30 Most Magical Islands on the Planet
Gorgeous paradises you won't believe are real
When you want to truly get away, is there anything more magical than a gorgeous island getaway? Whether it’s the exotic scenery, the Corona-commercial remoteness of the beaches, or the fact that you feel like the king or queen of your own little paradise, there just something extra special about getting to visit a beautiful, quiet, and ultra-exclusive dot on the map.
But if you’re looking for an island adventure you’ll never forget, read on, because we’ve compiled the 30 most magical islands across the entire globe—from Koh Phi Phi, in Thailand, where the stunning beachside views pair perfectly with the atmospheric nightlife culture, to Old Monemvasia, in Greece, which has been perfectly preserved for millennia. And for more stunning places our planet has to offer, don’t miss these 15 Waterfalls So Magical You Won’t Believe They’re in the U.S.
Visayan Islands, Philippines
Where to fly: Mactan-Cebu International Airport
Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, and Samar make up the breathtakingly stunning group of islands known as the Visayans, located in the Philippines. From white sandy beaches to animal sanctuaries hidden in the lush jungle landscape, the Visayan Islands are destined to captivate travelers of all stripes. While you’re in Bohol, be sure to visit the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary to get a firsthand look at these tiny (and adorable) primates in their natural habitat. If you’re not a fan of mammals, then a journey through the Kawasan Falls on a bamboo raft will provide the perfect afternoon respite from your daily travels.
Pro tip: Become one with the islands in your personal polished living area (complete with an Instagram-worthy infinity pool and spa) at Kandaya Resort on Cebu Island.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Where to fly: Cancún International Airport
This stunning island getaway offers a rejuvenating combination of restfulness and wonder. For supreme island views and activities, head to the El Garrafón National Park to swim with the dolphins and explore the land via zip lines and water via kayaks. For more amazing ocean experiences, stroll along the El Malecon boardwalk, which runs from Half Moon Bay to El Colonia and features several lookout points along the way.
Pro tip: Book a room at the Zoëtry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres Cancun for a posh suite with island views and more spa therapy than you’ll know what to do with.
Where to fly: Godofredo P. Ramos Airport
Similar to New York City, this island never seems to get any shut-eye. Visit Bolabog Beach for coastal adventure in the form of kiteboarding, windsurfing, and parasailing—and classes will be available for those who need a little extra assistance. For dinner, take a walk along the most popular tourist destination, White Beach, to peruse the local vendors offering fresh-caught seafood and other favorites to fully saturate your senses in this new land.
Pro tip: Settle into your chic living quarters at the Lind Boracay and rest easy at the photo-worthy infinity pool just outside.
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Where to fly: Phuket International Airport
For the ultimate relaxing hideaway, a trip to Koh Phi Phi should be a must on every traveler’s bucket list. Capture the beauty of this Thai beach with a longtail boat tour that transports visitors to Maya Bay, a popular hub for stunning views and beachside fun. Another element to the island that makes it so desirable is the party culture and amazing roster of bars that attract tourists of every age—so be sure to sample some of the local cocktails.
Pro tip: Stay at the Zeavola Resort & Spa for unmatched sophistication in all its forms—from fine dining to a glamorous seaside infinity pool.
Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Where to fly: Brisbane Airport to Great Barrier Reef Airport
There are many ways to enjoy your escape to the Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Australia—but your first day trip should be a snorkeling trip to explore the Great Barrier Reef. If you’re more in the mood for land-based adventure, make a hike to the Nara Inlet for spectacular views of beautiful waterfall hidden among the lush greenery of the landscape.
Pro tip: Or if you’d rather stay firmly planted in one point of paradise, it would be wise to choose the Qualia resort for truly impressive views, private pools, and authentic cuisines.
Turks and Caicos
Where to fly: Providenciales International Airport
For fewer tourists and more white, sandy beaches leading into clear blue waters, don’t miss a chance to explore the sleepy island due of Turks and Caicos, just north of Haiti. To fully escape the crowds (and grab a hotel at a discounted rate), book your vacation to the island in April or May. Be sure to take advantage of one the world’s most diverse reef systems by snorkeling your way through Bight Reef or Smith’s Reef, which offer more than enough marine life to explore.
