15 of the world's dreamiest islands

With hundreds to choose from, where do you begin in selecting an idyllic location for your exotic island holiday? From snorkelling with the world's greatest underwater wildlife to uncovering breathtaking beaches, we've tracked down 15 dreamy islands to jet-off to ASAP
Long tail boats in Phi Phi Island, Thailand. Photo: Shutterstock
Long tail boats in Phi Phi Island, Thailand. Photo: Shutterstock

Is there really anything quite as exotic as jetting off on an island getaway? (We didn't think so.) There's just something about sun-drenched coastlines and crashing waves that automatically puts us in vacation mode. If you're planning your next luxury escape, check out these oh-so-dreamy destinations

1. Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Thailand has no shortage of alluring islands, and the twin islands of Ko Phi Phi are certainly no exception. This little slice of heaven, which boasts some of the best dive sites on the planet, is perhaps best known for the massive limestone rocks that sweep the horizon. The jarring cliffs make for a rock climber's paradise too. For a taste of the local culture, consider wandering into Tonsai Village for a bite of authentic Thai fare before the sun disappears into the dazzling Andaman Sea. Talk to one of our local experts to experience your next holiday like a local.

2. Kuramathi, the Maldives

Of all the dazzling islands in the Maldives, Kuramathi is a stunner. You'll find it tucked away in Rasdhoo Atoll, taking up about a mile of space in the Indian Ocean. From afar, it looks like nothing more than a lush green spec emerging from the azure waters all around. A closer look tells another story. Kuramathi boasts an ultra-luxe island resort that offers everything from dive courses to top-notch spa treatments. Wonderfully remote, this island is as off-the-grid as it gets, which you'll discover on Insight Guides' Luxury Sri Lanka and the Maldives holiday.

3. Santa Cruz, the Galápagos

If you're looking to explore the Galápagos, Santa Cruz will likely pop-up on your itinerary at one point or another. Puerto Ayora is where the majority of tours kick off, and with good reason; the Charles Darwin Research Station is here (a must-visit). A four-mile journey westward will bring you to Turtle Bay (Bahía Tortuga), known for its powder-white sands and lobster-rich waters. Further inland is a spectacular national park that's home to wild giant tortoises. Santa Cruz Island is the Galápagos at its best. Want to explore this yourself? Browse all suggested itineraries to the Galapagos Islands here.

4. Borneo

Borneo is a spectacular, sprawling Asian island that actually belongs to three countries (the south is Indonesian territory, while the north is split between Malaysia and Brunei). Kinabalu Park is one of the island's most precious sites – and also home to the awe-inspiring Mount Kinabalu, which is one of Southeast Asia's most popular natural attractions. The park itself is a treasure trove of natural wonder, including hot springs and hundreds of different species of orchid. For underwater adventures, head to Sabah. The waters just off the coast are brimming with unique marine life, perfect for snorkelling or diving. Dive in and discover Borneo and other Malaysian highlights with Insight Guides' Traditional Malaysia and Wild Borneo holiday.

5. Fiji

Oh, Fiji... This classically dreamy island in the South Pacific has it all. Mud pool baths? Yep. Waterfall rock diving? You bet. Zip-lining adventures? That too. It also happens to be a premier surfing and diving site. What most people don't know is that Fiji is actually made up of over 300 islands (each one more luxurious than the next). Between the vibrant coral reefs, natural rainforests, towering mountain ranges and rushing rivers, it's easy to get lost in the raw beauty that is Fiji.

Kayaking in Fiji.Kayaking in Fiji. Photo: Shutterstock

6. Cuba

Thanks to the relaxed travel restrictions between the US and Cuba, the tiny Caribbean island is shaping up to be a bonafide luxury vacation spot. Havana, with its cobbled streets and pastel-tinted old buildings, is wonderfully old fashioned in terms of its Spanish colonial architecture and overall vibe. Don't expect high-speed Internet in Cuba; the island isn't exactly known for its modern-day technology. Instead, it's a place to disconnect (with the sparkling waters of Playas del Este serving as the perfect backdrop).

7. Lastovo, Croatia

Lastovo is made up of a scattering of 46 teeny islands. Those aiming for some introspection are in for a treat here; WiFi and phone service is extremely limited on this far-flung slice of paradise. But we doubt you'll miss it once you discover the fantastic national park, orchards, vineyards, and beaches; you'll quickly understand why Lastovo is one of the world's best islands to visit.

