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The 17 Most Underrated Honeymoon Destinations in the US

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by Henry Miller Alex Bresler Sep 28, 2022

There’s no event that’s more exhausting to plan than a wedding. Whether you’re an obsessive Pinterest user or someone who says they just want to have a backyard party with a few friends, everyone ends up drained by the time the ceremony rolls around. So why make planning a honeymoon a similarly grueling experience? It’s never easy — or cheap — to book a decent room in Cape Cod, Hawai’i, or Aspen, and even if you do manage to snag accommodation at these popular honeymoon spots, the throngs of tourists and other couples will make it impossible to spend quality time with your new spouse. Instead, consider the underrated side of “Honeymoon Destinations, USA” — the best places to honeymoon in the US that you won’t have to share with other newlyweds, starting with these 17 locales from Oregon to Maine.

1. San Juan Islands, Washington

view of Mount Baker from the San Juan Islands one of the best honeymoon destinations usa

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An island getaway doesn’t necessarily equate to palm trees, cocktails, and suntans. Rather than squeezing themselves into a row of lounge chairs on an overrated beach, honeymooners in the San Juans can seek out almost-private coves like those found at Reuben Tarte Memorial Park on San Juan Island. There, they can tan in the summer months or hunt for sculptural pieces of driftwood in the tidal pools year-round. The San Juan Islands Museum of Art, also on San Juan Island, is perhaps the best representation of the prominent local art scene. The museum features indigenous motifs and styles that date back thousands of years, while small shops and studios like Orcas Island Pottery (on Orcas Island) offer an insight to the quirkiness and creativity that defines the community today. Of course, no visit to the San Juans is complete until you witness migrating Orca pods splashing about in the Salish Sea.

2. Telluride, Colorado

Downtown Telluride in the Spring one of the alternative honeymoon destinations usa

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While Aspen still holds a special place in the hearts of those who remember the neon pantsuits of the ‘80s, Telluride appeals to those searching for a more small-town, no-frills vibe. Telluride has world-class skiing and snowboarding areas that are repeatedly praised for their accessibility and quality — which is partly thanks to a free gondola that connects the town to its resort area, located smack-dab in the middle of the slopes. Beyond its main attractions, Telluride also has camping, climbing, river sports, and an increasingly popular film festival. Due to its slightly more removed location and underdog status, Telluride has also developed a less pretentious and more “folksy rebel” reputation than resort towns like Whistler or Jackson Hole, as is evidenced by the town’s “Free Box,” where locals regularly drop off and pick up random items left by their neighbors.

3. Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee street at night one of the best places for a honeymoon in the US

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Ditch Arizona’s high-end golf courses and resorts — they’re too mainstream and busy. Instead, newly married couples who seek solitude and originality should head to Bisbee, a little mining town near the Mexican border that’s filled with artists and other “eccentrics.” The canyon town of weaving streets and Victorian architecture is home to a mix of old saloons, art galleries, antique shops, and haunted hotels along Brewery Ave and Main Street, while the town’s leg-straining public staircases guide visitors to the picturesque hillside neighborhoods. Of course, there are several mine-related adventures for those who love mixing US history with geology, including gem-mining opportunities, a human-made mini-Grand Canyon known as the Lavender Pit, and a 1,500 foot railroad ride into the Copper Queen Mine.

4. Beaufort, South Carolina

Big white houses on street in Beaufort one of the best places to honeymoon in the us

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With Charleston constantly being cited as one of the best honeymoon towns in the country, most people don’t think to look a few more miles down the Atlantic seaboard to the significantly less crowded Beaufort, South Carolina. The small town spread across the Sea Islands of South Carolina’s Lowcountry is known for its art festivals and architectural preservation efforts. These efforts have maintained a distinctive collection of antebellum buildings in Beaufort’s central neighborhoods. Beyond the historic sites, visitors to Beaufort can enjoy traditionally romantic carriage rides along Bay Street or more modern adventures such as kayaking and biking on nearby Hunting Island, where they can also find some of the state’s most celebrated beaches if they just want to lounge and swim. As a coastal town, Beaufort is full of southern-style seafood eateries, but there is probably no better time to visit than during the Taste of Beaufort festival for a mix of local seafood, wines, and art.

