The World's Most Romantic Places to Propose
So you've found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Mazel tov! That's a huge decision, but now another looms: how—and where—to pop The Question. The choice of locale is paramount—and as every aspiring spouse should know, some scenarios capture the mood better than others. Certain classics, of course, stand the test of time: the sunset stroll along a deserted beach; the postcard moment in front of an iconic backdrop; the candlelit dinner at a chic restaurant. But how to narrow down the list (and avoid becoming stuck in a cliché), given this is a story you'll be telling for the rest of your life?
Creativity is key. Consider an element of surprise, or a destination that has special significance for the two of you. (Your paramour's always yearned to get their pilot's license? Book a night in a helicopter at sublime Connecticut hideaway Winvian, whose stylish and whimsical rooms are all themed.) But don't necessarily overlook the classics either: Paris is an amorous mainstay for good reason. Famed New York–based wedding planner Colin Cowie sings the praises of the City of Light, suggesting "the Ferris wheel at the Tuileries when at the 12 o'clock positio," for extra impact.
Warm-weather destinations, not surprisingly, topped our experts' lists (nothing kills a love buzz like frostbite). Certain tropical spots like Fiji and Hawaii seem custom-made for great proposals, thanks to their wealth of secret beaches and castaway-style islands where couples can be assured of having the place to themselves. For seriously adventurous couples, meanwhile, an African safari has all the trappings of high drama…particularly when you're floating above the savanna in a hot-air balloon.
Not everyone wants to blow a big-ticket overseas trip on a proposal, though. If you'd rather save up for the honeymoon, consider a nearby urban setting. New York's Central Park provides an inimitable setting, as does a candlelit corner table at one of the city's acclaimed restaurants. Whatever the context, each of our favorite settings is packed with enough romance to pretty much guarantee the right answer. Now all you have to do is choose the ring.
The Pont Neuf, Paris
The Romance: Could there be a more poetic allegory for the joining of two lives than an ancient bridge in the City of Light? Despite its name, Pont Neuf (the "New Bridge") is the oldest standing bridge on the Seine, and it has been an assignation point for lovers since the first stone was laid in 1578. The bridge is at its most alluring at sunset, when the dying light drenches the riverside buildings in shades of gold.
The Price Tag: Gloriously free.
The Waipi’o Valley (Valley of the Kings), Hawaii
The Romance: The Waipi'o Valley, on the northeast shore of Hawaii's Big Island, is so named for the Ali'i, or ancient Hawaiian Royals, buried there, but it's the life-affirming beauty that will have you feeling the love. Jacqueline Horne, who owns the Waipio Wayside Inn, describes the view from the cliffs as "taro fields and lotus ponds dotting the lush green landscape, while the far cliffs are etched with waterfalls cascading down the hillside. Seven streams meander through the valley towards the ocean, cutting through a patchwork of farms and ponds." All that, and the longest black sand beach in the state.
The Price Tag: The Birds Eye room at Waipio Wayside Inn is $200. A 2.5-hour ride through the valley with Na'Alapa Stables costs $94.
Overlooking Big Sur, California
The Romance: There are more-famous roads in America—Route 66 springs to mind—but few can claim such poetry-inspiring scenery as California's Big Sur, the 90-mile stretch of Highway One that runs from Carmel to San Simeon. The rugged coastline, with rocky cliffs on one side and the imposing Santa Lucia mountains on the other, feels custom-made for riding in a vintage convertible with the guy or gal of your dreams. Stop at one of the many dramatic lookout points for your big moment, or save the question for when you're cozied up in a cliffside yurt at Treebones Resort or an ocean-view suite at the much-lauded Post Ranch Inn.
The Price Tag: Ocean-view suites at Post Ranch Inn start at $1450; ocean-view yurts at Treebones Resort start at $263.
Overlooking the Pitons in St. Lucia
The Romance: The magnificent volcanic peaks known as the Pitons, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are among the most arresting natural sights you'll see in the Caribbean. Soaring almost 3,000 feet out of the ocean, these forest-swathed wonders can be seen from many points on St. Lucia, fast becoming one of the region's go-to spots for honeymooners and the soon-to-be-betrothed. Settle into an oceanfront cottage in the island's iconic resort, Viceroy Sugar Beach, set between the twin peaks, and take advantage of the resort's "Dine Anywhere, Anytime" service. Staff can set up a romantic dinner a deux on the sunset deck, overlooking the gorgeous bay formed between the two peaks, or a champagne toast on the pier. Book a sunset cruise around the island for extra Casanova points.
The Price Tag: Beachfront bungalows at Viceroy Sugar Beach from $1,100. Sunset cruise $75 per person.
