Ever since I lived in the Caribbean in 2006 I have had a crush on islands. There is simply a different vibe and people seem to be happier than elsewhere. People don’t take life so serious and live a day-to-day lifestyle rather than worrying what the future will bring them. Over the years I have learned that islandlife is totally my thing. Running around on flip-flops wearing swimmers feels so uncomplicated and that is how life should be.
My list of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world
Forget the standard lists that people make up grabbing pictures from the Internet. I will tell you all about the most exotic islands that I have visited and why I think they should be in every top 10 most beautiful islands in the world. I am by no means rich and all the islands listed below can be visited on the cheap. I learned how to travel around the world on a budget. So if I can, you can!
Curious how I afford to travel and how that resulted in me becoming a full time professional travel blogger then read my story in the link.
1. San Blas Islands, Panama
In 2013 I took my first sailing trip ever and straight away knew this was my thing! Being out on the ocean away from the rest of the world and not seeing anything on the horizon in any direction, such an amazing feeling! It set sail in Cartagena, Colombia and the journey took me to one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world: San Blas Islands in Panama.
With over 350 islands there are just as many little pieces of paradise. I saw unique islands that where as big as your living room and had just one palm tree on it. Snorkeling is good almost everywhere. This is also where you will find Playa de las Estrella, the beach with a ton of starfishes. By canoe we peddled to an island that was just a bar only, the island next door was a volleyball field. Islands here are so tiny and cute it is almost unbelievable.
Fresh seafood is of course not hard to find and diving is world class. Unfortunately we also saw locals selling sea turtles. It was a disgrace to see, but if people keep buying them they will catch them, so I blame the tourists, not the locals. Please travel responsible!!!
2. Caye Caulker, Belize
After I lived in the Caribbean in 2006 I had not been back on an island until I hit Caye Caulker in Belize. It was one of my first stops on my 1-year trip around the world in 2008. I was actually heading there to dive in the famous Deep Blue Hole, which was world class. But that was not the only thing why this island became a favorite. There are no motorized vehicles, only a couple golf carts and everything else have to be done on foot. The island is only a couple hundred meters wide and basically a huge sand bank.
Because of a typhoon it split in two parts and the uninhabited northern part is just palm trees only. The only thing I was wearing were my swimmers, I ate fresh seafood from the barbeque on the beach, watched fabulous sunsets, went kayaking and snorkeling, and got drunk with locals in The Split bar, which becomes an island itself at high tide. This place is definitely worth mentioning in a top 10 most beautiful islands in the world.
Oh and I almost forgot that I also ended up racing with golf carts on the runway with a crazy local. The tiny airport was not really used he told me, only for flights deep in the night and ‘planes fly without lights brother’, he said. You know what I mean, right? No! When you here a plane coming, we have to get away as soon as possible. What happens here at night is not of our business! Ok, understood! J
3. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Asking me what my favorite trip ever was, I will definitely mention my sailing trip through the Raja Ampat islands. This is a place not many people have been and most probably will never go.
Its remote location makes it an exclusive destination just off the coast of West Papua in Indonesia. I was among the lucky ones to join the Mutiara Laut for one week, island hopping in this most amazing archipelago is like a dream. It was an wonderful feeling to be left out on the ocean alone in and between all these unique islands. There is nothing around here, civilization is impossible and apart from some sea gypsies you will not encounter anyone. Just stunning tiny little islands, birds, caves and breathtaking sunsets. No the best islands in the world for vacation because it is pretty hard to get to, but definitely among the most beautiful tropical islands in the world.
4. Kalanggaman, Philippines
Probably the most unknown in this list, but so cute I have to give this lovely spot a mention. To most people an island of 300 x 50 meter can not be appealing enough to travel to, but when you see my video with amazing drone footage you know why I included this one on this list.
Let me convince you with my article 20 photos that make you fall in love with Kalanggaman Island Leyte and a secret tip: spending the night here on your own! Sure this is one of the most tropical islands in the world.
5. El Nido, Philippines
When I arrived in El Nido the first time I knew straight away this was a magical place, but unfortunately the weather was not in my favor! In July 2016 I went back and totally fell in love! The limestone cliffs, the clear blue water, the waving palm trees and the picture perfect beaches are almost too perfect!
The Filipinos are wonderful and super happy people but if you live in one of the most stunning ilsands in the world I can understand why they always smile. Read my complete El Nido Island Hopping guide for the best things to do in El Nido and why you should visit these unique islands.
