Like most Dame Travelers out there, we love a good island! Islands are home to all-things idyllic (turquoise coves, white sand and hidden waterfalls), and whatever country we find ourselves in, I always try to squeeze a bit of island time into our plans. From walled cities in Croatia to hidden lakes in The Philippines, we’ve discovered several little gems around the globe. And lucky for us, with nearly 2,000 islands sitting in the oceans, we’ll never run out of isles and islets to explore for Bucket List Bums. So in no particular order, here are a few of my favorites (clearly, I have a fondness for crystal clear water!). Enjoy, lovelies! ♥
Ah, Hvar. It’s one of the few places we’d return to – and we’re already looking for a way to get back ASAP. Our travels through Croatia coincided with summer, the time of the year when Hvar oozes with an irresistible energy fused by the warm weather, beautiful people, delicious seafood and lively bars. But my favorite part of Hvar’s island life was that from 7 AM to 7 PM, the rocky coastline would be dotted with sunbathers, along waters so pristine that we could jump in for a dip just about anywhere.
PALAWAN, THE PHILIPPINES
The Philippines is on the verge of becoming the next great Southeast Asian destination. Similar to Thailand, the country is a haven for backpackers looking for paradise on a shoestring budget, and yet it still feels untouched by comparison to overrun Phuket and Koh Samui. Travelers visiting The Philippines should head south to Palawan, one of the country’s prettiest archipelagos bursting with surreal natural gems hidden in the soaring peaks of Coron Bay. By private boat, we explored the dreamy nooks of northern Palawan where we spent deserted mornings floating in the sparkling waters of Kayanagan Lake, Twin Lagoon, Siete Pecados, Banol Beach and Barracuda Lake.
HALF MOON CAYE, BELIZE
We braved the LONG three-hour boat ride out to The Blue Hole from Ambergris Caye, specifically to dive Lighthouse Reef and visit remote Half Moon Caye. The 12-hour day was a long one, but well worth the effort, and a MUST for divers looking to cross a bucket list adventure off their list. Our first stop was The Blue Hole where we anchored inside a shallow bed of pristine coral that formed a perfectly large ring around our lone dive boat. It was some of the clearest water I’d seen, and the perfect conditions for diving sunken caverns, soaring stalactites and coral walls inhabited by sharks, stingrays, groupers, eels and fish galore! Post dive, we glided into the intense, turquoise waters surrounding Half Moon Caye, a mirage-like island too perfect to be real.
ISLA CATALINA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Vacationers looking to escape the touristy stretch that is Punta Cana, should hit the water and head south to tiny Isla Catalina, just off the coast of Bayahibe, in the Dominican Republic. We wanted the place to ourselves, so we booked a private dive boat and scheduled our trip for a day with no cruise ships docked in La Romana. It was the recipe for success, as we spent our morning diving secluded waters, floating in the sparkling blue shallows and beaching on empty stretches of the island’s perfectly white sand.
For travelers looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Latin America, Honduras is a great alternative to Costa Rica or Belize. Cost is cheap, tourism is low and the country is home to everything we love about Central America – vibrant culture, ancient ruins and the gorgeous Bay Islands. We have a special affinity to Roatan, the largest of the coastal islands. It’s where we learned to scuba dive, and the coral haven is a true slice of underwater paradise. The island is also home to one of our favorite beaches in the Caribbean – sparkling West Bay.
What else can be said about Bali? It’s hands down my favorite spot on the globe. We’ve traveled to so many places, and people often ask why I adore this Indonesian island so much. It’s hard to give an exact reason, since I don’t know myself. Yes, there was a lot to love – the culture, the food, the rice terraces, the people, the temples, etc. But mostly, it’s just a feeling I get when I think back to our time in Ubud, Amed, Jimbaran and Nusa Dua. Bali really does cast a spell, and I can’t wait to get back to my island paradise.
PROIZD ISLAND, CROATIA
I know, another Croatian island! The country’s Dalmatian coast was a mecca of little gems, and Proizd was so very different from Hvar. We visited the island by daytrip from Korcula – a rough trek by water taxi, but well worth the journey. The uninhabited island was a string of white, rocky beaches and a shallow coastline of the clearest, calmest swirls of turquoise. And with nothing to do on the deserted island aside from beach time, it was the ideal spot for sunbathing with Kindle in-hand.
GILI AIR, LOMBOK
One of three islands just off Lombok’s coast, Gili Air and her sisters have been a popular destination with backpackers and divers for years. We visited Gili Air on long weekend from Bali, and it really was the perfect three days of diving, snorkeling and soaking in the island vibes. The chill out energy was super relaxed, and the entire island perimeter could be walked in less than two hours. It’s one of our favorite budget destinations, and a great pitstop for travelers making their way from Bali to Lombok.
THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS, USA
Perhaps it’s cheating a bit to lump all of Hawaii into one umbrella group? But it was the only way to squeeze everything we love about each island onto this list! With such varying personalities, the archipelago really does offer an island for every type of traveler, and visiting Kauai, Maui, Oahu and the Big Island is like traveling to four completely different places. Our favorite spots? Oahu is home to the prettiest beach in Hawaii … the powder white sands of postcard-perfect Lanikai. Maui is land of waterfalls, along the spectacular Road to Hana. Kauai is all-things green, and we love the island’s lush topside. And we’re a bit obsessed with the Big Island’s underwater world … swimming with fishes, turtles and manta rays.
KOH PHI PHI, THAILAND
Signature views of the barbell shaped gem bring back the fondest memories of island hopping in Thailand. The country was a wealth of island options, offering something for every travel style (luxury retreats, Full Moon parties, pristine diving, etc.), but it was the soaring cliffs and turquoise bays of Koh Phi Phi we’d return to in a heartbeat.