Pairing the words "honeymoon" and "active" may bring a smirk, but along with a general trend toward more vigorous vacations comes a revving up of postnuptial trips as well.
With many couples marrying later -- often after having lived and traveled together for a while -- honeymoons seldom are of the getting-to-know-you ilk that once propelled newlyweds toward sedate resorts with the accent on room service. In addition, working brides and grooms often have to synchronize limited vacation time, so the honeymoon often is a hybrid kind of getaway -- part romantic escape after the tensions of wedding planning, and part annual job leave -- that must satisfy a variety of leisure needs.
"Very few newlyweds just go and lie on a beach somewhere," says Geri Bain, travel editor of Modern Bride Magazine, a 40-year-old publication with a circulation of about 350,000. "These days our readers are doing much more adventurous kinds of things, from llama trekking to river racing and bicycle touring."
Ms. Bain says a Modern Bride reader survey shows that 78 percent of the respondents rate beautiful natural scenery as the No. 1 consideration when choosing a honeymoon destination and that 43 percent consider outdoor sports a major priority. An increasing number of newlyweds are joining upscale organized group trips, where the day-to-day details are handled by the outfitter. Also popular are all-inclusive resorts where athletic activities are included in the price of a stay, so the couple can try new sports, such as wind-surfing or golf, without having to bust what may be an already strained budget.
Even couples heading to the most traditional honeymoon destinations, such as Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida, are looking to participate in some kind of challenging outdoor activity, according to Elizabeth Harryman and Paul Lasley, authors of Honeymoons: A Romantic Travel Guide ($14.95, E.P. Dutton Paperback).
"Honeymooners mainly want soft adventures, where they can do rugged things by day, but at night be assured of a wonderful place to sleep with a nice bed and soft pillows," says Sally Kilbridge, travel editor of Bride's Magazine. "Just because a couple is scaling a mountain or diving the deep doesn't mean they don't want a romantic honeymoon experience as well."
The good news for lovebirds who favor active travel is that the world abounds with opportunities to satisfy the appetite for adventure and the craving to cuddle. Following is a selection of options for reveling in the romance of nature. Before you stick your just-married sign to your backpack, however, have a heart-to-heart talk with your partner about just how athletic and/or rustic your trip should be. While camping under the Milky Way may put stars in the eyes of some mates, others might rate such a honeymoon at the rock-bottom level.
Diving Fiji or Honduras: Tropical Adventures has been taking lovers of the deep to the world's best dive sites for 20 years. But owner Bob Goddess says his hands-down favorite spot for combining romance with scuba pursuits is the Namale Resort on the Fijian island of Vanua Levu. A working copra plantation, with 125 acres of coconuts on one side of the resort and the coral- and fish-rich Koro Sea on the other, the resort is surrounded by landscaped gardens and accommodates just 20 guests. While divers will want to be under water as much as possible, for nondivers there are tennis courts, a fresh-water pool, outrigger canoes, wind surfers and horses available for trail and beach rides. Hikers can head out from the resort on paths leading to neighboring villages. With a few weeks notice, the resort can even a arrange a Fijian wedding, with villagers coming from all over the island to sing songs of well-wishing and, says Mr. Goddess, "more flowers than you've ever imagined."
For those on a tighter budget, Mr. Goddess suggests Anthony's Key Resort, a western Caribbean dive center on an islet just off the north coast of the Honduran island of Roatan. The so-called "honeymoon bungalows" are on a tiny island in a lagoon within the main island. For honeymooners who want to bring along children from a previous marriage (yes, it does happen), the resort has a summer children's camp, with weeklong sessions that include swimming with blue-nose dolphins and other nature activities.
* Fishing Florida's Lake Okeechobee: Bass is the bait luring guests to Glen Hunter's Guide Service on the west coast of Lake Okeechobee, 75 miles northeast of Fort Myers. At 750 square miles, Okeechobee is touted as the bass capital of the South. Based at the informal Lakeport Lodge, guests spend three days with a private guide casting their lines out of 20-foot bass boats that skim the reed-filled waters. The area abounds with wildlife, including alligators, otter, eagles, wild boar and deer. The three-day, four-night package (shorter and longer programs are available) includes eight hours a day of fishing, with most guests choosing to split the time into four hours in the early morning and four more near dusk.
While sticking wiggling creatures onto hooks may not sound very romantic, Mr. Hunter says he's guided lots of honeymooners. "Often it's only the guy who likes fishing starting out, but when the wife starts catching bass she gets really excited," he says.
* Yellowstone llama trek: Prefer to be around more sociable animals? Renee and Will Gavin run deluxe three- to five-day llama hiking and camping trips into Yellowstone National Park out of their 35-animal llama farm just south of Bozeman, Mont. After an overnight stay at the Victorian-style Voss
bed-and-breakfast inn in Bozeman's historic district, guests head out on the trail, each assigned a llama who carries all the heavy stuff. (Those who would rather not lead a llama can surrender the reins to one of the guides or double up their gear with another guest's animal.) A favorite excursion, the so-called Thorofare Trail along the eastern shore of Yellowstone Lake, involves easy hiking through pine forests with views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
Guests camp lakeside in spacious domed tents, and there's plenty of room to spread out for maximum privacy. There's also time for couples to go off hiking or fishing on their own. The food, meanwhile, is no hot-dog-and-beans deal. There's eggs Benedict and homemade cinnamon sweet rolls for breakfast, a smorgasbord of cheese, fruits and meats for lunch, and elaborate dinners of fresh lamb, seafood crepes, vegetables from the Gavins' farm garden, wine and homemade huckleberry ice cream kept cold with dry ice. Need to scrub up? The Gavins provide solar-powered showers along the trail.
