In today’s fast paced world, our lives are super busy with constant ties to technology that always leave us feeling ‘on”. I remember back to a time between graduating from university and starting out in the work world when there was a feeling of being able just to go and explore, without boundaries. In recent years, I’ve realized I long to have some of that innocence back, and when I’m feeling this way, island adventures seem to call my name.
When planning an island trip, I often shy away from a lot of pre-booked activities, as this often lets you go on our own journeys, to be a little lost, to pursue your passions and to follow local people’s advice.
So, with this said, let’s get started… which island life is for you?
There’s so much to consider here. Are you looking for a remote tiny island, a large beachy resort, a barely populated or richly touristy experience? Some people conjure up images of endless sandy beaches, others fancy a hike up to a volcano. History, nature, sports, festivals, food, nightlife are also areas that I consider – dependent on the type of adventure I’m looking for.
Whether it’s an island within an archipelago nation, a private island or a sovereign nation island – I find them all fascinating. They don’t need to be deserted to help us lose ourselves and escape to the ‘real world’.
These are some of my favourite islands – spread across Europe, Asia and North America. Let me know yours!
Unsurprisingly Greece has featured twice on my list. Some islands can even work well in the same trip, so I’ve tried to pair those up too. Let me know in the comments which islands are on your ‘not to miss’ list!
1. Formentera, Spain
Hands down my favourite bar in the world is right here: Bar 10.7. This is the smallest of Spain’s Balearic Islands at just 83km2 and it’s a lot quieter than its neighbour Ibiza. 70 miles of this is coastline – expect crystal clear shallow waters, white sands and pine trees. The sunsets are legendary in this part of the world.
2. Anguilla & St Bart’s, Caribbean
These two make a great Caribbean combination, as they are only a few miles apart and the boat or plane ride between quite easy. Anguilla is flat and scrubby with some of the best beaches in the world and great beach bars. (If you’re into reggae, Bankie Banks ‘Dune Preserve’ is legendary!)
St Bart’s is part of the French West Indies, so expect fabulous French food and a French seaside feel. It’s hilly and lush and incredibly scenic. No visit is complete without spending time at Eden Rock.
If I could cheat and throw in a third Caribbean island in the nearby surroundings, I’d have to say Scrub Island is a must. With its rock star restaurant and marina vibe, the proximity to Soggy Dollar and Joost Van Dyke make for excellent day trips.
3. Pag, Croatia
If you find yourself in Croatia, there are lots of magical Dalmatian islands such as Hvar and Brač, but for an ‘off the grid’ experience head to Pag for its magnificent cheeses. Pag is barren and moonlike with outstanding cheese (did I mention cheese?) and archaeological sites. The nightlife to the north at Zrce Beach is a real contrast. The highlight was an all-day food and wine tasting at Hotel Boskinac.
I just got back from Sardinia in September 2019. (Note to self: Early September here is great time to visit as you get all the advantages of fantastic weather, but you can beat the crowds.) Sardinia more than just beautiful beaches and is packed with charming eccentricities. The sheep rule the roads and the coastal drives are a real buzz. Wild horses and cork oak forests nestle against forests, rivers, world renowned caves and world heritage sites. Being the oenophile that I am, a must do was a visit to Santandi Winery. And the meals at Dal Corsaro in Cagliari and Ristorante La Gritta in Palau were mind blowing.
5. Ambergris Caye, Belize
This is the largest in Belize and of course the Caribbean beaches are stunning and famed for snorkelling and diving. At just 1.6km wide it is mostly a ring of white sand around a mangrove swamp. I really wound down here! It was once dependent on the coconut industry so sipping from a freshly chopped coconut is a must. Throw in a coconut mojito and you’ve got the start to a perfect day at the beach. The history of the island goes back to the Maya, European Pirates and Mexican refugees from the Caste War. It was here I did yoga on the beach (not to mention my first session of aerial yoga. Don’t ask!) La Pamilla restaurant at Victoria House Resort and Spa after a nice afternoon massage were the perfect way to end a relaxing island day.
6. Mylos, Greece
This horseshoe shaped island floats in the Aegean Sea. I would describe it as luminous with colour. Mylos is steeped in history – the Venus De Milo statue was discovered here. The seafood is superb, and you will experience the ‘real Greece.’ For this reason, a must do is a local cooking lesson. And no visit to this magical place is complete without an adventure sailing trip.
7. Santorini, Greece
The iconic white and blue domed rooves of Oia are fresh out of an Instagram photo. But Fira offers a more bohemian feel. Hike to a very live volcano and bath in the hot springs. Mystique for lodging, spa, and an incredible sunset dinner is mandatory.
8. Maui, Hawaii
This island caters for everyone. It is nicknamed ‘The Valley Isle’ due to the great valley that lies between its two major volcanos. The jaw dropping Road to Hana is a must do; and I recommend the Lavender farm, Bamboo hike, and whale watching. The natural beauty is just so lush especially in the Lao Valley. Be sure to get up early one day for the sunrise bike trip down Haleakala (Maui’s dormant volcano).
9. Phuket, Thailand
It was a while ago that I went here – 2008- but it remains amongst my top favourites. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island so there are plenty of contrasts (like much of Thailand!). From an elephant ride on the beach to a midnight swim in the Andaman Sea, Puket is one magical place.
10. Martha’s Vineyard, North America
Martha’s Vineyard lies seven miles off Cape Cod on the coast of Massachusetts. It boasts wild ocean beaches and wooded trails, and from the minute you arrive it instantly feels like you’re going to a creative retreat. My recommendations include: lots of bike rides, a visit to Morning Glory Farm, and for sure a trip to Chilmark (upscale Flea Market) on Saturdays. A hike at Aquinnah followed by fresh lobster rolls make for a simply gorgeous day trip.
Cindy McNaull is the Business Development Director for INVISTA’s CORDURA® brand fabric. CORDURA® fabric has a more than 50-year legacy of enabling the development of high-performance apparel and gear products.
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