The Top 10 Islands in Asia
The flight time (and resulting jet lag) required to get to Asia from the U.S. is no joke. But the heaps of praise readers bestowed on the best islands in Asia prove the effort is more than worthwhile. If you need any urging to leave your comfort zone — or at least your time zone — consider this: five islands on this list also appear on the list of the best islands in the world, including the verdant isle that has snagged the top spot in both categories.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure 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 World's Best Awards 2019
The Philippine islands of Cebu (No. 7), Palawan (No. 2 here, but also voted one of the World’s Best Islands), and Boracay (No. 9) are longtime favorites, thanks to top-notch reef and wreck diving, white-sand beaches, hiking trails with waterfalls, and welcoming locals. Five-star lodgings with water views and doting service abound, from the Shangri-La Boracay Resort & Spa to El Nido’s four eco-friendly, waterfront Palawan properties.
In Thailand, Koh Lanta (No. 5), which also makes the World’s Best Islands list this year, and Koh Samui (No. 8) both continue to attract passionate fans for their thriving marine life, national parks, white-sand beaches, azure water, and spectacular food. Then there are the islands’ superlative accommodations: the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui took the No. 9 spot among the best Southeast Asian resorts, and Koh Lanta’s Pimalai Resort & Spa, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, delivers total beachside relaxation.
For a hit of culture, consider Japan’s Naoshima Island (No. 6), which makes its debut on this list. Located in the Seto Inland Sea, it is renowned for its installations of contemporary art. Pritzker Prize–winning architect Tadao Ando spent 15 years designing the area’s buildings and museums, as well as the Benesse House hotel, where each of the six guest rooms has a gorgeous sea view.
All of these islands are stunning in their own right, but one is so spectacular that it wins not only the coveted top spot, but T+L readers’ vote for best island in the world.
10. Java, Indonesia
9. Boracay, Philippines
8. Koh Samui, Thailand
7. Cebu, Philippines
6. Naoshima Island, Japan
5. Koh Lanta, Thailand
3. Bali, Indonesia
2. Palawan, Philippines
1. Sri Lanka
After the terrorist attacks in April, Sri Lanka’s booming tourism industry has taken a hit, but the island country is on the mend — and as glorious as ever to visit. It’s worth clearing your calendar to spend as much time as possible on this 25,000-square-mile jewel, located off the coast of India. Animal enthusiasts can explore its national parks and spot wildlife including leopards, elephants, and peacocks, while its sprawling tea plantations offer views out over the island’s lush, green hills. You could happily spend weeks on these inland adventures, but you won’t want to miss the coast, where divers, snorkelers, and waders alike revel in the cerulean waters that whales, dolphins, and sea turtles are lucky enough to call home.
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2019.