The 12 Best Islands in the Whole Entire World

If we had all the money in the world, we’d probably spend our lives jet-setting from one tropical locale to the next. Maybe someday… For now, we’ll just daydream about it. Here, the 12 most incredible islands in the world.

The Ultimate Beach Vacation Bucket List

palawan island
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One of the last unsettled places in the South Pacific, these islands in the Philippines make up a stunning paradise of jagged limestone cliffs, crystal-clear lagoons and lush mountains covered by forests. The idyllic beaches are lined with paraw boats and fruit shacks, and the azure waters boast the best scuba diving in the world.

st lucia island
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St. Lucia

There’s a reason why St. Lucia in the Caribbean is consistently ranked as one of the most romantic islands. But there’s much more to do here beyond just staring lovingly into your dearest’s eyes. Think: volcanic islands, old cocoa plantations and exhilarating hikes through rainforests and waterfalls.

santorini island
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Possibly the most Instagrammable place on the planet, this Greek island is a hilly landscape of whitewashed buildings accented by blue shutters, bright pink bougainvillea and, you know, the aquamarine Aegean Sea.

bali island
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Active volcanoes, serene rice paddies and ancient temples are just a few of Bali’s selling points. Plus, there's that whole Eat Pray Love spiritual angle. So while, yes, it’s well-known and popular among the honeymooning set, it’s also 100 percent worth the travel time and proximity to aspiring Elizabeth Gilberts.

capri island
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Just off Italy’s Amalfi Coast you’ll find the glamorous island of Capri, land of limestone sea stacks, fragrant lemon trees, dazzling blue grottos and colorful umbrellas dotting the shoreline. (Now, if you need us, we’ll be booking our tickets.)

khao phing kan island
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Khao Phing Kan

Nicknamed James Bond Island, this Thai jewel was virtually unheard of before it was featured in the movie The Man with the Golden Gun. The best way to get there is by speedboat from Phuket. And once you’re there, you may never want to leave.

maui island
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Aquamarine lagoons? Check. Emerald, rolling hills? Check. Epic sunsets? You bet. This Hawaiian island is also where you’ll find some of the most incredible beaches the world has to offer, like crescent-shaped Wailea Beach and black-sand Waianapanapa State Park. 

fernando de noronha brazil island
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Fernando De Noronha

This Brazilian archipelago is virtually unheard of outside South America. It’s a luxurious yet low-key island, where the rich and famous jet-set off the radar. The biggest island, also called Fernando de Noronha, is comprised of sleepy villages, small bed-and-breakfasts and windswept crags where you can spot dolphins and sea turtles.

waiheke island new zealand
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Waiheke Island

This bohemian New Zealand island is sort of charming New England beach village meets hip California surf. One of the biggest draws is the vineyards, where you’ll find great value Syrahs and Sauvignon Blancs.

mallorca island
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Time moves slowly on this Spanish island—a casual lunch may drag on for hours, interrupted only by the arrival of a few more bottles of wine under the cool, Moorish arches.

borabora island
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Bora Bora

This French Polynesian island might just be the epitome of paradise. The entire island is only six miles long, but it’s home to two volcanic craters, a turquoise, sandy-bottomed lagoon, and Matira Beach, one of the most dazzling stretches of sand in the world.

hvar island
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This Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea has witnessed a huge surge in tourism in recent years, and with good reason. The entire place looks like a Game of Thrones set, and the island boasts some of the best food on the Dalmatian coast. Hi, fresh lobster and Zinfandel wines.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

From 2015-2017 Hannah Loewentheil held the role of Editor covering entertainment, food, travel and all things nyc.