A Sunset Sail in Bora Bora, Tahiti
The Romance: French Polynesia looms large in the minds of love-struck couples everywhere, and rightly so. But leave the overwater bungalow proposals to the newbies: a sunset sail around the motus of Bora Bora is an even more spectacular backdrop for popping the question. Staff at Le Meridien Bora Bora can arrange for couples to take a sunset tour of the lagoon aboard one of its pirogues, traditional Polynesian boats made from a local wood called vaimere. A beach attendant is your only other companion as you sip champagne, sail around Bora Bora and watch the sun dip behind Otemanu mountain.
The Price Tag: A 90-minute private sunset tour costs around $370, including two cocktails. Overwater bungalows at Le Meridien Bora Bora start at $775 per night.
Overlooking the lagoon in Venice
The Romance: Venice, with its narrow cobblestone streets, graceful palazzi, sleek gondolas and, of course, Casanova, is a time-honored setting for amore. And the Venetian island of Giudecca has always had extra-special appeal for lovers, given its panoramic vistas of the lagoon, including the Doge's Palace and Piazza San Marco. For the ultimate Giudeccan excursion, book a room in the lagoon-front 15th-century Palazzo Vendramin—a wing of the posh Belmond Hotel Cipriani that offers ultra-romantic rooms, unrivalled privacy and incredible, uninterrupted views of St. Mark's Basin and the lagoon.
The Price Tag: Those classic views come at a cost; a lagoon-view junior suite in the Vendramin starts at $3,910. For more affordable Venetian views, check into the Cipriani's neighbor on Giudecca, the more contemporary Hilton Molino Stucky, a converted flour mill with a killer rooftop pool. Lagoon view suites start from $350.
Overlooking Central Park
The Romance: Combine a view of the Columbus Circle entrance to the park with legendary chef Thomas Keller's spectacular food and you've got Per Se, a Manhattan perch that perfectly suits your purpose. In fact, you're bound to win someone over just by snagging a reservation at this notoriously exclusive restaurant. When you speak to a reservationist (two months in advance is recommended), ask (beg, plead) for a park-view table near the fireplace, and mention your plans. The restaurant is happy to help facilitate any extra romantic touches you might have in mind.
The Price Tag: Per Se's nine-course, market-driven degustation menu runs the gamut of ambrosial ingredients, from oysters to caviar and truffles, and costs $325 per person, without wine. (Service is included.) For a less expensive option, try a spot that's smack in the middle of the park: the Loeb Boathouse Lakeside Restaurant, where entrees are in the $30 range.
A Hot-Air Balloon Ride Above the Masai Mara, Kenya, Africa
The Romance: Picture this: you and your sweetheart have spent a week on safari, spotting the Big Five and drinking sundowners overlooking the savanna. Now you really want to make her swoon. Over to Suzanne Teng, Product Manager for Africa with luxury tour company Abercrombie & Kent, which can custom-build a Kenya safari experience to include a sunrise balloon ride over the Mara. "There is nothing in the world more romantic than floating just above the trees in the Masai Mara with mist rising from the river as dawn breaks," Teng says. A&K recommends Governors' Camp's Balloon Safaris, which take off from the heart of the Mara game reserve and end with a magical breakfast out on the distant plains.
The Price Tag: A one-hour balloon ride followed by a champagne breakfast and game drive runs about $440 per person. A&K's Kenya Safari in Style costs $8,295 per person for 10 days (not including airfare). For a less expensive option, try South Africa in the off-season (May through July). At Samara Private Game Reserve, a suite facing the plains costs around $172 a person per night during those months.
A Deserted Sand Spit in Fiji
The Romance: Famed for its sunsets and world-class diving, Fiji is also a hyper-romantic getaway destination. Many of the archipelago's boutique resorts, like the top-notch Royal Davui, make use of tiny nearby private islands to whisk guests off for romantic rendezvous. The hotel can arrange for a champagne picnic on Sand Quay, a sandbar marooned in the Pacific Ocean among coral reefs, where the high tide washes all footprints away, so it feels as though the island is created anew each day. (The resort takes just one couple out per day.) A staff member will ferry you out, then return a few hours later—at which time, we wager, there should be an extra piece of jewelry on someone's finger.
The Price Tag: Doubles at the Royal Davui start at $1094. An expedition to Sand Quay is around $124 per couple (champagne is extra).
Hyams Beach, Australia
The Romance: So you want to propose on a beach but don't want to be just one of many canoodling couples on a stretch of sand that's had its day in the sun. The solution: look further afield. Much further afield. All the way to a little, under-the-radar spot on Australia's east coast, south of Sydney, called Hyams Beach. Facing Jervis Bay, the beach is listed in the Guinness World Records book as having the whitest sand in the world. Plus, this is Australia, so you'll have plenty of room to declare your love.
The Price Tag: The beach is public and free. Hyams Beach Seaside Cottages start at $220 per night in peak season.
