Whether you want to live the island life with a coconut in hand or head inland on a jeep for some incredible adventures, there are countless spots dotted throughout our oceans which will oblige.
Here I’ve rounded up some of the best island vacations you can enjoy, and many of them won’t break the bank, unlike more luxury island vacations.
I have no shame in admitting I’m an addict for the island life, but as someone who tires quickly of lazy days in the sand, I’m often looking for something a bit different.
This unique island escapes each offer something special. Whether it’s a wildlife-based exploration, a fascinating geographical element, or a slice of culture you won’t find elsewhere, here is some inspiration from my past five years of travels.
1. Dominica, Caribbean
Firstly, this is not the Dominican Republic. This is the Commonwealth of Dominica, and it’s a beauty! The second best way to appreciate this incredible island of rugged landscapes, epic waterfalls, parrot enchanted rainforests, and black sand beaches is to watch this video, the best way is to book yourself a flight pronto!
Come to the Caribbean I thought. Relax on the beaches, I thought. Have a rum punch, I thought. But no, Dominica had other ideas for me; the first being throwing myself off a canyon edge into the cyan waters being illuminated by the sun, and boy it was EPIC!
This gem of a country has a tiny airport, so it’s impossible to fly here long haul, rather you’ll need to change in a neighboring island such as Antigua.
But that makes it feel all the more untouched, as only a handful of small planes arrive here delay. I visited during the off-season (June) which also meant there were no cruise ships in port, and most places I visited there were just a couple of other tourists.
I’ve heard and can imagine that due to the mountains when the cruise ships are in, the main sights would get uncomfortably busy. So, I would suggest avoiding the cruise season if you can.
2. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
In the far east of Indonesia, off the coast of West Papua, a mesmerizing mix of micro-climates, marine-rich reefs, dazzling sunsets, and local traditions awaits.
Raja Ampat, translated as the four kings, is a collection of Islands making up this archipelago. A remote adventure, during my time here we were limited to a few hours of electricity a day from a, clapped out the old generator, but the perfect sunsets and reef sharks swimming beneath our feet more than made up for any luke-warm beers we had lugged over from the main port.
Getting to Raja Ampat is quite a journey, once you’ve taken the one or two flights to Sorong, West Papua, a three-hour ferry connects you to the island of Wasier before smaller boats ferry you to remote island homestays.
With some of the most diverse underwater conditions, you’ll find, it indeed is a scuba divers paradise. So say goodbye to your phone signal, grab your mask, and head to one of the most unspoiled beauties in the world.
3. The Falkland Islands
If you are seeking a remote, rugged and penguin filled escape – look no further than the hauntingly beautiful Falkland Islands – my most recent island destination that feels like a dream now.
Located at the bottom of South America, a regular stop on route to nearby Antarctica by exploration vessels, The Falkland Islands is home to some 500,000 pairs of breeding penguins spanning across five breeds.
That’s not the only wildlife on its sheet though, with countless birdlife, dolphins, seals, sea lions, whales and more, completing the mix and making it an ideal place for photography.
From late 2019, LATAM also launched a new weekly flight from São Paulo, making this hard and expensive to reach destination slightly more affordable and accessible.
For those who do make it down here, you are promised windswept rugged landscape, beaches without footprints in the sand, and an almost untouched way of life peppered with Penguins.
Bring a friend though, given the remote nature of the islands, it wouldn’t be my first pick for solo travelers.
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4. Rottnest Island, Australia
Off the coast of Perth, in Australias seemingly never-ending stretches of coastline and uninterrupted nature, Rottnest Island is slowly becoming famous world round.
This may be down to its car-free way of living, with bikes being the go-to get around, or perhaps the crystal clear waters and tropical vibes. But really, I think the main reasons are the adorable Quokkas that call Rottnest Island home.
Often referred to as the world’s happiest animals, thanks to their tendency to have a beaming smile and readiness for a selfie. Cycle the island, spot these cute critters, and enjoy some of the freshest seafood in the Pacific.
Teamed up with a visit to Perth, one of the most remote cities in the world, and you’ve got yourself a sampler of Western Australia that might have you hooked for more.
5. Isle of Skye, Scotland
While Scotland is home to countless islands, there is more than one reason why the small but stunning Isle of Skye has become so popular.
In fact, it has become so popular that over-tourism has started to become a real problem here, so plan your visit to this Scottish isle during the offseason.
