20 Exotic Islands to Put On Your Bucket List

20 Exotic Islands to Put On Your Bucket List

The word “exotic” can mean a lot of different things to different people. Some people are looking for adventure and thrill in their exotic travels; others are looking for a chance to relax, disconnect and find remoteness. However, all of this can be found on some of the most beautiful tropical islands around the world!

We have chosen 20 of the best exotic tropical islands below, as chosen by our TierOne Travel Consultants. All of our choices include a perfect blend of all of these desirable traits, wrapped up in one beautifully stunning island!

Travel Agents’ Top 20 Picks for Exotic Islands

1. Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

Easter Island is a remote Polynesia territory belonging to Chile which is best known for its 900 Moai statues. These human figures with giant heads have made Easter Island a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the island was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions, you can imagine the stunning hiking that is possible all over the island adding to its adventure appeal. Lesser known are the beautiful beaches scattered along the coastlines of this exotic destination.

  • See the iconic Easter Island heads (Moais) in Rano Raraku National Park where you can see half of the moai on the island. 
  • Watch the sunrise from Tongariki where you can see 15 moai statues arranged in a row. The sun will rise directly behind them making it a must-see sight on the island.
  • At Anakena Beach take the time to relax. Swim in its cool water and unwind on its white sandy shore. Even those this beach is a small one, the island has very few people on it, so it is rarely busy.
  • Explore the island on a bike. In a single day, you could cycle the entire island and still have time to pause and enjoy many of its attractions.
  • Visit Papa Vaka’s Ancient Petroglyphs. The island is covered in petroglyphs, with some of the more significant ones being at Papa Vaka, Ana Kai Tangata, and Orongo.

2. Maldives

The Maldives are a series of 1,192 islands; however, only 200 of those islands are inhabited. What makes these islands more largely known is the fact that they might not be around for much longer. Due to climate change and rising sea levels, the islands are slowly sinking. The Maldives is also known for unique marine life, crystal clear waters and luxury accommodation, such as the water bungalows. This is a must-see while you can!

  • Take a picturesque flight over the islands. Take in a bird’s eye perspective of the stunning sandbars, turquoise lagoons, and pristine islands. To reach some of the private island resorts, a float plane flight may be necessary.
  • Stay in an overwater bungalow. You can swim, snorkel, or jump right into the sea from your luxury accommodation! From relaxing in the sun, swimming, and tanning out on your own private deck, you won’t want to leave.
  • A Maldives island hopping tour is a must-do activity. With more than a thousand islands, the Maldives is home to some of the world’s most pristine beaches, an always pleasant climate, and amazing coral reefs.
  • Enjoy stand-up paddle boarding. In protected bays with crystal clear water, you can paddle while watching fish swim just beneath your board.  The resorts typically have paddleboard rentals available.
  • Snorkeling is one of the best things to do here. You’ll feel like you’re in your own personal aquarium while you’re surrounded by schools of colourful fish, sea turtles and much more.

3. Tahiti

Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia. It’s divided into two sections: Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti. Tahiti has been popular as a tourist destination for a long time because of its exotic black sandy beaches, lush jungles, rich Polynesian culture and world-class scuba diving/snorkeling. Tahiti boasts a perfect combination of exhilarating adventure and restorative relaxation.

  • Buy Tahitian pearls as a unique souvenir. Pearls are popular souvenirs in Tahiti since cultured black pearls can only be produced naturally in the archipelagos of Tuamotu and Gambier.
  • Enjoy French-influenced cuisine. Dine on upscale French cuisine plus baked goods like pains au chocolat, buttery croissants, crepes and crusty baguettes.
  • The lagoons you’ll find on the Tahitian Islands are a serene paradise with vibrant tropical fish grazing on coral beds. Put on a mask and snorkel or paddle an outrigger canoe across the water to explore the beautiful underwater world of Tahiti.
  • Visit a marare. A marare is a stone temple where local people can pray to their gods. These open-air temples allow people to have a closer connection with the gods.
  • Explore Tahiti Iti. Hike, climb, swim, and stay in traditional villages on Tahiti Iti (Little Tahiti), a more remote area of the island, accessible by driving across a narrow isthmus from the main Tahiti island. Explore the untamed coastline by boat to have unique access to mangroves, sea caves, and waterfalls. 

