What do you want from the perfect island? Are you all about the idyllic beaches? Do you crave some nightlife? Culture? A food scene? Are you a sand connoisseur or are you open to someplace a little more rugged? The list of possible X-factors is enormous. The options are neverending.
As Uproxx’s two premier aficionados on the subject, travel writer Zach Johnston and I decided to pick the very best islands in the world to visit. It was no small task. Turns out, there are a lot of islands on earth and picking 30 to dub the “best” is a huge challenge. It literally pained us to leave Ko Tao, Antigua, and Grand Cayman off the list. And how can you possibly write a “best Islands” article and skip Tahiti? (Relax, the region is well repped.)
After an endless string of difficult choices, we winnowed our picks down to 30. These are the castaway paradises and dramatic vistas that travel dreams are made of; the places that leave your Instagram followers wanting to recreate your trips in a very Single White Female sort of way.
A few quick bullet points on methodology:
- We left out all mini-continents (Madagascar, Iceland) and most countries-that-are-also-islands.
- Size seems to have mattered, but not in the way you might expect. Smaller was better for this list. These are (mostly) all places you can visit and thoroughly explore in a week or so. Cuba is the only spot that’s also on the list of the world’s 20 largest islands (it ranks 17), and that was a special exemption.
- We aimed for balance. It would have been easy to pick 30 islands in SE Asia or East Africa or South America. Instead, we spread the love.
- We also tried to switch up the price. We picked both budget spots and the sort of places you’ll need serious cash to even consider. Same goes for nightlife, emphasis on nature, and a score of other tiny factors that we bickered about for days. Point being: There’s something for everyone.
- We were blatantly unfair to cold-weather locales. Sorry, not sorry. The word “island” has become codified to mean “cool tropical place” and we fall prey to that as much as anyone else. So, while you’ll see a few chillier spots on this list, you can practically feel us dragging our heels. Most of what you’ll find here is in the tropics.
- Lastly, yes, this is mostly arbitrary. But we still A) think we’re absolutely right and B) look forward to your bitter insults and vehement disagreements in the comments.
Without further ado, let’s start at #30 and work our way to the #1 spot!