Whenever anyone asks about couples’ travel, the answers are always about spas with couples massages, hot tubs, candlelit dinners, rose petals on the bed, and long walks on the beach. The problem is…I hate that kind of stuff. Don’t get me wrong – my boyfriend is my favorite travel companion, but we’re more into hitting a National Park than dressing up for a date night, and the one time we did try a couples’ massage we just felt weird the whole time. This list of ideas for couples vacations features destinations around the world that will be fun for you and your significant other if you’re not into the whole cheesy romance thing.
Caving in Budapest
I’ve been with my husband for 11 years, married for 4. We realized quite early on in our relationship that romantic beach breaks weren’t going to work for us. On the one beach break we ever took, I was awoken from a nap on a sun lounger to find my bored husband had dug with such impressive enthusiasm in the sand that he had undermined my lounger, and sent me sliding gently head first into a 2 foot deep hole. We’d been at the resort for 3 hours.
Since then we’ve made it our mission to find more adventurous activities to keep us both occupied. A personal favorite for both of us was adventure caving in Budapest.
Budapest is an incredible city for wine, history and panoramic views. The real hidden gem of this city is that, for the amazingly reasonable price of 7,000 HUF per person, you can spend 3 hours with an expert guide wiggling and sliding your way around the tight nooks and crannies of the labyrinth of cave systems. The premise of caving is that you need to work as a team to help each other make it- finding foot holds, shining lights and, occasionally, physically hoisting one another into gaps.
Caving is not a typically romantic activity. It’s dirty. It’s sweaty. The caves ring out with the sound of plastic safety helmets hitting rock followed by a few choice swears. No one looks good in a protective boiler suit.
All that being said, would we do it again? Absolutely. For the chance to work as a team, solving problems and having a giggle along the way, nothing can beat the sense of achievement gained from conquering caving with your partner. After three hours of sweaty caving you will be reminded that the romance has not died (although you might both smell a bit like it did).
-Hazel from Things We Learnt In:
Hiking on Ios
I’ve never been a romantic person. In fact, I can safely say that romantic gestures kind of make me gag. Thankfully, my husband is exactly the same, although he’s been known to draw a big heart in the sand (in Italy, I blame it on the fact that it was our first time in Italy). However, when it comes to wedding anniversaries, we are far, far, far away from the “traditional romantic” couple activities.
We do have this thing to always travel for our wedding anniversary. And if we are not visiting a medieval castle or city, then we are …hiking. Our fifth wedding anniversary was spent on the island of Ios, in Greece. And how can you spend an amazing anniversary there? For us: hiking, watching the sunset, and a meal at our favorite taverna.
It was already hot at the end of May, so we put on our walking shoes, shorts, t-shirts, bandanas, packed towels, sunscreen, took our water bottles, and away we went. The plan was to stop by three beaches within walking distance of our accommodation. First one: Gialos , right in the port (and a stone’s throw away from our accommodation). A kilometer down the road: the gorgeous Tsamaria beach. Empty when we arrived, busy by the time we left. We played a bit in the water, took photos, enjoyed the time together. Another kilometer down the road, was Koumpara, which was a rather meh experience as they decided to modernize the area (read: construction work!)
Then, having not walked enough, we decided to look for the lighthouse. It was marked on the map but there wasn’t a clear way to get there. Nor anyone who spoke English around at that hour. We were going in the right direction – we found out later when we talked to a friend – but gave up before we actually got there. Oh well, there’s always a next time. All in all, the hike took about 4 hours with all the stops.
-Cris from LooknWalk
Seeking orangutans in Borneo
I love exploring new places with my partner and relaxing over a romantic lunch in a vineyard. However, other destinations aren’t quite that glamorous. We got to know each other and each other’s smell very well during our adventures to Borneo – living on a small wooden boat for three days in the humid rainforest with only a tiny shower means we didn’t smell the best afterwards. We were right back to basics – my hair was up and my face clean of makeup to withstand the crazy humidity. Simply put, I did not feel sexy!
The reason why we were walking through the rainforest in the pouring rain, trying to avoid leeches and mosquitoes: incredible orangutans! Getting to see their human-like faces as they devoured bananas and sugar cane was an unbelievable experience – one of those once in a lifetime things that I was so happy to be able to share with my boyfriend. Watching the adorable babies clinging onto their mothers as they swung through the trees and the anticipation as the in the distance you saw the trees shake before the big male appeared, positioning himself amidst the treats like the king of the jungle was amazing.
