The most romantic destinations in North America

Jan 31, 2020

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A private stretch of white-sand beach; a crackling fire and a mug of spiked cocoa at a mountain lodge; a charming small town with a quintessential Main Street ripped straight from the pages of a Nicholas Sparks novel: What does your idea of romance look like?

Spending quality time with a loved one, such as your spouse or partner, may be one of the single-biggest reasons people travel. And a trip can help you reconnect, unplug and focus on that person you otherwise only see in the times between work, bed and going back to work. But what about a trip makes it romantic and not just, well, a trip?

Leaving the kids at home is probably a good place to start (or don’t — it’s up to you!). But picking the right hotel and the perfect backdrop go a long way to setting the mood. We asked more than 1,200 adults in the U.S. to weigh in on which location they found most appealing for a romantic vacation: the beach, a ski mountain, a big city, small town or a national park.

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The majority overwhelmingly voted for the beach (43%) as their ideal romantic destination. And 23% said they’d rather find romance in a national park. Some travellers prefer small-town charm (14%), and the remaining 20% was split evenly between celebrating love on a ski mountain or in a big city.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we scoured the region, asked around the office and had TPG readers weigh in on their favorite romantic destinations in North America — because you don’t have to fly to Greece or the Maldives to have a fairytale experience on your next couple’s getaway. If you’re overdue for a romantic trip that will help you rekindle a flame or add a few extra sparks to your next adventure, consider one of these 12 destinations (rose petals and Champagne not included).

(Photo by Wyatt Smith)
(Image by Wyatt Smith)

The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys comprise hundreds of islands, including Key Largo (the closest to mainland Florida), Islamorada and Key West, which is just 90 miles north of Cuba and the southernmost spot in the United States. Travellers flock here to enjoy the Keys’ laidback lifestyle, warm aquamarine waters and cooling trade winds — all the trappings of a Caribbean vacation without any passports or international flights.

“Romance is slowing down and connecting”, said TPG reader Jackie F. “What better place than Key West, Florida?”

Couples should consider staying at Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort or its sister property, The Reach, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. They’ll cost you between 77,000 and 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night. For something even more romantic, try the adults-only Bungalows Key Largo, the first all-inclusive resort in the Keys. Billed as an “island oasis built for downtime and disconnecting,” the property seems designed to cultivate romance. Opt for a garden bungalow with an indoor rainfall shower and a private veranda with a deep soaking tub and outdoor shower. Once you’ve arrived, take Jackie’s advice: Slow down and pay attention to the person you’re with.

Montreal, Canada

Want the romance of old-world Europe in North America? Consider flying north to Canada, where cities like Montreal delight visitors with reflections of Paris. Everywhere you look in the City of a Hundred Steeples, there’s an elegant church tower that bears a striking resemblance to a French counterpart. In Old Montreal, couples can wander leisurely along the cobblestone streets and pedestrian plazas, and stop to admire the reflection of the steepled-punctuated skyline in the Saint Lawrence River.

During a romantic trip to Montreal, bed down at The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal, one of the brand’s oldest properties. Since it opened in 1912, the elegant hotel has been a fixture of the city’s culinary and social scenes. Soften the blow by redeeming a free-night certificate here (rooms start at 50,000 on off-peak dates) or, instead of spending the night, pop by for dinner at Maison Boulud.

Travellers may instead choose to stay in the city’s newest high-end development, the Four Seasons Montreal, which opened last summer. With a cool gray-and-pink color scheme accented by luxe marble, polished gold and velvet finishes, this hotel redefines Canadian luxury. Book through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program if you have The Platinum Card from American Express U.K. That way, you’ll receive exclusive perks, like a complimentary upgrade upon arrival when available and a $100 food and beverage credit.

Sedona, Arizona

Men are just slightly more likely than women to choose a national park for a romantic getaway (25% versus 20%) but we think Arizona’s Red Rock Country checks many boxes. Make Sedona your home base, and you’ll be driving distance to some of the nation’s most spectacular national parks and monuments, including the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest National Park and the towering cacti and petroglyphs of Saguaro National Park. After a full day exploring backcountry trails or hiking along the South Rim, return to one of Sedona’s wellness-focused resorts to relax and unwind.

