We’re approaching the summer, which means it’s time to start planning (or daydreaming) that perfect vacation getaway. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many possibilities out there. You’ve got friends who are trekking through Europe for a month, others who are jetting off to a tropical paradise and even some who are staying local to take in the sights that the country has to offer.
Those options don’t narrow by much if you’re going away while hand-in-hand with the love of your life. Romantic possibilities can be found all across the globe, whether your idea of love is set beach-side, in a charming old world city or against the backdrop of an iconic skyline. However, not all romantic getaways are created equal, and even some of the most renown hotspot couples’ destinations can come with hiccups and concerns unknown to first-time visitors.
For this list of cities that don’t quite measure up to their romance hype, I’ve accounted for both the inherent potential for having a bad experience and the level of expectation associated with the destination. Paris makes for a far more enjoyable trip than Acapulco, for instance, but ranks higher on this list based on the lofty expectations it faces.
15. Laguna Beach, California
For many travelers, Laguna Beach is a must-see stopover while driving along the California coast between Los Angeles and San Diego. A stunning beach is complimented nicely by a vibrant arts scene and plenty of surf, sand and fun. While soaking up the sun can be perfectly enjoyable here, you will probably want to get back on the road once nightfall hits. Laguna Beach is sorely lacking in nightlife, offering little in the form of late hour entertainment and even less in quality restaurants. Seriously, there are three tourist trap spots near the beach, none of which you want to be dining at.
14. Nassau, Bahamas (Atlantis Resort)
There is an evident majesty about Atlantis, one of the most famous resorts in the world. There’s the lush, extravagant layout, the predominant highrises that stand out across the Nassau landscape and even the name, itself. But just as Atlantis giveth, Atlantis also taketh away. The resort provides such a stark visual, it detracts from the gorgeous beach-side views that Nassau offers. Rather than take advantage of its lush surroundings, Atlantis distracts with giant waterslides, including one that emerges from a fake Mayan (???) temple.
13. Lima, Peru
Make no mistake – Peru offers no shortage of natural treasures, but not a whole lot of them happen to exist within the country’s largest city. While it becomes a logical stop for couples traversing through the Peruvian mountains or exploring Lake Titicaca, Lima simply doesn’t offer much charm. Instead, brutal congestion and awful pollution permeate the city, leaving an unpleasant smell, a gray, overcast sky and a consistent aggravation when trying to get around town. If you do opt to brave the traffic and explore Peru, keep a firm eye on your belongings in a city known for petty theft and corruption.
12. Istanbul, Turkey
The old world, classic beauty of Istanbul has come to be marred by the dark side of being a tourist hotspot. Many of the concerns evident in Lima are on display here, including the traffic headaches and the smog. There’s also the omnipresent cigarette smoke, which wafts through the air and leaves travelers’ hair and clothing reeking when they get back to their hotel. If that doesn’t put you off, then being confronted by a swarm of aggressive, in-your-face street peddlers that surround many of the best-known tourist destinations and certainly take away from the charm of the old town.
11. Athens, Greece
Come for the history and the beauty, sure. But then you probably want to bring your partner out to Mykonos or Santorini for some exotic, beach-side enjoyment. In Athens, the Mediterranean breeze that makes so much of the country pleasant, picks up sand and dirt for a painful sensory experience. It’s also not as tourist-friendly as you may think, with a group of remarkable attractions (the Parthenon, the Acropolis…) that lack in any visitor-friendly plaques or labels for context and a local populace that doesn’t exactly embrace its tourists with open arms.
10. Acapulco, Mexico
Ever since John F. Kennedy made Acapulco the “it” destination for rich and famous couples with his much-publicized honeymoon in 1953, couples have flocked there for a romantic getaway. Of course, that was over 60 years ago. Now, more than half a century of neglect has made for an exotic vacation spot whose best days are firmly in the rear view mirror. Violence, crime and corruption has left Acapulco fraught with safety concerns and particularly perilous for adventurous travelers who opt to step outside of the familiar tourist areas.
9. Niagara Falls (Canada or New York)
Few views in the world can top the stunning visual of the iconic Falls, impressive on either side of the US/Canada border. But even this remarkable sight gets old after a while, particularly when the activities in the surrounding area remain so chintzy and corny. It’s an impressive spectacle to look down on the Falls, sure, but the challenge comes in filling out the rest of your time in Niagara. Unless you have a real affinity for Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything beyond so/so casinos and crappy chain restaurants to turn a trip to the Falls into a real vacation.
