Palm trees, sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters...all requisites for an island, right? Well, sure -- many an island has all of these features. But an island doesn't have to have that typical tropical vibe to be classified as an island. All it needs is a location smack-dab in the middle on a body of water. So today, we're bringing you a list of islands that are not your typical islands (read: no coconut cocktails, no year-round summer weather -- although some do). You may have even been to these islands and not even realized they were islands! The eight that make this list are far from the ordinary.
Paris is home to two natural islands in the Seine, the larger and more famous being Ile de la Cite. This is where visitors can find the Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, and the Palais de Justice de Paris. But just to the east sits Ile Saint-Louis, a tiny island lacking even a metro stop. Here, locals and tourists amble along the Seine and enjoy amble quaint cafes. But this area is a bit quieter at night, so most venture off the island once they’re ready to party.
Ile Saint-Louis Hotel Pick:
Tropical? Not so much. But Isle of Wight is most certainly an island (hence the name) with beaches that become popular once summertime arrives. In fact, this island — the largest in England — thrives thanks to a maritime industry focused on boat-building and sail-making. However, the main industry is tourism, and it has been since Queen Victoria built her beloved summer home here. Isle of Wight is also known for lively music festivals and great local breweries.
Isle of Wight Hotel Pick:
Is it any surprise that Dubai is home to the largest manmade island in the world? After all, everything there is over-the-top. Eventually set to be part of a collection of Palm Islands, Palm Jumeirah is the only one fully completed thus far. This palm-tree-shaped island’s construction began in 2001, and it first opened to residents and guests five years later. Today, it’s home to luxury resorts, hotels, residences, restaurants, and shops.
Palm Jumeirah Hotel Pick:
Botswana’s Okavango Delta is an area teeming with wildlife, and therefore a popular spot for safaris. It’s also where the Moremi Game Reserve can be found on a small island, and numerous tours set up camp here before bringing “glampers” out on the waters to watch animals such as hippos, monkeys, and more in their natural habitat.
Okavango Delta Island Hotel Pick:
Vieques, an island off the east coast of Puerto Rico, may seem “typical” island in the sense that it has palm trees, sandy beaches, and sunny weather — and it sits smack-dab in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Still, once you’re under the surface (literally), you’ll discover it’s not so typical at all. See, Vieques is home to the infamous Bioluminescent Bay. Just a short drive from Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan, this famed “Bio Bay” puts on nature’s most magnificent light show: At night, when the bay is inky black beneath the light of the moon, microscopic plankton glow turquoise.
Isla de Vieques Hotel Pick:
Millions of tourists visit Manhattan each month, and (almost) everyone knows that Manhattan is, in fact, an island. The Dutch — attracted to its protected harbor — settled the area centuries ago. But, understandably, few think of the 13.4-mile stretch of land as an island getaway. Instead, visitors skip sun-and-sand vacations to opt for Broadway shows, Michelin-starred restaurants, and iconic museums.
Manhattan Hotel Pick:
Michigan is also not a U.S. locale that comes to mind when travelers think of islands. (It’s often Hawaii or the Florida Keys instead.) But the state’s Mackinac Island in Lake Huron is a wonderful little island retreat — if not your typical one. Not even a full four square miles, Mackinac built its reputation as a summer escape in the late 19th century, and much of this era’s historic charm has been maintained. In fact, most cars and other motor vehicles are banned, and the entire island has been named a National Historic Landmark.
Mackinac Island Hotel Pick:
Though Hong Kong is composed of several islands, the main focus of the city is on Hong Kong Island, where most visitors choose to stay. Like Manhattan, Hong Kong Island is less of a relaxing island getaway, and more of a booming, vibrant metropolis — that happens to be surrounded by water. Many luxury hotels are gathered around Victoria Harbor, boasting beautiful views, but the best views can be found at the top of The Peak, the tallest point on the island.
Hong Kong Island Hotel Pick:
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