Sumba, Indonesia from 32 Top Tropical Island Getaways
32 Top Tropical Island Getaways
Located off the coast of Malysia, Mabul has only really been popular as a tourist destination since the ‘90s. But since the introduction of scuba diving on the reef off-shore, where there’s a high density of tropical fish, it’s recently become a more frequented tropical getaway. It’s also where the term ”muck diving” was coined, because divers can find a ton of life in the muddy substrate at the bottom.
Tahiti is beautiful and lush, and it’s home to one of the heaviest waves in the world, Teahupoo. There are other highly aesthetic and powerful surf breaks here, too. And if you’re not up for towering barrels, plan your visit between April and September when waves tend to be slightly mellower.
Volcanic Rodrigues Island, off the coast of Madagasgar, is home to spectacular hiking, diving, caving and fishing, but it’s also recently become a kite surfing Mecca. It has all the essential elements: it’s windy, and the water offshore is clear and shallow, so it’s great place for beginner divers to learn the ropes.
Cayo Coco, Cuba
Cayo Coco, on the northern side of Cuba has pristine beaches, and few crowds. Kite surfing is becoming popular here, but many travelers come for the scuba diving. The reef off the coast is more than 20 miles long and is home to a huge diversity of fish and coral. Keep an eye out for favorites like parrotfish and angelfish.
Mafia Island, Tanzania
Mafia Island, just off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean, has some of the best snorkeling in East Africa. The more than 40 different types of corals in Mafia Island Marine Park (Tanzania’s first) hold an incredible variety of tropical fish. Most of the diving here is relatively close to the surface, which makes it ideal for snorkelers and beginner divers. Be on the lookout for whale sharks, manatee, and sea turtles.
Indian Key, Florida
In the 1800s, residents of Indian Key (the first county seat of Dade County), made a good living hijacking cargo from shipwrecks. By the 1860s the area was deserted and a ghost town stands there to this day. The only way to access it is by boat, particularly by kayak by way of Robbie’s Marina on the mainland.
Isla Robinson Crusoe, Chile
600 miles off the coast of Chile, Isla Robinson Crusoe, which was formed by volcanic activity, is a world biosphere reserve. The island is small, but it’s home to a ton of great hiking. Try trekking up to Selkirk Lookout for vast island views.
Montserrat, West Indies
For a while in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s Montserrat, in the Lesser Antillies of the West Indies, was known for being home to George Martin's AIR Studios where The Beatles producer brought bands in to record. Since then it’s become more well known for it’s incredible diversity of wildlife, like the endangered Giant Ditch Frog, better know as the Mountain Chicken, which you can only find here and in Dominica.
Réunion, a French island east of Madagascar, is only 63 km long, but it’s home to miles and miles of exquisite road and mountain biking routes. Trails crisscross the island, the roads are really well paved, and the terrain features a mix of challenging climbs and exciting descents. During your visit, don’t skip the steep ride to the famous volcanic peak of Maido.
Spend your days sailing the Caribbean Sea; explore secluded beaches, snorkel remote reefs, and watch dolphins and whales feasting in the water. Hike the Piton Mountains or jungle bike the antiquated sugar plantation of Anse Mamin. In the evening, fly through St. Lucia’s lush rain forest by moonlight. Named one of the World’s Coolest Ziplines by Travel + Leisure, you will scale volcanic boulders, leap onto a rope web, and swing like Tarzan through the trees on this lunar escapade with Rainforest Adventures. At the end of the day, be sure to soothe your muscles in the sulphur springs of the volcanic crater at Soufriere.
Hike through coffee plantations and thick forests to Mt. Yasur on the South Pacific island of Tanna. Evenings offer a fireworks show by Mother Nature, with magma exploding one hundred feet into the black sky. A daytime trek reveals its true majesty. Stand on the rim and look into the eye, then sandboard down this 100,000 year-young volcano. Bring your own pre-waxed board for the best experience; there are no tour companies to assist with this adventure. Before beginning your descent, drop a postcard in the world’s only mailbox on a live volcano.
Quilalea lies off the shores of Pama in Mozambique. It sits in a protected marine reserve, ensuring spectacular diving, snorkeling and canoeing experiences. Dive sites around the area include walls and drop offs for the adventurous diver. See humpback whales in the summer and fall months, and pods of dolphin year-round. Sail a traditional dhow to the nearby island of Sencar, where you can kayak through the mangroves. While this island is brimming with wildlife above and below sea level, humans are in short supply. Only 18 guests at a time may stay here, and the only other visitors are the resort staff of Azura.
