The Most Romantic Places on Earth
Any place on Earth is wonderful when you're in love. But some places seem specifically designed to delight the senses and are perfect for starting a new romance, making a commitment, or rekindling passions. Here are a few of our favorite places to celebrate romance. Enjoy!
San Francisco is a jewel of a city. The S.F. tourism bureau insists that it's the "most European of American cities." We disagree. This is a uniquely American town, with a diverse community and culture that epitomizes the "Don't Tread on Me" spirit. There's something for everyone here.
Best Place for a Special Date: San Francisco is filled with reserve-two-months-ahead extraordinary restaurants, but these four-star temples of haute cuisine aren't necessarily romantic. Instead try a good neighborhood restaurant like Frascati. The menu is a mix of Italian and Spanish. Make sure to order a cheese plate either before or after your meal -- the selection is terrific -- and don't pass up the potato gnocchi. 1901 Hyde Street. 415/928-1406.
Best Place for the Morning After: Revive your libido with a dozen sweetwater oysters at the Hog Island Oyster Company. This place is picnic-table casual, so no need to break out the fancy duds.
Best Place to Propose: How 'bout in a balloon, high over the golden hills of Napa Valley. High In The Sky Napa Valley Aloft will plan the perfect hot air balloon trip. About $300 per person.
Best Place to Visit on Your Honeymoon: Muir Woods, a few miles north of San Francisco, is a perfect place to spend a day communing with nature. Wander hand-in-hand along the paths under 1000-year old giant trees and breathe the piney air. To avoid crowds, go on a weekday.
Best Place to Make up: Atone for whatever havoc you wreaked at the very civilized Top Of The Mark bar on the 19th floor of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel. It'll be hard for your honey to stay mad after enjoying the 360-degree vista of San Francisco and a selection from the famous "100 Martinis" menu.
A city that was so devoted to military conquest and prosaic feats of engineering shouldn't be a haven for passionate souls -- but there's no disputing that Rome is the capitol of amore. It's crowded, chaotic and always absolutely magical.
Best Place for a Special Date: The Imago restaurant, at the Hassler Hotel. Count on amazing views from this elegant and intimate restaurant perched on the top of the Spanish Steps, as well as great service and innovative twists on Roman classics -- Ravioli filled with Crab Meat in a Parsnip and Saffron Sauce, anyone?
Best Place For the Morning After: The Pincio Gardens, on the western edge of the Villa Borghese, offers quiet corners, flowery hideaways, and beautiful views of the city. True sybarites (bless your hearts) should linger in bed and head to the park in the late afternoon to watch the sunset.
Best Place to Propose: Just outside Rome is the Villa d'Este, a seductive garden with more than 500 very festive fountains. Perhaps you'll pop the question in the Grotto of Diana, which features scenes from classical mythology.
Best Place to Visit on Your Honeymoon: Yes, you'll be surrounded by tourists and street peddlers at the Trevi Fountain but you should see it anyway. If you do toss a coin for good luck, remember to throw it over your shoulder with your back to the fountain, please. Go at night, when the fountain is illuminated.
Best Place to Make Up: Thrust your hand into the maw of the Bocca della Verita (The Mouth of Truth), in the portico of the church of Santa Maria, and swear that you didn't do it or you will never do it again. Since the Middle Ages this sculpture has been used as a lie detector. If you're fibbing, the mouth will bite off your hand. If you don't draw back a bloody stump, your lover should trust your sincerity.
In Paris even the ordinary becomes extraordinary. The City of Light will dazzle you, both with its well-known monuments and its residents' flair for making the most out of everyday life.
Best Place for a Special Date: The restaurant Pré Catelan transforms itself with the seasons -- in summer you dine in a flower garden, in winter inside before a crackling fire. The menu is an interesting combination of refined and rustic, reflecting the French urge to transform odd bits of meat -- pig ears -- into fine cuisine. Do try whatever risotto is on the menu. Desserts are divine. About $50 per person. Rue de Suresnes, 01-44-14-41-14.
Best Place For the Morning After: The Luxembourg Gardens are a quiet green oasis on the Left Bank. The best thing to do here is wander around blithely sans any plan. But do visit the statue of the Greek god of lusty love, Pan, near the park's eastern gate.
Best Place to Propose: The Basilica de Sacré-Coeur is the ideal place, specifically at the top of the steps. One warning: there are 234 steps to the summit, so if you don't want to gasp out your proposal, start the endurance training now. Failing that, there's always the Eiffel Tower -- pedestrian, oui, but très romantique.
Best Place to Visit on Your Honeymoon: A sunset cruise down the Seine might sound tourist-tacky but it's actually quite lovely, especially in the evening. The Seine river cuts through the heart of Paris, and the glass-covered bateaux-mouches boats pass Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and scoot under dozens of old stone bridges. Half-a-dozen companies offer these tours, including this one.
Best Place to Make Up: Le Vert Galant is a quiet park at the western end of Île de la Cité. The park was named for Henri IV, known for his many love affairs. It's a nice place to calm down and defuse whatever bombshell currently threatens your romance. The park is said to be the place where "sweethearts love to linger."
Kohala, Hawaii (The Big Island)
On first glimpse, Kohala, on the Big Island's west coast, may be disappointing -- the landscape is barren or covered with sheets of black lava. But keep the faith, the Big Island has lush landscapes, rain forests, alpine meadows, snow, and the tallest sea mountain (Mauna Kea). All that and fabulous beaches too. Aloha!
Best Place for a Special Date: The Pahu i'a restaurant at the Four Seasons Hualalai resort is situated just steps away from the ocean, surrounded by lush tropical greenery. Outstanding seafood and pastas are the main draw, and most menu items boast fresh fish and vegetables from local farmers. Desserts often include tropical fruit, such as the coconut flan with caramelized cane sugar.
Best Place To Propose: A perfect place is Waipi'o Valley.
This is Hawaii's Eden. The valley is nestled deep inside tall cliffs. Waterfalls and flowers surround you, and there are pools and streams and a black sand beach that curves around the coast. It's not the easiest place to access -- you need to take a four-wheeled vehicle down into the valley, or you make the trip on horseback or in a mule cart (let the guides know you're proposing and they'll help you choose a special spot).
Best Place to Visit on Your Honeymoon: Volcanoes National Park is the home of Madame Pele, the ancient Hawaiian Goddess still revered today. Pele is a passionate embodiment of the life force -- what better place to commemorate your wedding vows? Head to the crater of Kīlauea Volcano, leave a flower lei for Pele and ask her to bless your marriage. If you're feeling ambitious, hike the Kīlauea Iki trail, a 4-mile loop that takes you down through volcanic rain forests.
Best Place to Make Up: Pu'uhonua O Honaunau
If someone broke a Kapu -- one of the many rules of Hawaiian society -- the penalty often was death. But if the kapu-breaker could make it to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau, the Place of Refuge, he or she would be forgiven. Pu'uhonua O Honaunau is now a 180-acre park, and a great place to make a fresh start.
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