The 30 Best Islands in the World

I’ve decided to update many of my old 30 best lists that all started with the 30 best cities in the world. We have actually been fixing bad links, eliminating and updating many old posts and 30 best lists for a while now but I have chosen to publish the 30 best islands in the world first. As you can imagine this is still a difficult task and there are literally thousands to choose from.
Fernando de Noronha, Brazil, 30 best islands in the world
Admittedly, I haven’t been to every island in the world-nobody has. However, I certainly have been to a lot of them and virtually every island that most people have actually heard of and/or is populated. So that gives me some credibility in writing a list like this versus someone behind a desk who simply Googles islands and makes a list. That type of thing is exactly what spawned me to start doing these lists in the first place.
Menorca, Spain
I take making this list very seriously. That said, there needs to be a criteria to follow for inclusion and exclusion in a list this broad. So here is the criteria that I used and I must say that it was really hard.
Madagascar, Africa
-I have been to every island included on the list at least one time.

-What makes an island count as one of the best is based on my experience on the island, with the people, food, scenery, history and overall likability. It is solely my opinion based on my own personal experiences.

-Countries i.e. sovereign nations can not be included as one entry on the list. For example, Sri Lanka cannot be included as it is a sovereign nation even though I would love to include it. Other examples of this are Australia, Cuba, Iceland, Malta, Cyprus, etc.

-Private islands do not count toward my list such as Necker Island, BVI or Medjumbe Island, Mozambique.

-Specific islands within an archipelago nation can be counted. For example, specific islands of Hawaii like Maui, Kauai and Lanai. Conversely, as the Maldives cannot be a stand alone addition on the list, specific islands of the Maldives could be included. The problem with the Maldives are no independent islands made the list as most are simply hotels and I cannot count them even though they are amazing. Fiji or Palau are other examples of a beautiful archipelago nation that I did not include any specific islands of on the list.

-Dependency archipelagos can be counted as one entry on the list. For example, The Galapagos, The Falklands and The Cook Islands are all multi-island dependencies of other nations and all are fantastic places to visit and I have counted them each as one specific entry as opposed to breaking them up. I have been consistent with the exception of French Polynesia.

-French Polynesia deserves an exception because it is so vast and different depending where and which island group you are within-there are several and believe me, it covers a massive territory of ocean. While I firmly believe that Bora Bora and Moorea are two of the most fantastic islands and should be counted separately, I felt that just saying French Polynesia would not do justice to the Marquesas Islands, specifically Hiva Oa; which most people have never heard of. I honestly could have made a top ten list of French Polynesia islands, but the immense diversity of the island groups that make up French Polynesia is the reason I give exception to it and it alone.
Bora Bora
Those criteria, perhaps vague but this is a nearly impossible task, are what I went by. So here are the 30 best islands in the world according to me updates for 2016!
30. Margarita Island, Venezuela
29. Sardinia, Italy
28. Efate, Vanuatu
27. Lanai, Hawaii, USA
26. Chichi-Jima, Ogasawara, Japan
25. Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia
24. Nosy Be, Madagascar
23. Lakshadweep, India
22. Aruba, Netherlands
21. Palawan, Philippines
20. Cook Islands, New Zealand
19. Yap, FS Micronesia
18. Pitcairn Island, UK
17. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
16. Sicily, Italy
15. Ambergris Caye, Belize
14. Moorea, French Polynesia
13. Kauai, Hawaii, USA
12. Corsica, France
11. Falkland Islands, UK
10. Madeira, Portugal
9. Easter Island, Chile
8. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
7. Reunion Island, France
6. Bali, Indonesia
5. Bermuda, UK
4. Santorini, Greece
3. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
2. Maui, Hawaii, USA
1. Lord Howe Island, Australia

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  1. I agree with you that Santorini belongs up there in the Top 5! For sure. And the best part is that it isn’t too expensive nor too remote that almost anyone who has the means to travel can get there on a reasonable budget. All Terrain Vehicles (as your primary mode of transportation), Sunsets over the sea, food and drink, history and culture, scenery, beaches (and multiple coloured ones), and the overall hospitality and festive mood of the island make it my favourite island that I have visited. Thanks for promoting it!

    As for future “Top Lists,” Lee, do you think you can at least hyperlink your Top 10 choices and maybe the odd place or two where you really think your followers should read up on. For example, you talked about how most people have never heard of Hiva Oa, but I am sure you probably have written about it before on your blog. Would be nice if it was hyperlinked to that original post to read up on!

    • Ray that’s a great point…I scheduled this post but will either add some later or definitely next time! Hiva Oa is awesome and thanks for the comment!

      • Thanks! Your older posts are definitely worthy of a read, and help explain your choices for this list (and others in the future).

        Just read your post on Hiva Oa. You’re right! It does sound awesome even for the fact that rarely anyone goes there. I love it when you venture into areas very few are allowed to go to/don’t have the means to get to. Makes for a great read.

        My only knowledge of the Marquesas is of the show “Survivor,” so it is pretty cool when I read up on islands/filming locations that they have done in the past that you have stumbled upon on your travels … even if you don’t watch the show! 😉

  2. Wonderful list :). Thank you for including our beautiful island of Boracay Island, Philippines.
    I hope you can visit also El Nido in Palawan.
    Hoping to see you here in Philippines! God Bless your Journey… Mabuhay!

  3. Of islands we have been to together, here are a couple that could be on your list base on the criteria, especially experience:

    Zanzibar, Tanzania
    Fraser Island, Australia
    Koh Phangan, Thailand
    Beachcomber Island, Fiji

    In addition to the islands I have been to on your list, I would also add:
    Nevis, St. Kitts and Nevis
    Virgin Gorda, BVI
    Rosario Islands, Colombia

    Great list!

    • Thanks buddy…I thought about each one and felt I should have included a Thai island but each time I kept coming up with one I liked slightly better. Fraser Island I love and always will for sure…Zanzi of course.

      Virgin Gorda and Tortola both I love as well.

  4. Great post, I haven’t been to any of these apart from Madeira. I personally wouldn’t put in the top 10 since I personally prefer tropical islands with turquoise water and white beaches. I would really really like to see a list of affordable destinations. Like someone commented, Santorini is quite affordable and I’ll be making plans for it soon. But as for Bora Bora, well… it has to wait I guess!!!

  5. Nice list. Cook Islands isn’t NZ tho 🙂

  6. Mark Griswold says

    Great list! Would have liked to have seen some of your pictures of each place too. No Manhattan? 🙂

  7. Mali John says

    I’m surprised Maldives and Palau are not on your list.

  8. Have been to Palau and cried when I had to go home. Swam with the jellyfish, had a bbq on an island and met the warmest people. Going back again.

  9. Hey Lee… You have definitely made alot of friends down South with this…

    All the best

  10. Lamu Island, Kenya is wonderful

  11. Lee, great list and post – I’ll certainly share this : )

  12. You clearly haven’t been to Thailand… Koh Tao would top your list if you had been there… it’s inexpensive, gorgeous, fun, amazing food, friendly people, absurdly scenic, easy to visit… just amazing. And if you dive, it’s fantastic.

  13. Great to see that Bemruda is on the list however, to be correct we are under British (UK) control but when addressing us as a landmass it’s just Bermuda not Bermuda, UK. Bermuda is the country and the capital is Hamilton.


  14. I go along with la Digue, for Seychelles, but would vote for the tiny Round Island or possibly Bird Island over Praslin. We lived in Seychelles for two years. I’d love to visit your entire list, but fear it is too late for me.

  15. How about the Maldives? Does that not figure in the list?

  16. You forgot Azores islands in mid Atlantic!

  17. William Suarez says

    You said that islands like Cuba were not included for being just one island of a sovereign country (or something like that), Cuba is an archipielago nation with more than 2000 … yes… I said 2000 small islands and keys…. The main inhabited islands are Cuba, Isle of Pines and Cayo Largo. You also said that specific islands inside an archipielago can be counted… then… most islands of the Caribbean belong to an even bigger archipielago called “THE ANTILLES” divided in Greater Antilles (Cuba, La Española, Jamaica and Puerto Rico), and Lesser Antilles (most of the east caribbean islands).
    Also australians consider their nation an inmense archipielago of 8222 islands.