Turks and Caicos Islands
Travel 550 miles southeast of Miami to the islands of Turks and Caicos. Hitch a ride to Conch Bar Caves National Park on Middle Caicos where brave souls conquer 15 miles of stalactites and stalagmites. Spelunkers navigate through colonies of five different species of bats, white owls, and a limestone jungle. Tours from Dive Turks and Caicos will pair your caving adventure with a snorkeling session on the barrier reef. Also available in the area: Catamaran sailing, horseback riding, parasailing, and SNUBA excursions. SNUBA is a form of shallow water diving achieved without certification.
The Indonesian island of Bali calls to the adventurous traveler, with beaches, mountains, and volcanoes. Begin your day early by cycling to Mt. Baur, then ascending to the top for a sunrise experience on The Island of the Gods. From here, climb aboard an elephant for a jaunt into the jungle where you break for lunch. Eat up, because a wet ride awaits. Tackle six miles of 33 class II and III rapids past rainforests, gorges, and rice paddies. Need more? Try kayaking, jungle trekking, paragliding, horseback riding, and seawalking with Bali Star Island.
Canary Islands, Spain
At a little over 60 miles off the Atlantic coast of Morocco, Spain’s Canary Islands enjoy striking similarities to their African neighbor, from their desert-like atmosphere and permanently warm weather to a healthy community of dromedaries (one-humped camels) that were brought here in the 1400s. Nowadays, visitors can explore the archipelago’s diverse natural attractions, such as the Maspalomas Dunes, the San Antonio volcano, and Timanfaya National Park, on a guided tour from the back of a camel.
Big Island, Hawaii
Thanks to the presence of Mount Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island gives visitors the unique opportunity to come face-to-face with flowing lava and steam vents almost every day of the year. On a dramatic night trek, watch as the molten lava lights up the sky with an eerie glow.
Viti Levu, Fiji
On the postcard-perfect Fijian island of Viti Levu, the best views just might be from the top. After luxuriating on its pristine beaches, head inland on a mountain trek, where you can stop in tiny native villages, swim under a waterfall, or even summit the nation’s highest peak, the 4,344-foot-tall extinct volcano, Mount Tomanivi.
Though Jamaica’s beaches define the concept of laid-back relaxation, the Caribbean island’s heart hides a less-known spirit of adventure. Deep in the rainforests, away from the crowded cruise ports and beach resorts, the Rio Bueno offers a surprisingly thrilling whitewater rafting adventure, complete with swift rapids and deeper sections where you can jump in from cliffs lining the banks.
North Male, Maldives
Made up of a seemingly endless string of some 1,192 coral islands off the southern tip of India, the Maldives have become a favorite resort destination among honeymooners. Though the waves here are considerably gentler than the ones you might find in the Pacific, the Maldives also attract scores of surfers, drawn by the consistent surf breaks off the reefs of the North Male Atoll.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Although it translates into island of women, Isla Mujeres in Mexico’s Quintana Roo state doesn’t discriminate against anyone—except drivers. At five miles long and a half-mile wide, Isla Mujeres is best seen by foot or bike, and there is no shortage of bike rentals on the island. And while drivers may not be welcome, divers can certainly find their element in the crystal clear turquoise waters; home to the mysterious Cave of the Sleeping Sharks, where deadly sharks display nonaggressive behavior and MUSA, the world’s largest underwater museum consisting of 460 statues. Located less than ten miles from Cancun, Isla Mujeres is easily accessible by ferry, and for off-shore snorkeling and diving trips you can consult the Sea Hawk Isla Mujeres who coordinate everything from accommodations and shark tours to night dives and day trips at MUSA.
Best described as two volcanoes connected by a narrow strip of land, the island of Ometepe rises out of Lake Nicaragua and owns the horizon for miles. Legend has it that the locals love their island so much they would rather die on it than evacuate in the wake of a volcanic eruption. One of the volcanoes, Concepcion, is still active but that doesn’t stop hikers from making the 10-hour trek to its barren summit. The other volcano, Maderas, is dormant but the hike to the summit, which features a lush cloud forest and crater lake lagoon, is just as daunting (about an 8 hour hike). Because both hikes are strenuous and require access through private property, guides are mandatory. If you’re visiting Ometepe, it’s likely that you’ll pass through Granada first where you can arrange for a guide with a reputable outfitter like Oro Travel.
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
The most populous of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga boasts a population of 13,000 and every one of its inhabitants is likely to know the famous Pa. With his striking blonde dreadlocks and muscular physique, Pa is Rarotonga’s biggest personality, and even though he’s in his seventies, he still leads his popular cross-island treks that climb the tall rocky outcrop known as The Needle. Steep in places and composed of rough terrain, hiking across Rarotonga is not for the adventurer who doesn’t enjoy using his or her hands. In addition to hiking, the island also offers pretty much any and every water activity. End your active days on Rarotonga with a sensational sunset and a night of hardcore Polynesian dancing. The island’s signature “hura” dance makes the hula dance seem like child’s play.