8. Honolulu, Hawaii
This one’s going to be controversial, to be certain, but Honolulu isn’t always the idyllic destination that it appears to be. If you’re investing the steep price required for most visitors to travel there and splurging on a pricey, high-end resort, then you are probably expecting comfort and luxury. That, however, isn’t always the case in a place where the heat can be stifling and many resorts don’t offer the necessary air conditioning to prevent waking up drenched in sweat. There is certainly a magic to Hawaii, but it’s hard to say that Honolulu offers the necessary bang for your buck.
7. Buenos Aires, Argentina
It costs a pretty penny if you’re looking to venture into Argentina’s capital, from expensive airfare to pricey lodgings to over-priced restaurant options. Sometimes you need to pay for value, and so this wouldn’t be a problem if Buenos Aires otherwise made for a five-star travel destination. Unfortunately, once you spend that money, there just isn’t a ton to get excited about. The landscape possesses a flat, bland Nebraska-like quality and the colorful, vibrant areas are almost exclusively poor in nature, making the attempt to venture through bright Buenos Aires neighborhoods an exercise in avoiding hagglers and street vendors.
6. Dublin, Ireland
Cliffs of Moher. Ring of Kerry. Dingle Peninsula. Ireland boasts no shortage of must-visit gems, but few (the Guinness brewery, maybe?) happen to exist in Dublin. Unless you are among the boozed-up party-ers looking to drink your face off amidst the seedy nightlife of the Temple Bar area, there isn’t much to get out of the largest Irish city. If you’re looking for more romantic charm and exploration and less drunken, obnoxious debauchery, then there are better sights to see in the Emerald Isle than Dublin.
5. Orlando (Disney World)
For those of a certain vintage (yes, I’m referring to kids), Disney World represents the Happiest Place on Earth. A trip to Mickey Mouse’s theme park paradise can leave a pretty profound impression, which is why some return back, even into adulthood, to attempt to rediscover that childhood glee. But romantic? It’s hard to see how hour-long lines, an endless stream of screaming children and a rich assortment of kiddie rides can be construed as a couple-friendly getaway. Credit Disney with addressing their older visitors through resort hotels and the nightlife haven of Downtown Disney, but there remain better options.
4. Paris, France
Let’s be clear here – Paris is a world class city and cultural marvel that boasts incredible attractions, tantalizing restaurants and a foundation of arts and history that few other locales around the globe can match. But its status as the “City of Love” can only be realized by the extremely fortunate few who have the means to experience Paris’ high life. Those gourmet French restaurants people talk about? Expect to spend some Euros – if you can get a table at all. Also, that idyllic moment you envision with your partner atop the Eiffel Tower probably doesn’t include a two-hour wait and hundreds of other noisy tourists.
3. Miami, Florida
On paper, Miami represents the perfect romantic getaway. Stroll along South Beach, with the ocean on one side and a dynamic cityscape on the other. Then, have your pick among a multitude of restaurant, drinking and dancing options at night. But vacations don’t happen on paper, so expect dirty, litter-heavy beaches (watch for broken beer bottles) and a scene better suited to hookup-seeking singles than couples. The club scene is undoubtedly a fun one, but little comfort is to be found in your cramped, claustrophobic and sweaty surroundings.
2. Rome, Italy
A beacon of rich Italian history and artistic culture, Rome can be found on many a traveler’s bucket list. After all, historical monuments like the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Vatican can’t be found just anywhere. While it’s a worthwhile visit, Rome-bound tourists should be prepared to up their threshold for not only crowds and lines, but also unpleasant odors and a whole lot of filth. Indeed, the Italian capital is dirty, with graffiti and scattered dog poo and cigarette butts lining the cobblestone streets. The smell of cigarette smoke can also be overwhelming, although the city is beginning to outlaw smoking in certain places.
1. Las Vegas, Nevada
Having your bachelor/bachelorette party? Looking for a wild weekend away to let off some steam with your buddies? Vegas is your place. Seeking a romantic journey with a loved one? Maybe Sin City isn’t for you. Las Vegas may do big, showy and spectacular, but it isn’t exactly known for authentic and classy. The Venetian gondolas and the High Roller ferris wheel seem cheap and hokey, while lining up for any club or lounge will make you feel far too old and sober once you are confronted by the hammered, sloppy 21-year-olds behind you. In other words, hope you are a big gambler or a crazy Celine Dion fan.
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