It’s funny how perspective works. Pre-kids, it is impossible to fully appreciate the peace and ease of a vacation where you are literally only responsible for making yourself happy—and maybe your partner. After babies, it’s mind-boggling to look back and wonder how you could have ever been that chill and, dare I say, lazy.
Those “before” holidays are a little like fever dreams, and it can be hard to believe they actually existed. But it is possible to reignite some of those feelings by lovingly leaving the little ones at home with a wonderful family member or friend. Just because they’re not with you doesn’t mean you can totally throw caution to the wind, but traveling childless might make your next parents trip—maybe to celebrate an anniversary or other special occasion—a little more carefree and romantic. Because let’s face it: You deserve it.
Editor’s note: While the pandemic is ongoing, the CDC will continue to update its travel advisories. Make sure to check the latest guidelines for your departure city and your destination here before planning to travel.
There are dozens of ways to spend a dreamily romantic, long weekend in Costa Rica, where landscapes vary wildly from beaches to jungles to volcanos with hot springs. Book a circular suite with a private plunge pool and outdoor fireplace at ORIGINS Lodge and you’ll have access to horseback riding or hiking to a butterfly sanctuary and waterfall, private cooking classes with a French chef, cacao coffee couples body treatments, and jungle yoga. For a sandy escape, try a Sunset Treehouse Suite at W Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal, tucked privately into mangroves with vistas of the white and blue beach.
Sometimes, all it takes is a private beach and a comfy lounge chair. Add to that a postcard-perfect French island in the Caribbean, and you’re virtually guaranteed next-level relaxation. The secluded Hotel Manapany on St. Barts offers just that, with ways to be active (snorkeling, diving, surfing) and also plenty of ways to zone out (think couples massages and sunset sailing). At the ultra-luxe Le Sereno, set on the Grand Cul de Sac Lagoon, off-duty parents can spend their vacation having body wraps at the beachfront spa and dining under the moonlight at Al Mare Restaurant.
Lake Tahoe, California
Yes, Lake Tahoe has plenty of exciting outdoor experiences that your kids would love, but this might be your chance to let a childlike energy rule for a weekend, with paddle boarding, jet skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hot air ballooning, and even hang gliding. But make it luxury: Cozy up by your fireplace at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, and enjoy Martis Valley panoramas, mouthwatering food, and a Tranquility for Two spa experience. At Edgewood Tahoe, try morning mountain yoga, biking, and, in the winter, skiing, along with intimate candlelit dinners in super private settings across the lakefront property.
What’s the ultimate treat for parents taking a few-day reprieve from their kids? Someone taking care of you. At Round Hill Hotel and Villas, on a peninsula west of famed Montego Bay, book a private villa that comes with its very own full-service staff. Don’t lift a finger on your vacation while taking adventurous tours, playing in the turquoise ocean, doing nothing in a hammock, or dancing til you drop. Another option: the blissful, adults-only Couples Tower Isle in Ocho Rios, where you actually get unlimited spa treatments if you book an Oasis Spa Villa, which also comes with your own plunge pool, sun terrace, and deluxe room service, not to mention unlimited watersports (including diving) and golf.
For a bit of a longer and faraway retreat, book it to Bangkok for a week of enticing eats and soothing spa treatments. There are, of course, plenty of Thai massages happening in the capital of Thailand, but there’s also so much more, as in temple visits and river cruises. The Siam is an elegantly eclectic riverside resort with so much to offer, from market visits paired with cooking lessons to private Muay Thai kickboxing instruction. The brand-new The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon lifestyle hotel close to the city’s creative Old Town is an alluring option, too, with vibrant interiors, nightlife venues, multiple restaurants, and a pool terrace that’s being called the highest alfresco sky beach in Bangkok.
Dolomites and Venice, Italy
If you can spare a week, plan a stunning two-pronged getaway split between Venice, Italy and the Dolomite Mountains. Fly into the fairytale city of Venice, where gondola rides and serenades by musicians and even the opera await. Stay at the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa, on its own private island, and check out its impressive art installations, Michelin-starred and chef-led Culinary Experience weekends, pizza pop-up by legendary Renato Bosco, and fine dining restaurant serving Venetian cuisine sourced locally. Drive two hours to the new Hotel de Len in Cortina d’Ampezzo—with a panoramic rooftop spa—and embark on a hiking adventure, staying in rifugios along the way (while your luggage is transported), e-biking day trips, or via ferratas.
