South Beach is as good as it gets!” a blogger named Mmay wrote in
    response to one of our selections.

    "You picked the right spots but the wrong beaches,” countered the confident and
    well-traveled Okrad.

    “You cannot be serious by not mentioning Grace Bay on Turks and Caicos,”
    scolded an obviously smarting Beach Dog. “I guess beauty is in the eye of


    Yet for all the raging debate, we do confess that our list of runners-up was almost
    as formidable as our top 25. And that’s the good news because here we go again.

    In revisiting our research, we noted that in our pursuit of the sassy and scenic, we
    also uncovered a few coastal gems that, while certainly sexy, had a little something
    extra to offerromance.

    So what’s the difference between sexy and romantic? Hit the personal growth
    section at Barnes & Noble and you can earn a doctorate on the subject. But where
    beaches are concerned, it all comes down to the three S’s: setting, serenity and

    No doubt about it, a place like Copacabanaa no-brainer on our sexy beaches
    listis nothing short of electrifying. However, when you’re in the company of a
    special someone, don’t you have a more private kind of Carnaval in mind? For that
    matter, the sultry shores of Ibiza (another sexy beach topper) is a bona fide eyeful;
    but our guess is that an intimate escape for two requires a little less people-
    watching and a little more one-on-one time.

    With a nod to Valentine’s Day, we present 14 beach destinations guaranteed to
    inspire your romantic dreams the same way a Tahitian sunset inspired Gauguin’s

    In assembling our list, we paid close attention to the comfort factor. Although we’ve
    recommended a few private resorts, most of our selections tend to slip off the white
    gloves for a more natural kind of TLC. Beautiful Biarritz Beach on France’s Côte
    Basque, for instance, may not have the glitz and glamour of Saint-Tropez, but its
    charm is so intoxicatingly Old World that we defy you not to fall helplessly in love
    with itor on it.

    Conveniently, many of our picks are only a short hop from the world’s better known
    and more populated seaside retreats. The beach at Hanalei Bay on the Hawaiian
    island of Kauai, for example, is just around the coral corner from the family-friendly
    Anini beach. Surf splashers choose Anini; dreamers choose Hanalei. Ditto the
    sheltered Mexican resort of Majahuitas which, just down the coast from the bustling
    beach scene at Puerto Vallarta, specializes in a more hidden kind of hedonism.

    Accessor rather, lack of itplayed a key role in our selections, too. Getting to the
    jungle haven of Corcovado National Park on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula can be a
    trek worthy of Indiana Jones, requiring passage by chartered air, donkey cart and
    foot. But for thrill-seekers in search of love and adventure, that’s part of the fun.
    Meanwhile, if you can even find the tiny and idyllic Papa Cove on the Greek island
    of Ios, then you might want to consider a career in private investigation.

    A few of the usual suspects make an appearance on our list: the Great Barrier Reef
    in Australia, and the splendorous South Pacific paradises of Bora Bora and Fiji.

    But in the end, we were more interested in the kind of scenery you find in From
    Here to Eternity, not Frommer’s. In fact, one of our 14 selections possesses a
    feature we’d never seen before: a beach that’s actually shaped like a heart. Now
    there’s a place you gotta love.

    (See Romantic Beaches slide show online at

    Majahuitas (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico)
    Some call it a miniature heaven on earth. Down the coast from Puerta Vallarta,
    along the lower scoop of shoreline that traces the Bay of Banderas, lies the remote
    resort of Majahuitas. Accessible only by outboard boat (the jaunt takes 30 minutes
    and will run you about 50 dollars), the semi-private beach is best known for its
    rustic splendorluxurious huts lit only by candlelight, and exquisite feasts cooked
    to order right in front of you. For those who like to mix romance with recreation, the
    crystal waters at Majahuitas range from 10 to 60 feet, making for ideal scuba diving
    and snorkeling.

