Top Ten Best Tropical Islands

I’m a beach lover. The sun and I get along quite well, and there’s nothing I’d rather do than live on a tropical island someday. One of the main purposes of my travels is to avoid winter. I’ve been to islands all over the world, though there are still some paradises this nomad has yet to see.

But I’ve accumulated many favorites along the way. These are the ten top islands and beaches in the world where people can sit back, relax, enjoy the sun, and wonder if they really should board that flight home.

The Seychelles

Located off the east coast of Africa, these islands are pure paradise. If anywhere in the world would convince me to give it all up and live in a beach hut, the Seychelles would be it. Perfect beaches, perfect water, tons of islands to choose from, and all the seclusion you could want. The Seychelles are my dream and should be yours, too. This group of 115 islands offers everything a beach lover could ask for. Sadly, these islands are pretty expensive, but I guess there is a price to pay for paradise. The best time to visit is during the cool season from May to September, when it rains less.

To start planning your trip, read my guide to the Seychelles for more information.

The Maldives

Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, this chain of 1,000 islands (200 are inhabited, and only 5 have any substantial population) is just a series of coral atolls that are barely above sea level. During the 2004 Tsunami, many of these islands were completely washed away. The government has built flood barriers to help lessen the impact of any future tsunamis. These little coral islands are surrounded by excellent diving, snorkeling, and white sand beaches, and are filled with friendly locals. Private resorts litter the islands, and a vacation here is also very pricey. Luckily, Bangkok Airways offers cheap flights to and from Thailand. The best time to go to the Maldives is during November to May, when the weather is cool and dry. June through October sees wetter and hotter weather due to the monsoon season.
The Maldives

To start planning your trip, read my guide to travel in the Maldives for more on what to see and do.

Ko Lipe

Located in southern Thailand, this semi-off-the-map island is one of my favorites and the month I spent here remains one of my most fond memories. Here on Ko Lipe, the super-friendly locals bring in the daily catch for amazing seafood, as the island’s water is teeming with life. Accommodation is still basic, and most places turn off the electricity around midnight. Close to this island is a little island that provides excellent snorkeling opportunities. You may even spot a few reef sharks. Bathtub-warm water and fine sand beaches kept me here for over three weeks. It will do the same for you. Visit between November and March for the best weather and the fewest people. May through October sees a harsh monsoon season that shuts the island down. The best way to get there is by boat from Pak Bara.
Ko Lipe

To start planning your trip, read my guide to Ko Lipe travel for more on what to see and do.


This tourist mecca is voted one of the best islands in the world year after year. There’s enough room on Bali for everyone, the surfing is great, the food amazing, it’s dirt cheap, the parties are great, the locals are some of the friendliest in the world, there’s a volcano to climb, and there are temples to see. Clearly, Bali has it all. Bombings in 2004 and 2005 hurt tourism on the island, but the government increased security and there have been no problems since. For those looking for a move active tropical vacation, Bali is the place to go. The weather remains pretty constant all year round, though April to October sees slightly drier weather. And once you move north away from the tourist centers, the island becomes the peaceful place of legend.

To start planning your trip, read my travel guide to Bali for more on what to see and do.


Though this country has some 322 islands, less than a third are inhabited. Most of the action happens in the western islands, but no matter where you go, this is heaven. Any time the name Fiji is heard, visions of beaches and tropical ocean dance in people’s head. There’s good reason for that – because this place is one of the best places to go in the world, and with so many islands, you’re bound to find one you like. It’s a popular destination with young people and honeymooners, with something for everyone. Most young people head to the Yasawa Island group. The temperature remains mostly constant through the year, with cyclones occurring between November and January.

To start planning your trip, read my travel guide to Fiji for more on what to see and do.


You know those pictures you always see of tropical bungalows in the water? That’s Tahiti. The name has long been synonymous with tropical paradise. One of the biggest honeymoon destinations in the world, Tahiti offers pure paradise and a lot of romance. Here you can relax in the sun, scuba dive, enjoy fine seafood, and take a morning dip right from your bungalow. The island is expensive and caters to a more affluent tourist crowd. The weather is tropical all year round and very humid, though May to October sees cooler temperatures.

