These days, worldwide travelers are more eager than ever to visit lesser-known tropical islands that offer a slower pace of life and opportunities to practice self-care. Air travel rates are slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels, so tourists are prioritizing travel to new and exciting locales on their tropical vacations.
From dreamy Caribbean destinations to jaw-dropping South Pacific landscapes, there’s no shortage of beautiful tropical islands worldwide just waiting to be discovered.
If you’re among the 79% of Gen Z-ers and millennials who rank travel as a top budget priority, consider adding one (or all) of these ten tropical islands to your vacation bucket list.
10 Beautiful Tropical Islands To Visit in Your Lifetime
1. San Blas Islands
The Guna Yala Islands, better known as the San Blas Islands, are an archipelago of 350+ islands located off the northern coast of the Isthmus of Panama. Only about 50 of these islands are inhabited, and their primary residents are indigenous Guna people.
This archipelago stands out from other tropical islands because the native Guna community oversees the tourism industry and strives to keep this treasured location off the beaten path to preserve its natural beauty and resources. The Guna people’s efforts to protect their native lands make these islands a great vacation spot if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of mass tourism industries.
From artifacts and artwork depicting the rich history of the native Guna people to pristine beaches and crystal clear waters, the San Blas Islands have a lot to offer. Snorkeling, scuba-diving, and island-hopping are popular activities and allow visitors to explore and connect with the local culture on a deeper level than many tropical island destinations offer.
Tourists will have the unique experience of disconnecting from daily life since there is no internet access throughout the islands. The only form of payment taken on the islands is United States dollars; credit cards are not accepted.
The most direct route to these beautiful tropical islands is from Panama City, where you’ll embark on a 2.5-hour-long 4×4 ride to the islands’ main port of Cartí. From there, visitors take an approximate 20-minute boat ride to get to the islands.
2. Bora Bora
U.S. News & World Report ranks Bora Bora as one of the top 25 best islands in the world according to factors like sights, culture, food, and more. This tropical gem is relatively small, encompassing only 12 square miles of land. Still, the endless opportunities for adventure on land and water make this French Polynesian island the perfect vacation destination for a romantic getaway.
Surrounded by turquoise waters that offer world-class scuba diving to coral reefs, the beautiful beaches of Bora Bora lie in the shadow of Mount Otemanu. This extinct volcano towers 2,400 feet into the sky and is a dream for hikers and thrill-seekers who want to embark on an adrenaline-pumping 4×4 tour.
Luxurious resorts abound throughout Bora Bora and provide tourists with an upscale experience in one of the world’s best tropical vacation destinations.
The easiest way to get to Bora Bora is by catching a 45-minute flight from Faa’a Airport in Tahiti to Motu Mute Airport, located slightly northwest of the main island. From Motu Mute, visitors can hop on a catamaran that will take them on a quick ride to Bora Bora island.
3. Cook Islands
Everything from rugged mountains to peaceful lagoons can be found throughout the 770,000 square miles of the Cook Islands, giving visitors an impressive variety of landscapes and activities. Your island vacation can be slow and laidback or thrilling and fast-paced in these Pacific Ocean islands.
The Cook Islands are home to a rich Polynesian culture that tourists can learn more about through cultural tours of historic villages and island nights where traditional performers dance and sing. Travelers craving adventure can dive in crystal clear waters filled with coral reefs or off-road through the mountainous jungle terrain.
If relaxation is more your speed, the Cook Islands is home to plenty of coastlines where you can don a swimsuit and lounge in a beachfront hammock underneath the cover of palm trees.
The Cook Islands are directly accessible from New Zealand and Tahiti, where flights will take you to the country’s largest island, Rarotonga. From there, it’s easy to embark on an island-hopping tour to explore the rest of these beautiful tropical islands.
4. St. Lucia
The Times refers to St. Lucia as one of the “friendliest and most peaceful” Caribbean islands, making it an ideal tropical getaway. This volcanic island is instantly recognizable thanks to the Pitons, two jagged peaks that have become the country’s defining landmark. With the unique distinction of being home to the world’s only drive-in volcano, St. Lucia is a one-of-a-kind destination.
Though St. Lucia’s pristine beaches and jungles are often the main draw for tourists, the island has much to offer in the way of culture. Scattered ruins and colorful Caribbean towns keep St. Lucia’s rich history alive for worldwide visitors who travel to the island.
Another popular attraction is the St. Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival, which has brought local and international musicians together to celebrate the country’s vibrant artistic community since 1992.
St. Lucia is one of the most accessible tropical islands to visit from the U.S., with nonstop flights from major cities like New York and Chicago. At 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, it’s easy to explore the entire island of St. Lucia in just a few days.
5. The Maldives
The South Asian archipelago of the Maldives is a luxurious escape trademarked by beautiful waters, vibrant coral reefs, and picturesque palm trees.
Historically, fishing was the primary source of income and sustenance for the traditional Maldivian people, who have inhabited the islands for over 2500 years. Though tourism has become the top industry throughout the Maldives, local culture remains deeply tied to the rich underwater ecosystems the islands are known for.
Situated in the Indian Ocean, roughly 500 miles off the coast of Sri Lanka, the remote tropical islands of the Maldives are the perfect place for visitors who want to unplug during their vacation. Visit one of the islands’ luxury resorts to enjoy a relaxing wellness treatment or charter a sailboat to try snorkeling, scuba diving, or fishing in the striking turquoise waters surrounding the Maldives. Performances of traditional Maldivian dance and music are popular throughout the islands and offer an engaging way to connect with local island culture.
Flights to Velana Airport, located on the island of Hulhulé, are available from major cities in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. U.S. travelers can get to the Maldives from Boston, Los Angeles, or New York City and will typically connect through international hubs like Hong Kong, Dubai, or Zurich. After landing, tourists can hop on a short ferry ride to the capital island of Malé.
The lush rainforests, nature reserves, and pristine beaches of the Seychelles islands draw hundreds of thousands of annual visitors.
Over 100 islands comprise the Seychelles archipelago, each home to unique landscapes and activities. The inner islands are the most popular for tourists since they’re easily accessible and offer an array of amenities and facilities. For a more rugged experience, consider taking an overnight trip to the more remote outer islands (Remember to pack your SPF sunscreen.)
As ecotourism becomes an increasingly popular choice for 2023 travelers, visitors to the Seychelles Islands will be delighted to know that sustainability is at the forefront of the local tourism industry. Tourists can visit protected marine and land areas home to rare species of turtles, birds, and other animals that inhabit tropical jungle environments. Popular activities throughout the Seychelles islands include diving, hiking, and exploring the historic homes and buildings on the archipelago’s largest island, Mahé.
The easiest way to reach Seychelles is by plane since the islands are several hundred miles off the coast of Africa. Direct flights are available from major European cities like Paris and Zurich.
Bali is a mountainous province of Indonesia with an impressive range of geographical diversity in a relatively small land area. Towering mountains and active volcanos such as Mount Agung, the tallest peak in Bali, are centrally located on the island and give way to rolling tropical hills and miles of beachy coastline.
Spiritualism plays a significant role in Bali’s culture, with over 80% of the population practicing Balinese Hinduism and over 10,000 sacred temples occupying the island’s rugged terrain. Though the origins of Balinese culture remain somewhat mysterious, traditional dances, music, and artwork provide some insight into the island’s rich history.
Bali is a haven for surfers who want to try conquering the island’s acclaimed waves, while history buffs can head inland to explore the island’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. To learn more about religion’s vital role throughout Bali, tourists can join a sightseeing tour highlighting some of the island’s most sacred areas and temples. In 2023, TripAdvisor named Bali the second best Traveler’s Choice destination in the world since there are plenty of activities and sights to experience throughout the island.
Nonstop flights to Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport are available from Australia, while flights from the U.S. typically connect through major cities in Asia like Hong Kong and Singapore. Ferries offer transportation to the nearby Nusa Islands, just off the coast of central Bali Island.
The South Pacific country of Fiji is an archipelago of over 300 islands scattered across roughly one million square miles. Only about 100 of Fiji’s islands are inhabited, so it’s easy to find private and secluded areas to kick back and relax.
Fiji has been a historically popular tropical island destination, drawing tens of thousands of yearly visitors to its white sand beaches bordered by palm trees and lush rainforests.
From backpacking through rugged jungles to diving in crystal blue water, Fiji has plenty of activities for adventurers. Jagged mountains, coastal plains, and coral reef-filled lagoons comprise most of Fiji’s landscape. Upon visiting, you’ll be in awe of Fiji’s biodiversity and the number of living creatures that call this paradise home. The impressive amount of things to see and do throughout the islands of Fiji makes it an ideal spot for couples and families to spend a vacation.
The Fiji Islands are easily accessible by plane from a handful of U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, and international countries, such as Australia and New Zealand.
9. Cayman Islands
Little Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Grand Cayman make up the western Caribbean Cayman Islands, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the 25 best islands in the world. Each island varies in size and offers unique experiences that draw worldwide visitors to its sandy beaches and tropical forests.
Resorts, fine dining, and shopping abound on the largest island of Grand Cayman. Cayman Brac, meanwhile, is a popular destination for deep-sea-fishing, while Little Cayman is home to several rare and endangered animal species.
The Cayman Islands, considered a British Overseas Territory, is an easily accessible destination for Americans and Europeans, and tourism has been steadily growing since the ‘90s. The islands have become an exceptional location for diving since the surrounding blue waters are home to colorful coral reefs, plants, and marine life ecosystems.
Tourists wanting to learn about the history of the Cayman Islands and experience its culture can pay a visit to the capital city of George Town, which is full of shops, restaurants, and museums.
Located less than 500 miles off the coast of Miami, travelers can reach the Cayman Islands’ main airport (just minutes outside George Town) with a nonstop flight from various U.S., Canadian, and European cities.
10. Antigua and Barbuda
The country of Antigua and Barbuda, located at the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea intersection, is the last entry on this list of must-visit tropical islands. Both islands are famed for their friendly locals, pleasant climate, and stunning pink and white sand beaches.
The landscape of these West Indies islands is intricate and varied, with lagoons protected by coral reefs and gently rolling hills that create a beautiful tropical paradise for birds, lizards, fish, and more.
Though the gorgeous miles of coastline are one of the main draws of Antigua and Barbuda, the islands are home to so much more. Thrill-seekers can try jet-skiing or horseback riding through the country’s rainforests. Tourists who desire a slower-paced vacation will love the historical landmarks of St. John’s City, including the Naval Dockyard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The islands of Antigua and Barbuda are also ideal for food connoisseurs who want to sample Caribbean and European-influenced local fare.
Travelers can fly directly to Antigua’s V.C. Bird Airport from cities through the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
10 Must-Visit Tropical Islands
If you’re ready to start packing your bags, plan a trip to one of these ten incredible islands. From the rugged Bali mountains to Bora Bora’s tranquil waters, there’s a tropical island for every traveler. Heart-pumping excursions, relaxing beachfront resorts, and rich native cultures await you at these beautiful tropical destinations.
About the Author:
Elise Armitage is the founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California, founded in 2012. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.