Big Sur, California
One of America’s bucket-list spots for romance is the epically beautiful Big Sur, specifically Post Ranch Inn. The iconic luxury resort high above the crashing surf only allows guests over 18, so you can be assured of extraordinary peace during a luxurious escape with mountain or ocean views—there are no alarm clocks or TVs in the rooms, but there are several pools to relax at plus included daily yoga, garden tours, and nature hikes. For a more self-guided approach, snag some provisions and a charming clifftop cabin at the small, historic Lucia Lodge, where views are truly unmatched. Spend your days exploring nearby beaches, hikes, restaurants, and drives at a slow pace to best enjoy the scenery.
A milestone anniversary—or maybe delayed honeymoon—calls for the Maldives, the dreamiest of dreamy Indian Ocean island getaways where virtually every resort is on its own island or atoll of snowy white sand fringed with sapphire water. At Joali, you can have an intimate dinner in the out-of-this-world Manta Ray Treehouse or do a vow renewal ceremony. Floating breakfasts and dinners in the treetops are on the menu at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, which has a jet lag-busting hydrotherapy pool (in case you were worried about acclimating) as well as wellness experiences such as sound healing and yoga. Make time to snorkel in the crystalline water, too. The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli is a paradise designed to revive you in overwater treatment rooms (two dedicated to Ayurvedic therapies) and the ultra-healing Blue Hole seawater pool.
The Caribbean island and unincorporated U.S. territory is lush and idyllic, with beaches, waterfalls, and mountains, plus tons of manmade fun, too. Palacio Provincial and Condado Ocean Club are two incredible adults-only, boutique-style choices in San Juan, with the latter offering oceanfront views in every room plus a stunning infinity pool you’ll never want to leave. In Old San Juan, Palacio Provincial boasts a rooftop infinity pool, seductive al fresco dining, and complimentary bicycles for exploring. A bit farther afield on 1,400 acres is Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve where couples can indulge on accommodations with a private plunge pool, soaking tub, and outdoor shower. A spa sanctuary featuring indigenous traditions and Puerto Rican ingredients plus a deep wine cellar are more compelling arguments for a stay.
As epic holidays go, Iceland is way up there. The country is chock-full of unbelievable landscapes. One way to get closest to them is at the eco-friendly Panorama Glass Lodge, an out-of-this-world way to sleep under the stars ensconced in glass and, if you’re lucky, gaze up at the Northern Lights glowing green above. An otherworldly blue is the main hue at The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, which is all about warm hospitality and plush luxury in a spa-like setting that celebrates the restorative, geothermal natural wonder drawing visitors from around the globe.
The Pacific coast of Mexico is home to incredible wonders—think migrating whales and hatching sea turtles. At Playa Viva, a one-of-a-kind regenerative resort on its own virginal stretch of beach, you two can get even more up close and personal with nature from a mobula ray-inspired treehouse, complete with a massive built-in hammock from which, at night, you may very well spot sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach! There’s tons to do (like touring the inspiring permaculture farm and local villages), but the team encourages guests to plan nothing for the first 48 hours. Brilliant, huh? For a less alternative resort experience, there’s the local art-filled Thompson Zihuatanejo, home to swim-up suites as well as others with private pools.
It’s not that you couldn’t take kids to the lively Art Deco haven of South Beach, but you’re probably going to have more fun if it’s just adults. For example, nightlife! Start with a cocktail-paired brunch at Fuego Y Mar at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, where you’ll also find a classic cocktail bar scene and live music for later at Lapidus Bar. The festive restaurant Bagatelle even hosts a themed party, Rock ’N’ Baga, every Tuesday night when you’ll really know you’re sans kids. The bright white beaches of Miami are also easy to access from Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel, where couples can spend a blissful day in a poolside Vines Cabana, even visiting one for intimate personalized spa treatments.