What is more romantic than dinner for two at a secluded table in a luxurious island location? Nothing in this world. What can look good at any restaurant looks even better against white linen and waves. Why? Ask someone you love.
Le Méridien, Bora-Bora: Reptiles and romance — the theme behind Le Tiare restaurant at Le Méridien resort — would seem absurd back home. But neither protective glass nor railings separate guests from the water here, and the lagoon's otherworldly coloring isn't painted on. The creatures in the water are not animatronic, and the star-strewn sky doesn't sprawl above a planetarium's steep seats. Here everything is real — including romance. You and your dinner companion sit in wicker chairs on the edge of a wooden deck over the resort's real-life Turtle Sanctuary. A peaked thatch roof towers above, and wild green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles swim below, tugging attention from yellow-fin tuna carpaccio and sesame-seaweed salad on the table. Across the water, another turtle raises your line of sight to include a familiar silhouette rising from the lagoon: an over-water hut. It's further proof that you're in the dream destination of Bora-Bora. Imagine being together every time you take a bite — whether of the mahimahi or the sea bream or the lobster — or as you sip the dry white Muscadet wine. You have to check to make sure this is all happening. A nod, a smile — almost laughter — register something beyond awe: This is real! —Eddy Patricelli
TABLE IN THE INN
Hotel Su Gologone, Sardinia: Go back in time. A cobbled path through an olive grove, an ivy-covered villa built of limestone quarried from the surrounding Supramonte massif — every step you take together carries you another decade back until you enter Su Gologone resort's dining room. Copper pots and pans hang on cobalt-blue walls in a candlelit dining room fragrant of myrtle and rosemary. Racked in front of the 100-year-old fireplace, the restaurant's signature porceddu, or suckling pigs skewered on metal rods, roast before a glowing fire. Su Gologone, a country inn on this mountainous island, is known for two things: its romantic atmosphere and its authentic Sardinian cooking. Along with porceddu, there's homemade ravioli stuffed with wild fennel and pecorino, and seadas — cheese fritters flavored with lemon peel and drizzled in local honey. Order a bottle of the region's famed blood-red Nepente di Oliena wine, toast your good fortune and put your appetite in the chef's hands. Tomorrow morning you can work it off, trekking together along an ancient shepherd's path. On a clear day, you can see the tiny fishing village of Cala Gonone from the overlook. On a beautiful evening, you can imagine your future shining on the silvered Mediterranean Sea. —David Lansing
PRIVATE DINING PENINSULA
Grand Wailea Resort, Maui, Hawaii: The sun drops below the horizon across the Pacific, and a crescent moon rises in its place. Every head at Grand Wailea Resort's Humuhumunukunukuapua'a restaurant turns toward the best seats in the house. Guests of honor, the two of you make your way out onto a private peninsula over a saltwater lagoon and settle into wicker armchairs at Table 70, adorned with hand-carved tiki lamps. Of course, there's not a bad seat at Humu's, named for Hawaii's official state fish, and everyone gets treated like Hawaiian nobility.
Reminiscent of Hawaii's royal king ponds, the lagoon, along with a Polynesian-style thatched roof, makes dining here an occasion. The restaurant features locally caught fish prepared with Asian accents. But have no fear — there's no humu on the menu. (If you want to see the fish, snorkel off the nearby beach.) Sip a Tsunami made with mango and passion fruit, and choose a spiny lobster from the water below you. The chefs will grill it and serve it with their signature fried rice in vanilla brandy cream. Top off the evening with Yuzu cheesecake and a stroll under the stars. —Lori Barbely
BALCONY TABLE ABOVE THE SQUARE
Espaco Lisboa, Coloane, Macau: A restaurant in China that feels like a country village bistro in Portugal? Well, they say true love is unexpected, too. Here on the charming island of Coloane off China's southern coast west of Hong Kong, Lord Stow's Bakery and the St. Francis Xavier Chapel, where you can light a candle to mark the day, accent this destination. In a tiny two-story house, painted tile floors and a balcony festooned with flowers give Espaco Lisboa the feel of a European fairy tale. Its small balcony offers the best tables for fair weather — ask for the one on the right — but the restaurant's diminutive nature makes every table romantic.
One trip here and you'll be spoiled by robust Portuguese specialties like fried codfish cakes, sautéed clams and pata negra. Melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese salad and honey bread are a must. And for the full Espaco Lisboa experience, ask the chef to open a bottle of champagne from the impressive wine list, then order the tenderloin steak seared tableside on hot tiles. And crepes suzette made for two while you watch adds yet more flare to all that sizzle. —Jenny Block
TABLE ON THE BEACH
Grace Bay Club, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos: Tiki torches and ocean waves define your dining room. Anacaona restaurant at the Grace Bay Club only does one seating per night at this water-side table for two, so when you and your sweetheart dine alone on Grace Bay Beach, the seating area is at maximum capacity. The setting alone would be enough, but here comes the first course, a tasting of crab blackened with tomato marmalade, salad with creole dressing and tempura served over a bed of bok choy. No decisions to be made, no need to lift a finger — except to sip your fresh raspberry mojito — and all the time you want. The chef prepares a set menu for the beach table, and your semi-private butler delivers it. Before long, the festive mood of the open-air, 130-seat dining area gets lost in the distance behind you. Second and third courses go down easily. Perhaps too easily — you need room for the entrees (yes, three of them): seared Provo red snapper, sautéed Chilean sea bass and grilled filet of prime angus, all paired with matching wines. The petit fours can't be missed, either, nor the Grace Bay coffee with three kinds of rum and whipped cream, nor the glittering path formed by moonlight on the water. gracebayclub.com —Ashley Knaus
TABLE BY THE BAY
Hermitage Bay, Antigua: The endless possibilities of an Antigua day come down to these evening few: a table of dark wood on white sand and a Zodiac tugging at its chain in the shallows, black rock framing the sea and two tilted glasses of champagne. For overnight guests only, the Hermitage Bay resort prepares special dinners on the beach. Shrimp linguine in white-wine cream sauce or charred beef tenderloin with roasted beets may be your toughest choice. Behind you, the covered dining room — built from purple and green heartwoods — feels hewn from the island itself. Hermitage Bay curves into a rugged landscape, and the resort's cottages curve up the hill.
Antigua claims to have 365 beaches, but the soft strand you're sitting on together feels like the only beach on earth. In shadow, a sailboat captain drops anchor in the bay and furls his sails. He ignites his masthead light to signal nightfall, then disappears belowdecks. You're not quite alone — someone has refilled your glasses and left white chocolate spring rolls, with an oil lamp to share them by. You have all the company you need. —Matthew Miller