If you’re a regular Venueluster, chances are you’ve heard us use the phrase “off the beaten path” countless times. In fact, it’s what we were founded on—exploring off-the-beaten-path venues sharing our experiences with you. Today, then, we wanted to dive deep into our favorite phrase and give you some insider’s information on exactly what it is we look for in our never-ending hunt for off-the-beaten-path venues and experiences.
Location, location, location—it’s one of the first things we look for when seeking out off-the-beaten-path venues and boutique hotels. We love niche locales that often go unnoticed in the eyes of big-name travel agencies and publications. Basically, we’re looking for luxury in places you’d never think you’d find it—in the depths of the African jungle, in the quietest corner of the Italian countryside, in a hidden cabin the Pacific Northwest. In other words, if we can expose you to (and, taking it one step further, make you fall in love with) a place you’d never before even heard of, we’ve done our job.
A few of our favorite off-the-beaten-path locations include:
A northern Indian state bordering Pakistan, Rajasthan is home to countless palaces and forts—all of which illustrate its rich and storied history. We especially love that Rajasthan is home to countless activities—you can do everything from exploring naturopathy to attending one of the many traditional local festivals.
Our favorite venues in Rajasthan include Sher Bagh (a luxurious tented camp that embodies the definition of glamping) and JAWAI Leopard Camp (a classic safari camp that offers unbelievable front-row seats to the surrounding untamed wilderness).
Chances are, you’ve heard of Rome and Venice, but Piedmont is a bit of a hidden gem region of Italy that sits right at the foot of the Alps, bordering France. Though areas of Piedmont can be tourist attractions, we prefer the sleepy, off-the-beaten-path villages, where you’ll find nothing but local villagers and picturesque rolling hills (and, of course, irresistible wine).
Bordered on three sides by the towering Alps, Piedmont offers unforgettable views of some of Italy’s highest peaks and largest glaciers. It's home to everything from expanses of untouched land to gorgeous Medieval castles, and it’s definitely a locale to add to your bucket list. We’re huge fans of the Villa San Lorenzo, a stone villa that dates back to the 17th century, which sits on 14 beautiful acres of unspoiled Italian land.
A small village in the Southern Pacific region of Costa Rica, Uvita offers the perfect off-the-beaten-path experience for those looking to try their hand at the road less traveled. We especially love that the beaches in Uvita are much less crowded than those in popular Costa Rican tourist destinations, offering visitors a secluded paradise amongst an untouched tropical setting. Uvita is one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets as far as we’re concerned, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it stays that way.
As far as accommodations go, we’re huge fans of Villa Mareas, an 18,000-square-foot, nine-suite estate that offers access to countless waterfalls on the 36-acre property. The villa sleeps 26 guests total and is available for exclusive use, so we really love it for a destination wedding, a large group retreat or an unforgettable girls’ trip (with 25 of your closest friends, of course).
“Off the beaten path” doesn’t always have to do with location. Oftentimes, we find off-the-beaten-path venues and accommodations in popular tourist-laden towns. In these cases, it’s all about the venue itself—the aesthetic it offers, the service it provides, how it stands out from the rest. Think: a quaint inn in Los Angeles, a funky art gallery in Colorado, a revamped factory in Brooklyn.
When location isn’t necessarily unique, we look for properties that offer an unexpected and refreshing aesthetic amongst the cookie-cutter venues and hotels that surround them. We’re a sucker for a cool greenhouse wedding or an engagement party at an industrial-chic warehouse. When an off-the-beaten-path venue is what we’re looking for, we seek out places in popular cities that your guests will walk into and say, “Wow! I never even knew this was here.”
A few of our favorite off-the-beaten-path venues include:
When it comes to off-the-beaten-path aesthetics, few venues hit the nail on the head like the Pelican in Miami Beach, Florida. The first hotel venture from the well-known brand Diesel Jeans, it’s no surprise that this one takes the cake for funky hotels in popular cities. The Pelican boasts 29 rooms, each of which has its own unique aesthetic and its own name.
Among our favorites are Room 312 “Power Flower”, Room 211 “People from the 50’s” and, of course, Penthouse 1, home to Diesel CEO Renzo Rosso (and, when he’s not occupying it, it acts as one of Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia’s favorite crash pads).
Another hidden gem in a big city full of bright lights, we’re absolutely head over heels for the 1896 event venue in Brooklyn. A former factory built in—you guessed it—1896, the space has been completely revamped (without losing any of its history) and is now used as a photography studio, performance space, and event venue.
Exposed brick walls, a funky narrow alleyway, a storied smokestack and a quaint outdoor courtyard all make for über cool spaces for everything from art shows to celebration dinners. We especially love the idea of ditching the typical outdoor photography for your engagement or pregnancy shoot and, instead, opting for a warehouse-chic aesthetic in any one of the 1896’s gritty-in-a-great-way spaces.
Austin, Texas isn’t necessarily an off-the-beaten-path locale, but the super funky Hotel Saint Cecilia offers an aesthetic we’re not quite used to seeing in the South. Perhaps the poster child for the city’s newfound slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” Hotel Saint Cecilia pairs charming ivy and stark neon with a quintessentially Texas wraparound porch—and somehow it all works together beautifully. (Think: Victorian charm meets 1960’s-groovy.)
Named after the patron saint of art and poetry, this 14-room renovated Victorian mansion offers super spacious rooms in the form of suites, bungalows, and studios—and each is completely unique.
The last thing that helps us dub a property "off the beaten path" is the experience it offers. In fact, the experience is perhaps the most important thing we look for when it comes to finding different places and spaces to explore. When a hotel or venue is able to offer something that no other space does, we consider it off the beaten path.
Think: hidden hot springs in a quaint town, an eco-glamping resort in the heart of the Outback, a rural ranch retreat that somehow manages to offer a five-star experience. If a hotel, venue or event space is able to leave its guests with a memory they’ll never forget (and one they wouldn’t be able to get from any other spot on Earth), it’s automatically added to our ongoing list of off-the-beaten-path places.
A few of our favorite off-the-beaten-path experiences include:
Just 40 minutes outside of the Queenstown airport, situated amongst New Zealand’s Southern Alps, Aro Hā is a wellness center designed for those who want to relax, unplug and zen out like never before. We especially love that the retreat is all inclusive, so you won’t have to pay for a single thing once you arrive (so go ahead and leave that credit card at home).
The property offers eight suites for guests and one striking main studio area where most of the day’s indoor activities take place (like invigorating group yoga sessions). Our favorite part, though? Aro Hā has succeeded at creating an entirely eco-friendly resort without skimping on luxury—each suite boasts organic linens, lush carpeting, and all-natural high-end products. As far as experiences go, you won’t find anything quite like it anywhere else on Earth.
Nestled in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, Dunton Hot Springs is one of those rare places that offers a Wild West aesthetic amongst countless high-end comforts. The resort offers both day and overnight accommodation options and is home to 12 private cabins (that sleep anywhere from 2-10 people). Each private cabin boasts a rustic-chic vibe like we’ve never seen anywhere before or since.
The property is home to both indoor and outdoor natural hot springs, and you’d be remiss not to try them all out. Other on-site activities include spa treatments (yes, please), yoga sessions and fly fishing. We especially love the fact that the entire town—yes, the entire town—can be rented out for a group retreat or private family vacation.
When it comes to off-the-beaten-path experiences, one of our all-time favorites happens to take place on a train. Without a doubt, riding South Africa’s Blue Train is something that every Venueluster out there should add to his or her bucket list. Kings, presidents, politicians and wealthy socialites are all on the exclusive list of those who’ve taken this once-in-a-lifetime ride.
Seeing the South African countryside, in and of itself, is an off-the-beaten-path experience, as not many travelers truly understand its beauty. You’ll see rolling vineyards and miles and miles (and miles) of bush. We promise you, it will be one of the most picturesque rides of your life.
The train itself is a five-star hotel on wheels. Guests enjoy private luxury cabins, a private butler, a suite attendant and are even introduced to the manager—ensuring you have everything you could ever want right at your fingertips. The cocktails are endless, the food is five-star and the cigars, well, they’re Cuban, of course. As far as experiences go, this one is as luxurious and as off the beaten path as they come.
So, now you know—that’s everything we’re looking for in a Venuelust-worthy off-the-beaten-path place, space or experience. Have any unforgettable locales or experiences you think we should know about? Share them with us in the comments section below.