There's something special about going to an island for vacation. Maybe it's the (very minor) chance that unexpected circumstances will strand you in paradise or maybe it's just the idea of being completely surrounded by water that leads to a real get-away-from-it-all vibe. Whatever the reason, we're definitely pro-island vacation. Read on for our picks for the perfect island to suit your travel needs, whether you want to find pink sand, party all night, get married, or scuba dive. There's a whole lot more to do on islands than nap on a sun lounger -- though we've got you covered for that, too.
A visit to the Greek islands are a bucket-list trip for anyone who loves the ocean, architecture, and Greek culture. But choosing which of the thousands of Greek islands to visit can be tough. We recommend starting on Santorini for epic caldera and cliff views, then flying or ferrying to Mykonos for soft sand beaches and late-night parties. Paros is a bit further afield, but the laid-back pace and harbor restaurants are ideal for a refresh. Andronis Luxury Suites is an upscale boutique hotel overlooking the Aegean Sea, and within walking distance of the shops and restaurants of Oia. Each of the rooms has a hot tub and the dramatic infinity pool overlooks the cliffs and Aegean Sea below. The only danger here is you might decide to stay on Santorini and skip the rest of your trip.
Our Hotel Pick in Santorini:
Sure, we all pay lip service to the idea of putting away our laptops, smartphones, and tablets to truly unplug and relax on vacation. But how long does it take before you’re posting a pina colada picture on Instagram or pulling up Google Maps to find directions to a museum? Book a flight to Cuba, and you’ll essentially be forced to unplug. U.S. cell phones don’t work on the island and the majority of hotels don’t have Wi-Fi access. You can buy a pre-paid internet card, but the signal is slow and best for quickly checking emails. Some hotels have CNN on their TVs, but you should only expect a few local channels in Spanish. The historic Hotel Florida has air-conditioned rooms and free breakfast in the center of Havana’s Old Town — perfect for people watching. You can post that cigar-smoking selfie when you get home.
Our Hotel Pick in Havana:
The Bay Islands in Honduras offer some of the best and cheapest diving in the Caribbean. Since it’s not a super popular destination, the reefs are uncrowded and teem with fish. (The crime rates on the mainland scare off many visitors, though the islands are quite safe.) Wildlife can include the elusive whale shark, loggerhead turtles, reef sharks, and pristine coral. For divers and non-divers alike, Anthony’s Key Resort on Roatan is the place to be. All-inclusive rates cover meals and dives. Rustic bungalows have sea views and come with porches strung with hammocks. Non-divers can borrow stand-up paddleboards or swim with dolphins. That’s right, there’s a dolphin experience at the hotel.
Our Hotel Pick in Roatan:
Hawaii consistently ranks as one of the most popular places to have a honeymoon, but we love Maui for the actual wedding ceremony. The weather is almost perfect year-round, meaning your vows aren’t likely to get rained out. Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort offers bespoke wedding packages and a picturesque chapel garden with gazebos, flowers, and epic ocean views. The dedicated (and practiced) event staff can take care of anything from a simple ceremony for two on the sand, to an all-out blow-out with a pig roast, fire dancers, and space for 600 guests. Of course, newlyweds can always stay on-site for a romantic Hawaiian honeymoon after the wedding.
Our Hotel Pick in Maui:
Most travelers think of the Bahamas for waterslides and cruise ship ports, but there’s a laid-back side to the archipelago’s smaller islands. Harbour Island is home to the world famous three-and-a-half mile stretch of pink sand that makes up Crane Beach. There are only a handful of hotels on the island, but we like Pink Sands (cute name, right?) for its picturesque cottages with beach access, free use of snorkels and paddleboards, and on-site cooking classes. Guests are more likely to encounter wild roosters than hordes of tourists, making this Bahamian island our ideal pick for a nap on the beach.
Our Hotel Pick in the Bahamas:
Vieques is a 20-mile-long island that’s famous for its white-sand beach and a bioluminescent bay that sits eight miles from the Puerto Rican mainland. The island has a handful of luxury boutique hotels, but is still home to wild horses and dirt roads lined with papaya and avocado trees. Many of the tourists who come to the island make a beeline for the best bioluminescent bay in the world, Mosquito Bay, which is a 15-minute drive from the W Retreat & Spa – Vieques Island. The super sexy hotel has a multi-level infinity pool with underwater music and two private beaches. Tip: the best time to visit the bay is during a new moon, when the sky is darkest and it’s easiest to see the tiny, brightly colored organisms.
Our Hotel Pick on Vieques Island:
The lush and gorgeous Viceroy Bali Hotel ticks all the boxes for an unforgettably romantic honeymoon. It has a private and tropical setting overlooking Petanu Valley, spacious villas with private pools and canopy beds, a swim-up bar, and an infinity-edge pool that looks like it drops off into the forest. What really sells this hotel for honeymooners is the luxurious two-story Lembah Spa. The open-air facilities include a hot tub and plunge pool on the ground floor and treatment rooms and a terrace with a rainforest backdrop on the second floor. The romantic couples package includes a body scrub, body mask, warm flower bath, plunge pools, and fresh juice. If you can tear yourself away from the spa, the hotel is a 15-minute ride (via a free car service) to Ubud, where there are markets, restaurants, the Ubud Palace, and more spas. For those who really want to make an entrance, the hotel has a helicopter pad.
Our Hotel Pick in Ubud:
Sometimes, the best family vacations are the ones where you don’t leave the resort. There’s no packing toys, waiting in lines, making pitstops for bathroom breaks, or wondering if the nearest restaurant has a kids’ menu. The Cloister at Sea Island is a veritable kid-friendly paradise. Let the kids run wild on the beach and (a bit more carefully) by the indoor and outdoor pools. When they get tired of the water (they probably won’t), you can take them to the spa for glitter pedicures, borrow bikes for the whole family, or go fishing on the docks. Family-friendly highlights include horseback riding, stargazing, and an in-house falconer. There’s also an on-site movie theater and outdoor dining. Seriously, it’s going to be hard to convince the kids it’s time to go home.
Our Hotel Pick in Sea Island:
Horseback riding is pretty fun, but riding a horse while it swims through the warm and crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea is epic. And you can do just that in Jamaica. Staff at the iconic GoldenEye Hotel & Resort (former home of author Ian Fleming, who wrote James Bond) can arrange water horseback riding for you, along with a myriad of other activities like a hike to Dunn’s River Falls or a catamaran booze cruise. The hotel offers a private beach and two oceanfront pools. Guests can kayak from their room to the spa dock, if so inclined. Yoga classes, mountain bikes, and snorkel gear are also all free.
Our Hotel Pick in Jamaica:
Ibiza has been immortalized in pop culture as the party island — even Paris Hilton has a DJ residency there. From May to October, the small Balearic Island undulates with revelers and celebrities at the legendary bar, nightclub, and music event scene. This is the place to be for up-all-night parties, a quick nap, and then back to the club for rounds two, three, and four. The Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza is located on a sandy stretch of Playa d’en Bossa, the island’s longest beach, and has a 900-person rooftop bar. The rooms are stylish (some have whirlpools and swim-up pool access), but we have a feeling you won’t be spending much time in them.
Our Hotel Pick in Ibiza:
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- The 10 Best Islands in Thailand
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