Vertigo Restaurant, Bangkok
The Romance: There are rooftop restaurants, and then there's Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar, the former helipad on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree hotel in Bangkok. You'll be seduced by the bright lights of the Thai capital, spread out like a theme park below, as you enjoy that rarest of Bangkok phenomena, the breeze (far away from any street-level air pollution). The concierge can arrange any details—flowers, special wine, the most private table—for hotel guests. Just don't get carried away and drop the ring: it's a long way down.
The Price Tag: A four-course set menu with wine at Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar is around $140 per person. "Horizon" rooms at Banyan Tree Bangkok start at $200.
Hotel Excelsior, Dubrovnik
The Romance: Whether your significant other is a fan of jaw-dropping views, romantic medieval cities, or the Game of Thrones series, a sojourn in Dubrovnik is bound to seal the deal. Reserve a room at the Hotel Excelsior, a modern grand dame situated just outside of the old city—all the better to gaze back at the surreally beautiful walled wonderland across the water. Splurge on the Penthouse Suite, with its floor-to-ceiling windows framing views of Lokrum Island, whirlpool tub, and a spacious balcony that feels custom-built for heartfelt moments. Arrange for a private dinner next door at the ultra-romantico Villa Agave, which can be hired for special occasions. Pop the question at sunset on the stone terrace, when the lights start twinkling on in Dubrovnik and the whole scene takes on the aura of a fairytale.
The Price Tag: A Penthouse Suite at the Hotel Excelsior costs around $1,315 per night.
The Shard, London
The Romance: If London is your idea of heaven, then getting a bird's eye view over its famed rooftops and river must rate in the stratosphere on the romance scale. Head to the top of The Shard, the city's newest iconic landmark, for an unbeatable vista. Pick your moment to get a corner of the viewing platform to yourselves—be forewarned, you may not be the only suitor taking the plunge—and propose with all of London spread out below you. The View from the Shard stays open until midnight, and even has an on-site marriage proposal concierge service to tailor a unique proposal experience for couples. Once the deal is sealed with a kiss (and a selfie), celebrate over bubbles at the Lanson Champagne Bar.
The Price Tag: Admission to The View from The Shard costs $37 per person; $48 with champagne.
The Mulia, Bali
The Romance: While many couples choose this enchanted Indonesian isle as their honeymoon destination, Bali provides just as perfect a backdrop for a proposal. Swan around in style at one of the island's hottest new resorts, the Mulia, set on a lovely sweep of beachfront in Nusa Dua: reserve one of the secluded hilltop Villas for an extra dose of romance. Each of the walled villas has a plunge pool, outdoor shower and lush tropical gardens, with views over the ocean and a Hindu temple set on a clifftop at one end of the beach. And if the scenery's so captivating you decide to get married here as well, the resort even has a "floating" glass chapel, set at the heart of a reflecting pool.
The Price Tag: One-bedroom villas at The Mulia start from $905.
The Gardens Beneath Prague Castle, Czech Republic
The Romance: Even if your beau is used to the royal treatment, this incredible spot is bound to set their heart aflutter. Set on the steep southern slopes beneath Prague's legendary UNESCO-listed castle, and dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, the Southern Gardens were restored just a few years ago to their original glory. Just try gazing over the red rooftops of Prague from the terrace, or wandering beneath the Renaissance loggia with its frescoes of Pompeii, without falling even more in love.
The Price Tag: Admission to the castle costs around $14 per person.
The Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico
The Romance: Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has plenty of noteworthy historic sites, but few can beat the Mayan archeological site at Tulum for sheer, high-drama beauty. (Your engagement photos are going to look great on Instagram, trust us.) Set on a grassy clifftop above an azure Caribbean Sea, the sun-baked remains of this pre-Columbian city—built in what's known as the Mayan post-classic period, around the 13th century—include a dramatic castillo set prettily on the edge of a 12-meter limestone cliff. Afterward, take the winding staircase down to the postcard-perfect white-sand beach below, and take your first dip together as an engaged couple.
The Price Tag: Entry to the site costs around $2 per person. Visit in the early morning to avoid the crowds.
Winvian Farm, CT
The Romance: If your idea of romance involves acres of bucolic woodlands for rambling, gracious New England hospitality, and fine wine beside a crackling wood fire, then Winvian Farm, set in Connecticut's Litchfield Hills, has you covered. Famous for its whimsical architecture and themed cottages, this hideaway makes you feel as though a weekend has been custom-crafted just for you. Choose from rooms like Beaver Lodge, with its double-sided fireplace and a living tree growing in the lounge; Maritime, a cottage shaped like a lighthouse and filled with tasteful nautical antiques; Treehouse, which as the name suggests is suspended (some 35 feet) above the forest floor; and the most-photographed of all, Helicopter, a guest room tucked inside a 1968 Sikorsky Sea King Pelican coast guard chopper. Perhaps in acknowledgement of the setting's effect on romantics, the resort also offers elopement packages.
The Price Tag: Rooms at Winvian from $499 per cottage.