Pro tip: After your long day out in the water, sit back and relax at Hemingway’s—a casual and scenic seafood restaurant right on the water.
Where to fly: Hewanorra International Airport
St. Lucia’s coastline is about as scenic as it gets—with the iconic Pitons framing the lush blues and greens of the island. Visit the Pigeon Island Landmark to get a taste of the cultural significance of the area—along with stunning views, of course. Travel further inland to explore the Diamond Botanical Gardens and Waterfall, where you go for a swim in the on-site mineral baths, dine at the Old Mill & Waterwheel Restaurant, or explore the Soufrière Estate.
Pro tip: For the most incredible view of the famous Pitons, book your stay at the Jade Mountain Resort, offering the poshest experience you can experience in all of St. Lucia—while hidden away from all of the tourists in your own private mountainside oasis.
Where to fly: Ibiza Airport
Despite its role in many pop culture-related items, Ibiza holds promising adventure for any traveler. Travel to the nearby island of Es Vedra that, according to legend, was home to the sea nymphs and sirens who sought to entice Ulysses in Homer’s “Odyssey.” After your trek to this lonely island, surround yourself with the native people of Ibiza in Dalt Vila, an ancient seaside town teeming with restaurants and shops. And if you’ve visited the island to get a taste of what it’s really known for—DJs spinning into the sunrise—Ibiza offers these kinds of late-night nights in spades. For the most authentic Ibiza night, head to Hï Ibiza, where trance DJ extraordinaire Armin van Buuren is currently spinning in residence.
Pro tip: The Gran Hotel Montesol Ibiza boasts contemporary elegance set against the backdrop of the sea.
Where to fly: Grantley Adams International Airport
Bathsheba Beach, located on Barbados’ west coast, is a photographer’s dream come true, as the rugged coastline and deep blue waters make for an unparalleled island backdrop. Though, if what you’re seeking can’t be found on a beach (though, if that’s the case, you may want to reconsider your destination), the neighborhood of St. Nicholas Abbey is home to historic homes and rum distilleries like Mount Gay Rum that will lead you down enchanting paths for hours during both the day and night.
Pro tip: For an authentic dining experience in Barbados, one can’t miss a trip to Oistins Fish Fry, where marlin, flying fish, swordfish, tuna, and snapper are expertly prepared by the local chefs. In this village, every night is a celebration of food and happiness.
Where to fly: Velana International Airport
For those seeking a luxurious getaway without the throngs of photo-hungry tourists, Maldives is here to deliver a truly unforgettable (and decidedly posh) experience. Catch up an up-close glimpse of the wildlife by going for a swim in the Hanifaru Bay—or even book a deep diving expedition to swim among the whales and hammerhead sharks (if you dare). Begin your luxury vacation with an underwater spa experience at Per Aquum Huvafen Fushi, where you’ll be able to enjoy your couture facials while watching the marine life swim by in the turquoise waters.
Pro tip: Book your villa right over the water at Adaaran Prestige Vadoo with private plunge pools and upscale dining on-site.
Where to fly: Seychelles International Airport
This group of East African islands provides an intimate experience with nature, as the beaches are never overcrowded and the magic of Seychelles never seems to fade far out of frame. Begin your vacation with a sun-soaked detour on Anse Intendance, one of the more popular beaches in the region, where the rugged mountains outline the clear blue of the ocean in an entirely unique and breathtaking way. If you’d rather stretch your legs far from the shoreline, pay a visit to the Seychelles National Botanical Gardens for a look at the blossoming wildlife on the island.
Pro tip: For a truly relaxing stay, be sure to rest easy at Le Domaine De L’Orangeraie Resort & Spa for spectacular views (that’s their breathtaking pool, above) of the beach and a chic spa to escape to after the sun-soaked adventures.
