Some islands offer secluded oceanside bliss, others are carpeted in tropical forests, land lagoons and adrenaline-fueled activities, but whatever your preference, there’s an island somewhere in the world that’s perfect for you. Spanning the seven seas, here’s our top pick of the world’s best–and most beautiful–islands.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Great For: Peace, Quiet, and Photo-Worthy Vistas
For the ultimate slow-paced island experience, look no further than the beautiful atolls of French Polynesia–Bora Bora, specifically. If you’ve been captivated by photos of wooden walkways weaving across turquoise waters, connecting the most luxurious over-the-water villas, chances are it’s been a snapshot of this beautiful South Pacific destination. Most of the five-star hotels, including the famed St. Regis Bora Bora, aren’t on the mainland but rather the islets that surround it, promising a secluded stay immersed in nature. St. Regis Bora Bora’s accommodation totals 90, 77 of which are over-water, thatched-roof bungalows; additional features include four restaurants, a spa, kids’ club, fitness centre, and complimentary bicycles, with activities available including everything from photography sessions and cooking classes to sunset tours and water sports.
Koh Samui, Thailand
Great For: Families and Honeymooners
Once synonymous with backpackers and young revellers, this idyllic island has since become a hotspot for luxury travel. Set alongside the island’s dreamlike nature and long stretches of beach is a growing portfolio of five-star beachside bungalows, first-class spas and family-friendly hotels. To stay, head to Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui, a 60 standalone-villa hotel at the northwestern tip of the island. It’s secluded and serene, located away from the action but as the island itself is small and easy to navigate, a trip to the main attractions won’t take more than 30 minutes by car. The beaches are its main attraction, but on top of that you can enjoy day tours to surrounding islands, the best of local cuisine, snorkelling, diving, 4WD jeep tours through the jungles, treks to waterfalls, or indulge in a signature Thai massage.
Yaukuve Levu Island, Fiji
Great For: Complete Seclusion
Floating blissfully in the South Pacific Ocean not far from Suva (Fiji’s capital city), Yaukuve Levu and its only resident, Kokomo Private Island Resort, promises visitors a truly incomparable island escape. The resort, dotting the northern tip of the island, is the vision of Australian developer Lang Walker and comprises just 21 thatched-roof, beachfront villas, a resort pool, 5.5-acre farm, a handful of dining spots, and the Yaukuve Spa Sanctuary. Remote and untouched, the land is awash with natural rainforest, while the circling waters are crystal clear and packed with coral and sea life. Whether it’s exclusive adventuring or uninterrupted relaxation, this private island paradise offers everything from tennis and pilates, to walking trails and garden tours.
Ugunja, Zanzibar, Africa
Great For: Winter Sun and Honeymooners
The largest island in the Zanzibar archipelago, Ugunja (often confusingly referred to as Zanzibar, or Spice Island) spans 85 km in length, 35 km in width, and is approximately a 30-minute flight or two-hour boat trip from mainland Tanzania. It has a turbulent history steeped in slavery and the fight for independence, but today, locals are optimistic about the future, and tourism is a big part of it. Visitors shouldn’t miss Stone Town, the historical old town and UNESCO World Heritage Site, before heading to any of the many salt-white sand, clear-water beaches. For a place to stay, head to Diamonds Star of the East at the north end of the island. The five-star hotel has 11 sea-facing villas, a personal butler service, two restaurants, and offers a wealth of watersports.
Sumba Island, Indonesia
Great For: Eco-Conscious Travellers
Bali’s less populated little sibling, Sumba Island has all the ingredients for an ‘Eat Pray Love’-esque trip, minus the crowds. Turning heads away from Indonesia’s original island hotspot, Sumba has already reached cult status amongst surfers with its legendary surf breaks, but word has since spread and now travellers of all type want to visit the uncrowded natural and cultural attractions. Leading the way for top-tier accommodation is Nihi Sumba Island, a luxury hotel with a conscious, offering “not an escape from everyday life, but the return to a life well lived.” As well as the finest amenities and impeccable service, a portion of Nihi’s profits go to the Sumba Foundation, a project dedicated to supporting the health and welfare of the local community.
São Miguel Island, The Azores, Portugal
Great For: Adventurers
The Azores: an untouched volcanic archipelago in the mid-Atlantic; 1,525km west of the Iberian Peninsula and potentially one of Europe’s best-kept tropical secrets. This small collection of nine remote islets includes Sao Miguel, the biggest and most popular of the bunch, which is known amongst locals as the ‘Green Island’. Less beach and sand, this island is covered with greenery, perfect for nature-enthusiasts and adventurers who’d prefer to trade out sunbathing in favour of hiking, jeep safaris, whale-watching, canyoning, paragliding and more. For a place to slumber, stay in the capital of Ponta Delgada at Azor Hotel, a 123-room Design Hotels™ property featuring contemporary interiors and a portfolio of excursions guaranteed to make this island adventure a memorable one.
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