To start planning your trip, read my travel guide to Tahiti for more on what to see and do.

Big Island Hawaii

Hawaii’s biggest island has everything you could ever want to do and more. But what separates it from the other islands is Volcano National Park. Explore volcanoes, climb through old lava tubes, and watch as new lava oozes into the ocean. Then there are all the waterfalls on the island, too. Big Island has it all. I mean it’s Hawaii –- how could you go wrong?! The wet season is from October to March, though the weather is cooler during these months. However, despite being located near each other, weather conditions on each island can vary greatly, so you never know what to expect!

To start planning your trip, read my travel guide to Hawaii for more on what to see and do.

The Cook Islands

Another South Pacific island group (see a pattern here?), the Cook Islands are pretty far off the map. OK, not too far, but they are considerably less visited than some of their neighbors. These tiny islands are named after James Cook, the intrepid man who discovered them. With few amenities, this is the best place to find your inner castaway and escape modern life. The islands see similar weather to the rest of the area, with temperatures hot and humid all year round.
cook islands

To start planning your trip, read my guide to the Cook Islands for more on what to see and do.


Located in the Caribbean Sea, this Dutch-owned island is perfect. Voted one of the best in the Caribbean, Curacao is like being in tropical Holland. The town is built in the Dutch style, but the surrounding areas are all tropical. Hit the beaches, lay in the sun, and party the night away. This may not be Gilligan’s Island, but what it lacks in privacy, it makes up for in romance and fun. The weather is pretty stable here year round. It’s always hot and usually sunny. If it rains, it’s between November and January. And don’t worry about hurricanes – it’s below the hurricane belt!

For more information, check out my guide to Curacao for more on what to see and do.

Perhentian Islands

Located on the eastern coast of Malaysia, the Perhentians consist of two islands. Both are stunningly covered with a lot of palm trees, wide beaches, and crystal blue water. There’s not much to do here, and visitors typically lay on the beach all day, resting from last night’s drinking. It’s the perfect place to put up a hammock. A strong monsoon season limits when to go to between March and October. During the other times, it’s best to head to Thailand, where the weather is nicer.
perhentian islands

For more information, check out my complete travel guide to the Perhentian Islands for more on what to see and do.

There are countless tropical islands in the world and it would take multiple lifetimes to visit them all. However, I think these ten are a good start. What are your favorites?

And if you want to continue finding other places to travel, my getting started section has tips on how to book cheap flights, hotels, and find travel deals so you can get to your dream island quicker.

  1. Gorgeous pics. And if you do ever want to come here, let me know. I’m sure I can manage to find ways of making it cheaper than the usual high prices.
    And if I find Jim Morrison, we can always blackmail him by threatening to divulge his whereabouts. I don’t mind sharing the cash :-)

    • yah me too, i’m more of a mountain lover myself, and that’s pretty odd being from hawaii, but i will always have a deep affection for islands, they have a way of molding themselves into your identity. these pictures were beautiful.

  2. Beaches have always fascinated me..Im not a swimmer but I can lose myself looking at the waves ..Been to Bali but not to the others

  3. Wanderus

    It’s always amazes me that we (americans) forget how amazing, and, most importantly, ACCESSIBLE, Hawaii is! No currency exchange, and Americans gain a few hours when they arrive. Perfect short (or long) trip destination!

      • kadzo

        Hawaii is VERY expensive for a the common american, who cannot afford to hop a plane and splurge…not all americans are fact, very few!

        • NomadicMatt

          You can save a lot of money on package deals and if you avoid the expensive resorts. Travel is not all 5 star luxury holidays.

        • Mauigirl

          I’m a Maui native and it is not that expensive! You just need to do it the smart way, avoid tourist traps and ABC stores, stop at Costco to stock up on supplies before you reach your hotel. Many of the best things Hawaii has to offer are free: beaches, sunsets, hikes, snorkeling, walking the streets of small beach towns. Condos are also way cheaper than hotels and they are usually beachfront.

