Let's face it: Even the lap of luxury can look lackluster if you can't stand the company--and a bus terminal can seem romantic if you're with the one you love.
Still, there's nothing like the perfect room for two to stoke a new romance or revive an old spark. A cozy setting, some peace and quiet, and ample cosseting are tried-and-true ways to burnish a romance.
"People forget that a relationship has to be taken care of," says Susan Hendrick, a couples therapist and professor of psychology at Texas Tech University. "A weekend away can rekindle passion, romance and sexual interest, but also communication."
"Though Valentine's Day is a great impetus for scheduling a trip," Hendrick says, "they can also be planned throughout the year." Quarterly is her personal ideal. Planning a trip lets both partners know they're worth making the time for, even amid family obligations and a hectic work schedule. Of course, it doesn't count if you don't give your lover your undivided attention.
"Leave the laptop, the BlackBerry, the cellphone at home," Hendrick says.
But where to go? "Before you pick a resort you've got to decide what is romantic for you," says Katharine Dyson, author of 100 Best Romantic Resorts of the World. "One person's romantic retreat could be another's nightmare." So even if you're feeling carried away on the wings of love, be sure to ask your honey if he or she loves the nightlife as much as you do before dialing Ibiza.
In Dyson's view, a romantic retreat should be "the best of its kind." That means that whether you choose the jungle or the city, the amenities and service should be top notch. "I like unobtrusive, friendly, knowledgeable service," she says. Maintenance and management must be polished, and, of course, beds are key. "I look for really good beds. King-sized, and a good thread count on the sheets."
Where to go
Choosing romantic hotels is a subjective endeavor, but we tried to include something for every taste on our list. We took several suggestions from Dyson, since she's been visiting and reviewing romantic resorts for years. We also talked to Sarah Jang of the consulting and publishing company Wedding Solutions, who was creative director of The Ultimate Guide to the World's Best Wedding & Honeymoon Destinations. Among other criteria used in compiling her book, she looked for hotels offering couples-centric services such as breakfast in bed, private meals or rose-petal-strewing on request.
Both Dyson and Jang independently cited the One and Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas as having an ultra-high romance quotient. It's got sand, sea and sun, plus spa facilities that Dyson calls "just spectacular." Eight private spa villas were designed with couples in mind; they offer side-by-side massage tables and whirlpool baths built for two, plus a sizeable daybed in which to enjoy the Asian tea service that caps every treatment.
Jang also signaled out Indonesia's Amanjiwo resort, part of the Amanresorts group, for special romantic mention.
"If people are looking for something that's different or not the standard Caribbean honeymoon," she says, "Amanresorts has really romantic, secluded destinations."
Located in central Java and composed of 36 suites, the Amanjiwo has views of Borobudur, a ninth-century Buddhist sanctuary, with hills and volcanoes beyond. The secluded Dalem Jiwo suite comes with a private terrace and pool, plus around-the-clock butler service.
To Dyson and Jang's suggestions we added our own idiosyncratic choices, looking for places that offer both privacy and a gorgeous setting--which could mean a New York cityscape, Florentine Renaissance sculpture or the Sonoran desert. We also kept an eye out for hotels offering special treats for duos, such as champagne and chocolates or side-by-side luxury spa treatment.
With hotels like these, you can leave the aphrodisiacs at home.