20 Most Beautiful Islands in the World
From Bora Bora to Bali, these are the most beautiful islands in the world to visit.
If you’ve seen it on a postcard, it’s on this list. Beaches, bays, boulders and blowholes. Caves, coves, cliffs and culture. Ruins, reefs, rainforests and rum. Whatever your version of paradise, these 20 islands across the world deliver eye candy galore. Get ready to be blown away by the most beautiful islands in the world.
Who hasn’t been spellbound by images of Capri’s electric Blue Grotto? This glowing sea cave impresses even veteran globetrotters — and it’s only the beginning of the island’s marvels. Ash-white limestone cliffs, hidden slivers of beach, a towering natural arch: It’s no wonder Capri has been a tourist hub since ancient Roman times. Tip: Climb up to the ruins of Emperor Tiberius’ Villa Jovis, circa A.D. 27, for a heart-stopping vista.
The delicate Great Barrier Reef is the earth’s most extensive coral-reef system, supporting more than 1,600 species of fish, along with whales, rays, octopuses, dolphins and more. Nestled in the heart of this world wonder are the 74 Whitsunday Islands, all but four of which are protected national parklands. Bask in luxury at a high-end resort like Hamilton Island, and book a seaplane or helicopter flight to admire sights like Heart Reef and the swirling silica sands of Whitehaven Beach’s Hill Inlet.
What’s most stunning in Bali — dazzling beaches like Nusa Dua, Seminyak and Jimbaran Bay? Ubud’s terraced rice fields, sacred forest and ancient monuments? Or the island’s 10,000 intricate temples, including Pura Empul (the one you bathe in) and Uluwatu sea temple? Experience all of the above and decide for yourself. The Land of the Gods also boasts a loveliness that is more than skin-deep, thanks to its warm people and ubiquitous, inclusive spirituality.
James Bond Island, Southern Thailand
James Bond Island, Southern Thailand
A limestone spike rising dramatically from the emerald waters of Phang Nga Bay, James Bond Island (Koh Tapu — Nail Island in Thai) earned its moniker from appearing in two 007 movies: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). Excursions depart from the popular resort areas of Phuket, Khao Lak and Krabi on photogenic longtail boats. On the tour, explore secret lagoons, craggy sea caves and a floating village.
Christened the Garden Island, Kauai’s splendor extends from its vermillion Waimea Canyon, plunging down 3,600 feet, to its rugged Napali Cliffs, stretching up 4,000 feet. Often dotted with dozing monk seals, Kauai’s Poipu Beach has appeared on Dr. Beach’s esteemed list of America’s Best Beaches. Rivers, rainforests and waterfalls garnish the interior; don’t miss a photo op of Wailua Falls, famously featured in the opening credits of Fantasy Island, which aired from 1977 to 1984.
Bora Bora, the Islands of Tahiti
Bora Bora, the Islands of Tahiti
Every imaginable shade of blue manifests in the lagoon of Bora Bora, aka, the Jewel of the South Seas. Coral motus ring the main island like a sandy sash, and beneath the surface, dolphins, rays, sharks, turtles and colorful fish throng. Presiding over it all is the moss-green volcanic peak of Mount Otemanu, where god descended to the island on a rainbow, according to local lore. Timeless grass-skirted dancers and exotic overwater bungalows round out the sublime scene.
The Seychelles’ towering beach boulders are a mainstay on computer desktops, but they’re more than merely aesthetic — they also fascinate geologists, who have identified the Seychelles as the only mid-ocean islands formed of granite. Other superlatives: The archipelago is the oldest on the planet, and it has the cleanest air. Naturally, celebrities flock here; if you want to vacation a la British royalty, stay on North Island, where Prince William and Kate Middleton spent their 2011 honeymoon.
Possibly the location of the storied island of Atlantis, Santorini is the stuff of screensavers and wall calendars. Red-, black- and white-sand beaches rim its caldera lake — one of the largest in the world — while iconic whitewashed buildings stair-step up the hillside overlooking the Aegean Sea. Photo ops abound, from centuries-old windmills and ancient ruins to blue-domed churches and colorful wooden fishing boats. Stay in a boutique cave hotel for the full experience.
St. Lucia, Caribbean
Nicknamed “The Helen of the West” (an allusion to the beauty of Helen of Troy), St. Lucia stuns with its signature feature: the UNESCO-listed twin Pitons. Reaching heights of about 2,500 feet, the voluptuous volcanic spires complement the island’s other attractions, including verdant jungles, sparkling silver-sand beaches, haunting sugar-estate ruins, and a mineral-rich natural mud bath. Meanwhile, the island’s most famous resort, Jade Mountain, is an architectural gem in its own right.
Drop-dead gorgeous Fiji is a filmmaker’s dream. Spy its Mamanuca island chain in Cast Away and Survivor; ogle its Yasawa archipelago in the 1980 version of Blue Lagoon. A dizzying amount of natural beauty — from mountains and mangroves to rivers and reefs — swathes Fiji’s 333 islands, and awe-inspiring wildlife (whales, sea turtles, dolphins, parrots) is the icing on the cake. For scenery with a side of luxury and exclusivity, reserve a bure (villa) at one of Fiji’s numerous private-island resorts.
