As part of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards survey, readers were asked to evaluate islands around the world, ranking individual characteristics like romance, food—and even how friendly they are. It’s no surprise that far-flung destinations like Fiji, the Maldives, Bali, and Tasmania took the top spots. We get it: what’s not to be happy about when there’s a beautiful beach everywhere you turn? They’re all known for their tropical surroundings, aquamarine waters ideal for a swim, and abundance of hotels that take the idea of getting away from it all to another level.
Yet over and over, voters made it clear how much local culture impacts their experience. “[The] most friendly and kind people I have ever encountered,” said one T+L voter about the Fijians they encountered on their trip. “Beautiful islands, beautiful people.”
But in the world of travel, friendliness also equates to standout service, and on each of these islands, our readers found that the people working at the hotels and resorts where they stayed played an integral part in making their experience a memorable one.
On a trip to the luxurious Katikies Hotel in Santorini, Greece, one voter said, “The people are the best on the planet, and Katikies Hotel in Oia is one of my favorites on earth.” It’s hard not to smile when you spend your day on a cliff overlooking the Santorini caldera basin, with views of the Aegean in the background. For many—visitors and residents alike—Santorini is heaven on earth. And even in the face of economic distress, locals remain “warm, friendly, and hospitable,” said Ed Hall, a T+L subscriber.
A handful of winners are closer to home, including Washington State’s San Juan Islands; Hilton Head, South Carolina; and Mackinac Island, Michigan—proof that you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to find a getaway where the locals are warm and inviting.