Real-life Couples Retreats: Oyster’s list of the best — and the worst

See recent posts by Kelsey Blodget

At Oyster, we’ve, well, gotten around. Our reporters have been to hundreds of resorts in sexy destinations from Jamaica to Maui, and stayed at some truly special romantic escapes – as well as those they couldn’t wait to escape from.

You might be planning to see Couples Retreat this weekend, and you might not (the reviews have been less than stellar). Either way, don’t make the same mistake as Vince Vaughn’s character and book a trip to a couples-only hell. To make it easy for you, we’ve compiled a list of our all-time favorite couples retreats – and a few we’d rather forget.

Viva Wyndham Dominicus Palace Resort

Viva Wyndham Dominicus Palace Resort

The Worst Couples Retreats

Don Juan Beach Resort, Dominican Republic
A location in the heart of the D.R.’s sex-tourism capital isn’t exactly the recipe for true love. Men and women alike will be propositioned on the beach by aggressive prostitutes. To make matters worse, rooms are dark and dingy, the food is awful, and the rates are outrageous. Don’t bring your honey here unless you’re trying to get dumped.

Club Ambiance, Jamaica
Striving for the kind of romance found in low-budget pornography, the all-inclusive Club Ambiance offers polyester bedcovers, the Playboy Channel on a tiny TV, an on-site club with a stripper pole, and tactless “What’s 69 in Chinese?” games. Fine for hard-boozing couples, but that’s about it.

Grand Lido Braco, Jamaica
There’s a nude side and a prude side, and the swingers hotel Hedonism III is next door. Need we say more?

Grand Lido Negril, Jamaica
Like at its sister, The Grand Lido Braco, half of the resort is au natural, and the hypersexual couples resort Hedonism II is within shouting range. If you’re into naked hot tub parties and aren’t worried about your partner’s wandering eyes, this is a fine choice – otherwise, steer clear. (Even if you’re staying on the traditional side of the resort, we can’t help imaging a scenario where disgruntled couples part ways and cross to the naked side.)

Viva Wyndham Dominicus Palace Resort, Dominican Republic
If you’ve seen the preview for Couples Retreat, you saw the part where the characters strip down for some awkward sexually suggestive yoga poses. This is worse. In this relay race, alternately called “The Love Game” or “Kama Sutra”, guests try to pop balloons using the old bump and grind approach. (We do like this resort overall, though – its superb private beach is one of the best in the D.R.)

Sivory Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Sivory Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The Best Couples Retreats

Hotel Hana-Maui, Hawaii
Situated along craggy coastal cliffs on the rainforest-like east coast, hours from other big resorts, the Hotel Hana-Maui offers ample chances to be alone. After hikes to nearby waterfalls or hunts for hidden beaches, couples can take a dip in the infinity pool or the lava-rock pool, dine at the excellent restaurant, and then retreat to spacious modern cottage suites (some with private hot tubs), where guests will find no phones, TVs, radios, or alarm clocks to spoil the mood.

Four Seasons Maui, Hawaii
If your idea of romance is never having to lift a finger, head to the Four Seasons, where two staff members per guest ensures plenty of pampering. From cold towels and Evian spritzes at the pool, to free unpacking services and a free driver, the service is doting at every turn. Lovers share the sophisticated resort with families, but hillside massage huts overlooking the ocean and an adult-only pool with a swim-up bar and cabanas help keep the groups apart.

Geejam, Jamaica
The five eco-friendly villas at this mountaintop retreat are utterly private, self-contained sanctuaries, with 24-hour room service, in-room massages, personal hot tubs or steam rooms, and the best terraces in Jamaica. Frenchman’s Cove, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, is 10 minutes away.

Jake’s, Jamaica
Jake’s — The “chicest shack in the Caribbean” (according to Vogue magazine) — is located in the remote, picturesque Treasure Beach. Guests don breezy linen tunics, sip fresh-squeezed juices, and eat local Jamaican fare. Touches like a canopy of lanterns arching over the outdoor dining area and views of the rugged Frenchman’s bay from the saltwater pool enhance the romantic atmosphere. Uniquely designed cottages have rustic but comfortable furnishings, and some boast whimsical bathrooms with seaside views. But posh pampering can still be found at the Driftwood Spa.

Sivory Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Made up of 55 massive suites, the Sivory is surrounded by dense tropical plant life and sits on one of the most remote stretches of Punta Cana. Every suite features a two-person Jacuzzi tub, a two-person shower, and a private, intimate balcony — all ideal for a romantic getaway. The hotel has three exceptional restaurants on-site, as well as a wine cellar stocked with over 8,000 bottles.

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