. This master chef has a cooking lab that makes for a futuristic dining experience. He uses advanced technology, such as an ultrasound machine, to prepare the most innovative food pairings straight from the garden like vegetables turned into spaghetti. You could recreate Lady and the Tramp just without the meatballs!
Bike all that delicious food off on a bike tour with Pro Velo to get an authentic feel of Brussels with a local showing you around. Choose from either the art deco/art noveau tour (we loved it!) or other options that take you to parks, pubs, or breweries. Either path you take, you’ll undoubtedly get a better idea of Brussels’ fabulous culture.
And you definitely don’t want to miss out on the beautiful castles, manors, and gardens all around the country. For an eccentric experience, check out the medieval town of Durbuy and go to the Château de Durbuy where you might bump into Count d’Ursel who still resides here! If you’re seeking luxury, head to Château de Modave which was once owned by a Cardinal and a Count. They had immaculate taste and attention to detail like the extravagant ceiling in the Guard Room, baccarat crystal the chandeliers, rare embroidered silk everywhere, and of course, the lavish salon. Perhaps you’ll, as Marie Kondo says, “spark joy” for your future dream home together!
Jackson Hole, Wyoming: Gros Ventre River Ranch & Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Through the ears view riding in the Bridger-Teton National Forest with Gros Ventre River Ranch. Horse people and ski bunnies, you definitely need to consider the remarkable Jackson Hole for your next lovers retreat! We recommend Gros Ventre River Ranch which has epic riding in the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the coziest lodging, both providing scenic views of the famed Tetons. As for the slopes, we love Jackson Hole Mountain Resort if you want not only some of the best skiing in the world, but also will be unlike any other ski trip you’ve been on before.
Here, you can go on literally the sweetest date ever by taking the tram 10,400 feet high to Rendezvous Peak for waffles on top of the world. Keep your culinary adventure going by trekking up over 4,100 feet with 360-degree views of Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park. The best part? More waffles! Topped off with brown sugar butter, Nutella, bacon, and so much more, these made-to-order waffles will be waiting for you at Corbet’s Cabin to conclude this unforgettable journey! Food with a view? What could be better!
Santa Fe, New Mexico: The Chocolate Trail & The Margarita Trail
Follow the chocolate and margarita brick road! Santa Fe’s culture is deeply rooted in its architecture, but it’s also reflected in its food like The Chocolate Trail and The Margarita Trail.
Santa Fe’s Chocolate Trail consists of six main stops: Art of Chocolate/Cacao Santa Fe, C.G. Higgins Confections, Kakawa Chocolate House, Señor Murphy Candymaker, The Chocolate Smith and Todos Santos. There were two that stood out the most for us, not only for how delectable their chocolate is, but because they exemplified the specific elements of the city’s history and culture. First, Todos Santos’ cute, little shop has made a name for itself by creating silver and gold covered chocolate in the shape of religious folk charms known as Milagros or miracles, which locals like to collect. Second, Kakawa Chocolate House is famous for its chocolate elixirs honoring pre-Colombian and other historical recipes. And what doesn’t say “I love you” more than the beautiful treat of chocolate?
Add it to your list! Time to spice up your love life and take Santa Fe’s Margarita Trail! This trail consists of five restaurants: Rancho de Chimayo, The Mine Shaft Tavern, Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, Terra at Four Seasons Rancho Encantado, and Blue Heron Restaurant at Sunrise Springs Resort. Our favorites were the prickly pear margarita at Rancho de Chimayo and the cucumber chile margarita at The Mine Shaft Tavern. Salud!
Travel Tip: Check out our Darley Vacations Santa Fe vacations and other USA trips.
Cote d’Azur, France: Rent a Classic Car & Fragonard Perfume Factory
Outside of the Fragonard Perfume Factory in Grasse. Fly to Cote d’Azur, rent a classic car, drive the coast, and craft your own perfume—a perfect, sentimental gift for your Valentine! You only live once so why not pay a little more and rent a vintage sports car through Rent a Classic Car? You’ll feel like a million bucks cruising in luxury in a Lotus Seven, Porsche 356 Speedster, or Ford Mustang Convertible down France’s spectacular coast with the Thelma to your Louise.
Drive from Antibes to Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, where you can create your own fragrance at the Fragonard Perfume Factory. Learn all about what it takes to master the art of perfume by taking a workshop led by Corinne Marie-Tosello. Make a scent special to you and yours through smelling a series of essential aromatic essences. You’ll leave with your personalized bottles of eau de cologne—love never smelled so good!
Travel Tip: Check out our Darley Vacations France Vacations in the Cote d’Azur.