America's Sweetest Retreats

Ten Sure Bets for the Romantic Escape Artist

Listen up, Casanova: With laid-back inns and well-appointed eco-resorts taking center stage on the U.S. vacation scene, a getaway with your honey need not be synonymous with adventure deprivation.

romantic adventure travel, Washington

Two harbor-side seats just waiting for a pair of loungers.

romantic adventure travel, Hawaii

The Sea Ranch Cottages

romantic adventure travel, St. John

Harmony Studios


Say goodbye to prim "romantic" B&Bs that look like your grandma's parlor, and meet the love nests of the future—complete with jaw-dropping scenery and dozens of options (both indoors and out) for getting your adrenaline pumping. From mountain biking, climbing, and scuba diving to hot-tubbing, spa treatments, and fine dining, these intimate havens offer pure bliss for the active tryst.

Friday Harbor House, San Juan Island, WA
Each luxurious room at Friday Harbor House, a 20-room boutique hotel situated on a bluff overlooking the San Juan Channel, comes with its own fireplace and oversized whirlpool tub for relaxing with your sweetheart.

When you come up for air, savor meals prepared with farm-fresh produce, herbs from the inn's garden, and local seafood. The inn is in Friday Harbor, a cute town on San Juan Island, with breathtaking views of Mount Constitution on nearby Orcas Island. From the bald eagles soaring above to the orca pods breaching offshore, the 700 San Juan Islands are also prime spots for critter watching while kayaking, hiking, or cycling.
(Doubles from $150; 866-722-7356; www.fridayharborhouse.com).

Hotel Hana-Maui, Maui, HI
When you get a load of the sea crashing practically right into this place, you won't be surprised that scenes from Fantasy Island were shot on its sparkling 66-acre grounds. The resort's 47 plantation-style cottages, all with ocean views (and surrounded by a 4,500-acre ranch), are situated near the little town of Hana on Maui's east coast.

There are horses on site, hiking in Haleakala National Park, cycling along the winding coastal roads, and snorkeling nearby at Hamoa Beach, but after soaking in the stars and the ocean views from the hot tub on your room's huge deck, you might not feel like doing much else.
(Doubles from $295; 800-321-4262; www.hotelhanamaui.com). Harmony Studios, Maho Bay, St. John
It's the picture-perfect Caribbean getaway and you don't even need a passport. We challenge you not to fall in love with the sugar-white beaches and undeveloped green hills of 19-square-mile St. John, where you can snorkel, dive, sea kayak, and hike in the national park covering two-thirds of the island.

If going eco boosts your libido, check into Harmony Studios, which shares the same location as the legendary Maho Bay Camp of tent cottages, but its dozen rooms—with cozy balconies and incredible views of Maho Bay—are more comfortable (a major plus for the intimate getaway). In keeping with the eco-theme, the studios are solar and wind powered and built almost entirely of recycled materials.
(Doubles from $110; 800-392-9004; www.maho.org).

Alaska, Oregon, and California

romantic adventure travel, Alaska

Riversong Lodge

romantic adventure travel, Oregon

The gardens at Tu Tu' Tun brim with greenery

romantic adventure travel, California

A tree house room at the Post Ranch Inn

Riversong Lodge, Lake Creek, AK
Run by husband and wife team Carl and Kirsten Dixon, this upscale log-cabin lodge on the banks of the Yentna River offers world-class fly fishing, gourmet cuisine, and the weird thrill of knowing a moose might be right outside your summer-by-the-lake-style cabin.

At $715 per person, minimum, a stay here doesn't come cheap, but you do get a lot of bang for your buck. First, you swoop in by float-plane, and settle into a handsome room. Then seasoned guides boat you to remote fishing holes where you can test your fly rods against the local bears for massive king salmon, feisty arctic grayling, or whatever else is running. After each long day on the water, feast on hearty dishes such as Reindeer Ragout, before snuggling in for the night.
(Doubles from $715 per person, Prices include roundtrip float plane flight to Riversong, lodging, gourmet meals, guide service, and use of lodge equipment; 907-274-2710; www.withinthewild.com/content/riversong_lodge). Tu Tu' Tun Lodge, Gold Beach, OR
All 20 of the rusti-swank wood and stone rooms of this bucolic hideaway overlook the Rogue River, and some come with fireplaces and springwater soaking tubs—the perfect ambiance for getting soulful with your soulmate.

If you can tear yourselves away from your room, hike the local trails, paddle one of the lodge's sea kayaks, go fly fishing (guides available), navigate the Rogue's, er, roguish rapids, slip into the heated swimming pool, or play horseshoes in the apple orchard. At night, cuddle up around the massive fireplace in the main lodge, and feast on salmon and other staples of Northwest cuisine.
(Doubles from $85; 800-864-6357; www.tututun.com)

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, CA
This is the splurge to go for after you've memorized the Kama Sutra and perfected your tantrist vocabulary—if your mojo ain't workin' during a stay at this stunning celebration of organic architecture perched over the wave-spanked coastline of Big Sur, then it may be time to move on.

All 30 rooms have king-size beds, fireplaces, indoor spa tubs, and ocean or mountain views. You can hike through the redwood and oak forest on the 98-acre ranch, limber up in a yoga class, take a dip in one of the inn's two pools, or indulge in a spa treatment or two. In the award-winning restaurant, you'll find decadent dishes like Butternut Squash Ravioli with Chestnuts and Big Sur Chanterelle Mushrooms, and Roast Venison Loin with Sweet Potato Risotto and Huckleberry Jam.
(Doubles from $485; 800-527-2200; www.postranchinn.com)

Florida, Alaska, and California

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, www.littlepalmisland.com)

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, www.chenahotsprings.com/icehotel.html) 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, www.chateausureau.com)

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