Looking for the best island destinations to visit on your next vacation? Find travel inspiration in this list of 13 amazing island destinations. Thirteen avid travellers and bloggers had their say on what their favourite island destinations are! Here is what they had to say… here are 13 of the world’s best islands!
World’s Best Islands
Tens of thousands of islands dot our planet’s oceans and seas! From Aruba to Zanzibar, here are 13 islands that should be on your bucket list!
1. Cape Breton Island – Canada
Recommended by yours truly, Alannah McEwan, from Itchy Feet Travel
Since Canada is my home country and it’s turning 150 this year, I wanted to choose one of Canada’s beautiful islands to feature as one of the world’s best islands.
Tourists and international travellers often overlook Atlantic Canada. It is one of the most underrated regions of Canada yet has an abundance of natural beauty and culture to offer.
Cape Breton Island is ranked as the #1 Island in North America by Travel + Leisure magazine and home to the Cabot Trail which was ranked in USA Today’s 10 Best Motorcycle Trips, MSN Travel’s 10 Most Underrated Attractions, and Zoomer’s 7 Greatest Road Trips.
The island is a great place to visit for road trip lovers, nature lovers, and beach lovers. The island boasts the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site – the largest historical reconstruction in North America. Take in the local culture and music, the island is home to more fiddlers per capita than any other destination in the world and to many beautiful cultures including Mi’kmaq, Celtic, and French/Acadian.
Don’t make the mistake of overlooking this part of the world – it’s sure to be an experience you won’t forget!
2. Phu Quoc Island – Vietnam
Recommended by Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels
After a recent trip to Vietnam, I now have a new favourite island destination – Phu Quoc!
Phu Quoc is a sleepy little island with the most amazing beaches. Many of the accommodations are found at Long Beach or Ong Lang Beach. Both beaches have calm, warm water perfect for swimming with beautiful white sandy beaches. You can stay in basic beach bungalows only a few meters from the shore!
Dotted along the beaches are little bars and cafes – perfect for watching the most amazing sunsets. Spend your days swimming, sunbathing, and having a massage right on the beach. Explore beaches like Sao Bai and check out the local villages along the way.
I love this place for all the reasons above but most of all I love the laid-back vibe of this place. However, this sleepy island is set for big things with development happening all over the island – so if you want to experience the magic of Phu Quoc I suggest you visit it sooner than later!
3. Rosario Islands – Colombia
Recommended by Anna Hammerschmidt from Come Join my Journey
My favourite island destination is the Rosario Islands. The Rosario Islands are beautiful, a seemingly untouched group of islands off the coast of Cartagena Colombia in the Caribbean Sea.
The water is warm and crystal clear, the clearest water I have ever seen! The straw-thatched roofs of the huts along the water’s edge will draw you in as you approach land. It is a screen saver quality location that looks and feels like paradise. There are so many ways to discover these islands, from island hopping on a yacht to taking a ferry out to one of the public or private beaches. These boat trips are very affordable.
Without spending much money you can spend your day snorkelling in the coral reef, lounging on the beach, and canoeing through the mangroves. While in the Rosario Islands, I had the best Red Snapper right off the bone. We were lucky enough to have our fish served in the sea. We had a table in the water so we were able to stay refreshed while eating.
Locals walk through the water selling freshly cut coconuts. You could easily spend an entire day at the sea. There is a lot of character beyond the beaches of the Rosario Islands. From locals who sell goods in the sand to the small villages across the island, there is so much to discover. If bartering with locals isn’t for you, you can spend your day at a private beach in one of the Rosario Islands’ resorts.
These islands are an experience beyond the palm trees and sea breeze, a truly unique group of islands in the Caribbean.
4. Sint Maarten Island – France & Netherlands
Recommended by Meghan Ramsey from The Traveling Teacher
I have been all over the Caribbean and visited many islands. My favourite island and my vote for on of the world’s best islands is Sint Maarten.
Sint Maarten is a very unique island because it is half French and half Dutch – and their only form of income is tourism. Because of this, the experience there is a very luxurious one. It can easily get expensive, so be careful and plan ahead!
While I was there, I went on both sides and even visited a French bakery for macaroons! Fun fact – you can get a French and Dutch stamp on your passport while there. This island is also unique because of its beaches. The water is very blue and clear. Many beaches are bathing suit optional beaches, which is different from many other Caribbean islands.
