Bora Bora is a real island paradise
Photograph: Shutterstock.comBora Bora is a real island paradise

11 of the prettiest islands in the world

Time to get tropical. These beautiful islands around the world are the dictionary definition of paradise

John Bills

Close those eyes nice and tight, because it is time to transport yourself away to a little slice of heaven. There are some seriously stunning islands in this world, from Caribbean charmers to northern nooks that could be from another planet entirely, with plenty of range in between. They’re one great testament to the magic of nature. Nobody wants to be shipwrecked, obviously, but you’d do worse than coming ashore on one of these stunners. If you’re visiting these, though, don’t forget the sunglasses, suncream and a good book. Here are the best islands in the world according to us.

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Prettiest islands in the world

1. St Barts

Officially the Collectivité territoriale de Saint-Barthélemy, St Barts is everything that daydreamers have long imagined tropical paradises to be. That means shimmering blue waters, languid sunsets and yachts as far as the eye can see, all protected by a seventeenth-century fort on a gorgeous hill. This little Caribbean island has a long history, although the varied architecture of this volcanic land is all the evidence you’ll need for that. That is if you can rip yourself away from all the gourmet restaurants and designer shops.

2. Bora Bora

So good, they named it twice. An old joke, obviously, but one that must be made every single time, because low-hanging fruit is the most succulent. Bora Bora is a pretty succulent place, too, not to mention one with plenty of low-hanging fruit, although visitors to this slice of magic north-west of Tahiti will be too busy, you know, looking at the place. A wildly popular scuba-diving destination, Bora Bora was developed around a massive dormant volcano: a gorgeously violent centre now enveloped by absolute serenity.


3. Cape Breton

Canada’s easternmost edge is an adventurer’s paradise. Cape Breton Island is best known for the epic Cabot Trail, a 298km road of rugged coastal views that will melt the heart of even the most hardened traveller. The island is all about what happens outdoors – and any place with a large statue of a violin is well worth paying attention to. This place is so beautiful, even the whales stop for a good look every year.

4. Hvar

Croatia has no shortage of islands, but majestic Hvar remains its most popular. Not sure why? Well, just look at the place: Hvar has everything any Dalmatian island could want. It’s packed with historical attractions and modern amenities, and the short trip out here from Split is plenty beautiful in itself. Brač, Krka, Prvić and all the other Croatian islands deserve attention, but Hvar is in a league of its own.


5. Aruba

Just 29km north of Venezuela sits Aruba, a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands that is home to just over 100,000 people. Details, details, who cares for details? We’re here for the gorgeous white sands and stunning vistas, for the vibrant art festivals and alluring architecture, as well as the nightlife and otherworldly landscapes that this place has in spades. 

6. Ischia

Ischia’s thermal springs are an absolute godsend. Looking for some serious recuperation? You’ll find plenty of it on this small island in the Gulf of Naples which has attracted folks in need of a pick-me-up from time immemorial. The hot springs from Maronti Beach in the south are worth the visit themselves, although Ischia’s blend of old architecture and natural beauty will keep visitors plenty engaged.


7. Palawan

Often cited as the most stunning island on the planet, Palawan is arguably the most romantic spot that the Philippines has to offer, which is saying a lot. Palawan’s biodiversity is its calling card, with an incredible variety of living beasts conjuring up colourful images that are scarcely believable – although don’t make the mistake of doubting your own eyes here. All this without mentioning the magic waiting underground? Palawan, you are spoiling us.

8. The Galapagos

When it comes to biodiversity, islands don’t come much more thrilling than the Galapagos. These volcanic beauties straddling the equator are famous for the beasts found here and only here. These islands gave us the theory of evolution, so you could say that they are pretty important, and we like important places to be jaw-droppingly beautiful at the same time. This place does not let the side down. 


9. Zanzibar

Freddie Mercury’s birth island is a treasure trove of incredible diving spots and stunning beaches, usually within touching distance of each other. Just off the east coast of Africa, Zanzibar is as ‘value for money’ as island destinations get, with fascinating cultural flourishes nestled next to a growing restaurant scene and more adventure than you can shake that proverbial stick at. Looking for Africa’s best beaches? Get yourself to Zanzibar. 

10. Kauai

You thought we were going to go through this entire selection without us shining a loving light on Hawaii? What do you take us for?! Hawaii is the archetypical tropical paradise, and Kauai might just be the most ‘tropical paradise’ place of them all. The Garden Isle is all tropical rainforests, dramatic cliffs, gorgeous beaches and iconic mountains; drama and history packed in a most magical setting.


11. Maldives

We’re not sure if the Maldives is now officially the honeymoon capital of the world, but there is something inherently romantic about this Indian Ocean archipelago that makes it a magnet for the newly betrothed. It isn’t tough to see why, what with all the incredible scenery and whatnot, but there is more to the Maldives than cerulean seas and glimmering sands. The landmarks and attractions here might surprise you, and getting to discuss them while lazing on some of the world’s best beaches is an experience to enjoy. 

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