4. Seychelles

Seychelles is in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa. It oozes romance due to its white sandy beaches, bright turquoise blue waters, and abundance of remote locations. But, this island also has a lot more to offer in the way of adventure. Marine sports are popular as the water truly transparent, allowing you to see for miles. Trekking and hiking are also popular activities. The Island has many environmental protection initiatives to keep it as naturally beautiful as possible.

  • Outside of the Galapagos Islands, Seychelles is the only location in the world where you can see wild giant tortoises. Curieuse Island has the largest population and if you want to get up and personal with these endangered beauties, you can book a boat tour!
  • Relax on gorgeous beaches. Each island in Seychelles is covered in breathtaking coastlines and tucked-away coves, and these beaches are considered some of the best in the world.
  • Go island hopping. Cousin Island, Curieuse Island and St Pierre are some of the best islands to hop to. Cousin Island has diverse wildlife, Curieuse Island has gorgeous mango forests, and St. Pierre is well known for its fantastic snorkelling locations.
  • Find souvenirs in the Victoria Markets like sarongs, flavoured oils and art. Try some local Creole food and culture and don’t be shy to talk to the locals – they might tell you about hidden gems around the island!
  • Go hiking. Mahé Island, the largest island in Seychelles, has several incredibly lovely nature trails that go through picturesque surroundings with abundant wildlife and breathtaking views of the entire island.

5. Palawan

Palawan is located in the Philippines and feels worlds away from the busy city of Manilla. This exotic island has a unique landscape with limestone caves and underground rivers. It’s also home to a variety of indigenous wildlife and unique marine life. Your days will be filled with adventure exploring the island or pure paradise bliss on one of the many quiet sandy beaches.

  • Explore the Tabon Caves. The caves are significant for the Philippines since it is home to one the oldest discoveries of human inhabitants. The Diwata Cave and Liyang Cave are two enormous cathedral-like caves that you can explore.
  • Divers will fall in love with Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park. Expect to encounter robust populations of green sea turtles, manta rays, 11 types of sharks, loads of vibrant fish and more in and around the reef.
  • Go kayaking on the Iwahig River and see fireflies. Float under the stars, surrounded by bright fireflies and shimmering trees. The firefly illuminates your route as they move from tree to tree. A truly magical experience!
  • Travelers love Ugong Rock Adventures. Go spelunking, crawl into rock caverns, go ziplining through the forest at high speeds and trek through the jungle to breathtaking sights.
  • Kayak through an Underground River for a seriously unique experience! This is one of the world’s longest underground rivers, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

6. The Big Island (Hawaii)

The Big Island of Hawaii is officially named Hawaii. This island is unique to look at, experience and reflect upon. The natural wonder is unavoidable and will leave you breathless. Home to one of the most active volcanos in the world, you have the opportunity to see steaming lava pour into the sea from above or below. The Big Island is known as “the island of adventure,” there are lots of things to do, including the famed deep water night dive and Waipio Valley trekking. Luxurious travel options and gourmet cuisine are around every corner, as in most of Hawaii.

Learn more about traveling to the Hawaiian islands in our blog: Solo Trip to Hawaii | 2022 Hawaii Travel Guide for Solo Travelers

  • Explore the summit of an active volcano at the UNESCO Heritage Site, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which offers stunning and ever-changing landscapes. 
  • Go stargazing on Mauna Kea with its world-class telescopes. Join a knowledgeable guide for a narrated tour of our beautiful solar system. Hawaii’s Big Island offers some of the most incredible stargazing experiences on the planet!
  • The manta ray night dive/snorkel. One of the most magical experiences you can have on Hawaii Island is swimming with the manta rays, hop on a snorkeling tour where you’re likely to see a lot more wildlife than just Manta Rays.
  • Visit the Kona Coast for white sand beaches, Kona coffee, whale watching, and sunny weather are all famous on this gorgeous coast.
  • Head to Hilo for hiking in gorgeous rainforests, visit the enchanting Puna district, view cascading waterfalls, go on amazing roadtrips, and see red-hot flowing lava.