The most famous beach is Maho Beach where planes fly right above you. For a serious thrill you can stand along the fence and feel the pressure from the jets. We saw people fall into the water from getting pushed over by the force, and get some serious scrapes on the road so I do not recommend doing this.
The snorkeling is great and you can get adventurous and go zip lining, jet skiing, and more. We fed iguanas, found sea stars, and held sea urchins. This island has something for everyone. My friend and I couldn’t stop talking about how much fun we had here and are already trying to plan a way to get back soon!
5. Lewis and Harris – Scotland
Recommended by Brigitte van de Pas from The Life And Times Of A Dutchie Abroad
Scotland has over 200 islands, each with its own character. Lewis and Harris is the largest of the Scottish islands, and it is well worth a visit.
The Outer Hebrides are known as the Scottish bounty islands, and the waters around Lewis and Harris are unbelievably turquoise. Although the temperature on Lewis and Harris rarely rises above 20 degrees Celsius and the palm trees are suspiciously absent here, laying on the beaches of Bosta, Luskentyre or Scarista you do not need a lot of imagination to imagine that you’re on a tropical island.
This rugged island has more to offer than just natural beauty. Lewis and Harris is also home to some of the oldest man-made structures in the world. Erected during the Neolithic age, the standing stones of Callandish are surrounded by a number of smaller circles of standing stones and other ancient places of worship.
For those interested in history, Lewis and Harris has plenty to enjoy. Visit the blackhouses and discover how the islanders lived until about 50 years ago. Or dive into World War I history and visit the impressive Lewis War Memorial in Stornoway. Visit the HMY Iolaire memorial site where, on New Year’s Day 1919, a ship with returning Lewis and Harris soldiers was wrecked with the harbour in sight.
Lewis and Harris has plenty to offer to both the nature lover and the history buff. In Scotland this is by no means a unique combination. But of all the Scottish islands, Lewis and Harris has by far the most beautiful beaches and the wildest landscape.
6. Maui Island – Hawaii
Recommended by Dany from Travelling Danny
I discovered Maui, one of the world’s best islands, on my honeymoon. We were looking for a very relaxing place where we could just lay on the warm sand and let the ocean wash away all our worries. The first thing I noticed upon landing was that the air smells like tropical flowers. After a while, you get used to it but believe me, the memory will stick with you for a lifetime!
Maui is an island where people live in swimsuits with a surfboard under their arm. It has this easygoing feel that helps you to relax and recharge your batteries. You can walk on the warm sand watching the surfers chase the perfect wave while eating a delicious cup of shaved ice. There are tons of little shops that sell this colourful desert not far from the beaches, often close to the locals who sell coconut milk. Imagine yourself drinking coconut milk directly from the coconut, sitting on white powder sand with a straw hat on your head and the sun kissing your skin.
How can you not love it? But Maui is much more than “just” sea and surfers. There’s a beautiful wild side to this island, that you can explore on the road to Hana. The road consists of approximately 600 curves and 54 bridges through a luscious forest, where you will find waterfalls and hiking paths.
This island has everything you could ever want! Relax by the ocean and live a great adventure all in the same place.
7. Aruba Island – Netherlands
Recommended by Magda from Follow the View
8. Zanzibar Island – Tanzania
Recommended by Clíodhna from Your Next Big Trip
My favourite island is Zanzibar. Even the name evokes images of palm trees and exotic spices. The reality is no different.
My first experience of Zanzibar was getting lost in the narrow streets of Stone Town trying to find my hotel. Luckily, the local people are some of the friendliest you will meet and I quickly found someone to escort me to my destination. Navigating even the shortest distances is an adventure in itself. One of my favourite things to do in Stone Town is to wander without a plan, stopping for spices, coffee, or clothing in the treasure trove of shops.
Of course, the main reason that most people go to Zanzibar is for the beaches. Along the coast are palm trees, relaxed beach bars, and beautiful dhow boats. Between activities like snorkelling at Mnemba Atoll or stand-up paddling through a mangrove forest, you will find yourself wishing for an extra hour in the day.
Sunsets in Zanzibar are the best I have seen anywhere in the world. Find a spot on the beach with locals and other tourists and watch local boys practice acrobatics by the water. It’s an amazing sight and, of course, everyone stops for the sunset.
I first visited Zanzibar 2 years ago, as a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip. Three trips, and many friends later, I know that it’s the island I’ll keep coming back to.
