Small clusters of islands or large expanses of coastline, all surrounded by pristine tropical foliage inland, and white sandy coasts that are bathed by crystal clear or vibrant turquoise waters. These exotic tropical islands have the potential to transport us to our own personal paradise where we can enjoy doing nothing but relaxing in the perfect sunshine and enjoying the best of the wondrous natural environment. The thick vegetation and the diverse seabed makes these destinations perfect for travellers looking to immerse themselves in nature or to practice more energetic pursuits such as water sports or scuba diving. With hundreds of colourful fish, playful dolphins and majestic sea turtles, these island retreats are perfect for such activities.
Most exotic islands that are a dream come true to every traveller that discovers their shores
Seychelles: a tropical paradise
Consisting of 115 islands, the Seychelles is a tropical paradise bursting with coral lined beaches and thriving forests. What was historically a treasure island for Indian pirates, today has become a safe-haven of tranquillity that welcomes travellers from across the globe. The near constant sunshine and warm temperatures ensure it continues to be a favourite beach destination. Many visitors are attracted to this destination as most of the islands remain untouched and retain their natural charm. Mahé, where the capital Victoria is located, is one of the few islands that can admit to being more built-up. The inhabitants of the Seychelles are a real diverse mix and have their origins in numerous different civilisations due to a long history of occupation. This multiculturalism has created a cosmopolitan feel to the islands and has resulted in rich architecture and traditions presented in the lively streets and markets.
On the island of Praslin you cannot help but show your astonishment at the biodiversity of the marine life. Here you can find the largest turtles in the archipelago, often much larger than those of the Galapagos. Divers also have the chance to enjoy the company of both dolphins and whale sharks in the depths of the turquoise sea. The island of La Digue boast a wonderful array of bird life and here you have the chance to encounter the famous black flycatchers, the only bird of paradise remaining in the Seychelles.
Phuket, Thailand: an island connected to the mainland
Located in the Andaman Sea, this island is connected to the mainland peninsula by a bridge and is one of Thailand’s most popular holiday destinations. The beaches that surround the island, boasting white sand, crystal clear water and a diverse marine life, make its popularity no surprise. Phuket remains a perfect diving location due to the species that inhabit the waters here. Alternatively, the beaches of Phuket also offer considerable waves for surfing, making it popular with keen water-sport enthusiasts. Ao Kata Yai and Ao Kata Noi, two of such beaches also have a prized reputation for playing host to the most spectacular sunsets in the world.
Not only is Phuket a destination for soaking up the sun, it is also a hub for gastronomic delights and fabulous nightlife. As the sun goes down, many beaches, such as Patong and Karon come to life and host extravagant parties. In the city, the history of the island is revealed, as Portuguese and Chinese colonial architecture share with us the island’s past as an important commercial port due to its convenient position on the sea route to Asia. A visit to Phuket is not complete without seeing the Great Buddha monument, which is so characteristic of the island, or Wat Chalong, the most treasured Buddhist temple on the island.
Maldives: the most coveted island destinations
It is undeniable that the Maldives is one of the most coveted island destinations. A real paradise found in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives consists of more than 1,200 islands and virgin atolls, all encased in crystal clear waters, soft white beaches and lush vegetation. Located to the south of India, only around 200 of the islands are inhabited. This cluster of islands was founded by former fishermen from Kerala and Sri Lanka, hence their culture is a melting-pot of different indigenous people and later Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial settlers. The iconic image of the Maldives is without a doubt the image of the stretching resorts that seem to float above the water, some way out to sea. Travellers can rest their heads and sleep just inches above the rich seabed that this exotic destination is famed for. The warm waters of the seabed play host to a plethora of underwater life; dolphins, whales, turtles and impressively over 1,000 species of fish, therefore the Maldives is a perfect choice for divers.
Its large atolls of white sand are recognisable by the thick carpet of vegetation that covers their interiors. Although coconut trees are especially abundant, on some islands you can find both bamboo and banana trees. Malé, the most populated area of the archipelago, is the capital and contains most of the Maldives’ basic services.
Dominican Republic: the most demanded beaches in Caribbean
Once a Spanish colony, after the landing of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Dominican Republic is one of the most demanded beach destinations in the Caribbean. The beautiful coast, with shores of fine white sand, surrounds each of the islands of the archipelago and effortlessly attracts visitors who desire a taste of paradise. The best beaches are located at Punta Cana, where most of the resorts and hotels are concentrated. Bávaro, Cabo Engaño, Uvero Alto and Cabeza de Toro are also very popular locations.
One of the largest islands in the archipelago, Saona, surprises visitors with its tranquillity and natural beauty. It is contained within the Cotubanama National Park and is therefore a protected area where nature is encouraged to flourish. Alongside long expanses of fine sand, Cotubanama also boasts a famous cave where the Taino cacique, or tribal chiefs, took refuge during the era of Spanish colonisation. Both diving and snorkelling lovers will find their home on Catalina Island, which is solely inhabited by multi-coloured fish and magnificent bird life.
Palawan, Philippines: the UNESCO world heritage
The Philippines is home to more than 7,000 islands, making discovery of them all practically impossible. Each island has its own peculiarities from the volcanic mountain of Mayon in Albay to the Rice Terraces of Banaue. The Philippines is home to varied and unique natural wonders and many areas have earnt status as UNESCO world heritage sites. If we were forced to choose an island that was closest to paradise, though, this would have to be Palawan. Palawan holds one of the most precious wonders of the country: El Nido, a destination characterised by its mysterious atolls, hidden lakes, deserted beaches and turquoise waters. The beauty of this location is rumoured to have inspired Alex Garland to pen his famous novel, The Beach, although Filipino residents refused to have the film engraved on their national identity in a bid to preserve the natural environment from frivolous tourists.
The seabed here is encrusted with a plethora of colourful corals and home to large turtles, meaning it is another destination that is perfect for scuba diving. When the tide goes out on the island of Palawan, the white sandbanks become exposed and appear to be never-ending beaches; an intriguing sight.
Society Islands: the most spectacular beaches in the world
Found in the centre of the Pacific Ocean, and part of French Polynesia, this group of islands is known for having the most awe-inspiring and spectacular beaches in the world. Some of the islands are well known, such as Bora Bora and Tahiti, but others are less known and perfect for discovering. The archipelago has a total of 14 islands and atolls, and the capital is Papeete, known for its narrow bustling streets. All the islands share the same picturesque landscape of thick vegetation and turquoise seas that often take on the coloured hue of the coral that lies just below the surface. Birds and marine life only found in such perfect climates, ensure that the islands can boast a rich biodiversity.
Historic colonisation ensures that the culture is just as diverse. Spanish, French and British traditions still endure in the towns and this provides a colourful and cosmopolitan vibe to the islands. The French painter, Paul Gaugin, was a keen admirer of the Society Islands, specifically Tahiti, and portrayed the landscape in vibrant paintings that can be seen in the village of Papeari, where there is a museum that pays homage to him.