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Honeymoon Beaches


Whales are frolicking off Praia do Rosa, surfers are taming Florianópolis's breaks, and Grace and I  are enjoying our own aquatic adventure, sipping champagne in our suite's whirlpool, gazing at the fishing boats plying the emerald coast. There's something to be said for a honeymoon in Santa Catarina, a Brazilian state with long, windswept beaches, rare marine life, and a surfeit of Gisele Bündchen types (the supermodel is from a neighboring state and visits frequently).

Our first stop is Ponta dos Ganchos, a 20-bungalow hotel on a peninsula outside the fishing village of Governador Celso Ramos. We feel spoiled: our enormous room has panoramic ocean views, furnishings that match the colors of the palms hanging over our sundeck, and all the requisite luxuries: a flat-screen TV, a bed that seems twice the size of our Brooklyn apartment. "I could get used to this," my wife says from the walk-in shower. This might be a problem, I think.

We spend our days swinging in hammocks, stirring only for grilled shrimp flambéed with cachaça at the open-air restaurant. The highlight?A candlelit dinner for two on a small island. We are lucky to get a reservation (only one party is allowed on the island at a time), and as the waiter delivers our champagne, Grace goes dreamy. I promise to buy us an island one day.

If Ponta dos Ganchos is sexy and secluded, the island of Florianópolis is Hawaii without volcanoes. When we arrive, a surfing championship is in progress on Joaquina beach—naturally, there's Gisele watching Kelly Slater from the shore. In the evenings, the beautiful people cram into the clubs, turning the place into a Latino St.-Tropez. In truth, Grace and I prefer Ostradamus, an oyster restaurant in Ribeirão da Ilha, a cobblestoned village that has not changed much in 300 years.

In 2000, a part of Santa Catarina was declared a whale sanctuary, and decades after being hunted to near extinction, the majestic southern right whales now breed here. It is South America's best whale watching, especially at Praia do Rosa, a beach town where the eco-resort Pousada Vida Sol e Mar runs excursions along the coast. The boat gets so close to the creatures we can almost touch their barnacles. We're heading back to shore when Grace spots a calf in the swells. "Look, honey, a baby!" she says, beaming. Babies and a private island: I have work to do.—DOUGLAS ROGERS


We are 150 steep stone steps away from the 17th-century, cliff-hugging Taktsang Monastery. My knees are shaking from fear and cold, and my head is spinning with altitude sickness. Using my hands as blinders to avoid seeing the 2,000-foot plummet waiting beyond a single six-inch misstep, I realize something: walking down the aisle was only slightly scarier than this.

Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom of snowy Himalayan peaks and stupa-studded valleys, is butterfly-inducing all around. Even my husband, Steve, who was a rock at our wedding, got misty when seeing the country for the first time, from a plane 35,000 feet in the air. He insisted it had nothing to do with the fact that we were on our third flight or that the pilot had just "assured" the passengers, "It may look like we're going to crash into the mountains, but don't worry. We won't."

There's not a single tourist trap in the country (there isn't even a traffic light), which means that we spend our days climbing, walking sticks in hand, up to Buddhist temples and fortresses, or biking down pristine switchback mountain trails. Outsiders cannot visit holy places unaccompanied, so we often travel with our Bhutanese guide, Dorji, a serene 23-year-old who talks to us about her past reincarnations and is endlessly amused by our modest displays of "Western" affection (that would be hand-holding).

Not that we don't have plenty of alone time. A mere 13,000 tourists visit Bhutan each year, and it feels as if we're the only guests at the understatedly luxurious Uma Paro. (Government requirements make it impossible to spend less than $200 a day here, which means that the patchouli- loving backpackers remain across the range in Nepal.) One reason that Steve and I chose Bhutan is that it is so extravagant, remote, and difficult to get to, we thought a trip here could only be justified as a post-wedding indulgence.

We actually love the absence of distracting on-site hotel activities. There's really not that much to do, other than the favorite Bhutanese pastime, archery, which we attempt (Steve, decent; me, not so much). All of which leaves more time for lounging together in the Uma spa's traditional Bhutanese hot-stone bath. Steve and I melt in this secluded outdoor tub, warmed by fire-heated river stones, smiling as we sip steaming cups of ginger tea. If marriage is anything like this, then we are in for a lifetime of bliss. —JESSICA SHAW


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