Who doesn’t like a taste of life on an island? Where you can kick off your shoes, leave work behind, and cocktails aren’t just available at the snap of a finger, they’re encouraged.
Islands make people think of paradise: a place to get away from the stress of everyday life and find a perfect patch of sand where they can relax under swaying palm trees and watch the calm blue sea.
But not every island is made the same way. Some places are more beautiful because of the sea that surrounds them. The sea’s clear water and thriving coral kingdoms can captivate experts.
Other islands have lush jungles and soft peaks, and some of them are cultural gems that travelers love. Whether you’re looking for beautiful beaches, landscapes, or foreign cultures, these islands are far from the noise of everyday life but close to creature comforts.
Find your own Shangri-la on this list of the most beautiful islands globally, from Seychelles to Santorini and the Caribbean to Capri.
Table of Contents
1. The Maldives
Some of the most beautiful islands in the world are in the Maldives, but the sea makes these islands shine. Aquamarine waters that are bright and clear lap on these white beaches and barely stick out of the Indian Ocean.
The Maldives archipelago, which comprises 26 natural atolls, is the world’s lowest-lying country. Its highest point is only three meters above the water, and that number gets smaller every year.
Under the beautiful water, coral reefs grow and attract divers and snorkelers from worldwide. Surfers also come here because the waves aren’t too crowded.
Back on land, the Maldives’ luxury resorts are great places to start trips that focus on the sea, which is the archipelago’s most significant asset and its biggest threat as the climate changes.
The Maldives’ designer accommodations in the Maldives are out of this world. You can stay in underwater villas, over-water villas, or anything. There is even an underwater restaurant where you can eat while tropical fish swim all around you.
The Maldives is a great place to relax, so you can spend your days sipping cocktails and lying in the sun. You can also go snorkeling, diving, or surfing to keep things interesting.
2. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
This lush volcanic island, which looks like a giant sombrero, is the star of many South Pacific dreams. The beautiful turquoise lagoon in the middle of this tropical paradise is the main attraction and best thing about it. The water is clear, and fish, turtles, sharks, and ray’s swim. The lagoon is full of small islands called Motus.
The island is, of course, very French, and the food is delicious to match. The reefs around the island are excellent for diving and snorkeling, and there are hiking trails that go through the palm-covered forests.
If you have the money, you can hide out here in a luxurious over-the-water bungalow and fall asleep to the sound of the sea.
On the volcanic island of Bora Bora, people spend most of their time at the beach. The vast turquoise lagoon is the main draw here, but many people also come for the island’s sunny white beaches and ultra-luxurious resorts with romantic over-water bungalows. But if you want to look around, Bora Bora has more to offer than just the beach.
Hike up the slopes of Mount Pahia for a bird’s-eye view of the whole island, snorkel the coral gardens at the northern tip of the island, and swim with sea turtles as part of a local effort to protect the environment. Getting close to manta rays, lemon, blacktip, and grey reef sharks can be a thrilling experience for scuba divers with a PADI license. Don’t forget your camera, you can use it underwater!
3. Palawan, Philippines
Palawan is a province on an island in the far west of the Philippines. This group of islands is a true paradise, with national parks, mysterious limestone caves and bays, and turquoise lakes and lagoons in the interior.
The Philippines’ version of heaven is Palawan. This island province is southwest of Borneo. It has lush limestone peaks that rise out of a jewel-like sea so clear you can almost see the fish’s faces from above the surface.
Palawan has some fantastic places to dive, like the shipwrecks in Coron Bay that have turned into coral reefs over time. Every day in Palawan is magical. You can swim in waterfalls, kayak on quiet lagoons, and ride a paddleboat at night to see bright fireflies.
Many of these jungle-covered islands have thin strips of white sand beaches with rustling palm trees. Under the water, coral reefs are filled with a wide variety of tropical fish, making for some of the best diving in the world.
The islands’ unique wildlife, emerald lakes, and quaint fishing villages are also big draws. Coron has a lot of excellent resorts, and El Nido is one of the most beautiful islands in the chain. You can hop from island to island in the beautiful Bacuit archipelago.
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is a beautiful limestone cave system with a long underground river. It is a World Heritage Site.