Isla Holbox, Mexico
At just over 20 square miles, the Mexican island of Isla Holbox is anything but huge. In fact, it’s so small that most residents and visitors travel around on golf carts! But it’s what’s just offshore that’s downright record-breaking: The teeming waters at the intersection of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea contain the world’s highest concentration of whale sharks, the largest fish at up to 40 feet long. Despite their size, whale sharks are docile filter-feeders, so you can safely swim among them on a guided tour.
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Nearly half of the island of St. John is protected from development as part of Virgin Islands National Park, meaning it’s remained remarkably pristine as its Caribbean neighbors have gone the way of resort high rises. In addition to scrublands, swamps, and subtropical forests, St. John’s star attraction is its thriving reef ecosystem, complete with some 302 species of fish and 50 varieties of coral, ranking it among the top snorkeling and diving spots in the world.
Rincon, Puerto Rico
The commonwealth of Puerto Rico has over 140 islands, but all it takes is a trip to the northwestern corner of the main island to experience some of the best Stand Up Paddleboard action in the Caribbean. Literally translating into “corner”, Rincon is a paddler’s Puerto Rican paradise. Here the Atlantic meets the Caribbean, and while Rincon has been known for its serious breaks and resident surfers, lately it’s the Stand Up Paddleboard community that has everyone talking. Outfitter Samatahiti leads the SUP pack with their coastal paddle picnics, paddle and snorkel adventures, sunset paddle tours (complete with beer and bonfires), and SUP yoga. Stay long enough to get your SUP instructor certification, and if speed is your thing, compete in April’s annual Rincon Beachboy race, the largest SUP event in Puerto Rico.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Cayes—pronounced “keys”—are small, sandy islands at low elevations. But don’t let the definition fool you into thinking this destination lacks adrenaline-inducing activities. Ambergris Caye, the largest island off the coast of Belize, provides access to the world’s second largest barrier reef and offers a host of adventures, including world class snorkeling and diving as well as any form of sailing and surfing. In addition to taking advantage of the reef and Caribbean trade winds, try exploring a unique activity near Ambergris Caye that is hard to find elsewhere: cave tubing. A short day trip from Ambergris Caye will find you deep in the jungle where armed with a tube, helmet, and headlight, you can ride the river’s current and explore dozens of caves that the ancient Mayans believed led to the underworld. You’ll need a good guide, so opt for accommodations at a place like Matachica Resort where they leverage relationships with locals and outfitters in order to set you up with the best experience possible.
Just off the Venezuelan coast, the Caribbean island of Curaçao is beloved for the vibrantly colored Dutch colonial architecture of its capital city, Willemstad. Forty miles to the northwest, the island transforms into a rugged desert wilderness, complete with cacti, green iguanas, and unique orchids and bromeliads. Explore Christoffel National Park on horseback, by jeep safari, or on one of the eight hiking trails, the most advanced of which leads to the 1,230-foot-tall summit of Mt. Christoffel.
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
There’s a reason Charles Darwin chose to study biodiversity and evolution on this far-flung Pacific archipelago, nearly 600 miles west of Ecuador: The volcanic islands are filled with varied and unusual endemic species, such as penguins, tortoises, marine iguanas, dolphins, whales, and sea lions. While many tourists will simply skirt by on a small-boat cruise, the best way to get up close and personal with the fauna is on a sea kayaking adventure, which brings you literally feet from the creatures as they play in the waters around you.
Ko Phi Phi Don, Thailand
Thailand’s Ko Phi Phi Islands became objects of international wanderlust in 2000, when the Leonardo Dicaprio movie The Beach was filmed on the untouched shores of Ko Phi Phi Leh. While it would be quite possible to lounge all day and wade in the warm, turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea, the steep limestone cliffs rising from the sand on neighboring Ko Phi Phi Don beckon thrill-seeking climbers to leave their beach towels behind.
Sal, Cape Verde
A widely untouristed volcanic archipelago off the coast of West Africa, the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde is fast becoming the world’s premier kiteboarding and windsurfing destination. The trade winds are most reliable off of Sal, the island with the most developed watersports resort infrastructure, from November through May.
Kangaroo Island, Australia
Thanks to its isolated location off the southern coast of Australia, Kangaroo Island offers some of the most spectacular wildlife viewing down under. More than one-third of the island is set aside as protected parklands, where the native populations have never had to compete with the invasive European species that have ravaged mainland Australia. The result: An island where you’ll be able to see kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, penguins, and sea lions at nearly every turn on its beaches, cliffs, and bushlands.