The island vacation is a popular trope, but there’s no denying the relaxing powers of a few sweet breezes, the feeling of toes in the sand, and the knowledge that there’s a big body of water between you and your daily concerns. But that’s not all you’ll find on the world’s best islands: hiking, amazing food, snorkeling, ancient ruins, wildlife, and stunning natural wonders. Here are the best islands for vacationing in 2021.
Raiatea, French Polynesia
The whole point of an island getaway is to get away. Any island that’s easy to reach is naturally overrun with tourists, so you have to go a little further to find relief from other annoying travelers and any reminder of the world you left behind. Skip Bora Bora and Tahiiti, and retreat to Raiatea, which means “faraway heaven,” a 45-minute flight from the capital, Papeete, according to Thrillist. There’s not much in the way of beaches on the island itself, but you can hire a boat to take you to a motu, a tiny spit of sand in a lagoon, where you can guarantee no one will interrupt your bliss.
It’s popular for a reason. Maui has everything you’re looking for in an island vacation: amazing scenery caught between epic mountains and lapping waves, swaying palms, waterfalls, world-class resorts, excellent restaurants and bars, beaches that will make your eyes water, plenty of hiking through gorgeous national and state parks, helicopter tours, surfing, snorkeling — we’ll just stop here for the sake of space.
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The largest province of the Philippines is an archipelago in the country’s Southeast, known for its beaches, rainforests, resorts, and activities like scuba diving around WWII wrecks and paddling along the subterranean river at Puerto Princesa, all of which rocketed the area to the top of Travel and Leisure’s audience poll in 2020.
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Most islands are beloved for their natural splendor, and while Crete has some beautiful scenery — cough, Samaria Gorge, cough — its most striking decorations are the ruins of empires past: Roman, Venetian, and Turkish, to name a few. Fuel up on some classic Greek fare then head off to explore a few ancient palaces.
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Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
If you’re looking for more of an adventure than a lounge on the sand, head to the Galapagos, where eco tours will introduce you to all sorts of indigenous wildlife. You’ll find flamingos, iguanas, and of course the famed giant tortoises.
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Even island hoppers need to eat. According to US News & World Report, Anguilla is often called the culinary capital of the Caribbean, combining the lush beaches and relaxing vibes you expect with fireworks in the kitchen you might not. The island’s cuisine has influence