Condé Nast Traveler readers ranked the best islands in the world outside the U.S., from nearby Caribbean beaches to far-flung islands in Southeast Asia.
Some of the islands can be visited Visa free for Vietnamese nationals. Ready your passport and check the best islands to travel near you!
20. Hvar & Dalmatian Islands, Croatia
Overall Rating: 80.264
One of the most glamorous islands in the Adriatic Sea, Hvar plays host to the see-and-be-seen scene of the Dalmatian Islands. The island’s main city, Hvar Town, exudes beauty, too, with 13th-century walls surrounding delicate Venetian architecture and pedestrian-only marble streets.
Getting there: Book a flight to Split, the closest airport to the Dalmatians’ 79 islands, and hop onto a water taxi to Hvar. The trip usually takes around one hour.
19. Cebu, Philippines
Overall Rating: 80.404
The most densely populated island in the Philippines, Cebu is famous for its beaches, on the mainland as well as around many of the surrounding islands. Not as wild as Phuket in Thailand, Cebu City is more personal, with plenty of up-and-coming restaurants and shopping.
Pro tip: To get a true taste of island life, head off the grid on the Camotes Islands, two hours east of Cebu. Bring cash because there are no ATMs.
Getting there: Many Asian airlines have direct flights to Mactan Cebu International Airport from neighboring countries like Singapore. Note that the airport is located on a different island and it takes about 30 minutes by taxi to get to Cebu City.
18. St. Lucia
Overall Rating: 80.569
Nature doesn’t get more photogenic than St. Lucia’s Pitons, two mountainous volcano spires on the southern end of the island. Covered in lush rainforest and luxurious resorts, the Caribbean country is a popular honeymoon spot.
Getting there: A number of U.S. airlines fly direct to St. Lucia from hubs like Atlanta and Miami. Catch a ferry in Castries to take trips to nearby Martinique, Dominica, and Guadeloupe.
17. Orkney Islands, Scotland
Overall Rating: 80.603
Find Viking influences alive and well on the archipelago off the northeastern coast of Scotland. With neolithic UNESCO sites alongside beaches with bright blue water, the islands are dominated by the Mainland, a central island full of lush farmland. The varied landscape across the nearly 70 islands makes it a perfect spot to go to the beach, discover archaeological sites, and explore Scottish moorland.
Getting there: Flights make the passage from Mainland’s Kirkwall to Iverness, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. Less consistently, ferries run from the town’s center to Aberdeen. Take the daily ferry to stop by other Orkney Islands, like Eday, Sanday, and Hoy.
Overall Rating: 80.833
There’s more ocean than land in the Maldives, a chain of tiny islands and coral atolls far out in the Indian Ocean. Most of the accommodations are on stilts over the water, in high-end luxury resorts (many eco-friendly) that cater to honeymooners and serious divers alike.
Pro tip: The Maldives are full of coral reefs that formed around volcanoes in prehistoric times, now sunken to form atolls. The reefs shelter thousands of species of fish, turtles, whales, and dolphins. Many resorts on the islands offer snorkeling excursions for guests looking to explore the underwater landscape.
Getting there: Many Asian and European airlines offer indirect flights to Malé, the Maldives’ main city, from airports around the world.
15. Boracay, Philippines
Overall Rating: 80.856
This itty-bitty island (just under 4 square miles) in the Western Philippines is as close to the tropical idyll as you’ll find in Southeast Asia, with gentle coastlines and transporting sunsets. Add in a thriving nightlife scene, and you have one of the top tourist spots in the region.
Pro tip: The aptly named White Beach is Boracay’s main draw, with powdery white sand and shallow azure water ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
Getting there: Fly from Manila to Caticlan in Malay; from there, pump boats ferry passengers to White Beach.
14. Mykonos, Greece
Overall Rating: 80.938
Said to have been where Hercules killed the invincible giants, Mykonos is steeped in mythological history. A popular cruise ship stop, the island is more recently known for its raucous party reputation that would impress even Dionysus.
Pro tip: Avoid July and August to miss the major crowds and get a better sense of local life. Head to Little Venice, an uncrowded neighborhood full of tavernas. While in the area, stop by Kounelas, close to the harbor, to eat what locals say is the best fish.
Getting there: Daily flights from Athens take about 35 minutes. Ferry trips, the less expensive option, last between three and five hours on high-speed or slow ferries.
13. St. John, US Virgin Islands
Overall Rating: 80.939
This small isle in the Caribbean Sea hasn’t been overrun by development, thanks to the fact that two-thirds of the landmass is national parkland. It makes an ideal getaway for hikers seeking out jungle trails and snorkelers who’ll nose down over the surrounding reefs.
Pro tip: With its shallow, turquoise water and soft sand, St. John’s Trunk Bay is often counted among the finest beaches in the world. Explore the diverse marine life with a snorkeling expedition along the Underwater Trail through a coral reef.
Getting there: There are no airports on the island, so boat travel is your main option. Ferries depart from two spots on St. Thomas—Red Hook and Charlotte Amalie—and take 20 to 45 minutes to arrive at Cruz Bay in St. John.
12. British Virgin Islands
Overall Rating: 80.960
The eastern chunk of the Virgin Islands archipelago is a laid-back, less developed alternative to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Made up of about 60 islands—many uninhabited—the beaches, rum bars, and shipwreck sites of the BVI are best explored by boat.
Pro tip: Swim among towering boulders at the Baths, a national park on the shoreline of Virgin Gorda. Giant rocks deposited by ancient volcanoes shelter sea pools and grottos teeming with marine life.
Getting there: There are no direct flights from the U.S. to the BVI, but connections are offered through airports in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas.
