10 Exotic Islands For Your World Travel Bucket List

Indonesian Temple, Bali

 10 Exotic Islands For Your World Travel Bucket List


BALI  (Indonesia)
Bali is a tropical paradise in which visitors can relax and find themselves transported to another way of life by the scents of blossoming frangipani trees and burning incense. Made famous in the West by the classic Broadway musical South Pacific, the tiny island has more than its fair share of unique cultural offerings, such as shadow puppets and intricate artwork. Temples are decorated with impressive sculptures of gods and goddesses, adding a mystical spiritual element that lends an air of magic to every traveler’s visit.


Hundreds of thousands of people every year escape from it all on the beautiful pink sand beaches of Bermuda. But the British island’s crystal-clear aquamarine waters and vast coral reef systems are equally alluring, filled with brightly colored marine life that attracts avid snorkelers and scuba divers from all around the world. Foodies will want to try the abundant fresh seafood, local bay grape jelly and the signature cocktail known as the Rum Swizzle.


BORA BORA  (French Polynesia)
Bora Bora (whose original name in the Tahitian language means “first-born”) is a luxury traveler’s dream. With two mountains in the center of the island and a picture-perfect lagoon and barrier reef surrounding it, it’s the quintessential location for rest, relaxation and romance. “Getting away from it all” is defined by a stay in one of Bora Bora’s famed thatched-roof bungalows, which are often outfitted with glass floors to allow views of an underwater world filled with manta rays and sharks.


Moai Statues, Easter Island


Also known as Rapa Nui, this small island located in southeastern Polynesia is home to the massive moai, 887 enigmatic statues of giant heads that earned Easter Island its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Considered to be the most remote inhabited island on the planet, Easter Island offers much more than just the famed monuments, including rich Polynesian culture, ancient cave art and gorgeous South Pacific sunsets.


Formed through volcanic activity started 150 million years ago, Fiji is an archipelago made up of over 332 islands and more than 500 islets. Despite being remote– New Zealand, the closest significant landmass, is over 1,000 miles away– Fiji’s abundant forests, minerals and fish make it one of the most developed economies in the South Pacific. Of course the tourism industry is a major factor, as travelers from around the world voyage to explore its ecotourism offerings, from canoeing and biking to snorkeling and diving.

Located in the Indian Ocean near India’s Lakshadweep islands, the Republic of Maldives is a group of 26 ring-like coral islands encircling clear blue lagoons. It’s also one of the least populated nations on this list, with around 328,000 people living on 200 of its 1,192 islands. The Maldives have drawn increased attention in recent years due to the threat of being flooded by rising sea levels due to climate change. But for now it’s a gorgeous tropical paradise, with peaceful lagoons, abundant marine life, and a culture strongly influenced by India and Sri Lanka.


Beautiful Beach in Maui

Beautiful Beach in Maui, photo via Hawaii Tourism


MAUI  (Hawaii)
According to native legend, Hawaii‘s second largest island was named by Hawai’iloa (the Polynesian navigator credited with discovering the islands) after his son, who in turn was named after a demigod. Maui is also called “The Valley Isle” due to the area between its northwestern and southeastern volcanoes. In addition to the state’s traditional tourist offerings (sun, surf, luaus, etc.), the island also features a large rainforest, some of the world’s best windsurfing, and humpback whale-watching in the ‘Au’au Channel.


TAHITI  (French Polynesia)
The economic, cultural and political center of French Polynesia, Tahiti is the region’s most populous island, with around 180,000 residents. Due to its volcanic origins, Tahiti offers a broad variety of ecosystems to explore, from the mountainous terrain of Orohena and Roonui to the famous black sand beaches and thriving coral reefs. Visit in July to see the Heiva Festival, a celebration of Polynesian culture that includes music, dance, food and an outrigger canoe race between islands.


Famous worldwide for the distinctive architecture of its buildings, Santorini (classically known as Thera) has been ranked as the world’s best island by sources such as Travel+Leisure and the BBC. With villages perched on steep cliffs, donkeys winding their way up paths of narrow cobblestone streets, and quaint homes colored cobalt blue and bleached white, Santorini is, for many travelers, the epitome of island serenity. Archeological evidence suggests it may also have been the inspiration for Plato’s Atlantis.


