No Passport Required

Enjoy a hassle-free exotic island honeymoon

By contributing writer Judith Fertig

After you’ve welcomed friends and family to your wedding, said your vows, cut the cake and danced the last dance, it’s finally “you and me” time with that handsome guy who said “I do” right beside you.

The two of you deserve a tropical, romantic escape. You deserve that idyllic time. 

Now that you’ve just tackled a wedding to-do list that could have run a small country efficiently, why not remove one thing from your honeymoon must-haves? Your passport. 

If you honeymoon in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa or the Northern Mariana Islands, you can leave your passport at home. Traveling within the territories that are part of the United States makes exotic travel easier. You won’t face long lines in immigration and customs at the airport, and you won’t need to exchange money for a weird new currency. And that means more time for everything else.

Where to go

American Virgin Islands

St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, all set in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, offer three distinct islands to kick back and relax after all the wedding hoopla. The oldest synagogue in continuous use in the United States is just one of the cultural stamps on St. Thomas, also home to the notorious pirate Blackbeard’s Castle. Accessible only by ferry, St. John’s landscape is dotted with centuries-old sugar plantations. St. Croix’s unique culture blends European, native Carib and Arawak, and African for a place where an English quadrille dance might be accompanied by “scratch music” on a gourd.

What to do

Coki Beach on St. Thomas offers sugar-sand beaches and crystal clear waters for snorkeling or diving, Hull Bay for surfers, and the best duty-free shopping on the islands. St. John’s Trunk Bay offers a pristine powder-white beach, while a visit to the Annaberg Sugar Plantation ruins takes you back in time to 1780. Explore the tide pools at Butler Bay or Buck Island’s underwater national monument, a spectacular coral reef, on St. Croix.

What to eat

Rise and shine to hot-off-the-griddle banana pancakes. Fresh fish and tropical fruits tempt the talents of the islands’ best chefs. Try pates (pronounced ‘patties’), a local savory pastry resembling a flatter empanada, and callaloo, similar to Louisiana gumbo. And, of course, any drink made with the local spirit—Cruzan Rum—made in St. Croix.

Where to stay

The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas offers lavish accommodations, a pristine setting overlooking Great Bay, and all the pampering you want, including a seaside cabana couples’ massage. ritzcarlton.com 

Honeymooners who want to escape and unplug choose the secluded and tranquil Caneel Bay Resort, within the 170 acres of the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John. caneelbay.com 

On St. Croix, the more laidback and family-owned The Buccaneer offers effortless resort activities in a jewel-like setting. thebuccaneer.com 

 

Where to go

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, the closest to the continental United States, is part of a Caribbean archipelago or island chain. The Dominican Republic and Haiti are just to the west, St. Kitts and Nevis to the east. Since Christopher Columbus discovered Puerto Rico in 1493, it has been mostly under Spanish rule and known as the place where New World riches could be shipped back to Spain, hence the country’s translated name “Rich Port.” In old town San Juan, you’ll enjoy Spanish colonial architecture, dishes like arroz con pollo, a dash of Pirates of the Caribbean and the thrum of guitar music. 

What to do

Puerto Rico’s attractions range from the adventurous (the underground caves of Río Camuy Cave Park) to the historic (the 500-year old walls of the El Morro fort which jut out of San Juan Bay). And there are plenty of options between the two extremes. Beach lovers migrate to the western beaches of Rincón for sunbathing and surfing; snorkelers will find a unique experience in Vieques’ bioluminescent Mosquito Bay. Local drinks like the Papa Jac, made with passion fruit and sugar cane liquor, fuel the vibrant nightlife in San Juan.

What to eat

For breakfast, start your day with a mallorca—a ham, egg and cheese sandwich made with a sweet roll that is buttered, griddled, and generously dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Nibble one under a century-old loquat tree in the courtyard restaurant Patio del Nispero, located inside El Convento hotel. Try a limber, a local ice cream treat in flavors of coconut, tamarind or guava. And, of course, any drink made with local rum.

Where to stay

The elegant Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, sits on an eco-friendly, unspoiled stretch of Puerto Rico’s northern shore. Honeymooners can explore miles of sandy shoreline, protected lagoons and an 11-mile nature trail. Golfers can tee off on the stunning 72-hole golf course. Frazzled travelers can get a little R & R at the spa. Each of the resort’s 115 opulent guest rooms boasts its own rooftop balcony or private plunge pool. The Mi Casa restaurant offers culinary specialties designed by distinguished chef José Andrés, so you never have to leave if you don’t want to. ritzcarlton.com 

Where to go

American Samoa

When you really want to get away from it all—far away—friendly, tropical American Samoa could be your destination. Located halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the Pacific Ocean, volcanic American Samoa offers reefs, lagoons, mountains with waterfalls and blue waters. 

What to do

Rent a car and explore the jungle, the highlands, the reefs and lagoons. Go snorkeling or just kick back and soak up the sun. 

What to eat

Samoans pit-roast fish, chicken and pork with coconut and tropical fruits as flavorings, typical Polynesian fare. Palusami Lu’au features taro root and coconut wrapped in taro leaves and baked in a pit. Fresh-caught tuna from local waters features in Oka I’a, sort of a ceviche with pieces of raw tuna and onions marinated in coconut cream, lemon juice and salt.   

Where to stay

Two resorts on Upolu offer private getaways for a take-it-easy honeymoon. Stay in luxury villas with traditional Samoan décor at the very romantic Sinalei Reef Resort. sinalei.com

Or enjoy the seclusion of a beautiful little cove where villas have reef, lagoon, or ocean views at the newly renovated Seabreeze Resort. seabreezesamoa.com 

 

Where to go

Northern Mariana Islands

For the world adventurer bride and groom, the Northern Mariana Islands near Guam in the North Pacific Ocean offer that once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. Rota is the jewel of the Northern Mariana Islands, a best-kept secret that has resisted the boom-and-bust of Japanese tourism in nearby Saipan. The Northern Mariana Islands have had cultural influences from Spain, nearby Indonesia, Japan and the United States, which fought several key World War II battles in Saipan and Guam.

What to do

Saipan resembles a down-at-the-heels tourist mecca, so the island of choice is Rota. In this off-the-beaten-path location—you fly from Guam or Saipan to Rota via Arctic Circle Air Company—you can explore the island by foot or bike or boat. Swim, snorkel and dive in pristine seas or play a little golf at The Rota Resort and Country Club. See if you can spy the rare Mariana crow amongst flocks of birds at the Bird Sanctuary.

What to eat

Dip into the unique cultural melting pot that is the Northern Marianas. You might enjoy a savory empanada, a turnover-like pastry, or pancit, an Indonesian noodle dish. Kelaguen is similar to ceviche, in which fish is “cooked” in citrus juices. Fresh fish, tropical fruit, and—of all things, Spam—are ubiquitous. Introduced to the islands by American soldiers during World War II, Spam is just as popular here as it is in Hawaii and turns up in lots of dishes.

Where to stay

The Rota Resort and Country Club is a peaceful island paradise for those who want to explore during the day and turn in early at night. Spacious rooms make the most of sea breezes. The hotel offers guided tours of the island and bird sanctuary as well as lounge time on the white sands of Teteto Beach. rotaresortgolf.com 

 

 

 

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