As a travel writer, I frequent five-star resorts in exotic locales, and fine hotels in the world’s great cities—but I made my most romantic memories in a campground along the Central California Coast. On a crisp, starlit June night at El Capitan Canyon, Damon and I shared a bottle of Zin by a roaring campfire. Then we retired to our cabin, snuggling under a fluffy duvet while the pit-pat of a light rain, singing crickets, and a rushing creek provided the soundtrack. Barry White couldn’t have done better.
What’s your idea of the ultimate romantic setting? Private motu in Tahiti, table for two at a Parisian bistro, fuzzy rug by the fireplace in Aspen? All good. But spectacular scenery and a secluded setting can be equally sexy and sumptuous—not to mention perfectly priced. Here’s a sampling of places, from almost rustic to downright regal, where the two of you can get back to nature:
Many national parks offer special couples’ packages. For example, at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the romance package includes a welcome basket with champagne, picnic for two, breakfast in bed, and two nights in a historic lodge. During the day, take waterfall walks, hike the Appalachian Trail, or go antiquing in quaint nearby towns. $299, (800) 778-2851, www.visitshenandoah.com.
Cabins at El Capitan Canyon are angled along the creek for privacy, so nature and each other are all you see. But with a kitchenette, Jacuzzi, and fireplace at your disposal, you may never venture out. If you do, though, you can beach-comb, bike ride (on a free-to-borrow beach cruiser), or hike under oaks and sycamores. Ask the front desk to help map out a tour in nearby wine country (where Sideways was filmed). $285, (866) 352-2729, www.elcapitancanyon.com.