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World's most romantic islands

By Christine Ciarmello, Travel + Leisure
January 25, 2013 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
Bora-Bora was voted the world's most romantic island by Travel + Leisure readers. Bora-Bora was voted the world's most romantic island by Travel + Leisure readers.
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Bora-Bora, French Polynesia
Capri, Italy
Santorini, Greece
Kauai, Hawaii
Boracay, Philippines
The Maldives
Maui, Hawaii
Moorea, Tahiti
Vieques, Puerto Rico
Bali
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Readers voted Bora-Bora the No. 1 island for romance, a new category
  • Two Hawaiian islands captured spots on Travel + Leisure's top 10 romantic islands
  • Spin the globe and find a new romantic island to explore with a loved one

(CNN) -- When you want to get away from it all, set your course for these romantic islands, as chosen by Travel + Leisure readers.

Bora-Bora seduces couples with visions of overwater bungalows above a turquoise lagoon. But that's not all: The island offers coral reefs and, should you need backup, the St. Regis romance concierge (duties have included spelling "Marry Me" in coconut husks on the beach).

The Tahitian island has certainly captured the hearts of Travel + Leisure readers, who voted Bora-Bora the No. 1 island for romance, a new category in this year's World's Best Awards survey. Spin the globe, and you're bound to land by one of the top romantic islands.

From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, they share the powerful ingredient of fantasy. There's nothing like escaping to an island with your loved one to bring out starry eyes in the most jaded traveler. Discover the getaway escape that's right for you two castaways among these top islands for romance.

1. 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.

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Room to Book: Villas 103 to 110 at the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort have private decks with whirlpools and outdoor showers.

Table for Two: Order the poisson cru (a local take on ceviche) at the sand-floored Bora Kaina Hut.

Don't Miss: A private snorkeling trip with Diveasy Bora Bora, whose divemasters get you up close and personal with moray eels and giant manta rays.

2. 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.

Room to Book: No. 2 at J. K. Place Capri for a roomy terrace and dreamlike water views.

Table for Two: Sign up for a cooking lesson at the agriturismo TerraMMare, where you'll make, and then dine on, traditional island recipes.

Don't Miss: The nightly passeggiata, when well-heeled Italians glide through the streets at sunset before settling in at a bar on the piazza to watch the action unfold.

3. 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.

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Room to Book: The Perivolas Suite at Perivolas hotel, whose cliffside terrace seems to hover at the crater's edge.

Table for Two: Order the flaky pastry-wrapped saganaki (traditional fried cheese) with fig jam at Assyrtico Wine Restaurant, a buzzy newcomer.

Don't Miss: The richly preserved Bronze Age settlement of Akrotíri, sometimes referred to as the "Minoan Pompeii," which reopened last spring.

4. Kauai, Hawaii

It's the oldest of Hawaii's eight main islands -- and arguably the most dramatic, with scenery that ranges from wind-eroded mountains and red-walled canyons to primeval rainforest and photo-ready waterfalls.

Room to Book: No. 808 at the St. Regis Princeville Resort for unobstructed views of Hanalei Bay.

Table for Two: Share a succession of small plates (slow-braised short ribs; honeycomb with goat cheese) at the laid-back, open-air Bar Acuda in Hanalei.

Don't Miss: A six-hour hike with Chuck Blay of Kauai Nature Tours; you'll learn the myths of every fruit and flower along the way.

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.

Room to Book: A short tuk-tuk ride from the southern end of White Beach, Mandala Spa & Villas feels like a true retreat, with daily yoga classes and massages included in room rates, along with all the mangoes you can eat. The cliffside Pool Villa has the best vantage point over the Sulu Sea.

Table for Two: Feast on Mediterranean mezes at Kasbah (Station One, White Beach), where pillow-strewn sofas evoke North Africa on the sand.

Don't Miss: Mandala Spa & Villas' Hilot Trilogy, which incorporates an ancient Filipino form of massage.

6. Maldives

This remote Indian Ocean archipelago greets travelers with white-sand beaches, atolls and secluded high-end resorts that lure honeymooners and celebrities. The world's lowest-lying nation has a close union with the sea: Where else would you find a hotel with a coral nursery and an underwater nightclub? That would be Niyama Maldives, a Per Aquum Resort. It has a restaurant reachable by boat only.

7. Maui

Peel back the tropical-paradise façade of this Hawaiian island to reveal a rich variety of landscapes: the otherworldly summit of the volcanic crater Haleakala, the sugarcane fields and farms like O'o Farm, and the 1900s cowboy town of Makawao, with horses trotting down the back roads.

For the ultimate tucked-away-ness, the eastern town of Hana at the edge of a rainforest is like falling back in time -- and after a day out exploring, you two can retreat to luxe Travaasa Hana Maui, a special place that emphasizes the culture and tradition of Hawaii, from the indigenous patterns used in textiles to ukulele and hula lessons.

8. 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.

9. Vieques, Puerto Rico

The secret is definitely out about Vieques, which promises the key ingredients for romance, among them, a slew of pristine coves and beaches and a languid pace. Portions of the island are designated a National Wildlife refuge -- protecting sea turtles, lagoons and mangroves -- and the island's famous bioluminescent bay is filled with microscopic organisms that flash bright blue and illuminate the water.

The eco mindset here carries through at the intimate Hix Island House, which opened its solar-powered six-room Casa Solaris in the past year, built by Canadian-born architect John Hix.

10. Bali

Bali's been at the apex of the romance circuit for decades, if not centuries, with couples drawn to the mist-shrouded temples, mountainous landscapes, Balinese art and world-famous friendliness of the locals.

The island got a recent boost (as if it needed it) from the success of "Eat, Pray, Love," whose film crew chose the white-sand Padang-Padang beach as backdrop. Just a short drive away from here is the new Le Méridien Bali Jimbaran, with a saltwater lagoon pool.

See the rest of the world's most romantic islands.

Ron Gluckman, Frances Hibbard, Shivani Vora, Laurel Delp and Eleni N. Gage contributed to this story.

Planning a getaway? Don't miss Travel + Leisure's guide to the World's Best Hotels

Copyright 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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