When a warm-weather getaway is calling, set your sights on the best tropical vacation spots around the world, and aim close to the equator to maximize visions of palm trees, balmy waters, and cute cocktails. From French Polynesia to the Caribbean and beyond, read on for some of the best tropical vacations in the world — whether you’re traveling as a couple, with family, or going solo.
Sloths, toucans, and howler monkeys — oh my! Let us count the ways we love a tropical beach vacation in this Central American country that comes with volcanoes, hot springs, and jungle-lined beaches that are as popular with surfers as they are with nesting sea turtles. For a romantic couples retreat, Origins Lodge has villas with sprawling terraces and wood-fired tubs overlooking the volcanic landscapes and Lake Nicaragua. And to vacation with a group, consider booking Cayuga’s Pasha, a ten-room beachfront estate on Costa Rica’s lush Nicoya Peninsula.
This South Pacific nation is undoubtedly one of the best tropical vacation spots in the world if it’s rainbow-colored coral reefs and palm-fringed private islands you’re after. Nowhere has the variety of soft corals — in every pastel hue you can imagine — that Fiji offers. Surfers with means beeline it to Tavarua Island Resort to chase epic waves while the honeymoon crowd might opt for a secluded stay at Six Senses Fiji on Malolo Island instead. For stays that appeal as much to couples as families (two words: free childcare), Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort and VOMO Island Fiji take getting away to the next level.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
It’s impossible to mention the best tropical beach vacations without giving a nod to the belle of the ball. Bora Bora is French Polynesia’s legendary honeymoon destination, where a stay in an overwater bungalow and snorkeling with reef sharks and stingrays is pretty much mandatory. Make it a vacation to remember when you stay at The St. Regis Bora Bora, home to the largest overwater bungalows in all of the South Pacific, overlooking what’s arguably the region’s most storied lagoon.
For a city break in a tropical place with lots of natural appeal, head to Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán. The city is home to scenic squares, art galleries galore, and tropical temperatures year round. The city is surrounded by ancient Mayan ruins like Dzibilchaltún, where the Maya lived from 300 B.C. until the 16th century Spanish invasions, and cenotes where you can cool off from the heat in crystal-clear waters. Stay in style within a short stroll of the city center at Wayam Mundo Imperial, an art-focused and LEED-certified boutique hotel with a rooftop pool and bar and one of the best restaurants in town, Cuna.
An affordable tropical vacation is within reach when you venture to Bali, Indonesia’s legendary island that appeals as much to budget backpackers as it does the international jet set. Snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, volcano hikes, cultural tours, yoga retreats — is there anything you can’t do in Bali? Just make sure you make time to bask in the island’s indescribable beauty at a resort someplace stunning — Uluwatu’s oceanfront cliffs and the remote north of Bali, around Menjangan Island, are good places to start.
Islands of Hawaii
With six visitable islands, Hawaii offers up tropical beach vacation options for every type of traveler. Families love Maui and Oahu, and the latter is also a popular stop for the surf set. Lush and ridden with rainbows and extreme hiking trails, Kauai is a favorite among couples and those in search of eco-adventures. The Big Island (also called Hawaii) has excellent hiking and scuba diving options. And you’ll never go wrong with a vacation on Lanai or Molokai, either. Humpback whales migrate through the islands from roughly mid-December to mid-May, and you can spy them from your room at resorts like Mauna Kea Resort on the island of Hawaii and Maui’s Ka’anapali Beach Hotel.
Palm Beach, Florida
Along Florida’s gold coast, one of the state’s best beach vacations awaits in Palm Beach. Stay somewhere iconic and full of Sunshine State history like The Breakers Palm Beach, opt for an oceanfront wellness oasis like Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, or set your sights on newcomer Amrit Ocean Resort. When you’re not enjoying the beautiful blue waters of Palm Beach, it’s fun to rent a bike to pedal the 5.5-mile long Palm Beach Lake Trail past historic mansions and streets lined with “security hedges” that keep prying eyes away from their famous residents.
Bachata music and rum fuel fun nights in one of the best tropical vacation destinations in the Caribbean. From the beaches of Punta Cana and Cap Cana to the kite-surfing hot spot of Cabarete, the golfing paradise of La Romana, and the inimitable stretches of sand along the spectacular Samaná Peninsula, the Dominican Republic has something for everyone. For an all-inclusive stay that will blow you away with its food and entertainment options — with designated spaces for adults and families, to boot — Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda is hard to top.
Ask connoisseurs of white-sand beaches, and they’ll surely point to the Maldives for one of the best beach vacations around the world. Some of the planet’s most decadent luxury resorts await here on private islands surrounded by interrupted Indian Ocean views, many of which require a seaplane to reach. With so many luxury options in the overwater bungalow category, narrowing down where to stay can be tricky. But for a few epic places to start your search, consider Six Senses Laamu, The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, and Velaa Private Island.
Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia
French Polynesia’s Tuamotu Islands make for a more intrepid spot if you want to explore beyond the popular islands like Moorea and Bora Bora. Hop a flight from Tahiti’s capital, Papeete, with Air Tahiti and you can land roughly one hour later on Rangiroa, the second-largest coral atoll in the world. Here, Tahitian black pearls are farmed in crystal-clear waters and the scuba diving is second to none. There are overwater bungalows to stay in on Rangiroa and Tikehau atolls (Le Tikehau is on its own private island) if that’s your scene, as well as less expensive, family-run guest houses in the Tuamotus.
Reggae music, jerked meats, and all-around irie vibes are just a few of the reasons to plan a tropical beach vacation to Jamaica. Opt for an affordable vacation in one of the many small hotels and guest houses lining Seven Mile Beach or the West End in laid-back Negril, or go for something more resort-oriented with a stay at Half Moon or The Tryall Club in Montego Bay. Adventurous travelers can make their way to Port Antonio to swim in tropical coves shaded by towering palms and stay in the rainforest at unique boutique properties like Geejam Hotel. There’s even a bioluminescent lagoon near Falmouth where you can swim in water that glows a deep blue hue thanks to single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates.
The Florida Keys
Make your way south of Miami to the archipelago that makes up the Florida Keys. This is as tropical as the mainland U.S. gets, and you’ll feel it in the balmy turquoise waters. Many travelers beeline it to Key West for the lively nightlife, but you’d be remiss to overlook great stops along the way, including Playa Largo Resort & Spa in Key Largo, the lovely Isla Bella Beach Resort on the island of Marathon, Bahia Honda State Park, and the many wrecks for scuba diving along the Florida Keys Wreck Trek.
Art, culture, nightlife, and world-class beaches combine to make Puerto Rico one of the best tropical vacation spots in the world. Of the many adventures to be had in this U.S. territory, there’s visiting El Yunque (the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service), paddling through Vieques’ famous bioluminescent lagoon, and dancing salsa while sipping mojitos at La Factoria in Old San Juan. Stay close to the action at the Fairmont El San Juan or splurge at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, which fronts a gorgeous stretch of sand west of San Juan.
Once you lay eyes on Grenada’s Grand Anse Beach — a golden sweep of sand lapped by waters best described as Robin’s egg blue in color — you might be ruined for life. And that’s just one of the beaches where you can soak up some of the Caribbean’s most laid-back vibes on this stunning spice island famous for growing nutmeg. Stay in style at Silversands Grenada, which claims to have the longest infinity pool in the Caribbean. And couples resort Sandals Grenada has rooms with private infinity pools fronting Pink Gin Beach that set the scene pretty perfectly for a tropical beach vacation to remember.
Dominica’s mostly black-sand beaches put a different spin on the typical tropical beach vacation. And most visitors who come to the Caribbean’s self-proclaimed “Nature Island” have things like hiking, waterfall hopping, and soaking in geothermal hot springs on their vacation to-do list, too. Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski opened in 2019 and has incredible swimming pools overlooking the beach. And Coulibri Ridge is a new eco-retreat with just 14 studios and duplexes built into the hillside with views of the Caribbean Sea and the neighboring island of Martinique.
If you’ve ever visited the Bahamas, you know the white-and-blue swirl of islands and sea makes for one of the best tropical vacation destinations in the world. Will you go full luxury and sleep aboard the magnificent Loon Yacht that plies these waters in exquisite style, stay in the heart of Nassau’s resort action at Baha Mar, or go off the beaten path for a guest house stay at one of the Out Islands, like San Salvador or Bimini? The Bahamas is one of those unique destinations with something for every type of traveler.
What’s better than pairing a mainland safari with a beach getaway to the island of Zanzibar, located roughly 22 miles off the coast of Tanzania? Take in the wildlife of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro and then head to the island of Zanzibar, known for its world-class beaches and Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The tiny Micronesian nation of Palau is about as physically removed from most places on the planet as you can get. But it’s worth trekking here for a tropical vacation in some of the most pristine islands on the planet. Palau is most famous for its limestone Rock Islands and Jellyfish Lake. And scuba divers revere the outer coral reefs and walls here for their abundance of marine life — including sharks, manta rays, and much more — which can easily be experienced on boat trips with Sam’s Tours or Fish ‘n Fins. One of the very best things you can do in this tropical wonderland is head out into the Rock Islands atop a kayak for a day tour or camping expedition with Paddling Palau.
Los Cabos, Mexico
Who said a desert can’t be a tropical vacation? Nobody in Baja California Sur, anyway, where Cabo San Lucas reigns supreme as the most vibrant tropical desert locale on the entire Baja Peninsula. Come for incredible oceanfront golf where you might see migrating whales in the winter as you tee off at epic courses like Quivira Los Cabos. And check out world-class luxury hotels like the adults-only Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Golf & Spa Resort, Grand Solmar Rancho San Lucas Resort & Spa, and boutique stay Acre Baja (with tree houses!). You’ll be surprised by the wildlife just offshore in the Cabo San Lucas Marine Reserve, where Dive Ninja Expeditions can put you in the water to snorkel or dive with sea lions and schooling fish.
