World's Best Islands for Beaches and Natural Attractions
“Your camera can’t capture all the hues of blue and green in the water,” said one Travel + Leisure reader about Bora-Bora.
Bora-Bora’s lagoons, volcanic mountains, and crystal-clear waters helped propel the French Polynesian island to the No. 8 spot on our list of the best islands for beaches and natural attractions on the planet.
Every year, the T+L World’s Best Awards survey asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences from across the globe, to cast their votes for the top hotels, airlines, cities, spas, and more. Readers scored the top islands on the planet according to the friendliness of the people, food, value, activities and sights, romance, and natural beauty. And while a stretch of white sand fringed by reefs and turquoise waters may be the first image that comes to mind when you picture an island getaway, not all of the world’s most beautiful isles come with palm trees and cabanas.
“[Mount Desert Island’s] coastline is unbelievable,” said a T+L World’s Best voter. Others raved about the charming inns, the rocky beaches, and endless hiking trails meandering across this 108-square-mile fragment of Acadia National Park. Now, in addition to lobster rolls and clambakes, Maine can be known for its spectacular beaches and natural magnetism.
This year’s winners span the globe, from perennial favorites in Hawaii to locales in the Philippines and Ecuador. Some of the the most spectacular island beaches can be found on East African archipelagos in the Indian Ocean, as well as in the Caribbean.
“The Exumas have the most beautiful water in the Caribbean,” said T+L reader Varina Haney, “and the sights are unlike anywhere else we have traveled.”
Of course, it’s not just impossibly clear seas that lure travelers to the Bahamas. It could also be the friendly stingrays or swimming pigs, both of which are two of the area’s best natural attractions.
No. 10 Boracay, Philippines
No. 9 Mount Desert Island, Maine
No. 8 Bora-Bora, French Polynesia
No. 7 Exuma, Bahamas
No. 6 Maui, Hawaii
No. 5 Maldives
No. 4 Kauai, Hawaii
No. 3 Seychelles
No. 2 Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
No. 1 Palawan, Philippines
Palawan, the largest province in the Philippines, has top-notch snorkeling, luxe resorts, and beaches so beautiful #nofilter belongs on every Instagram photo. Many come here to explore the Bacuit Archipelago: 45 tiny isles with jaw-dropping limestone cliffs and sugar-white shores. Readers hailed Palawan as a “magical place” and “the cleanest island in the Philippines,” thanks to locals “passionate about preserving the natural beauty of the island.”