Fancy a tropical vacation but don’t know where to go? Discover the world’s best tropical getaways, from coastal retreats to island escapes and enjoy sunshine all year round.
Who doesn’t fantasise about lying on a palm-fringed beach with turquoise waters stretching as far as the eye can see?
Sure, there’s a time and a place for a sightseeing-packed city break, but sometimes you just want to go on holiday to have some down time and relax in a stunning location.
Personally, there’s nothing I like more than heading off to the tropics, where world-class luxury accommodation, incredible food and a slower pace of life are the norm.
From the seclusion of the Seychelles to the livelier shores of Tulum – there are a lot of potential options for your next spectacular getaway.
But where should you choose? This line up of tropical destinations is packed with options – whether you want to enjoy some quality romantic time with your squeeze, to treat your friends or family to a luxury break, or just need to get away from it all in blissful solo peace.
So, put away the brochures, pull up a chair and let’s explore the best tropical vacations.
Best Tropical Vacations
If the Seychelles isn’t on your bucket list, now’s the time to add it. Top of the magisterium of tropical destinations, this is one paradise island you won’t regret splashing out on. I love them.
The Seychelles is unquestionably the tropical hotspot to beat all tropical hotspots.
From the stunning, clean, crisp surroundings of La Digue and Praslin to enjoying a breathtaking leisurely cruise through the crystal-clear blue water or just taking in the rays on one of the endless golden-sandy beaches, The Seychelles is the holiday of a lifetime.
Nestling quietly in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka and the Indian mainland is the Maldives. This tropical heaven combines incredible clear cyan waters, magnificent sunsets and some of the cleanest beaches anywhere in the world.
Look, it’s no big reveal to say that the Maldives is the perfect dreamy escape – once you’re there, head out on a snorkelling or diving trip, treat yourself to some serious spa time or just spend time lounging on the magnificent beaches – you basically can’t go wrong.
Combining ancient history, stunning culture, gorgeous blue waters and endless miles of beautiful white beaches, Belize is an underrated Caribbean dream.
Explore Mayan temples, zipline through the tropical jungle, scuba dive among the treasures of the Caribbean, or spot some of nature’s most colourful birds in one incredible tropical location.
Other fun pursuits include canoeing, caving and fishing. Swing by car-free Caye Caulker for a real taste of chilled-out island life.
Sticking with the Caribbean theme, visit the world of Bob Marley with one of the jewels in the Caribbean crown, Jamaica.
Famed for its Red Stripe beer, Blue Mountain coffee and traditional rum, stroll through the open-air markets, ponder the colonial landmarks in Kingston and Montego Bay, or chill on Negrii’s stunning Seven Mile beach.
Inland, there’s plenty of lush greenery and natural waterfalls to explore and Dunn’s River, while Rick’s Cafe is one Jamaican institution not to be missed.
Another slice of Caribbean paradise comes in the shape of Antigua, where the pace of life lets you kick back, relax and revel in the island’s famed calypso carnival atmosphere.
The endless rolling golden beaches are surrounded by some of the deepest, bluest waters containing astonishing, eye-catching marine life, making for the perfect tropical “grammable” moments.
Add in the taste sensation of Angituan cuisine and their world-famous hospitality and life in Antigua is full of colour, vibrancy and sound, especially at the island’s party capital – Shirley Heights viewpoint!
Trust me, the small island of Mauritius deserves its title of “The Jewel of the Indian Ocean,” making it a must-visit alone. Yet, if you need any further persuasion, then read on.
The unique Mauritian landscape fuses striking beaches, beautiful mangroves, cascading waterfalls, tropical wildlife, volcanoes, perfect tropical shorelines and some of the best scuba diving locations worldwide.
For a natural vision of watery perfection, check out the Chamarel Waterfall and its surrounding hike, or take a 4×4 Quad through the gorgeous forests.
The first of my recommended French Polynesian tropical destinations is the instantly recognisable Bora Bora.
