Whether you’re celebrating your undying love or looking to rekindle the flame, what better place to do it than a secluded oasis set adrift in the sea? We combed the planet for the most romantic islands we could find, where idyllic sunsets, private bungalows and dinners for two are de rigueur. Here are 10 of our favorites.
1. Kauai, Hawaii
Hawaii on the whole is rather romantic, but Kauai is something else entirely. Abundant in natural wonders, from the majestic Na Pali Coast to the lushly green valleys that thread through Waimea Canyon, the so-called Garden Isle offers a kind of adventurous paradise. Its dramatic beauty lends itself to excursions for two: sailing the coasts via catamaran, hiking mountain trails, kayaking Hawaii’s only navigable river, or whiling away untold hours in laid-back surfing hamlets like Hanalei Town. Of course, just kicking back with your ku’uipo (sweetheart) and sipping mai tais on miles of dreamlike beachfront is always an option.
2. Bora-Bora, French Polynesia
What could be more seductive than an overwater bungalow above a turquoise lagoon? That’s the essence of Bora-Bora, a geographically blessed sliver of French Polynesia. At its heart lies the jagged peak of Mount Otemanu; on its fringes, tiny motus (islets) and a coral reef with a swirl of colorful marine life.
3. Capri, Italy
Known for its limestone cliffs and waterfront villas, this 4-square-mile speck in the Tyrrhenian Sea fully embraces the concept of la dolce vita. (For proof, look to the afternoon crowds stretched out on the rocks and sipping Prosecco at the glamorous La Fontelina beach club.)
A funicular railway whisks visitors from the main port to the boutique-lined streets of Capri town; privacy-seekers keep heading upward by foot or bus to the quieter village of Anacapri. There, stroll through the gardens of the 19th-century Villa San Michele with only ivy-covered statues for company.
4. Santorini, Greece
If there were ever a place that could get by on its looks, it would be Santorini. Whitewashed cave houses framed by bougainvillea and backed by blue-domed churches spill down the rim of an ancient volcanic crater; at sunset, the Sea of Crete is bathed in a rosy glow.
Yet as compelling as the scenery may be, Santorini’s true appeal lies in its wealth of diversions: extraordinary wines, black (or red or white) beaches and archaeological sites from the prehistoric era.
5. Boracay, Philippines
Once a backpacking haven with only the most basic accommodations, this 5-mile-long island now rivals better-known Asian destinations such as Phuket and Koh Samui, Thailand. A 45-minute flight from Manila brings you to either Kalibo or Caticlan, where boats connect directly to White Beach, whose powdery sand may just be the softest in the world.
6. Cape Breton Island, Canada
With its uniquely Gaelic origins and wide-open coastal spaces, Cape Breton offers charm for miles off the Atlantic coast of Canada. Hear the soulful strains of fiddles at a festive pub-side ceilidh, dine on fresh-caught lobster, or explore the rugged hillsides on foot. The Cabot Trail, often considered one of the most scenic drives in the world, unfurls through the Nova Scotian landscape, leading to steep drop-offs and beaches speckled with sea glass. Warm up in the tiny towns along the route and trawl through galleries, shops, and lobster shacks. Throughout the island, cool maritime breezes calm skin overheated by vigorous activity. Collapse, exhausted, into bed at one of Cape Breton’s many B&Bs.
7. Nantucket, America
Insiders maintain that off-season, when crowds disappear, is the best time for couples to dock at this classic New England island. In spring, when weather is warm, and in autumn, which is high season for oysters, Nantucket is still pleasant enough for strolling on sandy dunes lined with salt-spray roses and bayberry shrubs. Open seats are easy to find at the trendy bistros and ramshackle seafood joints that dot the island; drop by The Rose and Crown for live music and a bit of stimulation. Dip your feet into the chilly Atlantic during a long walk as sailboats bob languidly offshore, or simply spend a quiet evening by a fire with that book you’ve been meaning to finish for months.
8. St. Lucia
With what could very well be the world’s only drive-in volcano and steam baths, St. Lucia has cornered the market on tranquil travel. All over the island, the mineral-rich mud of its sulfur springs is harvested for massages and other pampering spa treatments. Beyond its hot springs and iconic twin Pitons, activities abound: diving, yachting and horseback riding (best enjoyed in tandem, of course). Tiny black-sand Anse Mamin and its adjacent tropical garden are especially Eden-like retreats, reachable only by rugged road and speckled with 17th-century ruins. And, with a handful of adults-only resorts famous for exceptional service and elegant design – and on which praises, awards and AAA Diamonds have been lavished – a dreamy rendezvous seems inevitable.
A chain of atolls strung along an ancient trade route in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives are truly a bucket-list destination, frequented by honeymooners and heiresses. Warm water in a gradient of blues and turquoises, vibrant coral reefs, and high visibility throughout the year give Maldivian diving a mythical air. If you and your sweetheart are decidedly land-based, sand as soft as sugar and thatched-roof gazebos await ashore. Discover local fishing villages and uninhabited islands (there are hundreds of them) or take a traditional night-fishing trip. Complete seclusion – most resorts are on islands and are only reachable by boat – instill the Maldives with a kind of secret allure.
10. Moorea, Tahiti
The less-visited sister island of Bora-Bora offers an intoxicating blend of rugged jungle interior, blue lagoons and scents of tiare, pamplemousse and vanilla that swirl in the air. It’s believed that author James Michener’s Bali Hai in Tales of the South Pacific was inspired by the island.
To get the lay of the land, drive up Magic Mountain, and you’ll see Opunohu and Cook’s bays sparkle below. The Tahitians are typically friendly and open – and can point you to the wild, coconut-strewn beach where Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed.