The most beautiful islands in the world range from tropical beach destinations to exotic otherworldly landscapes. But which are the best? Read below to find out!
Beautiful islands typically evoke images of dreamy turquoise waters, palm trees, and white sand beaches. But that’s not the only thing that makes an island beautiful. Some islands are volcanic, offering black sand beaches and dramatic peaks. Others are all about the cultural experience and historical sites. Every island is unique and has its own special qualities. I will do my best to highlight the diversity of this Earth, and all the beautiful islands within it: big, small, luxurious, and budget-friendly.
Here are the 50 most beautiful islands in the world in no particular order (though I tend to save the best for last). Vamos!
If you’re looking for the ultimate tropical island vacation, add Fiji to your bucket list. This archipelago is found in the South Pacific, and it’s got everything from beautiful beaches and luxury resorts to volcanic mountains and snorkeling adventures. Add to that turquoise waters, colorful coral reefs, and friendly people, and you’ll see why it deserves to be listed among the most beautiful islands in the world.
2. The Seychelles
It’s easy to lose yourself in the Seychelles. This group of 115 islands east of Kenya is nothing short of bucket-list worthy. The Seychelles are where parts of the movie Castaway were filmed, and you also may recall that Prince William and Kate Middleton spent their honeymoon here.
From postcard-worthy beaches and coral reefs to UNESCO-designated jungles, the Seychelles are where the rich and famous go on vacation. Will you join them?
3. Reunion Island, France
Located east of Madagascar, Reunion Island is one of the most magical islands imaginable. It’s known for its verdant scenery, active volcanoes, and black and white sand beaches. It’s not only one of the most beautiful islands in the Indian Ocean, but the world as a whole!
4. The Azores, Portugal
Looking for a unique island experience? Look no further than the Azores.
This group of 9 islands is found nearly 1000 miles west of Portugal, and it truly feels worlds apart from the mainland. The Azores are known for their outdoor adventures, namely diving, surfing, and whale watching. It also boasts amazing mouthwatering cuisine and jaw-dropping scenery.
I visited the Azores back in 2014, and I couldn’t believe how pristine and untouched it was! Of course, it’s becoming more popular each year, but it still retains much of its rustic island charm.
5. Corsica, France
As the birthplace of Napoleon, Corsica has been at the top of people’s bucket lists for hundreds of years. This beautiful Mediterranean island is known for its delicious food, harbor towns, white sand beaches, and rugged cliffs. It’s easily one of the nicest islands in the world to visit, especially if you’re looking to pair a beach vacation with an immersive cultural experience.
6. Isle of Skye, Scotland
Isle of Skye isn’t your typical island paradise. In fact, it couldn’t be further from that, both in terms of its climate and geography. It’s connected to the Scotland’s northwestern coast by bridge, but it feels very different from what you’ll find elsewhere throughout the British Isles.
Known for its otherworldly landscapes and medieval castles, Isle of Skye is a top destination amongst history lovers and adventurers. The dramatic rock formations, moody weather, and green scenery will leave you speechless. And then, turn you into a storyteller (in the words of Ibn Battuta).
Read next: Top 94 Quotes about Traveling
7. Tahiti is one of the most beautiful islands in the world
French Polynesia boasts many breathtaking islands, but Tahiti is definitely among the best. Unlike some tropical islands which merely offer beach clubs and resorts, Tahiti has a little bit of everything. In the same day, you can sip cocktails on a beautiful white sand beach, go chasing waterfalls, and shop ‘til you drop at the myriad of shops and markets sprawled around the island. It’s one of the most romantic islands in the world, but it also has plenty to do for the outdoorsy types. And don’t forget about the amazing French cuisine!
Is Tahiti one of the most amazing tropical islands in the world? You bet!
8. Crete, Greece
Is this one of the most beautiful islands in the world? Absolutely!
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands. It’s also among the most impressive, boasting a unique mix of culture, history, and gastronomical experiences.
If you’re looking for a photogenic Greek Island with lots of compelling history and charm, add Crete to your travel bucket list.
9. The Maldives
Looking to visit one of the most unique islands in the world? The Maldives is certainly up there.
This archipelago of over 1,000 islands is found in the Indian Ocean. It’s one of the most exclusive vacation destinations imaginable, home to a vast assortment of luxury villas, five-star beach resorts, and overwater bungalows. The most incredible resort in the Maldives, and perhaps even in the world, is The Nautilus Maldives. It’s unfathomable that a hotel could go for upwards of $3,000/night, but here we are!
Go diving and immerse yourself in this tropical oasis, and you’ll see why it’s one of the world’s most beautiful islands.
10. Ischia, Italy
If you’re looking for a spa and wellness retreat in the Mediterranean, consider visiting this island in Italy.
Located in the Gulf of Naples, Ischia is one of the best hidden gem islands on this list. Unless you’re super familiar with Italian islands, you probably haven’t been here or heard of it.
As a volcanic island, Ischia offers no shortage of cool thermal experiences, including wellness centers, thermal baths, and natural springs. Eat some delicious aperitivos as you take in the beautiful coastal landscapes, and you’ll see why Ischia merits a spot among the most beautiful islands in the world.
11. Kaua’i, Hawaii
Best known for its epic coastlines and lush rainforests, Kaua’i is not to be missed on any Hawaii itinerary. The beaches, the cliffs, and the greenery all exude beauty, so it’s no wonder this is considered one of the most stunning islands in the world. Kaua’i also has a relaxed vibe that isn’t found on many of the other Hawaiian Islands.
The hot ticket attraction here is the Na Pali Coast, but that’s just the beginning. With raging waterfalls, dramatic cliffs, and a variety of exotic plants, they don’t call Kaua’i the Garden Isle for nothing!
Read next: 10 things locals do on O’ahu
12. Langkawi, Malaysia
Langkawi is one of Malaysia’s most popular beach destinations, and it’s easy to see why. With beautiful jungles, beaches, and crystal clear waters, this is truly a paradise on Earth for nature lovers.
By day, lounge on the beach or go diving. And by night, you’ll have a fun nightlife and shopping scene right in front of you. Unless you’ve traveled extensively in Southeast Asia, you probably haven’t been here or even heard of it, but that will probably change soon!
13. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
It would be a crime to write an article about the most beautiful islands in the world and not mention Bora Bora.
This island in the South Pacific is best known for its over-the-water bungalows, which gracefully dangle above the turquoise waters. Bora Bora also offers an assortment of cool diving and snorkeling opportunities, in addition to hiking trails and lagoons.
If you’re looking to pair romance with luxury, the beautiful island of Bora Bora has got you covered.
14. Turks and Caicos is among the most beautiful islands in the world
If you’re looking for an exclusive tropical destination with endless sunshine and white sand, this paradise awaits you.
Turks and Caicos is the premier beach destination in the Caribbean for the rich and famous. It’s also a popular honeymoon getaway, as you’ll find many lavish villas and resorts nestled right along the beach.
Home to Grace Bay, one of the world’s best beaches, I can’t imagine a more serene Caribbean getaway than a stay in Turks and Caicos.
Read next: 12 Amazing Airbnbs in Turks and Caicos
15. Palawan, Philippines
Known for its gorgeous emerald water and dramatic scenery, Palawan is one of the most Instagrammable islands in the world.
Located in the western Philippines, Palawan is home to the world’s longest underground rivers. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and something you need to see with your own eyes! There’s also another UNESCO site here called Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, which is home to a diversity of marine life.
This island is brimming with surreal landscapes and flora and fauna, making it a favorite amongst nature lovers.
16. Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands is a Danish archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean with some of the most epic landscapes imaginable. It’s got the same breathtaking views as you’d find in Iceland, without the crowds. It also has puffins, which is a great reason to visit this island in and of itself!
Not only is this one of the most beautiful islands in the world, it’s also among the most underrated.
17. Santorini, Greece
This postcard-worthy island is easily one of the prettiest in the world!
Santorini is best known for its white-washed homes and sweeping caldera views. This volcanic island is home to several cliffside villages, each with their own unique charm and history. Sip wine as you learn about Greek mythology or lounge by the pool overlooking the sea, and you’ll see why this is one of the most famous islands in the world.
18. The Cook Islands are among the top islands in the world
Located between French Polynesia and Samoa in the South Pacific, the Cook Islands are easily among the most beautiful islands in the world.
This cluster of 15 islands offers an interesting mix of volcanic peaks, serene beaches, and snorkeling/scuba diving sites. The locals are also super friendly. With breathtaking views at every turn, I can definitely see why!
19. Bali, Indonesia
Ahh Bali. This paradise island in Southeast Asia definitely deserves a mention among the most beautiful islands in the world. If you’ve been on Instagram at all in the past few years, you’ve probably heard or seen it. Perhaps you’ve even been!
Not only is Bali a favorite among beachgoers, but it also offers unique historic and cultural sites that you won’t find anywhere else. From religious temples and rice paddies to world-class resorts and beaches, Bali is about as dreamy as it gets!
While you’re visiting Bali, be sure to check out the nearby island of Nusa Penida, one of the most under-the-radar islands in the world!
20. Isla Navarino, Chile
Want to see what the end of the Earth looks like? Check out Isla Navarino. It’s located in Chile’s Patagonia region, one of the most remote places in the world.
Go hiking through dramatic, snowcapped mountains and soak in the otherworldly landscapes that the end of the world has to offer. You’ll quickly see why this is one of the most gorgeous islands in the world.
21. The Dalmatian Islands, Croatia
Located in the Adriatic Sea, the Dalmatian Islands are easily among the most enchanting islands in the world.
The most bucket list-worthy islands include Hvar, Korcula, and Brac, but there are so many others that could also make this list.
From historic coastal villages to hidden coves and beaches, the Dalmatian Islands have so much to offer travelers in 2021.
22. Molokai, Hawaii
With no traffic lights, no beach clubs, and no buildings taller than a palm tree, Molokai is one of the most pristine islands imaginable. As the birthplace of hula, it’s among the last remaining bastions of the “Old Hawaii,” as it still retains its heritage and charm.
Unlike most of the islands on this list, Molokai is unexplored and unspoiled. The landscapes look like they did when the first Polynesians arrived there a thousand years ago. With massive sea cliffs, empty beaches, and rustic countryside, Molokai is truly one of a kind.
On the island of Molokai, locals welcome with open arms all visitors who wish to learn about their culture and way of life. It’s one of the most authentic islands out there, so be sure to keep an open mind and an open heart to properly experience this island of aloha.
Read next: Molokai Like a Local: Travel Guide
23. Phuket, Thailand
To say that Phuket is one of the most beautiful islands on Earth would be an understatement.
This island oasis has the whole package: white sand beaches, lush rainforests, unique cultural sites (i.e., Buddhist temples), and a cool cosmopolitan culture. Enjoy the calm ocean waters and the amazing food and nightlife scene, and you’ll see why there’s so much hype around Phuket.
24. South Island, New Zealand
It wouldn’t feel right to go through this round-up of the best islands in the world without mentioning New Zealand. In particular, the South Island is worthy of a top spot on your bucket list, and it’s easy to see why.
On the South Island, outdoor adventures galore. You won’t want to lie down on a beach chair all day, as there are so many breathtaking sights and experiences that you’ll want to be a part of. From ice caves and imposing mountains, to glaciers and dense forests, there’s so much to explore on the South Island of New Zealand.
25. Aruba is a top beautiful island in the world
Aruba is one of the most upscale and diverse islands in the Caribbean. Sure, it has plenty of beautiful beaches and luxury resorts, but it also boasts a national park, an artist’s colony, and a diverse culture shaped by nearly 100 nationalities. It’s hard not to love Aruba.
With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder they call Aruba “One Happy Island!”
Read next: Aruba Beyond the Beaches
26. The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are known for their fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Many destinations, including Key West, also have a laid back and Caribbean vibe.
If you’re from the US and aren’t feeling the long customs lines and other stress that comes with international travel, the Florida Keys are a great alternative. These islands are definitely among the most beautiful worldwide.
Read next: 18 Unique Stays in the Florida Keys
27. Malta contains some of the world’s most beautiful islands
Malta, and its sister islands of Gozo and Comino, all deserve a spot among the most beautiful islands in the world.
From the capital city of Valletta to the ancient city of Mdina, Malta is one of the most interesting destinations on this list. It was settled by many different civilizations, including the Byzantines, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, and Arabs. As such, it’s got a multicultural feel to it that makes it unique.
With so many hidden coves, colorful fishing villages, and no shortage of posh hotels, restaurants, bars, and clubs, Malta truly has the whole package.
If you’re looking for a vacation spot in the Mediterranean with rich history, beautiful architecture, and unique beaches, Malta has got you covered.
Read next: 12 Best Instagram Spots in Malta
28. Cozumel, Mexico
Cozumel is a beautiful Mexican island with an allure so strong that it’s one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean Sea, and the world as a whole.
On the island of Cozumel, you’ll have a range of beautiful beaches, natural wonders, and scuba diving spots. It’s a port of call for many of the world’s leading cruise lines, and it’s easy to see why with its coastal charm and natural beauty.
The beaches, live music, and shopping are all popular activities, but what really sets this destination apart is its diving. Shallow coral reefs dot the coastline, so you won’t have any problem finding colorful fish and reefs.
Cozumel is among the top budget-friendly beach destinations in Mexico, making it the perfect winter getaway in the Caribbean!
29. Capri, Italy
Is this one of the prettiest islands in the world? 100%!
Capri is a small Italian island with a lot of charm and personality. It offers a plethora of luxury resorts, shops, and restaurants — all draped in vibrant colors — and some of the most breathtaking views imaginable.
Take a boat ride around the Bay of Naples and Amalfi Coast, and you’ll see why Capri is one of the world’s coolest islands.
30. Corfu, Greece
If you’re looking for a beautiful, budget-friendly island in Europe, add Corfu to your wish list.
Corfu is a Greek island with an intriguing past. It was ruled by Venice, France, and England, before being united with Greece in 1864. To this day, the island’s diverse heritage is on full display with a range of fortresses and palaces built from different architectural styles.
Swim in the refreshing turquoise waters with a backdrop of legendary historic and cultural sites. It’s no wonder this is one of the most beautiful islands in the world!
Read next: Top Europe Hidden Gems
31. Dominica is among the prettiest islands in the world
Unlike most Caribbean islands, which offer beaches, beaches, and more beaches, Dominica has something else that’s special to offer.
Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, Dominica is another Caribbean island nation that’s worthy of a spot on your bucket list. It’s nicknamed “The Nature Island,” and it couldn’t be more spot on. With its raging waterfalls, meandering rivers, and rainforests, this island has so much to offer adventure travelers and those seeking a tropical winter getaway.
Go for a hike, do some scuba diving, or even check out the natural hot springs, and you’ll wonder where Dominica has been all your life!
32. British Virgin Islands
As a British Overseas Territory, the British Virgin Islands is yet another beautiful island group that merits a visit.
The British Virgin Islands are made up of 4 main islands, and several smaller ones, all known for their amazing beaches, reefs, and yachting. It’s a bit more underdeveloped than other Caribbean islands on this list, which makes it more desirable and off the beaten path.
The British Virgin Islands are among the most beautiful and exclusive islands in the world. After visiting here, you won’t want to spend a holiday anywhere else!
Located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus is an island country with a strong appeal. It’s brimming with diverse natural beauty and a rich history. It’s at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, so you could easily confuse the landscapes and structures with those you’d find in Turkey or even North Africa.
If golden coastlines and azure waters sound good to you, you won’t want to miss a visit to Cyprus.
34. Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
Situated in Thailand, Ko Phi Phi is a group of islands that can best be described as a paradise on Earth. If you’ve ever watched the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach,” then you’ve seen this place before.
Ko Phi Phi is a popular tourist destination in Thailand with many great opportunities for swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling. It was hit hard by a hurricane in 2004, but thankfully has recovered to become an even more sought-after vacation spot in Southeast Asia.
If you’re looking for a fun beach destination that attracts travelers from around the world, Ko Phi Phi is calling your name!
35. Whitsunday Islands, Australia
If you’re looking to visit the Great Barrier Reef, add Whitsunday Islands in Australia to your bucket list!
Comprised of 74 islands, this tropical getaway is home to one of the most beautiful ecosystems on Earth. There are six national parks in all, which protect the vibrant coral reefs and marine life that call this place their home.
Go sailing or diving around the Whitsunday Islands, and you’ll see why this ‘land down under’ is among the most beautiful isles in the world!
36. Sardinia, Italy
In Sardinia, you’ll find rugged coastal cliffs, sandy beaches, archaeological sites, and amazing food. What more could you ask for in one of the coolest islands in the world?
Fun fact: Sardinia is home to Europe’s biggest canyon (by volume). It’s incredibly dramatic and picturesque, which along with the medieval towns and historic treasures around it, make b one of the most diverse island destinations out there!
37. Miyako Island, Japan
This is easily one of the top beaches in Japan, and perhaps even the world!
Miyako Island is best known for its crystal-clear waters, expansive beaches, and coral reefs. Snorkeling and paddle boarding are popular activities here, and like other places in Japan, you can look forward to the local cuisine.
While Miyako Island is popular amongst Japanese tourists, it’s basically unknown across much of the world. Be the first of your family and friends to discover this beautiful beach destination in the Pacific!
38. St. Barts (Saint Barthelemy)
Looking for the ultimate tropical island experience? Look no further than St. Barts.
This exclusive Caribbean island evokes images of high-end villas, designer stores, and luxury resorts, but there’s also a lot of charm here. St. Barts is a French-speaking island filled with white-sand beaches, gorgeous gardens, sun-kissed cliffs, and ultra-luxury yachts. It’s a quick flight away from St. Maarten, another beautiful island worthy of a spot on your bucket list.
39. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
While other beautiful islands on this list draw visitors with their turquoise waters and white-sand beaches, the Galapagos Islands have something totally different to offer.
This string of islands is best known for its abundant wildlife, including finches, marine iguanas, and giant tortoises. There’s truly nowhere like it on Earth.
It’s no wonder that the Galapagos Islands inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. If you visit here, you’ll be inspired, too!
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40. The Bahamas
From white and pink sand beaches to world-class resorts and entertainment, the Bahamas has it all. There are 700 islands that are a part of the Bahamas, and you won’t have to travel far to find amazing beaches and reefs.
I stayed at the Atlantic Paradise Island, and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Take your pick at one of the all-inclusives and family-friendly resorts. You won’t want to spend a beach vacation anywhere else!
41. Tenerife, Spain
Just off the coast of West Africa, Tenerife is one of the Canary Islands. It’s also one of the most beautiful volcanic islands in the world. Here’s why.
Tenerife offers an interesting mix of jaw-dropping scenery, cultural and historical sites, and world-class resorts and beaches. It’s home to Spain’s tallest mountain, and one of the coolest Carnival celebrations in the world (second to Rio de Janeiro).
If you’re looking for an exotic island getaway with great hikes, a rich culture, and endless sunshine, Tenerife awaits you.
Read next: Best Instagram Spots in Spain
Looking to stay at one of the coolest vacation rentals in Spain? Read next: Coolest Airbnbs in Europe
42. Mauritius is one of the best tropical islands in the world
Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean that definitely deserves a spot on your bucket list. It’s best known for its underwater waterfall, but there’s much more than meets the eye here.
From hiking and snorkeling to exploring hidden villages, you won’t run out of fun family-friendly activities in Mauritius. In the words of Mark Twain, “Mauritius was made first, then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.” I couldn’t agree more with his sentiments!
Though Iceland doesn’t conjure up images of tropical beaches, it’s still among the most beautiful islands in the world…in a different way!
In a few hours drive, you’ll come across glaciers, black sand beaches, mountains, geysers, canyons, and fjords. Iceland is truly one of the most diverse islands out there, and you won’t have to go far to soak in the best that this island has to offer.
In addition to the landscapes, Iceland is also a great spot for seeing the Northern Lights. So pack your bags, dress accordingly, and set out for this cold island paradise near the Arctic Circle!
Read next: Coolest Instagram Spots in Iceland
44. Boracay Island, Philippines
This is one of the most popular islands in the Philippines, and it’s easy to see why it draws the hype.
Boracay Island is a small island that packs a punch with all its dreamy beaches and aqua adventures. It’s only 11 square miles, but there are some 17 beaches and lots of smaller coves that make for the ideal tropical island experience.
Relax on the beach with a cocktail in hand, and you’ll wonder where this stunning island has been all your life!
45. Jamaica is one of the world’s most beautiful islands
Known for its lush rainforests and picture-perfect beaches, Jamaica gives all the top Caribbean islands a run for their money.
Marvel at the colonial-era architecture, go snorkeling off the coast, and listen to live music in the form of reggae music. There’s something for everyone here.
If you’re looking to combine a beach trip with one that focuses on an authentic local experience, Jamaica has got you covered.
46. Sicily, Italy
As the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily is a top island destination in the world.
In Sicily, you’ll have no shortage of beautiful beaches, charming towns, and amazing food. Spend the days exploring ancient ruins and streets, and by night expand your taste palate. Sicilian history, culture, and cuisine are among the most alluring in the world.
If you haven’t been to Sicily, you’ve probably seen it on a map. It’s the toe of Italy’s boot, you truly can’t miss it in more than one way!
47. Koh Samui, Thailand
Looking to pair luxury with riveting sights and outdoor attractions? Koh Samui has it all.
Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand, and there’s literally so much to see and do. From palm-fringed beaches and extravagant resorts to ancient temples and sprawling forests, this island is a highlight of any visit to Thailand. It’s easy to lose yourself on an island so rich and beautiful. It’s no wonder Koh Samui is one of the most picturesque islands in the world.
48. Madeira, Portugal
Madeira has it all: magnificent beaches, dramatic sea cliffs, quaint towns, mysterious forests, lava pools, and even wine. Just a short flight from Lisbon, it’s more budget-friendly than you may expect for an island so beautiful, and that’s what adds to its appeal.
Not only is Madeira absolutely stunning, it’s also among the most underrated islands in the world.
49. Zanzibar, Tanzania
Just off the coast of Eastern Africa, Zanzibar is an island like no other. It’s home to some of the world’s most perfect beaches, thick forests, and abounding wildlife. You can even take a safari around the island, where you’ll see lions, elephants, water buffalos, and rhinos.
Most visitors to Tanzania hit Serengeti National Park, but not far away is another jewel with breathtaking sights and attractions. Zanzibar is absolutely worthy of a spot on your bucket list, and it won’t break the bank either.
Go for a swim, snorkel, and take in the unique cultural influences throughout the island, and you’ll discover why Zanzibar is one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
50. Puerto Rico is among the best islands in the world
Is Puerto Rico one of the most beautiful islands on Earth? You know it!
Offering rainforests, beaches, and colonial charm, this US territory attracts people from all walks of life. It’s a popular romantic getaway, but adventure seekers will find plenty to do here as well.
Soak in the warm sea breeze and be amazed by the vibrant architecture and friendly people. And, of course, be sure to eat your way around Puerto Rico. I bet you’ve found your new favorite tropical island.
Read next: Top Airbnbs in Puerto Rico
Most beautiful islands in the world to visit in 2021
I hope you enjoyed learning about these beautiful islands around the world! Which of these pretty islands are at the top of your bucket list? Are there any other unique islands in the world that should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments below!
Happy Travels! – Jon
Looking to see more of our beautiful planet? Follow my adventures on Insta, where I highlight some of the most unique places on Earth. Also, check out the articles below.