America's Sweetest Retreats

Florida, Alaska, and California

Jan 30, 2004
Outside Magazine
romantic adventure travel, Florida Keys

Off-shore view of enchanting Little Palm Island

romantic adventure travel, Alaska

Sculptures like this one, by Steve Brice, adorn the interior of the Aurora Ice Hotel

romantic adventure travel, California

The stately Château, and its elegant grounds

Little Palm Island, Little Torch Key, FL
This chi-chi gem in the Florida Keys is only accessible by boat or seaplane—a sure bet for the ultra-private tryst. Once you're on the island, make your way to one of 30 thatch-roofed luxury bungalows, handsomely appointed with British colonial furnishings, a gossamer-draped king-size bed, and a whirlpool tub made for two (some bungalows also have outdoor jacuzzis). The rooms have no TVs, telephones, or buzzing alarm clocks to interrupt the blissful hours you spend lounging on your ocean-view veranda or lathering up in your private outdoor shower.

Outside the sanctuary of your bungalow, pamper yourselves with a massage at the world-class spa, enjoy snorkeling or diving among pristine coral reefs, or go deep-sea fishing, sailing, or sea kayaking. Once you've worked up an appetite, dine on dishes like jumbo lump crab cakes with melted leeks, truffled asparagus, tomato salad, and saffron-chive buerre blanc.
(Doubles from $695, 1-800-3-GET-LOST,

Aurora Ice Hotel, Chena Hot Springs Resort, AK
A (literally) freezing hotel room may not sound like the perfect environment for a sexy escapade, but think of it this way: what better excuse to cuddle close all night long?

This unique structure, constructed entirely of ice and snow, features six themed bedrooms (also made of the frozen stuff). One looks like a miniature igloo, and another contains a bed shaped like a giant polar bear lying on his back (you sleep on his belly). Yes, even the beds here are ice sculptures, packed with a "mattress" of snow, and then lined with reindeer hides and 20-degree sleeping bags for added comfort. Many of the chilly furnishings, which are illuminated from within, cast an ethereal, wintery glow. For the price of your stay in the ice edifice, you're also given a complementary room in the Chena Hot Springs Resort's "normal" hotel—just in case you chicken out in the middle of the night.

During the day, take a dip in the 104-degree springs, go cross-country skiing, hiking, or snowmobiling, or—on the winter days when there isn't much sunlight to speak of—check out nature's most spectacular light show: the Aurora Borealis. One warning: The ice hotel just opened December 31, 2003, and it remains to be seen how it will weather next summer's days of 24-hour sunshine. But with 14,000 feet of tubing pumping hockey-rink coolant through the structure, resort representatives are hopeful that the hotel has a long life ahead of it.
(Doubles from $575, 1-800-478-4681, Château du Sureau, Oakhurst, CA
She'll play out all her princess fantasies at this posh estate hotel located 45 minutes from the south gate of Yosemite National Park. Surrounded by verdant landscaped gardens and breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada, the Château is the ultimate in romantic indulgence. Stay in one of the hotel's ten rooms (with names like Lavender, Rosehip, Elderberry and Thyme), each furnished in elegant provincial French style, with fireplaces and views of the surrounding mountains and forests. The hotel also boasts a five-star restaurant, Erna's Elderberry House, presided-over by renowned chef James Overbaugh.

To satisfy your adventure jones, let the Château's concierge set up an active outing like horseback riding, mountain biking, or Merced River rafting. Or take an adrenaline-filled day-trip from the fairy-tale estate for legendary climbs like the breathtaking 5.7 Via Aqua route from lower Yosemite Falls (the tallest waterfall in America). If you really want to burn off the previous night's decadent dinner, try a hike up the demanding Cables Route on Yosemite's Half Dome.
(Doubles from $350, 559-683-6860,

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