If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation destination, there may be no better place than an island oasis, a fact realized by many vacationers of decades past. While some islands, such as Santorini or Hawaii, have had timeless popularity, others have fallen in and out of favor with travelers due to natural disasters, political unrest or even simple industry and travel trends. The destinations on this list were hot spots 10 or more years ago but no longer get the same love they used to from jetsetters and family vacationers. They still have much to offer, however, whether that’s beautiful beaches, a renewed economy or quaint villages, and deserve to have more visitors again.
The British island of Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands that lie in the English Channel between France and England, although it is still just 9 miles-by-5 miles in size. Jersey has lovely beaches surrounded by rugged cliffs and large dunes, as well as idyllic coastal villages and historic castles, making it one of the islands everyone should visit.
Located in the western Pacific Ocean, the Micronesian island nation of Palau consists of about 340 coral and volcanic islands. Hike the diverse terrain, which consists of mountains, volcanic land, sand dunes and beaches, explore the local marine life while snorkeling or scuba diving at one of more than 50 sites or take in the scenery from up high by skydiving or going on a helicopter ride.
Although not as popular as other Greek islands such as Santorini or Mykonos, Rhodes had an important role in ancient Greece — its construction dates back to 407 B.C. Today, Rhodes continues to serve as a lovely Mediterranean oasis for travelers who love history. Explore the ruins of ancient temples as well as medieval fortresses, fountains and walls and don’t skip out on the remarkable beaches.
Following Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and volcanic activity that destroyed infrastructure and the economy, tourism took a huge hit in Montserrat, which is just about 27 miles southwest of Antigua in the Caribbean. That didn’t change the picturesque terrain of the island, however, nor did it take away the uncrowded, underrated beaches or verdant forests, which are worthy of exploration.
Natural disasters have unfortunately greatly hurt Haiti’s infrastructure and tourism numbers, which had already taken a hit from political unrest and widespread poverty. None of that has changed the fact that this Caribbean island has beautifully clear turquoise waters and some of the most colorful streets in the world, ready for a photo op.
The Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is made up of 32 islands and cays with volcanic and mountainous green terrain surrounding pristine beaches and deep blue waters. In addition to luxury resorts and plenty of sailing opportunities, visitors can explore the rainforests of St. Vincent and the Grenadines or go for a dip in the ocean. The waters here are right up there with those at the best islands for snorkeling and diving.
A gorgeous destination in the south Pacific, Fiji’s 333 islands are filled with stunning rainforests, stellar golfing opportunities, exotic national parks and fascinating marine life to be discovered through diving. The best time to visit is June through September, when crowds are lower but weather is ideal. Find some of the best beaches on the Coral Coast, one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, or stay in a luxurious hotel in Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands.
A small, green island in the Caribbean, Dominica has stunning beaches, mountains, rivers, rainforests and waterfalls to explore and photograph. Though it may be one of the least visited countries in the world, it’s a destination perfect for both an adventurous itinerary filled with hiking and diving or just a relaxing getaway of beach naps and birdwatching.
The Bermuda Triangle is one of the most mysterious places in the world, but Bermuda itself is a charming, small island perfect for a Caribbean getaway. It’s known for its pink sand, local seafood and stunning nature reserves.
The three islands that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas) are home to six lovely national parks, and eco-friendliness is an important mission of many local hotels and businesses. The islands’ more than 60 dive sites feature fascinating coral reefs and sunken World War II naval barges. The U.S. Virgin Islands are woefully under the radar for many American travelers, especially considering they are one of the island vacations you don't need a passport for.
Mountains, forests and some of the world’s best beaches characterize the terrain of Cyprus, a Mediterranean escape with a 10,000-year history. The Greeks, Roman, Egyptians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Venetians, Franks, Ottomans and British all left their mark here, as can be seen in the architecture and cuisine of the island. Seeing the ruins at the Archaeological Park of Kato Paphos or the Kykkos Monastery is among the things every American should do abroad.
Situated just 7 miles off the Venezuelan coast is the dual nation of Trinidad and Tobago, and each nation offers a different vibe. For a more fun-filled, city type of vacation, enjoy the nightlife, shopping and festivals of Trinidad. Then wind down with the relaxing beaches and diverse diving sites in Tobago. Be sure to try doubles, the popular flatbread and chickpeas dish — it’s one of the street foods every world traveler needs to try.
The extensive variety of animals and plant life make Madagascar one of the most mesmerizing places on Earth. In fact, about 90% of the flora and fauna on this Indian Ocean island are not found anywhere else. To get a real sense of this place’s wonders, check out the Tsingy of Madagascar, fossilized shell formations dating back to the Jurassic era. After that, go kitesurfing and explore Ranomafana National Park to see lemurs, or discover the diverse marine life by diving or snorkeling.
Nguyen Quang Ngoc Tonkin/Shutterstock
Sitting along the northeastern coast of Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is an affordable destination made up of stunning limestone islands among green waters perfect for a scenic sail. The islands are home to some fascinating caves worth exploring, and other popular endeavors include kayaking and rock climbing.
One of the most stunning remote islands in the world, Phuket is Thailand’s biggest island, situated on the Andaman Sea off the southern coast. A significant Chinese influence can be seen in the architecture of its shrines and the local cuisine, and the island’s beaches are as world-renowned as its nightlife.
The Azores are made up of nine major islands located about 1,000 miles off the western coast of Portugal, which is one of the most underrated tourist spots in the world. Here, you’ll find all sorts of adventures such as kayaking, hiking, scuba diving, surfing, paragliding, bird watching, whale watching and canyoning. Lovely beaches, lookouts, hot springs and picturesque coastal towns make for beautiful landscapes as well.
Known as “Spice Island” because of the many spices that grow there, the West Indies island of Grenada is home to the world’s first underwater sculpture park, as well as enchanting gardens, waterfalls and beaches. Visit historic forts and estates, or explore the mangroves and national parks that preserve the island’s natural beauty. If you’re really looking to splurge, consider a stay at Sandals Grenada Resort & Spa, one of the world’s most spectacular hotels.
Located in the Indian Ocean off East Africa, the Seychelles islands are a famous place at risk of disappearing altogether as a result of climate change. Having received a brief boost in tourism back in 2011 in the wake of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s honeymoon there, the Seychelles are quite underrated despite their luxurious resorts, romantic beaches and verdant national parks.
While there have been quite a few restrictions placed on U.S. travel to Cuba, visits are still allowed under one of 12 categories of authorized travel, including “support for the Cuban people,” which requires supporting Cuban-owned businesses while there. That isn’t hard considering the fantastic Cuban food, live music, nightlife, cave diving and cigar factory tours at this underrated gem.
Antigua and Barbuda is home to 365 beaches — one for every day of the year — that can be enjoyed any time of year since it’s one of those destinations where it’s summer all the time. Bright aqua waters, stark white sand and colorful buildings make for amazing photo opportunities, and the islands are also home to some of the best all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean.
More from The Active Times: