Beautiful beaches, turquoise water, mouth-watering seafood, and endless activities. Island vacations offer all of this and more in a small, easy-to-navigate package.
Every part of the world has some stunning islands to explore, which grow in popularity as tourist destinations every year.
The 16 Best Island Vacations in 2023
There are so many breathtaking islands to visit across the globe that it can be hard to know where to start looking. Each region has something different to offer, from tropical destinations in East Asia and the Caribbean to quaint villages and cliffs in Europe.
Whether you are looking for cultural spots, pristine nature, or a relaxing time on the beach, most of the islands on our list have all three. This list features islands in most geographic regions and at varying price points.
We take you through some of the most famous and popular island hot spots and some underrated gems rising in the tourist scene. Read on to find the perfect place for your next trip.
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If you’ve spent even one minute on Instagram in the last decade, you’ve seen Santorini. It is a Greek island surrounded by the stunning aquamarine waters of the Aegean Sea.
The landscape is dotted with beautiful houses, whose white-washed walls are topped with royal blue roofs and shutters. Santorini is the most-visited Greek island, and rightly so.
The beautiful scenery is only the beginning because there is something for everyone on this island. Some must-sees are the unbeatable sunset from Ia, the picturesque villages, and the fascinating cave excavations.
Santorini is also the perfect island for foodies. There is boundless fresh seafood incorporated into the famous Mediterranean diet. Santorini is just one of many beautiful Greek islands, and you can make the most of your trip by taking a ferry for a day trip to Mykonos or Crete.
Read Next: Where to Stay in Santorini and Best Time to Visit Greece
2. Koh Samui, Thailand
Koh Samui is one of the lesser-known spots on our list but this hidden gem is an all-time favorite. Koh Samui is Thailand’s second-largest island, known for palm-lined beaches, coconut groves, and lush jungles.
Koh Samui features some of the most luxurious spas and resorts, for a significantly smaller price tag than ones on more well-known islands like Hawaii or Bora Bora. The famous Thai hospitality will follow you to this paradise, and you’ll feel spoiled at any of the hotels.
Koh Samui also has some unexpected cultural sites. One of the most breathtaking is the 12m-tall golden Big Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai Temple, located on a small island that connects to Koh Samui.
Read Next: Is Thailand Safe to Visit in 2023 and The Best Time to Visit Thailand
3. The Azores
Looking at google image results for The Azores will make you feel like your watching a fantasy movie. The Azores are a group of nine islands off the coast of Portugal that features the best of Southern European culture with some of the most breathtaking scenery on the continent.
The Azores’ landscape is converted into lush green trees all year, and wildflowers dot beautiful meadows in the spring and summer.
Each island features gorgeous beaches, multi-colored lakes, and centuries-old Portuguese villages. A trip here will feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a place untouched by modernity.
Bali is one of the most popular island vacation spots worldwide, and rightly so. Bali truly has it all: towering volcanos nestled in green jungles, quaint fishing villages with beautiful pagodas, and sandy beaches that look out over some of the bluest water you’ll find anywhere.
This Indonesian island also has delicious food and some of the friendliest locals.
While some locals resent tourists, those in Bali are welcoming and always excited to meet people from far and wide. Don’t be surprised if you get invited to dinner at someone’s home as soon as you meet them.
Read Next: Is Bali Safe? and Best Time to Visit Bali
5. Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands were made famous by Charles Darwin over 200 years ago when he used the wildlife there to discover and explain evolution. Centuries later, these islands are still as awe-inspiring as they were to Darwin.
One of the best parts of the Galapagos is the unique wildlife. Massive tortoises that slowly wander the beaches, intimidating but fascinating iguanas, and playful sea lions all line the shores of the Galapagos.
The islands also feature exciting hikes up rocky cliffs and the second-largest crater on earth.
While this spot is most popular with adventurers and wildlife lovers, there are plenty of relaxing corners on these Ecuadorian islands. Those who want to sit on the beach all day will not be disappointed.
There are so many islands in Hawaii that we couldn’t pick just one to talk about. Kauai is the oldest and most rugged island, perfect for those who want some nature that feels untouched by civilization.
- Maui boasts miles and miles of gorgeous coastline for the perfect relaxing getaway.
- The Big Island has varied activities, from two active volcanoes to indigenous historical sites.
- Lanai is the most remote of the islands, and the unspoiled scenery will make you feel totally at peace.
- Honolulu has both nature and tons of cultural activities to keep everyone entertained.
A vacation to Hawaii will be a trip to remember if you stay in just one of these gorgeous places or do some island hopping.
There are plenty of ferries and even flights to take you between the islands. Some would be an ideal day trip whereas others require a few days to get a genuine experience.