Where to fly: Santorini (Thira) International Airport
The quintessential image of the coast of Green is: the shimmering Mediterranean sea surrounded the colorful and white-washed homes built precariously on a rugged hillside. As it turns out, that’s not on the coast at all, but on an island: Santorini. On this incredibly beautiful destination, a visit to Kamari Beach, with its black sand and rugged terrain, make for a picture-perfect beach experience. Dig into some historical fun with a visit to ancient Akrotiri, a once-thriving port town that dates all the way back to the 17th century B.C.
Pro tip: The cave-style villas in the luxury hotel, Mystique, open up to breathtaking views of the island—meaning that a stay here is as unforgettable as you’d like your vacation to be.
The Dalmatian Islands, Croatia
Where to fly: Zagreb Airport
This popular stretch of islands off the coast of Croatia make for great sunbathing, as well as a look to the past, present, and future of architecture along their rugged valleys and coastlines. For the best example of modern architecture making a difference, plan a visit to the coastline of Zadar, where the Sea Organ, designed by Nikola Bašić, plays music into the steps that descend into the Adriatic. For panoramic views of the city of Dubrovnik, take a kayaking tour around the Lokrum island. Oh, and the city is one of the primary shooting locations of Game of Thrones—that’s where all the King’s Landing scenes are filmed.
Pro tip: Fully enjoy Dubrovnik with a stay at Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik, for a slice of your own private beach and posh accommodations.
Where to fly: Nadi International Airport
Known as one of the most relaxing island experiences in the world, Fiji has also become a haven for adventure-seekers, looking to ride the waves and explore the expansive coral reefs. For a truly authentic Fiji experience (and to impress your friends), attend a fire-walking ceremony at a resort like Outrigger on the Lagoon that offers regular performances.
Pro tip: Take a bite of Fijian culture by ordering a meal from Eco Café, a pizza joint on the beach of Coral Coast with spectacular and intimate views of the island.
Kauai, Hawaii, United States
Where to fly: Lihue Airport
For avid hikers and nature enthusiasts, this breathtaking island provides some of the best trails and hidden coves in the entire world—those seeking a lazy beach vacation need not apply. Hikers: you’ve met your toughest and most rewarding challenge in the Kalalau Trail that features out-of-this-world cliffs, vistas, and solitary beaches. For a shorter trek into paradise, pay a visit to the Grand Canyon of Hawaii, Waimea Canyon for dramatic dips and scenic waterfalls.
Pro tip: Retreat into the lush landscape of Kauai by booking your peaceful room at the Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort at Poipu Beach.
Big Island, Hawaii, United States
Where to fly: Hilo International Airport
Unfortunately for the Big Island of Hawaii, it often is forgotten in favor of its smaller and perhaps more tourist-friendly cousin islands. For your next vacation, ditch the typical Hawaii itinerary and head to this geographically unique island filled with black sand beaches, snow-covered mountain peaks, hardened lava deserts, and lush rainforests. The best way to enjoy these varying landscapes is by visiting state and national parks like Akaka Falls State Park and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Pro tip: Indulge in authentic Hawaiian cuisine (and unforgettable ocean views) at ULU Ocean Grill, located in the Four Seasons Resort in Kailua-Kona.
Where to fly: Faleolo International Airport
Just as the photograph suggests, the islands of Samoa contain numerous treasures and magical coves that bear no small resemblance to fairytales. The Sua Ocean Trench (pictured above) is a breathtaking swimming hole located on the southern coast of Upolu, and a trip to Samoa would be incomplete without taking this excursion. Besides a foray into the magical, Samoa is known for their great cuisine and nightlife, so be sure to check out the Samoan bar district, also called Club X.
Pro tip: Steer clear of other tourists and enjoy the simple pleasures of the tropical oasis with a stay at Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa, offering guests unique living quarters and a luxurious lagoon.
Where to fly: International Airport of Athens
Be warned: reaching this cozy, out-of-this-world island is no walk in the park—but it’s well worth the six-hour drive (from Athens) and hike through a mountain. On one side of this rocky island, it just looks like a normal mass of land. However, those lucky enough to be let in on this special secret can park their car in the “new” part of the city, take the causeway over to the island, and walk through a medieval arch and through tunnels that lead to an ancient Greece town still perfectly preserved. Once you walk through the tunnels and into this “old” part of the Greek town, you’ll get to walk along with the locals and minimal tourists through old shops and restaurants where few have been before.
