From islands encircled by vibrant coral reefs and azure shores to those adorned with rich jungles and charming culture, there's a lot of beauty to behold. To help narrow it down, we explore some of the most exquisite islands on earth - which will you add to your bucket list?
If you want that white sand beach experience, you can't beat Maldives. The waters are a clear, perfect aquamarine, warm and gentle enough for any swimmer to take a dip. Because it's a series of 26 natural atolls, you can stay at a luxe resort or swim to your own tiny private island getaway. If you enjoy scuba diving or snorkeling, the coral reefs provide some spectacular opportunities to get close to wildlife.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
As another of those white sand unbelievable paradise islands to visit, Bora Bora is known for its breathtaking lagoon, which is filled with sharks, turtles, and rays that you can watch right from the shore. Because Bora Bora also has mountains and forests, it gives you the opportunity to go hiking and snorkel or dive in the lagoon. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even hike to the summit of the volcano, Mt Pahia, although the hike is dangerous enough that you should never attempt it without a guide.
Palawan, The Philippines
If your idea of paradise just isn't complete without exotic animals and nature-based adventures, Palawan is the island for you. It has coral reefs with spectacular diving opportunities, but the natural wonders don't stop there. Palawan is also home to miles of untamed jungle with more than 200 species of birds and 600 species of butterflies. If you prefer to enjoy your natural adventures underground, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park offers miles of limestone caverns to explore.
Located off the coast of Kenya, Seychelles is an introvert's dream island. It's an archipelago made up of 115 unbelievable paradise islands to visit during your vacation, many of them almost untouched by humanity. It's also home to the world's largest coral atoll, filled with tiger sharks, manta rays, and the native Aldabaran land tortoises. Nearly half of the Seychelles' total land area is protected, making it a gorgeous wildlife and nature sanctuary. The other half has sporting opportunities, nightlife, and delicious Creole cuisine to tantalize tourists.
If you want a tropical beach vacation but don't want to leave the city behind, Bali is for you. Spend a day swimming and sunbathing on the beautiful black volcanic sand beaches, then hit the throbbing nightlife of Kuta or the art museums of Ubud. Hindu cultural activities and festivals abound, and its temples are world famous for their beauty. Because it's so developed, it's easy to find an instructor to show you the reefs if you like the sound of a snorkel trip but have never taken one.
Kaua'i is a dream island for anyone who loves the jungle. Much of the island is covered in rainforests, giving it the nickname "The Garden Island." Waterfalls splash along the cliffs, and some cascade into pools where visitors can take a dip. Wild dolphins leap along Kauapea Beach, and turtles and tropical fish swim along the crystal waters. Because many of the island's best beaches are inaccessible by car, it's best for those who enjoy an adventurous hike, which also means fewer crowds than Oahu or Maui.
Combining the best aspects of a beach vacation with a trip to Europe, Santorini is filled with beautiful villas, blue-domed churches, and picturesque villages - not to mention excellent beaches. History buffs can visit Akrotiri, a 3,500-year-old Pompeii-like village preserved in volcanic ash. Hikers can climb to the to the ruins of Ancient Thira to take in a breathtaking overhead view of the city. While you're there, take in one of the famous sunsets at Oia.
If Seychelles is the go-to paradise island for introverts, Fiji is your haven if you're a people person. Fijians are famous for their warmth and hospitality, and you're likely to be greeted with smiles wherever you go on the island. Throw in everything your mind conjures up when you hear "tropical paradise", such as silky soft beaches, crystalline waters as warm as a bath, swaying palm trees, and more than 1,500 species of reef-dwelling fish and other marine animals.
Capri is a fabled vacation destination for everyone from Roman emperors to Hollywood celebrities, and it's easy to see why. Combining beautiful Italian piazzas, Roman ruins, and heavenly beaches, Capri has something for everyone. Shoppers and culture hounds can take in the famous boutiques and cafes, history buffs can enjoy the Roman ruins, and those who prefer a more traditional beach island vacation can find plenty of beaches, hiking trails, and grottoes, including the beautiful and famous Blue Grotto, with its mysteriously glowing turquoise waters.
St. Lucia has the beautiful golden beaches that you would expect from a Caribbean island, but it's much more than just another beach destination. The dramatic twin peaks of the Pitons provide a unique backdrop to the island, and the mountains are safe enough that a relatively experienced hiker can make it to the summit in just two hours. With lush rainforests, natural hot springs, and quaint fishing villages, St. Lucia is a paradise even by Caribbean standards.
Whitsunday Islands, Australia
If you're thrumming with excitement as you read about islands with coral reef snorkeling, the Whitsunday Islands are your dream vacation. The 74 Whitsundays are scattered along the Great Barrier Reef, making them a perfect place to dive. Because the Reef shelters the shore, the water is remarkably calm, so the Whitsundays are a spectacular location for sailing and swimming alike.