5. Fairbanks, Alaska

Northern Lights in Fairbanks Alaska one of the best honeymoon destinations usa

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You have to be a pretty bold couple to pick the northernmost US state for a romantic getaway, especially if you’re not itching to summit Mt. Denali. Apart from being the perfect spot for athletic outdoor activities, Fairbanks also has activities that can only be found this close to the arctic circle, such as dog-mushing tours or a stroll through the countryside with a reindeer herd. But honeymooners who want to take it easy might prefer watching the northern lights while soaking in the Chena Hot Springs. While every other place on this list offers stunning scenery, none are quite as remote or as wild as Fairbanks and its surroundings — a perfect choice for couples who want peace and quiet.

6. Portland, Maine

Cape Elizabeth, Portland's head lighthouse one of the best honeymoon destinations in usa

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Compared with the elite-favored coastal New England destinations of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, Portland has a blue-collar vibe without losing the region’s sailing culture or devotion to crustacean dinners. This small and industrious city is filled with breweries and distilleries, including celebrated Belgian-style beer specialist Allagash Brewing Company and up-and-comer Maine Craft Distillery, which produces craft booze of every style from single malt whiskey to barley and botanical spirits. As a 400-year-old New England town, Portland is also home to many traditional lighthouses overlooking rocky coves and white-sand beaches, such as Cape Elizabeth and Portland Head Lighthouse. Imagine taking in the sunset in front of one of those grand beauties, daydreaming about your future together, while watching the lobster boats bobbing about in Casco Bay as they haul in your dinner.

7. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

View of fall foliage and mountains in Great Smoky Mountains National Park one of the unusual honeymoon destinations usa

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If your idea of a perfect honeymoon includes a hike across rough terrain to get to a rustic log cabin that feels eons removed from city life, then load up your rucksack and head for the Appalachian Mountains. This national park is less than an hour from Asheville, another popular honeymoon spot, yet its dramatic location means that you could spend hours hiking to the waterfalls surrounding Clingman’s Dome without bumping into a single soul. If the one-room log cabins in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge are still too close to civilization, you can hop on the Smoky section of the Appalachian Trail in the middle of the park and get down to some backcountry camping — a particular treat when it’s time for fall foliage. For those interested in a more cultural excursion, there are numerous attractions just a short drive away, including the prohibition-era themed Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine Distillery and the Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales Festival. If you really want to celebrate Appalachian culture, the Dolly Parton amusement park, Dollywood, is less than an hour’s drive away.

8. Door County, Wisconsin

The coast in Door county Wisconsin one of the best honeymoon destinations in the US

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Door County is a sliver of a peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan from Green Bay. It’s home to five state parks, including the kayaker-friendly Cave Point County Park, which has underwater caves and hidden coves along its coastline, and the more rugged and removed Rock Island State Park, which requires two ferry rides to access. Rock Island is well-known for its collection of isolated beaches separated by winding paths, making it ideal for a romantic camping trip — and affordable vacation — with spectacular stargazing and sunrises over Lake Michigan. Back on the mainland, visitors can tour over half-a-dozen different wineries, breweries, and distilleries scattered across the peninsula, many of which are featured on the Door County Trolley tours. After getting a slight buzz at Harbor Winery and taking in the sunset over Green Bay at Schoolhouse Beach, you can cap off the evening with a bit of high culture at the 83-year-old Peninsula Player’s Theater.

9. Islamorada, Florida

Big brown pelicans in port of Islamorada, Florida Keys an underrated honeymoon destination in the US

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Like the neighboring Keys, Islamorada has the same mile-long, white-sand beaches dotted with palm trees and beach bars, but without the engulfing day-tripper crowds. Many of the beach bars also serve the very best local seafood. Head to Pierre’s Restaurant at Morada Bay for a heaping of local yellowtail snapper and Florida lobster, or stop by Lorelai’s Cabana Bar for more down-to-earth, Caribbean American dishes like coconut shrimp and lightly-fried conch fritters. Aside from spa treatments at Ciao Bella Salon or Blu Bamboo, honeymooners can also relax with some flat-water snorkeling or paddleboarding in the crisp blue waters of Anne’s Beach. But if you really want to get away from the crowds and enjoy some light canoodling under a beach umbrella, Library Beach is the place to be.

