Reader Recs: Island Getaways

Nothing screams vacation quite like a sandy beach, clear blue water, and a fruity drink. To inspire a bit of summer wanderlust (or to help with your winter escape plans), we recently asked our Facebook fans to tell us their favorite island getaways in the world. Their answers ranged from large archipelagos to tiny islands we had to look up on a map, but one thing is for sure—their picks will keep you daydreaming for days.

So grab a bottle of SPF, and join us on a tour of the world’s best island vacations:

Heather C. kicks us off in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea with a visit to the largest island in the Maltese archipelago—Malta. “You have it all there,” she says. “History, a huge mix of cultures, and breathtaking geological formations.” Plus, she adds, the people are friendly. Can’t beat that!

Next we head to Quebec’s Magdalen Islands (French, Îles de la Madeleine) for what Camilie B. describes as an off-the-grid destination that is even unknown to many Canadians. Between the great seafood and the Acadian culture, the Magdalen Islands steal Camilie’s heart every time she visits.

If you’re looking for “beautiful beaches, diverse landscape and great nightlife,” Melissa V. recommends Mallorca off the coast of Spain. The largest of the Balaeric Islands, Mallorca is popular among locals and tourists for its scenery (think white-sand beaches and azure waters).

Speaking of white-sand beaches, Victoria U. added the Bahamas to our list. She suggests a trip to Freeport for delicious food, uncrowded shores, and clear blue water.

Tommy W. went the unconventional route with his selection: “While it may not be the first thing to pop into your mind when you think of an island vacation, Greenland is an extraordinary place to visit.” The wildlife, natural terrain, and delicious local cuisine make the world’s largest island worthy of a visit.

Located in the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira Island offers visitors picturesque views and a welcoming atmosphere, says Gareth R. This Portuguese archipelago has year-round activities, including one of the largest fireworks shows in the world every New Year’s Eve. If that’s not enough of a reason to visit, the island also produces world-class wine.

Jax R. cautions against overlooking the smallest of Honduras’s Bay IslandsUtila. Spectacular diving, an automobile-free environment, and incredible beach parties make this tiny island a great choice for your next vacation. While you’re there, be sure to check out Treetanic, a local bar situated among the trees.

St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands was added to our list by Nikki A. This Caribbean destination is “beautiful, relaxing, welcoming, and easily accessible,” she says.  If you’re looking for a family-friendly tropical getaway, Mila R. recommends Guadeloupe. A “Caribbean dream with French flavor,” Guadeloupe gets high marks from Mila for its amazing beaches, wonderful nature, and fantastic sea life.

It will come as no surprise to many that Hawaii received love from our Facebook fans. Glenny P. suggests a trip to the Big Island for black-sand beaches, lush mountains, countless waterfalls, and the world’s most active volcano. A must is a drive to the Mauna Kea summit, “where you can stargaze all night long,” he says. Faye W. echoed Glenny’s remarks, adding a trip to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park to the itinerary. She also recommended touring one of the many coffee plantations and grabbing a bite to eat at Keoki’s Roadside Cafe.

A bit more unknown, Greece’s Agistri Island is a “hidden gem” with crystal clear-waters, says Toria D. Friendly locals and the ability to travel on foot, add to this islands charm. While you’re in the general area, Soso M. suggests traveling southeast to check out Santorini‘s “beautiful architecture and amazing atmosphere.”

Described as the “jewel of the Pacific” and a “hidden paradise” by Ivana C., the Cook Islands rated as another beloved getaway. While Ivana thinks Aitutaki is the island most worthy of a visit due to its amazing food and interesting history, Scott L. prefers Rarotonga‘s tropical scenery and incredible sunsets.

Jeju Island in South Korea is another great option if it’s gorgeous landscapes you’re after—at least according to Heeduk S. Jeff S. also cites the island’s superb beaches and food as good reasons to visit.

In Indonesia, Tiwi P. points out Pari Island and Tidung Island as A-one destinations for their beautiful corals and exceptional SCUBA diving opportunities. Gili Meno Island also made the list thanks to Holly B. who enjoys the lack of vehicles on the island, as well as its world-class snorkeling scene.

To round out our list, Catherine H. suggests a trip to the Galápagos Islands, and we couldn’t agree more. Outstanding wildlife, hiking, and deep-water snorkeling make this volcanic archipelago one of the most coveted island getaways in the world.

What’s the best island you’ve ever been to and why? Tell us in the comments section for a chance to appear on Intelligent Travel.

