Sun, Sand, & Sail On By: The Globe’s Best Destinations For Island Hoppers

words Alexa Wang

Island Destinations

There is certainly a liberating air to the experience of travelling from one destination to the next, all the while going at your own pace. Island hopping is an effective way to get a little bit of paradise each time, rather than always having to stop for the full course. It allows you to see which aspect of a locale you’d like to visit for longer and which ones are once in a lifetime.

Nothing beats travelling at your own pace, so make up your itinerary, stick to it only if you want, and maybe investigate some used yachts that are up for sale. Here are some of the absolute best locations to get the most out of an island-hopping adventure.

1. Greece

With over a hundred inhabited islands and nearly a million visitors each year to the Cyclades alone, the idea of the Greek islands may quickly seem an overwhelming – and overcrowded – one. However, consider travelling around April, right before peak tourism season during the summer.

The village of Oia on Santorini is a highlight of the Cyclades, known for its iconic chalk-white buildings and kaleidoscopic sunsets. The Ionian islands are famous for their gorgeous beaches and eclectic mix of architecture stemming from a storied history of foreign rule.

If avoiding the crowds is still your top priority, then the best part about the Greek islands is the amount of them. There are bound to be a few tranquil beaches or quiet hikes if you know where to look.

2. The Caribbean

The Caribbean region is one of the world’s poster children for idyllic tropical beaches. Anguilla, located in the eastern Caribbean Sea, is a prime example. With over thirty beaches, you won’t be stuck for choice in finding your ideal spot. Shoal Bay is one popular spot that has crystal-clear waters and soft white sand yet amenities such as numerous restaurants are also nearby.

Shoal Bay is one of many great places to go snorkelling in the Caribbean. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the largest reef system in the Northern Hemisphere, and the second-largest in the world. It is home to hundreds of species of fish, over sixty types of coral and truly is a sight to behold.

3. Scotland

Scotland is perfect proof that island hopping doesn’t need to be solely a love affair with the tropics, with nine-hundred islands off its coast.

The Isle of Skye is known for its medieval castles, rugged landscapes, and incredible scenery. The landscape lends itself to some difficult yet extremely worthwhile hiking trails. There is even the chance to see some unique wildlife such as red deer, puffins, and even whales!

The Outer Hebrides offer up several other activities, including being one of the best places to view the Aurora Borealis. The Calanais Standing Stones are a marvel, having been erected over five thousand years ago (predating England’s Stonehenge), believed to have been an important place for ritual activity. The region is also home to many distilleries, markets, and countless other outlets worthy of a visit or tour.

4. Japan

Whilst being known for being made up of three main islands, there’s more to Japan that is off the beaten track – so to speak. Okinawa prefecture is a strand of islands and Japan’s most southern and western point.

Explore Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park, home of Japan’s largest mangrove forest. This park is home to numerous rare animal species including the Iriomote wild cat and Sakishima grass lizard. Nearby is Japan’s largest coral reef, Sekisei Lagoon (if the Mesoamerican Reef has left you wanting more).

Okinawa is known for its culture, formed through a unique mix of those from China and Japan, among others. Be sure to try some awamori, a rice-based alcohol unique to Okinawa. Unlike sake, awamori is distilled instead of brewed, with an alcoholic content upwards of sixty percent!

5. Fiji

Whilst it may seem like an obvious choice to end the list, Fiji is perhaps the quintessential island-hopping destination. Whilst it does feature beaches that appear as they’ve been ripped out of the pages of a magazine, Fiji is also home to many lush rainforests.

The land in Viti Levu covers 10,000 square kilometres, and hiking through this beautiful landscape is a pleasure that is unfortunately rarely as discussed as its coastlines. There are other interesting (and perhaps not as serene) activities to partake in such as white-water rafting in the Navua River or attending a fire-walking festival at Mariamma Temple.

If you’re after the classic slice of paradise ideal, then every one of the above options will have you satisfied. However, each location is also rich with its own unique culture, and the hidden treasures are always the ones that invite searching. Island hopping is not only a way to see more of everything during your trip, but also an effective way to discover more of what it is you truly come to love about each destination.

Wherever you go, remember that the best aspect of island hopping is the licence that it gives you to explore. So, go out and explore.

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