Most people dream of a tropical beach vacation. Maybe you want to sip fresh coconuts on the beach, or snorkel through tropical reefs.
Maybe you want to go on jungle safaris, or kayak between limestone cliffs, or watch the sun rise and set over the ocean every day. Or maybe you just want to lie on the sand, listening to the waves lapping at your feet.
Maybe you want to venture to Puerto Rico or Hawaii in the Americas, or The Maldives or Sri Lanka in Asia, or Zanzibar in Africa, or Cyprus in Europe.
Whether you want a relaxing beach vacation or an adventurous getaway, tropical islands are gorgeous places to spend some time. Especially if you’re someone who grew up in a landlocked area, a trip to a tropical island can feel like a far away fantasy.
This article will dive into some of the best tropical vacations. From the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean and more, there are so many stunning tropical islands around the world that are easily accessible for travelers.
The 20 best tropical islands around the world
Some of you may be apprehensive about the cost of traveling to a tropical island. These types of tropical islands are often associated with luxury villas and all-inclusive resorts.
Yes, there are lots of expensive vacation packages on these islands. But there are also ways to visit these islands on a budget. Many of these islands are actually very affordable to visit if you stay in hostels, eat street food, and live the local way. Often, it’s only the fancy resorts geared toward tourists that are expensive.
One of the best ways to visit a tropical island on a budget is to do a work exchange! You can live with locals and work in exchange for free accommodation. So you will save lots of money and be able to experience a tropical beach vacation on a budget.
We’ll include a few of the top Worldpackers work exchanges for some of these tropical islands.
Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, which is a country full of tropical islands! There are so many incredible islands in Thailand, and Phuket is one of the most visited. It is a pretty large island so you’ll have to take public transport or rent a car or a scooter to get around. But overall, Phuket is a cheap island destination.
There is delicious, flavorful cheap street food and lots of budget accommodation. There are gorgeous beaches, glittering Buddhist temples, jungle hikes, and plenty more to see and do on Phuket.
A highlight of this island is there are many tours and boat trips that head out to the other nearby islands in the Andaman Sea. So you can spend some time on Phuket and still get to see lots of other nearby tropical islands during your stay!
Bora Bora, Tahiti
This small island of Tahiti in French Polynesia is one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the Pacific. Full of towering, green cliffs, and mountains, as well as white-sand beaches surrounded by bright blue ocean, the scenery here looks like paradise.
Snorkel in the coral reefs, hike in the mountains, or just soak in the sun on the pristine beaches. Bora Bora has it all!
Officially called the Zanzibar Archipelago, this collection of islands off the coast of Tanzania in eastern Africa is one of the world’s most beautiful tropical islands.
Unguja is the main island of Zanzibar where most visitors stay. Travelers love to visit Stone Town, the capital of the island, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See historic sites and enjoy wandering through the winding alleyways and incredible mosques of this old trade center.
The beaches of Zanzibar have that classic white sand, turquoise water, and towering palm trees that you wish for on any tropical beach. Bwejuu is one of the island’s best beaches!
The most popular spot for tropical island vacations in Indonesia is Bali. Though this is the most visited, most well-known, and most touristy of Indonesia’s 17,500 islands, Bali is not overrated and is still worth a visit!
People from all over the globe flock to Bali to visit yoga retreats, surf the waves, party with the backpackers in Canguu, tour the rice paddies of Ubud, visit the temples, and enjoy tropical beaches and weather.
For a unique cultural experience, you can teach languages at a local school in Bali. This work exchange in particular is looking for travelers who can teach French.
Hamilton Island, Australia
Located in the Whitsundays chain of islands in Queensland, Australia, this corner of the world is home to some of the most stunning beaches you will ever see. These tropical islands are located next to the Great Barrier Reef, which means there is world-class snorkeling and diving.