With its unparalleled natural beauty, this island paradise is famed for its bungalows on stilts that jut out into the water and this tropical climate makes it the ideal spot for a bit of winter sun. Imagine a January stay on these astonishing beaches.
Scuba dive to find some of the world’s most spectacular marine life, or climb one of the island’s mountains, such as Mount Otemanu or Mount Pahia, for unmatchable views.
Costa Rica translates as “Rich Coast,” one visit to this beautiful tropical country in Central America will prove why.
Rich in history and home to some of the most staggering scenery you’ll find anywhere with the Arenal Volcano area, the Caribbean coast is home to crystal-clear water and luscious palm-lined beaches.
If you’re after more natural tropical beauty, head into Costa Rica’s highlands to explore the cloud forests, where the natural humidity allows plants and animals to thrive.
Partnered with the neighbouring Nicobar Islands, this archipelago of more than 570 islands makes for a perfect getaway spot in tropical climes.
With adventure sports, deep water diving among turtles and other marine life in the Indian Ocean, there are thousands of miles of beaches to lay on and plenty of natural, unspoiled landscapes to enjoy.
One of the most visually arresting sights is the tiny bioluminescence star show under your feet on Havelock Island that occurs thanks to the phytoplankton in the sea.
I can’t talk about tropical countries to visit and not talk about The Philippines. This island archipelago sits in the Pacific Ocean, east of Vietnam and is a dream destination in Southeast Asia.
From the history of Fort Santiago, the wondrous San Agustin Church, to the steeped hills of the Batad Rice Terraces, there is tonnes to see inland.
Meanwhile, beach dwellers will adore White Beach, Yapak Beach and Nacpan Beach, each unspoiled, goldenand miles long. Culture, cuisine and climate, the Philippines has it all.
Bali is the ideal location for enjoying all the luxurious trappings of an island paradise without breaking the bank. Lying a few miles east of Java, Bali often pops up as one of the best tropical vacation spots.
Stacked with stunning beachside resorts ideal for getting a massive dose of sun and sea while soaking up the astonishing, flavoursome cuisine across the island.
If you want to get away from the sun and sea, travel through the rice paddies to enjoy an authentic jungle experience or grab a boat ride across one of the many nearby islands for something more indulgent.
Part of Southern Thailand, near the Andaman coast, Krabi is a real-life paradise that combines staggering scenery, fabulous beaches and the magical Tiger Cave Temple, an ancient Buddhist site with unreal panoramic views.
It’s one of the best spots to take a tropical vacation on a budget thanks to Thailand’s relatively low prices.
Bathe elephants, take a flying dress photoshoot, immerse yourself in the local waterways with the Krabi Kayak tour, or visit Bamboo Island.
If this all sounds too active, head to PhraNang Cave Beach for some classic rest and relaxation.
As far removed as you can imagine from the hurly-burly of traffic-infested concrete jungles, Raja Ampat is a pristine paradise where Mother Nature will welcome you into the bosom of this West Papua province.
Attractions include the Heart of Misool waterfalls on Batanta Island, while you can kayak and paddle board to your heart’s content throughout the islands. Diving and snorkeling are fabulous pastimes while sitting back and enjoying some of the world’s most stunning sunsets on a chartered yacht is the perfect way to enjoy a day in this tropical vacation spot.
Sited on the Eastern seaboard of Mexico, Tulum is an ancient Mayan port city now known for its picture-postcard beaches, tempting blue waters and peerless history.
Wander around the Parque Nacional Tulum that combines mangroves with cenotes natural limestone sinkholes, or visit the castle’s ruins perched atop a rocky clifftop with stunning sightlines out to sea.
Combining historical Mayan culture and authentic Mexican cuisine in an idyllic tropical paradise, I love Tulum as an alternative to the tourist hotspot of nearby Cancun.
Believe it or not, Borneo is the third largest island on Earth. It offers everything from tropical rainforests to incredible natural rivers, from staggering wildlife, including many endangered species, to perfect golden beaches.
