Though no dinosaurs are to be found, there is no escaping the enchanting feeling that Nuku Hiva, in the super remote Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia – resembles Jurassic Park. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s hardly anyone around, or maybe it’s the fact that you thought such incredible natural beauty only existed in Hollywood productions – Nuku Hiva is dramatically beautiful beyond imagination. The few visitors who make the long journey to Nuku Hiva will spend their days hiking to hidden waterfalls and secluded beaches, exploring the island’s ancient temples and natural wonders by 4X4, horseback or small boats, and meet the proud local Marquesans – whose rich history has developed over centuries of isolation.
In a vast ocean dotted with infinite lagoons, perhaps the most striking of them all is to be found in Aitutaki. A short flight from the main island of Rarotonga brings you to a quiet little ‘half island half atoll’ – where nothing seems to happen and where the word ‘rush’ simple doesn’t exist. The main reasons to visit Aitutaki is to detach from the stresses of life and to explore its magical lagoon. Once you’ve completed a circle island tour on a rented scooter, head to the small motu (islets) that hug the outer reaches of the lagoon. Out here, you’ll snorkel in coral gardens and make landfall on beaches where fine white sand simply blinds your eyes on a sunny day. If you’ve always wondered where pictures of that perfect beach you see in travel magazines, posters and screensavers were taken – the answer probably lies in Aitutaki!
If you're already making the trek to New Zealand, why not throw in a private island for good measure? This 5,000-acre working ship station/pine forest offers 13 private white sand beaches and a laundry list of fun stuff to do. Book it for up to 12 people and rates include helicopter transfers, all meals, on-island activities, and a hosting staff. Take note, though, that the owner lives there full time and each booking is subject to approval.
Boracayis an idyllic tropical island in the Western Visayas islands of the Philippines. Visitors will be mesmerized by White Beach with sand so soft it’s been compared to baby talc. The four-kilometer-long beach has been called the ‘finest beach in the world.’ Shoeless vacationers lounge on the beaches, get massages, and hang out at beach establishments. After sunset, the vibe turns lively where dancing and partying take center stage. On an island where the outdoors rules, visitors find opportunities to sail, kayak, trek, golf, dive, mountain bike, boat, windsurf, boardsail, and explore. Mambo Number 5 excursions include a little of everything.
Nearly twice the size of all the other Hawaiian islands combined, the snorkeling on Big Island is fantastic, especially at Honaunau Bay, also known as The City of Refuge, with an historic backdrop to boot. Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park has smooth lava rock flats to help you ease effortlessly from shore to sea into year-round crystal-clear water, and you'll find healthy coral gardens teeming with tropical fish, moray eels, and even turtles in shallow depths to the right. Spinner dolphins frequent deeper waters to the left.
Located in southern Thailand, this semi-off-the-map island is one of my favorites and the month I spent here remains one of my most fond memories. Here on Ko Lipe, the super-friendly locals bring in the daily catch for amazing seafood, as the island’s water is teeming with life. Accommodation is still basic, and most places turn off the electricity around midnight.
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