Does paradise seem too far away? Do you dread using some of your precious vacation days traveling to your destination? We’ve searched the globe to find islands that seamlessly combine adventure and relaxation. These three unbelievably stunning and centrally located islands are easily accessible from each region of the world and will be the perfect location for your next getaway.
If you’re in Australia or Asia … Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Although many tourists in Thailand visit Koh Phi Phi on a day trip, few actually stay on the small island to enjoy all that it has to offer. Koh Phi Phi, equidistant from the popular tourist towns of Phuket and Krabi, may be busy at the docks but each hotel feels like a private oasis. While there are a few hotels near the docks for convenience, the majority of hotels around the island claim beachfront property surrounded by trees, isolating themselves from the world and each holding their own slice of paradise. Due to the lack of accessible roads on Koh Phi Phi, the easiest way to travel to these hotels is via longtail boat and most hotels have their own onsite restaurant, adding to the experience of a secluded escape. The water surrounding Koh Phi Phi is absolutely stunning, with shades of deep blue neighboring a vibrant aqua, and the Koh Phi Phi viewpoint hike offers the perfect panoramic view of this surreal contrast. There are various tours from Koh Phi Phi that offer snorkeling and diving in these beautiful waters, as well as sunset tours that include swimming with bioluminescent plankton. Koh Phi Phi’s smaller sister island, Koh Phi Phi Leh, is home to the world famous Maya Bay and is only accessible via daily tours, as there are no accommodations or restaurants on the island. Maya Bay is visited by thousands of tourists daily from cruise ships, Phuket, and Krabi, but all tours leave in the late afternoon in order to return before dark; however, due to Koh Phi Phi’s close proximity, visitors staying on Koh Phi Phi can choose later tour times with less crowds to enjoy the true beauty of the island.
Pro Tip: Hike the Koh Phi Phi viewpoint trail before 10 AM for the best photographs and bring some money for snacks, cold drinks, and ice cream at the top.
If you’re in North America or South America … Ambergris Caye, Belize
The Caribbean offers a variety of relaxing island escapes, but few rival the adventure that can be found in Ambergris Caye, Belize. Many Caribbean islands offer all-inclusive resorts, but oftentimes the inclusivity discourages guests from the adventurous aspect of exploring the whole island; however, vacationers on Ambergris Caye are encouraged to rent golf carts to see all the island has to offer, including the Marco Gonzalez Mayan ruins, a lively downtown area, and the spectacular Secret Beach. Located on the west side of the island, Secret Beach boasts pristine blue waters that are warm, shallow, and walkable for over .25 miles; in addition to lounge chairs and beach chairs set up in the shallow waters, there are paddle-boards and kayaks for rent as well as a volleyball net set up in the ocean. The island also offers various snorkeling and diving tours to Shark Ray Alley, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Mexico Rocks, and the Great Blue Hole, one of the world’s most famous diving spots. For those who prefer more time on the water rather than in it, options include sailing, fishing, windsurfing, kite surfing, and jet skiing. San Pedro is home to a variety of great restaurants, some of which offer unique experiences such as floating in inner tubes at the Palapa Bar, bowling on the beach at Cozy Coconuts, and watching crab races at Crazy Kanucks.
Pro Tip: Make a reservation at Elvi’s for incredible Belizean cuisine, its unique sand-covered floor, and live music.
If you’re in Europe or Africa … Santorini, Greece
If you close your eyes and think ‘Greece,’ chances are your mind conjures an image consisting of white buildings with blue accents and houses lining a hill - this image is the island of Santorini. Walking around Santorini feels like you’ve stepped inside of a painting, with bright narrow streets that wind down the mountainside, offering a picturesque view of deep blue Mediterranean water around every turn. Most visitors stay in the town of Oia for swimming, dining, shopping, and the ultimate sunset view, while the town of Imerovigli a few miles south offers a quieter atmosphere. Because these towns are built into steep hills that consist of mostly stairs, donkeys substitute as taxis, which is an adventure in itself. Many hotels are built cave style, meaning they are built into the hill and stacked one on top of the other; if you’re willing to splurge, some rooms offer private pools that are covered by a cave ceiling but have clear views of the Mediterranean Sea. Wandering through the bright white walls of town feels like a dream and a sailing tour around the island will allow an even fuller appreciation of the island’s beauty. For the thrill seekers, check out the 30-foot jumping rock in Amoudi Bay or rent an ATV to explore the island. Discover black sand beaches at Kamari Beach and Perissa Beach, or head south to Akrotiri, a 3,500-year-old village preserved in volcanic ash, and visit the town’s red sand beach.
Pro Tip: The best views of the famous Oia sunset are from the Oia Castle; arrive 1-2 hours prior to sunset to get a good spot and plan on staying at the castle for at least 20 minutes past sunset to avoid crowds, as the narrow streets become very congested as sunset-viewers flood the streets all at once.
No matter where you live, an island escape full of relaxation and adventure can be just a short plane ride away!