It's possible to be romantic and be fit—promise.

By Cassie Shortsleeve and Mirel Zaman
Updated March 04, 2020
Jordan Siemens/Getty

There's a reason newlyweds often flock to beaches where they can sip a cold cocktail while taking in views of the sea: Weddings are stressful and honeymoons are the ideal time to relax. But for couples who sweat together, a new kind of post-wedding jaunt has cropped up, too.

Research from Westin Hotels & Resorts shows that 80 percent of couples reported being more active during their honeymoon than they usually are at home, and 40 percent of couples run together both to beat stress and to see a city in a new way (so why stop when on your honeymoon?).

But exercise is good for more cardiovascular perks. Working out also has proven mental health benefits—lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol (much needed after the stress of planning a wedding) and improving mood (even fending off symptoms of depression). Spending a few hours out and about—even walking—can be enough to set a positive tone for the day. Plus, research has shown that engaging in fun, new activities together, like hiking or scuba diving, can make a couple's connection even stronger, says Shape Brain Trust Member Rachel Sussman, a psychotherapist in New York. In one study, couples who participated in an exciting physical activity reported being happier with their relationship and feeling more in love.

"When you get out of your routine and do something new together, it helps you rediscover each other—almost as if you're dating again," says Sussman. "By sharing a physical activity, you're creating endorphins. You feel good about yourself, your partner, and what you accomplished."

Luckily, hotels, travel specialists, and guides are all catering to these new needs and creating active vacations that include more than time at the gym. Think: Sky-high cliffside hikes along Italy's Amalfi Coast or private walking-and tasting-tours through some of the world's best foodie cities. (More interested in the outdoors? Check out these beautiful glamping resorts.)

Of course, planning the best hikes, day trips, and adventures for the two of you—while also leaving room for those poolside afternoons and romantic moments—takes a little bit of work. Here, five ways to plan an active vacation, plus four places to stoke your adventure—and your passion.

How to Plan Your Active Vacation

Consider waiting.

"Most brides and grooms picture themselves getting married and jetting off to their honeymoon destination the morning after-without taking into account the exhaustion," says Hailey Landers, a travel specialist with Audley Travel, a company that specializes in bespoke trips. Your wedding day will likely be everything you hope for, but it will also drain you. "Even delaying your departure for two to three days post-wedding day can be really beneficial-allowing you to catch up on some much-needed sleep, visit and celebrate with your relatives who have come a long way to see you, and simply reset the clock before a long travel day." (It even gives you some time to meal prep for your trip.)

Relax on your first and last few days.

When you first arrive, you might want to hit the ground running. But Landers urges honeymooners who want to avoid exhaustion to keep day one (as well as the final days of your trip) plan-free. This'll help you adjust to a new place and a new time zone, and allow you to settle into relaxation mode (or prep for activities to come). Plus, "people usually remember the first and last few days of any vacation the most," she says. So book your splurge hotels at the beginning and end of your trip to make relaxing even more exciting.

Book half-day a.m. outings.

A 100-kilometer ride or an eight-hour trek (read: full days of activity) sound like fun, but planning half-day outings that include some stops along the way (a winery for a tasting or beautiful lookout for an afternoon picnic) will help provide more balance to your trip, says Dane Tredway, a trip designer at Butterfield & Robinson, a premier active travel company. "By stacking the activities earlier in the day, you also allow yourself a bit of breathing room in the afternoon."

Redefine "active."

Just because you bike to work and hit up group fitness classes at home doesn't mean that's what you should do on your honeymoon. "It's okay to be active every day-but 'active' might refer to hiking a mountain one day and doing a walking food tour the next, or it could mean doing a trek for three to four days toward the beginning of a trip and ending for six nights on an island or beach somewhere," says Landers. It's up to you and your other half to figure out what kind of an "active" you're going for-because, after all, this should be something you're both into.

Plan a few private outings.

"I always recommend private experiences over group ones," says Tredway. Shared tours can help you save cash (and introduce you to like-minded people), but you'll miss out on the intimacy of an experience.

Consider forgoing a guide every now and then, too. Says Landers: "There's something romantic and unique about exploring a new place with your significant other, without a guide. A guide can certainly be beneficial and a fabulous resource in the right areas, but there's something special about jumping in the car and hitting the open road together."

The Top Destinations for an Active Vacation

The Horse Shoe Farm; Hendersonville, North Carolina

At this Blue Ridge Mountains ranch, you can stay in one of the manor homes or private cottages on 85 acres of rolling pastures, lush woods, and trickling streams. Start with a healthy farm-to-table breakfast, then hike in Pisgah National Forest, float down the French Broad River, take a guided fly-fishing trip, bike, paddleboard, do yoga, and explore the 250 waterfalls in the area. Afterward, book massages in the Stable Spa, a beautifully restored horse stable. Evenings? Get cozy by the fire as you count stars and gaze at Mount Pisgah.

Book It: The Horse Shoe Farm, rooms from $250 per night, including breakfast

Bahama House; Harbour Island

This hidden hideaway feels like a utopian landscape of pink-sand beaches, bright bougainvillea, and turquoise waters (some of the clearest in the Caribbean). There are just 11 rooms, so you’ll be completely taken care of. In fact, before your trip you’ll speak with the manager to put together a plan of action. You can spend all day snorkeling or scuba diving, cliff jumping into a stunning sapphire-blue hole, or fishing for dinner on a deep-sea excursion. Wakeboarding, tubing, and Jet Skiing are there for you too. Of course, you can also do laps in the freshwater pool.

Book It: Bahama House Harbor Island; double rooms from $530, including breakfast, cocktails, round-trip boat

and taxi transfer, and all your activity and beach needs

Xinalani Retreat; Xinalani, Mexico

If you’re on the hunt for some spiritual awakening with your workouts, this wellness retreat will be a winner. Stay in one of 29 open-air rooms or four casitas, and hit the six yoga studios set within the lush landscape. When you’re both done flowing, book time in the Temazcal (“house of heat” in Nahuatl), a sweat lodge once used by healers to prepare for battle; a shaman will guide you through the sacred ritual. Craving more thrills? Zip through the tropical treetops on a Canopy Adventure.

Book It: Xinalani Retreat, $4,032 per couple for seven nights, or from $576 per night

Momentum River Expeditions; Northern California, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Canada, Chile, and More

This small guide-owned and operated company offers off-the- beaten-path whitewater rafting trips for both adrenaline seekers and newbies. You and your partner can choose a preplanned expedition (from half-day jaunts to nine-day adventures at all levels of experience) or have the guides put together a custom private getaway: You choose the river, and they’ll arrange the luxe camping and organic meals. No matter your pick, you’re in for serious fun and sweat and breathtaking scenery.

Book It: Momentum River Expeditions, sample prices: $70 for a half-day trip; $990 to $1,250 for a three- or four-day excursion, including lodging and meals

Comments (1)

November 2, 2017
There's an easy and cost-effective solution to this and is what my friends have been doing in recent years: have a destination wedding where you want to have your honeymoon, extend your stay after all the guests have gone home. Just recently, one of my best friends tied the knot at a resort in Bali. They booked it off the wedding marketplace The wedding was romantic,fuss-free, and fun. After we all left, they stayed behind for another week for their honeymoon. That way, they didn't have to travel to another place.