Couples take note: It's not necessary to leave the country to experience some of the world's most romantic hotels. We love exotic locales, but those looking for something closer to home can find some truly decadent escapes right in our own backyard. Our five favorite picks all have lovely waterfront settings on oceans, waterfalls, or lagoons, as well as pampering service and ultra-luxurious accommodations. Check 'em out!
The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina
This "inn" in Carolina Lowcountry, really more akin to a sprawling estate, provides a one-of-a-kind experience that uniquely blends southern history and almost otherworldly natural beauty: rivers, misty marshes, old oaks draped with wispy Spanish moss, and salty breezes. The main hotel building looks like a classic southern mansion, and the 50 Cottages and Cottage Suites are simultaneously homey and utterly luxurious, with working fireplaces, screen porches, and gorgeous bathrooms. The multi-bedroom Village Homes are also luxurious, but lack some of the nuances of the cottages. Guests can enjoy a range of recreational facilities, including golf, bicycling, tennis, croquet, kayaking, and swimming (in the two pools), and the luxury spa is highly acclaimed. It's not an overstatement to say that the Inn at Palmetto Bluff is one of the most special properties in the entire country.
Salish Lodge & Spa, Washington
The Salish Lodge & Spa features 84 rooms in a gorgeous setting overlooking the falls in Snoqualmie, about a 40-minute drive from Seattle. The historic property, which originally opened with only eight rooms back in 1916, is a popular romantic getaway and wedding destination. The restaurants feature beautiful views, and the elegant spa has numerous signature treatments (including one with homemade honey!). Sexy rooms have wood-burning fireplaces and peek-a-boo bathrooms with two-person tubs. The entire property has a soothing, rustic-luxe style; features such as stone fireplaces, stacked firewood, cashmere throws, bookcases, and warm, earth tones complement the outdoor scenery.
Montage Laguna Beach, California
With beautiful grounds, an elegant spa, and modern rooms (all of which have stunning views of the ocean), this hotel is possibly the most serene and relaxing in Orange County, California. It's perched directly above the beach, and the building's "U" shape allows for breathtaking views from the lobby and all pools, restaurants, and guest rooms. The hotel is close to Orange County's local attractions, yet far enough away from the big West Coast cities to provide real serenity for those looking to get away.
St. Regis Princeville, Kauai
The 251-room St. Regis Princeville is considered by many to be the premier luxury option in Hawaii, and given the stunning setting overlooking Hanalei Bay, it's hard to disagree. Guests can expect warm, sophisticated decor, suites with personal butler service, world-class golf, and a memorable breakfast buffet on a terrace with gorgeous ocean views. The location on Kauai's lush, ruggedly beautiful northern coast makes for natural beauty that's unparalleled.
Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur California
Situated on more than 200 acres of picturesque oceanfront land, The Ventana Inn & Spa looks like a rustic cabin nestled in the woods -- yet it features 62 luxurious, streamlined rooms with wooden accents, refreshing pops of color, and modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and free Wi-Fi. Many rooms have fireplaces, creating a cozy retreat vibe to fit with its surroundings -- though glass doors and large windows keep the rooms feeling bright and airy. The overall goal of the hotel is to create a zen, holistic retreat with such offerings as yoga classes, discovery walks; afternoon wine and cheese, Japanese baths, and two pools (one of which is clothing optional).