Everything from an affordable beach vacation to something entirely luxurious awaits in Cancun, a destination known throughout the world for its turquoise waters and soft beaches with chalk-white sand. Whether you bed down in an affordable Airbnb or vacation rental set back from the beach or stay oceanfront with the family at the all-inclusive Club Med Cancun or an incredible property like Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun, tropical vacation vibes are sure to be in the mix (along with margaritas).
Riviera Maya, Mexico
South of Cancun in the Yucatan Peninsula and encompassing coastal spots like Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, Mexico’s Riviera Maya is another sure bet for a memorable tropical beach getaway for all types of travelers. Families rave about Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya, where all 280 suites are oceanfront with swim-out pools, and encounters with Sponge Bob and the Paw Patrol pups happen on the regular. For a couples getaway, you’ll never go wrong staying just south of there at the luxury all-inclusive Grand Velas Riviera Maya, where spa treatments and an incredible wellness water circuit await at the spa and there’s a lounge chair with your name on it along the uncrowded beach.
Lamu Archipelago, Kenya
For a beach escape to remember off the coast of Kenya, head to one of coastal East Africa’s first Swahili settlements and the incredible islands of Lamu and Manda in the Lamu Archipelago. On the northern tip of Manda Island, Manda Bay Lodge offers a private island stay in palm-thatched bungalows, most of which front the beach. You’ll want to venture to Lamu Island across the water, too, to see the towns of Shela and Lamu, with inexpensive guest houses for a more affordable vacation.
A favorite with budget backpackers and intrepid couples, the Philippines offers an inexpensive tropical beach vacation in Southeast Asia. Palawan’s towering limestone mountains that plunge into the turquoise sea make a postcard-worthy backdrop. When you’re ready for a splurge, set your sights on the private island resort of Amanpulo in Northern Palawan, where green and hawksbill sea turtles nest on the beach and you can snorkel and scuba dive over pristine reefs just offshore.
The stunning Seychelles conjure images of white-sand beaches backed by fascinating granite boulder formations. Cruise around the archipelago in style aboard a yacht with Variety Cruises on itineraries that depart from Mahe and Praslin. Or stay land-based at Six Senses Zil Pasyon or the Club Med Seychelles Resort, which opened in 2021 within a marine reserve at the heart of the archipelago. And with just 11 villas in the brand’s first private-island destination, North Island, a Luxury Collection Resort, Seychelles is a good place to offload any Marriott Bonvoy points you might have hanging around for a truly remarkable tropical vacation.
Koh Chang, Thailand
Most of Thailand’s roughly 2,000 miles of coastline have the makings for fun in the sun, with easy access to some of the best and cheapest street foods in the world. Perhaps you’ve heard of Koh Samui and Phuket. But if the lush Thai island of Koh Chang has never registered on your radar, it’s worth seeking out for an inexpensive tropical vacation in Southeast Asia. The hilly and verdant island lies in the Gulf of Thailand and is part of Mu Ko Chang National Park. You’ll find family-run guesthouses everywhere here for an affordable stay, but even boutique hotels won’t break the bank. Spend your extra baht indulging in the delicious local seafood and heading out on eco-tours into the jungle.
Your best bet for a tropical-feeling beach vacation in Europe is on Zakynthos, Greece, an Ionian Sea island where the famous Navagio Beach (also known as Shipwreck Beach) can only be reached by boat. While the climate here is Mediterranean, the vegetation skews semi-tropical thanks to ample rainfall that keeps things green. Couples can look forward to an adults-only stay at Lesante Blu, where yachts leave from the resort pier to tour you around the island.
Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Brazil’s best tropical destination — where you can guarantee the waters to be balmy and the air to be silky warm — lies off the country’s northern coast in the volcanic archipelago of Fernando de Noronha. Mountainous terrain and incredible white-sand beaches pair with some of South America’s very best scuba diving right offshore for plenty of vacation adventures. Incredible views of the island’s interesting topography overlooking the Bay of Sueste await when you stay at Pousada Maravilha, an eco-luxe property known for its excellent onsite restaurant serving fresh seafood and Brazilian specialties.
Heron Island, Australia
Australia is home to more than 16,000 miles of glorious coastline. But when you want the best tropical vacation spot on the world’s smallest continent, head to Heron Island, a tropical island of pristine natural beauty located along the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland. You can snorkel right from the island’s protected beaches or take short boat rides to scuba dive on nearby reefs. All of Heron Island’s accommodations are keyless, so you don’t have to worry about taking along a room key or card while you splash in the sea, go kayaking, or head out on nature walks.
Visit Spain’s legendary Balearic Island of Ibiza during the summer months, and you’re in for one of Europe’s top tropical-feeling vacations. The island is famous for its club scene and upscale seaside restaurants that draw the yacht set, but there are incredible natural sights here, too, including Ses Salines Natural Park in the southern stretches of the island. For a peaceful stay, make Ibiza Gran Hotel your base, and make sure to book a coveted table at the hotel’s celebrated restaurant, La Gaia by Óscar Molina, which snagged its first Michelin star in 2021.
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