6. Providencia, Colombia
I bet most of you have never even heard of this little gem and no wonder. From Bogota it is a 2,5 hour flight north to San Andres and from there it is about 5 hours by boat to Providencia. If you look on the map it shows you that it is just off the coast from Nicaragua, far away from Colombia! This is one of the most unique islands I have been for sure.
As soon as I arrived it stole my heart. I traveled with a daypack only and had no accommodation booked yet so a friendly local offered to show me a couple places on his scooter. When I found a place, private accommodation was $15 with AC, I wanted to pay him but then he said: no man, come tonight to the bar at the beach and buy me a drink! That same night I did not sleep in my room. I drank rum and coconuts, smoked way too many joints and fell asleep in a hammock watching the stars. I wish they had taken away my passport, so I would be stuck here! J
I didn’t even speak about the diving, the yummy local crab dishes, hiking and circumnavigating the island on my motorbike. Oh can I go back some day please?
7. Bali, Indonesia
An island so popular among travelers I don’t even have to tell you how captivating this place is. Over the last years I spent a lot of time in Bali and I hope to add more adventures in the future. This island has such an inspirational vibe that it also is a great place to meet like minded people. Last year I actually wanted to stay longer than just a month, read about my adventures while finding a house for rent in Ubud. Bali has not always been my favorite as my first visit was not a great success. In my opinion this island is not a beach destination! For amazing beaches choose another place, but it definitely is among the best islands in the world for vacation. Why I fell in love with Bali later? Read more about it in my blog 12 reasons to visit Bali. Don’t want to break the bank? Read my Bali On A Budget guide.
Check out great deals to Bali with Emirates Airlines!
8. Koh Tao, Thailand
People that have been following my adventures for the last couple years know that I left a piece of my heart in this place. Since I arrived there the first time in 2009 I have been going back almost every year. In total I stayed for 6 months and in 2014 I decided to start my PADI Divemaster course here. The ultimate islandlife vibe, mixed with its affordable prices make it one of my favorites. Life here is just like in many islands uncomplicated and it does not matter how you look like. Flipflops, swim shorts and an old tshirt are perfect to roam around. On top of that there is a vibrant vibe with hundreds of young travelers passing through every day and if you want to escape the tourists there are many Koh Tao Viewpoints to take in the stunning views. Read more about the 5 best things to do in Koh Tao for non divers. It is not among the most exotic islands on this list, but for sure one of the best islands in the world for vacation!
For a lot of people a dream beach destination and probably among the most exotic islands on this planet: Maldives. I went to one of the most Southern islands in the Maldives, Villingili: remote but fabulous. This exclusive private island is where the Shangri La Maldives is located and I was among the lucky ones to stay here in an overwater bungalow.
It was my first time staying in one of these honeymoon places and felt like I was in heaven for a couple days. For sure this is one of the best islands in the world for vacation, read more about it in my blog: Shangri La Maldives, Villingili Island.
Another amazing resort with overwater villas in Maldives is Lux South Ari.
10. Isla Del Sol, Bolivia
The last spot on this list I reserved for an island that has probably never made it to a list of top 10 most beautiful islands in the world, but with such a unique location I think it deserves more attention. Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca in Bolivia is one of those truly unique islands.
Did you ever think you could spoil yourself with an island getaway 4,000 meter above sea level. The altitude makes people move a gear slower, but the islandlife on Isla del Sol tops it up, this place is extremely chill. There are fabulous hiking trails and little restaurants with amazing views.
Staying here cost hardly anything, prices for food neither and I know for sure you can easily swing in your hammock all day, eat, sleep and sip juices for under $10, that is excluding smoking joints. ;) You can even camp here! If you are on a trip around South America, please include this place in Bolivia.
To which unique islands have you been? Tell me your secret spots! When it is about islandlife, Im always looking to find hidden gems and curious to hear what you think are the most beautiful tropical islands in the world. Lately I found another amazing island for you to explore and if I would write another article this place would definitely be on the list. If you are up for an adventurous island escape you should consider a trip to Nusa Penida just an hour away from Bali. Click on the link to watch a video with amazing drone footage showing you the incredible natural wonders of this place.
Interested how I afford to travel? Click on the link and read my story. I would like to inspire you to travel the world just like me. No funds yet? There are ways to work and travel. Read my tips on How To Earn Money While Traveling. Any questions? Please leave a comment and I am more than happy to answer your questions or hit me up on Snapchat: TRAVELTOMTOM.
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