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Fabulous holidays for 40-something couples
Read time: 9 mins
For many couples, hitting your forties (also known as the “life begins” decade) means ditching the fly-and-flop holidays and booking more memorable adult-themed getaways. We’ve put together an inspiring list of breaks à deux that all promise a brand new perspective on the world for bona fide grown-ups (which is officially what you are now).
Say konnichiwa to the extraordinary Land of the Rising Sun
There’s an entire generation of forty-something couples who’ll be familiar with Japan’s 80s and 90s technical landscape: think the CD player, blue LED lighting, sing-a-long karaoke booth, Sony Walkman, Anime, and ground-breaking gaming brands such as Play Station and Nintendo. Nowadays, the country’s reputation for next-level gadgetry is still well-deserved, with the likes of Pokémon, Purikura Photo Sticker Booths, and futuristic robot restaurants grabbing headlines. But this amazing land is not restricted to geek-approved gizmos. And while it’s near-impossible to see everything in a single trip, the Land of the Rising Sun tour does a stellar job of introducing you the coolest metropolises in just 12 days. Highlights include Tokyo where you can fuel your passion for Michelin-starred dining and centuries-old performing arts and Kyoto where you can wear out your camera at Buddhist temples, traditional teahouses, and exquisite gardens. Further thrills include admiring sacred shrines in Nikko, visiting the memorial park in Hiroshima, soothing your muscles at an onsen (hot spring) in Hakone, spending the night at a ryokan (traditional inn) in Takayama, and travelling on the needle-nosed shinkansen (bullet train).
Couple up: Warble your heart out to Alphaville’s 1984 hit Big in Japan whilst enjoying hand-in-hand exploration on the enchanting island of Miyajima, take a boat ride across the scenic Ashinoko Lake, and visit the sacred Tokyo Daijingu Shrine to pray for good luck in your love life, marriage or relationship (unsurprisingly, this is also a popular site for weddings).
More information and to book: Land of the Rising Sun
Watch New England come alive in the summer months
While New England is most famous for its vibrant foliage, brilliant hues and extraordinary leaf-peeping experiences in autumn, the summer tapestry in this northeast corner of the USA is equally worth shouting about; think ocean-backed beaches, interesting wildlife, exciting outdoor adventures, and reliable sunshine. And little beats the 12-day Self-Drive Inn-Side New England tour for grabbing your sunglasses and sat nav (or road map if you’re old school) and hitting the sun-soaked playgrounds of Boston, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, and the New Hampshire Lakes region. Itinerary highlights include marvelling at the Portland Head Light, riding the Cog Railway to the summit of Mount Washington, hiking the trails around White Mountain National Forest, taking the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour, admiring the grand mansions of Newport, and unwinding at Cape Cod - the hook-shaped peninsula where the Kennedys holidayed in the 1960s. Further thrills include Plymouth for its historic sites (Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower, Plimouth Village), Woodstock for its Americana charm, Williamstown for its Clark Art Institute, and Franconia Notch State Park for its Flume Gorge that extends at the base of Mount Liberty.
Couple up: This region of America’s northeast seaboard region is bursting with clichéd lovey-dovey trimmings and trappings, making it perfect for you and your significant other to enjoy hiking, biking, river rafting, high-altitude hikes, and romantic strolls on the beach. New England also has an excellent dining scene dominated by fresh seafood and farm-to-table offerings.
