From the glorious vistas seen along the Sun Mountain Trail near Santa Fe to the picturesque – and luxurious – Vidago Palace Hotel in Portugal, travel makes a marvelous experience to share with a loved one. For a set of recommendations spanning the globe, read on.
The Biltmore Estate in North Carolina is a sprawling, verdant amalgamation of rugged natural beauty, extreme opulence and luxurious accommodations – all rooted in American royalty and perched above the eclectic city of Asheville. Asheville is one of North Carolina’s (and the country’s) most vibrant municipalities, but if you’re seeking a romantic getaway that incorporates everything from extreme luxury and world-class food to unique outdoor adventure against the backdrop of palatial grandiosity, you need not even leave the Biltmore property to have an unforgettable romantic weekend.
Built between 1889 and 1895 by George Vanderbilt II, the 178,926-square-foot Chateauesque mansion overlooks more than 10 square miles that make up the estate, and is still privately owned, making it the largest privately owned home in the U.S. Tourists by the thousands flock to Asheville to wander the mansion’s immaculate gardens and explore its 250 ornate, stately rooms; each embellished with European artifacts and antiques, many dating back to the sixteenth century.
While impressive, the real romance of the Biltmore begins not at the mansion, but in one of the property’s three luxury-lodging options – and extends beyond into its activities and dining opportunities. The Village Hotel on the Biltmore Estate is a high-volume hotel overlooking a walkable shopping and dining area; The Inn is a bit more intimate with sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains; and if you choose to bring your buddies or the little ones along on a romantic getaway, The Cottage at the Biltmore is the way to go.
Guests can partake in wine tasting in the local vineyards, horseback riding, fishing, skeet shooting, rafting and biking, and can even participate in an off-road driving experience.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and all that is romantic, here are a few more suggestions for amorous adventures, near and far, from your friends at 405. – MP
Santa Fe, New Mexico
At just shy of an eight-hour drive, Santa Fe is arguably the best drivable romantic destination for Okies. Dripping with culture and culinary experiences, this southwest town set against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is a must-see for any couple looking for a weekend getaway. La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa is a sprawling property with intimate “casita” cottages and offers romantic getaway packages.
For those looking to clear the mind, Sunrise Springs spans 70 beautiful cottonwood-covered acres, and offers guests an integrative spa with therapeutically designed programming, which gives them the opportunity to pause, decompress and nourish both the body and the mind in a restorative environment. – MP
Vidago Palace Hotel, Portugal
Turning into an allée of plane trees, at the first sight of the Vidago Palace Hotel in Portugal, my initial thought was, “We’ve arrived at the Grand Budapest Hotel!” The pink façade and decorative roofline could serve as a stand-in for the movie poster.
An easy hour-plus drive from Porto, the 117-year-old hotel is in a lush area in the northern mountains; the extensive park surrounding the building features hiking paths and a golf course.
The star of the elegant lobby is a gorgeous double staircase, said to be the inspiration for the main staircase on the Titanic. Rooms are gracious and comfortable. A large spa adds to amenities designed to make every guest feel like royalty.
I’m reminded of this Belle Epoque beauty every time I slide my feet into the terry slippers embroidered with the hotel name and five stars in pink thread. Vidago Palace certainly earns five stars in my book. – EW
Villa Buena Onda, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s Villa Buena Onda is a quiet, isolated boutique hotel ideally located in between three of Guanacaste’s most beautiful beaches: Playa Del Coco, along with Playa Ocotal, a smaller beach with excellent snorkeling, and Playa Del Hermosa.
The two-leveled, eight-room hotel is ideal for honeymooners looking to get away from it all, but who also want to see and experience Costa Rica’s rich terrain and abundant wildlife. Villa Buena Onda, which originally was designed as a destination eight-bedroom home, has evolved into a world-class hotel with locally sourced, incomparably fresh seafood and produce. Each spacious room at Buena Onda offers an ocean and pool-facing balcony where guests with sharp eyes might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some of the forest’s resident monkeys, iridescent motmots and parrots.
The hotel offers a two-leveled saltwater pool with swim-up bar, as well as full spa services. Its “no children” policy and serene setting well outside of town ensure guests the kind of quiet exclusivity that one seeks after adventurous days spent scuba diving, hiking, wildlife viewing and sailing, among dozens of other activities.
Villa Buena Onda works closely with Costa Rica Vacations to set up high-octane adventures, from the country’s rain forest canopies to its volcanoes and rugged coastline. – MP
Big Cedar Lodge, Missouri
For a regional getaway that can be as intimate as you want, Big Cedar Lodge, tucked in the wooded Ozark hills beside beautiful, blue Table Rock Lake, fills many bills.
Probably the most romantic of the many lodging options on the property is the Spa Cottage, a Tudor treasure perched atop a stream. There’s even a glass window in the floor so you can see the rivulet below. Most of the accommodations take a woodsier turn, with log construction and mounted wildlife. The Bass Pro Cabins are reminiscent of royal hunting lodges complete with stained glass. Massive limestone fireplaces offer cozy retreats if the weather is chilly, and balconies overlook the lake and stunning sunsets.
The list of activities available is long, including hiking, fishing, swimming, golf and an elegant spa. Nearby Big Cedar adjuncts include a shooting range, two more golf courses and Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. – EW