Flowers, a box of chocolates, a white-tablecloth dinner for two—you’ve been there, done that on Valentine’s Day. But come on, can’t you do better? This year, get those sparks flying with a romantic getaway to one of these vacation hotspots. Even if you’ve put off big plans with your big love, it’s not too late to book a fabulous rental and enjoy an unforgettable weekend. Sure, strolling hand-in-hand along the beach is cliché. But there’s an undeniable romance to being by the ocean. It’s in the salty air, the relaxed pace, small-town charms, and sunsets—preferably enjoyed while on a boat ride. Beach getaways continue to woo couples, and you don’t have to fly halfway across the world to find that perfect stretch of sand. Here is our list of the best places to take your valentine this year:
Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara lures couples with its perfect climate, plus art, nature, and beaches. Check in to one oceanfront resorts like the Brisas Del Mar Inn at the Beach. Then slip into your suit and hit the beach, hike trails in Los Padres National Forest, or take an afternoon to wander through the 65 acres of more than 1,000 species of plants and flowers at the botanic gardens. While you’re there, stop at the Japanese teahouse. It’s the kind of place where you can’t help but feel good—thanks only in part to the year-round warmth of the sun.
Key West, Florida
While Key West certainly has its unromantic side, away from rowdy Duval Street there’s a quiet charm that appeals to couples. On the island’s backstreets, you can find Old Florida at its swooning, romantic best. Rita Hayworth and Gregory Peck are among the stars that once stayed at the Casa Marina Resort. A $43 million makeover in 2007 returned the 1920 hotel to its Deco-era shine. Hidden behind an unassuming stucco exterior, Seven Fish is the most secluded and intimate restaurant in town. After your meal, enjoy one of Key West’s famous deep orange–hued sunsets.
Amelia Island, Florida
An easy island escape for two off the northeastern tip of Florida, Amelia Island lets you experience the Florida that enchanted lovers in the Astor-Vanderbilt era. More than 13 miles of sand ring the barrier island. When you’re not lounging at Fernandina Beach, stroll around the 19th-century town full of lovingly restored Victorian mansions. Stay at the veranda-rimmed Florida House Inn in one of its 22 individually decorated en suite rooms, half with working fireplaces.
Newport, Rhode Island
The industrialists of the Gilded Age left their status symbols behind in Newport. Happily, there’s more to the maritime town today than marble halls and yachts, but the romance of the age endures. Take it all in from the Chanler at Cliff Walk, a former summer home built in 1873, set along the windswept and craggy coast. Each guest room is individually decorated—some in the French provincial style, others with Greek Revival details—and all have heated bathroom floors, wet bars, and antique prints or original oil paintings. From the ocean-side trail you can trace the shore, enjoying views of majestic boats along with mansions.
Captiva Island Inn, Florida
For a remote destination wedding—or just an anniversary weekend—Captiva Island off Florida’s southwestern coast is an idyllic location. It lacks the flash of Florida’s many other beach resorts, which means couples can stroll the undeveloped dunes without the crowds of nearby Sanibel, savor the day’s catch, and watch the sunset. In addition to the free bike loans, Captiva Island Inn has a range of accommodations, from a five-bedroom house to a cozy en suite room. Be sure to make time for the jazz brunch at Keylime Bistro.
Maui is often described as magical, and the island lives up to this reputation. Visitors can stroll hand-in-hand through white sand beaches, hike through lush valleys, and explore quaint, historic villages. Take a trip to South Shore Maui, which features some of the island’s best beaches and resorts. Haleakala National Park boasts the island’s highest lookout point, and 360 degree views of the park’s volcanic crater. Book a room at Ho’oilo House, a Bali-inspired B&B with private rooms and breathtaking views. Visit the island between December thru April to see the humpback whales when they make their yearly migration.
Bali is not just a pretty face: While the island’s picturesque scenery attracts visitors from around the world, its unique culture and tradition keeps them coming back for more. Watch the sunset over clear blue water in Sanur, a popular beach destination. An iconic attraction, Tanah Lot, is a 15th-century temple that juts out of the ocean on a small rock formation. Don’t miss the five waterfalls between Bedugul and Singaraja: Gitgit is the farthest down the mountain, and visitors can climb 150 steps to take in stunning cascading falls. To escape the crowds at Bali’s southern beaches, visit Echo Beach in Seminyak. The secluded stretch of sand is located below a series of outcrops, and often features a hazy, dream-like mist. Stay at the Citadines Kuta Beach Bali and spend the day playing on the nearby beach.
Cinque Terre, The Italian Riviera
The rocky shores of the Italian Riviera belong in the pages of a romance novel. Visitors can explore quaint harbor villages, hike up stunning trails, or stroll through beachfront promenades. The world famous Giardini Botanici Hanbury features one of the largest gardens in Italy and offers panoramic views of the water. Spend the day visiting Portofino, a lush seaside village with Cliffside gardens and plenty of people watching. The Italian Riviera is divided into two regions; the rustic Riviera di Levante to the east, and the resort oriented Riviera di Ponente to the west. Riviera di Ponente is your best bet for nightlife and beaches. But for breathtaking views of the Ligurgian and a more secluded ambiance, visit Riviera de Levante. For stupendous views looking down on the sea, stay at the Excelsior Palace Hotel. This luxe landmark hotel dating from 1901 is a minute’s walk from the seafront and 8 km from Castello Brown, a 16th-century castle museum and overlooks the bay of Rapallo.
Greek Isles, The Cyclades
It doesn’t get much better than the Greek Isles in The Cyclades. The islands’ shimmering turquoise-blue waters are an attraction on their own, and the rustic mountains, bright sun, and wonderful food attract honeymooners and seasoned travelers alike. The most famous of the islands, Santorini, boasts breathtaking sunsets and dramatic white stone cliffs. Naxos, the largest of the isles, features long, sandy beaches, and stunning green valleys and ravines. In Santorini stay at the beautiful Santorini Princess Luxury Spa Hotel. Set on a cliff-top overlooking the Aegean Sea, this chic, high-end hotel is 4 km from the Museum of Prehistoric Thera and 3 km from the Santorini cable car. In Naxos, stay at the Nissaki Beach Hotel. This serene low-rise hotel facing Saint George Beach is a 10-minute walk from the Archaeological Museum of Naxos and 15 minutes’ walk from the ancient Puerta de Apolo monument.
Kerala mesmerizes with its pristine beaches, lush tropical forests, and ayurvedic treatments. Spend a day relaxing in the state’s renowned spas, which offer everything from oil massages to natural restorative treatments. For the ultimate seclusion, visit Northern Kerala. The area is largely untouched by tourism, and it features unparalleled views of rolling hills dotted with tea plantations. Travel to Thekkady and Munnar to take in glittering waterfalls and colorful wildlife. Once a bustling seaport, Kerala still boasts many of its original waterways. Take a cruise through the backwaters for up-close views of lotus-flowered rice paddies and verdant coconut groves. Set among coconut groves on the shores of the Laccadive Sea is the Neeleshwar Hermitage. This serene beachfront resort is 7 km from the ruins of Hosdurg Fort.
San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastián is a lover’s paradise. The city boasts lush green hills, crashing surf, and a shell-shaped beach ideal for sunbathing. For views of La Concha and old-world ambiance, book a room at Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra. Guests can watch the sunset from private terraces, or dine at an in-house restaurant facing the bay. Take the funicular up to Monte Igueldo for a panoramic view of the city. San Sebastián is known for its gourmet cuisine, and Mugartiz serves authentic Basque specialties in a rustic setting. Sample some of the city’s best food at Arzak. World-renowned chef Juan Mari Arzak serves traditional Basque fare with cutting-edge style, in an intimate dining room. Reserve a table several weeks in advance.