The 15 Best Islands in the World
To island-hop some of the most beautiful havens in the world, book a trip to Asia, which lays claim to six of this year’s top 15 destinations. But if you only have a week, you’ll hardly suffer. Each of the islands on this list is worth a visit on its own, from the perennial World’s Best list-makers Maui and the Galápagos to Portugal’s rising star, the Azores, with its friendly locals and awe-inspiring landscapes.
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 ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards
This year’s winners include surprises as well as familiar favorites. The Edenic Philippine outpost of Palawan scored the top spot on this list in 2013 and in 2017; it also makes the grade this year, although it cedes the top spot to a surprise entry. It remains in fine company, voted in along with its sister island Cebu.
A returning favorite is Tasmania, beloved for its wild beauty as well as its burgeoning culinary scene, which has food and wine fans singing its virtues between courses. Explore the northern coast of the island, to which fairy penguins return at night to roost, and the secluded Boat Harbour beach, where you may not see another living being.
Also heralded for its seclusion — as well as its beaches, diving, and mountainous beauty — is Indonesia’s Lombok, an island just east of Bali that one reader dubbed “Romance Island.” In fact, Indonesia seems to have the joys of island life down to a science, laying claim to the top three spots people most enjoy visiting. Read on for the full list of 15 winners.
15. Azores, Portugal
14. Maui, Hawaii
13. Orkney Islands, Scotland
12. Cook Islands
11. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
10. Tasmania, Australia
9. Páros, Greece
8. Cebu, Philippines
6. Palawan, Philippines
5. Waiheke, New Zealand
3. Lombok, Indonesia
2. Bali, Indonesia
1. Java, Indonesia
Java, with a population of 140 million, makes its first appearance on this list. Celebrated for its ancient culture, breathtaking vistas, and UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Borobudur Temple Compounds, the island also offers the opportunity to indulge in modernity (five-star hotels abound). Waterfalls, volcanoes, protected parks, and white-sand beaches also allow visitors to get away from the thrum.
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2018.