Motu Beachfront Art Villas, Ariki Adventures Sea Turtle Safari and Mooring Fish Cafe, Rarotonga. Video / GoPro Hero 9

Sarah Pollok’s bucket list of fabulous islands around the globe

What makes an ultimate tropical destination? Specific features may differ depending on who you ask, but there are definitely a few things that are essential.

It must have long stretches of pure white sand that lead to an indescribably blue but totally clear ocean. Ideally, this ocean is home to an abundance of marine life that we can drive around and explore before venturing ashore through lush natural flora.

It needs to be far enough away to transport us out of ordinary life through a deep sense of tranquility yet developed enough for us to enjoy that peace with a cocktail in hand. With temperatures so hot, we can walk around in light, floaty clothes and come back with an enviable tan.

The bar is set high (and expensive) that few destinations can match. However, if you are lucky enough to visit these must-see places, luxury and exclusivity are guaranteed.

1. Seychelles

The Seychelles offers a choice of 115 islands.  Photo / Unsplash
The Seychelles offers a choice of 115 islands. Photo / Unsplash

Comprised of 115 islands scattered across the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, the only difficult thing to do when visiting the Seychelles is deciding which one to visit first. Mahé is the largest island you will fly to and has a collection of resorts, restaurants and, of course, stunning beaches.

Top spots include Anse Source d’Argent (supposedly one of the most photographed beaches in the world), the World Heritage-listed Vallee de Mai National Park, and the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market.

2. St. Barts, the Caribbean

Pay a visit to St. Barthélemy (or, as the locals call it, St Barths) and you’ll quickly see why it’s a top pick for the rich and famous. The island is a decadent mix of colorful bougainvillea, azure ocean bays, sophisticated French boutiques and intimate hotels.

Fortunately, most of the main attractions are the beaches (we recommend Colombier Beach and Saline Beach), and these stretches of white sand are free.

3. The Abacos, Bahamas

Described as a “Gem of the Bahamas”, Great and Little Abaco is considered an ocean dream for sailing and diving enthusiasts, seafood lovers and history buffs. The Abaconians mainly live in the capital of Great Abaco, Marsh Harbour, where you will probably start your trip before taking a ferry to cays like Elbow, Man O’War or Great Guana.

Here you will find beaches rich in marine life, historic wooden houses, old lighthouses and a culture like no other.

4. Mauritius

Black River in Mauritius.  Photo / Unsplash
Black River in Mauritius. Photo / Unsplash

It is said that paradise was modeled on Mauritius; a grand appeal but one that is absolutely fulfilled by its rich blue waters, sandy beaches and sumptuous resorts. And that’s before you even venture along wooded hiking trails and peaceful fishing villages or sample the delicious local cuisine.

Must-sees include Ile aux Aigrettes (a 26-hectare ecotourism reserve), bustling Port Louis, and experiencing true Mauritian culture at Mahebourg Market.

5.Zanzibar

Nungwi in Zanzibar.  Photo / Unsplash
Nungwi in Zanzibar. Photo / Unsplash

About 30 kilometers off the coast of Tanzania, in East Africa, the islands of Zanzibar have tempted travelers for decades with breathtaking shorelines and lush forests, parks and gardens.

Get up close to wildlife at Cheetah’s Rock, an outdoor sanctuary for rescued animals or dive into the nature reserve at Nakupenda Beach, Prison Island or Nungwi Beach. For a taste of unique culture and fascinating history, take a walking tour of Stone Town or visit one of their amazing spice farms.

6. Maldives

The Maldives has some of the clearest waters and whitest beaches in the world.  Photo / Unsplash
The Maldives has some of the clearest waters and whitest beaches in the world. Photo / Unsplash

Close your eyes, show a map of the Maldives and chances are one of the 1200 islands you land on has incredibly clear waters and arguably the whitest, softest sand in the world. About 99% water, this tropical spot is a world-class destination for diving, snorkeling and surfing.

Malé is the capital, but travelers often head to one of the atolls where they can enjoy a bit more peace and quiet. From adventure to romance, each island has a slightly different vibe, so do your research before you go.

7. Bora Bora

Bora Bora is where unforgettable island getaways meet heavenly island cuisine.  Photo / Stéphane Mailion Photography
Bora Bora is where unforgettable island getaways meet heavenly island cuisine. Photo / Stéphane Mailion Photography

Ask us to list the most famous honeymoon spots, and this South Pacific paradise will be one of the first to come to mind. Easily accessible yet remote and idyllic, it’s impossible not to fall in love with towering emerald mountains, postcard-perfect beaches and, of course, iconic bungalows that seem to float above the crystal clear waters.

Strong French roots also give the place a sophisticated edge, and while it lacks bustling cities and bustling nightlife, it’s ideal for travelers who prefer to laze on the beach with a book, or satisfy some thrills. strong with hiking or parasailing.

8. Palawan Island, Philippines

Regularly featured on ‘World’s Best Islands’ and ‘World’s Best Beaches’ lists, Palawan Island is one of the most highly regarded, but we’re happy to say this magical place delivers on its promise. Perfect for those who prefer off-the-grid adventure to polished urban experiences, the days will fly by as you kayak over crystal-clear lagoons, zipline through lush forest, snorkel around shipwrecks or literally chase waterfalls.

Plus, if you’re looking for a classic pearl necklace or earrings, the island’s markets are brimming with relatively inexpensive jewelry thanks to an abundance of clams and oysters in the surrounding waters.

9. Ambergris Caye, Belize

San Pedro Beach in Belize is a great place to swim.  Photo/Adam Reeder
San Pedro Beach in Belize is a great place to swim. Photo/Adam Reeder

It may not be as popular as Bora Bora or Santorini, but this lesser-known gem is worth mentioning. Located off the east coast of Belize, Central America, and right next to the Barrier Reef, Ambergris is a hotspot for those who like to sail, snorkel, dive, or just sit on a boat and enjoy the sun.

After all the underwater adventures, you can then relax at one of the many luxury beach resorts, treat yourself to freshly caught seafood dishes and explore the trendy nightlife.