    Happy Bay (St. Martin)
    Gracing the ten-o-clock rim of the tiny tropical island of French St. Martin, the
    beach on Happy Bay is still relatively undiscovered, requiring a ten-minute hike
    through the underbrush to find it. Once there, however, this hidden haven instantly
    captivates. Shrouded by bent and swaying palm trees, and boasting a flawless
    crescent of white sand that neatly frames the sparkly turquoise water, the beach is
    largely uninhabited, and therefore known for its liberal dress code. Some villas are
    currently in the making here; but development remains spare, so at lunchtime most
    sustenance-seekers stroll south to the bar-restaurant scene on Friar’s Bay.

    Flamenco Beach (Culebra)
    The achingly pretty Flamenco Beach lazes on the northwest corner of Culebra, the
    picture-postcard isla chiquita seventeen miles east of mainland Puerto Rico.
    Perched next to a wildlife preserve, and melting into a light-blue surf that remains
    waist-deep 50 feet out, this idyllic, mile-long stretch of beige sand is frequently
    populated by lounging lizards and dive-bombing pelicansbut not a lot of tourists.
    Therein lies the romance. (Note: On the far end of the beach, abandoned military
    tanks sit in the brush, left over from U.S. Navy exercises in the Seventies. Man your
    cameras accordingly.)

    Magens Bay (St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands)
    They say pirates once ran their bawdy business out of St. Thomas, the hilly,
    subtropical gem that lolls in the northern waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Centuries
    later, the buccaneers have gone, but St. Thomas remains one of the Caribbean’s
    most popular ports of call. Pocketed on the top side of the island, and sheltered by
    rock formations and shade trees, is the beach at Magens Bay, a slam-dunk
    destination for lovers of surf, lovers of sunsets, and lovers period. What makes
    Magens so romantic? Well, for starters, the beach is shaped like a heart….

    Corcovado National Park (Costa Rica)
    For true nature enthusiasts, the beach at the southern end of Corcovado National
    Park on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is romance at its wildest. Getting there can be
    arduousthe trip requires flying into a tiny airstrip, surviving a bumpy cab ride (or
    donkey-drawn carriage) and, of course, hoofing it. But the payoff is obvious: Just
    off the green-sand beach sits a lantern-lit tent camp surrounded by a virtual eco-
    lab of vegetation and animal life, including scarlet macaws and monkeys. Here,
    enchanted visitors sip piña coladas in a thatched bar, wade in the Jacuzzi-warm
    surf, or bathe in a fresh-water stream that spills out from the jungle just a few clicks
    down. The ultimate tropical escape.

    Biarritz Beach (France)
    In 1854, Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugenia, built a palace on the shores of
    Biarritz in southwest France, instantly transforming the region from an ordinary
    whaling town into a vacation retreat worthy of royal attention. Today, Biarritz Beach
    on the Bay of Biscay remains the pride of the Côte Basque, each year luring
    endless waves of surfers and sunbathers to its golden sands, breathtaking cliffs
    and vibrant nightlife. Incidentally, for those who prefer their romance indoors,
    Eugenia’s little beach pad is now the world-class Hotel du Palais.

    Papa Cove (Ios, Greece)
    The odds were clearly stacked against it: Three thousand Greek islands are
    scattered about the Agaean Sea, 220 in the Cyclades group alone, one of them the
    serene, beach-strewn isle of Ios. And yet it all comes down to one little cove. On the
    quiet eastern shore of Ios, just south of the more inhabited Kalamos Beach, lies the
    secluded sanctuary of Papa, a barely-there inlet whose half-moon plot of sand,
    placid sapphire waters and protective curve of rock-mountain walls proves once
    and for all that the Greek Godsand Mother Natureknew a thing or two about

    The Seychelles (Indian Ocean)
    One thousand miles east of the African mainlandand the continent’s smallest
    sovereign statethe Republic of Seychelles continues to define romance, if only by
    the hordes of honeymooners who swarm to its lush shores every year. Although
    any beach on the 115-island cluster is worth the airfare, true lovers can be found
    ambling on the soft, flat sands of Anse Boileau on the main island of Mahé; or along
    the tranquil shorelines of La Digue (made famous in Bacardi ads), where everyone
    knows everyone and guests at the island lodge are fetched from the ferry by ox cart.

