Top 5 Islands in Mexico and Central and South America
This year's World's Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year's honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.
The islands of Mexico and Central and South America have more than aquamarine waters and white-sand shores. Snorkelers, divers, and bird-watchers flock to these islands to experience their biodiversity firsthand.
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.
The islands of Honduras have become enclaves for in-the-know surfers, and this year, Roatán made the list at No. 5. The largest of Honduras's Bay Islands is a newcomer to our World's Best Awards list. Our readers praised sights above and below the water, specifically recommending the areas of Mahogany Bay and Little French Key.
Taking the No. 4 spot this year is Chile's Easter Island. "It's hard to get to and not cheap, but worth it," said one reader, who also recommended "eating local for great and simple seafood" and booking a guide to get acquainted with the island's fascinating history.
Second and third place were both seized by Belizean islands this year: Caye Caulker (No. 2) and Ambergris Caye (No. 3). The tropical havens, located on the second largest carrier reef in the world, are particularly beloved by the global diving community, but they offer a range of diversions. Of Caye Caulker, one reader said, "We could dive right off the beach — so neat. Food and drinks were great and the people were so friendly!" Another reader waxed poetic about things to do on Ambergris Caye, writing, "If diving isn't your thing, then the jungle tours and Mayan ruins are an excellent alternative."
Finally, the No. 1 spot this year was taken by the same archipelago that's held the top ranking for 18 years running. Ecuador's Galápagos Islands — home to exotic wildlife, including the blue-footed booby and Darwin's finches — are "the most magical place on Earth," according to one T+L reader.
Read on to learn why the Galápagos Islands have landed at No. 1 for nearly two decades.
1. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.00
Lauded by a number of readers as a "bucket-list destination" and the "trip of a lifetime," the Galápagos are a collection of islands nearly 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. Travelers either cruise the UNESCO World Heritage Site, stopping at islands like San Cristóbal, Isabela, and Floreana, or post up at hotels that integrate seamlessly into the landscape, like the five-star Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island. "Visitors should definitely plan to visit more than one island to learn how and why the tortoises, birds, and other animals have evolved to the varying conditions on each island," advised one reader. The same wildlife enthusiast also said the true magic of the island was that, whether "hiking to scuba diving to enjoying a beer on an upstairs patio overlooking the ocean, wildlife is visible everywhere."
2. Caye Caulker, Belize
3. Ambergris Caye, Belize
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 85.30
4. Easter Island, Chile
5. Roatán, Honduras
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2021.