Best Island Vacations
Sprawling beaches, rich cultures and untouched pockets of wilderness are just a few alluring characteristics of the best islands in the world. According to experts and U.S. News readers, each of the islands listed here boasts a little something extra that keeps travelers enchanted. Consider which islands you favor, cast your vote below and help us rank next year's list of best coastal locales.
- View 23 PhotosBelongs on List?#1 in Best Island VacationsRead More
This popular honeymoon spot is more than a hideaway for amorous duos. Beach bums can unwind beside the turquoise water, foodies can savor aromatic Mediterranean flavors during a winery tour and history buffs can explore the remains of Thira and Akrotiri. Plus, the Greek island's volcanic setting gives travelers the chance to admire unique red and black sand beaches and hike to the top of the caldera for picturesque views of whitewashed villages. After taking in their surroundings, visitors can stroll through the cliff-side village of Oia, where they'll find various restaurants and shops.
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When you're not surfing or sipping tropical cocktails in your overwater bungalow, explore Tahiti's striking natural wonders, including the white sands of La Plage de Maui and the cascades at Fautaua Waterfall. Looking for more adventure? Hop a boat to Tahiti's sister island, Moorea, to hike the breathtaking Magic Mountain. Then, return to Tahiti to explore the shops and markets in Papeete, French Polynesia's capital.
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Cyprus#3 in Best Island Vacations
With its honey-colored beaches, forested nature trails and ancient ruins, Cyprus appeals to a wide array of traveler interests. Beach lovers can head to the vibrant waters of Nissi Beach, while history and architecture enthusiasts can admire the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque. This Mediterranean island is home to both Greek and Turkish descendants, giving it a wealth of culture and a unique cuisine full of wine, slow-cooked meat and lots of halloumi cheese. Work up an appetite with a hike through Cyprus' jagged mountains or a walk to the city of Paphos – the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite.
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A trip to the Maldives will require patience since it takes plenty of cash and more than a day to fly there from the U.S. But what this Indian Ocean paradise lacks in accessibility it makes up for in striking beaches and exceptional diving conditions. Of course, your first stop should be at the shore; try Hulhumale Beach for snorkeling and sunbathing or Cocoa Island for a romantic stroll at sunset. After you've soaked up some sun, head to Male' to marvel at the Grand Friday Mosque and explore the bustling Male' Fish Market.
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In the 100-plus years since Charles Darwin discovered this natural wonderland, the Galápagos have yet to lose their magic. Countless birds, iguanas, penguins and massive turtles roam this archipelago, while herds of sea lions frolic on its shores. Bring your hiking shoes so you can make your way to the islands' sky-high rock formations and Sierra Negra Volcano, home to the second-largest crater on the planet. While the Galápagos are certainly not your typical beach getaway, you can still find relaxing beaches like La Loberia and Tortuga Bay.
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A quintessential Bora Bora vacation includes days spent lounging along secluded white sands, boat trips through clear aquamarine waters and four-wheel-drive tours through the French Polynesian island's lush forests. Gazing at extinct Mount Otemanu from above during a helicopter tour or from below in the lagoon is a must. Adventurous travelers should also save time for feeding sharks and stingrays. Although this destination is already pricey, vacationers should splurge on an overwater bungalow for the full Bora Bora experience.
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This dreamy Thai island in the Andaman Sea balances cosmopolitan flair with rugged beauty. Here, you'll find white sand beaches sidled up next to mountainous rainforests and towns full of ornate Buddhist temples like Wat Chalong. For the best views of the sea, venture to Promthep Cape, the southernmost point of the island, or sign up for a boat tour. Don't miss the chance to enjoy the shopping, dining and rollicking nightlife scene in Patong.
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A collection of nine lush, green islands in the Atlantic, the Azores have grown in popularity over recent years. These Portuguese paradises are perfect for hiking, whale watching and eating fresh seafood. Choose the largest island of São Miguel for its lakes and charming downtown, the smaller Flores Island for its waterfalls and wildlife or the picturesque Pico Island for its towering volcano. Regardless of which unique island you pick, you'll find a relatively untouched setting that exudes authenticity and promotes sustainability.
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Home to one of the largest reef systems in the world, the Turks and Caicos Islands are a diver's paradise. Visit the Bight Reef to see hundreds of colorful fish near the shore or Smith's Reef for stingrays and turtles. Above the surface, this network of 40 islands plays host to a bevy of luxurious hotels and picturesque beaches perfect for sunbathing or horseback riding. Families should spend time near Taylor Bay's shallow, crystal-clear water, while others will want to check out Grace Bay's beautiful white sand and adjacent restaurants.