The island is linked by ferry or bridge to the mainland, and you’ll find a variety of attractions that are all crowd-pleasers.
From the incredible views that a hike around Quaraing, a set of towering rocks, to the magical and mystical fairy pools and fairy glen, the island provides ample opportunities to enjoy Scotlands famed nature and landscapes.
6. Komodo National Park, Indonesia
There are countless reasons that Indonesia is my favorite country, and Komodo National Park is one of those. A testament to the vast variety of wildlife and adventures that span Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, here you can come face to face with dragons.
While later in 2019 tightening of visitor permits, and another planned entry hike to the quite substantial conservation fee are due to come in, it’s still somewhere well worth visiting.
The Komodo dragons, a giant lizard that can grow to 2.6 meters in length, may look docile while lounging around, but when they pick up the pace, a single bite can kill.
The dragons are residents on a few of the islands and must always be visited with a local guide. Other islands in the park, such as Padar, are free of the big beasts, but offer incredible panoramic views from their highest points.
Charter a private boat or join a tour to see some of the islands in one day, or take a liveaboard for a more extended adventure. Most boat trips kick off from Labuan Bajo, Flores, accessible by air from various Indonesian airports.
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7. Nisyros Island, Greece
A little gem I had no idea I was going to discover in 2018 was Nisyros Island. Mainly because after meeting a bunch of strangers at Edinburgh Festivals this summer, I was invited to gatecrash a trip to Kos a few weeks later.
While Kos Island is a relaxing beach resort retreat, the small town of Karamedema where I stayed is the launching point to Nisyros. Unlike most islands, this tiny dot in the Aegean Sea is actually an active volcano and how often can you say you slept at one of those.
Nisyros Island is quite small which makes the whitewashed villages that circle the volcano crater the ideal place to switch off and escape reality.
Complete with those white streets, blue paint, and hanging flower pots, you get all those Greek vibes, while feeling like you have stepped back in time by at least 30-years.
Tours to the crater allow you to walk across it and admire the bubbling sulfur fumes that rise from the cracks at close up proximity.
8. Sado Island, Japan
If you’re in Tokyo and looking for the opposite side of Japan, Sado Island will oblige.
A Shinkansen train will deliver you to the port in just over two hours, and from here a hydrofoil will whisk you to the off-coast island in under an hour. With an impressive history of gold mining, it’s from here a fair chunk of Japan’s wealth originated from.
Nowadays, the island with its lush green forests, rugged rock formations, and crashing waves, carved out over thousands of years, is sometimes compared to a Japanese Hawaii – and although not volcanic, evidence of sea lava from thousands of years ago can be spotted.
From exploring remote abandoned temples reclaimed by nature to heading into long closed down gold mining pits, this is an island far removed from the modern images of Japanese megapolises.
Visit historic wooden fishing villages, take a ride in a traditional tub boat, and be sure to visit the Taiko Centro, a beloved historical drumming practice that is world-acclaimed, you can even have a lesson with a master.
Whether it’s relaxing in an Onsen, visiting a temple overtaken by bunny rabbits, or enjoying a pristine sunset from a bridge overhanging the weather’s coastline, Sado Island is a lesser-explored jewel to escape the crowds of Japan’s most populated cities.
9. Sri Lanka
The pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is basking in its moment on the world tourism stage. While I’m sure plenty has changed since my visit in 2015, the sheer beauty and charm of the country surely won’t have.
While politics have been heightened in the past, other than a situation in late 2018, the island is opening up, and restricted parts of the north are now accessible.
A ‘standard’ route around Sri Lanka will take you from the misunderstood capital of Colombo to the cultural triangle of ancient ruins, citadels on towering rocks and national parks offering Elephant safaris.
From here, the city of Kandy is home to the Buddha tooth relic and a starting point for the famous slow train that will whisk you off the lush, and cooler, hill country and tea plantations.
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Aruba may be best known for its resort and palm-fringed beaches, bustling casinos and sometimes chaotic cruise port, but drive five minutes away from these, and you’ll find an untouched landscape ripe for adventures.
It may be a small island, but it certainly packs a punch when it comes to outside activities. From the rugged beaches and incredible snorkeling to the slightly deeper scuba diving adventures around shipwrecks and sunken airplanes, the water life here ticks all the boxes.
The Arikok National Park also provides numerous activities, from historical cave paintings to a cacti stewed landscape with roaming goats and donkeys and off-roading adventures.