* Ballooning through France: No worries about roughing it on Buddy Bombard's Great Balloon Adventures in Burgundy or the Loire Valley. Strictly haute honeymoon (with prices to match), these all-inclusive five-day excursions through France's most gorgeous wine country include four days of ballooning above vineyards and ancient villages, stays in chic chateaux, gourmet meals, wine lectures and tastings, nature strolls and explorations of wine cellars and historical sites. Characterizing his trips as "aerial nature walks," Mr. Bombard says ballooning is inherently romantic. "There we are with our uniformed pilots gliding quietly over the countryside, chatting with farmers and villagers below, and touching down to champagne and camaraderie with the local people," he says. For couples who want to get away from the group (usually about 18 guests, with six per balloon), Mr. Bombard provides a car and driver at no extra charge.
Mr. Bombard, who has been running balloon tours for 18 years, personally leads every trip.
* Chartering a yacht with crew in the Caribbean: For couples whose taste runs more to the tropical, few escapes are more romantic than aboard a private yacht with a crew to do all the cooking, cleaning and navigating. The Moorings, the world's largest charter company, offers weeklong trips in the British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, Grenada and the Bahamas. The 50-foot sailboats, which have a husband-wife crew, come with food and an open bar, plus all sorts of water toys, from wind-surfers to snorkeling gear. Time also is allotted for shore activities -- hiking island trails, dancing at a funky beach bar.
The yachts accommodate up to six passengers in three small cabins, each with a tiny private toilet-shower room. If you are able to splurge big, you can have the whole yacht to yourselves (and your crew). If you're willing to share the boat, bring along some friends and lower the tab proportionately. Another economical option is the "Stateroom Package," offered in the BVI's and on a one-way route in the Grenadines from St. Lucia to Grenada. For a reasonable price ($999 per person in the BVI's, $1,200 in the Grenadines), you'll be paired with other guests on a six-passenger crewed yacht, thus obviating your having to find your own shipmates. Of course, setting sail with strangers can be risky, but Moorings officials say they've encountered no disastrous match-ups since the program began last year.
For couples who want a shorter (and guaranteed private) sailing experience combined with a resort stay, Biras Creek, a 32-suite resort on Virgin Gorda Island in the BVI's is offering an eight-day, seven-night package with three days and two nights aboard a crewed 45-foot yacht and the remainder at the resort. The yacht portion of the trip includes all meals; the resort part includes breakfast and dinner daily, and free use of day-sailers, snorkeling gear, small motor boats, bicycles and tennis courts.
* Kayaking inn to inn on Wisconsin's Lake Superior: Prefer a more hands-on boating experience? Northwest Passage, a Wilmette, Ill., company, runs five-day kayak tours along the pretty Apostle Islands off the south coast of Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. Suitable for beginners, the trips skirt historic lighthouses, shipwrecks, sea caves and sandstone rock formations, with camping on sandy beaches. For those who would rather sleep indoors, the company runs a five-day inn-to-inn kayak trip on Green Bay, a huge finger of water off Lake Michigan.
* Hiking New York's Adirondack Mountains: Back on land, Berkshire Hiking Holidays, which made its mark running gentrified treks in the mountains of western Massachusetts, now organizes easy-going trips to New York's Adirondacks as well. Owner Rich Waller takes up to 16 guests on six-day wilderness walks around Long Lake in the western Adirondacks, about a 2 1/2 -hour drive from Albany.
Based at the informal Long View Lodge on Long Lake, the group hikes gravel roads around the lake, woodsy trails into Adirondack Park with views of 5,000-foot peaks, and forested preserves on the property of former great estate houses, and spends some time canoeing Long Lake.
* Cruising Alaska and Canada by ship and RV: Last but not least, here's some surf and turf for lovers. Alaska Highway Cruises, a 1-year-old Washington-based company, has come up with a package that pairs weeklong Alaska cruises with one- or two-week recreational vehicle rentals for independent inland explorations. That's a perfect combination for couples who love cruises but also want some bona fide alone time -- say, hiking Denali National Park.
The one-week cruise, aboard the Holland America Line, takes in the so-called Glacier Route and/or the Inside Passage, depending on the itinerary chosen. The cruise can be taken lTC either before or after the RV rental. The RV is a 21-foot "Class C cab-over," which company president Gary Odle describes as "a little house built over a Ford Van that's simple to drive." The vehicle comes fully loaded with automatic transmission, power steering and brakes, and cruise control, and has a shower, toilet, heat and air-conditioning. The kitchenette is stocked with all utensils and dishes, a propane oven/stove, microwave oven, a sink and a refrigerator/freezer. There's an overhead double bed for cuddling up, and all linen, blankets and towels are supplied.
Six itineraries are offered.
IF YOU GO . . .
For cruise with RV rental in Alaska: Alaska Highway Cruises: (800) 323-5757 For Adirondack hiking trips: Berkshire Hiking Holidays: P.O. Box 2231, Lenox, Mass. 01240; (413) 499-9648
For a cruise on a crewed sailboat plus a visit to a Virgin Island resort: Biras Creek Resort: (800) 223-1108
For balloon tours of France's Burgundy region: Buddy Bombard's Great Balloon Adventures: (800) 862-8537
For fishing in Florida: Glen Hunter Guide Service: (800) 541-7541; or (813) 946-1569
For a weeklong crewed yacht charter: The Moorings: (800) 535-7289
For kayaking and camping trips around Wisconsin's Apostle Islands: Northwest Passage: (800) 732-7328
For diving at Fiji's Namale Resort or Anthony's Key Resort in the western Caribbean: Tropical Adventures: (800) 247-3483
For llama rides around Yellowstone National Park: Yellowstone Llamas: Box 5042, Bozeman, Mont. 59717; (406) 586-6872