Big Island, Hawaii
Big Island, Hawaii
The Island of Hawaii (i.e., the Big Island) contains 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones — the only spot on the planet with so many condensed into one small region. Lush tropical terrain rules the green, wet, windward side of the island (see Akaka Falls and Waianuenue/Rainbow Falls), while more arid beauty is on display at Hapuna Beach Park. You can even enter an ice climate at the mystical summit of Mauna Kea volcano, as well as Lake Waiau, one of the highest lakes in the United States.
Holding the largest number of overwater bungalow resorts in the world (more than 75 and counting), the Maldives understands its best asset is the gin-clear, abundant waters of the Indian Ocean. When you’re not snorkeling, diving, or gazing at the rich marine life through the floor windows of your water-top villa, continue enjoying the underwater display while dining at 5.8 Undersea Restaurant, or even while getting pampered in Huvafen Fushi’s submerged spa.
Described as the Philippines’ last frontier, Palawan boasts not one but two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (don your dive gear), and the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park (climb in a canoe for a guided tour). Striking limestone formations like Ugong Rock and Karst Mountain Elephant Cave rise starkly from the rice fields of the interior. You can even find overwater bungalows on outlying islands, courtesy of El Nido Resorts.
With a history dating to the Stone Age, Hvar is as fascinating as it is beautiful. Thirteenth-century walls surround Hvar Town, with its red-tiled roofs, and the ancient stone ruins of Stari Grad Plain became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. A jaunt to the interior reveals rugged mountains, lush vineyards and fragrant lavender fields. Embark on a boat trip on the Adriatic to snorkel, swim in sea caves, and wander secret beaches and seaside hamlets.
Dubbed the Isle of Flowers and crowned by 4,583-foot Mount Pelee, Martinique may just be the Caribbean’s best-kept secret. Some exploration is required to uncover the island’s treasures, like the Balata Gardens’ Treetop Trail of suspension bridges, Saint-Pierre’s 18th-century theater ruins, and the poignant Anse Cafard Slave Memorial. This overseas region of France is also considered the rum capital of the world; follow the Route des Rhums to tour esteemed distilleries like Clement and Rhum JM.
Cocos Keeling, Australia
Cocos Keeling, Australia
A group of 27 coral islands that form two atolls in the Indian Ocean, the Cocos Keeling Islands were virtually unheard of until beach activists Brad Farmer and Andrew Short named Cocos Keeling’s Cossies Beach as the best in Australia for 2017. Called the continent’s last unspoiled paradise, the remote destination is as special for what’s not there (high-rise resorts, chain restaurants, crowds, traffic) as what is — pristine white sand and a turquoise lagoon that’s home to 30,000 sea turtles.
Take everything you want Greece to be — olive groves and tavernas, fishermen and bakers leading quiet village lives, stone villas and cypress trees and brilliant bougainvillea — and put it on a tiny, Ionian island only reachable by boat: That’s Paxos. On the western coast, sheer cliffs, rock arches and 40 sea caves put on a stunning show. Daytrip to the neighboring island of Antipaxos for powder sand and water so aqua, it rivals the Caribbean Sea.
Known as the Cradle of Polynesia, Samoa is notable for its Fa’a Samoa way of life — a 3,000-year-old social code that prizes family, tradition and the environment. Happily, the landscape is as lovely as the local culture. On the main island of Upolu, a plunge into the To Sua Ocean Trench swimming grotto is a must. On Savaii, Samoa’s largest island, visit caves, waterfalls, blowholes and the Saleaula lava field, formed by a 1905 volcanic eruption that buried five villages.
Glass-bottom boats with thatched canopies ply shimmering lagoons. Tanned locals in pareus (sarongs) play ukuleles. Ridged velvet-green mountains punctuate the skyline. Palm trees reach higher than any roof. This is reality in the Cook Islands, a 15-isle archipelago marooned in the South Pacific. Go on a mountain safari on the main island of Rarotonga, or head to Aitutaki to stay in an overwater bungalow and motu-hop to deserted sugar beaches that beg to be Instagrammed.
The so-called pearl of the French Caribbean, Guadeloupe is a butterfly-shaped archipelago of five main islands where volcanoes tower and 200-plus beaches come in shades from black and white to red and pink. Basse-Terre’s tropical forest and the bay of Grand-Cul-de-Sac Marin were declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1993. From there, island-hop to discover Grande-Anse beach on Les Saintes; Marie-Galante’s rum estates (and old-fashioned oxcarts); and La Desirade’s 900-foot plateau.
Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.
When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.
They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.
I want them to look no further than United Airlines.
That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.
They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.
That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.
We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.
We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.
We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.
As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.
Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.
They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.
Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.
Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.
But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.
We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.
It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.
On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.
Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.
"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."
Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.
The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.