Newlyweds yearning for great honeymoons don't have to shell out a fortune to have them. More couples are finding romantic and affordable escapes closer to home in cities across the country, Canada and the Caribbean, travel experts say. Deals also can be found in exotic and faraway lands, as hotels seek to draw more guests with wallet-friendly all-inclusive packages. The Bridal Planner compiled a list of some great places, near and far, where honeymooners can travel without breaking the bank.
Montauk: Montauk may not be an exotic honeymoon destination, but when it comes to great beaches, good seafood and romantic sunsets, it's got many places beat. This beach town on the tip of the South Fork is "affordable and relaxed in regards to lodging and restaurants," says Stirling Kelso, an assistant editor for Travel + Leisure magazine. It also "is emerging from a sleepy town to a Hamptons enclave," Kelso says. Couples can enjoy a range of outdoor activities, including horseback riding, fishing, whale watching or sunbathing on the beaches - without paying Hamptons bucks.
New York City: It's one of the most exciting cities in the world, and it's right next door. New York City has much to offer couples on the go, including great sightseeing, dining, shopping, a vibrant arts and entertainment scene and a glorious skyline. The city that never sleeps is not known for its affordability, but couples can get a lot of hotel "bargains" - between $175 and $200 a night - because of the languishing economy, says Elizabeth Borsting, a travel writer and author of "101 Top Honeymoon Destinations: The Guide to Perfect Places for Passion."
Marco Island, Fla.: Couples looking for a tropical escape can get an "island-style, passport-free getaway," at Marco Island, says Carla Caccavale Reynolds, a travel expert and partner at Quinn & Co. In the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of southwest Florida, Marco Island features six miles of beach and more than 100 miles of waterways. The beaches "make you feel like you're in the Caribbean," and are "the perfect backdrop for a romantic rendezvous," Reynolds says. Guests can sunbathe, snorkel, windsurf, take an eco tour, shop, collect seashells or get spa pampering.
Eastern Townships, Canada: North of the U.S. border, Quebec's Eastern Townships are a collection of small towns "chock-full of history," with great restaurants and a focus on cheese-making. It's an "easy, relaxing escape" from the United States, says Kelso of Travel + Leisure magazine. Since French is the dominant language, "even if you haven't traveled very far, it feels like you've left the country." Couples, she said, can explore Massawippi Lake and the gardens of Manoir Hovey, a notable property on the lake, where you can hike, bike, canoe and eat at fabulous restaurants that serve farm-fresh, seasonal food.
Puerto Rico: "Magical and tropical," Puerto Rico is an affordable honeymoon in the Caribbean that offers passport-free travel with plenty of activities and sightseeing, says Reynolds of Quinn & Co. Great places to visit include El Yunque rain forest, Old San Juan, The San Juan National Historic Site and Fort San Felipe del Morro. Then, there are, of course, the beautiful beaches.
Turks and Caicos Islands: After all the wedding hubbub, the one thing couples want to do is relax, author Borsting says. The Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean are just the place, with their uncrowded sandy white beaches, clear blue waters and serene environment. Actress Eva Longoria, who honeymooned there with NBA player Tony Parker in 2007, told People magazine the couple was "completely alone together." But if couples are looking for more excitement, they can visit during summer and attend the Turks & Caicos Music and Cultural Festival, which brings in big-name recording artists. Hotel bargains and all-inclusive packages are available.
Turkey: Those looking for a taste of the exotic should consider Turkey. It is an attractive, top destinations and an "exciting place" for honeymooners, says Jane Coloccia, president of JC Communications in Pennington, N.J., specializing in the travel and lifestyle industries. From the baths to Turkish cuisine and bazaars, and ancient historic sites and ruins, Turkey is a romantic and exotic spot that borders Asia and the Middle East and Europe. Teeming with cultural history, Istanbul and other cities leave you wanting to extend your stay.
Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy: Italy continues to be a favorite honeymoon destination, and you can find a great escape in Santa Margherita Ligure, a quaint seaside town bordering Camogli, Portofino and Rapallo. It is "very affordable, very European and very Mediterranean," but not as expensive as staying in Portofino, Borsting says. Sightseeing spots include a 16th century castle and the Basilica di Santa Margherita, built from 1658 on the remains of a 13th century church. The balmy climate and palm fronds on the Riviera resort make it an ideal place to settle down for post-wedding rest and relaxation.