9. Maldives Islands – Republic of Maldives
Recommended by Nicole LaBarge from Travelgal Nicole
I have been to the Maldives twice and I can honestly say it is my favourite island destination. The Maldives recently opened up to local tourism, before it was all-inclusive resorts, but now you can find reasonable places to stay. Get the experience of living like a local by staying at a guesthouse on Mahibadhoo, you will pay much less than for an over-water bungalow.
There is so much to do and see in the Maldives and most of it is underwater! The Maldives is like an underwater playground. There is so much snorkelling and diving! There are boat trips to go snorkelling with whale sharks, manta rays, and lots of turtles and fish. The water is unlike anything I have seen before. We stopped at several sandbars in the middle of the Indian Ocean where there was absolutely nothing around. It is simply stunning!
As the Maldives is a Muslim country you must adhere to their customs. You cannot buy alcohol on the island, there are no pork products, and you cannot wear a bikini at the beach. It is a great place to experience the local food and lifestyle.
10. Koh Lan (Coral Island) – Thailand
Recommended by Bethan Greenhalgh from Wanderlust Bee
11. Gili Islands – Indonesia
Recommended by Marta from Where Life is Great
If you crave an exotic destination, head to Gili Islands. You won’t regret it, they are some of the world’s best islands! Gili Islands are three little coral islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno), surrounded by turquoise water and white sand beaches, just off the coast of Bali.
When I visited Gili islands, they immediately became one of my favourite island destinations. There are many reasons why you would love them too!
The islands boast a range of diversity! If you want to party, head to Gili Trawangan, the most famous among young people. To experience local culture head to Gili Air with the biggest population of residents. If you just want to chill on the beach and enjoy a bit of solitude head to Gili Meno, the smallest of all islands. There is an island for everybody! And if you can’t decide, visit all three of them. They are just 30 minutes boat ride away from each other!
The beauty, nature and the unique vibes are other reasons to love Gili. Imagine swinging palm trees, abundant sea life, and wide beaches with very few people on them. Then add hammocks, swings, bean bag chairs, sunset bars, and open air beach cinemas. There are no cars or other motorised vehicles on the Islands. You can move around on bicycle or in a horse carriage.
To top it all off, Gili Islands are located in South-East Asia, just 2 hours boat ride from Bali and are extremely budget friendly.
12. Siquijor Island – Philippines
Recommended by Dorothee Baur from Doro Henrietta
Siquijor is a small island in the Central Visayas of the Philippines known for its faith healers and for the myths which surround the island.
In the past, it was called the “Island of fire”, because it appeared to give off an eerie glow. This has since then been attributed to the fireflies on the island, but many of the myths about the island remain. Every time we told a local that we were headed to Siquijor, their response would go something like that “Ooh the magic island”. This had me intrigued!
Siquijor is an absolutely magical place. Not in the sense of sorcery & witchcraft, it is simply an absolutely beautiful and serene place. Unlike other popular destinations in the Philippines, such as El Nido, it is very quiet and not yet overrun by tourists. The island gets just the right amount of visitors, enough to have some company but not that many that you couldn’t have a whole beach for yourself.
Most of the time, we spent our days cruising around the island on a little Scooter, exploring all the different beaches and the waterfall on the island, Cambugahay falls. There’s a swing rope hanging on a tree, so if you’d like, you can let your inner Tarzan or Jane out! Despite Siquijor being a small island, there are many places to explore and you never have to worry about being bored!
13. Palawan Island – Philippines
Recommended by Hannah & Adam from Getting Stamped
My husband and I have been travelling the world nonstop for the past 4 years and basically been chasing summer the entire time. Our heart is at the beach and we are always looking for best islands in the world. Our favourite island El Nido.
There are tons of things to do in El Nido from diving, snorkelling, hiking, but our favourite is island hopping. There is something magical about turquoise waters and massive limestone cliffs.There are some beaches that are only accessible during low tide as you have to swim through caves to get them. No other island in the world is as epic as El Nido. There are even a few islands nearby that you can beach camp at. During the day you will find me out in the ocean and a night I’ll head back to town to catch the sunset and a good happy hour. El Nido town has a great beach town vibe with plenty of restaurants and bars. We highly recommend Altrove pizza, there is always a line but it’s worth the wait.
Our vote for world’s best island is El Nido – it won’t disappoint!
World’s Best Islands
With so many beautiful and unique islands in the world, it can be hard to pick just 12! However, these islands definitely deserve a spot on your bucket list! Let me know what your favourite island is in the comments!