If it’s culture you’re after, head to the Floating Mosque at Kota Kinabalu, while I was seduced by the twisting underground passageways through the Caves of Sarawak.
Long-recognised as one of the world’s best honeymoon destinations, Tahiti is a stunning location for a romantic getaway or a memorable family vacation, with glistening turquoise waves lapping beautiful white sandy beaches.
Fans of sunsets won’t go short of insta-moments, this French Polynesian tropical destination boasts gorgeous Thiscal forests, the Faarumai Waterfalls, Water Gardens Vaipahi, as well as the bustling Municipal Market.
Onto a true hidden gem deep in the Caribbean, this tiny island is one of the most luxurious tropical places in the world despite going under the radar on the list of top tropical vacation decisions.
This lack of renown works in its favour as Martinique remains one of the world’s most unspoiled natural tropical paradises, offering a compelling blend of French and Creole cultures and cuisine.
Golden beaches, blues seesand staggering scenery make this a must-add to your bucket list.
This stunning South Pacific nation is unquestionably one of the world’s most unique tropical holiday spots.
Its rainbow-coloured coral reef has to be seen to be believed, while there are countless palm-lined private tropical islands to visit. Surfers can head to Tavarua to surf the waves, while the Sabeto Hot Spring Mud Pool is an incredibly therapeutic experience.
Meanwhile, hiking Waya Island offers some of the most stunning views anywhere in the world, never mind the South Pacific.
Officially a US territory, home to one of the only tropical rainforests in the US National Forest Services, Puerto Rico is a beautiful tropical place to travel.
Head to Vieques’ famous bioluminescent lagoon after dark for a visual light spectacular, or sup away at perfectly refreshing mojitos at one of the many beachside bars in San Juan.
Puerto Rico offers you the perfect mix of Latin art, culture, nightlife and beautiful coastlines, making it a dream destination all year round.
Previously an island nation of its own and now a part of Tanzania, Zanzibar was the birthplace of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.
Not only that, Zanzibar is one of the most stunning island paradises in the world, boasting top-drawer beaches and the UNESCO World Heritage site, Stone Town.
A former primary trading spot on the spice, silk and (sadly) slave trade, Stone Town is one of the most critical and fascinating global historical sites.
Kendwa Beach, Jambiani Beach and Nakupenda Beach Nature Reserves, along with Cheetah’s Rock and Prison Island, are must-visits.
Primarily composed of six distinctly different islands, Hawaii is one of the northern hemisphere’s jewels in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
From Waikiki and North Shore beaches on Oahu, Hawaii’s most popular tourist islands, The Big Island is rich in cultural history and geographical features. There are three stunning active volcanoes, gorgeous flowing waterfalls and volcanic black sand beaches.
Head to Maui for snorkelling, whale-watching and golf while the Garden Isla (Kaua’i) plays home to the gorgeous Waimea Canyon.
Practical Tips for Exploring the Best Tropical Destinations
- Be careful in the tropical sun. Many tropical destinations are much closer to the Equator than most of us are used to, meaning the sun is much stronger. Stay in the shade during the hottest parts of the day and use plenty of Factor 50. Stay well hydrated and avoid too much booze on the first couple of days as you acclimatise.
- Dress for hot temperatures. Wear long, loose-flowing outfits to help keep yourself calm. Trust me, cotton fabric is your best friend.
- Take bug spray. Tropical destinations are renowned for bug bites that can lead to illnesses such as dengue fever. Apply bug spray around dusk and dawn when bugs are most likely to strike to keep yourself free of nasty insect bites.
- Respect the local customs, culture and laws. Familiarise yourself with the local rules and expectations before you travel. While most tropical destinations are used to mass tourism, ensure you know what is and isn’t acceptable to ensure you can enjoy your holiday and not run foul of the local constabulary.
The Best Tropical Vacation Destinations: Map
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