More information and to book: Self-Drive Inn-Side New England
See Tomb Raider-style temples in Cambodia and Thailand
For history lovers who also happen to be fans of fictional English archaeologist turned hot-headed heroine Lara Croft and the world-spanning video game franchise Tomb Raider, few places on the planet compare to Thailand and neighbouring Cambodia for spiritually-uplifting and aesthetically-pleasing temples. So it’s easy to see the appeal of the 8-day Temples of Thailand & Cambodia tour; not least for its action-packed itinerary that starts in Bangkok and includes a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River, puppet show at the Khlong Bang Luang Artist Village, street food tour by tuk tuk, and stops at Wat Arun and the Grand Palace. You’ll then fly to Siem Reap to enjoy everything this gateway-to-an-ancient-world turned chic city has to offer (amazing colonial buildings, hip cocktail bars, great shopping) before heading to Angkor Wat - the 500-acre UNESCO World Heritage Site built between 1113 and 1150 AD by King Suryavarman II to honour the Hindu god Vishnu. Equally unmissable is the 12th-century Ta Prohm - the root-riddled monument known as the Tomb Raider Temple (it was used as the mystical backdrop for the 2001 movie; the money charged for filming was used on repairs and preservations).
Couple up: After taking selfies by the tree made so iconic by Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft (the bit where she picks a jasmine flower before falling through the earth), the sunset gondola cruise along Angkor Thom’s moat is a real treat. Back on dry land, visit the village of Chansar to ride an ox cart, spend time at a Khmer home, and receive blessings by monks from a local temple.
More information and to book: Temples of Thailand & Cambodia
Be wowed by the city lights of New York and Las Vegas
It’s been over two decades since NBC’s Friends and HBO’s Sex and the City debuted, but both TV shows still lure fans to iconic filming locations; from the apartment building on the corner of Grove and Bedford streets in the West Village (Friends) to the Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street (SATC). But for those not obsessed with Manolo Blahniks, cosmopolitans and The Rembrandts’ I'll Be There for You theme tune, the glamorous metropolis that is New York never fails to impress with glistening skyscrapers, big-name museums and galleries, swanky rooftop bars, star-chef restaurants, superb Broadway shows, and off-the-scale shopping. And it’s just as dazzling in Las Vegas, whether you’re there to hit the all-night-long casinos, dance the night away at the glitzy nightclubs, or book tickets to see Penn & Teller, Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil, or Britney: Domination (Miss Spears has a 2019 residency at the new Park MGM's Theatre from February until August). For a double whammy, the 7-night New York & Las Vegas Luxury Twin Centre holiday offers the best of both worlds and includes return flights as well as city-central accommodation (Royalton Park Avenue Hotel overlooking the Empire State Building in the heart of Manhattan and ARIA Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip).
Couple up: After taking a romantic carriage ride in Central Park, stroll over Brooklyn Bridge, shop for vinyl records at the Chelsea Market, and gaze up at the stars at Hyden Planetarium. In Las Vegas, watch the music and light show at the Bellagio Fountains, take a gondola ride at The Venetian, and ride the 550-foot-ball High Roller at The Linq for illuminated city views.
More information and to book: New York & Las Vegas Luxury Twin Centre
Glam it up in one of Dubai’s sumptuous five-star hotels
The desert city of Dubai has always been a deal breaker for those keen to laze on brilliant white-sands backed by aquamarine waters, tackle the world's third-largest indoor ski slope, stock up at authentic spice souks, and splurge on designer buys at the gleaming super-malls (The Dubai Mall is the second-largest in the world with 1,200-plus stores). The see-and-do opportunities here are endless; from sailing across Dubai Creek in a dhow, visiting the Al Fahidi Historic District and touring the Jumeirah Mosque to experiencing the world’s largest glow-in-the-dark theme park at Dubai Garden Glow, sliding through shark-filled lagoons at Atlantis The Palm’s Aquaventure Waterpark, and making memories at Motiongate Dubai and Bollywood Parks Dubai. It’s also equally standout on the accommodation front, especially at the five-star Jumeirah Zabeel Saray located on the western crescent of the Palm overlooking the Arabian Gulf. Perfect for upping the bling-factor, couples can make the most of palatial Ottoman-style architecture, a pristine private beach, an outdoor infinity pool, two Jacuzzis, and 443 guest rooms, suites and villas with grandiose décor and all mod cons. There’s also nine restaurants and nightlife venues, a state-of-the-art gym, and an Avenue of Indulgence lined with 14 boutiques.
Couple up: Open daily from 9am to 9pm, the hotel’s award-winning Talise Ottoman Spa is a supersized space complete with steam rooms, saunas, snow rooms, thalassotherapy pools, flotation tanks, and hammans. There’s also 42 treatment rooms and four VIP suites for indulgent pampering, including side-by-side couples massages and unique rituals using fresh strawberries.
More information and to book: Jumeirah Zabeel Saray
Enjoy apartment-style living on the stunning island of St Lucia
There’s nowhere quite like the teardrop-shaped island of St Lucia for a spellbinding mix of sparkling beaches, turquoise-tinted waters, sugar-loaf peaks, emerald jungles, a laid-back Caribbean meets French vibe, and a rather famous pair of jagged volcanic peaks known as The Pitons. Clichéd as it sounds, this little slice of paradise really does have it all - especially for those keen to max out on the island’s attractions; from zip-lining in the forest to visiting the botanical garden and bubbling volcano. There’s also heaps of fabulous places to stay, including The Landings on the southern stretch of Pigeon Island beach at the quiet end of Rodney Bay. Not only will you be just a 15-minute stroll from the nature reserve with its splendid fort and marine museum, but you’ll also be within easy distance of the buzzy bars and clubs - all of which are set-up for late night partying or liming (Caribbean slang for hanging out). Expect apartment-style accommodation with designer kitchens, living areas and terraces facing the private marina or the beach, three superb restaurants, a great spa and gym, and non-motorised watersports. There’s also a vibe here that feels very much residential, in spite of the hotel-worthy service.
Couple up: It’s all about getting down to Jump Up every Friday night in Gros Islet, the fishing village just outside Rodney Bay. This huge weekly street party features loudspeakers blasting out Caribbean beats, stallholders selling barbecued fish and chicken and bottles of chilled Piton beer, and local St. Lucian’s who will continue revelling long after you’re tucked up in bed.
More information and to book: The Landings
Experience wild adventure and deep comfort in Costa Rica
It’s as much about the high-end pampering as the high-octane jungle adventures in Costa Rica - the tiny republic that hits big with fog-shrouded rainforests, smoking volcanoes, drop-dead-gorgeous beaches, wildlife-rich national parks, and plenty of romance. Little wonder that the 10-day Couple's Adventure to Costa Rica tour is such a hit; not least for its balance of adrenaline-fuelled activities and unrivalled just-for-two luxuries. Starting and ending in San Jose, highlights include hiking around the 1,670-metre-high and perfectly symmetrical Arenal Volcano, keeping your eyes peeled for butterflies, birds, snakes, frogs and big cats on the scenic trails at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, and testing your white water rafting skills at the spectacular Pacuare River. Further thrills include spending time at Corcovado National Park in Osa, snorkelling at the Cano Island Biological Reserve, and taking a bean-to-cup guided tour of a coffee plantation. There’s also a good proportion of spoil-you stuff too, including relaxing on ocean-facing balconies or terraces, sipping exotic cocktails by an infinity-edge pool, taking full advantage of leisurely breakfasts in bed, and spending your downtime in the gorgeous spa.
Couple up: Of all Costa Rica’s smoking hotspots, it’s the mighty Arenal Volcano that gets all of the love. And little beats seeing it from the open-air gondola of the Sky Tram that zips you soaring through the air and up to an observation area with extraordinary panoramas of the volcano, the forested surrounds, and the 85-square-kilometre Lake Arenal.
