A classic, relaxing beach honeymoon or an adventurous escape from the everyday? One needn’t rule out the other. Audley’s travel specialists have put their heads together and chosen seven honeymoon destinations that combine spending time on sun-drenched, lesser-visited beaches with a slice of adventure or exploration. That might involve delving into a vastly different culture, spotting rainforest wildlife, snorkeling in a sunken crater, hiking volcanoes, or getting a feel for local life.
A 15-minute speedboat journey from Sabah’s mainland town of Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo brings you to Pulau Gaya, or Gaya Island. Its handful of hotels — including our pick, the Gaya Island Resort — are tucked away in their own secluded bays. The hilly island’s mantle of rainforest conceals wildlife such as macaques and bearded pigs. You might spot the latter trotting along the beaches.
Gaya Island Resort’s soft-sand beach may be small, but it has views across the water to Mount Kinabalu and you can loll in hammocks strung up between shoreline palms. Coral reefs brimming with shoals of small kaleidoscopic fish, as well as nudibranchs and turtles, lie just offshore, and can be explored on snorkeling trips with a qualified marine biologist.
You can combine a stay on the island with a trip to Borneo’s Kinabatangan River, staying in a riverside lodge and looking out for orangutan feeding on fig trees. You can go one step further and stay at Sepilok, an orangutan sanctuary, or head even deeper into the wilds to the remote Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Here, embedded in dense rainforest with no other signs of human habitation, you can explore canopy walkways and search for species such as pygmy elephants.
Japan: a beach destination? Absolutely — if you’re prepared to travel a little and venture into areas where few people speak English. Ishigaki, an island closer to Taiwan than the Land of the Rising Sun, can be reached via a direct flight from Tokyo — yet few mainlanders ever make it this far.
Ishigaki’s waters are as clear as those of the Maldives. The beaches are eye-catching, stark-white sand broken up by igneous rocks and dwarf pines. Although Yonehara Beach is surrounded by strong currents, so swimming is at your own risk, in truth you don’t go there to swim. Instead, you can marvel at the underwater corals, exploring the surrounding reefs (and their population of manta rays) by glass-bottom boat.
Kondoi Beach on the island of Taketomi, a ferry ride from Ishigaki, is quieter still. The water is an inviting shade of jade around the sandbanks that lie a short distance from the shore.
Before or after flying out to Ishigaki, spend some time in Tokyo. In a few days, you can get a taste for its complex, contradictory character, from neon-lit, uber-modern Shinjuku to the temples of Asakusa. The range of experiences is vast: take a boat ride through the cherry-tree-lined moat of Edo-era castle Chidorigafuchi, or rise at 5am to experience the raucous tuna auctions of Tsukiji Fish Market.
Waikiki Beach on Oahu draw crowds, but for a more relaxing experience, go to Maui. The ‘Valley Isle’ has an interior of eucalyptus, pine and bamboo forest and ridges, broken up by the odd violet patch of a lavender farm.
The whole island is rimmed in photogenic, golden beaches and white swirling surf, but one of the best stretches of coast belongs to the adults-only, oceanfront Hotel Wailea. The hotel provides couples with their own picnic basket for trips to its crescent of private beach, before picking them up again at the end of a languorous afternoon for the five-minute drive uphill to the property.
After a few days on the beach, take a trip out to the Molokini Crater, an hour’s boat ride out into the Pacific. A submerged volcanic caldera, its shallow reefs shelter over 200 species of fish, including trumpetfish, butterflyfish, reef sharks and bigger specimens such as giant trevally.
You can also try snuba (the term is a hybrid of snorkel and scuba) diving, which lets you go a little deeper than you would with a snorkel, without the need to be a trained diver. On the way home, many trips stop at a lava finger, Makena, that’s a nesting site for sea turtles.
You’re never far from a beach on this island — even when you’re inland among rice paddies, forested hillsides and ancient temple complexes. The best beaches are arguably in the south, including Seminyak, where the surf pounds the white sand and the sea is warm.
Heading even further south you cross an isthmus to reach the bulge of the Bukit Peninsula. Almost every rocky inlet here conceals a deserted beach, known only to locals and more intrepid surfers. Take a car and be prepared to explore or squeeze through caves to make it onto some beaches.
From the sea to the sky, Bali was formed through volcanic activity, and its lofty cone volcanoes are deemed sacred by the local people. They also make for some unusual but rewarding hiking. Mount Agung, 3,142 m (10,308 ft) above sea level, has a cloud-piercing peak that can be summited over the course of five to seven hours. Start in the very early hours of the morning, perhaps lighting incense and saying a quick prayer at a temple along the way to help speed your passage. You’re rewarded with terrain that changes from pine forest to lava fields to (finally) the smoking crater rim.
If beaches won medals, those of the Seychelles archipelago must surely be on the podium. They’re often sheltered, fringed with coconut palms, and sometimes invitingly soft underfoot, sometimes delightfully crunchy.
Head to private Denis Island, and you’ll find stretches of beach without a footprint in sight. On these beaches, as on others around the Seychelles’ islands, you may find sea turtles emerge by daylight to lay their eggs. This natural ritual occurs under the cover of darkness in other parts of the world, testament to how quiet, undeveloped and protected the Seychelles’ beaches are.
Island-hopping allows you to get a little further under the Seychelles’ skin. On Praslin, you can trek through a jungle of towering Coco de Mer palms. On La Digue, you can get a real feel for the Seychelles’ Creole heritage and relaxed pace of life, passing moored wooden pirogues and flower-bedecked homes as you cycle around its vanilla plantations, stopping off at whichever out-of-the-way beach takes your fancy.
Things get slightly livelier on the largest island of Mahé, where you can explore craft bazaars and food markets in the coastal town of Victoria, and hike in the mountains of the Morne Seychellois National Park.
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