BEST TROPICAL ISLAND VACATION GETAWAYS

From dreamy beaches and silky seas to thriving coral reefs, these are our editor's 10 pick of the tropical vacation hot spots not to be missed out this summer

Words: Aleksandra Georgieva

Photography: Nathana Reboucas, Oliver Sjostrom, Parker Amstutz, Diana Kulenyuk

08 June 2020

Silky warm seas and sleepy beaches await your next best tropical island vacation. endless sunshine glows over the lush scenery of some of the best tropical destinations on Earth. Exotic customs, natural beauty, cultural attractions, vivid architecture and dreamy cuisine are among the sultry charms of these tropical holiday islands. Surf perfect waves, dive among thriving coral reefs or enjoy wildlife-rich wilderness and eco-adventures.

Whether you seek accommodation in over-the-water luxury Caribbean villas or bamboo huts within Bali's forests, these picks are for you. Browse through our editors' 10 favourite tropical island vacation hot spots.

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1. Bora Bora, Tahiti – this beautiful island in French Polynesia neighbours with an azure lagoon. Bora Bora is known for its natural beauty and cultural appeal. The gourmet cuisine alone will tempt you to visit this once-in-a-lifetime place tropical honeymoon destination. Roam around coconut palms lined around the beaches of this South Pacific paradise. Here you can go as wild as to shark dive, hike picturesque trails or attempt water sport adventures. Stay at luxury bungalows with glass floor panels lifted over the crystal waters of the thriving sea below.

2. The Abacos, The Bahamas – seduces travellers with peaceful setting, sleepy fishing villages and thriving coral reefs. The Atlantic islands are also known as Family Islands or Out Islands, intoxicating visitors with the feeling of being worlds away from the tourist crowds of nearby Florida. Abacos lays ashore some of the world’s best waters for sailing and boating. The island’s narrow streets are graced with colourful colonial cottages while the pine-fringed beaches host the notable candy-striped lighthouse. Whether you seek relaxation at the white-sand beaches surrounded by technicolour turquoise waters or you’re a diving enthusiast, the Abacos is for you. Feel invited to travel back in time to old Bahamas at the Green Turtle Cay or enjoy the beach life at Treasure Cay, Walker's Cay and Guana Cay.

3. Aitutaki, Cook Islands – part of an archipelago of 15 ravishing tropical isles, Aitutaki is the jewel in the crown of the Cook Islands. Near New Zealand, this dream vacation destination thrives with lush palm beaches and friendly locals of the South Pacific, who have plenty to teach you about the laid-back village life. Aitutaki in the Cook Islands offers an array of fun from snorkelling to kayaking and swimming the warm tropical coast waters. The island also greets visitors with lavish over-the-water bungalows and a luminous aqua lagoon. Visit over 20 motu (small islands) scattered across the lagoon, including the small island of Tapuaetai (One Foot Island), located in its southeast corner.

4. Kaua'i, Hawaii – switch the cliché coastlines for green coastal peaks, spectacular waterfalls and wild rainforests. This little Eden lays over dramatic lava-sculpted landscape. Dare to go underwater where tropical fish and turtles swim among coral reefs. Hike the peaks of the Napali Coast, discover the natural splendour of Waimea Canyon and get a birds-eye view of the golden beaches from the cliffs above Hanalei Bay. Kaua'I is known as the Garden Isle. It is one of the rainiest places on the planet, yet the island is also home to several microclimates. The coastal towns inspire a laid-back vibe. Kaua'I is a top surf break destination where the nature’s allure takes visitors among tropical gardens and cloud-capped seaside scenery.

5. Maldives – surrounded by luminous blue waters lay the 26 natural atolls of the Maldives, southwest of India and Sri Lanka. This is not just a top tropical island destination spot, it is also the home to a low-lying island nation, surviving on income by the tourism and travel industry. Most visitors trade the capital city of Male’ for the remote atolls where surfing and snorkelling are world-class. A good alternative is a cruise vacation along the Maldives’ famous crystal clear waters. Indulge into the world of luxury resorts, soul-warming seas and bone-white beaches of this tropical island paradise.

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6. The Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica – with jungle forests and long beaches the Nicoya Peninsula is a hot spot for eco-travellers and surfers. Playa Tamarindo welcomes surfing enthusiasts of all skill levels. The towns of the peninsula are well developed for tourists, fun-loving backpackers, families, horseback riders and the lovers of zip lining, snorkelling and diving. Found on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula is famous for boutique hideaways, yoga retreats, organic eateries and fantastic surf spots. Visit the peaceful undeveloped town of Samara, the greenery of Nosara and the continent's last unspoiled pockets of cloud forest at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Fans of the raw coastline nature can also watch turtles nesting. Head for Playa Grande between October and March to witness one of Costa Rica's most important nesting grounds for leatherback turtles.

7. Florida Keys, US – the coral islands are linked by causeways, reached by the Overseas Highway more than 110 miles south of Miami and within about 90 miles of Cuba. Florida Keys is the home to the United States’ only coral reef. Enjoy the tropical vibe of this island destination, graced with mesmerising palm-lined stretches of sand. Indulge into top-class snorkelling and diving sites past history-rich towns layered with colourful Caribbean-style cottages. Some of the biggest fishing tournaments are held in the area of Islamorada, self-proclaimed as the "sport fishing capital of the world".  Don’t forget to also pay a visit to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Key Largo and the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

8. Riviera Maya, Mexico – is among the affordable top tropical destinations where zesty cuisine, vibrant culture and pristine beaches tempt summer-loving travellers. On the tip of the Yucatán peninsula, along the Caribbean coast, the Riviera Maya (Mayan Riviera) offers a mix of lavish all-inclusive resorts and independent accommodations facing the postcard-worthy beaches. Those, who prefer yoga retreats and boutique hotels will not be disappointed either. Choose between the resort destinations of Playa del Carmen, Cancún and the island of Cozumel. Here tropical travellers can enjoy diving and snorkelling amid clear warm water where swimming with dolphins and stingrays is a common summertime practice. Witness the turquoise Caribbean Sea from above when you indulge in the local culture among the magnificent ancient ruins of Tulum.

9. Port Douglas, Australia – is a small paradise for adventure and nature lovers. Once a sleepy fishing village, Port Douglas has evolved into a popular tropical tourist resort. Roam the upscale town and choose between attempting a wilderness safari and a reef trip. The destination is also a short-drive away from Australia’s richest ecosystems – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, splashed next to the reef-dappled waters of Cape Tribulation. The area praises itself with the jungle-fringed sandy Four Mile Beach. Culture bursts indoors of the local art galleries, cafés and upscale shope scattered across palm and mango tree-lined streets.

10. The Andaman Coast, Thailand – offers one of the planet's most striking seascapes. The coast is convenient for exploring the islands of the Andaman Sea – lush limestone peaks rising above turquoise waters. The famous resort towns of the Phi Phi Islands in the area are popular among seekers of a peaceful patch of tropical paradise. Phang Nga Bay is home to over a hundred emerald islands, featured in major Hollywood films. Visitors choose between budget-friendly beachfront bamboo shacks and luxury villas scattered over sea cliffs. High end resorts tend to be more affordable at the Andaman Coast than other tropical destinations. Get familiar with fiery food, exotic culture and dazzling natural scenery, including jungle-cloaked peaks and wild elephants’ home at the Khao Sok National Park. Avoid visiting between May and October when the southwest monsoon strikes the coast.

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