The World's Most Romantic Islands
Few locales deliver on the promise of making fantasies come to life, but these 15 alluring island getaways possess the charms to follow through.
Every year, Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards survey asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences from across the globe—to cast their votes for the top hotels, airlines, cities, spas, and more. Readers scored the top islands on the planet according to the friendliness of the people, food, value, activities and sights, natural beauty, and romance.
Three high-scorers in the romance category are in Asia, including the top island overall, Palawan, proving that the largest continent is also the most magical. The Caribbean and Hawaii are worthy rivals, each one home to a heavenly trifecta of winners. And naturally heart-shaped Moorea has the undeniable look of love. All of these stunners have one thing in common: cerulean waters that demand a dip.
Readers agree that sometimes all you need is Instagram-worthy scenery, your significant other, and a romantic place to bed down. So it's no surprise that four of the best hotels in the world are the crown jewels of the islands on this list.
Take Santorini’s Katikies Hotel, for example, where lovers stare in awe at epic Mediterranean sunsets from twin infinity pools. And Capri’s waterfront J.K. Place feels just like home, only much, much better, thanks to rooms with balconies overlooking the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Trying to cross items off the bucket list as a team? Arrange for an exclusive helicopter tour of Maui’s tallest waterfall through Montage Kapalua Bay.
Whether a proposal is on the horizon, a honeymoon is being mapped out, or you’re simply seeking a romantic escape, these dreamy idylls vow to set the mood. Plus, surveys say lovebirds who travel together have deeper connections (and yes, even better sex lives).
Quit daydreaming. That romantic island vacation could be a reality.
No. 15 Virgin Gorda in the Caribbean
Dramatic seascapes earned Virgin Gorda its title as the No. 1 island in the Caribbean, and this treasure of the British Virgin Islands is the ideal setting for any sweethearts’ long walk on the beach. T+L readers raved about The Baths, a geological wonder located on Virgin Gorda’s southern tip. Secret pools and caverns, formed by large granite boulders (courtesy of a once-active volcano), were seemingly designed for travelers in love. The real showstopper, however, is Devil’s Bay, accessible from The Baths through a series of ladders and tight crawls. Here, visitors will find some of the best snorkeling on the island. Opt for quieter Spring Bay or Savannah Bay (The Baths are quite popular), if alone time is key. Summit Gorda’s Peak for panoramic views and a great place to proclaim your love.
No. 14 The Ionian Islands
For couples that can’t seem to agree on just one location, the Ionian Islands (a cluster of jewels that hug the western Greek coast) might be the sweet spot. With six distinct locales to explore (there are seven main islands, but Corfu was ranked separately in this year’s survey) travelers will discover a refreshingly non-commercialized—and very green—answer to the ivory Cyclades. Stroll past more than 200,000 olive trees on tiny Paxos, visit the real-life postcard, Shipwreck Beach, lounge on a remote cove on Zakynthos, or see rare archeological artifacts at one of Kefalonia’s museums.
No. 13 St. Bart's in the Caribbean
Mingle with the elite on St. Bart’s, where travelers splurge on designer fashions, upscale cuisine, and over-the-top lodging. Even so, the island’s 22 public beaches remain uncrowded, especially Anse du Gouverneur (accessible by a white-knuckle drive down a narrow road). Need a wedding song? Guests staying at Eden Rock’s 16,000-square-foot Vila Rockstar can record their own in a professional studio. The resort is also home to two Jean Georges Vongerichten restaurants. Visit the harbor at Gustavia, St. Bart’s capital, to snap photos together with yacht-filled waters as your backdrop.
No. 12 Palawan in the Philippines
Palawan, taking top honors this year as the No. 1 Island in the World, boasts some of the bluest waters on the planet. Yet somehow, it still seems to be the country’s best-kept secret (no droves of tourists, here). T+L readers loved traversing the underground river at Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, and exploring the complex caves from a paddleboat. Visitors should also head to El Nido to snorkel the coral reefs around the Bacuit Archipelago.
No. 11 Anguilla in the Caribbean
Quintessential Caribbean paradise, Shoal Bay, is nothing short of spectacular, with its white-sand shores and translucent waters that teem with colorful marine life. And that’s just one of Anguilla’s many highlights, according to readers. The eastern tip of the isle is home to highly lauded Cap Juluca, where couples can book massages right on the beach or spend an afternoon sailing on the resort’s private yacht. For a night out, enjoy live music at Bankie Banx’s Dune Preserve.
No. 10 Bali in Indonesia
Bali is so much more than “that beach from Eat, Pray, Love.” While Padang Padang’s role in the storyline is a testament to just how romantic this destination is, activities abound across The Island of the Gods. Hike Mount Batur for sunrise and Uluwatu for sunset, followed by a fresh seafood dinner on Jimbaran Beach. Couples can cozy up in secluded, lagoon-front villas with access to Nusa Dua beach at the St. Regis Bali, a highly ranked World’s Best hotel. And you can forget the engagement ring. A permanent spot on a world map transcends earthly possessions: while in town, name one of Indonesia’s uninhabited islands after your better half.
No. 9 Capri in Italy
The Italian island of Capri is as rife with delicious indulgences as it is with picture-perfect scenery. Savor a glass of limoncello straight from the source: the ripe, bright fruit trees perfume the island’s landscape. Some T+L readers think Gelateria Buonocore’s creamy offerings (best served atop a freshly crafted waffle cone) rival the gelato of Rome. Under the archway of the Faraglione di Mezzo is the ultimate spot to canoodle, second only to the island’s legendary glowing sea cave, Blue Grotto, both of which can be reached by private boat.
