Beautiful Islands to Visit That Aren't Bali

Contrasting colours and textures characterise the landscape of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Contrasting colours and textures characterise the landscape of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina | © Southern Lightscapes-Australia / Getty Images
Photo of Tara Jessop
18 May 2021

When it comes to dreamy island holidays, Bali is often the first destination that springs to mind. Whilst Indonesia’s most-visited location remains a quality choice, the truth is that there are plenty more stunning islands to be explored around the world. Whether you’re looking for palm trees and white sands, or something a little more adventurous, these spots from across the globe are worthy of a place on your travel bucket list.

Utila, Honduras

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HONDURAS, BAY ISLANDS, UTILA ISLAND, BEACH WITH COCONUT PALM TREES
© Wolfgang Kaehler / Alamy Stock Photo

This Caribbean island is famous for its fantastic dive sites and beautiful coral reefs which make it particularly popular with backpackers. Get the chance to swim alongside the impressive (and fortunately vegetarian) whale shark or check out the Iguana Breeding and research station to see the endangered spiny-tailed Utila iguana.

Kauai, Hawaii

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Aerial view of spectacular Na Pali coast, Kauai, Hawaii
© Sorin Colac / Alamy Stock Photo

This Hawaian island got its nickname as the ‘Garden Isle’ thanks to the spectacular tropical rainforest which covers much of its surface. Pamper yourself on the white sand beaches of Kauai and swim among the sea turtles, or if you’re feeling more adventurous you can embark on the Kalalau trail, one of Hawaii’s toughest.

Marettimo, Italy

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Italy, Sicily, Egadi islands, island of Marettimo, breakwater on sea front with Pointe Troia and its castle in background
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One of Italy’s bets kept secrets, Marettimo is a laid-back island located in the Aegean sea which has managed to stay relatively clear of the global tourist radar. An hour by boat from Sicily, the island is peaceful and ideal for couples looking for an intimate escape with a cool Mediterranean vibe.

Palawan, Philippines

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Areial view of bay, Coron island, Philippines
© Andrei Bortnikau / Alamy Stock Photo
Recently named the ‘Most Beautiful Island in the World’ by Travel + Leisure, Palawan looks like paradise on earth with its deep turquoise waters, sleepy fishing villages and jaw-dropping mountain vistas. The are some incredible scuba-diving spots around the island, while on land you can admire the rich wildlife which includes some of the world’s most beautiful butterflies.

Yasawa, Fiji

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Yasawa Islands in Fiji
© Sabine Leuenberger / Alamy Stock Photo

Until the 1950s no visitors were even allowed to set foot on Yasawa and today access to the island is monitored to protect the local environment. Those who do visit this volcanic archipelago to the west of Fiji can enjoy exclusive accommodation on private beaches, outstanding scuba-diving and jaw-dropping scenery.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

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Bora Bora Island, French Polynesia.
© Marcel Rabelo / Alamy Stock Photo

The name of this dreamy Pacific island located northwest of Tahiti has become synonymous with paradisiac beaches and afternoons sipping cocktails in a hammock overlooking the sea. Bora Bora is surrounded by a coral reef and turquoise lagoon renowned for their scuba-diving potential, while on land you’ll find some of the most exclusive luxury hotels in the Pacific.

Ischia, Italy

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Sant Angelo on island Ischia,Italy
© Floriano Rescigno / Alamy Stock Photo

A small, volcanic island located just off the coast of Naples, Ischia is dotted with hot thermal springs which have attracted visitors since Ancient Roman times. More recently, the protagonists of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels were described as spending their summers here in their youth to escape the madness of Naples.

Formentera, Spain

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Calo des Mort, Formentera, Spain
© Nathaniel Noir / Alamy Stock Photo

Another Mediterranean jewel, Formentera is the much more laid-back sibling to the party capital Ibiza and is located just 30 minutes by boat from Ibiza town. Here you’ll find blissful white sand beaches dotted with old beaches houses and sleepy fishing villages, as well as some rather luxurious private villas. Renting a boat to hop around the island and rub shoulders with yacht owners is a must.

Bornholm, Denmark

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View over the harbour, Allinge, Bornholm Island, Baltic sea, Denmark, Europe
© Stuart Black / Alamy Stock Photo
Located in the Baltic Sea, Bornholm is not a tropical paradise yet mention the name to anyone in Denmark and you’ll see their faces light up. A popular summer destination, the island is famous for its fine sand beaches (Napoleon is said to have used it for his hour-glasses), artisan smoke-houses offering smoked fish and meats and a unique natural light that has captivated artists for centuries.

Madeira, Portugal

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Volcanic rock Maderia, Portugal
© Bartek Wrzesniowski / Alamy Stock Photo

Located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Africa, Madeira is a former Portuguese colony with a unique culture blending European, African and even South American elements. A volcanic island, Madeira is not a place for lounging around on the beach, it’s much more about adventurous hikes and the exhilarating gastronomic culture.

Andros, Bahamas

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Black Hole of Andros a massive sink hole cut into the limestone in central Andros, Caribbean.
© Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

Referred to as a single name, Andros is in fact an archipelago of hundreds of small islets connected by mangrove estuaries and swamps as well as the world’s third-largest barrier reef. The island is surrounded by a great number of underwater caves or ‘blue holes’ which attract cave divers from across the world (although the activity was pioneered by the great Jack Cousteau).

Tierra del Fuego, Argentina / Chile

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Autumn in Patagonia. Tierra del Fuego, Beagle Channel and Chilean territory, view from the Argentina side
© Kseniya Ragozina / Alamy Stock Photo

Visiting Tierra del Fuego very much feels like you’ve made it to the edge of the earth – in fact this is the southernmost point of the American continent. The landscape here is simply fascinating, a combination of ancient glaciers, bare tundra and peat bogs which together make this one of the most remarkable places on earth.

Cozumel, Mexico

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Black grouper, Mycteroperca bonaci, and scuba diver, Palancar Reef, Cozumel, Mexico
© All Canada Photos / Alamy Stock Photo

Located off the coast of the Yucatán province in the Caribbean sea, Cozumel is home to dolphins, manatees and sea turtles as well as some of the best scuba-diving in the western hemisphere. San Miguel, the island’s only city, is rather on the touristy side but you’ll be too busy exploring the barrier reef to notice.

Ilha Grande, Brazil

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Villa do Abraao beach. Ilha Grande, Brazil.
© Nicholas Tinelli / Alamy Stock Photo
An island located just off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Ilha Grande was once home to pirates before later becoming a prison for Brazil’s most dangerous offenders. As a result of this closure to the outside world, the wildlife on Ilha Grande is incredibly well-preserved – the fact that cars are banned only helps to keep it this way – making for a hiker’s paradise with one of the richest ecosystems in the world.

Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands

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Male scuba diver is viewed through the underwater porthole of the HMS Endymion shipwreck..
© Stephen Frink Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

If in recent years the Turks & Caicos Islands have become rather infamous for their tax breaks and luxury lifestyles, Salt Cay is a world apart from the likes of Providenciales or Grand Turk. The smallest of the islands, Salt Cay appears frozen in time, having escaped much of the large scale development of its neighbours while boasting some impressive wildlife including eagle rays and humpback whales.

These recommendations were updated on May 18, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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