Seychelles is worth going to because they are clean and beautiful. East of Kenya, this group of 115 coral and granite islands has a lot to offer, from UNESCO-listed jungles and thriving coral reefs to powdery beaches lined with palm trees and giant boulders on either side.
Each island has something unique to offer. Mahe is great for learning about culture, La Digue is great for getting back to nature, Praslin is great for going from beach to beach, and Silhouette is excellent for diving. In Seychelles, you can share the beaches with giant 100-year-old Aldabra tortoises and see protected bird species like the rare Seychelles black parrot, which is also the national bird.
Nearly half of the land on these equatorial islands is protected, and many of the islands are surrounded by fish-filled marine sanctuaries that are great for diving and snorkeling.
Seychelles also has some of the best fishing spots on the planet, making it a popular place for anglers. When you add the spicy Creole food and the luxurious resorts on Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue, it’s easy to see why Seychelles is so famous.
5. Santorini, Greece
Santorini, surrounded by a sea-filled caldera, is stunning for its dramatic beauty. Villas in a bleached white tumble-down volcanic rock. Blue-domed churches rise from the glistening water, and vivid sprays of bougainvillea add to the eye-catching color pallet.
The whitewashed and blue-domed Cycladic settlements that cling to the caldera cliffs above the edge of the Aegean Sea make this Greek island famous for its beautiful sunsets.
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.
Stroll through the alleyways of Oia town, wine and dine at gourmet tavernas, relax on the volcanic beaches, or take a luxury catamaran cruise into the sunset. Because it is one of the most expensive islands in Greece, you will surely rub shoulders with the affluent and famous. Santorini is unique for its scenery and Mediterranean climate alone.
Santorini’s other features are the Akrotiri Archaeological Site, Ancient Thira, the black sand beach of Perissa, and, of course, the spectacular sunsets. Sailing into this breathtaking caldera flanked by towering sea cliffs creates an incredible first impression.
Bali is a haven for yogis and surfers, and it may be one of the most popular islands on Earth. There are regular retreats there. Even though Bali has become much more commercialized in recent years, with everything from backpackers to top-rated villa hotels, there are still a lot of cultures to be found here.
The rich culture of Bali is a feast for the senses. The air smells of incense from Hindu temples, the rice paddies glow a bright electric green, and the food makes your taste buds jump. Surfing, swimming, and laying out in the sun are popular things on the island’s beautiful beaches. There are also many other things to do on this exotic island, like visiting temples and seeing the sights in the lush countryside, getting a spa treatment, shopping, or hiking.
Take in the spiritual side of Bali in Ubud, visit Seminyak and family-friendly Sanur, feel the pumping pulse of touristy Kuta, or check out the sights on the nearby volcanic island of Lombok.
There are forested volcanoes, beautiful beaches, and rolling rice paddies around the Land of the Gods. There are authentic villages, Balinese temples, and tourist towns. The Uluwatu Temple is the most important thing to see in Bali. Because it is on the edge of a cliff, it is one of the best places on the island to watch the sunset.
Want to stay somewhere stylish? You can choose from beautiful beach resorts, and if you’re bringing the kids, there are lots of places to stay that are affordable and good for the whole family.
Bali is an excellent place for people who love the water. It’s a great place to snorkel and dive because it’s part of the Coral Triangle, which has the most marine life.
One thing is sure: the magical spirit of Bali will wash over you like a warm, tropical wave.
7. The Cook Islands
If you’ve ever wanted to be a castaway in the South Pacific, the Cook Islands are for you. 15 islands make up the archipelago. They live in French Polynesia, Samoa, and other islands, but they have strong ties to New Zealand.
Aquamarine lagoons, beaches with palm trees, and volcanic peaks are some of the best things to see on the islands. Best of all, the people who live there are some of the nicest in the South Pacific.
Rarotonga is the principal place where tourists go because it has a lot of resorts, green peaks, and beaches. Aitutaki is one of the most gorgeous islands in the South Pacific. Hibiscus grows all over the hillside villages, and there are 21 small islets, or motus, in the lagoon. Many of the resorts are reachable by kayak from the motus.
You can live out your Robinson Crusoe dreams by staying in an over-the-water bungalow or a simple beach shack on a faraway island.
8. Fili, Australia
Fiji is one of Australia’s favorite tropical getaways. It has everything a dream island should have. There are lots of white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and coral reefs full of life. And the people of Fiji smile warmly and welcome visitors.