10. Half Moon Bay, California

Half Moon Bay, CA, honeymoon destinations USA

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Forty minutes south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is often mentioned in the same breath as Carmel-by-the-Sea. Some people tout Carmel’s spot on the Monterrey Peninsula as the more worthwhile stop along the California coast, but for the right kind of honeymooners, Half Moon Bay’s mellow perch on the San Francisco Peninsula is precisely what gives it the edge. Fans of the seaside town are typically found outside — big wave surfing at world-famous Mavericks Beach, hiking or cycling the California Coast Trail, whale-watching at Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park, pitching a tent at Francis Beach for some classic California beach camping. Other visitors come just for the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. The Ritz is the go-to for ultra-luxury in Half Moon Bay, but the Mill Rose Inn is equally romantic for a quarter of the cost. There’s also a lighthouse hostel at Pigeon Point if you’d rather go rustic and then splurge at Pasta Moon, a destination Italian restaurant in Half Moon Bay for decades.

11. Marfa, Texas

Marfa, TX, best honeymoon destinations us

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Marfa’s art scene put it on the map in recent years, but its location on actual maps certainly helped boost its popularity as a gateway to Big Ben National Park. For a town of roughly 2,000 people, there’s a surprising number of art museums and galleries in this pocket of the Chihuahuan Desert, chief among them being Ballroom Marfa and Chinati, Judd, and Ayn Foundations. Glampers will feel at home at El Cosmico, a funky hotel and campground with your choice of casitas, safari tents, teepees, yurts, and trailers — the perfect place to retire after vibe-y nights out at watering holes like House Bar and Planet Marfa. Before you go to sleep, keep an eye out for the Marfa Lights, a phenomenon tracing back to 1883 that describes the occasional presence of glowing lights in the desert outside of town. There’s an official viewing area off US 90 if you want to take a shot at seeing them, but know there’s no guarantee.

12. Taos, New Mexico

Taos, NM, honeymoon destinations USA

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New Mexico’s signature adobe architecture might be most alluring in Taos, framed by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Rio Grande Gorge slightly northwest of town. Taos Plaza, the anchor of the Downtown Taos Historic District and a stop on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, drips with art galleries and museums, shops specializing in goods like turquoise jewelry and leatherwork, and Southwestern restaurants where anything you order tasted better with hatch green chiles. But the city’s central plaza isn’t its most historic site; that title belongs to Taos Pueblo, an Indigenous community that’s one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in the county and both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Landmark. After touring, honeymooners can create their own little settlement at El Monte Sagrado or The Blake at Taos Ski Valley, two of the most romantic properties in town.

13. Ogunquit, Maine

Ogunquit, Maine, honeymoon destinations USA

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Southern Maine could be considered one of the best honeymoon destinations in the US for anyone, but Ogunquit holds particular appeal for LGBTQ+ newlyweds. Maine’s queer capital, the seaside town is full of hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, and galleries run by LGBTQ+ folks — notably Maine Street for all things drag and The Front Porch piano bar for dinner and a show. Ogunquit’s universal appeal centers on its namesake beach and Marginal Way, a mile-long-plus coastal trail that shows off the town’s best side. Continue up the coast and you’ll soon hit the Kennebunks — the wealthy towns of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Arundel — where some of the historic waterfront estates that the trio is known for have opened their doors to guests.