7. Bali

Bali, often known as the “Island of the Gods,” is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and for good reason—it is one of the most picturesque places on the planet! Bali is unquestionably a surfer’s paradise, and if you’re looking for a beach vacation, there isn’t a better spot to find it than this stunning island located in the middle of Indonesia. But there’s so much more to do other than just relaxing on beaches.

Read more about Bali in our blog: Bali – The Island of the Gods

  • Have a thrilling jungle adventure as you fly through the trees on a zipline or soar through coconut trees on a swing, jump into hidden pools and more!
  • Check out some of the many temples on the island, and admire all the elaborate architectural details. These temples are considered some of the most peaceful areas on the island. Make sure to show respect for all the gods these shrines are dedicated to.
  • Hang out in Ubud, Bali’s cultural centre. Ubud is surrounded by stunning, gently sloping rice paddies and is home to many art galleries. The city is also home to shops where you may purchase unique souvenirs.
  • Explore Monkey Forest, a Hindu temple complex in Ubud. You can wander around the beautiful environment, take pictures of and even feed bananas to the monkeys!
  • Go on a safari at Bali Marine and Safari Park. Here, you’ll find over 60 different species of animals, including some of Bali’s unique flora and fauna. You can also choose to spend the night here and watch elegant elephants and giraffes strolling past your room.

8. St. Kitts and Nevis

St. Kitts and Nevis are two islands located in the Caribbean that are best known for luxury, relaxation, restoration, and beauty. Nevis is the quieter island of the two without a single traffic light on the island. Just looking at the picture above you can imagine the recreational opportunities both on land and in the water, from sunrise hikes to sea kayaking to scuba diving. These two islands genuinely have it all!

  • A trip on the Sugar Train is one of the greatest things to do in St. Kitts. This is one of St. Kitts’ main tourist attractions, it transports visitors through the breathtaking Kittitian countryside.
  • One of the longest zip lines in the Caribbean can be found on St. Kitts. As you soar above the tree canopy, see the jungle from a monkey’s perspective.
  • Climb up a volcano! Epic views of the island will be your reward if you have the endurance for the three-hour climb up the island’s dormant volcano, Mount Liamuiga.
  • Take a catamaran to Nevis. This is St. Kitts’ small sister island which is only 2.5 miles away. The island is home to a volcano, as well as lush foliage and stunning white sandy beaches.
  • Go to a rum tasting! Purchasing bottles of rum in the Caribbean is as simple as stocking up on water, and attending a tasting requires learning about the history and various kinds of the popular drink so that you can leave with knowledge (and a bottle, of course)!

9. Ko Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi is a slice of Asian paradise known for its clear waters, golden sands, and picturesque seascapes. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand is Phi Phi, thanks to its tropical surroundings and captivating island vibe.

  • Visit Phi Phi Le. After the movie The Beach (2000) was released, Phi Phi Le gained enormous popularity because it served as the setting for the movie. The area is always quiet, especially after the group tour boats have left.
  • Hire a sailing boat. Hire a private boat to explore Koh Phi Phi and avoid crowds. From catamarans to speedy motorboats and yachts the opportunities are endless.
  • Go snorkelling in Hat Yao. The probability of viewing a variety of vibrant and unique marine species is greatly increased by the clean water and mild temps. Clownfish and black-tipped sharks are frequently seen here.
  • Hike to Ao Lo Dalam. This hike is a leisurely 30-minute climb to a viewpoint near Ao Lo Dalam’s southernmost tip. From the top see a beautiful bay, beaches and crystal blue water. It’s the perfect setting for a swim after a quick hike.
  • Kayaking is among the most popular activities that draw tourists to Koh Phi Phi. It’s a great method to discover remote coves and caves that are inaccessible to larger boats.

10. Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. It is home to astonishing wildlife and biodiversity, available to see above and below the surface. Many people have said that a trip to the Galapagos will change the way they look at the world forever. It’s an extraordinary place waiting to provide one-in-a-lifetime opportunities for its guests.

  • View the giant tortoises in Reserva El Chato.  No trip to the Galapagos is complete without seeing a giant tortoise in its natural habitat. At El Chato, a wildlife reserve tucked away in the Santa Cruz highlands.
  • Spot wildlife at Las Tintoreras, home to hundreds (maybe thousands) of marine iguanas. You may also see sharks, stingrays, seals, seahorses and even penguins.
  • The best way to see the Galapagos is on a cruise. Visit the many islands, and participate in once-in-a-lifetime excursions and wildlife encounters all in the comfort of a luxurious ship and like-minded travelers.
  • Visit the Galapagos Islands Volcanoes. The Galapagos islands were made by volcanoes and are still changing the landscapes of the island today. 
  • Investigate a pirate cove. The Galapagos Islands served as an excellent hideout for pirates in the past. With its numerous coves, lava caves, and locations to stow away ships and riches. Keep your eyes peeled, you might discover a hidden treasure!

11. St. Barts

The glamorous Saint Barthélemy island, also known as St. Barts or St. Barths, emits a captivating fusion of European sophistication, unspoiled natural beauty, and laid-back island charm. On this stunning Caribbean island, there are no high-rise resorts. Instead, boutique hotels and private villas draw celebrities and business moguls to this island of endless sunshine. The main attraction are the beaches with golden sand, charming coastal villages, pristine waters and coral reefs, all surrounded by rolling green hills.

  • Enjoy watersports. From kayaking, windsurfing and paddleboarding to snorkeling and diving.
  • The greatest area to shop in St. Barts is in Gustavia, the island’s little, red-roofed harbour town and the capital of the island. The streets are lined with stylish boutiques, duty-free stores, and art galleries. 
  • Foodies will also enjoy exploring St. Barts through its cuisine. Gourmet restaurants in St. Barts feature delectable French-inspired fare, including croissants, crepes, and succulent, fresh seafood.
  • Dance all night and experience the nightlife. In Gustavia, Casa, Sky Bar, and Bagatelle are some of the greatest locations for dancing, while Modjo is the best in St. Jean. Try the Moulin-Rouge-style show at Pointe Milou’s Le Ti Cabaret for something a little different.
  • Watch small planes arrive and depart from Gustav III Airport while relaxing on St. Jean Beach. It has many beachside bars and bistros and is wonderful for swimming, playing in the sand, and people-watching.

12. Bora Bora

It’s no wonder Bora Bora has long been regarded as one of the world’s most romantic destinations. Here, turquoise waters and lush green mountains meet, and ancient Polynesian traditions coexist with modern luxury, a variety of water sports, white sand beaches, vibrant sunsets, and friendly locals.

  • Scuba dive in the most gorgeous waters on earth. For snorkelers and divers of all skill levels, the island’s coral reefs are abundant with colourful fish. If you’re lucky, you could even glimpse a few stingrays.
  • Embark on an off-road Jeep adventure! For a fantastic day of exploring in some of the world’s most breathtaking locations, venture off the beaten path and up into the mountains.
  • Take a catamaran out to sea. With glass-bottom flooring, comfortable sitting places, shaded decks, and lots of onboard amenities, Catamarans are the ideal way to spend an afternoon out on the alluring waters of Bora Bora.
  • Search for souvenirs at the Pearl Market. The Tahiti Pearl Market is a great place to meet the always-smiling islanders and pick up a few gifts for all of your envious friends back home. It is located just outside of Vaitape, on the west coast of the main island.
  • Book an iconic Bora Bora overwater villa. The St. Regis Resort in Bora Bora is a luxurious, Instagram-worthy five-star resort with a picture-perfect location, pampering spas, oceanside pools, and all the typical water sports.

