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Island Hopping
Island Hopping

Summer’s laid-back mood always puts us in a vacation state of mind. Fantasies of sand, coconut palms and adventure led us to 10 of the globe’s most intriguing islands. Located in all parts of the world, each possesses its own set of marvels. So rig your sails, plot your course, pack your trunk and skim the turquoise seas. We’ll wait for the message in a bottle to let us know where you land..

Dominica, Caribbean – A Pirate’s Booty

Dominica, Caribbean

If you’re looking for the untouched bounty of which pirate legends are made, set your sail for the Caribbean and drop anchor in Dominica. Far more rustic than most of its Caribbean counterparts, this island gushes primal scenery rather than golden sand and luxury resorts. Ripe with unspoiled flora and tropical fruit dripping off trees like a Caribbean Garden of Eden, it’s a fragrant treasure chest for nature lovers who will delight in shimmering forests, lakes, rivers, hot springs and waterfalls. Used as the setting for two of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Dominica’s lush, tropical beauty makes it an eco-treasure worth its weight in doubloons.

Santorini, Greece – Whitewashed Romance

Santorini, Greece

The massive form of an ancient volcanic caldera welcomes visitors as they enter the harbor of magical Santorini. From there, the enchantment goes uphill as the windy road climbs and clings to the steep, arid cliffs rising out of the Aegean Sea. A piece of quintessential, whitewashed Greece awaits in the town of Oia on the island’s northwestern tip. Check into one of the traditional guesthouses like Ikies and plant yourself on a terrace to soak up the allure of Greece and the fabled sunsets of Santorini.

Koh Tao, Thailand – Diving Splendor

Koh Tao, Thailand

Translated as “Turtle Island” in Thai, this once sleepy island was rediscovered in the last decade and populated with numerous resorts and activities, thanks to its incredible dive sites, which are home to barracudas, stingray, sharks, reef fish, eel, turtles and shipwrecks. Fortunately, Koh Tao has retained its slower tempo to attract people to its inviting shores. For a taste of Thai, try the family-run Haad Tien Beach Resort, a sanctuary of 26 villas on a private beach. While you’re there, take diving lessons, snorkel the beautiful waters of Shark Bay, taste the wonderful flavors of Thai cooking or simply relax on your veranda with one of the country’s renowned fruit shakes and enjoy the view.

The Maldives – Welcome to Fantasy Islands

The Maldives

Scattered like coral dust off the southwestern tip of India is a string of islands imbued with sparkling white sand and clear turquoise waters that fulfills dreams of tropical paradise. Coral reefs protect these dazzling gems from major storms making the water perfect for swimming, diving and snorkeling. Each of the Maldives’ 87 resorts occupies its own island, so the only challenge you’ll have is choosing one to suit your preferred level of indulgence. Once a boat or seaplane delivers you to your chosen isle, the only hurdle left is walking from the dock into paradise. For more information, go to the Visit Maldives website.

Lake Titicaca, Peru – Floating Islands

Lake Titicaca, Peru

Floating between land and heaven high on the Andean Plateau, travelers will find a unique colony of islands suspended in time. Inhabited by the native Uros people, these fascinating flotillas are fabricated entirely of totora reeds found in Lake Titicaca. Life for the Uros is intricately intertwined with these buoyant grasses, which require constant maintenance to keep residents from literally falling through the cracks of the islands they created. Visitors can book a day tour or a two-day excursion that includes an overnight with an island family that sustains its ancient way of life. For more inforamation, visit the Peru Guide.

Galapagos Islands – Ecological Wonder

Madison, WI

A cluster of volcanic islands far off the coast of Ecuador has long beckoned nature enthusiasts, including the likes of Charles Darwin, who used the observations he made in the Galapagos to develop his theory of evolution. This unique Unesco World Heritage Site consists mostly of national parkland, showcasing diverse wildlife up close. Visitors can view giant tortoises, sea lions, iguanas, penguins and blue-footed boobies. Lucky travelers may also catch a glimpse of Lonesome George, a giant tortoise known to be the only survivor of his subspecies. Most people see the Galapagos via cruises of 4–8 days with itineraries designed around wildlife viewing. Island lodges also offer their own programs. If you prefer to shed the shackles of civilization, try a sea-kayaking expedition, in which you paddle to deserted sandbars, set up your tent, snorkel with sea turtles and experience serene primordial life. For more information, visit the Galapagos Conservancy.

Kodiak Island, Alaska – Emerald Majesty

Livingston, MT

Wilderness enthusiasts will become ecstatic at the sight of the verdant emerald rainforest on Alaska’s Kodiak Island, where opportunities abound for outdoor adventuring. Known for halibut, salmon and its native king crab and Kodiak brown bears, the island teems with wildlife. Stay in the busy port town of Kodiak and day trip by air taxi or boat charter to fish or see the bears. Endangered humpback and fin whales can also be spotted migrating north during the summer months via charter vessels or from beaches and cliffs. Adventure seekers can experience the summer of a lifetime at one of Kodiak’s many remote wilderness lodges and camps that offer multiday bear-viewing treks, fishing, hiking and hunting expeditions.

Djerba, Tunisia – Island of Forgetfulness

Djerba, Tunisia

Considered the home of the infamous lotus eaters of Greek mythology, this island played a large part in Homer’s Odyssey, producing the flowers that caused the sailors to fall into a trance. Djerba also hosted an exterior setting for the original Star Wars film. White beaches, camels, souqs, date palms and olive trees continue to mesmerize tourists. The dry, arid landscape is enhanced by the island’s Berber charm, Jewish heritage and Moorish influence. The ancient El-Ghriba Synagogue houses the world’s oldest Torah scroll, while subterranean pottery workshops in Guellala allow visitors to glimpse traditional craft. Whether you check into a top-end resort or a traditional funduq left over from the days of the camel caravans, you may not want to leave. Where else can you ride a camel on the beach? If you happen to travel to Djerba in July or August, you may catch the Festival of Ulysses, which combines dancing, song and island traditions along with a re-enactment of the hero’s landing from Homer’s epic tale. FOr more information, visit the Djerba Tunisia website.

Palm Islands, Dubai – Opulence in the Middle East

Gualala, CA

To fill the need for more real estate, the ruler of Dubai conceived of a palm-tree shaped development, thinking its fronds would create more beachfront properties than a circular island. Coined the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” this mammoth three-island reclamation project is still under development. Designed as a grand-scale resort and living extravaganza, complete with beaches, monorail, shopping, dining and endless entertainment, the Palm Islands make Las Vegas look boring. Visitors can now travel the six-lane highway across the trunk of the first enormous waterborne tree known as Palm Jumeirah. Book a room at the newly opened Atlantis Resort and witness this amazing engineering undertaking in action. For more information visit the Palm Jumeirah website.

Zanzibar, Tanzania – Spice Island

Cascade Loop, WA

An island of exotic essence flavored with influences from Persia, Portugal, Britain and the sultans of Oman, Zanzibar evokes romantic appeal with palm-fringed beaches, white-sailed dhows, and ancient architecture and culture. Its spice, ivory and slave trades once made it a prominent point on the map for sailing routes between India, Africa and Arabia. Cloves still remain a principal export. Tour a spice plantation, sail the seas on a traditional dhow, visit the Jozani Forest Reserve and its rare monkeys, and amble through the winding labyrinth of the historic capital’s streets. Stone Town’s carved doorways and hidden courtyards, its shops and markets selling local crafts and African curiosities, and its colorful culture all capture a piece of Zanzibar’s legacy.

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