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This Atlantic Ocean island's hidden coves, pink sand beaches, friendly people and relaxing atmosphere draw vacationers in droves. Easily accessible from the East Coast, Bermuda offers posh stores and restaurants, as well as nine picturesque golf courses. In fact, the island boasts the world's highest concentration of golf venues per square mile. When travelers are not hitting the links, shopping or sunbathing, they can admire St. George's colonial architecture or snorkel at Horseshoe Bay Beach or Tobacco Bay.
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Kauai is the oldest and most rugged of the Hawaiian archipelago. Adventure seekers will love hiking Waimea Canyon's red rocks, while the Napali Coast beckons to photographers with its 17 miles of dramatic cliffs and gorgeous ocean vistas. Meanwhile, beach bums will want to head to the shorelines of Poipu Beach Park or Hanalei Bay, both of which typically offer calm waters safe for swimming. Think about renting a car to easily get around this unique island, and make sure to bring sneakers or hiking boots, as some of Kauai's most beautiful sites are only accessible on foot.
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With breathtaking mountains and pointed pagodas, it's no wonder why Bali is often referred to as heaven among visitors. On this Indonesian island, you can tour ancient religious sites like the waterfront Uluwatu Temple and Tirta Empul Temple, where you'll see worshippers praying in a large pool. You should also take the time to explore Bali's intricate rice paddies and simply lounge on resplendent beaches like Sanur and Nusa Dua.
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These islands' white sand shores offer fantastic scenery, but there's more to Fiji than what you'll see from your beach towel. You can hike the volcanic mountains on the Mamanuca Islands, peruse the boutiques of Suva or venture beneath the surface and snorkel with the islands' colorful fish. Plus, Fiji offers unique cultural experiences like firewalking ceremonies and kava tastings. When you want to learn more about the islands' history, head to the Fiji Museum in Suva.
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With authentic Greek cuisine, charming oceanfront villages and excellent beach weather, Crete is a favorite among travelers. Swimmers and sunbathers will love visiting pink-hued Elafonissi and palm tree-covered Vai. What's more, Crete is home to Samaria Gorge National Park – a hiker's paradise and one of the longest canyons in Europe. For a dose of history, visit the archaeological sites and museums that bring the Greek island's ancient past to life, such as the Palace of Knossos and the Venetian Fortezza.
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The pure versatility of the Big Island's geography is enough to earn this Hawaiian island recognition as one of a kind. A walk through Akaka Falls State Park will bring you past exotic vegetation, while a trip to Kealakekua Bay will present ample snorkeling opportunities. But no visit would be complete without checking out the island's black sand beaches and Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. This national park is where you'll find one of the world's most active volcanoes, Kilauea, and one of the world's largest volcanoes, Mauna Loa.
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The British Virgin Islands are considered the most exclusive and least-developed islands of the Caribbean – perfect for travelers with deep pockets and a love for boating and seclusion. Plan to sail between islands – there are more than 60 to choose from. Virgin Gorda is a must because of The Baths, an array of coastal boulders and caves that vacationers can wade or climb through. Meanwhile, Tortola offers some of the archipelago's best beaches, as well as hiking-centric Sage Mountain National Park.
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The Greek isle of choice for travelers on a budget, Corfu is home to a plethora of sprawling, pebbly beaches. Glyfada and Paleokastritsa are perennial favorites. There's also the Canal d'Amour, a beach that will reportedly bring you love when you swim in its water. When you need a break from the sand and surf, explore the island's cultural offerings, including the Paleokastritsa Monastery – a 13th-century structure situated among olive trees – and the Palaio Frourio, a 16th-century fortress with sweeping island views.
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Curacao blends European culture with a laid-back Caribbean lifestyle. As you stroll past the colorful Dutch-style homes and shops in the capital city of Willemstad, you may think you've wandered into a tropical version of Amsterdam. Outside the city, the island is teeming with wildlife. You can see sea turtles lay eggs as you hike in Shete Boka National Park or snorkel alongside bottlenose dolphins during a visit to Klein Curaçao beach.
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This tropical eastern Caribbean island is a geological wonder, offering visitors the opportunity for both adventure and relaxation. Explore the flora and fauna at Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens, drive into the volcano at Sulphur Springs Park or challenge yourself to a hike up Gros Piton – one of two volcanic mountains that comprise St. Lucia's iconic Pitons. Then, visit the island's pristine beaches, which have attracted everyone from everyday travelers to Hollywood filmmakers. Try windsurfing or water skiing at popular Reduit Beach, snorkeling at Anse Chastanet and sunbathing at quiet Marigot Bay.
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