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  1. Fernande Wachenfeld
    September 21, 2014, 12:01 pm

    Renting the island of Moyenne in the Seychelles for a month at a time, allowed us to get away from tourists and snorkel and dive all day to our hearts’ content in one of the most fabulous areas for crystal clear seas and underwater fauna. This was in the 1970s. Now, from what I hear from a marine biologist friend, the Seychelles Marine Park has been badly damaged by the Tsunami that decimated the area a few years ago. It might take some time to recover now that Brendon Grimshaw is no longer there to remind people of its importance and uniqueness.

  2. Antonio Fernandes
    Lisboa - Portugal
    August 21, 2014, 2:43 pm

    I have a double choice. The first is Fayal island, one of the Azores islands, a tiny piece of land with two sleeping volcanos and a toy-like capital town named Horta, in front of a monument of Nature, the mountain of Pico across a 5-mile channel. The second is Boavista island, one of Cabo Verde islands, not far from the westwrn coast of Africa and half-way between Europe and Brazil. Boavista has the most amazing beach I’ve ever known: miles of white, clean sand, almost desert, and a marvelous sea with tender waves and absolutely no danger.

  3. John Sirait
    Flores, Indonesia
    August 16, 2014, 9:17 am

    Well, I would love to share Samosir Island in North Sumatra, Indonesia, the great culture, picturesque scenery, and not to forget the always smile people, very friendly, Samosir Island is known for its grandeur family cemetery, you could see, the cemetery there mostly belong to one big family, where their ancestors and descendants all buried in the same place.

    Other place, is this island where I am right now, Flores Island, is a place you could find about nature, sincere of the locals, amazing beach, and cold mountain, best known for its Kommodo Dragon, you could also find Three-colored Lake Kelimutu, the color of the lake always change depends on the weather or climate, but Blue, Green, and Red is the main color, sometime the red lake is so thick it seems like the color of a soda softdrink :D

  4. Donna DiFelice
    Arlington, Virginia
    August 15, 2014, 3:54 pm

    I could describe any number of islands of natural beauty because I am blessed with the ability to sail a 47’ catamaran for seven months every year to glorious destinations across the ocean. For those who must fly to their destination, I would make two recommendations.

    One would be to visit Barbuda in the Eastern Caribbean which can be reached by ferry or air from sister island Antigua. Barbuda is part of the same “country” as Antigua – but is very different culturally, economically, and geologically from Antigua. Geologically, if Barbuda could be relocated to the Bahamas it would fit right in. Unlike its former-volcanic sister island and others to the south, Barbuda is a low and flat limestone/coral formation that is not seen from sea until you’re already into its shallows. Pink sand beach surrounds it with its western shore, dubbed “Eleven Mile Beach”, presenting eleven unbroken miles of fine pink sand. There are few rivals to it anywhere in the world. You won’t see it promoted much because there are no mega resorts on the island to pay for the advertising. Good for Barbuda and the visitors who do find their way here! Barbuda has successfully kept major developments away from the island because its residents understand how precious their land truly is.

    To say this island is laid back is an understatement. If you’re looking for happy hours and nightlife you will want to go elsewhere. For those who delight in a remote getaway, this is a dream island. You will find excellent snorkeling in Gravenor Bay on the south end of the island that can be reached by swimming from the shoreline or taking a local boat into the nearby Palaster Reef. Visit the quaint town of Codrington and take a tour of the lagoon’s Nature Reserve of the Magnificent Frigate Bird (best January-March; the peak nesting season is February), rivaling in size that found in the Galapagos. Hike to grand caves at Two Foot Bay or just hike leisurely throughout the island.

    I am compelled to make a second recommendation to have you visit the island of Saba—also in the Eastern Caribbean. You won’t find a beach here, but you will find excellent hiking and diving. Saba is simply enchanting…seen from sea, this extinct volcano of an island is an impressive but seemingly inhospitable, big round rock, about three miles in diameter with no natural harbors and no beaches as we know them–just sheer cliffs rising vertically out of the sea. A place at its best for adventurers, eco-tourists and divers, its “unappealing” characteristics may be its biggest asset – it has been spared overwhelming tourist development but does boast an intimate “eco-lodge”. As a result, Saba has retained a very quaint and welcoming charm to the few visitors who are curious enough to find their way here.

    A cab will take you anywhere on the island for little expense, but there is a great deal of fun in simply pushing yourself to the limit and spending the day hiking from the harbor on “the road that couldn’t be built” to the closest town called The Bottom. Continue as far as your energy will take you skyward but don’t forget your camera! A cab can take you to the trail head for the exhilarating 90-minute hike to the summit of Mt. Scenery at some 2877 feet in height up some 1064 steps called the Mt. Scenery Stairwell (start early in the morning on the least cloudy day). The steps can be quite tall so it’s a good workout, especially for children and adults with short legs. The glorious views are extraordinary and well worth the exercise. Even without being on the volcano summit, other volcanic islands can be easily seen in the distance from Saba. St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Eustatius (Statia), St. Christopher (St. Kitts), Nevis and, on a clear day, Montserrat can all be seen.

    If that isn’t enough (pick up a trail map from a shop near the trail head), you can hike down the summit until that trail branches with another trail known as the Crispeen Track which you can follow all the way back to the town of The Bottom. On Saba, you will be able to preserve your reputation for not being a wimp! Your compensation may be a stop in a small grocery at The Bottom where you can buy a really good bottle of rum for a really cheap price. Its weight in your backpack can replace that of the water bottles you consume during all that hiking.

    Saba is renowned as well for its diving opportunities and even snorkelers can find someone to take them to Torrens Point where the variety of fish is plentiful and the many sea turtles were absolutely gorgeous to swim amongst through alleys of rocks.

    Both of these destinations create memories of a lifetime!

  5. Anita Romaniuk
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    August 15, 2014, 7:27 am

    Many people have heard of the Orkneys and Shetlands north of Scotland, and the Hebridian Islands off the west coast, although none of them made your list. Most tourists visit the better known ones such as Lewis & Harris, or Isla if they’re aficiondos of whisky. Few probably go to Uist, and that’s a shame. There are actually 3 of them, North & South Uist, with Benbecula in the middle, all joined by short causeways. They have striking, isolated landscapes, sea coast, and interesting small villages, as well as a lively history. The best known took place on south coast on the Straits of Barra where a famous shipwreck occurred during the Second World War, and the ship in question just happened to be carrying whisky to the USA where it was supposed to raise revenue for the war effort. Much of the whisky was recovered, but not by the government! Let’s just say that cellars on the south coast of Uist remained well-stocked for some time!

  6. Cindy Fulton
    Portsmouth, NH
    August 15, 2014, 6:49 am

    The Isle of Man in Great Britain. It is its own country, has amazing coastal views (with a footpath nearly 100% around its circumference on its coast), has its own breed of cat, and is famous for a motorcycle path/race (the TT).

    Also don’t forget the Orkney Islands (to the north of Scotland). The archaeological finds here (standing stones, and formations like Skara Brae which are older than Stonehenge) and the spectacular bird watching and ocean views make a visit worth it. There are about 60 small islands to explore in Orkney.

  7. Leslie Ware
    Krabi Thailand
    August 14, 2014, 10:29 pm

    Saipan and the Northern Mariana Islands. This US territory is a paradise I called home for over 10 years. Relatively unknown to most Americans, these islands boast some of the most awesome diving and snorkeling available. Crystal clear water, abundance of tropical fish, and unbelievable diving sites, from coral reefs, lagoon island to underwater grottoes, are at your fingertips. The islands have accommodations from world class to bed and breakfast resorts. The Islands are about 900 miles south of Japan in the western Pacific Ocean. They are also Famous for the Marianas Trench, the deepest spot on Earth, just east of the island. A little out of the way but easily accessible, with a very nice international Airport, with daily direct flights from Narita, Seoul, and China. The Island are covered in jungle and have amazing beaches.

  8. Renatebarreras
    Sylt Germany.
    August 14, 2014, 9:13 am

    Small long Island great beaches, good for walking. Wonderful thatched cottages to rent.

  9. Noel Craig
    August 12, 2014, 1:18 pm

    Re your post on the Gili Islands in Indonesia. I would like to advise all travellers to be extremly careful of contaminated alcohol in these islands and in Bali. Many people including my own 25 year old daughter have lost their lives due to this practice. A single drink can kill and it may appear to come from an internationally recognised drink label, so that is no protection. Protect yourself and avoid spirits and Cocktails while there. Research the web for Methanol poisoning in Bali or view Facebook page “a drink to die from”- run by the many relatives and friends of those who have died.