Many people visit this island, which helps the economy of this country. The weather here stays the same all year, making it a great place to visit. You can go scuba diving and explore the coral reefs surrounding the island or take long walks on the white sand beaches. The island is one of the most beautiful globally because of how beautiful its natural environment is.
In Fiji, people like to dive, snorkel, fish, and, in some places, surf. But relaxing under a palm tree and slipping into the warm, smooth seas can be fun. With more than 300 islands, it’s easy to find the best one for your vacation, from luxurious celebrity hideaways and family-friendly resorts to the beautiful Yasawa and Mamanuca groups.
Fijians love little kids, so this is an excellent place for families who want to relax.
9. Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
Ko Phi Phi is probably one of the most well-known groups of islands in Thailand. It is best known for a beautiful natural bay where the movie The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was shot. But while many people come here and put Maya Bay at the top of their list of things to do, Phi Phi has a lot more to offer besides Maya Bay.
The six islands of Phi Phi are so beautiful that they take your breath away. They have beaches with pearl-white sand and emerald water. Hire a longtail boat or go swimming and snorkeling with the fantastic marine life. There are a lot of cheeky monkeys who swing from tree to tree on Monkey Beach and other nearby islets.
In Ko Phi Phi, a small group of islands in Thailand’s Krabi Province, lush limestone peaks rise out of the tropical sea, and warm waters lap on sugary beaches lined with palm trees.
Ko Phi Phi is back on its feet after being hit by the tsunami in 2004. Its natural beauty still reminds people of the dreamy tropical island setting of the famous Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach, filmed at Maya Beach on the smaller neighboring island of Ko Phi Phi Leh.
Ko Phi Phi Don is the only island where people live, and you can take day trips to the other islands. Swimming, snorkeling, and diving are also popular things to do. Don’t miss Monkey Beach, known for the cheeky monkeys who live there.
10. The Dalmatian Islands, Croatia
The Dalmatian Islands are a beautiful mix of laid-back charm and deep history. They are in the Adriatic Sea, near the coast of Croatia. There are small villages, boutique hotels and restaurants, and some of the best beaches in Croatia all around these beautiful islands.
Zlatni Rat, a famous beach strip on the island of Brac, is at the top of the list (Golden Horn). Hvar is also beautiful. It has Gothic churches, an old town without cars, and a beautiful fishing harbor. You can quickly get to the gorgeous Pakleni Islands, which are known for their clear water and quiet coves.
Other must-see Dalmatian islands are Korcula, with its red-roofed, whitewashed buildings, Mljet, with its two saltwater lakes inside the island, and Vis, which isn’t as busy as the other two.
11. Kaua’i, USA
Kaua’i is known as “the Garden Isle” for a good reason: rainforests cover most of the island’s interior, waterfalls drop from lava cliffs, and the sweet smell of tropical flowers fills the hot air.
But the beauty of the island is not just in its lush plants. Its coastline is so beautiful that it will take your breath away. Lava shaped this beautiful island, which rises from the ocean floor with smooth ridges and cliffs surrounded by beautiful beaches.
Divers and snorkelers from all over the world come to sea turtles and tropical fish swimming along coral reefs under its cobalt blue seas. Kaua’i has a more laid-back vibe and moves slower than its more famous sister islands, Maui and Oahu.
Don’t miss Kauai’s best sights, including the beautiful Na Pali Coast, the 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon, and the views of Hanalei Bay from the cliffs above.
12. Capri, Italy
Glamorous About 20 kilometers from the Amalfi Coast is the island of Capri. It lives up to all the hype. Sea stacks and high cliffs rise from the teal-colored Tyrrhenian Sea, surrounded by sprays of colorful flowers.
One of the most popular places to visit is the blue grotto, a glowing sea cave where locals row tourists in on small boats and sing operas to show how well the cave works as a sound system.
Take the funicular up to Capri’s main town, which looks like it was made for a movie when you get to the port of Marina Grande. The piazza here is full of well-dressed locals and tourists with shopping bags full of designer clothes and sweet-smelling perfumes from the island.
While you’re here, you should also go to Anacapri, which is the highest town, and take the chair lift up to Monte Solaro to see amazing views of the island and the sea.