The Best Islands in Mexico and Central and South America in 2016

Galapagos Islands
Photo: Adam Vaught/GeoEx

Mexico, Central America, and South America represent incredibly diverse and distinct climates and cultures — a fact illustrated beautifully by the region's best islands. 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 hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands on their natural attractions and beaches, activities and sights, food, friendliness, and overall value. Vacationers from across the globe flock to the islands south of the U.S. for the extreme adventure sports (think snorkeling with sharks), extraordinary wildlife (penguins! blue-footed boobies! giant tortoises!), pristine stretches of white sand, or simply to relax with a frozen daiquiri in hand. Two of the islands on this year's list are prized for their remoteness: No. 3 Easter Island is 2,190 miles from the closest point in mainland Chile, and Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands are set 600 miles away from the continent. Belize’s Caye Caulker, meanwhile, is considered one of the best secret islands on the planet. Though it’s only a 15-minute flight from the country's main airport, it’s easy to feel as though this is your very own private five-mile stretch of land. Voters noted that they considered several of these islands “trip of a lifetime” destinations: places that every island-lover must visit before they die. "Easter Island should be on everyone’s bucket list,” said one T+L reader. “We found it to be more beautiful than expected, with its wildflowers and dramatic craters.” Read on for the full list.

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No. 5: Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker, Belize
Jim West / Alamy

Score: 80.69

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No. 4: Ambergris Cay, Belize

Ambergris Caye, Belize
SuperStock / Alamy

Score: 82.13

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No. 3: Easter Island, Chile

Easter Island, Chile
Rachel Kramer/ iStock

Score: 82.73

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No. 2: Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Score: 83.44

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No. 1: Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands
Adam Vaught/GeoEx

Score: 87.41

For more than a decade, the Galápagos have dominated our World’s Best survey. The volcanic archipelago continues to draw visitors with wildlife unique to the island: "It was like falling into a National Geographic special," said one reader. The archipelago is also known for excellent diving in sparkling blue waters and features white-, black-, and pink-sand beaches. What most sets this destination apart is, undoubtedly, the magical, stuck-in-time feel afforded by the wildlife and untouched beaches.

Book a trip to the Galápagos Islands.

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