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Marooned: The World’s Best Island Getaways

So, to start, a quick disclaimer. There are a shit-tonne of islands in the world. And, believe it or not, we have not visited them all. Working on it, though, which means we still have plenty to choose from for this list of best island getaways in the world.

There is something about islands that just appeals to me – the isolation, self-containment, simplicity. Perhaps it’s the silent “s”. It’s quite a rich combination of mental, emotional and sentimental factors. Plus, like so many of our travel preferences (mountains, oceans, cliffs, beach sunsets, gopher-free fields), it is probably at least somewhat influenced by growing up on the Prairies.

Woman on Greek church wall looking out over the bay of Serifos

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Of course, choosing the best islands in the world is always going to be very subjective and is made even more difficult by the extreme differences from one to the next: big and small, hot and cold, tropical and desolate, rocky and sandy, cheap and expensive, clean and gross, etc.

But that isn’t going to stop us from trying. The main criteria being “how would I feel about heading there tomorrow?” If the answer is, start packing, charging our phones and searching for our passports then, well, it’s a contender. If the answer is more along the lines of, yeah, you bet, we can definitely add that to our list for, um, not now, obviously, but at some point, then it probably isn’t on the list. Simple, right?

* Warning: Greece is likely to feature disproportionately often in these lists. Live with it.

Best Islands: All-Rounder Category


Balos Beach one of the best Crete beaches
Balos Beach

On that note, we’ll get it started with the largest island in Greece. We spent a full month in Crete and barely managed to make it to all the best spots. There are lots of amazing beaches, including our pick for one of the best beaches in the world, and a fascinating mix of hill towns, port towns and historic sites. What really sets Crete apart, though, is the wild, rugged terrain and the many huge, scenic canyons.

Vancouver Island

Tofino harbour

Waterfalls, wildlife, hiking, surfing, lovely Victoria. Yeah, Vancouver Island is one of the most beautiful places in Canada. Which is saying something. There are plenty of spots that work great for a weekend getaway, but you’ll need at least 2 weeks to really see the island properly.



Really loved our time in Sicily – like mainland Italy but warmer, louder and messier. Plus beautiful scenery, truly ancient history and outstanding food. Not to mention some of the wildest drivers on the planet. Stay alert.

Koh Lanta

There are a lot of great islands in Thailand but, for us, Koh Lanta hits the sweet spot. Large enough to have options but small enough to explore by scooter. Plenty scenic but still relatively inexpensive. A great choice, although I could easily suggest another half-dozen Thai islands if you’re stuck on variety.


Similar to Koh Lanta in that Naxos is a very handy size, plus it has an incredibly photogenic old town, some historic hikes (Mount Olympus anyone?) and one of the best sunset spots in the Greek Islands.


Man sitting on a rock gazing at Mount Teide
Mount Teide

The most popular of the Canary Islands, mountainous Tenerife gets a bit of a bad rap as a British package holiday resort island. And it is certainly possible to find some badly sunburnt and gleefully hungover Brits if that is your thing. But they are mainly concentrated in one small stretch of beaches on the south end. The rest of Tenerife features volcanoes, canyons, cliffs and some truly fantastic hiking.

Straight Up Most Beautiful Islands


Steep green canyon with river running through it
Fjadrargljufur Canyon

Our 2-week campervan trip around Iceland was one of the best things we’ve ever done because, well, Iceland is f’n incredible. Sooo gorgeous. And in June the sun almost never goes down, so you almost never have to sleep.


Shipwreck Beach from above - one of the best Zakynthos photo spots
Shipwreck Beach

Yeah, it’s popular. And crowded. And expensive. And it goes by two different names for some reason (Zante is apparently the Italian/English version). But the entire coastline is riddled with picturesque cliffs and beaches and viewpoints. So there’s that.


Speaking of busy and expensive, Santorini, anyone? Certainly the most famous Greek island, with a corresponding number of tourists and cruise ships and overworked donkeys. But there’s a reason it’s famous. THAT crater. Yeah, everyone should suck it up and see Santorini at least once.

