Whether you’re planning your honeymoon or simply booking a relaxing break with your significant other, these five iconic destinations offer romance in spades…
TRAVEL TIME: Around four hours from Dubai to Male, the main hub, then additional sea planes/speed boats from there.
There’s plenty to do in the Maldives. You could go snorkelling with some 1,100 species of fish amid colourful coral. You could stroll at sunset along white-sand beaches, listening to the sound of palm trees swaying. You could feast on curries made from coconut and tuna then nap in over-water hammocks.
You could – but there’s no pressure to. That’s the real joy of this island archipelago in the warm Indian Ocean. Unlike so many destinations, the Maldives is all about relaxation. You can simply switch off, then enjoy the sun and the sea.
Most high-end properties here are nestled on their own private island, so it’s easy to find a vibe of intimacy. Couples can opt for over-water villas with glass floors on stilts, or beach-facing suites with private plunge pools and instant water access. Hotels are used to catering to those searching for romance, so expect everything from sunset champagne cruises for two, to private couples’ snorkelling trips and intimate cooking classes.
The traditional Maldivian monsoon season was May to November, but nowadays weather here is pretty much perfect year-round, aside from a few rainy days which tend to come quite unpredictably throughout the year.
TRAVEL TIME: Just under five hours from Dubai to Mahe, then additional charter flights or boats to the other islands.
The Seychelles is fit for royalty – literally. It’s here that Prince William and Duchess Kate came to honeymoon, basking in the sun on one of the area’s 115 different islands. Brad Pitt and Jennifer did the same, honeymooning on Fregate Island Private back in 2000. Even George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin travelled to the Seychelles’ North Island after their Venetian wedding.
It’s easy to understand the appeal of this tropical area. White beaches, crisp blue waters and clear skies make up paradise in these Indian Ocean islands. Located off the edge of Africa, the Seychelles lures travellers with its promise of endless beaches. They come accented with vibrant hills and numerous high-end hotels.
Animal spotting is a big attraction here, but wildlife varies by the island. On Blue Island, you can stroll along the sand searching for nesting sea turtles. In Curieuse, there are giant Aldabra tortoises. Cousin, Aride and the aptly-named Bird Island are filled with colourful bird sanctuaries.
When watching critters fly or crawl gets old, you can always go for a swim; the Seychelles is fringed with amazing coral reefs perfect for snorkelling. There are even shipwrecks for divers and sailing for would-be skippers. After a long day, be prepared for seafood steamed in banana leaves, desserts made from sweet potatoes and plantains, and plenty of rice.
The best times to visit are April, May, October and November, when it’s less windy. But temperatures here are warm and mild year-round.
TRAVEL TIME: Four-and-a-half hours from Dubai to Colombo, then long, picturesque drives to the resorts from there.
Whether you want to spot white leopards on a jungle safari, set sail to see whales at sea, hike up ancient temples crumbling into rocks or clamber through rice paddies as the mist dries, Sri Lanka has it all.
This tropical island might be small, but its range of activities is immense. There’s the Cultural Triangle, with its sprawling caves, Buddha statues and ancient shrines; the surfing-friendly beaches near Mirissa; the wild animals of Yala National Park and the elephants at Uda Walawe; the preserved colonial grandeur of UNESCO World Heritage site Galle and so much more.
Here lies the danger. The temptation with Sri Lanka is to try to do it all. While it’s possible to get around the island, transport is uncomfortable, chaotic and takes hours. A more romantic approach would be to pick a region – like the undiscovered north of the sun-dappled south – and travel slowly within it. Given the island’s array of activities, tour companies are helpful. Sri Lanka in Style do things well, as do Ceylon Island Travel.
Be prepared to eat curies and coconuts constantly, even for breakfast. And keep an eye on the monsoon season, which varies depending on the area.
TRAVEL TIME: Around 36 hours flight from Dubai with several stops.
It’s hard not to be swept away by the simple beauty of Bora Bora. This French Polynesian island offers crystal blue waters, talcum-powder beaches and an extinct volcano at its core. Rainforests arch inland, while waves lap gently on the shore.
The result is a recipe ripe for romance – and famous honeymooners have noticed. Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux jetted to this island paradise in 2015, joined by a healthy gaggle of friends (like Courteney Cox); while a more understated Benedict and Sophie Cumberbatch booked a private bungalow at the Four Seasons.
While it is certainly possible to stay like the celebrities do (in ultra-luxurious five-star hotels), the great thing about Bora Bora is that the island offers a handful of mid-range properties as well. What it doesn’t have is thumping nightlife or heaps of cultural activities. Travellers come here to bask in the sun, hike through the forests, dive, swim and – most of all – relax.
Food is a big part of Polynesian culture, so be prepared to eat. Regional dishes include raw fish served with coconut milk, fish and crab wrapped in banana leaves cooked for hours inside an underground oven, and fish macerated in sea water with shrimps. If you’re craving something sweet, try baked banana puree dusted with sugar and coconut milk.
The weather in Bora Bora is warm and steady throughout the year. From December to March, expect possible showers and higher temperatures.
TRAVEL TIME: Six-and-a-half hours flight from Dubai.
Seen from above, Mauritius is a magic array of turquoise ocean and lush tropical inland. There are waterfalls for hiking, beaches for reclining and even cities for a spot of cultural exploration. Compared to some of the other island honeymoon favourites, this African destination is positively buzzing with choice.
It’s no surprise Mauritius has so much to offer. The island has a varied past, one touched by colonialism and the famous dodo. In its cuisine, a mix of Creole, French, Chinese and Indian influences come out. You can grab fresh fish from a beach shack or settle down at white-linen tables for plates of vibrant octopus salad.
History is put on display at the Blue Penny Museum and the National History Museum, both interesting spots in their own right. And for the active honeymooners, there’s kite surfing, snorkelling, boat excursions, race courses, zip lining over canyons, horse riding and even sun-soaked golf courses. In brief, it’s hard to get bored here.
Mauritius also maintains a real atmosphere of intimacy. Its deep blue waters and sandy beaches have a lot to do with this. The many luxurious resorts – most with great pools, swaying palms and unbelievable service – also help.
The best time to visit is between December and February. Just be aware of the festive holiday season spiking prices.
Words: Danae Mercer