A half billion people have genital herpes infections worldwide. Approximately one-fifth of American women between ages 14 and 49 are HSV-2 seropositive. The development of an effective genital herpes vaccine is a global health necessity based on the mental anguish genital herpes causes for some individuals, the fact that pregnant women with genital herpes risk transmitting infection to their newborn children, and the observation that HSV-2 infection is associated with a 3-fold to 4-fold increased probability of HIV acquisition. We review the strengths and limitations of preclinical animal models used to assess genital herpes vaccine candidates and the goals of prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines. We also discuss the current pipeline of vaccine candidates and lessons learned from past clinical trials that serve as a stimulus for new strategies, study designs and endpoint determinations.