Koh Phi Phi

View of Koh Phi Phi Don from Viewpoint 3
Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 3

Another place that has become a victim of its own beauty (much like myself in those unfortunate frosted tip days), Koh Phi Phi is still a stunning place. And it is surrounded by a bunch more stunning places so the excitement doesn’t stop at the top of that first hill. And people routinely get bitten by monkeys, so it really has a bit of everything.


Ponta Sao Lourenco

This Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco is one of our favourites for two reasons. Great weather all year-round and fabulous scenery. Which is why we’ve (reluctantly) been able to forgive them for bringing Cristiano Ronaldo into the world.


Woman standing on cliff overlooking the ocean on a Newfoundland road trip

Wow, what a pleasant surprise this mildly mocked eastern province was for us prairie folk. One of the most amazing coastlines we’ve ever seen, loads of road trip attractions and a healthy dose of that quirky Maritime charm. I think you’ll like it.

Lake Bunyoni

There are actually a bunch of different islands on Lake Bunyoni, located deep in central Uganda, and I honestly don’t remember which ones we visited and which we just gawked at from afar. But the gawking was real, I promise you.


Bright houses in Burano Venice

Venice itself could easily have been included in this section but for a compact and intensely photogenic experience, nearby Burano is tough to beat. Yet not tough to get to. And VERY easy to find gelato in. Sound like something you might be interested in?


Once again, I can’t actually remember which specific islands we visited but they were the standard stops on the peninsula cruise. Much larger mountains than expected, many more penguins than seemed realistic and even the occasional black sand beach. Freezing cold, but still.

Best Off the Beaten Path Islands to Escape the Crowds

Likoma Island

Wooden canoes on shore of Lake Malawi, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world

To be fair, most places in Malawi feel off the beaten path. But then take a 24-hour cargo ferry out to this tiny island in the middle of Lake Malawi and, I promise you, it will feel much more like the middle of freakin’ nowhere. Tasty chicken, too.

Big Island

Camping setup on Big Island on Crean Lake

Really just a short drive and semi-complicated boat trip away from our cabin at Waskesiu Lake in northern Saskatchewan. But for those who don’t spend their summers in Prince Albert National Park, first of all, why not? And second of all, this tiny (150 metres across!) island in the middle of Crean Lake is basically the definition of off-the-beaten-path. The perfect place for drunken stag party feats of strength. For example.

Togean Islands

I won’t bore you with how many days (yes, days) it took to reach this remote chain of tropical islands in northern Indonesia but I can promise you, it felt even longer. But once there – well, Robinson Crusoe always struck me as a bit of a twat but if you’re into that sort of thing, Togean is the place.


First off, Ometepe is known for its extraordinarily scenic volcanoes. Plural. Which means it is, in fact, firmly on the Nicaragua backpacker trail. However, a lot of people only check it out on quick day trips. If you decide to stay, and stay away from the port town, you will quickly feel like a modern-day pioneer. A pioneer with wifi, hot water and constant access to draft beer, but a pioneer, nonetheless.


There are so many Greek Island (200+ I think) that, as popular as they are, it is still possible to get away from the crowds, especially if you visit outside high season. Hence, Folegandros, with its spectacular cliffs, hidden beaches and one (!) road.

Koh Jum

Woman in lounger enjoying sunset at a Koh Jum resort

Thailand doesn’t have quite as many islands as Greece, although they do have a lot more pad thai. Koh Jum, meanwhile, is located smack in the middle between several of the biggest tourist spots in Thailand but sees just a fraction of the crowds. Mainly because, by Thai standards, the beaches suck. However, compared to most places in the world, the beaches are just fine, plus the resorts are quiet and cheap, the food is excellent and there is a weird hobo dude that lives in a rotting old boat. It’s got it all, really.

Best ON-the-Beaten-Path Islands


Woman on a bridge in Venice with a reflection in the water

Probably one of the most famous islands in the world, with tourist numbers to match. But, as I always say, the popular places got popular for a reason. Don’t miss out on Venice.

