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The 12 Best Islands in the World

Sprawling beaches, rolling waves and untouched pockets of wilderness are all characteristics of the best islands in the world. According to experts and U.S. News readers, the islands listed here boast a little something that keeps travelers enchanted. Consider which islands you favor, cast your vote below and help us rank next year's list of best coastal locales. 

Santorini

#1 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: This popular honeymoon spot also caters to a variety of other travelers. Beach bums can unwind along Santorini's red sands, foodies can savor aromatic Mediterranean flavors and history buffs can explore the remains of Thira and Akrotiri.

Honolulu - Oahu

#2 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: With Honolulu's high-rise hotels and commercialized Waikiki area, Oahu is the most urban of all Hawaii's islands. But it does have a rural, untouched side to it, particularly on the North Shore, where pro surfers ride the waves on Sunset Beach.

Maui

#3 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: Maui offers opulent resorts, dramatic scenery and adventurous activities all in one. Nothing beats spending a day on Wailea's golden shores or cruising the Road to Hana. If you're up for the challenge, plan to hike the dormant Haleakala volcano.

Bali

#4 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: With gorgeous mountains and pointed pagodas, it's no wonder Bali is often referred to as heaven among visitors. On this Indonesian island, you can tour ancient temples, interact with Sumatran elephants or simply lounge on one of the many resplendent beaches.

Kauai

#5 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: Kauai is the oldest and most rugged of the Hawaiian archipelago. Adventure-seekers will love traversing the Kalalau Trail and hiking Waimea Canyon, while the Na Pali Coast beckons to photographers with its gorgeous ocean vistas.

Hawaii - The Big Island

#6 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: The pure versatility of the Big Island's geography is enough to earn it recognition as one of a kind: Black-sand beaches and lush rainforests dot the island. Plus, the tropical isle's active volcano, Kilauea, makes for a fun adventure.

Phuket

#7 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: This dreamy Thai island in the Andaman Sea balances cosmopolitan flair with rugged beauty. Here, you'll find white sand beaches sidled up next to mountainous rainforests, and a rollicking nightlife scene in Patong.

Tahiti

#8 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: When you're not sipping tropical cocktails in your overwater bungalow, explore Tahiti's striking natural wonders, including La Plage de Maui and the Fautaua Waterfall. Looking for more adventure? Hop a boat to Tahiti's sister island, Moorea, home to the breathtaking Magic Mountain.

British Virgin Islands

#9 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: The British Virgin Islands are considered the most exclusive and least developed islands of the Caribbean – perfect for travelers with deep pockets and a love for sailing and seclusion. Plan to sail between islands – there are more than 60 to choose from.

Corfu

#10 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: The Greek isle of choice for travelers on a budget, Corfu is home to a bevy of sprawling, pebbly beaches (Glyfada is a perennial favorite). When you need a break from the sand and surf, explore the island's cultural offerings, including the Archaeological Museum of Corfu

Bora Bora

#11 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: Bora Bora offers you the chance to lounge on white sand, stretch your legs along the trails to Mount Otemanu's summit and sleep in thatched-roof huts suspended over the turquoise South Pacific.

Capri

#12 in Best Islands in the World

Why go: Thanks to its luxurious resorts and shops, this small Italian island is a favorite among well-heeled vacationers and daytrippers. For an unforgettable view of Capri, the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi Coast, take the chairlift up to the summit of Monte Solaro.