From the deserts of Dubai to the mountains of South Korea, the Eastern Hemisphere is full of adventurous honeymoon destinations for couples who simply can’t sit still on a beach.
Dubai and Oman, Arabian Peninsula
With its mega-towers and man-made archipelagos, Dubai isn’t the first place that comes to mind as a hub of adventure travel. But this Middle Eastern metropolis happens to be the gateway to the vast Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve — best explored via four-wheel-drive or hot-air balloon.
If you’re visiting the skyscraper city for the first time, get the best of both worlds by staying downtown but taking day trips into the desert. Sheraton Grand Hotel, Dubai is not only one of the city’s newest accommodations, but it’s one of its most towering. At 54 stories and 474 rooms, the property is quite imposing. And with a stunning spa on the 52nd floor, it’s also impossibly relaxing.
A lovebirds’ haven, the romantic Grosvenor House, a Luxury Collection Hotel Dubai is another obvious choice, being that it’s home to multiple pools, 14 restaurants and bars, a spacious spa and easy beach access.
Looking for something a bit more subdued? Go for the sleek Shangri-La Hotel Dubai, where nature-oriented couples may want to indulge in vegan spa treatments or splurge on a private alfresco dinner on the famous rooftop terrace where views of the formidible Burj Khalifa await. From there, couples can arrange detours into the desert with companies like Absolute Adventure or Arabian Adventures.
Just an hour’s flight from Dubai, Oman makes more a romantic side trip to round out the honeymoon with raw scenery and classic architecture. The up-and-coming destination is home to diverse landscapes — from beachfront bluffs to middle-of-nowhere cliffside retreats.
If the mountains are calling, check into Alila Jabal Akhdar or Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar — about a two-hour drive from Muscat, Oman’s capital city. These jaw-dropping outposts offer dramatic views from perilous perches in the Al Hajar Mountains, not to mention easy access to hiking, canyoning, biking and Instagramming at Bahla Fort, a UNESCO heritage site.
Anantara is home to “Diana’s Point,” where Princess Diana famously landed via helicopter in 1986. The hotel arranges private dinners on this perch, at 6,500 feet above sea level. To add to the passion, the terraced mountainsides around the lookout point come alive with blooming rose bushes in the springtime.
True daredevils will appreciate Alila resort’s via ferrata (“iron road”) built into the cliff under the resort. The Italian form of climbing, which originated in the Dolomites, is a more accessible alternative to mountain climbing, thanks to safety harnesses, carabiners and a series of metal wires and steps drilled into the mountainside.
Manila and Palawan, The Philippines
Tucked away in the southwestern corner of the Philippines, the island of Palawan has long been praised for its pristine beaches — but you’ll have to stop in Manila to reach this far-flung gem.
Make the most of your time with a stay at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Marco Polo Ortigas Manila or check out the romantic Four-Star Raffles Makati for a luxurious stopover in the capital before heading to the rustic island.
The hour-long flight to Palawan will take you straight to El Nido province, anchoring the northern tip of the island. This talked-about area is a haven for nature lovers that’s centered around Bacuit Bay’s limestone cliffs, secret lagoons and hidden beaches where travelers can snorkel, kayak or dive.
Most hotels offer island-hopping day trips, or book with independent operators such as El Nido Tours.
Need a day off? At private island retreats, such as Cauayan Resort, honeymooners can soak up the sun on a soft, sandy beach while baby whale sharks swim nearby. Back on the mainland, about an hour past El Nido town, is eco-friendly outfit Qi Palawan. This seven-room resort provides a uniquely secluded stay with a more rustic vibe, teak wood yoga pavilion, kite surfing and scuba classes — and some of the best food on the island.
Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road, Australia
Often heralded as an “adventure of a lifetime,” the Great Ocean Road is best accessed by way of Melbourne — a worthwhile destination in its own right. The city’s cobbled streets, chic coffee shops and edgy graffiti will charm culture-seeking globetrotters, while pristine parks and waterfront walks keep romance on full blast.
From this seaside city, it’s just an hour’s drive south to the Great Ocean Road. The adventure begins along B100 Highway, which snakes along the crescent coastline to the west. From the iconic Twelve Apostles rock formation to the diverse wildlife — yes, there will be kangaroos and koalas — romantic waterfalls, surfing spots, bushwalks and low-key seaside restaurants, the famous coastal drive is one of the most memorable ways to kick off a lifetime of adventures.
Seoul and Jeju, South Korea
South Korea has no shortage of natural beauty, but don’t skip the capital on your way to greener fields. Seoul is well worth the stopover, thanks to a mix of modern skyscrapers, ancient heritage and a rich culinary culture. Between the endless street eats and emerging fine-dining scene, there’s no shortage of memorable food-fueled experiences.
For the royal treatment, head straight for the Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel Seoul. Opened in 2015, the elegant address is designed to look like a traditional Korean palace, but kitted out with modern amenities. Gourmands will also appreciate the lineup of romantic restaurants and bars — from Italian at Boccalino to 1920s cocktails at the Charles H speakeasy.
From Seoul, you can reach one of South Korea’s most beautiful islands, Jeju, by flying only an hour south. Jeju is known for its outdoor activities, with its combination of beaches and lush countryside. The island is perfect for snorkeling, diving and trekking.
One of the most famous hikes is Hallasan, South Korea’s highest mountain, where you can watch the sun rise over an immense crater, appropriately named Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak).
If you don’t have the time or energy for such an intense trek, more accessible trails dot the island, including dozens of olle walking paths that trace the coastline and grassy Udo Peak, with its picture-perfect lighthouse.
For a luxurious home base on the island, check into The Shilla Jeju. Just a 10-minute walk from Jungmun Beach, this design-savvy hotel is tailored for honeymooners with understated décor, a private adults-only pool and bar, six restaurants, mountain and ocean views, a glamping village and a luxurious spa that will ease weary limbs after a day of hiking.