Ile de la Cite

Ile de la Cite in Paris

Along those same lines, perhaps you’ve heard of a quaint little city in France they call Paris? You bet you have. Well, the same thing applies. It really is one of the best cities in the world. And tiny Ile de la Cite is one of the coolest places in the one of the coolest cities. So it seems worth checking out, I’d say.

Best Hiking Islands

La Gomera

Steep cliffs leading down to the ocean
Playa Caleta

For great hiking, you typically need great hills. And it just so happens that the small Canary Island of La Gomera is essentially one big hill. Hike up, hike down, hike across, take lots of photos. Then hit the beach.


This lesser-known Greek Island in the Cyclades is also full of hills, mostly dry ones covered in centuries-old ruins and rock walls. Hills kindly littered with well-marked trails, usually with ocean views, as well. And every now and then you’ll come across a classic whitewashed village with a view of a church on an island. Stuff like that.


Ta Cenc

Gozo is not as hilly as those other islands but is even more historic, features loads of trails that pass through and past lush valleys, impressive beaches and stunning cliffs. Quiet, friendly, affordable and a great name – what’s not to love?

Best Islands to Live Out that Tropical Paradise Fantasy

Koh Kradan

Beach, turquoise water and dark skies in Koh Kradan Thailand

Just about any Thai island works well as a tropical paradise fantasy come to life, but tiny Koh Kradan takes the get-away-from-it-all vibe to another level. Home to just five or so tiny resorts located along the same exceptional beach, Koh Kradan is the perfect place to unwind.

Koh Ngai

Loungers on a beach on Koh Ngai in Thailand

See above, just with slightly larger and more modern resorts. And ONE hiking trail.

Caye Caulker

The baby sister to the more developed and larger Ambergris Caye in Belize, Caulker is the quiet, cheap, backpacker destination you’ve always dreamed of. Just a few dirt roads and fresh lobster for the price of a subway ticket in a big city. And beautiful water, just don’t expect much in the way of beaches.


With white sand beaches, swaying palm trees and comfy hammocks overlooking gorgeous off-shore limestone islands, magnificent Palawan is the jewel in the rather large, impressive Philippine crown.


This ancient Tanzanian sea-faring melting pot in the Indian Ocean mixes phenomenal historical attractions with a languid island lifestyle, lovely beaches and translucent blue water. Quite the contrast if you combine it with some mainland safari time, let me tell you.

Sri Lanka

Sort of India-lite, although I can almost certainly guarantee the Sri Lankans wouldn’t love that description. But it has the same amazing diversity, fantastic beaches, impressive wildlife, spectacular historical ruins and complex religious politics. Just with fewer cows eating trash in the ditch.

Best Islands for Bucket List Wildlife Experiences

Galapagos Islands

That Darwin fella wasn’t lying, the Galapagos Islands have a LOT of animals. Weird ones, too, not just your usual squirrels and seagulls and stuff. Flying birds, flightless birds, an array of sharks, these lizards with way too many colours and turtles of all sizes. Just to name a few.

The Maldives

Just about every island in this extraordinary, remote island chain is beautiful in its own right but unless you have both unlimited time AND money you’ll need to narrow it down. For us, that meant:


Whale shark swimming

One of the coolest beaches we’ve ever seen connecting it to a completely different island (most of the time) and possibly the most incredible scuba diving experience of our lives. Both on the same island. Diving with whale sharks, anyone?


Two tiger sharks in Fuvahmulah Maldives

Very remote and, in general, not the prettiest island in the Maldives. But you do get to spend 45 minutes on the ocean floor surrounded by tiger sharks. Over and over, if you want.

Koh Tao

Once again, there are plenty of great dive spots scattered all over Thailand. But Koh Tao is still your best bet for dive schools, excellent diving courses, a wide range of dive sites and, potentially, more whale sharks.

Not Long-Stay Material but Unique and Memorable All the Same

Fogo Island

Houses build on rock by the water

This unique island off the east coast of Newfoundland is weird, so weird. As in, flat earthers believe it is one of the four corners of the Earth. And while that can be hard to get your head around – you know, geographically – there is no denying all the cool fishing villages and scenic coastline.