For an “amazing spa experience nestled in the red rocks,” said TPG reader Nadine R., “… stay at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona,” which she described as “romantic and beautiful”.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith)
(Image by Wyatt Smith)

The Oregon Coast

The rugged Oregon Coast may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a beach, but the sandy shores of Cannon Beach certainly fit the bill. Famous for its monoliths, like the 235-foot-tall Haystack Rock, and the nearby trails at Ecola State Park, multiple TPG readers singled out this coastal city as the most romantic destination in North America. Hike sections of the Oregon Coast Trail, or stop along the 363-mile-long public coastline during a multiday road trip to see the region’s windswept dunes, where you can saddle up and enjoy the scenery by horseback.

Tami K., another TPG reader, said one of her most romantic vacations ever was in nearby Olympic National Park, just a few hours north. She described the trip as “ocean, rainforest, mountains, rain [and] no TV”.

Recreate the experience in Oregon at Coast Cabins, a boutique hotel in Manzanita (about 20 minutes from Cannon Beach) with a selection of upscale cabins, including The Cottage: a one-bedroom, one-bathroom cabin for two with a private outdoor hot tub, a wood-burning stone fireplace and an outdoor fire pit on a patio with teak furnishings. OK, so this place comes with two flatscreen TVs. But take Tami’s advice and turn off the tech, listen to the rain and spend unhurried afternoons on nearby Neahkahnie Mountain or getting lost in the incredible silence of Oregon’s coastal rain- and old-growth forests.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico remains a perennially popular destination for travellers, especially those seeking the allure of a tropical beach framed by swaying palm trees and crystal-clear water (there are almost 300 on the island). And for the majority of travellers who crave this kind of scenery when planning romantic sojourns, few places can compete with Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays and sugar-white sands. For travellers wondering, tourism officials assure us Puerto Rico is very much open and eager for travellers to continue visiting the island, which relies heavily on tourism.

When you arrive, the hardest decisions you’ll have to make are whether to stay at the oceanfront St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort (which is back and better than ever with rooms for 70,000 points on off-peak nights) or to empty your piggy bank at Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve on the island’s northern shore. The bad news? Dorado Beach doesn’t participate in Marriott Bonvoy, so you can’t earn or redeem points for stays at this (very) pricey resort.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

People in the West are more likely to prefer a romantic ski mountain trip, according to our survey, while those in the Midwest are more likely to opt for a national park. For those who call the West home, Santa Fe is an incredibly convenient destination where ski terrain, nature and the culture of a city trip converge.

Just 16 miles from town, travellers can hit the slopes at Ski Santa Fe — which has 660 acres of skiable terrain — from late November until early April. After you’ve earned your turns, get your fill of the city’s world-famous art scene. Visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (which displays more than 1,000 of her artworks) and peruse Native American crafts at the Palace of the Governors. With nearly 300 galleries in Santa Fe, you could easily spend days leisurely wandering in and out of various galleries around town. The city itself is an aesthetic attraction, thanks to the proliferation of Pueblo-style adobe homes and buildings.

Come nightfall, splash out at the 58-room Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, which is filled with distinctly Southwestern design flourishes (a kiva fireplace, colorful handcrafted textiles) or redeem points for a much more affordable stay at La Posada de Santa Fe. This Tribute Portfolio resort and spa is available from 30,000 points per night and shares many of the Rosewood’s Pueblo inspirations.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith)

Rhode Island

For the 14% of travellers who seek romance in small towns, the state of Rhode Island has those in spades — plus roughly 100 public beaches, for couples who simply can’t choose. Newport is one of our favorite getaways in The Ocean State, where you can walk along the rugged shoreline to admire the town’s Gilded Age mansions and, in the summer, round out your nautical trip with a sunset sailboat ride.

But don’t underestimate the charms of Newport in the winter, when the coastal community is occasionally dusted in snow and incredibly quiet. You might feel as if the town is your own private retreat. But to elevate the experience, be sure to book one of the Harbor House rooms at Castle Hill Inn. Believe us, with your gas fireplace roaring, you’ll be content sleeping in and enjoying the uninterrupted Narragansett Bay views from your French doors. Book your stay through Amex FHR to add elite-like benefits to your Newport vacation.

Banff, Canada

If you count yourself among the 10% of travellers who earnestly seek romance in snow-covered mountains and deep powders, there are few places on Earth, let alone North America, that can compete with the ski resorts near Banff. Pack your Ikon Pass and take advantage of the only night skiing in Banff-Lake Louise at Mount Norquay. Or, head to Lake Louise Ski Resort, one of the largest in North America. The terrain here spreads across four mountain faces and has vast, spectacular views.