  10. lily prichard
    United Kingdom
    August 9, 2014, 9:05 pm

    my favourite island has to be Madeira just off portugal’s coast. amazing in fact it was there that i developed my brand owt with the portuguese secrets of beauty and amazing food and wine and scenery

  11. Graham Harris Graham
    Isle of Harris, Scotland
    August 9, 2014, 10:53 am

    Pristine white sands, clear aquamarine waters, otters, seals, dolphins & wales, unique machair grasslands, brooding hills, Gaelic culture & 7,000 years of history.

    If that’s not enough to stimulate your senses, perhaps a spell in prison might work?

  12. Diane Maxwell
    Ontario, Canada
    August 5, 2014, 11:34 am

    I went to Iceland for the first time this June. It exceeded all of my expectations. The vivid natural beauty of this geologically active island was amazing. There were glacial lagoons with icebergs, natural blue lagoon hot springs, geysers, amazing waterfalls, beautiful Icelandic horses, historical sites, a penis museum, lava fields, volcanos, glaciers, mountains, wild rivers, beautiful quaint cities and fishing villages and the many fjords Both beautiful and rugged, Iceland has much to offer. It was a photographer’s dream location!! I loved the island nation of Iceland and I plan to return.

  13. Matt
    Ohio, USA
    August 5, 2014, 11:04 am

    My wife and I love to travel, and we tend to head for sun and sand destinations. This year we went to Europe. We spent a couple days in Lindau, Germany. It’s a small island / city on Lake Constance. The harbor is beautiful, and the views of the Alps across the lake were magnificent!

    No beaches, but we enjoyed it.

  14. Marilyn Lynch
    August 5, 2014, 6:22 am

    Wow – Don’t forget the glorious islands of Fiji, Vanuatu, Thailand and Samoa! It’s surprising not one of these awesome island destinations isn’t on this ‘top’ island getaway list. Why not review and take a little peek at some of the amazing destinations here – – At least ONE of the 334 islands of Fiji has to make the cut. Surely? Beyond beautiful:) Vinaka!

  15. Robin
    August 5, 2014, 5:17 am

    An island that is definitely worth a visit i Ilha do Mel (Honey Island) in Brazil. It has amazing beaches and dolphins swim in the waters there, there are no cars at all and only two small villages…if you want to get lost for a while go there, you will even have a hard time to find internet…the places makes for wonderful walks in its forests, lagunas and caves and is absolutely safe, you will meet some of the friendliest people ever there…

    Also, the Isla Margarita in Venezuela is one of the most beautiful you will ever see…it count with one of the longest beaches in the world and is a marvellous place for surfing and relaxing…if you want to know more about Isla Margarita and Venezuela in general, be sure to check out my blog:

  16. Jill Fuller
    August 4, 2014, 11:39 pm

    My favorite island is Inishmurray Island in Sligo Bay in Ireland. Within minutes of climbing the rocks and walking the fields of the island, I felt in my bones that this was a land that still breathed its memories, protected its sacredness, and stood apart from time. In that way, it seemed to me the perfect embodiment of Ireland itself, a land of myth and memory, change and stillness. I wrote a piece on it for “The Wild Geese” website at this link:

  17. Filipe Lima
    Ouro Preto, Brazil
    August 4, 2014, 7:43 pm

    Fernando de Noronha Island, Brazil… Wonderful location and perfect place for rest with friends. The dolfhins and sharks are amazing, and Noronha is situated in one wonderful state in Brazil, Pernambuco, where also you can enjoy the capital Recife, and the colonial city Olinda, famous for the frevo and carnival.

  18. Nic Hilditch-Short
    August 4, 2014, 7:20 am

    Malta is a wonderful location but just off it’s coast is Gozo which is even more spectacular. I also enjoyed the island of Capri not far from Naples, Italy, the views are amazing and the cable car ride up to the highest point on the island is a great experience.

  19. Angela Phillips
    Brooklyn, New York
    August 2, 2014, 1:25 am


    Little Corn Island, Nicaragua is the best island I have ever been too. The island is a perfect haven for rest and relaxation. After landing in Managua, you fly to Big Corn Island and then take a Panga (open boat) to Little Corn Island. The island has remained untouched to mass tourism and real estate developments and there are no vehicles, not one. The Corn Islanders are laid back, pleasant and friendly. For activities, there is plenty of hiking, snorkeling, fishing and diving; but absolutely nothing is better than to fall asleep in a hammock under a palm tree while listening to the gentle waves lapping to the shore. Catching an early sunrise walk along one of the beaches, you may very well be the only one except for the occasional sand crab. Little Corn Island is a quiet remote paradise and it is the perfect getaway. I hope it never, ever changes.