Read Next: Map of the Hawaiian Islands and Best Time to Visit Hawaii
Maldives is one of the most Instagrammable places on earth, and every year more people flock to this luxurious paradise. It can be time-consuming and expensive to get to this small nation of islands on the Indian Ocean but if you can put in the effort, it’s more than worth it.
Maldives is not so easy to navigate but that effort brings some of the most pristine beaches and clear water you’ll ever see. Despite being a heavily visited area, the beaches still look like they’ve never been inhabited.
These islands are the perfect getaway for ultimate relaxation and tranquility. Many resorts are made up of individual bungalows right on the water so you can spend your time completely removed from the rest of the world.
Read Next: Best Time to Visit Maldives
8. Dalmatian Islands, Croatia
Croatia has become one of the hottest new tourist spots over the past few years. Most people flock to the southern city of Dubrovnik. While Dubrovnik is worth a visit, the islands off of the Dalmatian coast slightly further north are also a must-see.
The most famous island is Hvar, which boasts the most sun of any island in the Adriatic. The rocky beaches offer stunning views of aquamarine water, and you can hop from Hvar to other islands like Brač, Korčula, and Vis.
Each island has quaint villages to explore, delicious seafood, and some of the nicest people you’ll meet. These islands have something for everyone.
Hvar is known for its active nightlife that rivals Ibiza. Brač has a 15th-century Dominican monastery while Vis boasts the Blue Cave, one of the most breathtaking wonders in Europe.
Read Next: Best Time to Visit Croatia
Aruba is an island just off the coast of Venezuela that belongs to the Netherlands crown. It has been a trendy tourist destination for decades because of its gorgeous scenery and easy access.
It is a true Caribbean paradise with perfect weather almost all year and stunning beaches. Aruba’s economy is almost entirely based on tourism, which means it’s incredibly accommodating for anyone looking to relax or adventure.
Aruba features some of the best beaches in the Caribbean and the entire area has exciting shipwrecks that attract divers worldwide. Aruba also features quaint cities with a mix of Caribbean and Dutch culture and design.
The capital, Oranjestad, has cultural significance as well as aesthetic beauty. There is something for everyone to do on this island, from diving and snorkeling to breathtaking cliff hikes to sitting all day on the beach with a good book.
Read Next: Best Time to Visit Aruba and Where to Stay in Aruba
10. The Isle of Sky
The Isle of Sky takes its name from an Old Norse word meaning “cloud island”. This is an apt description for this rugged and stunning island right off the coast of Scotland. This is unique from the tropical and Mediterranean islands that make up the rest of our list but it is no less worth a visit.
Skye is one of the most beautiful places in Europe, even when shrouded in mist, which it often is. The mist creates a hushed and serene atmosphere where you can hear lapping waves and watch water droplets overt the rolling moors.
When the mist clears, the island is full of lush, rolling hills dotted with sheep, tons of medieval castles, and wonderful hiking trails. Don’t forget about the world-renowned whiskey distilleries, art galleries, and cozy pubs.
11. Bora Bora
Bora Bora is another popular island destination known for romantic getaways. It is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations many resorts and spas are specifically for couples looking for a romantic retreat.
This is a tiny island fewer than six miles long but it packs so much beauty into a tiny space. Many people consider this the most beautiful island in the South Pacific with its glittering beaches on a backdrop of staggering cliffs.
The locals in Bora Bora are some of the friendliest you’ll meet since their economy relies totally on tourism.
Bora Bora is perfect for nature lovers and features amazing snorkeling, scuba diving, and hiking. A hike up Mount Otemanu will give you some of the most breathtaking views in the world and is well worth the trek.
Read Next: Best Time to Visit Bora Bora
12. Andaman Islands, India
Another somewhat hidden gem, the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal between India and Myanmar, feature some of the most untouched nature left in the world. Of the 36 islands on the archipelago, only a few are open to tourists to preserve the wildlife, beaches, and jungle.
A trip to the Andaman Islands will give you some of the softest sand beaches lined with palm trees, gorgeous green jungles to explore, and some of the most pristine diving spots in the world. These islands are perfect for adventure lovers who want to experience nature in its purest form.
13. Te Waipounamu/South Island, New Zealand
New Zealand’s South Island (officially known as Te Waipounamu by the local Maori population) is the perfect vacation spot for those who are more interested in breathtaking adventures than lounging on the beach.
There are some beautiful beaches on South Island, but the place is mostly known for hiking up towering mountains and zip-lining through lush jungles. However, as this is the larger of New Zealand’s two islands, there is something for everyone.
The island also has pristine ice-blue lakes that get their water from glaciers and natural hot springs for relaxation. The city of Queenstown provides both nature adventures and wine tastings in local vineyards.
14. Palawan, Philippines
Palawan is a gorgeous archipelago in the Philippines and is a true slice of heaven. This fantasy land is not as popular for tourists as others on our list, but its beauty is unparalleled.