Hamilton Island is perfect for hiking, snorkeling, and wildlife spotting. Plenty of native Aussie animals and birds call the island home, so you can experience the real Australian bush here. Once you leave the island, you can enjoy Australia’s marine life in the coral reefs and crystal clear waters.
Viti Levu, Fiji
Fiji is one of those far away island destinations that many people dream of visiting. Fiji is actually a collection of 330 different islands in the Pacific Ocean, with Viti Levu being the most popular island to stay on.
Viti Levu showcases the best of Fiji. Visit breathtaking beaches on the Coral Coast, check out the local markets in the capital city of Suva, or kayak down the Navua River. You can also snorkel with tiger sharks, go zip-lining over the tropical jungle, or take boat tours to the other islands.
Fiji offers everything you could want in a tropical island vacation!
Kingston is the capital city. Here you can visit the Bob Marley Museum and check out the local cuisine, arts, and music. You can also explore the beaches of the island. Some of the best beaches are in Negril, Ochos Rios, and Montego Bay.
You can also raft down a river, visit coffee plantations, and hike in the Blue Mountains.
Big Island of Hawaii
You can’t write a list of the best tropical islands to visit without mentioning Hawaii! This archipelago of islands in the Pacific Ocean is a US state, but Hawaii has its own incredible culture, history, and landscape.
The Big Island of Hawaii has so much to see and do. Hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, snorkel at Hapuna Beach or Kahalu'u Beach Park, see waterfalls in Akaka Falls State Park, and more.
This island nation in the Mediterranean Sea is a more unique tropical island to visit. It is nestled right in the middle of southeast Europe and western Asia, making it a melting pot of cultures.
Cyprus is also a relatively cheap island to visit on holiday, especially for travelers coming from Europe. You can find cheap flights there on budget airlines!
In Cyprus, you can find historic sites, delicious, fresh Mediterranean cuisine, and lots of scenic beaches. Makronissos Beach, Fig Tree Bay, Konnos Bay, Nissi Beach, and Aphrodite’s Beach are just a handful of the most stunning beaches in Cyprus.
Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand
Another one of the best tropical islands to visit is another spot in Thailand: Koh Pha Ngan. Located in the Gulf of Thailand, this gorgeous island paradise is super affordable to visit. You can catch ferries here from the neighboring island Koh Samui, or from mainland Thailand.
Once you arrive in Koh Pha Ngan, get ready to hike in the jungle, eat incredible Thai food, and lounge on the picturesque beaches. It is easy to enjoy the island on a budget as well, as there are lots of hostels and street markets.
This tropical island is also famous for its Full Moon Party and Half Moon Party. So if you love the idea of dancing all night on the beach under the Full Moon, Koh Pha Ngan is the place for you.
Key West, Florida
Key West is one of the most accessible islands to visit, especially if you’re coming from the USA. Key West is an island in the Florida Keys located off the south coast of Florida, and it is connected to the mainland by a bridge. So you don’t even have to fly to reach this tropical island!
Key West is a relaxing destination full of coral reefs, adorable pastel-colored houses, and of course, beaches. This tropical island destination makes an easy weekend trip from Florida. Bring your snorkel gear because there are incredible reefs and marine life to see here.
The Maldives is a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean. Famous for its seaside ocean bungalows resting atop turquoise waters, the Maldives are a popular spot for honeymooners seeking romantic tropical island vacations.
Even if you’re not on a honeymoon, the Maldives is filled with stunning islands and beaches that look like they have come straight out of a postcard. Many of the islands in the Maldives are small and you can take boats in between them. Popular islands to visit include Baros, Dhigurah, Thoddoo, Maafushi, and Kuredu.
Sri Lanka is another top tropical island to visit. The country of Sri Lanka sits in the Indian Ocean, right off the southern tip of India. Full of dense jungles and thriving wildlife, as well as impressive temples and beautiful beaches, Sri Lanka offers travelers a beautiful and culturally-enriching getaway.