  18. Very insightful list. Curious as to why Yap made the list and Palau did not. I have been to Palau and it’s up there as far as most beautiful places I have ever been. Any insight on why Yap is better than Palau would be much appreciated. I will have to check out Yap sometime soon.

  19. I loved this list! Thanks for giving me more travel ideas 🙂 I’ve been to Bali and Boracay and they are some of my favorite places to go.

  20. I have only been to Santorini from this list. Avoided it for years as thought it was too touristy and could not be as amazing as it looks. My mistake. Stunning island, lovely people and not as expensive as everyone said it was. It was my mothers wishes to have her ashes scattered there, thank you Mom. We had an interesting journey getting there, but that was what she would have enjoyed, she had her last little trip around her beloved Greece. And now I am looking to move to Greece and make it my home.

  21. Nice, but Zanzibar gets no mention!?

  22. bookmarkturkey says

    I honestly think that you need to make best islands part 2.And this time you can mayne add the Prince’s Island in Istanbul.


  23. Isla Holbox just off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is an amazing island to visit. It’s like Cancun was about 40 years ago before there was a tourism industry there. There are a few local hotels (with even a couple of luxury ones), small locally owned restaurants and sand streets everywhere. A real paradise, only 2 hours away from the mess that Cancun has become.

  24. I love all of them and I would love visting all of them

  25. Larry Levine says

    Sicily, Sicily, Sicily!!

  26. Globetrotter says

    How about Redang/Perhentian Island in Malaysia? They beat Bali in terms of purity and blue water.

  27. Jamie Skinner says

    Although I don’t agree with some of the picks on these lists I’ve gotta commend the sheer amount of places you’ve visited! What job is allowing you to go to all these places?! Because whatever it is…I wanna do it!

  28. Aaron Sampson says

    Really very informative and helpful article. Right now I am Planning a Vacation with my family , but confused!. But I finally got the Idea and decide to Travel Maui.

  29. Sophie Rowland says

    The list looks great. I think, we could include Vamizi Island in this list. It is very beautiful island. I visited there last year. It was my second trip to an island.

  30. I agree with you Sophie Rowland. I recently had a trip on Vamizi Island with my wife on our 7th Wedding Anniversary. So far it had been the best tour of my life. I would recommend all to visit here at least once in their life time, it worked as a tranquilizer for me. !!!!

  31. Great list and interesting read. Only island I tend to disagree with on your list is Aruba.

  32. Cassandra O'Troy says

    You left out Martha’s Vineyard

  33. La Palma, Canary Islands. Walk down into the Caldera National Park or walk around the rim of the volcano which was amazing. See awesome stars at night as there is a limit on the whole of the island for light bulb wattage. Helps the telescopes (Steven Hawkins one is there too). I also think there is a 7 star hotel where all the scientists stay. Amazing place and our tour guide told us that a huge part of the island will fall off into the ocean one day and the resulting Tsunami will wipe out the East coast of USA!!!! Not good. Have you been?

  34. Aitutaki Cook Island The best

  35. SVALBARD?!

  36. Terre d’Haut – Guadeloupe

  37. Wow ! My favourite island is at 6th position .
    BTW I like Bali island more as I knew about this before. As per as I informed about this island,this island is famous for traditional Fireworks and Yoga.

  38. Great list Lee, below are some of the most beautiful as well.
    St. Martin – St. Maarten
    Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
    Majorca, Balearic Islands

  39. Has anyone been to Seychelles, Africa? Any recommendations?

  40. I’ve been to a few of the places on your list, and I’d say they’re worthy of their place in the top 30.

    Hopefully, I’d be able to go to more places in the list.

    Just need the right amount of cash, everything else is set 🙂

  41. I’d like to visit these places someday

  42. You have missed one of the greatest islands by not spending time in Sri Lanka.

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