Islands conjure dreams of paradise: an escape from the rat race and a perfect patch of sand where you can relax under rustling palms and gaze at a serene blue sea.
But not all islands are created the same. The beauty of some is defined more by the sea that surrounds them, which can captivate connoisseurs with its crystalline clarity and thriving coral kingdoms.
Other islands feature luxuriant jungles and velvety peaks, and some enchant travelers with their cultural jewels. Whether it’s sublime beaches, stunning topography, or exotic cultures you seek, these islands lie far from the workaday clamor but close to creature comforts.
From the Seychelles to Santorini and the Caribbean to Capri, find your very own Shangri-la in this list of the most beautiful islands in the world.Maldives
he Maldives are home to some of the world’s most ravishing islands, but it’s the sea, which truly makes these islands shine. Luminous aquamarine waters with a crystal clarity lap upon these dazzling white shores, which barely peek above the Indian Ocean. Consisting of 26 natural atolls, the Maldives archipelago is the planet’s lowest lying nation, rising no more than three meters above the sea at its highest point, a measurement that shrinks every year. Beneath the mesmerizing waters, coral reefs flourish, luring divers and snorkelers from around the world. Surfers also flock here to ride the uncrowded breaks.Bora, Back on land, the Maldives’ luxury resorts provide the perfect launching points for adventures focused upon the sea, the archipelago’s greatest asset, but also, as the planet’s climate changes, its single greatest threat.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia Shaped like a giant sombrero, this lush volcanic island stars in countless South Pacific fantasies. The focal point and best asset of this tropical beauty is its ravishing lagoon in technicolor turquoise. Fish, turtles, sharks, and rays swim in the clear waters, and tiny islets or motus dot the lagoon. The island, of course, is distinctly French, with mouthwatering cuisine to match. Diving and snorkeling are excellent in the surrounding reefs, and hiking trails weave through the palm-studded forests. If you can afford it, hide out here in a luxurious over-the-water bungalow and bask in your good fortune as you fall asleep to the gentle slosh of the sea.
Palawan, Philippines Palawan is the Philippines’ answer to paradise. This island province stretches southwest to Borneo, with lush limestone peaks rising from a jewel-like sea so clear, that you can almost see the expressions on the fish from above the surface. Slivers of gleaming white-sand beaches fringed with rustling palms rim many of these jungle-clad islands, while under the water, coral reefs teem with an impressive diversity of tropical fish, offering some of the best diving in the world. Other attractions include the islands’ unique wildlife, emerald lakes, and quaint fishing villages. Coron is home to plush resorts, and El Nido drips with natural beauty and is one of the most alluring islands in the chain. From here, you can island hop around the spectacular Bacuit archipelago. One of Palawan’s top attractions is the World Heritage-listed Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, an impressive limestone cave system with a long underground river.
Santorini, Greece Encircling a sea-filled caldera, spectacular Santorini scores top points for its dramatic beauty. Bleached white villas tumble down volcanic cliffs. Blue-domed churches rise against the sparkling sea, and bright sprays of bougainvillea add to the eye-popping color palette. Perched atop the black lava cliffs, the settlements of Firá and Oia are the island’s most picturesque — and pricey, destinations — and Oia ranks among the most photographed locations in the world. Other highlights of Santorini include Akrotíri Archaeological Site, Ancient Thira, the black sand beach of Perissa, and of course, the sublime sunsets. Sailing into this stunning caldera surrounded by soaring sea cliffs makes an unforgettable first impression.
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 isle, 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, feel the pumping pulse of touristy Kuta, or 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.
Palm lined beach in Fiji One of Australia’s go-to tropical escapes, Fiji ticks all the fantasy island boxes. White-sand beaches, translucent turquoise waters, and teeming coral reefs are all found here in abundance. And the Fijian people welcome visitors with warm, friendly smiles. Diving, snorkeling, fishing, and, in some areas, surfing are all popular things to do in Fiji, but sprawling under a palm tree and slipping into the silky warm seas can be equally rewarding. With more than 300 islands, it’s easy to find the best island for your vacation, from luxurious celebrity hideaways and family-friendly resorts to the sublime Yasawa and Mamanuca group. Fijians love young children, so this a fabulous destination for families looking to relax.
Koh Samui, Thailand Ang Thong National Marine Park on Koh Samui Jungle-backed beaches, jewel-toned seas, and perfectly arching palms: Koh Samui is pure, tropical eye candy. Throw in kaleidoscopic coral reefs and the emerald peaks rising from the turquoise sea in the sublimely beautiful Ang Thong National Marine Park, and it’s hard not to fall in love with this tropical Thai paradise. Koh Samui’s sister islands, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, are also worth a visit. In fact, day trips to these idyllic islands are one of the top things to do during a visit to Koh Samui. Other popular places to visit include the beautiful boulder-strewn Chaweng and Lamai beaches, the shops and food stalls of Fisherman’s Village, and majestic Buddhist temples. Wondering where to stay in Koh Samui? Accommodation ranges from beachfront resorts to luxury villas and affordable hostels.