The World’s Best Islands in 2016
The Philippines are having a moment. This year, three of the top 10 islands in the world, as decided by Travel + Leisure readers, are in this Asian archipelago.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe—to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers ranked islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
The Philippines’ predominance shows that discerning travelers are willing to travel great distances for the rewards of clear waters and sugary white beaches. “There is never a dull moment in Cebu,” said one T+L reader, who claimed the Philippine island, which ranked sixth on the list, is “perfect for travelers who don't want to spend a lot of money on recreational activities.” Hiking through canyons, swimming with whale sharks, and diving from the top of a waterfall are just a few of the activities visitors can try.
Only a puddle-jump away is the island of Boracay, which one reader deemed “a natural treasure.” The crowning jewel of this tropical destination is Shangri-La's Boracay Resort (No. 8 among this year's Top Resort Hotels in Southeast Asia), which is nestled in a cove and offers guests supreme luxury amid verdant hills and powdery beaches.
Not all the islands on the list are remote or exotic. Hilton Head, off the shore of South Carolina, is all plantation-style architecture, golf courses, and Lowcountry cuisine. And as a key stopover on migration routes, Hilton Head is a birder's paradise.
The Hawaiian islands of Maui and Kauai, which appear on the Top 10 list year after year, provide both the allure of faraway lands and the convenience of a domestic getaway. “For me,” said one survey taker, “going to Maui is like going home: comfortable, familiar, and beautiful.”
With Maui and Kauai's manicured golf courses and upscale resorts boasting triple infinity pools and chic bungalows, it’s easy to feel pampered. But the islands' natural attractions play a huge role in their appeal, too. You can watch migrating humpback whales trace the rugged coast, hike up towering volcanoes and across black-sand beaches, or get lost in the lush rain forests that are punctuated by waterfalls and obsidian bluffs.
What all of these award-winning islands have in common, to be sure, is a transcendent beauty and an ability to coax any traveler into a state of bliss.
No. 10: Bali, Indonesia
No. 9: Kauai, Hawaii
No. 8: Hilton Head, South Carolina
No. 7: Maui, Hawaii
No. 6:Cebu, Philippines
No. 5:Santorini, Greece
No. 4: Waiheke Island, New Zealand
No. 3:Ischia, Italy
No. 2: Boracay, Philippines
No. 1: Palawan, Philippines
Palawan first received the coveted No.1 spot in 2013, and it’s little surprise that the island is back at the top. Visitors are greeted with mountains rising out of impossibly turquoise waters, where shipwrecks and reefs make for prime scuba diving and snorkeling. “Palawan is every beach lover’s dream destination,” said one voter, who regarded it as a “wonderful and magical place.” Palawan is also home to a five-mile-long underground river. It’s considered one of the world's wonders of nature, and visitors shouldn't miss the chance to boat through its limestone caverns.