Best Affordable Romantic Hotels
Published: June 2009
By Diane Mehta
A Tuscan wine estate, a secret Caribbean beach resort, and eight other idyllic retreats for under $250 a night.
After a day of navigating the mazelike streets of the ancient Indian city of Udaipur, you and your travel companion are experiencing sensory overload. The colors and sounds of this Rajasthani city—where women perform their daily ablutions at the edge of Lake Pichola, children dive off the ghats (stone steps) for early morning swims, and muezzins’ calls to prayer drift across the rooftops—are undeniably breathtaking. But with hawkers plying you from every corner shop and aggressive monkeys leaping into your path, you’re craving a little privacy.
How perfect, then, that your exquisite boutique hotel, Udai Kothi, is just moments away. Within minutes, the two of you will be cooling off in the serene rooftop pool, or snuggling together in your room’s private window seat with views over blooming gardens. You’ll be able to bask in each other’s company—and the sweet knowledge that your romantic getaway is costing you only about $100 a night.
For those of us feeling today’s economic pinch (for example, the 75 percent of kayak.com users who recently reported that price is their major consideration when planning a trip), the idea of rushing off on a romantic vacation may seem like an improbable luxury. But it is possible—as long as you find the right hotel. And while there are lots of deals and packages out there to choose from, in many cases the best bet is to keep things small.
Hotels like the 25-room Udai Kothi make great couples’ getaways for several reasons. First, the property’s small size helps it feel more private and intimate—you’ll be sharing the pool and gardens with just a handful of other guests. Second, its traditional style and local ownership mean it’s more authentically Rajasthani than larger properties catering to Western tourists; you’ll get a truer sense here of how people in Udaipur really live—how they relax, what they eat for breakfast—than you would sequestered away on a sprawling resort. And last but not least, the small scale of the hotel means its prices can stay low.
Travel writer and photographer Steve Watkins, author of three books in the BBC’s “Unforgettable” travel series, says picking a small hotel can be especially important if getting away into nature is part of what you want from your romantic vacation. Big, impersonal hotels, Watkins says, “really do jar with the experience of seeing fantastic wild places.” In contrast, boutique properties like Villa Sirena, set on the remote northwestern coast of Anguilla, or Desa Seni, set among the green fields of a working Balinese rice plantation, allow you to be part of the landscape.
Small hotels like these, Watkins says, tend to attract a distinct breed of traveler—those “looking for experiences that don’t just slide into the norm.” And many of them—especially during the Valentine’s Day season—are catering specifically to couples, offering spa treatments for two, candlelit dinners, and wine tastings, all at much more affordable prices than you’d find at larger hotels.
Now doesn’t that sound romantic?