Pro tip: Keep your Greek experience authentic and unfiltered with a stay at the Hotel Byzantino Monemvasia, where one step into its magical lobby is like turning a dial on a time machine.
Where to fly: Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport
This charming and quaint island houses equally quiet and peaceful ancient villages, that, along with a volcano surrounded by lush forests and postcard-worthy beaches, makes it one of the more desired island vacations on the planet. Descend into the wild side of Guadeloupe by making the trek out to Parc National de la Guadeloupe, or Guadeloupe National Park, to see the summit of the volcano and explore the numerous waterfalls and forms of forest life that are completely unique to the island. For a taste of the island’s culture, visit one of its rum distilleries, like Distillerie de Rhum Longueteau et Karukera, where locals have been making this concoction for centuries.
Pro tip: For the kind of beach paradise you only see in the movies, book your stay at La Toubana Hôtel et Spa—cinema-like magic guaranteed.
Moorea, French Polynesia
Where to fly: Moorea Airport
This South Pacific, known for its rugged volcanic cliffs and sweeping sandy beaches, has some of the most stunning hiking trails on the planet, taking travelers through rainforests and points of ancient interest. For those seeking to capture this beauty, a trek to the Belvedere Lookout offers panoramic views of the island’s peak and Tahiti, peeking just through the distance. Aside from the stunning views, part of what makes this island so special is the fact that it has been largely ignored by the typical tourist population, meaning that an activity like a tour of the lagoons often leaves yourself and fellow traveling companions mostly alone to revel in the beauty of Moorea.
Pro tip: Despite it being an off-the-radar escape, Moorea offers truly chic and expansive resort options. Case and point: Hotel Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort.
Where to fly: Naples International Airport
For those wishing for a truly authentic European island vacation, they will find it in this Italian seaside paradise. Since cars are banned on the island, your sightseeing will need to be on foot or bicycle—but honestly, it’s almost better this way since you’ll with a sense of how beautiful every part of Capri truly is. Other than lounging on the pristine beaches, visitors can (and should) make the trip to see the Villa San Michele for its amazing gardens and sweeping views of the entire island from above.
Pro tip: Make your stay on Capri even more remarkable by booking a room at the Capri Tiberio Palace, a boutique hotel with a spa and view of the island from every corner of its establishment.
Where to fly: Palma de Mallorca Airport
This beautiful hideaway is encased by clear blue waters, jagged cliffs, and centuries-old architecture that make it a truly desired vacation destination. If you’re seeking a history lesson, then be sure to pay a visit to Palma, an area of the island rich in artifacts, like the Palma Cathedral. After taking the time to appreciate the man-made structures on the island, sink back into its natural beauty with a jaunt through the Serra de Tramuntana, the main mountain range on the island, and then dip your toes into the Playa del Muro, or the beach, surrounding the island.
Pro tip: Venture inland (we promise it will be worth it) to book your room at the Gran Hotel Son Net, a 17th-century mansion with a bar and restaurant on-site.
Where to fly: L.F. Wade International Airport
Despite retaining its British elegance and customs, Bermuda still knows how to have fun—and you’re sure to see signs of this merrymaking on your trip to the island. For prime ocean play, venture to Horseshoe Bay Beach—though often crowded, it’s worth a trip just for the stunning views. For a taste of the island’s architectural creativity, pay a visit to the Unfinished Church, a project that was eventually abandoned in the late 1800s after the settlers realized that they lacked the funds and creative to finish the gothic church. Today, the beautiful sky provides the roof for this abandoned structure.
Pro tip: Grab your own private area of the beach with your stay at Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa, located out of the way in Somerset Village.
Where to fly: Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport
Rather than explore the beaches of Bali, head inland to truly find and capture the magic of this wild and ancient land. To begin your journey, try visiting one of the many beautiful temples, like Tirta Empul, Uluwatu, or Tanah Lot for stunning history and architecture in Indonesia. Another must-see sight is the Tegalalang Rice Terrace, an ancient irrigation system created in the eighth century, just north of Ubud, with a series of sloping hills that just beg to be photographed.
