Summer's finally here, but sometimes beach days have us craving something more. Are you overdue for a tropical getaway? Are you dreaming of endless stretches of beach, sand between your toes, and crystal-clear waters? Do you desire to lounge around in private villas, touring uninhabited coastlines by sailboat, and soaking up the sun in the purest epitome of paradise? If island life is on your mind, we have just the thing to visually transport you there—and possibly inspire your next vacation.
From island clusters with lively coral reefs Down Under to island nations with secluded waterfalls hidden away in lush rainforests, we've rounded up the best islands to visit in all corners of the world. So whether you're looking for popular slices of paradise or some of the world's best-kept secrets, scroll down to view some of the most beautiful islands in the world.
Italy's Best-Kept Secret
This Italian slice of island heaven has everything going for it. Surrounded by clear blue waters, a stunning cliff coastline, and white-sand beaches, Ponza has been the nation’s well-kept secret for far too long. The secret sister of better-known islands Capri and Ischia is located between Rome and Naples. Apart from Ponza’s pretty scenery, you’ll fall in love with the island's rainbow houses, which form a ring around the tiny port.
A Tropical Paradise Down Under
One of 74 islands in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays are without a doubt one of the most beautiful of them all, if not in the world. Take your pick of things to do, from snorkeling with the turtles to scuba diving through the coral reefs, cruising a sailboat around the secluded beaches, or sunbathing on some of the whitest beaches you’ve ever seen. Adventurers can go off the beaten track and hike or mountain-bike the hillside national park trails.
An Unspoiled Archipelago
If you’re looking for breathtaking beaches and setting foot on gorgeous white sand, then Fernando de Noronha in the South Atlantic Ocean is your next holiday destination. The tropical paradise is one of 21 islands and islets. Few people can claim they’ve witnessed this natural treasure, as it’s only accessible by air from São Paulo. But you’ll have to book in advance because the earth-conscious Fernando community limits visitor numbers to conserve the island and its peaceful environment.
A Beach Lover's Dream
This archipelagic province of the Philippines boasts turquoise waters, hidden coves and coastal hideaways, limestone caverns to be explored, and a five-mile-long underground river. For the seasoned scuba diver, Palawan offers sprawling reefs and enchanting shipwrecks that lie just below the bright waters. It just topped (for the second time) Travel + Leisure's ranking of the world's best islands.
An Eden for Wildlife
Take in the natural splendor of this island nation in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa. Mauritius—the only known habitat of the extinct dodo bird—is a part of the Mascarene Islands along with Saint Brandon, Réunion, and Rodrigues. Clear, warm waters make it a relaxing getaway for those who love to lounge on the beach, while its diverse terrain—comprised of mountainous areas and lush greenery—promises plenty of opportunity for adventures.
A Thousand Coral Islands
Escape to a picturesque retreat in paradise with a trip to the Maldives. The South Asian tropical nation is made up of more than a thousand coral islands and electric-blue waters and lagoons. Spend the day scuba diving or snorkeling to take in the incredible underwater world in the warm Indian Ocean.
A Holiday Retreat for the Jet-Setter
If you really want to spoil yourself, then head straight to the middle of the Caribbean to Saint Barthélemy. Mingle with models, celebrities, millionaires, and more on this beautiful volcanic island surrounded by shallow reefs. The island has over 70 restaurants, with private villas that step right out onto the beach. Take your pick of things to do, from swimming to diving to dancing the night away in one of the island's nightclubs.
Next up: 15 of the most incredible natural swimming pools in the world.
This story was originally published on July 16, 2015, and has since been updated.