    Bentota Beach (Sri Lanka)
    Dangling like a dewdrop from the southern tip of India, the island nation of Sri
    Lanka is a topographical marvel, where rolling emerald plains gently blend into
    forested hills, and colorful Buddhist and Hindu temples dot the landscape like
    jewelry. But the beaches that fringe the perimeter of Sri Lanka are what best
    capture the heart, especially the sloping sands of Bentota, on the island’s
    southwestern ridge. Tucked between the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and a
    lazy blue river just behind it, Bentota Beach is a top choice among sun worshippers
    who know a garden paradise when they see one.

    Bora Bora (French Polynesia)
    Blessed with Crayola-color vistas, and dominated by the black-rock twin peaks of
    an ancient volcano at its center, Bora Borathe jewel in the crown of French
    Polynesia’s Leeward Islandsis renowned for its on-the-water deck-bungalows,
    complete with steps that lead directly down into bath-warm lagoons. The
    magnificent Matira Point, on the southern tip of the main island, is especially
    mesmerizing, with its mint-blue waves, sugar-white sands, and awesome views of
    the cloud-piercing mountains. Favorite activities-for-two include botanical hikes,
    beach picnics and glass-bottom-boating.

    Vatulele Island (Fiji)
    Lingering in the southwestern waters of the Fiji archipelago is the volcanic island of
    Vatulele (pronounced vah-too-LAY-lay), a coral-and-sand wonderland on which
    native coconut and taro farmers mingle among high-end jet-setters and
    adventurous wedding parties from around the globe. An all-inclusive resort, the
    island is home to a dazzling variety of villa facilities, some in jungle settings, others
    beachside. The 110-person staff is hellbent on pampering its guests, asking them
    to abide by one set of island rules: no money transactions, no telephones, no TV,
    no shoes. Hey, no problem.

    Hayman Island (Australia)
    Floating among the dreamscapes of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the private
    resort of Hayman Island, an eden-like outpost that practically flaunts it romantic
    grandeurwith sweeping, coral-lined beaches, verdant tropical foliage and a
    perpetually sultry climate. Visitors routinely share space with a colorful contingent of
    wild things (cockatoos, swans and butterflies abound), and at night the stars
    practically explode against the ink-black sky. High-end tourists can check out the
    sweet suite scene on the island’s southwestern side, with its ample villas woven
    among peaceful waterfalls, delicate gardens and open-air lanais.

    Hanalei Bay (Kauai, Hawaii)
    Quietly nestled on the northern shores of the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the beach
    at Hanalei Bay is damn near picture-perfect, with its elegant horseshoe of bright
    sand hugging the base of the island’s deep green mountains. Legendary for its
    terrific surf and intoxicating sea-air aroma, the striking landscape actually
    transforms throughout the day: In the morning, the glassy water reflects the
    surrounding cliffs like a three-mile mirror, and at sunset, you’d swear someone had
    painted the sky. Hand-in-hand beach strolls are mandatory here.

    Bahai Honda (Florida)
    Who says you need to cross the pond to find true romance? Located toward the
    center of the 1700-island shoestring of the Florida Keys, Bahai Honda State Park is
    something of a departure from the typical Florida beach scenequieter than the
    madness at Daytona, and blissfully devoid of the blanket-to-blanket crush of South
    Beach. Privacy reigns supreme here, with shallow, teal waters that stretch beyond
    the horizon, and hundreds of yards of virtually empty sand. For those who want to
    extend their romantic interlude to an overnight, the park provides 80 convenient
    campsites for tent-toters and RV drivers.

    (See Romantic Beaches slide show online at