One slightly cliché activity we did enjoy whilst aboard our little wooden boat was a spot of star gazing. Being in the midst of the rainforest, we could see the stars so clearly, and there were even little fireflies dancing about in the air above us. Then the trees next to the boat starting moving and I got scared that a monkey (or worse) was coming aboard the boat with us, so we went to bed!
-Laura from The Travelling Stomach
Backpacking on a remote island in the Philippines
My boyfriend and I frequently backpack across various provinces in the Philippines and recently in other countries in Southeastern Asia as well. We prefer this style as it’s cheaper and more authentic, plus we can explore off-beat destinations – an experience that we find unbeatable when compared to regular hotel vacations.
One memorable trip is to an island in the northern Philippines – Calayan Island. It took us more than 12-13 hours of land travel and about 5-6 hours of boat ride to reach this. Due to its distance from the mainland and the fickle sea conditions in this part of the ocean, Calayan Island is rarely visited by tourists. A thriving local community exists there though.
After arrival, we trekked for another hour to reach our home for the next few days – the long beach of Sibang Cove, with its clear green water. We set up camp and cooked using a portable stove. At night, we stargazed and saw the Milky Way, which was clearly visible due to our remoteness from the cities. For the next few days, we swam, island hopped via a local fisher’s boat, explored waterfalls and ran across the pastoral hills of Nagudungan Hills where we saw free-roaming goats and carabaos. For food, we’d frequent the lone market we could find or buy fresh catch from the fishermen (lobsters are very cheap at P50 each).
We went back home tanned and happy. Calayan Island is just one of the many memorable backpacking trips we’ve had as a couple, and we hope to experience more.
-Katherine from Tara Lets Anywhere
Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure in Iceland
Iceland is the perfect destinations for couples who are more into adventuring together than taking romantic trips. While there is a certain amount of romanticism to battling the elements together, it’s more about the amazing landscape and immersing yourself in a country with so many amazing things to see and do. One of our favorite ever things we have done is a couple is snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park. The park is the only meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates above sea level. You can walk between them, but it’s also possible to snorkel in Silfra Fissure, a body of ice-cold glacial water between the plates. Since the water is a chilly 4 degrees all year round you need to wear a dry suit, and getting into one of those is definitely not romantic! Once you’re in the crystal clear water you’ll forget about that though. It’s so clear that visibility can be up to 100 meters. We couldn’t believe it as we floated along together, and couldn’t stop talking about it for so long afterwards! Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure in Iceland is definitely a once in a lifetime experience that’s amazing to share with your partner.
-Sonja from Migrating Miss
Disney World for couples
If you’re hesitant to visit Disney parks without kids – don’t be! There is all kinds of fun for adults in the parks and resorts. Believe it or not, Disney World and Disneyland are popular honeymoon destinations too. I’ve taken my boyfriend to Disney World twice now and we’ve had a blast both times. Making FastPass+ and dining reservations for two is a lot easier than it is for a family of four, so you’ll have better luck booking things to do (and you’ll definitely want to have reservations). Epcot’s World Showcase restaurants are perfect for an evening meal, and if you time it right, some of them have reserved areas for viewing the Illuminations firework show at the end of the night. We also love standing on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom and watching the Happily Ever After fireworks together – it’s the perfect way to end a magical day.
If you’re looking for quieter dining options, head to the restaurants at the resorts. There are some amazing places to eat at the hotels and they tend to be more laid-back than the theme park restaurants. The Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian Village resorts are two of my favorites and are great places to stay for couples at Disney World.
Read more about visiting Disney World as an adult in my Grown-up’s Guide series.
Safari in Kenya
Bumping along rutted dirt roads, camping on the ground, living with a permanent coat of dust on our faces: Overlanding through Kenya may not sound like a romantic vacation, but it’s heaven for me and my husband.
In fact, the first time I brought Aaron to Kenya with me was when I knew he was the one. We found ourselves in the middle of Masai Mara, hanging out the windows of a Land Rover and swatting flies from our faces as we searched for the Big Five, when one of us turned to the other (I can’t even remember which now) and exclaimed, “Hey, it’s our anniversary!” Though we had both forgotten, we agreed we couldn’t have planned a better way to celebrate.
A decade later, we’d still forgo the couples massage and candlelit dinner in favor of sleeping under the stars and being jostled down a battered old road (in Kenya they call that an “African massage”). On our last trip we rented our own 4×4 and drove ourselves through Kenya’s national parks, and we’re planning a much longer overland trip through southern Africa next year.