  4. Awesome pictures, Matt. Been to a few of those myself. Absolutely loved Koh Lipe, but nothing I’ve seen tops the Bandas in Indo. So far anyways…

  5. Debo Hobo

    I too love the beach. I am definitely going to refer to this list when it is time for my fiance and I to plan our honeymoon.

  6. NomadicMatt

    @quickroute: I’ve never been but I have heard it is nice.

    @wanderus: I second that!

    @Boris: Where is Bandas?

    • Brit

      No one mentioned the Greek Isles… Many many islands to choose from and all are just as tropical as the next!… and i might say they are for the most part very remote…Take Ios closer to the Turkey coast line then Greece or Italy. Some of these islands are a straight 9 hour boat ride south of Greece and with not airports, its very nice.

      • dick

        You said not to mention the greed islands ,but you did. yes they are nice, but i will take Bali

  7. MIke

    Julie – ABSOLUTELY!

    PS: Culebra, another of the Spanish Virgin Islands, is perfect too.

    • sharai

      Culebra Island is beautiful. I just got back to Canada from Puerto Rico. I was there for a month. I loved Culebra so much I went back twice. On my second trip I spent two nights camping at Playa Flamenco. I paid $20 USD per night for a sweet little camping spot (section E). I saw turtles, amazing, colourful fish and met some wonderful people. The snorkelling was okay in terms of being able to see under water but the reefs are not healthy. There was plenty of coconut to pick to drink the water inside and eat the meat. I found passion fruit, mangoes (not ripe), almonds (not ripe) and another really weird looking fruit I don’t know the name of. While I didn’t enjoy the main island of Puerto Rico as much as I’d hoped, I would go back to Culebra if the opportunity ever arose. I made some friends (Perri and Hector–owners) at a little place in town called, “Aqui Me Quedo” who I will never forget their kindness and hospitality.

      • karmen

        you do know ¨aqui me quedo¨ means, I stay here… 😉 hope you come back soon! and if you come to the main Island get out of the Capital, and come to enjoy others areas as well, like Rincon, Isabela or Cabo Rojo!

  8. It’s so hard to rate tropical islands. After doing research for our beaches of the world series, I couldn’t pick my favorite. Most places have good food near the beach, at street vendors and the like, so I’d probably pick based on food instead of beauty. :)

  9. Nice to see the Pacific getting the attention it deserves! Non of this Caribbean-centrism I see so often.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with the Caribbean; just that accessibility doesn’t score many points in my book.

  10. diver

    !! i love to scuba dive and these are like the best places to go! i love these pics 2. !!

  11. Marcus Thompson

    Matt, in a past post you responded to Boris asking him where the Bandas are. Just thought I’d give you an update if you haven’t already found them…they are a very well kept secret and hard to get to but the truth is, if it were any more convenient to reach the islands, they would be overrun with tourists.

    They are located north of Australia and east of Bali and offer stunning tropical scenery, a remarkable history, friendly villages, and some of the globe’s most pristine, biologically diverse coral reefs. The only way to reach them is to island-hop the Indonesian archipelago by small planes, ferry services, or eco-friendly cruises for serious divers but it is more than worth the trouble.

    Happy travels!

  12. I saw Fiji and loved it! And I already knew I wanted to see the Cook Islands and Tahiti, but these pictures just wanna make me leave with the next plane :) Thanks for sharing Matt! BTW, amazing photos!!!

  13. julie

    dear people

    my Name is Julie. for those of view who have never visited tahiti you are seriously missing out. its beautiful and wild and the people are so nice and the weather is great. we got to eat a giant freshly caught tuna and had a big cook out wih tahitian dancers who tell a story about their islands and history. if your looking for paradise tahiti is it do not forget the passports though. you go out and watch the golden sun dance on the water as you watch it set for the night as it gently washes away the stress of busy cities that we live in. i can’t wait to go back what an adventure yahoo!