No. 8 Maui in Hawaii
Perhaps the most popular of the Hawaiian Islands, this T+L reader favorite offers a variety of chic resorts, opportunities for adventure, and serious relaxation nooks. Honokohau Falls—the island’s tallest waterfall—can only be seen by helicopter, so book a tour during your stay at Montage Kapalua Bay and trade your fear of heights for bragging rights. Kickstart a digital detox (you probably won’t have cell service) and embark on the road trip of a lifetime to Maui’s Hana. It might sound bleak, but the drive’s 600 hairpin turns and 50 one-lane bridges have given it the nickname “The Divorce Highway”—which is really just an opportunity to put your relationship to the test. Fresh pineapples and stunning waterfalls along the route will make it all better. We promise.
No. 7 Seychelles
Ranked by T+L readers as the No. 1 island in Africa and the Middle East and praised for its sheer beauty, it’s no wonder celebrities (including honeymooning power-couple Kate Middleton and Prince William) flock to this heavenly archipelago. After all, the island of Praslin—one of 116 in the Seychelles—was once thought to be the Garden of Eden. Try not to blush, but the island’s indigenous coconuts, nicknamed “love nuts,” are often consumed as aphrodisiacs. Come for the beaches, but stay for the bathtub views. A much-needed soak for two awaits at the Four Seasons Seychelles in Petite Anse, where the bathroom overlooks lush flora and the Mahé coastline. When’s the best time to go? Now.
No. 6 Kauai in Hawaii
Upon arriving at this emerald Hawaiian utopia, visitors are greeted with cinematic sights: 60 plus feature films have used Kauai as their backdrop. As the first island to emerge from the Pacific, the terrain aches to be explored. The 11-mile Kalalau Trail affords an unmatched perspective of the Na Pali coast. Looking out at the sprawling Waimea Canyon, with its rainbows and waterfalls, makes all of the world’s problems seem small. Aquatic activities include stealing a smooch under Wailua Falls, sunbathing on picturesque Hanalei Bay, or scuba diving off Tunnels Beach to see the lava tubes and tropical fish below (heads up: experienced divers only for the outer reefs).
No. 5 Boracay in the Philippines
Size doesn’t matter: this tiny, four-square-mile retreat in the Philippines knows how to work what it’s got. Ample nightlife, with parties spilling out onto beaches well into the early morning hours, sets the tone. Travelers come here to let loose. Boracay’s famous White Beach welcomes beach bums with what some say is the world’s softest sand, while Bulabog Beach is a mecca for kiteboarders and windsurfers. Readers adore Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa, where couples can splurge on a Tree House Villa, a bi-level hideaway tucked into the hillside. Slip into the outdoor hot tub on the second floor balcony and toast to your honey at sunset (drink of choice delivered by personal butler, of course).
No. 4 Moorea in French Polynesia
Regardless of whether or not Moorea—with its verdant, volcanic peaks, azure lagoons, and swathes of white sand—indeed inspired James Michener’s Bali Hai in Tales of the South Pacific, twosomes are drawn to the mystical splendor of this French Polynesian island. Hop on an ATV or Jeep tour to the top of Magic Mountain or to Belvedere Lookout, both of which might just be ideal proposal spots. Travelers who thrive on staying active should lace up their hiking boots and set out for the challenging but beautiful network of trails at their disposal. More importantly? The island is shaped like a heart.
No. 3 Santorini in Greece
It’s already been scientifically proven that Santorini is heaven on earth, boasts the most jaw-dropping sunsets, and has claimed a top spot in the World’s Best survey for 16 years and counting. For unparalleled views of the Aegean Sea, book a room at Katikies Hotel, praised for its intimate restaurant (snag one of only four tables) and setting among whitewashed Oia. Oenophiles, take note: some argue this Greek isle’s wine is the best in the country, thanks to its agreeable climate and the mineral content of the volcanic soil. Visit little-known Gavalas Winery, in the enchanting village of Megalochori, where visitors can actually stomp grapes during harvest season.
No. 2 Maldives
With 26 atolls and almost 1,200 islands for couples to choose from, it’s no surprise the Maldives have become an incredibly popular honeymoon destination. The archipelago might be known for snorkeling, but there are other ways for visitors to admire the aquatic life. Set amidst a coral reef 20 feet below the surface and accessible only by speedboat from PER AQUUM’s Niyama resort, Subsix’s “underwater playground” makes it possible to dine eye-to-eye with marine life. If things are going really well, couples can exchange vows in the middle of the Indian Ocean, courtesy of the Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru’s glass-bottomed Wedding Pavilion.
No. 1 Bora-Bora in French Polynesia
Few scenes could be more seductive than gazing out at crystalline waters with your beloved from an overwater bungalow, complete with private plunge pool for a late night swim under the stars. T+L readers agreed, giving the Four Seasons Bora Bora (as well as two other luxe Bora Bora resorts) high marks in the survey. Postcard-worthy views of Mount Otemanu greet visitors from every angle, and while the peak can’t be summited on foot, travelers may instead hike Mount Pahia or Mount Ohue instead. After a day of exploring the lagoons, snorkeling, or strolling along one of the winning island’s world-famous beaches, watch the sun set over aptly named Motu Piti A’au, which, in Tahitian, translates to “Isle of Two Hearts”.