14. Neskowin, Oregon

Neskowin, Oregon, honeymoon destinations USA

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You may not have heard of Neskowin, Oregon, but you’re probably familiar with the county where it’s located: Tillamook, home of the famous Tillamook Creamery. But make no mistake, there’s nothing cheesy about Neskowin — unless you count proposal rock, a sea-stack island on Neskowin Beach where a sea captain is rumored to have proposed to his future wife around the turn of the 20th century. Haystack Rock is another natural landmark that’s popular with visitors; either is an excellent place to for sunset, or a little bit before then at low tide if you like tide-pooling. When you’re not enjoying the Oregon coast — be it touring Depoe Bay, the state’s whaling capital, or golfing at the Neskowin Beach Golf Course — dip a toe in the local brewery scene. Pelican Brewing and Beachcrest Brewing come highly recommended.

15. Moloka’i, Hawai’i

Moloka'i, Hawai'i, honeymoon destinations USA

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To say that Hawai’i is an underrated honeymoon destination sounds laughable. But Moloka’i is seriously neglected — this past July, Oahu clocked 491,052 visitor arrivals, roughly 120 times as much as Moloka’i’s 4,075 arrivals — much to the benefit of couples who want to feel like they have the island to themselves. The fifth-largest Hawaiian Island, Moloka’i has been called many things: the “Friendly Island,” the “Most Hawaiian Island,” and an “outer island” by locals. Much of its charm lies in its easygoing pace, which is moderately ironic considering its adventure potential. Moloka’i plays host to some of the highest sea cliffs in the world and the longest uninterrupted fringing reef in the US. In lieu of sending a postcard describing the beauty of sites like the Kalaupapa Peninsula and Hālawa Valley, swing by the local post office in Ho’olehua before you go to decorate and mail a coconut to your new in-laws.

16. Sun Valley, Idiho

Sun Valley, Idaho, best honeymoon destinations in usa

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It’s no coincidence that ski resorts often populate lists of the best places to honeymoon in the US. Mountain towns with access to epic slopes are obviously scenic and generally have adorable downtowns packed with tourist amenities. Sun Valley is no exception, though it seems to be more popular for weddings than honeymoons. Ironically, that’s what makes it so great post-nuptials — without the stress of getting hitched, newlyweds actually have a chance to enjoy the romance-ready locale. More than an outdoors hub, Sun Valley has had an artist following since Ernest Hemingway set up camp at the Sun Valley Lodge, the most luxurious digs in the resort town, in 1939. There’s also a Hemingway Memorial on the White Cloud Trail. For something lower, scope out the trail network in the Sawtooth Botanical Garden then stick around for evening events like wine tastings or head toward Frenchman’s Bend for hot springs.

17. Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island, Florida, best honeymoon destinations in USA

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Florida is an obvious choice for a US honeymoon. It has a tropical climate and 825 miles of sandy beaches, and it’s a lot easier to get to than Hawai’i. What’s less obvious is where to go outside of the Keys. Enter Sanibel Island, a 33-square-mile island located roughly as many miles off the coast of Fort Meyers. Sanibel is famous for its seashells — so much so that the bent-at-the-wait posture donned by shell collectors combing Bowman’s Beach has been coined the “Sanibel Stoop.” The island’s shells are also on display at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. Depending on the day, the rest of your downtime can be split between the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildife Refuge, Blind Pass Beach, and Periwinkle Way, the island’s main shop- and restaurant-studded drag. And if you want to see even more of the Gulf of Mexico, drive the causeway from Sanibel to Captiva, a smaller but equally pristine island off Fort Meyers.

What is the number one honeymoon destination in the US?

If you’re curious about broader honeymoon trends, you might be interested — but not necessarily surprised — to learn that Hawai’i consistently ranks among the most popular honeymoon destinations anywhere in the world for domestic and international newlyweds alike. Of the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu is the most visited, and Maui is the runner-up. According to the website Honeymoon Goals and several other sources, Florida and Las Vegas are the most popular honeymoon destinations in the US after Hawai’i.

How long a honeymoon should last?

How long you choose honeymoon for depends on a number of things, from where you’re going to your budget to your schedule. According to the wedding website The Knot, the average honeymoon lasts seven to 12 days. These days, some couples opt to take a short mini-moon immediately after their nuptials while others plan month-long honeymoons several weeks after the fact. But most sources agree that one week is the ideal length for a honeymoon.

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