Your face freckles in the sun-soaked bow of the boat, where you relax barefoot in a bathing suit. You’re engulfed in emerald waters and open skies painted an azure blue. The islands in the distance slowly start to become visible over the horizon.
From afar, all islands look the same—like land masses jetting out from nowhere. But once ashore, visitors discover that they’re each inimitable with regards to culture, resources, wildlife, and more.
There is no more quintessential way to spend the dog days of summer than island hopping around some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet.
If you’re itching for some time on the water this summer but don’t know where to go, grab your passport, a swimsuit and some sunscreen, and start searching flights to one of the following.
Where to Go Summer Island Hopping in Asia
Asia is recognized for its blonde beaches, blue lagoons and near-perfect weather pretty much year round. But if Penang and Phuket are too bogged by tourism for you, there’s a slew of idyllic islands that have been virtually untouched by those backpack-toting, elephant pants-donning nonconformists. Nope, no rolling suitcases either.
Just beware of the sometimes only likely inhabitants: the monkeys.
With more than 17,000 islands, the worst thing about summer island hopping in Indonesia is choosing where to go. The choice is made even more difficult because each island in Indonesia, no matter how small, is uniquely different.
There are hundreds of ethnic groups in the island country, as well as diverse animal populations, magical temples and ornate offerings to the Gods hidden around every corner.
Island hoppers in Indonesia can choose from visiting tourist hot spots like Bali to one of the tiny and idyllic Gili Islands, accessible only by boat and traversed mainly by foot. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which of Indonesia’s islands you choose to visit—there’s something otherworldly about this part of the world.
The Maldives is the lowest country on earth, so there is truly no other place in the world where the ocean and the land become one like in these special islands.
Located in the Indian Ocean along the equator, the Maldives is a geologically special place, known for its cobalt water and coral reefs full of colorful fish.
Positioned along ancient trade roots, the people of the Maldives trace their heritage back to South and Southeast Asia, Africa and Arabia. This cultural diversity is evident in everything from the music that wafts along the shore to the food cooked over open-air spits.
But, like every great island-hopping spot, the natural beauty of the Maldives steals the day.
The best way to island hop in the Maldives is on a traditional Dhoni, a fishing boat made locally by a skilled craftsman. You can do this by joining a trip organized by any number of local and international tourist agencies. Through G Adventures, for example, prices start at about $1,500 for a 10-passenger, 37-foot Dhoni, and the journey is seven, blissful, summer island hopping days that will surely end too soon.
The Mergui Archipelago is a splattering of islands located in the Andaman Sea off of the southern coast of Myanmar. Of the 800 islands that make up the archipelago, many are unknown to tourists. In fact, these islands have been called “the least visited place on earth.”
Though their remote location makes them hard to access, but the effort is worth the trouble. And by trouble, we mean that it’s not currently permitted for foreigners to travel to the islands independently, and there are naval patrols through the islands that check visitor documentation.
With turquoise waters, white sand beaches and even an isolated tribe of nomadic, seafaring people, these islands have natural beauty and cultural connections to boot.
The best way to see these islands is by booking a sailing trip, most of which depart from Thailand.
If remote beach towns, minuscule fishing villages and a laid-back beach vibe are up your alley, then it will serve you well to sail the islands on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
Along the way, you’ll kayak, snorkel, surf and see dolphins, whales and dense forests teeming with wildlife. But it’s the beaches that will take your breath away; they seem to tumble right out of the jungle as the white sand spills into the crystal clear ocean waters.
Most sailing tours begin in Mirissa and bump around for a week or so before landing back in the small town. Take note that Mirissa is a beautiful beach destination in its own right, so you might want to plan to stay for awhile.
Island Hopping in Central America, South America and the Caribbean
Little offers a more coveted respite from summer than getting horizontal on a breezy beach, preferably beneath windswept palms with a cold cocktail like, say, a piña colada. Perhaps the sole exception: laying on a beach sipping a piña colada in the Caribbean…or Central or South America.
Whatever works. There are at least 28 island nations and more than 7,000 individual islands in the Caribbean, and when you toss the Americas into the mix, this corner of the globe leaves little to be desired.