11. Cook Islands
Overall Rating: 81.326
Ever dreamed of escaping to a remote island? The Cook Islands, between New Zealand and Hawaii, are a true paradise, with coral lagoons, limestone caves, and pearl fields.
Pro tip: Surf-minded travelers should head to the northern side of Rarotonga to find the more intense waves.
Getting there: Take the daily three-and-a-half-hour flight from Auckland to Rarotonga International Airport. There are also weekly flights from Sydney, Fiji, and Los Angeles.
10. Tasmania, Australia
Overall Rating: 81.810
Thrill seekers flock to Tasmania, off the coast of South Australia, for its challenging hikes (and rewarding views).
Getting there: There are (cheap) flights from Melbourne to Hobart all day on Australia’s regional carriers.
9. Santorini, Greece
Overall Rating: 81.947
No island group is so shrouded in myth as this chain in the Aegean Sea. Santorini, on the southernmost end of the Cyclades, is a volcanically formed island with dramatic cliffs, ancient ruins, and picturesque towns that’s said to be the inspiration for Plato’s Atlantis.
Pro tip: Watch the sun set from Oia, a small village on the southwestern coast made up of whitewashed structures and cave houses built into the cliff side.
Getting there: Direct flights to Santorini are available from London and Athens. But if you want to take the scenic route and get the full Cyclades experience, take a ferry from Athens (5 to 8 hours).
8. Bali, Indonesia
Overall Rating: 82.330
“There’s nothing quite like Bali,” says senior digital editor Laura Dannen Redman. “It’s the kind of place where you’ll eat the best fresh fish of your life on the beach with your feet in the sand. You’ll watch whole families zoom by on motorbikes, or maybe a monkey will steal your glasses at Uluwatu temple. Every experience is memorable.”
Pro tip: Avoid Denpasar, where you fly in, and Kuta, a tourist trap; visit culturally rich Ubud instead, or take a few days to venture north to Munduk in the mountains.
Getting there: Many international airlines fly to Bali from hubs in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Hong Kong.
7. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Overall Rating: 82.495
Vancouver Island is consistently one of our readers’ top islands in Canada; they implore you to stay as long as possible, since there is simply “so much to see and do.” Pick from salmon fishing, wine tasting, sailing, strolling along beaches and nature trails, or learning about glassblowing.
Getting there: Fly to Vancouver and then hop one of BC Ferries’ 25 routes to 47 terminals on Vancouver Island across the Strait of Georgia.
6. Great Barrier Reef & Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Overall Rating: 83.420
The Great Barrier Reef consists of more than 3,000 individual reef systems and hundreds of islands, a living structure so vast that it’s visible from outer space. The 74 islands of the Whitsundays offer some of the best snorkeling and sailing in the world.
Pro tip: The waters of Whitehaven Beach are renowned for their swirling bands of colors, a mix of blues, greens, and whites created by changing tides mixing the silica sand and sea.
Getting there: It’s a one-and-a-half-hour domestic flight from Brisbane to the Whitsunday coast.
Overall Rating: 84.245
Though this small island sits in the North Atlantic, its climate is decidedly subtropical. A British Overseas Territory, Bermuda is a melting pot of British, American, and Caribbean cultures, and offers tons of things to do: snorkeling near pink-sand beaches, golfing, shopping, museum hopping, and more.
Getting there: There are direct flights to Bermuda from eight cities on the East Coast, including New York, Atlanta, and Miami (2 to 3 hours).
4. Waiheke Island, New Zealand
Overall Rating: 84.447
A mix of Nantucket and Sonoma, with New Zealand charm, the island is a wine-lover’s nirvana. Just over 30 minutes from Auckland by boat, the island hosts a manageable number of vineyards and great restaurants, perfect for a day escape from the mainland. With beaches on the north side of the island and WWII tunnels to explore, there is no lack of excitement on Waiheke.
Getting there: Take the hourly ferry trip from Auckland to the western side of the island.
3. Moorea, French Polynesia
Overall Rating: 84.656
Due northwest of Tahiti and surrounded by a bright blue lagoon, this volcanically formed island is comprised of verdant mountains jutting up behind white-sand beaches. In the interior, you can explore the ruins of marae—crumbling temples built by ancient Polynesians.
Getting there: From Papa’ete in Tahiti, boats ferry passengers on the 12-mile journey to Moorea.
2. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Overall Rating: 84.756
This island was voted the most photogenic place on Earth in 2014, and it’s no wonder. Shielded by a protective barrier reef, Bora Bora’s famous lagoon is all the colors of the rainbow, crisscrossed by (friendly) manta rays and sharks.
Pro tip: Bora Bora’s luxe accommodations are mostly in thatched-roof bungalows extending over the lagoon. The swankiest of all is the St. Regis, complete with a spa that has its very own island.
Getting there: Hop on a local flight to the island from Tahiti, which takes about 45 minutes.
1. Palawan, Philippines
Overall Rating: 85.937
This small island—one of the Philippines’ 7,107—shot to the top of our list again this year with a recent claim to fame: It’s now home to one of the new seven natural wonders of the world, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River. El Nido is also in Palawan and is Conde Nast’s Best Beach in the World.
Pro tip: Palawan’s natural wonder is one of the longest underground rivers in the world, traveling five miles through a subterranean cave system. Guided boat tours take visitors down a portion of the waterway, where karsts, natural rock formations created by dissolving limestone, loom in every direction.
Getting there: From Manila, it’s an hour-and-15-minute flight to Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s main airport. Alternately, ferries travel between Manila and the island several days a week (about 24 hours each way). There are flight available to El Nido and Coron as well.
Source: Condé Nast Traveler