Working together as a team to plan and execute these adventures, rolling with the surprises we face along the way, and sharing incredible experiences with the one person you know will appreciate them as much as you do – it doesn’t get any more romantic than that!
– Emily and Aaron from Two Dusty Travelers
We usually travel with the kids, but one of the things we like to do as a special getaway for just the two of us is to travel by motorcycle. It is romantic because of the shared experience, but not in the traditional sense. Motorcycle gear doesn’t exactly give you that sexy, romantic look – it makes you hot and sweaty, adds a good 20+ pounds to your look and then you also have helmet hair! But there is no better way to feel up close to the great outdoors than to be on the open road feeling the wind. You experience things so much more vividly with the smells and sights – right there – not the other side of a windshield.
Our favorite place to explore on the motorcycle is the Texas hill country and it is especially pretty in the spring when the wildflowers bloom along the roadside. We stop for a snack or lunch at small places way off the beaten path and meet the locals. It is a fun way to travel together as a couple!
– Natalie from The Educational Tourist
Adventures in New Zealand
My partner and I spend nearly all our vacation time in places we know we can have an adventure because we really love to be outside. One of my favorite trips we’ve taken together so far has been our two week camper van trip around New Zealand’s North Island. We spent our two weeks rock climbing in different areas on the North Island such as Froggatt’s Edge and Kawakawa Bay. We also went on several different hikes around the island including the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the Mata Peak hike in Hawkes Bay, and we went mountain biking in Rotorua at the Whakarewarewa Forest Mountain Bike Park.
One of my favorite experiences while on our camper van excursion through the North Island was signing up for the Lost World Epic 7-Hour Caving Tour with Waitomo Adventures to explore the amazing glow worm caves! We got to do a 100m abseil down into the cave and spent the rest of the 7 hours walking through the cave waters, squeezing between rocks, and checking out the glow worms. It was super unique, and an experience I won’t be forgetting. Even if doing the touristy items in a country are on your list, it can still be very easy to integrate adventure into your schedule. Research what local hikes are nearby. Is the area known for anything special, like the glow worm caves in Waitomo? If you want to go on a winery tour, mix it up and tour the different wineries via bike, something that my partner and I also did when we were visiting the Hawkes Bay region of the North Island. If you are looking for that perfect destination to mix adventure and travel, I can’t recommend New Zealand enough!
-Allison from She Dreams of Alpine
Jetboating in Niagara Falls
For adventurous couples, jetboating in Niagara Falls is a must do! Taking you through Class 5 rapids, the ride guarantees to give you that adrenaline rush you’ll never forget!
The 45-min jetboat ride starts with a calm and scenic excursion through the Niagara Gorge. You’ll see Canada on one side, and U.S. on the other. As you travel further, the Gorge begins narrowing and the water running fiercely.
Before you know it, you are attacked by the rapids and bouncing up and down with the boat. Then, a rush of water pours over you out of nowhere, as if you are swallowed up by a sea monster. You will fly through the rapids over and over without any downtime in between. Each time, your heart will pound harder. You will get drenched from head to toe but begging for more! That’s how addicting and fun it is to jetboat in Niagara Falls!
If you find yourselves in Niagara Falls, sign up for this unique experience that’s sure to get you yelling and laughing the whole time! If you don’t want to get wet, you can also hop onto the jet dome which gives you the same thrill level, minus the splash.
-Cat from For Two, Please
Exploring the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China makes a fantastic non-romantic travel destination for couples who want a trip out of the ordinary.
The views from the top of the wall are out of this world, and I can think of nothing more romantic than gazing out over the magnificent Chinese landscape with your partner. Seeing the wall snake off into the distance, surrounded by epic scenery is such a wonderful sight to share.
Despite some photos you may see of The Great Wall of China being absolutely packed with tourists, there are sections of the wall that you can have almost to yourselves if you go at the right time of day and during the off-peak season. My husband and I enjoyed the peace and quiet away from the crowds of tourists simply by getting up at the crack of dawn and going on a slightly rainy day when everyone else was tucked up in bed.
Over the course of two days, we spent hours wandering along the wall, helping each other up the steep steps and sliding side-by-side on our bums down the other side. Be prepared to work up a sweat together – it’s quite a physical climb in places, but that makes it much more rewarding than a moonlit walk along the beach!
-Anna from Would Be Traveller
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