Pender Island

View over ocean on Pender Island

Island-hopping through BC’s fabulous Gulf Islands is extremely addictive and endlessly scenic, no matter what ferry you take or where you get off. But little two-part Pender Island is one of the lesser known and most natural of the lot.

Isla Mujeres

Cancun is big, hot, busy, loud and kitschy. Isla Mujeres is a very short ferry ride away yet, somehow, is none of those things. Well, except hot, it’s not THAT far away.


If you like your islands large, diverse, confusing, breathtaking and infuriating all at once, well, boy, have we got just the place for you. Sure, Cubans may not have quite mastered the art of tourism just yet but they certainly have some nice stuff to see.

Bled Island

Lake Bled itself is worth plenty of your time – and it has already taken up a fair bit of ours over two separate visits. Highly recommended. Bled Island, however, is only about 100 metres across and features both a classic church and a not-so-classic ice cream shop. You probably don’t want to miss either.

Jag Niwas

Calm lake with castle on an island

One of several fascinating islands in a lake in the centre of Udaipur, India, Jag Niwas is somewhat unique in that it is entirely made up of a palace. Which is, objectively, pretty cool.

Cat Ba Island

Lang Chai floating village in Vietnam
Lan Ha Bay

This is THE place to base yourself for an unmissable Lan Ha Bay cruise. Beyond that, exploring the beautiful central hills on a scooter is worth a day of your time, although much of Cat Ba town is tacky and tawdry and tasteless. Spoken as someone who specializes in such things.

Best Islands to Spot a Celebrity


Small boat in a cove in Greece

And not just ANY celebrities, we’re talking Tom Hanks, man! And Rita, obviously. And, of course, where Forrest goes, others follow. So keep your eyes peeled.


Plane taking off over Mai Khao Beach Phuket

The largest and busiest and most Russian of all the Thai islands, but with one truly unique beach experience. It is also the island voted most likely to host a Kardashian or two. Pros and cons.


If you consider digital nomads and social media influencers celebrities then, oh boy, is Bali the place for you. And even if, more logically, you do NOT, there are still plenty of lovely Balinese getaways popular with the jet-set from around the world. Lots of monkeys, too.

Best Island to Get Wasted and Lose Stuff

Koh Pha Ngan

Sure, getting wasted and losing stuff might not be the reasons you got into travel, but they ARE a big part of doing it right, in my experience. And where better than at an all-night drug-and-alcohol-fueled beach rave during a full moon? That’s a rhetorical question, in case you were wondering.

Most British Without Being in Britain


Woman watching sunset over Edro III shipwreck

Some nice beaches, a cool rocky cove or two, and if you are a Brit looking to warm up your damp, chilly bones in a place that feels more British than Brighton, well, Cyprus is your place. Their cars even suck.


The weather, the beaches, the sugar cane, the tiny farms, the precarious blow holes – none of those things feel very British. So it’s mostly the names. And the fish ‘n chip specials.

Islands That are Too Big to Count for This List


Mount Fuji

Visiting Japan is A) an epic bucket-list experience that requires as much time as possible and B) pretty cool. But I wouldn’t say it really feels like just “an island”.

New Zealand

“One doesn’t just walk in to Mordor” – Tahnni Dupre (quoting from LOTR)

Made up of two big islands and hundreds of smaller ones (including an entire Bay of Islands, no less), New Zealand is one of the most spectacular natural destinations in the world, especially Mordor. But calling it an island getaway would be underselling it somewhat. Even if their national bird is WAY smaller than your average penguin.


Once again, there is a lot to see and do there, and I don’t just mean eating a full pint of Guiness. So not an island getaway, per se, but very green and very friendly.

One of Our Favourite Islands Without an Easy Explanation Why


Small boat in Livadi harbour with white tavernas

Small and hilly and historic with fabulous beaches and good hiking, all dominated by a tall hill with a classic white Greek village spilling down the sides. On second thought, maybe I can explain it.


Islands are awesome. Or, to put it in layman’s terms, we really like islands. Big islands, small islands, islands with a disproportionate number of lizards, even. Hopefully this list helps you choose your next island getaway. Or at least reminds me that these posts can get a bit out of hand when I lose focus.

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