Efate Island, Vanuatu


Most people had never eard of Vanuatu before Survivor filmed there, but this string of South Pacific islands has been stepping up its tourism initiatives in the years since. Located around 1,000 miles east of Australia, the islands have a thriving traditional culture, particularly in more rural areas. From beautiful beaches to some of the world’s best scuba diving, each of Vanuatu’s islands offers its own distinctive pleasures, with a tour of the islands by air a great way to see the sights. –Bret Love


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  1. I’ve been to a few of these islands and I guess the bottom line I have decided about myself is that I don’t like extreme heat. And that’s what we got in Tahiti. In fact we went kayaking for a week on the Rangiroa atoll (near Bora Bora) – and swam with the sharks, ate freshly caught fish – all wonderful experiences – but it was so bloody hot that EVEN or perhaps because of zinc oxide I sunburned my leg so badly it became swollen. I would never go back though our friends on the trip – to be fair- loved it. So if you go – bring light, billowy cotton things, a ton of sunscreen and a super lightweight hat.

  2. That’s a really intriguing list, I think you’ve named some of the most beautiful islands in the world but you’ve left out my favorite-St. Lucia. It’s not called “Helen of the West Indies” for nothing!

  3. Bugger. I can only check three off! Hawaii, Easter Island and the Maldives are very high on my list of places I must see before I die. Thanks for the great list. There is nothing like an island getaway- something that is much needed for me right now

  4. You guys have done it again. Generally we’re not big fans of Top Ten lists, but you always seem to curate a great group of places. Since we’ve only made it to four of these amazing islands so far, we clearly have some island hopping to do.

  5. 2 down 8 to go! Vanuatu and the Maldives both purely for the diving will be the top of the list for me!

  6. I’ve not been to any of these! I’m actually happy about that, as it means I have lots of world to see still 😀

    That said, I am half Seychellois, so I have some pretty awesome islands to call home anyway 😉

  7. I was thinking I hadn’t been to any of these islands until I saw Vanuatu. I was in Palau on a dive trip, jumped off the boat into the water with sharks and swam to Vanuatu. It was quite the adventure. I love these type of lesser known places and have so much respect for Palau for creating the world’s first shark sanctuary.

  8. It’s been awhile since we had an island holiday and I believe we’re overdue. Your post has made me start thinking about planning one….

    • Ooh yeah, I’d love to visit Samoa! Hell, we’d love to visit any place east of Africa. Hopefully going to Bora Bora later this year if everything works out.

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  12. We’ve been to 3 of these: Maldives, Maui, and Santorini. I am absolutely dying to go to Easter Island, so that would be top of my list to cross off from the remainder of these.

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  16. I love islands. I just got back from a week in the Dominican Republic. I also love the tropics. So, there is nothing better than a tropical island. But, I’ve only been to 2 on your list, so I need to get hopping. Is anyone giving away airline tickets. 😉

    • We really enjoyed our time in the DR, and would love to go back. We really can’t get enough of tropical destinations, so we’ll be on the lookout for those free airfares too! 😉

  17. I’ve only been to one of these islands, Maui, so I’ve got lots of work to do on the bucket list yet. I’d love to see them all. Ever since I was a little kid, I thought about Tahiti — that one’s got to be checked off soon, I think. But I am lucky to have visited Maui a few times — just recently, too. What a beautiful place.

    • Never been to Maui, but I’ve been to Honolulu once and the Big Island 3 times. Would love to get to Maui and Lanai at some point. We finally made it to Tahiti in March, which was a dream come true for Mary.

  18. On this list we have only seen Bali, but I have stayed their for 4 weeks, twice. Once when I was 21 with a g.f. and again when I was 24 with my boyfriend (now husband and partner of 33 years. I would love to return but would probably be disappointed 🙁

    • Wow, four weeks? Jealous… I’m guessing it probably has changed over the last 30 years, but I’d hope it still retains much of the beauty and charm that first drew you to the island. We were happy to see that Tahiti wasn’t as over-developed as some of the other tropical destinations we’ve been to.

  19. You’ve hit some great islands here. While there are a bunch I’d love to go to, Easter Island is at the top of my bucket list. I really want to see those heads!

  20. Kia Orana! (That means “may you live on.”) Just to let you all know, there is a Haven on Earth: “THE COOK ISLANDS.” A dot in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, these fifteen beautiful islands are so breathtaking, you’ve got to see it for yourself. It’s a paradise in the making, probably the next wonder of the world, which owns the biggest marine park (a land mass twice the size of France in OCEAN).Rarotonga, the main island, and Aitutaki island offer the best beaches to be on, with bright white sand and crystal clear lagoons. Make the trip, and you won’t regret it. WHY? Because I’m from there!

  21. Most of these islands (save Vanuatu , and Santorini in winter) are expensive AND cowded.
    The pictures are sure pretty, but I wouldn’t want to be inside it.

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