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By Sara Clemence
July 08, 2020
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This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

Turquoise water, fine-sand beaches, palm trees — when we think about islands, it’s often the castaway sort that comes to mind. Something tiny and tropical, even Gilligan-esque.

But the best islands in the world are far more diverse than that. Certainly many of them boast balmy climates, including Bora-Bora (No. 25), Mauritius (No. 6), and Kauai (No. 24). But still others have vineyards instead of palm trees, castles instead of rustic huts, and (unsurprisingly) some very appealing resorts.

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.

No one region has a lock on the list of the top 25 islands in the world. Six continents are represented. Several countries have two islands in the rankings, including Australia, Thailand, French Polynesia, and the United States. Greece scored the most wins, with Crete (No. 15), Mílos (No. 3), and Páros (No. 2) all rated highly by T+L readers.

Some of those readers are reluctant to let the world know about their favorite finds. “I fear that this is going to be the next island to be widely discovered in Greece,” wrote one about Mílos. “Its appeal is due in no small part to the quiet ambience.”

Most of this year’s winning islands are sizable — like charming Tasmania, No. 19 on the list and also the 26th largest in the world. A handful are countries unto themselves, including Sri Lanka (No. 4), Mauritius (No. 6), and Anguilla (No. 7).

Anguilla was also the only Caribbean island to make this year’s list. “This is the way the Caribbean was 50 years ago, and they work hard to maintain its authentic charm,” one reader reported. “So much to do, and none of it is tacky T-shirt shops or chain restaurants.”

Across the Atlantic on Sicily, which ranked No. 9 this year, T+L readers felt drawn to the culture. “There are millennia-old Roman and Greek sites and museums; wonderful, friendly people; and the best food you'll ever have,” wrote one World’s Best voter. “The beach towns are as beautiful as you can imagine.”

Read on for the full list of the best islands in the world, according to T+L readers, who again voted Palawan into the No. 1 spot.

1. Palawan, Philippines

Beach cave, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Credit: Getty Images

Score: 94.83

Roughly 270 miles long and just 25 across at its widest point, on a map Palawan looks like an arm extending from the Philippines to Borneo. It’s dramatic at sea level, with mountains rising directly from the ocean palm-edged beaches. Though it’s difficult to reach from many parts of the world, once travelers get there they can dive in World War II wrecks, explore old-growth rain forests, and paddle one of the world’s longest subterranean rivers at Puerto Princesa. “The landscape and scenery are just gorgeous,” wrote one fan. “It offers the most beautiful beaches, resorts, and scenery anywhere.”

2. Páros, Greece

Beautiful Greek Island of Paros - Town of Naoussa
Credit: Getty Images

Score: 90.55

3. Mílos, Greece

Greece, Milos island, Panaghia Thalassitra
Credit: Getty Images

Score: 90.33

4. Sri Lanka

Surfer at Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka
Credit: John Crux/Getty Images

Score: 90.00

5. Koh Lanta, Thailand

Dawn on Kantiang Bay beach, Ko Lanta, Thailand
Credit: Elaine Ross/iStockphoto/Getty Images

Score: 89.41

6. Mauritius

Boys play soccer at the Beach of Grand Baie, Sunset, Mauritius
Credit: Africanway/Getty Images

Score: 89.07

7. Anguilla

Anguilla beach
Credit: Getty Images

Score: 89.01

8. Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi, Malaysia sky bridge
Credit: Getty Images

Score: 88.76

9. Sicily, Italy

The Greek theatre (Teatro Greco) and Mount Etna, Taormina, Sicily
Credit: Frans Sellies/Getty Images

Score: 88.62

10. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Blue Footed Boobies, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Credit: Getty Images

Score: 88.44

11. Azores, Portugal

Road on Sao Miguel island, Azores, Portugal
Credit: Getty Images

Score: 88.42

12. Maui, Hawaii

Makahiku Falls, Maui, Hawaii
Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 88.38

13. Hvar and the Dalmatian Islands, Croatia

Hvar town on Hvar island, Croatia
Credit: iStockphoto/Getty Images

Score: 88.35

14. Boracay, Philippines

Sailboats at Boracay island, Philippines
Credit: Getty Images

Score: 88.22

15. Crete, Greece

Street scene in Chania, Crete island, Greece
Credit: Olga Gavrilova/iStockphoto/Getty Images

Score: 88.20

16. Cook Islands

Beach and coconut palms on Aitutaki island, Cook Islands
Credit: iStockphoto/Getty Images

Score: 88.15

17. Bali, Indonesia

Surfers at Balangan Beach, Bali, Indonesia
Credit: Marius Dobilas/Getty Images

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 88.14

18. Moorea, French Polynesia

Moorea island, French Polynesia
Credit: iStockphoto/Getty Images

Score: 88.05

19. Tasmania, Australia

Honeymoon Bay, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania
Credit: Oliver Kock/iStockphoto/Getty Images

Score: 87.89

20. Great Barrier Reef Islands, Australia

Catseye Beach, Hamilton Island, Australia
Credit: Andrew Peacock/Getty Images

Score: 87.82

21. Ischia, Italy

Sant'Angelo, Ischia island, Italy
Credit: Getty Images

Score: 87.76

22. Mallorca, Spain

Cala d'Or, Mallorca, Spain
Credit: iStockphoto/Getty Images

Score: 87.58

23. Koh Samui, Thailand

Laem Yai beach, Koh Samui Island, Thailand
Credit: Pavel Szabo/iStockphoto/Getty Images

Score: 87.56

24. Kauai, Hawaii

Na Pali coast of Kauai, Hawaii
Credit: iStockphoto/Getty Images

Score: 87.50

25. Bora-Bora, French Polynesia

Aerial view of Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Credit: Chad Ehlers/Getty Images

Score: 87.27

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.