Readers recommend kicking off a tour of the Canadian Rockies with a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer, which travels between Banff to Vancouver on a four-day journey that’s often considered one of the most scenic train rides on Earth. Cross the Continental Divide, pass through the so-called “Spiral Tunnels” carved into the Rockies and welcome the likely digital detox (read: time to connect with your loved one) as cell services and Wi-Fi is known to cut out frequently.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

This already luxurious beach destination on the southern tip of Baja California Sur — where new upscale resorts seem to crop up almost overnight — is perfect for romantic vacations that commemorate a special occasion. But you don’t have to be planning a honeymoon or an anniversary trip to put Cabo San Lucas at the top of your list.

During a trip here, you can easily power off your cell phone for a week and pass lazy days by the pool, or rent kayaks and paddle out to the region’s most recognizable rock formation: El Arco, the limestone arch at Land’s End. Time it right, and you can watch the sun set over the so-called end of the world.

A few of our favorite places to stay include the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa, The Cape, a Thompson Hotel and Solaz, a Luxury Collection Hotel. If you’re a repeat visitor and are in search of someplace new to bed down, there’s a new Ritz-Carlton Reserve property here, Zadún, as well as the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, which has rooms with private plunge pools and fireplaces. No matter where you stay, you’ll be sure to discover a striking infinity pool from where you might be lucky enough to see whales plying the surf at the intersection of the gulf and the Pacific.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith)
(Image by Wyatt Smith)

US Virgin Islands

According to our survey, the beach is the top answer for travellers across all age groups, income and education levels. It seems a gorgeous crescent of sand and a sparkling coast appeals to, well, pretty much everyone. With approximately 50 islets, cays and islands in the U.S. Virgin Islands (though you’ll probably set your sights on the three main islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John) we can assure you, there’s no shortage of sandy shoreline here.

Following a massive $100-million-dollar top-to-toe renovation, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas is ready to welcome guests back to the island (from 70,000 points per night). The resort features four restaurants, a remodeled infinity pool and a renovated club lounge, among other amenities. Travellers with smaller budgets may prefer the Westin St. John Resort Villas, where rooms start at 55,000 points or about £430 per night.

California Wine Country

Readers were split down the middle between Napa and Sonoma, and both offer travellers incredible natural beauty and world-class wine.

Napa-bound couples should be sure to venture to northern Napa to explore the villages of Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga, or see an even wider stretch of the valley (without flipping a coin to pick the designated driver) by boarding the Napa Valley Wine Train, which offers a mix of full- and half-day tours. If you want to pay for your stay with points, experience downtown Napa’s total transformation from the contemporary Andaz Napa (from 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night). But there may be few properties that can compete with the valley’s first Four Seasons Resort & Residences in Calistoga, which just began accepting reservations last year. Located in Calistoga, the resort has an eight-room spa with steam pods and geothermal pools.

Across the Mayacamas Mountain Range in Sonoma Valley, travellers can explore the wine country town of Healdsburg and go glamping in a luxe safari tent at the expansive wildlife rescue preserve Safari West. Or, for a more traditional stay paid for in points, there’s the Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa right in the town of Sonoma. This Category 7 Marriott property is available from 50,000 points per night during off-peak dates.

Maui, Hawaii

OK, OK, so Hawaii isn’t technically part of the North American continent. But this archipelago in the Pacific is tethered to the region by its statehood (you’ll be on a domestic flight there from the mainland, after all) and, let’s be honest: Can there even be a list of the most romantic destinations anywhere without some mention of Hawaii? The answer is no.

Of all the places on this list, the Aloha State came up more often than any other single destination. Maui, in particular, was lauded for its gorgeous scenery, unmatched whale watching and collection of luxury resorts. If you’re planning a romantic trip to the Valley Isle, consider One’uli Beach to see the island’s famous black sands; snorkel in the partially-submerged volcanic crater of Molokini; and wander around the beautiful, fragrant fields at Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm.

Perhaps the only thing more romantic than a trip to Maui is one that doesn’t cost you a dime. Book a stay at the Andaz Maui (a Category 6 Hyatt property available from 25,000 points per night) and fly there in a lie-flat seat with Hawaiian Airlines for as little as 40,000 miles each way. We’ll raise a mai tai (or two) to that.

All images by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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