Not all islands are made equal. Some people’s beauty is characterized more by the water that surrounds them, which can enchant connoisseurs with its crystalline clarity and vibrant coral kingdoms.
Other islands have lush jungles and silky peaks, while others attract visitors with their cultural treasures. These islands are far from the workaday bustle but close to creature comforts, whether you’re looking for magnificent beaches, stunning landscapes, or fascinating cultures.
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1. The Maldives
The Maldives has some of the most beautiful islands in the world, but it is the sea that truly makes these islands shine. These beautiful white coastlines, which barely peep above the Indian Ocean, are lapped by luminous turquoise waters with pristine clarity.
The Maldives archipelago, which consists of 26 natural atolls, is the world’s lowest country, reaching little more than three meters above sea level at its highest point, a measurement that is shrinking every year.
Coral reefs thrive beneath the captivating seas, attracting divers and snorkelers from all over the world. Surfers from all over the world come here to ride the uncrowded waves.
Maldives’ luxury resorts are ideal starting points for experiences centered on the water, the archipelago’s greatest asset, but also its single greatest threat as the planet’s climate changes.
2. Palawan, Philippines
The Philippines’ response to heaven is Palawan. With beautiful limestone peaks rising from jewel-like water so clear that you can practically see the expressions on the fish from above the surface, this island province reaches southwest to Borneo.
Many of these jungle-clad islands have slivers of brilliant white sand beaches flanked by rustling palms, while coral reefs teem with an astounding diversity of tropical fish, making for some of the best diving in the world.
The islands’ distinctive biodiversity, beautiful lakes, and picturesque fishing villages are among the other attractions. Coron is home to opulent resorts, and El Nido, one of the chain’s most enticing islands, oozes natural beauty. You can island-hop your way through the magnificent Bacuit archipelago from here.
The World Heritage-listed Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, an outstanding limestone cave system with a lengthy underground river, is one of Palawan’s top attractions.
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Seychelles is worth visiting because they are pristine and picture-perfect. This 115-island coral and granite archipelago east of Kenya is brimming with attractions, from UNESCO-listed jungles and vibrant coral reefs to palm-lined, white beaches fronted by massive boulders.
Almost half of the land area of these equatorial islands is protected, and many of them are located within fish-rich marine sanctuaries with outstanding diving and snorkeling opportunities.
Seychelles also has some of the world’s best fishing areas, making it a popular fishing vacation. When you add in some spicy Créole cuisine, as well as the luxury resorts of Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue, it’s easy to see why Seychelles is so appealing.
4. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
This gorgeous volcanic island, shaped like a huge sombrero hat, appears in countless South Pacific imaginations.
The stunning lagoon in technicolor turquoise is the focal point and outstanding asset of this tropical paradise. In the pristine waters, fish, turtles, sharks, and rays swim, while tiny islets known as Motus dot the lagoon.
Of course, the island is French, with delectable cuisine to match. The nearby reefs offer superb diving and snorkeling opportunities, and trekking trails wind through palm-studded woodlands.
Hide out in a beautiful over-the-water house if you can afford it, and revel in your good fortune while falling asleep to the soft slop of the sea.
5. Santorini, Greece
Santorini, which is encircled by a sea-filled caldera, is known for its stunning beauty. Villas in a bleached white cascade down volcanic cliffs. Bright sprays of bougainvillea add to the eye-popping color palette, which includes blue-domed churches rising against the glittering sea.
The towns of Firá and Oia, perched atop the black lava cliffs, are the island’s most attractive — and expensive — getaways, with Oia ranking among the most photographed locales in the world.
Santorini’s other attractions include the Akrotiri Archaeological Site, Ancient Thira, Perissa’s black sand beach, and, of course, breathtaking sunsets. Sailing into this breathtaking caldera flanked by rising sea cliffs leaves an indelible image.
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6. Bali, Indonesia
Bali’s intoxicating culture is a feast for the senses. Incense wafts from Hindu temples, rice paddies glow in electric greens, and the food jolts the taste buds.
Surfing, swimming, and sunbathing are popular activities at the island’s beautiful beaches, and tourists will find so many other things to do on this exotic island, from temple hopping and sightseeing in the lush countryside to spa treatments, shopping, and hiking.
Soak up the spiritual side of Bali in Ubud, see Seminyak, and family-friendly Sanur, and feel the pumping pulse of touristy Kutaror explore the attractions on the neighboring volcanic island of Lombok.
Looking for somewhere chic to stay? Choose from beautiful beach resorts, and if you’re bringing the kids, you’ll find plenty of good-value places to stay with the family.
One thing’s for sure: Bali’s enchanting spirit will wash over you like a warm, tropical wave.
7. Koh Samui, Thailand
Koh Samui is sheer tropical eye candy, with jungle-backed beaches, jewel-toned seas, and gracefully arching palms. It’s difficult not to fall in love with the sublimely magnificent Ang Thong National Marine Park, which features colorful coral reefs and green peaks rising from the turquoise sea.
Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, Koh Samui’s sister islands, are well worth a visit. Day visits to these gorgeous islands are, in fact, one of the most popular activities on Koh Samui.
The gorgeous boulder-strewn Chaweng and Lamai beaches, the shops and food booths of Fisherman’s Village, and the majestic Buddhist temples are all popular sites to visit.
Beachfront resorts, luxury villas, and budget hostels are all available.
8. Capri, Italy
Glamorous Capri, a small island 20 kilometers off the Amalfi Coast, lives up to its reputation. From the teal-hued Tyrrhenian Sea, sea stacks and soaring rocks rise, framed by sprays of brilliant flowers.
The blue grotto, a shimmering sea cave where locals drive guests in on miniature boats and sing opera to showcase the acoustics, is one of its most popular tourist attractions.
When you arrive at Marina Grande’s harbor, take the funicular up to Capri’s main town, which looks like something out of a movie. The plaza is bustling with well-dressed natives and visitors carrying shopping bags stuffed with expensive goods and the island’s divine scents.
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9. Whitsunday Islands, Australia
The Whitsunday Islands, which are scattered along the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, are Australia’s take on the traditional tropical island fantasy. The summits of drowned hills rise above the stunningly blue Coral Sea to form these 74 beautiful islands.
Sailing is a popular activity in the Whitsundays, and diving along the fish-rich coral reefs is fantastic. Six national parks safeguard this delicate ecology, and hiking paths allow you to visit some of the islands.
Beachfront campsites, eco-retreats, and family resorts are all available, as are luxury escapes like Hayman Island and Qualia on Hamilton Island.
10. Kaua’i, USA
Kaua’i is called “the Garden Isle” for good reason: rainforests cloak much of the interior, waterfalls tumble from lava cliffs, and the intoxicating fragrance of tropical blooms hangs heavy on the sultry air.
But the island’s beauty lies not just in its luxuriant flora. Its spectacular coastline will take your breath away. Lava sculpted this stunning island, thrusting up from the ocean floor to form velvety ridges and vertiginous cliffs rimmed by gorgeous beaches.
Beneath its cobalt-blue seas, turtles and tropical fish swim along coral reefs, delighting divers and snorkelers from around the globe.
Compared to its popular sister islands, Maui and Oahu, Kaua’i exudes a low-key vibe and tends to move at a more relaxed pace, the breathtaking Na Pali Coast, 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon, and the cloud-capped vistas from the cliffs above Hanalei Bay.