Ride a scenic railway through the countryside, visit the local markets and taste the flavorful food, go on a safari or go hiking, or just lounge on the beaches. Beachside surf and yoga retreats are popular here as well!
This Caribbean Island nation is an incredible place to visit. It’s a quick flight away from the USA, Central America, or the north of South America.
This small island is diverse in natural scenery, with pristine beaches, sprawling highlands and savannas, and lush rainforests and jungles comprising the land. Santo Domingo is the capital city which is full of interesting landmarks.
If you love animals, you can do a fun work exchange in the Dominican Republic and help a local care for their animals.
Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda is a tropical island that packs a whole lot of culture and natural beauty into a small space.
Famous for its pink sand beaches and exciting beach parties, Bermuda has a unique culture to experience. The capital city of Hamilton has museums and impressive architecture, and you’ll find all the buildings on Bermuda to be painted in vibrant colors.
There are also hidden caves, jungle hikes, and of course, incredible beaches on the island of Bermuda. It is a pretty touristy island with a good amount of luxury resorts, but the local culture still stands out.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Lovers of wildlife and adventures should definitely add the Galapagos Islands to their bucket list. Off the coast of Ecuador lies this archipelago of volcanic islands that are home to some of the planet’s most unique and impressive wildlife.
In addition to touring the islands and admiring the plants and animals, you can also enjoy hiking, snorkeling, and relaxing on the beaches.
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory in the Caribbean Sea. So it is technically part of the USA, and USA citizens visiting Puerto Rico from the USA don’t need a passport.
However, Puerto Rico has its own distinct culture and landscape that makes it one of the best tropical islands in the world. Tour the Old Town of San Juan, hike in the El Yunque Rainforest, or enjoy soaking up the sun on the beaches.
There is an awesome work exchange opportunity in Puerto Rico where you can help with infrastructure and learn about permaculture at an eco-lodge in the rainforest.
The furthest and most isolated of the Hawaiian Islands is Kauai, also known as the “Garden Isle”. Kauai is known for its dramatic natural landscapes and adventure activities.
It is a small island of Hawaii, but it has so much diversity. You can check out the rugged cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, or paddle down the Wailua River. Head to a tropical fruit farm, hike to a waterfall, or swim in a natural rock pool.
Snorkel with sea turtles, head to a local art gallery, zip-line, scuba-dive, ride in a scenic helicopter, or just enjoy lounging on the beautiful beaches. Either way, you are spoiled for choice for things to see and do on Kauai!
Located off the eastern coast of Africa, just north of Madagascar, the Seychelles is another one of the world’s most incredible tropical island destinations.
Seychelles consists of 115 different tropical islands, with Mahé being the largest. This island, as well as the other islands in Seychelles, has amazing beaches to enjoy. You can go snorkeling, boating, or strolling on the soft white sand.
In addition to tropical beaches, Mahé also has opportunities to explore nature and experience the local culture. You can go hiking in the Morne Seychellois National Park, an area of natural beauty filled with rainforest and towering granite peaks. Or explore the capital of Victoria and shop at the local markets or admire the colorful Creole architecture.
Greece is home to numerous tropical islands that are popular among travelers in Europe or elsewhere. Crete is one of Greece’s most spectacular islands to visit. It is the largest and most popular of the islands and is home to bustling cities as well as picturesque beaches.
Some of the best beaches in Crete include Vai Beach, Falassarna Beach, Balos Beach, and Plakias Beach. You can also visit wineries and small villages when you’ve finished soaking up the sun on the beaches.
Join the community!
Create a free Worldpackers account to discover volunteer experiences perfect for you and get access to exclusive travel discounts!
Hello! I am a 25 year old from the USA with a knack for traveling on a budget. I fell in love with traveling while studying in Europe, and that love grew even more when I started volunteering abroad in South America. Since then, I've worked odd jobs and volunteered all over the globe while cultivating passions for hiking, wildlife photography, food, wine, animals, permaculture, and more!