13. The Cook Islands

A castaway’s fantasy comes true in the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands are considered some of the most beautiful islands in the world with their turquoise lagoons, volcanic peaks, and palm-lined beaches, all with a unique culture to experience and friendly locals to meet.

  • Go snorkeling with tropical fish in Aitutaki’s lagoon, one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world! Join a tour to easily see a few of the islets around the lagoon and get a delicious barbeque lunch.
  • Drive the ring road that circles the entire island on Rarotonga. Take your time to stop and discover a tonne of wonderful parks, beaches, restaurants, and pubs.
  • Enjoy an Island Night at the Highland Paradise Cultural Centre. Get treated to local dances, music, and a feast that includes an umu, where food is cooked in an underground oven.
  • Visit Black Rock Beach and relax on the white sand surrounded by contrasting volcanic rocks. The beach is the perfect swimming, snorkelling and sunset-watching spot.
  • Explore the Marine and Wildlife Eco Centre. This museum will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about the unique marine life of the Cook Islands.

14. The Dominican Republic

Whether it’s swimming with colorful fish in the ocean, climbing to a waterfall and leaping into the water below, or dining on regional specialties, there are plenty of things to do in the Dominican Republic.

  • Take advantage of an all-inclusive vacation. From all-inclusive luxury resorts to a couple’s retreat and a family vacation, the Dominican Republic offers so much to travelers looking for a relaxing holiday.
  • Go Whale Watching in Samaná Bay. This is one of the best places to watch humpback whales in the wild from December through March.
  • Take a journey up the cable car in Puerto Plata to get a bird’s eye perspective over the Dominican Republic’s northern shore.
  • Visit the Taíno Caves. The caves are not far from Punta Cana so take a tour to see this interesting underground cave network.
  • Visit La Romana. Find stunning beaches, a golf course and the main attraction Altos de Chavón, a village outside of La Romana where you can shop for local souvenirs.

15. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka may be a small country, but this island paradise assures that visitors are never bored with its jungle-covered mountains, golden sand beaches, unique wildlife, and spice-laden cuisines. 

  • Take a train ride from Colombo and travel across the famous Nine Arch Bridge, seeing mountain views, British colonial-era railway stations, waterfalls and more.
  • Hike Little Adams Peak for a great view of sunrise or sunset. If you enjoy hiking, it’s one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka!
  • Go on a safari. Watch out for incredible animals like elephants, leopards, sloths, turtles, and more.
  • Surf at Hikkaduwa, a  surfer’s paradise exists on Sri Lanka’s south coast. This is the ideal surfing region due to its endless waves, warm water, and hot sun.
  • Explore the Markets. Meet the local merchants, sample some local cuisine, and try some new fruits.

16. Grand Cayman

This Caribbean paradise, which is the largest of the three Cayman Islands, sets the standard high for captivating natural, culinary, and cultural attractions. Unspoilt hiking paths, beautiful historical monuments, and unique aquatic encounters are just a few of Grand Cayman’s unforgettable adventures.

  • Swim with the rays at Stingray City. Hop into the water and get up close and personal with these majestic and very friendly creatures.
  • Wander around George Town. This city is extremely picturesque, with jewel-coloured houses along the coastline. Here you can find hip cafes, duty-free shops and the Cayman National Museum, which is worth visiting for a lesson in local history.
  • Visit the Turtles at the Cayman Turtle Centre. The turtle populations in the nearby seas are being protected by this educational facility.
  • Kayak in a Bioluminescent Bay. Take to the water after dark to experience thousands of tiny bioluminescent plankton glowing all around you.
  • Find out why Grand Cayman is the culinary epicentre of the Caribbean. From Michelin-starred fine dining and hearty Italian cuisine to mouthwatering seafood and delicious plant-based options.

17. The Canary Islands

These Spanish islands have always been popular island destinations. The most popular islands include Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote, which are situated off the coast of northwest Africa and are simply too stunning to ignore. Discover charming little towns, climb through stunning canyons, take in the soaring hills and volcanic vistas, and eat your weight in delicious Spanish food.

