You know you’ve escaped civilization when you’re swimming through a coral garden, with only green sea turtles and tropical fish for company. That’s the enticing promise of a trip to Palawan, a chain of white-sand islands in the Philippines.
Palawan is the latest far-flung beach destination to capture the imagination of travelers, specifically, discerning T+L readers who voted it the No. 1 island in the latest World’s Best survey. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the greater the distance traveled, the greater the rewards.
That said, readers recognized worthy getaways all over the map, from the sultry island of Sicily (No. 8)—where vineyards and ancient ruins vie with beaches for your attention—to the heart-shaped paradise of Moorea, a French Polynesian island known for its blue lagoons and luxurious hideaways.
You can also take your pick from notable islands near America’s East and West coasts: Prince Edward Island, with its seaside cottages and red sand dunes, and Maui, which trumped the other Hawaiian islands, coming in at No. 3 overall.
Whether you prefer a quiet sliver of sand a few time zones from home, or a more accessible and bustling local scene, you’ll find inspiration among these top-rated islands.
This lightly populated archipelago of 1,780 islands makes a splashy debut on the World’s Best Islands list by nabbing the No. 1 title thanks to its unspoiled beauty, abundant wildlife, and seascapes, which T+L readers deemed second to none. Seek out the serenity of the beaches of El Nido, where Bacuit Bay’s coral reefs teem with tropical fish, or, for bragging rights, the world’s longest underground navigable river.
Where to Stay: On the edge of a tropical rainforest, the palm-thatched villas of new luxury hideaway El Nido Pangulasian Island front a sandy cove where you can dive with sea turtles. elnidoresorts.com
Boracay, which ranked No. 1 last year, has made room for up-and-coming Palawan, yet the island continues to exert its own powerful appeal on travelers. Boracay is smaller and more accessible, with more nightlife. White Beach boasts of the world’s softest sand, while Puka Beach offers beautiful seashells and the romance of seclusion.
No. 3 Maui, HI
Maui has won over T+L readers once again as the most sought-after Hawaiian island. Can you blame it? Just consider the evidence: the surfer haven of Paia; the heart-stopping scenic drive past secret waterfalls to Hana; miles of perfect coastline like Napili Beach; lush valleys; and otherworldly trails along Haleakala volcano.
Where to Stay: Favored celebrity hideout Four Seasons Resort at Wailea caters to every whim with three stellar restaurants, Pacific and volcano views, and customized spa packages.
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