Pro tip: After a day of exploring, relax in your chic room by the ocean at The Oberoi, set against the jungle of Bali.
Where to fly: Heraklion International Airport
While in Greece, there’s no better way to enjoy the sea than to stroll through the neighborhoods lining the coastline for captivating colors set against the deep blue of the ocean. To fully achieve this ambiance, take time to stroll through the seaside neighborhood of Rethymnon, with narrow alleys and hidden shops dating back to the 11th century. Dig your toes into the pink sands of Elafonisi Beach, which serve as a testament to the natural beauty and supreme quality of the Mediterranean shorelines.
Pro tip: Reserve your own private slice of beach paradise at the Blue Palace on Crete’s shoreline. There, you’ll find five restaurants and a spa.
The Ionian Islands, Greece
Where to fly: Kephalonia International Airport
For more of Greece’s hidden island gems, book a trip to the Ionian Islands—where colorful villas and crystalline waters serve up a truly beautiful vacation. While there are many islands that make up this particular chain off the coast of Greece, Antipaxos contains one of the more scenic beaches of the lot, Vatoumi, has certain crowd-pleasing features that every tourist enjoys—bright blue waters, white sandy beaches, and, if you’re there early enough, a chance to see local fishermen make their living among some of the most breathtaking landscapes on the island.
Pro tip: For your own private slice of heaven (and beach), be sure to stay at Kefalonia Grand Hotel, situated on one of the more picturesque hills on the islands.
Virgin Gorda, Caribbean
Where to fly: Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport
This island is often described as the most idyllic of the Caribbean—and for good reason. The white sand beaches, friendly locals, and unique shops and food markets give it a unique appeal unlike any other place on Earth. For a thorough lay of the gorgeous land, embark upon a hike through The Baths, a system of pools, grottoes, tunnels, and arches that rest right along the sea’s edge.
Pro tip: For amazing Caribbean cuisine situated against the water, try out the food at Hog Heaven.
Vancouver Island, Canada
Where to fly: Victoria International Airport
If you’re seeking a nontraditional island getaway, then this oasis just off Canada’s coast is a perfect choice. Vancouver Island is supremely romantic and idyllic mostly due to the persistent fog that seems to hang around every mountain peak and cluster of towering trees. Aside from the breathtaking scenery, the island offers a look into quaint fishing towns, amazing wineries (you’ll need to book a Cowichan Valley Wine Tour to get a taste of them all), and West Coast Trail that features some of the best hiking trails in the world.
Pro tip: If you’re visiting the island between April and October, you should spend the night outdoors (glampers: we promise your view will be worth it), and head deep into the Strathcona backcountry to surround yourself with alpine lakes and endless mountain peaks.
Where to fly: Abeid Amani Karume International Airport
Finally heed that call to the wild with a trip to Zanzibar—where exotic lands and luxury resorts find a perfect balance. While you’re on the Spice Islands, you should take advantage of their knowledge of all things clove, nutmeg, vanilla, black pepper, and coriander (and, well, pretty much anything else you can think of on your spice rack) by taking a spice tour. You would also be remiss if you didn’t explore the crystalline waters teeming with wildlife just outside any popular resort.
Pro tip: Become one with the sea by staying at the Essque Zalu Zanzibar, which offers total entertainment in the form of three bars, three restaurants, a kids’ club, a pool, and a spa.
Where to fly: New Chitose Airport
This under-the-radar Japanese island offers impeccable views, amazing hiking, and some of the best skiing resorts in the world. On Japan’s most northern island, you’ll find unparalleled views of the mountains and lush forests that are often not represented on its other islands. To take in every landscape that Hokkaido has to offer, easily hike along the paths winding throughout the Shikotsu-Toya National Park—from active volcanoes to lush green forests, this park has it all. As you might already know, Japan is home to some of the best fresh seafood on the planet—and this is the island where it is most legendary. For the best oysters you’ll ever taste, be sure to stop in to Gotsubo.
Pro tip: Experience the great skiing culture in Hokkaido by booking a room at The Green Leaf Niseko Village for easy access to the best slopes on the island.