Some couples choose backpacking and
bushwhacking over a day at the beach
by Peter Gauvin
The cliché notion of a honeymoon, as depicted by Hollywood
and shelves of wedding magazines, would seem to involve sipping
mai-tais on a tropical beach or renting a villa in a fabled Italian
city. Certainly, those sorts of idyllic getaways can be a fantastic
way for newlyweds to let go of the tension that comes with tying
the knot, not to mention kick off their new life together in luxurious
For many newlyweds, however, a honeymoon focused on relaxation
and catered romance is merely a recipe for boredom. They would prefer
to do something "out there"--something engaging, something active,
something wild, something adventurous.
"The trend is toward something else than a typical honeymoon,"
says Joyce Small, a travel agent with Adventures Unlimited in San
Francisco, who's been booking trips for 31 years.
This does not necessarily mean far-flung, gung-ho adventures like
trekking through Nepal, a camel safari through the Australian Outback,
or dodging grizzlies and ravenous mosquitoes on a raft trip through
remote Alaskan wilderness. But it could.
"Kids have these over-the-top weddings now and they all think they're
going to go to Abu Dhabi or Namibia, but they haven't a clue about
how much planning it takes," Small says. "It's supposedly the guys
that generally have the honeymoon-planning responsibilities, and
sometimes they drop the ball."
Unless a couple is experienced in roughing it together for long
periods, Small recommends picking the sort of honeymoon destination
that allows them to satisfy their adventure bug in smaller doses.
"Go to a place that is intrinsically rich in adventure activities,
but has the sybaritic comforts that you want on a honeymoon."
She steers couples who want some adventure toward exotic-but-comfortable
destinations, such as Costa Rica, Fiji and Bali--places where there
is an abundance of "adjunct adventures" like scuba diving, windsurfing,
hiking, and kayaking, amid an interesting cultural setting, and
within easy reach of a comfortable, private refuge.
Diane Cameron, a certified travel counselor with Gone Tropo in
Marin County, books many honeymoons to the islands of Bora Bora
and Moorea in Tahiti. There, she says, couples can find a wealth
of adventure activities, from kayaking and windsurfing to 4-wheel
drive safaris into the middle of the islands and "shark diving"
in Rangiroa, an atoll with a 42-mile long lagoon. But she would
discourage honeymooners from visiting New Guinea, which is "really
adventurous<\p>.<\p>.<\p>.<\p>but not conducive to romance."
No matter what type of honeymoon a couple has in mind, Small recommends
they plan well ahead, particularly if they're getting married in
the peak season, summer. So many couples get married in June, she
says, that popular destinations get over-run with honeymooners and
other travelers. As an alternative, she suggests planning a local
post-wedding getaway, such as a nice lodge or B&B in Big Sur or
Mendocino, and saving the real honeymoon trip until the fall.
Of course, an adventure-seeking couple doesn't have to travel to
the ends of the earth on an exotic--and expensive--eco-travel package
to qualify their honeymoon as adventurous. In fact, they don't even
have to leave the state.
Larry and Ellie Winther of Redwood City spent their honeymoon backpacking
the alpine wonderland of the Desolation Wilderness west of Lake
Tahoe. "We're not into the resort kind of scene," says Larry, who
manages a camping and ski store. "It's a way to see some great scenery
without spending a lot of money. My wife is from Holland and she
Others find adventure honeymoons a good opportunity to explore
the great outdoors, and learn more about each other in the process.
Mike Woods and Heather Rock Woods of Menlo Park were married in
1993. They had a small wedding so they could spend more extravagantly
on their honeymoon. They flew to Anchorage and spent four weeks
exploring Alaska and the Yukon in a rented Chevy Blazer. "We upgraded
to a 4x4, which in Alaska is actually useful," Heather says.
They camped on the Kenia Peninsula, spent four days backpacking
and bushwhacking their way through foggy bogs in Denali National
Park, drove over the "Top of the World Highway," sat on the Arctic
Circle, soaked in a sauna next to a freezing stream at the Hatcher
Pass Lodge, and had the worst pizza ever outside Wrangell/St. Elias
"We camped maybe two-thirds of the time, but when we got too grungy
we'd take a hotel," says Mike, a physicist at the Stanford Linear
"Romance does not have to happen in a hotel," adds Heather, a freelance
writer and mother of two.
"We would do it all over again, no question," she says. "We found
it a good way to start our lives together. We learned very quickly
about each other's day-to-day habits. We still have a lot of teamwork
because of it to this day, because it wasn't always easy<\p>.<\p>.<\p>.<\p>We
love being outdoors and in beautiful places so it seemed a lot better
than just lying on a beach."
Ted Barber, who works at IDEO Product Development in downtown Palo
Alto, would agree. He and his wife Kathleen, a software marketing
consultant, were married in 1997 and spent three weeks road-tripping
through the West and backpacking in awe-inspiring settings like
the Tetons and Zion. They stumbled across a rattlesnake or two and
experienced some intense thunderstorms that left their tent floating
an inch off the ground.
"When you can take your new bride out for four days sleeping on
the ground, face to face with bears, without showering for days,
and have a great time, she's probably a pretty good woman in my
book," says Barber.
But, Barber admits, it didn't hurt that they ended the trip with
three nights and the Sunnyside Lodge in Lake Tahoe. "We washed away
the weeks of dust, enjoyed the relaxed environment and a gourmet
For those whose idea of a perfect honeymoon involves tropical climes,
Leo Kopelow and Angela Isaac of Palo Alto happened upon a great
adventure. They were married in 1999 and spent their honeymoon in
Australia, where they got to live out the romantic fantasy of being
shipwrecked lovers on a tropical isle. Well, not really shipwrecked.
They spent three days and two nights camping on a small, uninhabited
tropical island (Russell Island, part the Franklin Islands), reached
by hitching a ride from the town of Cairns on one of the navy of
diving boats that motor out to the Great Barrier Reef.
"The first night our flashlight stopped working, our lighter stopped
working, it rained, and early in the morning a bunch of tropical
birds woke us up," says Kopelow. They also had close encounters
with sea turtles, giant clams three to four feet wide, schools of
fish, and huge spiders eight inches wide. But of course that was
all part of the adventure, he says.
"We also did some stuff like diving, camping and whitewater rafting,
but the stay on the island was definitely the highlight," says Kopelow.
For some adventure honeymooners, it would seem, unpredictability
is the stuff romance is made of.