The Bahamas might be the best place on earth to set sail. And with over 700 islands dotting the Atlantic Ocean, there’s something for everyone here. If grand hotels and wild nightlife is your scene, you’ll find it in the Bahamas. But if slow-paced island life is what you’re looking for, you can find that, too.
Nestled between the US and Cuba, the Bahamas offer everything summer island hoppers dream of: white sand beaches, turquoise waters, groves of coconut trees and great places to eat and kick back with some drinks.
There are 30 inhabited islands in the Bahamas and plenty of island hopping itineraries from which to choose.
British Virgin Islands
Located to the east of Puerto Rico, there are four main islands in the British Virgin Islands (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke) and over 50 smaller ones. Like other Caribbean islands, the British Virgin Islands are known worldwide for their beautiful blue waters and picturesque beaches.
While it’s tempting to find the nearest hammock and stay put, the best way to get a taste of what the British Virgin Islands has to offer is to board a catamaran and island hop. While visiting multiple islands, you’ll get a taste of the food, shopping and culture available on the main islands as well as the opportunities to explore cliffs and caves or snorkel on the uninhabited ones.
No matter what itinerary you choose, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the British Virgin Islands.
Start your trip by stepping back in history in Havana, a city that seems to be frozen in time and filled to the brim with old world charm.
After enjoying the natural beauty and culture of Cuba’s biggest city, catch a sailboat in Cienfuegos and explore the Canarreos Archipelago off of Cuba’s southern coast. This archipelago offers clear blue water, secret beaches and wildlife spotting (sea turtles, anyone?).
On islands like Cayo Largo del Sur, nude sunbathing is allowed on some parts of the beach. Other islands, like Cayo Rossario, are uninhabited and perfect for snorkeling in warm, shallow pools and enjoying beach life slowly—the way it was intended.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
There’s no place on earth like the Galapagos Islands. They’re the place where Darwin famously came to hone this theory of evolution, and they’ve been pristinely protected by Ecuador, a smart move on the small country’s part.
While the Galapagos Islands won’t give visitors the laid backs beaches and tropical hang-in-a-hammock beach days that many think of when they dream of island hopping, the Galapagos Islands deliver an experience to remember.
From hikes amongst the sea lions, penguins and blue-footed boobies, to snorkeling with sharks and dolphins, visiting the Galapagos Islands is like stepping back into a time when animals still ruled.
The Best Summer Island Hopping in Europe
Much of Europe summons thoughts of cobblestone streets thronged with alfresco restaurants, canals carrying canoes and gothic architecture. But lest faulty memory of that boozy Euro trip you took a few years back leads you astray, we’ll just remind you that there are indeed comparable islands in Europe, too.
In fact, they’re not only comparable, but they’re also remarkable in their own right. And they’re worth a visit for those with the time to explore beyond Europe’s capital cities.
Though it flew under the radar for a number of years, Croatia is quickly becoming one of Europe’s hot travel destinations. It’s not hard to understand why. With its unique and well-preserved history, emerging culinary scene and pristine national parks, Croatia truly has it all.
And let’s not forget about the water. The Adriatic Sea has a beautiful shoreline, and cruising by boat is one of the best ways to see Croatia.
One popular sailing route is from Dubrovnik to Split (south to north). Croatia is the epitome of summer island hopping goals!
When most of us think of Greece we think of the whitewashed buildings and blue roofs of Santorini set in front of the sparkling Mediterranean waters. To be sure, Santorini is a can’t-miss stop on a Greek island-hopping adventure, but there are other wonderful islands to explore, as well.
Mykonos has a hyped-up dance club and party beach scene while Ios is a laid-back island with cliffs that stretch right down to the sea. In Syros, visitors will get a taste of “real Greece” with beautiful architecture and small seafood restaurants without the thumping music and beach umbrella mania of some of the more popular Greek beaches.
No matter which kind of beach scene you love, there’s something for everyone on a Greek summer island hopping adventure.
Italy and France
If you’re looking for an island hopping adventure that includes both ancient history and incredible beaches, consider visiting French Corsica, Italian Sardinia and the Maddalena Archipelago in between.