  14. marjan

    dear matt,
    your expriance and information are wonderful.I hate winter too . this is dream for me to live in a tropical island for ever and some times Ithink about it for hours.good for you to be there most of the time.
    I live in Iran ! have you ever been in Iran? Have you ever visited Kish island in persian golf (one of the largest coral reef area in the world and amazing marine life)????
    I would like to know your idea.

  15. Nick

    Your picture of Tahiti is actually Bora Bora.

    I’m more interested in a list of the best values, aka cheapest paradises.

  16. whoo hoo – I have 7 of your top 10 — with Maldives being high on my list for the future!

    Another one to consider adding is Ouvea in the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia. Incredible – about 25km of beach with hardly a soul on it! Shame it rained most of the time I was there ….but it is really incredible.

  17. Darla

    Hey! Love the website! :) :) :) Awesome! I just love all of the islands on here! It is so hard to choose just one! :( I better go now.
    -Darla 😉

  18. Carrie

    In Ecuador Montanita, La Playa Escondida and La Isla de La Plata (the poor man’s Galapagos are really great beaches to visit. They are beautiful and rustic, but not too touristy like other destinations that claim to be “undiscovered.”

  19. Mariyam Niuma

    Great to see the Maldives on the list! :) I’m a beach freak myself and love islands! Thanks for sharing.

    Gimme a holler if you are coming over to the Maldives :)

  20. totally agree on curacao. hands down, the most beautiful beach i have ever visited is playa kenepa. unequivocally the best!

  21. closing my eyes and imagining spending endless days on these beaches soaking up the sun and swimming in those beautiful waters. thanks for sharing love! 😉

  22. Claudine

    I really want to go to Seychelles. I read about Seychelles before, and I believe that I found out that there are no flights from North America to the islands. I would probably have to get to England and go from there.

  23. Great post, Matt! So far I have been in Bali only from this list, I will put the rest in my places to go list. I’ve been checking around your blog for a while, and your blog is great!

  24. Abie

    I’ve been to all of these places, even the ones you guys mentioned!!! There all very warm *hot*, beautiful, sunny, calm *most of the time* places. I guess you could say… I’m rich!!!

  25. Anders Kanten


    My girlfriend and I am looking for the perfect place to start a Hostel.
    Can you guys recommend an island with steady weather and a steady flow of backpackers all year round?

    It needs to be “cheap”, but not so cheap that we cant make money if you understand.
    We never wanted to get rich, but to make enough to get by just fine.

    It is good potential in this article here, but it does not tell the backpacker flow.

    Best regards from an native Island man from cold Norway…

  26. Mackenzie

    These pictures are fabulous! The best! and the water is so blue! Love Costa Rica, but you’ll find more places where the mountains meet the ocean or the jungle meets the ocean rather than these types of beach above. WOW absolutely great to see these amazing places!

  27. Lynne

    All these pictures and stories are just amazing. We have returned from 2 weeks on Sanibel Island, Florida and I was totally captured by the shells. Amazing. Where else can we go where I can lose myself collecting great shells please anyone???

  28. Crystal

    I am moving to Bali next month. I am currently on another Indo Island, less popular and not really paradise but has some pretty destinations (Batam Island). I must say I am so interested in visiting the other places well but if you are visiting Bali it is definitely a romantic experience. It’s the perfect place for a honeymoon and the best part is… it’s cheap! The most expensive thing will probably be the airfare unless you reside in South East Asia.

    Many of these beautiful islands and tropical getaways are affordable! Hawaii is actually a bit too expensive for a long time stay. Beautiful it is… beyond my budget unfortunately.

  29. Nice list Matt, I’m an island lover too, sun, crystal water, palm trees, you just can’t get that where I’m from in the UK!

  30. Kawika

    What about Australia though? It’s surrounded by water and considered as an island or even continent and others say “Island Continent”
    Australia is an Amazing and Beautiful Place and i’ve proud to be Aussie!
    Who here would classify oz as an Island?

  31. Bufton

    I think it depends on where you live when it comes to expensive holidays, and what sort of accomodation you want. I’m from London and went to the Maldives in oct 2010 2 wks all Inc, £1150. Which was a bargin as previous years I been to Spain spending over £100 day on food and drink etc. I went to the addu atoll on the island of gan which is the most southern chain of islands. The hotel was everything I could have dreamed of, it wasn’t posh or extravergant but who cares when ya in the Maldives. Another great reason to go to the addu atoll is that when the British were there they built bridges and causeways connecting the south and west islands which means u can get on a bike and go and meet the locals, they were so friendly and I recomend the addu atoll to anyone !!!!!

  32. noor hashmi

    wow these are very good pic i would like to find the location and whts good season to visit to this island my location is in chicago bt i couldnt find the address would u plz any who read my msg email me the information regarding location,season and hot to get to this beautiful island i will be so glad hope to get to me back with respond

  33. Bruce

    Great list Matt! Indeed, there obviously there are some spots on this globe I have to visit. Can confirm the Maldives though. Has changed over time, but then again, the first time they were still “exploring” their “tourist economy” potential. Been there twice now and although definitely more crowded still holds its appeal. Be prepared for culture shock though. If you return to the “civilised world” you will wonder about the rest of the grubby world and catch yourself day dreaming regularly. 😉

  34. Monique

    Exuma Bahamas has been my favorite tropical island so far. It is amazingly beautiful, off the beaten path, relaxing (doesn’t have much of a night life), and friendly people. I visited for the first time in August 2010 and went right back two months later in October. Plan on going back this summer as well.

  35. I’ve actually love the fact that you mentioned those beautiful places here and I agree with you a lot. I am also a beach lover and really like to explore different beaches. It’s pretty amazing that each country has its own story and their natural resources says it all. Thank you.

  36. Tessa

    love all the places…. Kho Tao, Thailand… world class diving… I want to travel by June and July…
    any suggestion… (affordable places)… get your weak dollars worth… thanks GT

  37. Debra

    I was wondering…how much would a 7 nights vacation cost for 3 adults and 2 children? I was thinking Seychelles! This place looks amazing!

    • NomadicMatt

      THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS! It is not a cheap destination. You might want to consider a package family tour. You could probably save some money that way.

  38. Moh

    And Mauritius???where is Mauritius??..I’ve been to Mtius last year..and I can tell u it was like paradise!!

  39. Mary

    hey Matt! nice website, i’ve been interested in Curacao for a while, plus its the best deal price wise from NJ. any specific hotel that are not super expensive?


  40. Tim

    Which of these great locations would you recommend for a family with teenagers who like to dive and surf? We have been to Hawaii, Costa Rica and Tahiti. We are looking for a safe, yet different, cultural experience with exotic plants, fish and animals. We would prefer to stay in one villa, as opposed to multiple rooms in a hotel. We don’t mind if it is far away from Southern California. I realize this may be painful financially.

  41. Shak

    I cannot believe you missed Sri Lanka dude! I was recently there, for example type in “Nilaveli, Sri Lanka” you will see what i mean!

  42. jollie

    Wowzers! Tahiti is beautiful! The sunset just completes the picture along with tahiti’s beautiful scenery! All of these destinations are extremely beautiful but my choice out of all of them would definitely be tahiti! I love tahiti because you get your own little hut to stay in! The huts are placed on top of the the bay of water and it would be so beautiful to wake up in the morning to an ocean right beside you! You’d look down and all you would see is ocean! Its so amazing how gorgeous things are! Tahiti will definitely be on my wish list of places to go in the future. Just need a little more money!

  43. All those destinations sound stunning, wish i could pack my stuff and head to the seychelles or maldives right away… thanks for sharing

  44. Jes

    Hi :)

    Have just discovered your blog today and love it! I am a student from NZ and want to travel to somewhere fantastic next year for a few weeks to get away from the hussle and bussle of study and work. Originally thought Thailand would be fantastic, and I see you agree with me here so great! But I also did not realise Bali was also so cheap. For a first trip overseas for a poor student (apart from Aus), where would you recommend? Bali or Thailand?



  45. moki

    you are right,, the writer has never been to philippines,, to see some boracay in there,, boracay deadly island,,,,, at the same time he has neve been in zanzibar to see the true perfect life,, deadly island zanzibar,,, he forgor theetwo,,, zanzibar in tanzania and boracay in philippines…….. deadly islands

    • mikee

      aww, too much negativity there dude. did you here about the recent bombing in bangkok? omg, it’s dangerous everywhere. you should just stay in the US where it’s safe year round. omg, remeber 9/11? omg!

  46. Tukgo

    I think in Vietnam there are many tropical islands very nice such as : Phu Quoc Islands, Con Dao islands, many islands in Halong Bay.

  47. Leo

    Which tropical island would you say is best to live? NOT as rich life, just a simple live! I saw the bahamas in the movie “into the blue” it seemed really good!

  48. james benoiton

    Hi everyone.Went back home (seychelles)for 7 weeks,it was amazing!Just the island way of life(no stress),the weather,the families,creole food especially the fresh fish and of course the beautiful beaches with amazing sceneries.You need to get off the main road sometimes to see the secluded beaches,Some beaches can be seen while driving.My favourite is ANSE ROYALE where i grew up,ANSE PARNEL,PETITE ANSE,ANSE COPRA,ANSE TAKAMAKA,L’INTENDANCE,AND OF COURSE PORT LAUNAY.I also went on PRASLIN AND LA DIGUE ISLAND(WOW)it blew me away.I left seychelles at 17,missed so much,one thing for sure i will be back(hopefully for good one day)THANK YOU

  49. Emily

    Glad to see you mentioned the Cook Islands – my husband and I went to Rarotonga for a week in 2008 and fell in love with it – can’t wait to someday bring our kids back there – they would love it, too! Very few people have actually heard of the Cooks, or know where they are, and while I like the “secrecy” of it, I wish more people would visit! Currently there are only 1-2 flights/week from the US – makes planning trips there a bit tougher!We only took a day trip to Aitutaki because of time, but it was probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Glad to see you agree!

  50. IN Vermont!

    Im here in Vermont and love it here but want more and Im antsy to move in the future. I dont know where to start, but I do know I want a tropical place warm year round. I guess I need a break from this cold weather. I own and operate an herbal shop for I am a Holistic Practitioner , Master Herbalist, Nutritional consultant and much more. Iam looking to relocate my business and myself with my 2 boys!!! Anyone have any locations that I may visit that might be a new future location with a high call for my type of work please oh please let me know. Namaste! Cold here in Vermont!!!!

  51. Rebecca

    Try to look for The Datai Resort in Langkawi, Malaysia. Those who really love nature and rainforest then you should not miss it…! The resort is just place in the middle of a forest. Very interesting.. ^_^

  52. hey matt!

    Tell you what! We have a not-so-hidden secret here in the philippines called Coron, Palawan.. Aside from Boracay, you should definitely add it to your list.

    Search the web for Coron if you want to know what I’m talking about. Twitt me if you wanna swing by so I can take you there. Cool site man!


  53. Lily

    I’m planning my honeymoon in Sep and was sad to know that the Caribbean islands and some of the asian tropical places such as Philippines will be under hurrican season. Your post totally cheered me up since there are so many other wonderful exotic places to choose from!

    Hopefully I can find a perfect place without burning a whole in my wallet!

  54. Dan

    Went to Fiji for my honeymoon and i don’t think that trip can be topped. We wanted seclusion, privacy and romance and thats what we got. Our bure was 20 feet from the beach where we could relax and maybe see 1 or two people all day. It was incredible. The resort was called Matangi island resort. Great staff, great food…. It’s as close to perfect as you can get.

  55. Lowe

    I’m sorry but in there somewhere there has to be BERMUDA!! I have been to halve of these places and Bermuda is definitely in the mix I would put it number 3 or 4 you have to go the people are amazing. Guess what the colour of the sand is….. PINK! You have to go or at least put it on the list.

  56. Kym02