Romantic island getaways tantalize honeymooners

Islands often epitomize the ultimate "dream vacation," and what better time to take the trip of your dreams than your honeymoon?

Here's a sampling of four unique and romantic island destinations from four corners of the globe — the Pacific, the Midwest, Europe and Asia — to tantalize any bride- and groom-to-be.

The 50th state retains seemingly endless popularity as a honeymoon destination.

Oahu offers the brilliant bustle of Honolulu and Waikiki; Maui has world-class resorts and night life contrasted with pristine scenery; the Big Island provides dramatic volcanic activity and spectacular beaches; Kauai is lush, green and tranquil.

But in addition to these well-traveled destination islands, the island of Lanai beckons.

Lanai, chosen out of all the world by Microsoft mogul Bill Gates as his private wedding site, is luxurious and intimate. Home to two top-rated romantic resorts — the upcountry Lodge at Koele and the beachfront Manele Bay Hotel — the island of Lanai gives couples championship golf, terrific snorkeling, horseback riding, croquet, exceptional regional cuisine and lots of blissful peace and quiet after a whirlwind of wedding planning.

For information, call (800) 321-4666.

Michigan is perhaps ones of the last places to come to mind when thinking of island travel, but Mackinac Island offers a wonderful get-away without leaving the mainland United States. Poised between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas in the Straits of Mackinac, this island — less than nine miles around — is as secluded and magical as visitors discovered in the 19th century.

Take a small public ferry or private plane to the land; once you arrive, no cars are allowed. Couples can explore natural and historic sites, botanical gardens and golf courses, and a lively, cobblestone Main Street by traveling on foot, horseback, tandem bike or in a horse-drawn buggy.

The historic Grand Hotel — the setting of many a romantic movie, including "Somewhere in Time" with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour — is Mackinac's showplace, a white pine palace with a sweeping front porch (the world's largest) overlooking a lush lawn, pool and the cool, calm waters of the straits. Or cuddle up at one of the island's lovely Victorian bed-and-breakfasts.

Call the Mackinac Chamber of Commerce for details at (800) 454-5227.

Many believe Italy is the most romantic of countries, a warm place filled with wine, food and laughter, where people enjoy la dolce vita — the sweet life. And if Italy means romance, then Venice should be the capital.

It is a city renown for dreamlike gondola rides on tranquil waterways, leisurely cappuccinos in St. Mark's Square and stolen kisses beside the Grand Canal. But a hidden secret of this northern Italian coastal city is the exclusive Isle of Giudecca, just across the Giudecca Canal from the heart of Venice.

And here lies the Hotel Cipriani, a first-class European hotel which — in the true Italian fashion — caters to lovers. With only 67 rooms and 28 suites, attention to detail can be seen in the fine fabrics, canopy beds, marble baths and French doors leading to private patios; the hotel's Olympic-size, outdoor saltwater pool is surrounded by gardens.

When couples are ready to emerge from their seclusion to explore the narrow streets and extraordinary art galleries of Venice, the hotel provides a complimentary, five-minute boat ride to St. Mark's Square around the clock.

Call (800) 237-1236 for reservations or information.

A largely unknown and untraveled tropical destination, Pangkor Laut, Malaysia, was once a private island seen only by a sultan.

Today, this 300-acre getaway off the west coast of Malaysia has been turned into a sublime resort with an exotic ambiance perfect for couples.

Nestled within an ancient rain forest, Pangkor Laut has all the amenities of the modern world in a setting reminiscent of a traditional Malay village.

Although it is quite a journey to get there — including a helicopter ride from Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur or a ferry from Pangkor — this enchanting destination is worth the trip. Honeymooners will find picturesque Malay cottages hovering above the turquoise Strait of Malacca; inside are beautiful rooms and enormous baths with windows that showcase panoramic views.

Private beaches, charter boats for exploring nearby islands, guided treks through the jungle and romantic dinners for two under glowing lanterns will fill the days and nights with unmatched memories.

For information, call (800) 628-8929.