Islands like Caprera Island will please nature lovers; it’s a natural reserve home to rare seabirds and wild goats.
History lovers (and, really, everybody) will enjoy visiting Bonifacio, an ancient fortified city on the island of Corsica. Bonifacio is famous for its winding streets and medieval houses, but the city is a mix of old and new, with hip bars, chic restaurants and stunning beaches and mountains nearby.
And lest you think that this island hopping adventure doesn’t deliver on the sun and sand, rest assured that the waters in this part of the world are a vibrant shade of blue and the Mediterranean sunshine will tan your skin and warm your soul.
Yep, You Can Go Summer Island Hopping in Africa, Too
Maybe summer island hopping around Africa isn’t the first place you think of when you think must leave cubicle, must find secret island, must stay forever. But Africa is home to some of the most uncharted islets in the world.
And because few people visit Africa’s islands, you’ve got entire land masses to traverse without having to fend off beach peddlers or bargain for bottled water. You know, like touristy spots elsewhere.
If isolation and sweet serenity is what you seek, here, your only neighbors might be seabirds.
The southern African nation of Mozambique boasts a long Indian Ocean coastline that’s peppered with popular beaches and offshore marine parks. The Quirimbas Archipelago, for example, is a stretch of coral islands, and the southern Bazaruto Archipelago is dotted with reefs protecting rare marine life like dugongs. You could do all of it in a nine-day tour.
The best months to visit Mozambique are July through October. And when you do, you’ll want to start your journey in Mogundula Island, a private island in the Quirimbas Archipelago in northern Mozambique.
From there, you can sail (and snorkel) your way to the Ulumbwa river mouth, with rural fishing villages dotting the shore. A day trip to Matemo Island is doable from there—it’s full of palm groves and beaches from which to relax.
And then make your way to Ibo Island, the best known of the Quirimbas islands and one that rivals Mozambique Island as one of the nation's historical highlights with dilapidated villas and moss-covered buildings. The Island of Mozambique, meanwhile, has Portuguese colonial structures, the 16th-century Fort of São Sebastião and the Palace of São Paulo, a former governor's home with a museum.
The Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off East Africa, so you can bet there’s a lot of island hopping to be done here. Mahé, Praslin and La Digue are three islands in the Seychelles that are well worth your visit, and you can transfer from one to the next easily by ferry—there are also tours that’ll take you to all three.
You’ll likely start and end up at Mahé, which is the hub for visiting all the other islands. There you can take yoga classes, go for runs round the lagoon and snorkel in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.
It also lays claim to the mountain rainforests of Morne Seychellois National Park and beaches like Beau Vallon and Anse Takamaka.
You may also want to check out Praslin, the Seychelles' second largest island, where you’ll unwind on blonde beaches, unwind from unwinding with a treatment at the Spa Center, and then relax some more by the largest swimming pool in the archipelago.
And from there, you’ll want to go to La Digue, which you can explore by ox taxi. If you’re wondering what an ox taxi is, it’s actually what it sounds like: Literally, an ox will carry you around the island in a carriage-like taxi.
While running on “island time” may be universal, islands around the world offer inimitable cultures, landscapes and wildlife. Decide on the vibe you’re seeking—mountain adventures, underwater expeditions, party hopping, beachside reading or something else entirely—and settle on one of the above islands, or two or three or four or more of them.
You ultimately can’t go wrong so long as you’ve sand under your toes and water on all sides.
Off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean lie 40 islands known as the Zanzibar archipelago. There are four main islands in this archipelago, three of which are inhabited by humans and the fourth is a coral island where seabirds breed.
To island hop in this part of the world, fly to Tanzania and set sail on tours to a handful of small islands including Pemba Island, a spice island known for their cloves, and Mesali Island, surrounded by abundant underwater life. You’ll find sun-swepty beaches, jaw-dropping waters and plenty of time to laze around in the sunshine.
From white sand beaches to some of the most biodiverse places on earth, there’s a place to go summer island hopping for everyone on this list. With so many spectacular places to choose from, your greatest challenge will be deciding which stunning locale you want to idle your days away from.
A hammock isn’t required, but it is highly recommended.
Which of these summer island hopping getaways have you packing your bags?