Earth’s surface is 71 percent water, and our oceans are dotted with spectacular islands — tens of thousands of them — but some capture our imaginations more than others.
In Travel + Leisure’s annual World’s Best survey, readers ranked their favorites, and the results show that no distance is too great when a fabulous island waits as your reward.
Six of the top 10 islands, such as Bali and Santorini, are more than an eight-hour flight from the U.S. Luckily, Americans can also find island paradise literally just offshore — on untamed Vancouver Island (No. 10).
Find out which far-flung island captured the No. 1 ranking and where to find secluded beaches, wildlife encounters, and luxurious pampering.
#1 Boracay, Philippines
This tiny tropical island in the Philippines is making a big splash. After debuting at No. 4 in the World’s Best Awards last year, Boracay has taken the top prize, appealing to travelers with its natural beauty and still-under-the-radar status — chances are you haven’t “been there, done that.”
Best Beach: White Beach, a 2.5-mile stretch of powder-white sand — often cited as the world’s softest — lapped by the translucent Sulu Sea.
Where to Stay: Discovery Shores for modern suites with huge windows, an infinity pool, and the full-service Terra Spa.
#2 Bali, Indonesia
Bali may be one of 17,500 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, but this paradise known for its temples is the country’s crown jewel, offering travelers glimpses into Balinese Hindu history thanks to a vibrant cultural scene filled with music and dance.
Best Beach: To watch the sun come up over the water, head to Sanur. For gorgeous sunsets, upscale resorts, and lively nightlife, stay along Seminyak.
Where to Stay: Amandari, the only Indonesian resort ranked in the 2012 T+L 500, is near a sacred river outside Ubud and arranged like a local village — albeit one with 30 suites that feature private plunge pools and rice-paddy views.
#3 Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
T+L readers prove once again that this exotic chain of isolated Pacific islands 600 miles off of South America is one of the ultimate dream trips. Where else can you spy a blue-footed booby or short-feathered penguins other than the Galápagos Islands?
Best Beach: Here, the best beach is where sea lions catch some rays. Snap hordes of them on Santa Fe Island’s white-sand beach.
Where to Stay: The ideal way to see these islands is on a ship, such as the 90-passenger Celebrity Xpedition, which sails seven- and 10-night cruises year-round.
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