Asia Island Adventures North America Travel Inspiration

12 Exotic Destinations For A Tropical Island Vacation In 2020

February 18, 2020
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Are you ready for an island adventure? Are you dreaming about island vibes, lonely beaches, turquoise blue water and unforgettable moments? And all you’re craving is to experience something different for a change – not the typical, overcrowded, beach resort destinations!

Why not start the new decade with an exotic vacation on a somewhat unknown, but not unreachable tropical island? In this post, I’ll be sharing with you 12 exotic destinations that are perfect for an island vacation away from the crowds, plus most of them can even be combined with a round trip. Go and charge your vitamin D batteries!

You will also find a small island rating underneath each listing. It will help you compare each of the islands in terms of how exotic they are, how easy it is to get there, how diverse they are and how long you should stay there.

Leleuvia, Fiji

Leleuvia Island

From Europe, it is almost impossible to fly any further than Leleuvia. Nevertheless, the island is worth the long trip! If you are looking for absolute peace and quiet, far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, you will find a little paradise in Leleuvia that only a few people know about.

The small island is just 68,000 m² and is located in the Lomaiviti Archipelago, about 35 minutes by boat from the east coast of Viti Levu. You can perfectly integrate the island on this Fiji itinerary.

Surrounded by golden sand and many palm trees, Leleuvia is one of those typical castaway islands. And if you need a bit of action between all the relaxation, grab some snorkel gear and marvel at the corals and fish in the house reef right off the coast.

The island’s only property, Leleuvia Island Resort, offers just the right amount of necessities without destroying the experience of staying on a desert island. At the same time, however, you have the option of renting a SUP or kayak, going surfing or even scuba diving – whatever you prefer on your dream island vacation.

Getting there:**
Recommended stay:3 days

Ko Phayam, Thailand

Koh Phayam

Still one of the most undiscovered islands of Thailand: Ko Phayam in the province of Ranong, on the country’s west coast.

The small island is calm and relaxed and perfect for anyone looking for a little paradise away from the well-known Thai islands. Two beautiful, pretty untouched white sandy beaches are the highlights of this dream island and not only invite you to laze in the sun and swim but also offer breathtaking sunset views.

There are no roads suitable for cars on Ko Phayam, so you can only get from A to B on a motorcycle. You can rent a scooter or a motorcycle taxi directly at the pier for a relatively cheap fare.

Although tourism has unfortunately started developing here in recent years, the beaches and small resorts on the island are far from crowded and definitely offer a more exotic island experience than many other island destinations in Thailand.

By the way, you can combine Ko Phayam with this Thailand itinerary!

Getting there:***
Recommended stay:3 days

Utila, Honduras

Utila - Sunset & Hammocks

The 42 km² island of Utila is the little brother of Roatan and Guanaja, and thus the smallest of the Bay Islands in Honduras.

Utila is a popular travel destination, especially among divers, since the coral reefs around the island are among the most beautiful and intact reef systems in the world. The abundance of marine life here is absolutely incredible, and it is not uncommon to see whale sharks, dolphins or giant eagle rays during a dive trip.

The island itself is a backpacker’s paradise with many rather basic yet very charming accommodations, local restaurants and numerous dive shops that offer some of the cheapest PADI Open Water Courses in the world.

Unlike its touristy neighbor Roatan, Utila does not get the cruise ship crowds and thus has maintained its relaxed vibe over the past few years.

Getting there:***
Recommended stay:3 days

Caye Caulker, Belize

caye caulker - hammocks

It is the ultimate reggae island and definitely one of the highlights of Belize: the island of Caye Caulker in the Caribbean Sea.

Caye Caulker is the little brother of the tropical island of Ambergris Caye, which was possibly the inspiration for Madonna’s world hit “La Isla Bonita” from 1986. With only three roads and a total of 8 km in length, Caye Caulker is a small island paradise that is ideal for a few days just lazing around and enjoying life to the fullest.

Thanks to its laidback vibe, the abundance of cool beach bars and an ideal location only minutes away from Belize’s Barrier Reef, the island has gained popularity in recent years and has become any backpacker’s dream. There are hardly any real beaches on Caye Caulker, though you can find small docks all around the island, often with swings or hammocks in the water, where you can just hang out and enjoy a Belikin.

When staying in Caye Caulker, be sure not to miss any of these five island adventures!

Getting there:****
Recommended stay:3 days

Siquijor, Philippines

Waterfalls Siquijor

Unfortunately, no longer a total hidden gem, yet one of the most beautiful and not too crowded places in the Philippines: the island of Siquijor in the Central Visayas.

Siquijor’s coastline consists of beautiful, white sandy beaches and is surrounded by a coral reef that extends more or less around the entire island. The island center features mountains, waterfalls and caves that make for an exciting exploration day away from the beaches.

The island is also associated with mystical traditions. Even today, many local Filipinos from other parts of the country flock to the island to come into contact with one of the traditional healers.

Compared to some of the tiny islands that were presented above, Siquijor has many scenic and cultural island adventures to offer, so you can easily spend a few days here without getting bored.

In addition to magnificent sunsets and relaxing beach days, a dive or snorkel trip should definitely be on your list as Siquijor has some of the best dive spots in the Philippines – at least that’s what I think. 😉

You can check out Siquijor while traveling around the central part of the Philippines.

Getting there:***
Recommended stay:3 days

Isla Holbox, Mexico

Holbox - Biking

The tiny island of Holbox in the north of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is no longer a real hidden gem, yet it is still one of the most unspoilt places in this area of Mexico.

Isla Holbox is a small postcard island with endless white beaches, pleasant sunshine and turquoise blue waters frequented by whale sharks in the summer months. On land, modern street art enriches the small town. There are also a variety of restaurants and cafes that not only serve delicious Mexican specialities but also have adapted to the needs of the millennial backpackers, e.g. there is a bowl café that makes delicious and fresh vegan and vegetarian bowls.

Similar to Caye Caulker, there are no paved roads on this laidback island – cars are prohibited, the only means of transport allowed are bicycles or golf carts. In addition to a few hostels and guest houses, Holbox features mostly small, very individually-designed boutique hotels, which often come with a pool or roof top bar.

If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen, you will find a small paradise with lots of nature, flamingos and hammocks in Holbox.

⭐ TopTip: Certainly not the cheapest accommodation, but great value for money and an awesome location close to the beautiful Playa de Coco: Casa HX

Getting there:***
Recommended stay:3 days

Martinique, France

Sunset Beach Martinique

Not as small as other islands in this post, yet still pretty uncommon holiday destinations: the islands of the French Antilles, which are Guadeloupe, St. Barthelemy, Saint-Martin and Martinique, often referred to as the island of flowers.

Martinique is located in the Caribbean, though as an overseas department of France, it is technically part of the EU – people speak mainly French and pay in Euros. So if you are looking for a tropical island with European vibes and standard, you should consider Martinique for your next vacation.

The island is incredibly diverse in terms of landscape: there are mountains and cliffs in the north, and small bays and dream beaches in the south. And the activities are just as diverse! From climbing Mont Pelée (the highest mountain on the island) to jungle trekking and catamaran tours to beach walks and dive safaris – Martinique offers the right island adventure for everyone!

Getting there:****
Recommended stay:5-7 days

Taveuni, Fiji

Vanua Levu Taveuni Beach

After Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, Taveuni is the third-largest of the Fiji Islands and only receives a fraction of the sun-hungry tourists who visit Fiji’s main islands.

Due to its rich flora and fauna, the island is often referred to as the Garden Island of Fiji and is an ideal place to unwind in nature.

Not far from Taveuni is the Somosomo Strait, which separates Taveuni and Vanua Levu and is considered one of the best dive spots in the world due to the amazing population of marine life and soft corals.

Despite the location a little off the main islands, Taveuni can easily be integrated into your Fiji itinerary, so be sure to come here at least for a few days to recharge your batteries in the middle of the rainforest and waterfalls.

Getting there:***
Recommended stay:3 days

Placencia, Belize

Placencia_Silk Cayes Diving

Placencia is actually a peninsula in the southern part of Belize, yet it feels like being far away from everything, on a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean.

Similar to Caye Caulker, Placencia has a very laidback vibe, friendly locals and offers simple yet super cozy accommodations.

The one and only main street is where pretty much everything is happening: restaurants, cafes, guest houses, dive shops and a few souvenir shops. And best of all: everything is super close to a long, white sandy beach with turquoise blue water.

The colorful village is particularly popular with divers, as you can find world-class diving spots in the cays around Placencia. In early summer, the waters are frequented by whale sharks, which is a fantastic opportunity to snorkel with these gentle giants. But even throughout the rest of the year, the small coral islands off the coast promise breathtaking dives with plenty of underwater action. If you are not diving, I still recommend a snorkeling trip to the Silk Cayes as these tiny Castaway islets alone are worth a tour and a few shots for the ´gram.

Getting there:****
Recommended stay:3 days

Coron, Philippines

coron island hopping

Not as crowded as the neighboring destination El Nido, but definitely as beautiful is the island of Coron in the north of the Palawan region in the Philippines.

Many small islands around Coron often feature tiny white sandy beaches, which are mostly surrounded by massive limestone cliffs, as well as colorful reefs for snorkeling. An island hopping tour is a great option here – and even cheaper than in Palawan’s tourist spot #1 El Nido. Yes, I admit, I haven’t been an El Nido fan since my Palawan trip in 2017, even though all the big travel magazines highlight the place every year. For me, Coron has everything that El Nido has to offer, too, minus the crowds. Therefore I recommend Coron to anyone who wants to get to know Palawan in a bit more exotic and authentic manner.

Coron is also home to two unique, clear lakes, Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake, which have both salt and freshwater layers and are definitely worth a trip.

In addition to the lonely beaches and the small, laidback Coron Town, the island is particularly popular with wreck divers. Around Coron, you can find about ten well-preserved Japanese shipwrecks from World War II – definitely a bucket list dive!

Getting there:***
Recommended stay:3 days

Langkawi, Malaysia

Sky Cab Langkawi

Langkawi is an archipelago with around 100 small limestone islands off the northwest coast of Malaysia.

The main island of Pulau Langkawi is only sparsely populated compared to other Malaysian islands. It has dream beaches and lots of rainforest.

Besides being the perfect spot for a beach vacation, Langkawi also offers some really cool attractions, such as the Oriental Village, from where you can take one of the steepest cable cars in the world to the top of the second-highest mountain on the island. The view from there is mesmerizing; you can see the whole Langkawi archipelago (and in good weather as far as Thailand).

On top of that, Langkawi, just like other places in Malaysia, is high on art and culture. The 3D art museums and virtual reality museums, in particular, are enjoying increasing popularity, both among tourists and locals.

If you still have time during your stay, you can, of course, also take a day trip to Thailand. The island of Ko Lipe near the Malaysian border is a perfect destination for a little getaway.

Getting there:***
Recommended stay:3 days

Ko Lanta, Thailand

Koh Lanta Views

The southern Thai island of Ko Lanta in the province of Krabi is perfect for those who are looking for a holiday away from the party scene but still want to enjoy the good infrastructure of Thailand.

Several excellent beaches lie from north to south along the west coast of Ko Lanta – simply wonderful for long beach walks and to watch the sunset somewhere else every day.

The island offers a breathtaking landscape with mangrove forests, overgrown hills and fantastic white sandy beaches. There is a national park in the south of the island as well as several attractions scattered across the island – I’m sure you won’t get bored here.

In addition to kayaking and little road trips on a motorbike, diving and island hopping are popular activities here. Ko Lanta is certainly no longer a hidden gem, yet it is still a lot more relaxed than other islands in Thailand. Ko Lanta is situated close to Krabi and can therefore easily be integrated into any Southern Thailand itinerary.

Getting there:****
Recommended stay:3 days

Need more island inspiration?

Holidays SamosBest Beach Sunset Locations In The WorldBackpacking Philippines
  1. Reply

    Kaylini Naidoo

    June 16, 2020

    Absolutely adore the destinations in Asia you’ve mentioned.. I’m surprised Indonesia didn’t make the list? I moved here last year and of the 17000 islands of the country I’ve probably only been to 12. Thanks so much for the travel inspo. Exotic island vacays are my favourite.

    • Reply


      June 18, 2020

      Hi there, Thanks for your comment and glad you like this post! I was supposed to go to Indonesia in April and May, though that trip didn’t work out due to Corona. However, I’ll add Indonesia for sure once I’ve been there and explored some of the island destinations myself. 🙂


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About Me

Hi there, I'm Lena! I love being on the move around the world - travelling, diving or taking pictures. I've recently started dealing with and writing about ways to make diving more affordable. I enjoy sharing my experiences and tips with y'all, fellow budget backpackers and budget divers! Read more

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