The Top Islands in Mexico and Central and South America in 2018

Bartolome Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Photo: Markus Gebauer Photography/Getty Images

There are some travelers who ask only that an island getaway deliver a beautiful beach and the promise of 90-degree weather. But if you’re the kind of vacationer who craves more — say, world-class diving and wildlife encounters, or centuries-old ruins and an awe-inspiring coastline — the islands of Mexico and Central and South America are sure to deliver. 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 Indeed, T+L readers voted overwhelmingly for islands where adventure travel is the big draw. “The scuba diving was terrific,” said one reader of Isla Mujeres, which earned the No. 3 spot. Just a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancún, this Mexican isle is home to the largest concentration of whale sharks on the planet, along with an underwater “museum” of sunken sculptures and a sea-turtle hatchery. Two spots in Belize made the list this year: Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The former, Belize’s largest island, is also big for diving (the country has the world’s second-longest barrier reef), but there’s plenty to do on dry land, from exploring the Mayan ruins to ziplining above the jungle. Meanwhile, Caye Caulker, a tiny, nearly car-free coral isle, received high praise for its sleepy pace and casual dining options. “This is a very laid-back and unpretentious island with local street vendors grilling seafood at night,” wrote one reader. Chile’s Easter Island, by contrast, is “not a tropical paradise,” as one reader so succinctly put it. “The interest here is the archaeology.” Namely, the hundreds of moai statues, mammoth stone figures carved years ago by the Rapa Nui inhabitants. It’s a bucket-list destination that T+L readers feel lives up to the hype. But it was another location that earned the coveted No. 1 slot on our list, resonating even more with T+L readers. Read on to find out about it.

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5. Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye, Belize
Alex Robinson/Getty Images

Score: 80.38

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4. Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker, Belize
Alex Robinson/Getty Images

Score: 82.86

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3. Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Beach, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Flander/Getty Images

Score: 83.00

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2. Easter Island, Chile

Rano Raraku, Moai Statues, Easter Island
David Madison/Getty Images

Score: 86.67

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1. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Blue Footed Boobies, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Paul Souders/Getty Images

Score: 88.53

Its no wonder the Galápagos has won top honors in this category for 16 years straight. Many of our readers said that visiting this archipelago, a popular place to see via expedition cruise ship, is a humbling, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Spectacular wildlife — iguanas, sea lions, penguins, blue-footed boobies — inhabit these volcanic islands. What this means for you: up-close encounters with some of the rarest, most exotic species in the world, as you go scuba diving and hiking. “It’s definitely worth the trip just to see the diversity of sea and land life here,” raved one reader.

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2018.

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