12 Gorgeous Tropical Islands for the Perfect Beach Vacation
Regardless of where you live or what your idea of the perfect vacation is, it’s hard to top a tropical island. The perpetual sunshine and mild temperatures, the sparkling sea, the expansive sandy beaches, the slushy drinks adorned with tiny umbrellas, the “island time” that invites you to slow down and (quite literally) soak it all up… they’re the perfect ingredients for a dreamy tropical getaway.
Whether you’re ready to book your next beach vacation today or you’re just “window shopping” for a future bucket list trip, these destinations are sure to inspire your tropical-themed wanderlust. Shh – if you close your eyes for a moment, you can almost feel your toes in the sand and hear the ocean breeze.
Stunning Tropical Islands Around The World
There are absolutely gorgeous tropical islands dotting every section of the world, some famous and some little-known. Some offer up non-stop adventure, while some invite you to do nothing more than relax. Some islands have distinct cultures of their own, and others are melting pots of influence from all over the world. Whatever your unique island style is, you’re sure to find the perfect fit on this list of tropical islands.
1. St. Lucia, Caribbean
The Caribbean is an iconic tropical vacation destination, and the island of St. Lucia doesn’t disappoint. Topping several lists of the most romantic places in the world, St. Lucia is quiet and truly dreamy. The island has white sand and volcanic black sand beaches, both of which are pristine and seem to stretch on forever. Towering above are the instantly recognizable Pitons, twin volcanoes that taper dramatically at their peaks. Yes, you can hike them – but hire a local to guide you, as the ascent is steep and muddy.
Best time to visit: May and June are the best months to visit St. Lucia, between the busy tourism season (December through April) and hurricane season, which starts in mid-to-late July and lasts through fall.
Where to stay: For the best views, you absolutely must stay at Sugar Beach. It sits on a historic former sugar plantation right between the peaks of the Pitons and boasts a spa tucked right into the rainforest.
2. Turks and Caicos
If beaches are your priority, it doesn’t get much better than Turks and Caicos. Northeast of Cuba in the Bahamas Archipelago, Turks and Caicos is home to the world’s best beaches. That’s not just our opinion; the islands’ beaches consistently rank near the top of travel industry “best beaches” lists. Surprisingly, Turks and Caicos is still a largely uncrowded hidden gem, often overlooked in favor of its extremely popular neighbors including the Bahamas, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.
Best time to visit: Hurricane season lasts from June through November, which brings heavy rains even in mild years. Try to plan a spring visit, when you’ll find fewer crowds and lower prices than winter.
Where to stay: Unique to Turks and Caicos, there aren’t many tourist attractions. Instead, the beaches are the main attraction, which means you’ll want to splurge on a hotel on or near the best ones. The Sands at Grace Bay delivers, with an ideal location and complimentary loaner bicycles.
3. Bali, Indonesia
One of the most well-known islands in Indonesia, Bali is just as much a top spiritual and wellness destination as it is a tropical paradise. Bali’s beaches and surfing are world-renowned, but so are its 20,000-plus temples and thousands of spas and yoga studios. The Balinese locals are also some of the most gentle and welcoming people you’ll ever meet, completing the perfectly laid-back vibe. Stay in Seminyak for a mixture of great beaches and busy shops and restaurants, or choose Ubud for a more secluded getaway.
Best time to visit: Hurricanes don’t hit Bali, but the island does experience a distinct rainy season. To avoid it, visit from April through October.
Where to stay: One of the best things about Bali is that it’s almost shockingly affordable. Stay at the stunning Padma Resort Ubud, with infinity pools overlooking the rainforest, for well under $200 a night.
4. Maui, Hawaii
Maui is perhaps the most accessible of the tropical islands on our list. Aside from being in the U.S., it has a fairly large airport with numerous flights arriving from around the world daily. It also truly has something to offer everyone, from secluded beaches and adrenaline-pumping hikes to epic road trips and world-class snorkeling and diving. The Road to Hana, in particular, is not to be missed and ideally, you should allow a full day to drive the entire route.
Best time to visit: Maui enjoys fantastic weather year-round, so that isn’t a concern when deciding to visit. For the best chance of spotting migrating mama humpback whales with their babies (calves), visit from January through March.
Where to stay: The oceanfront Grand Wailea Resort is in Wailea-Makena, an area of south Maui that feels more authentic than other parts of the island. Enjoy posh accommodations, several pools (including one with a Tarzan swing over it!), and nearby shops and restaurants.
Aruba is an iconic Caribbean island with several tranquil beaches, plenty of adventurous activities (kitesurfing, anyone?), and fascinating history (with the architecture and Dutch-influenced cuisine to prove it!). It’s also secluded from most other Caribbean islands, just 20 miles north of Venezuela in the far southern part of the Caribbean Sea. That means crowds are generally a little thinner in Aruba, allowing you to enjoy more of everything the island has to offer, from scuba diving to exploring the island in an ATV and – literally – everything in between.
Best time to visit: Aruba sits far outside the “hurricane belt,” so weather-wise, there’s really no bad time to visit. From April through September, you’ll find substantially lower prices on accommodations.
Where to stay: For the perfect balance of authentic Caribbean culture, historical landmarks, and easy access to both restaurants and beaches, choose the Renaissance Aruba Wind Creek Resort.
6. St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. Croix is one of just three U.S. Virgin Islands (the neighboring British Virgin Islands comprise more than 50 individual islands). Despite having a cruise port, St. Croix is almost entirely void of anything touristy and feels like a “locals-only” island – and that’s a very good thing. Prices are shockingly reasonable, traffic and lines are practically non-existent, and there are rarely crowds anywhere.
Best time to visit: Plan your trip for winter or spring, when the weather is calm and chances of storms are at a minimum. Although few hurricanes actually hit St. Croix, the best chances coincide with the rainy season from July through October.
Where to stay: Hotel on the Cay is just a (literal) two-minute ferry ride from downtown Christiansted and it has its own private beach. Snorkel from the shore, listen to live music several nights a week and enjoy proximity to the marina, where most excursions leave from.
See more about - The 10 Best American Lake Towns To Visit This Summer
7. Phuket, Thailand
Seeking an exotic tropical destination that won’t strain your budget too much? Look no further than Phuket, Thailand’s largest island. Here, even the highest-end resorts have notably affordable price tags – but they’re certainly not lacking in amenities. Enjoy pristine beaches, boat tours, visiting Buddhist temples, and sampling famously flavorful (and often spicy!) Thai food on Phuket, and easily visit several neighboring islands, including the famous James Bond Island.
Best time to visit: The best time to travel to Phuket is in the winter, when it rains very little and there’s plenty of sunshine. May through October is monsoon season, where it frequently storms.
Where to stay: Karon Sea Sands Resort puts you directly on one of the nicest beaches in Phuket, with easy access to restaurants, beach bars, and shops.
8. Bora Bora, Tahiti
It doesn’t get much more quintessentially tropical than Bora Bora, in French Polynesia. This extremely remote, dramatically landscaped island combines luxury accommodations, strong cultural influences, and both water and land adventures. Hike, go kayaking, dive with sharks, and indulge in gourmet French-inspired cuisine. Bora Bora is one of the most expensive destinations in the world, largely because of its remoteness, but it’s well worth it as a bucket list, once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Best time to visit: Hurricanes are exceedingly rare in Tahiti, but the wettest (and buggiest!) season is from December through March. November and April are best in terms of having the fewest crowds.
Where to stay: There isn’t a single bad place to stay in Bora Bora. However, you may as well go all-out on your accommodations and stay in one of the glass-bottom over-water bungalows at Le Meridien Bora Bora.
9. Palawan, Philippines
Locals and those fortunate enough to visit know the Philippines is home to some of the most unspoiled beaches in the world. For the most part, though, Palawan is a truly underrated destination. Soaring limestone cliffs frame white sand beaches and the water is so clear, locals joke that you can see the fish’s facial expressions. The real star of the show on Palawan is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Best time to visit: Like many tropical islands, Palawan has distinct dry and rainy seasons. December through May is the dry season when you can enjoy the beach, hike, and visit the subterranean river (it frequently closes due to flooding in heavy rain).
Where to stay: Flower Island Resort is on one end of Palawan, secluded enough that it feels as if you’re hours from civilization. Individual bungalows are crafted from indigenous materials and everything is solar-powered, but it’s also top-tier luxury.
10. Roatan, Honduras
Roatan is well-known as a top diving destination, as it’s home to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest (and one of the healthiest) in the world. However, outside of diving, Roatan is a largely little-known destination. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things to do besides diving – on the contrary, Roatan is packed with adventure and leisure activities. Hike, snorkel, ride horses, enjoy yoga, kayak, go sailing, or simply lounge on the sand.
Best time to visit: Dry season officially runs from February to June, when the chances of hurricanes and tropical storms are lowest. Consider visiting in December or January, the “shoulder season,” for the fewest crowds and lowest prices.
Where to stay: Situated on West Bay, one of the nicest beaches in the Caribbean (let alone Roatan!), Villa Topaz is a group of high-end vacation rentals. There are one to six-bedroom options, most with private pools.
11. Culebra, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico as a whole is a wonderful choice for a tropical island getaway, but Culebra especially stands out. The small, almost completely untouched island is 20 miles east of mainland Puerto Rico and features 10 sparkling beaches. Over 20% of the island is dedicated to wildlife preserves and a refuge, largely protecting it from much commercial development. The food on Culebra alone is reason enough to visit, a perfect mixture of Caribbean flavors and spicy Spanish-influenced cuisine.
Best time to visit: Spring is the best time to visit Culebra when the weather is near-perfect and the winter crowds have thinned out considerably.
Where to stay: One of the best things about Culebra is there are no chain hotels. Instead, you’ll find charming boutique inns like Club Seabourne, which offer proximity to beaches and town as well as loads of amenities.
Last but certainly not least is tiny Nevis, the smaller of two islands comprising the single country of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The island has some of the longest, most pristine beaches in the Caribbean, plus proper mountains and a lively culture. When you’re not relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, or splashing in the sea, hike 3,232-foot Nevis Peak, go on an ATV tour, play golf, or sample your way through the island’s globally-inspired restaurants.
Best time to visit: Dry season on Nevis is December through June, and the Christmas season through February is one of the busiest times. To strike a good balance of low prices and fewer tourists, visit from April to June.
Where to stay: Choose The Hermitage Nevis for an authentic “old Caribbean” experience. The beautifully preserved historic gingerbread cottages and lush rainforest setting transport you to instant relaxation. The hotel’s rum punch is also said to be the best on the island.
See more about - 8 Must Experience Bucket List Trips