Stand on a rocky cliff overlooking the pristine, aquamarine waters, and you’ll feel like you’re at the edge of the earth. These islands are dotted with quaint fishing villages that have been around for centuries, and many parts of the islands are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Explore the Japanese shipwreck off of Coron Island, which is considered one of the best dive sites in the world. Take a boat tour to the Puerto Princesa Underground River, or see exotic wildlife at the Calauit Game Preserve.
Read Next: The Best Time to Visit the Philippines in 2023
15. Mallorca, Spain
Mallorca is one of the most popular vacation destinations for Europeans, and it is worth the hype. You can drive around this small island off the coast of Spain in a matter of hours, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do.
Mallorca boasts white, sandy beaches with crystalline water, mountain towns in the north with cobblestone streets and quaint B&Bs, and a capital city with a boisterous nightlife.
There are plenty of luxury resorts on the island, and also smaller towns with peace and quiet easily accessible. This island is perfect for a family or group with varied interests, as there are plenty of things to do.
Try a wine-tasting on a train in the northern mountains, or watch a live concert deep in a cave in the east. Of course, you can’t forget the mouth-watering paella and seafood.
Seychelles may not be as well known as island nations nearby like Maldives but it is growing in popularity. This African island nation consists of many small islands spread over the Indian Ocean, each of which has some of the most stunning nature you’ll ever see.
You’ll start your adventure in Seychelles on the largest island Mahé which has extremely luxurious resorts and a quaint capital city.
From there, take a boat to the nearby islands of Praslin and La Digue which are easy to access but feel like an oasis. For a real adventure, ride to smaller and less-inhabited islands and feel like you’ve stepped foot on another planet.
Read Next: The Best Time to Visit Seychelles in 2023
Things to Consider
The tropical climate of many islands on this list means they can attract natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis. While many islands have protection against storms, bigger disasters can be devastating.
When planning an island vacation, try to avoid traveling during hurricane or monsoon season, which can vary depending on the part of the world you are traveling to. As island vacations become more popular, they become more expensive.
However, many island spots on this list have extremely varied prices depending on whether you stay in a resort or somewhere local. If you are looking for a more affordable vacation, try searching for accommodation outside of the major resorts, and you might find something surprisingly affordable.
Something anyone must consider when traveling abroad is the language barrier. If you stay in the touristy areas of the islands listed above, almost everyone will speak perfect English.
However, if you venture to more local areas you might find people who only speak the local language. While this can seem like a challenge, there are always ways to communicate that should get you anywhere you want to go.
Make an effort to learn a few words and phrases of the local language, and you will make fast friends. Tropical destinations often come with the risk of diseases that don’t exist in colder climates
The wildlife on some of these islands might not be familiar to travelers, who could be at greater risk for infections they might carry. Check with your doctor and embassy website to see if there are any vaccines you need to travel to an island, and any other precautions you can take to avoid infection.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that we’ve highlighted some of the best island vacations out there, you might still have some questions about your trip. We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions below:
How do I get to my island vacation?
All of the islands on our list have their airports. Some, like Mallorca and South Island, you can travel internationally from almost anywhere. Others will require a flight to the mainland and a smaller flight to the island. Either way, you will be able to reach all of these beautiful vacation spots on a comfortable plane.
How removed are these islands from mainland amenities?
This question depends on which island you are visiting. This question depends on which island you are visiting. You can reach the mainland by ferry if you visit the Dalmation Islands or Mallorca. However, somewhere like the Andaman Islands are more removed. If you’re concerned about being too far from a larger civilization, try one of these spots closer to its host country.
Are there any special visa requirements for island vacations?
While some islands are their own countries, almost all of these islands belong to larger countries with a mainland. Therefore, any visa requirements for the islands will be the same as those for the mainland. Make sure you check your country’s embassy website to see if you will need a travel visa.
Are island vacations good for families?
Islands are some of the best vacation spots for families. They are generally a smaller space than somewhere one might vacation on the mainland making them easier to navigate. Despite their size, they usually have a huge variety of natural and cultural activities that people of all ages would enjoy.
Is there an environmental impact of traveling to islands?
Unfortunately, climate change is negatively impacting the entire world. Islands are some of the most affected areas because they are at sea level and don’t have as much land to protect them from the elements. Luckily, many of the islands on our list have eco-friendly travel hotels and activities.
So, What Are the Best Island Vacations?
We’ve taken you through some of the best island vacations out there on this extensive list. From pristine beaches in East Asia to exciting wildlife in South America, there is sure to be an island on this list for any kind of traveler.
All that’s left to do is see which island on this list appeals to you the most, and start doing more research. We’re sure that any of our readers will find their next wonderful island vacation from this list!