Otherworldly Islands You Have To See Before You Die

Islands invoke dreams of paradise — sublime colorful sand beaches, rustling palms, turquoise blue water, and serene seas. But they are not all about the water and shores. They boast marvelous surroundings such as lavish jungles, soaring mountains and active volcanoes you can actually hike. Time tends to move slower there, making for an ideal escape from a big city.

Santorini, Greece

Capture views of towering cliffs, whitewashed villages and sparkling blue waters. The volcanic island set amid the Aegean Sea is famous for distinct architecture and breathtaking sunsets. Santorini is no travel secret, but it's still well worth the trip. Relax on the black sand beaches of Perissa, broaden your horizons and visit the historic hilltop village of Oia and the incredible wineries in the area.

Easter Island, Chile

This is one of the most secluded adventure destinations in the world. This World Heritage Site is the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle. The now-barren island was once populated by the Rapa Nui civilization (and many trees) and is home to around 6,000 permanent residents. It's famous for its 887 giant statues that were created by the Rapa Nui people.

Assateague Island, Maryland

This is where wild ponies travel the beaches. The 37-mile uninhabited island, near Chincoteague, is split between Virginia and Maryland. One legend says the ponies survived a shipwreck. The "wild" horses are actually feral animals, meaning that they are descendants of domestic animals that have reverted to a wild state, according to NPS. For more islands ruled by animals, click here.

Roatan, Honduras

A lot of Americans go for snorkeling and scuba diving. The water is pristine. There are no traffic lights in this 4 miles wide and 35 miles long region. If you're not really into watersports, there are plenty of land activities you can enjoy as well. The island is surrounded by the second largest coral reef in the world.

Maui, Hawaii

All Hawaiian islands are worth your time, but Maui should be your first stop. The state's second largest island boasts a lush landscape littered with wondrous waterfalls, bamboo forests and of course, sandy shores lined with palm trees, making it the ideal destination for nature lovers of all kinds. Surfing and scuba diving are just two exciting adventures you can embark on. Go rappelling and zip lining, explore lava fields, hike a volcano, or visit Haleakala. There you can also go paragliding, camping, biking down a volcano, and stargazing.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The far-flung Pacific archipelago is nearly 600 miles west of Ecuador. The volcanic islands are filled with varied and unusual endemic species, such as penguins, tortoises, marine iguanas, dolphins, whales, and sea lions. The best way to get up close and personal with the fauna is on a sea kayaking adventure, which brings you literally feet from the creatures as they play in the waters around you. Plaza Sur is among the best snorkeling destinations in the worldSouth Plaza is one of the smallest yet richest islands in the archipelago.

Tetiaroa, French Polynesia

Tetiaroa is perhaps best known as Marlon Brando's private island. People used to think of it as a playground for royalty and the wealthy. The atoll served as a summer residence for the former chiefs and kings of Tahiti. It was inaccessible to the general public for decades, but the new eco-friendly resort, The Brando, has changed that.

Ambergris Caye, Belize

The barrier reef is known for sightings of all kinds of large creatures. The reef shark and nurse shark are occasional visitors as well as the whale shark and the loggerhead turtle.  People visit Belize for its beaches and reefs. To see them even better and enjoy more views that are far more stunning than from the shore, get in a kayak and paddle. Otherwise you'll miss the chance to explore the island's fascinating channels, lagoons and mangrove marshes.  

Palm Islands, Dubai

They are often referred to as the "eighth wonder of the world." After all, they are the largest manmade islands on Earth. They certainly look incredible from above, but seeing them from up close is worth the trip. are home to 5,000 waterfront apartments, 4,000 residential villas, 1,000 water homes and 60 luxury hotels as well as a number of marinas, health spas, shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas, sports facilities and dive sites, according to Travel Online.

Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

The coral reef systems are so abundant and astonishing you're going to need at least a month to explore them properly. When the tide is right, the stunning Monkey Bay is accessible. The coral is just below the surface and brightly colored fish dart, inches from your mask. Hin Klang is in the middle of the sea, Phi Phi Leh has a few more popular snorkeling locations such as Phi Phi Don and Bamboo Island.

Skomer Island, Wales

This is a wildlife paradise. The island is surrounded by some of the richest waters for wildlife off the British Isles, from delightfully colored sea slugs to magnificent cetaceans, according to Welsh Wildlife. The island is famous for its puffins, but there is so much more to the bird paradise including manx shearwaters, dolphins, harbor porpoises, Atlantic grey seal, razorbills, gannets, fulmars and the unique Skomer Vole.

Bora Bora Island, Tahiti

The small island of Bora Bora is dubbed "the jewel of the South Seas." Bora Bora has become synonymous with overwater bungalows, lavish floating villas with glass floors so people can see the lagoon life below, according to Tahiti.com. The spectacular island encompasses some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world. It's the ultimate relaxation getaway and honeymoon destination. Visitors will enjoy delicious foods, tranquil spa treatments, and world-class services.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali, which is often called the Island of the Gods, attracts adventurous travelers with its seashores, mountains, and volcanoes. Begin your day early by cycling to Mt. Baur, then ascending to the top for a sunrise experience. Tackle six miles of 33 class II and III rapids past rainforests, gorges, and rice paddies. Try kayaking, jungle trekking, paragliding, horseback riding, and sea walking.

San Juan Islands, Washington

The San Juan Islands are one of the world's best whale watching spots. The majestic killer whales live in there year round, which makes this the perfect vacation escape for both nature-lovers and adventure-seekers alike. Your journey to the islands, whether by plane, boat, or float plane, will offer the opportunity to explore the great outdoors by hiking along beaches or through the deep woods of San Juan Island National Historical Park.

Boracay, Philippines

This affordable winter destination is renowned for its pristine beaches. The islands' varied landscape is matched by its many offerings; adventurous travelers will find themselves with endless options. White Beach is the most famous site and much of it is finely ground coral. Banyugan Beach is another great location with large groups of fish swimming together just offshore.

Korcula, Croatia

Skip the more popular Brac and Hvar and visit this absolutely stunning Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea. It's 20 miles long and vert narrow, between 4 and 5 miles wide on average. Korcula is known for its dense forest. The ancient Greeks called the island Black Korcula (Kerkyra melaina) for this reason, according to Visit Croatia. Locals now call it "Little Dubrovnik." It, too, has medieval squares, churches, palaces, and houses, and is perfect for a quick and secluded getaway.


Greenland's epic fjords and remote arctic tundra remain under the radar. With 300 clear nights, its visitors might have the magical Northern Lights all to themselves. Visit this unique island while you still can. The melting ice sheet is one of the largest contributors to sea level rise around the globe, and the country experienced its highest average summer temperature on record and an early melt last year. You can see calving glaciers, giant icebergs, and Arctic landscapes.