  • Relax on beautiful golden sand beaches on the south coast of Gran Canaria.
  • Go dolphin and whale watching in Tenerife. Many cruises include a stop at a secluded bay for swimming or snorkelling.
  • Visit animals in Tenerife’s Loro Park. The park has one of the largest parrot collections in the world, a huge dolphinarium, and a massive aquarium.
  • Walk through a volcanic tube – this is one of the most popular things to do on Lanzarote!
  • Go Stargazing on Mt. Tiede, Tenerife. From Tiede, 83 of the 88 officially recognized constellations can be seen. Stargazing is a popular activity in Tenerife at night.

18. Whitsunday Islands

The gorgeous Whitsunday Islands are the ideal tropical island getaway if you’re searching for one in Australia. These 74 gorgeous and sunny islands are located along the famous Great Barrier Reef.

  • Enjoy white sand beaches like Whitehaven Beach and relax in popular resorts.
  • Go sailing, cruising, snorkeling, and scuba diving in the Grand Barrier Reef.
  • Book a sailing trip or cruise. Many tours include stops for snorkelling and hiking within Whitsunday National Park.
  • Visit Hamilton Island, the only Whitsunday Island with an airport. This island has tons of attractions, resorts, and activities.
  • Go on a scenic flight and see the beautiful beaches and reefs from a new perspective.

19. Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia (or St. Lucia) is a stunning island of the Caribbean, crowned by the enormous twin volcanic peaks known as the Pitons. Some of St. Lucia’s many features include crescent-shaped beaches, tiny fishing communities, rainforests, reefs, waterfalls, geothermal sites, and beautiful highlands.

  • Climb the famous Pitons on a guided hiking tour. Make the steep climb, but the views from the top make the challenge worthwhile.
  • Hang out on Marigot Bay, one of the most beautiful bays on the island. Renting kayaks is an excellent way to explore the bay.  Join a snorkeling tour to see shipwrecks and the aquatic life that inhabits St. Lucia’s coral reefs.
  • Go snorkeling and/or diving within the coral reefs of Anse Chastanet Marine National Park. Located in the park are two of the best beaches in St. Lucia the Anse Chastanet and Anse Mamin beaches.
  • Experience the thrill of zip lining in St. Lucia with Rainforest Adventures. Get off the beach and into the rainforest to soar over the treetop canopy!
  • Visit the Soufrier Volcano (Sulphur Springs) and enjoy a rejuvenating mud bath. 

20. Viti Levu

The Republic of Fiji’s largest island is Viti Levu. The capital city and the location of more than 70% of the nation’s citizens. It is also an island of exceptional natural beauty, including peaks, waterfalls, beautiful sand dunes, and rainforests.

  • Take a boat ride down the Sigatoka Valley. Wind along the river banks through lush valleys, among the many sugar and vegetable plantations.
  • Explore the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, National Park. Some of the dunes provide breathtaking views of the island’s emerald hills in the distance as well as the crystal blue coastline.
  • Take a guided tour in a 4×4 in the Namosi Highlands. In the kilometres of sweeping hills and valleys, there are a thousand gorgeous things to view, including rivers, breathtaking waterfalls, and dramatic canyons.
  • Go rafting in the Navua River. The island’s rugged terrain has been cut by this fast moving river, creating spectacular creeks and magnificent waterfalls along the route.
  • Walk through the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. It provides a quiet getaway just three miles from Nadi. Its shaded pathways, tranquil lily ponds, exotic gardens, and lovely meadows are breathtaking.

What exotic islands are on your bucket list?

We would love to hear from you about what “exotic” means to you and what you’re looking for in your next exotic destination.

If you have any questions relating to exotic travel, please contact one of our experienced travel specialists and you’ll be off on your own personalized journey!


We’ve got your back! When you’re ready to book your next getaway (maybe to an exotic island?), contact one of our TierOne Travel specialists. They will find the perfect place for your next vacation and will craft something incredible that is suited to your unique needs and will make sure your travel plans will be as stress-free as possible.

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