8. Great Exuma Island

Literally hundreds of islands and cays come together to form the Exumas, an altogether lovely region in the turquoise waters of the Bahamas. Great Exuma Island is a quiet escape made up of unspoiled sand and dazzling coastlines. Capital city Georgetown offers tourists a dose of history, entertainment, live music and culture; but the real stars here are the hidden little patches of beachy goodness.

9. Phuket

Phuket is Thailand's biggest (and perhaps most luxurious) island. Lively bars, pristine beaches, offshore islands, and cultural diversity are all on the menu. Where natural attractions are concerned, Khao Phra Thaeo National Park stands out for its untouched rainforest. Meanwhile, Ao Phang Nga Marine National Park (close by, on the mainland) is home to many of the alluring limestone rock formations for which Thailand is so well known. For something truly unique, take a day trip Koh Bon – where there's an absence of electricity and fresh water, leaving visitors enchanted by the raw natural beauty of the island.

10. Anguilla

This charming northern Caribbean island is all about quaint boutique hotels and all-out luxury. To visit Anguilla (which is a short flight from St. Maarten) is to step into tranquility. Serene, laid back, and intimate, Anguilla is where you come to escape everyday life with lazy catamaran cruises on the wildly blue water. This is off-the-beaten path goodness, right here.

Meads Bay on the Caribbean island of Anguilla.Beautiful Meads Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Caribbean island of Anguilla. Photo: Shutterstock

11. Langkawi, Malaysia

When it comes to divine island landscapes, Langkawi is hard to beat. Rugged mountains and untouched wild jungles set the stage for a beach getaway like no other. Waterfalls abound on Langkawi, which you'll find just off the northeast coast of Malaysia. For the best vantage point, Panorama Langkawi can bring you to the top of Mount Machinchang. Here, walk across the epic SkyBridge; a 100-metre-high, curved suspension bridge that connects two equally astounding peaks. For something a little less heart-pumping, Kilim Karst Geoforest Park is an ideal destination for discovering ancient caves. Discover fascinating Langkawi and more with our Insight Guides' Indulgent Malaysia holiday.

12. The Bonin Islands, Japan

The Bonin Islands (also known as the Ogasawara Islands) make for the ultimate tropical destination. They're actually made up of three different island groups that came about thanks to an age-old underwater volcano. In other words, don't expect to see flat stretches of land here. Instead, the mountainous, hilly islands feature dramatic cliffs and high peaks. Located a little over 600 miles south of Tokyo, the Bonin Islands are downright mesmerizing, boasting vibrant marine life and some of the most unspoiled beaches in the Pacific; making them by far among the best islands to visit. 

13. Île Saint Marie, Madagascar

Pristine beaches, adventurous activities and wildlife-watching opportunities: Madagascar has it all. More specifically, the Île Saint Marie, a stretch of land off the east coast has something for every type of traveller. Explore the island by 4WD, quad bike or pirogue (a traditional dug-out canoe). Those wanting to spot the local wildlife can start with exploring unbelievable snorkelling and diving sites, with crystal-clear visibility and plenty of marine species. Alternatively, if you just want to fly-and-flop, the beaches here are out of this world. Take it all in, and Madagascar's main sites too, on Insight Guides' Dreaming of Madagascar holiday.

14. Sri Lanka

The whole of Sri Lanka – about the size of Ireland and located off India's southeast coast – is actually an island, and an incredible one at that. With an abundance of lush tropical landscapes and golden beaches as far as the eye can see, Sri Lanka is an exotic getaway that's earned its place as a top luxury location. Curious travellers have an endless supply of tea plantations, delicious local food, ancient temples, and misty mountaintops to explore. For a truly intimate beach experience, put Mirissa on your list. The crowds are thin, and you just might spot a whale or two off the coast. Experience this exotic getaway with Insight Guides' Unforgettable Sri Lanka.

15.  Islas Ballestas, Peru

These gorgeous islands off the south coast of Peru are home to dozens of rare bird species including boobies and albatrosses, among others. To get to Islas Ballestas, which are actually part of the Reserva Nacional de Paracas, prepare for an hour-and-a-half boat ride from the mainland. Along the way, you may catch site of the famous Paracas Candelabra; a mysterious geoglyph that stands nearly 600 feet high. Upon arrival, you'll likely be greeted by wildlife galore, from penguins to sea lions. (It's little wonder Islas Ballestas have earned the title of a "poor man's Galapagos.") Talk to one of our local experts and plan a holiday to meet these animals up close.

Ballestas Islands, Peru.Ballestas Islands, Peru. Photo: Shutterstock


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