In today's over-caffeinated, hyper-connected world, couples are more likely than ever to choose intimacy as the main reason for a vacation. According to the Travel Industry of America, married couples account for 61 percent of all "getaway" trips. And they travel frequently, too, averaging two and a half romantic trips per year.
The spots they choose are as diverse and wide-ranging as the couples themselves. Whether they seek white sandy beaches or secluded mountain cabins, the common pursuits are togetherness, intimacy, and ample doses of fun. From the rolling Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania to the clear coral seas of pristine Bonaire in the Caribbean, today's couples are spanning the globe to recapture the glow of romance.
The Pocono Mountains - Changing Tastes, Changing Venues
Back before the era of intercontinental getaways, most Americans found liaisons d'amor closer to home. Comprising more than 2,400 square miles in northeastern Pennsylvania, the densely wooded Pocono Mountains beckoned young lovers with a primordial Eden of lakes, rivers, and waterfalls
In the decades that followed, the Poconos - fed by legions of homecoming veterans and their fiancées and once known as the "honeymoon capital of the world" - declined as a new generation looked outside of the U.S. for romantic adventures. In recent times, the lovers have returned, rediscovering a rich cultural, ecological, and recreational treasure.
"Today's couples are very sophisticated," says Bob Uguccioni, executive director of the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau. "They have traveled (outside the U.S.). They know good food. They want to go running in the morning, horseback riding in the afternoon, eat a gourmet meal in the evening and then dance in a nightclub until the wee hours. They are looking for more than time alone with their partners - they want a vacation holiday."
Only one and a half hours from New York and two hours from Philadelphia, the Poconos have seven state parks and 72,000 acres of state forests and activities from whitewater rafting and canoeing to mountain biking and horseback riding.
Caesars Pocono Resorts, established in 1958 and now a family of four exclusive hotels, brings a touch of fantasy and splendor to the bucolic woods. Cove Haven, Paradise Stream, and the Pocono Palace cater exclusively to couples, while Brookdale-on-the-Lake is open to families as well. All their honeymoon and romantic vacation suites have wood-burning fireplaces, round king-size beds and the Poconos' signature heart-shaped whirlpool bath for two. For a true touch of glitz, book one of the exotic "champagne tower suites." Decorated in opulent Roman and Egyptian themes, these four-level love palaces feature luscious extras like a heart-shaped pool, dry sauna and a massage table for lingering sensual encounters. The crowning touch is a seven-foot-tall, Morris Wilkins-designed champagne glass whirlpool bath for two.
"The Poconos are closer for Americans," says David Good, marketing coordinator at Caesars Pocono Resorts. "The location is right in their backyard, and it's all-inclusive. You don't need to leave. Everything is provided for you: dining, entertainment, everything.
In fact, each hotel and the surrounding area offer a world of entertainment and recreational activities including indoor tennis, racquetball courts, miniature golf, archery, fishing, bicycling, and nature and equestrian trails. Nights come alive with a vibrant lineup of entertainers, including headliners like R&B diva Macy Gray and the Beach Boys.
For those seeking a simpler, more sedate retreat, communities like Jim Thorpe, Honesdale, Stroudsburg, and Hawley offer a charming glimpse of 19th century America. If you only have time to visit one of these delightful towns, Jim Thorpe - sometimes called "the Switzerland of America" - offers a potent blend of history, architecture, shopping, dining, and exciting outdoor adventure.
"Jim Thorpe is one of the Pocono Mountains' favorite hidden treasures," says Uguccioni. "With its great history, outdoor adventure, shopping, and culture, there is truly something for everyone."
The Pocono Mountains are easily accessible from a number of major metropolitan airports including Newark, Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Philadelphia. A number of national carriers also fly into two conveniently located regional airports: Lehigh Valley International and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International.
Bonaire - Pure Pleasure and Relaxation
For couples looking to combine romantic immersion with marine submersion, the tiny island of Bonaire is an ideal escape. Bonaire lies in the Dutch Caribbean, part of the Antilles chain 50 miles north of Venezuela. Renowned for its scuba diving and snorkeling, the island is ringed by a vast coral reef system that teems with colorful marine life.
For romantic ambiance, try Richard's Waterfront Dining in Kralendijk, an intimate spot set on a small sandy beach beneath swaying palm trees. Reserve a private table for two out on the pier and dine under the Kon Tiki hut. There you might see the green flash, a mysterious phenomenon that sometimes fills the sky as the sun slips into the sea. Richard's is a favorite of the locals, revered for the simple elegance of its dishes. The fresh catch of the day is usually a sure bet. Or if you long for a hunk of Stateside beef, Richard, a native of Boston, serves an impeccable U.S. sirloin with green peppercorn sauce.
After dinner Bonaire pulses with nightlife. The local bar and cafe scene covers the spectrum with live bands playing everything from reggae and Caribbean to rhythm and blues and jazz. As the night heats up you might see some African-inspired Simidan and Bari dancing, a passionate form of self-expression that developed during the slave era.
Whether you spend your time here beneath the waves, atop a bike or simply lounging on the beach with a cool Venezuelan Polar Beer, the key to life on Bonaire, says Liz Ginocchio, owner of a coastal inn in the town of Hato, is relaxation.
"The true benefits of Bonaire are pure pleasure and relaxation. Everywhere you go you are greeted with a friendly 'Bon dia!'" she says, using the native Papiamento greeting for good day. Although this Creole language is widely spoken in the Dutch Antilles, visitors should not worry about finding a phrase book. The natives of this former slave colony are fluent in English, not to mention Dutch and Spanish.
Originally from a congested metropolitan stretch of New Jersey, Ginocchio revels in the island's relaxed pace. "The people here have a saying, 'poco-poco.' It means slow down, take it easy. 'Poco-poco, my dear.' That's what Bonaire is all about."
Air Jamaica offers weekly flights to Bonaire via Montego Bay from numerous U.S. cities including Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and Los Angeles. Continental Airlines flies direct to Bonaire weekly from its hub in Houston.
In Search of - The Tub?
So what are today's couples seeking? Is it an escape from the increasingly frantic pace of life? Is it a conscious reconnection to each other's human side in a technological world? According to Good, it's seclusion. "At (Caesars Pocono) resorts, you're leaving everything behind: the anxiety, stress, your family, all of it, for a relaxing getaway," he says. "Plus, this is the only place in the world where you can find a seven-foot-tall, champagne glass whirlpool tub."