More information and to book: Couple's Adventure to Costa Rica
Get stuck into outdoorsy fun for grown-ups in British Columbia
Set between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Canada's westernmost province of British Columbia wows with a monumental palette of massive mountain ranges, deep forests, windswept beaches, dramatic coastlines, interesting cities, and a deep connection to wildlife. And while there’s plenty of ways to explore this adventure playground, nothing compares to the 14-night Exhilarating BC: Whitewater Rafting, Biking & Hiking tour for adrenalin in abundance. The itinerary (which can be customised to your exact needs) includes everything needed to create lasting memories; navigating Category 3 and 4 rapids on a whitewater rafting trip in the wilderness, kayaking on Kootenay Lake, wakeboarding at Lake Osoyoos, hiking around Whistler Mountain, and biking around Revelstoke. You’ll also get ample time in the skyscraper-studded metropolis of Vancouver where an optional cycle tour takes in the 1000-acre Stanley Park, the iconic Granville Island Public Market, the historic neighbourhoods of Chinatown and Gastown, and the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village. You’ll also get to hang out in False Creek - the trendy area packed full of cool restaurants, hip bars, and craft breweries.
Couple up: Have-a-go couples will adore the glorious mountain resort and alpine village of Panorama for its 129 runs that stretch across nearly 3,000 acres of terrain overlooking the Purcell and Rocky mountains. You’ll also get the opportunity to soak in Canada’s largest outdoor slope-side hot pools, hit the cycle trails, or even try heli-skiing right from the village base.
More information and to book: Exhilarating BC – Whitewater Rafting, Biking & Hiking
Explore over 6,000 kilometres of coastal shoreline in Queensland
From the awe-inspiring underwater world of the 2000-kilometre-long Great Barrier Reef to the ancient World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, Australia’s state of Queensland has a piece of paradise to suit every couple, especially adventure-lovers seeking big thrills and beach fans who fancy sinking their toes into some of the world’s whitest sand. And while there’s an almost infinite list of things to do here, the 16-day Best of Queensland Self-Drive tour showcases the best bits, including Fraser Island, Hervey Bay, Eurimbula National Park, Cape Hillsborough National Park, Undara National Park, Rainbow Beach, and Mission Beach. Further highlights include joining a Savannah guide on a Volcano Valley tour and a Wildlife at Sunset tour, taking an exclusive drive to the Lighthouse at Double Island Point for 360-degree views across the Pacific Ocean, enjoying an afternoon picnic at Rockhampton Botanic Gardens, and spending time in Ravenshoe (the highest town in Queensland at 920-metres). You’ll also get to explore the Whitsunday Islands, the archipelago that glisten like gems in the waters of the Coral Sea (this cluster of 74 tropical islands is one of the world’s most desirable sailing destinations).
Couple up: The undisputed star of the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef ecosystem on the planet. One of the most iconic sights here is the Heart Reef, an iconic heart-shaped coral formation measuring 17 metres in diameter that’s best experienced from the air, by helicopter, light plane or seaplane (due to its protected status diving is not allowed).
More information and to book: Best of Queensland Self-Drive
Be wowed by a soul-stirring safari and Eastern Cape tour in South Africa
Nothing prepares you for the sheer scale and beauty of South Africa, the southernmost country on the African continent fuelled by epic coastlines, rolling savannahs, misty mountains, and extraordinary deserts. And nothing beats experiencing its natural wonders at your own pace on the 11-night Garden Route & Eastern Cape Safari Self-Drive tour that allows for ample time in Cape Town before heading to Hermanus for a spot of whale watching, cycling, hiking, shopping, winery-hopping, beach lazing, and amazing dining. Further highlights include the Klein Karoo area for its wonderful Cango Caves and the town of Knysna (in the heart of the Garden Route) for its lush forests, pristine beaches, and activities such as surfing, paragliding, and bungee jumping. You’ll also enjoy a soul-stirring safari at Kariega Private Game Reserve set high above the spectacular Kariega River Valley in the Eastern Cape. For many, this is the most memorable bit; not least for the morning and evening game drives in open-sided vehicles to seek out the Big Five (a term coined by big game hunters to reference lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant).
Couple up: Not-to-be-missed attractions in Cape Town include riding the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, hitting the chic cafes at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, and taking a guided prison tour of Robben Island. Also factor in a visit to Boulders Beach in the Cape Peninsula - the only place in the world where you can get up-close to a colony of very cute African Penguins.
More information and to book: Garden Route & Eastern Cape Safari Self-Drive