Azure waters, pristine beaches, exotic wildlife. What do you imagine when you picture your island of paradise? For some, it may be drenching their skin in a spa treatment made with local fruits and honeys after a long day in an ocean side handmade palm cabana, while for others it could be scuba diving in unworldly coral reefs and taking in jewel toned angelfish- Cartier style. Some of these islands may be familiar to you; others will probably be exotic. All will transport you to a state of the intensely sublime. Who knows, you may just decide to become a modern day castaway and never return to civilization.

  1. The Exumas, Bahamas
Known as “the other Bahamas,” The Exumas are an archipelago composed of 365 cays and islands. Like coveted gemstones, the islands sit in glistening jade and cerulean waters. Luxury resorts and private villas, grand yachts anchored to docks in shallow warm waters, and simple fishing boats abound. The adventurous may want to explore Mystery Cave, a 400-foot-deep blue hole that drops from 15 to 100 feet, or traverse the ocean floor and its corals full of turtles, and tropical fish. Relax with a Henry Miller lookalike and a freshly made cocktail on the white sand Tropic of Cancer Beach or collect seashells for a handmade necklace on the Cocoa Plum Beach.

  1. Bora Bora, Tahiti 
One of the 118 islands of paradise that make up Tahiti, Bora Bora is where nomads go to lie on palm-fringed beaches and retreat. The island features a beautiful lagoon shaped like a painter’s palette, as well as vibrant undersea coral gardens, myriad hiking trails at Matira Beach and marine-life filled Leopard Rays Trench. Wrap yourself in a locally made sarong and take in the ocean breeze from your overwater villa at the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort & Spa.  Indulge in a spa treatment, inspired by traditional Tahitian practices and local products like monoi oil and pure mother of pearl, and go beyond bliss.

  1. Taketomi Island, Okinawa, Japan
Part of the Yaeyama Islands, Taketomi Island is an island kingdom steeped in tradition. The small, slow-paced island has only 323 residents, dedicated to preserving the culture of the island and its heritage-listed village. To experience luxury, relaxation and culture, HOSHINOYA Okinawa offers upscale Ryokan villas, as well as a spa incorporating ancient Japanese relaxation and herb treatments and a restaurant featuring local ingredients with a French twist.  Enjoy a myriad of local activities; listen to the music of a traditional Sanshin, energize your body with a morning beachside session of Yonna Deep Breathing, learn how to weave traditional handicrafts and garments or explore the unique star-sand beaches of Kaijihama and Aiyaruhama.  

  1. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
 Nicknamed the “Galapagos of the Atlantic,” Fernando de Noronha is a tropical island situated 339 miles off the coast of Brazil. A UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, the island supports a purely eco-conscious lifestyle. Scuba dive or snorkel with sea turtles, dolphins and manta rays, relax on pristine beaches like Lion’s Beach, enjoy the surf at Cacimba do Padre or paddle your way around the island.

  1. Vanuatu 
An archipelago located east of northern Australia, Vanuatu features a mix of lush rain forests, beaches and magnificent wildlife. Bird-watchers will enjoy looking for the 79 bird species, 30 of which are native. Additionally, saltwater crocodiles, sea cows, flying foxes and Pacific boa snakes inhabit the tropical Eden. You can also learn the traditions of the Lysepsep people at Lysepsep Culture Park, drive to the top of the active Yasur Volcano, and scuba dive and snorkle the island’s crystalline waters.

  1. Boracay, Philippines
This jewel is located about 196 miles off the south coast of Manila. Along with Thailand and the Caribbean, Boracay has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. White Beach is the main attraction of the island. An expansive soft sand landscape stretches along turquoise waters. Five star hotels, restaurants, lux spas and a true sense of solitude. The beach is separated into sections, with some tranquil, secluded areas, as well as social stretches for sandy meet & greets. Kite boarding at Bulabog Beach, peaceful snorkeling and diving at Baling Hai Beach and cliff diving and kayaking amongst volcanic caves, mangrove forests, turquoise coves, and remote beaches at Ariel’s Point.

-Jessica Festa

Born and raised in New York, Jessie  has traveled all over the world, chronicling her adventures on Jessie on A Journey, as well as Huffington Post, AOL Travel, and Fodor’s.
February 2013