Tropical Vacations - Africa

15 Best Tropical Vacations – Africa 2023

Dreamy beaches, silky warm seas, lush landscapes and endless sunshine: these are some of the best ingredients of the ideal tropical holiday. But each destination offers its own sultry charms. Some dazzle with their natural beauty. Others add cultural attractions to the mix, with exotic customs, architecture and delicious cuisine. A few offer eco-adventures and wild nature, and some sleepy islands seem to take you back in time.

Divers flock to thriving coral reefs and surfers search for the perfect wave. It’s just a matter of finding the perfect fit. From Asia to Australia and the US to the Caribbean, this list of 15 tropical holiday destinations covers some of the most beautiful islands in the world, as well as ideas on fun things to do and destinations to suit all budgets, whether you’re looking for a bungalow above the water in Bora Bora or a bamboo hut on the beach of Bali.

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1 Bora Bora, Tahiti

Bora Bora, Tahiti

Bora Bora is the ultimate paradise in the South Pacific. This lush and dramatically beautiful island in French Polynesia rises to a sharp emerald peak surrounded by an azure lagoon. Clusters of coconut trees line the beaches, and luxurious bungalows sit on the crystal clear waters, some with glass floor panels so you can look into the blooming sea below. While Bora Bora scores top marks for natural beauty, it also checks the box if you’re looking for cultural appeal. The official language is French and you can taste the Gallic influence in the gourmet cuisine. Add in a whole host of fun water sports, kayak trips to small motu (islands), picturesque hiking trails, and adventures like shark diving, and it’s easy to see why many travelers see pricey Bora Bora as a top honeymoon destination and the ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime lifetime place for the perfect tropical vacation.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bora Bora

2 Riviera Maya, Mexico

Beach at Tulum Ruins
Beach at Tulum Ruins

If you’re looking for beautiful beaches, culture, and spicy cuisine all wrapped up with an affordable price tag, Mexico’s Riviera Maya (Maya Riviera) is an excellent choice. At the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, along the Caribbean coast, the Riviera Maya includes the resort destinations of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the island of Cozumel. You don’t have to stay at a big, bustling all-inclusive resort here, although you’ll find plenty to like on the long, postcard-worthy beaches. Intimate boutique hotels and yoga retreats are also in the mix. Swimming with stingrays and dolphins, diving, snorkeling and fishing are popular activities in the warm, clear waters and culture vultures can explore the beautiful ancient ruins of Tulum, in a stunning location above the turquoise Caribbean Sea, or Chichén Itzá, a few hours’ drive from the resort strip.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Riviera Maya

3 Maldives


Stretched across the Indian Ocean southwest of India and Sri Lanka, the 26 natural atolls of the Maldives exude an almost surreal beauty, thanks in large part to the clear blue waters that surround them. If stepping into the crystal clear, soul-warming sea is a top criteria for your perfect tropical holiday, then this is the place to do it, because water makes up 99 percent of the Maldives. Paradoxically, it also threatens to flood the shores of this low-lying island. Man is the capital, but most visitors head straight to one of the remote atolls, where luxury resorts and white beaches surrounded by aquamarine waters await. Diving and snorkeling are world class, and the Maldives is also a top surfing destination with the most popular surf spots in the North and South Male Atoll. Other popular activities here include swimming with manta rays and whale sharks, as well as big game fishing. With water at its heart and so many islands to choose from, the Maldives is also the perfect candidate for a cruise holiday.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Maldives

4 Editor’s Pick Aitutaki, Cook Islands

One Foot Island
One Foot Island

Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, with close ties to New Zealand, is a dream destination for potential castaways. Blessed with a clear aqua lagoon, lush peaks, sublime palm-lined beaches and some of the friendliest people in the South Pacific, Aitutaki ticks all the boxes for the perfect exotic tropical holiday. Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands, and the main tourist gateway, but Aitutaki, a 45-minute flight away, is the crown jewel, and that’s saying a lot in an archipelago of 15 delightful tropical islands. Swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and fishing are all fantastic, and the island offers a window into the laid-back village life, which comes to a standstill on Sundays for church services. More than 20 motu (small islands) are scattered around the lagoon and the small island of Tapuaetai (One Foot Island), in the southeast corner, is a popular excursion with beautiful views of the lagoon. If you really want to splurge, opt for a luxurious over-the-water bungalow. From here you can paddle to your own motu, splash under a palm tree and pretend you’re Robinson Crusoe for the day.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Aitutaki

5 Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, Hawaii
Kauai, Hawaii

Called the Garden Isle, Kaua’i is a tropical Eden, with lush rainforests, waterfalls and spectacular green coastal peaks. A natural masterpiece of dramatic landscapes with lava sculptures, the island has a more relaxing atmosphere than its popular sister islands Maui and Oahu. Although Kauai is known for being home to one of the rainiest places on earth, the island is made up of several microclimates and the area around tourist area. Poipu is often drier. Underwater you will find colorful coral reefs, where turtles and tropical fish swim. On land, you can bask on golden beaches and admire the cloud-covered landscape from the cliffs above Hanalei Bay , hike among the velvet peaks of the breathtaking Nāpali Coast , and explore the deep and jungly 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon . Tropical gardens, waterfalls, cute coastal towns and fantastic surfing spots are other top attractions. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself sharing the beach with slumbering monk seals; nature reigns here, and that’s a big part of the island’s allure.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Kauai

6 The Mamanuca Islands, Fiji

The Mamanuca Islands, Fiji
The Mamanuca Islands, Fiji

If you dream of an idyllic South Sea Islands bathed in sunshine, Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands fit the bill. A short boat ride from the gateway city of Nadi, this picture-perfect string of around 20 islands are popular for their gleaming palm-lined beaches, crystal-clear waters and thriving coral reefs. When you first catch a glimpse of these tropical beauties, it’s easy to see why Survivor and the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away were filmed on islands in this chain. When choosing where to stay, your budget and interests will determine the best island in Fiji for you.

Accommodation ranges from lively backpacker resorts to family-friendly hotels with thatched bures (traditional huts), and luxury hideaways such as Vomo Island Resort, Likuliku Lagoon Resort, and the adults-only Tokoriki Island Resort. Popular mid-range resorts include Matamanoa Island Resort, Malolo Island Resort, Mana Island Resort and Castaway Island. One of the planet’s best surf breaks, Cloudbreak , is located about a mile from Tavarua Island Resort, but you can also visit this legendary break from other island resorts. Fijians love children, so this is also a fantastic destination for families with young people who want to relax.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in the Mamanuca Islands

7 St. Barts, the Caribbean

St. Barts, the Caribbean
St. Barts, the Caribbean

If you love the glittering scene of jet-setters, private villas and beautiful beaches, French-influenced St. Barts should be at the top of your list. But everything comes at a price. A constant stream of visiting movie stars and mega-moguls means that accommodation and food here cost more than other destinations – especially in high season. In return, however, you will find beautiful, blonde beaches with green hills, world-class shopping and dining, and a cultural sophistication that many other tropical destinations have to offer. Like everywhere, the low season offers great deals and all beaches are public, so you can hide away in a private villa or boutique hotel and experience the life of the rich and famous for less. Besides enjoying the beaches, shopping and feasting on delicious continental treats, popular activities here include snorkeling, diving, kitesurfing, kayaking, fishing, surfing and sailing. The best beaches are Saline Beach, Gouverneur Beach and Lorient, and the red-roofed capital of Gustavia is one of the most beautiful cities in the Caribbean.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in St. Barts

8 From Abacos, from Bahama’s

From Abacos, from Bahama's
From Abacos, from Bahama’s

Nearly 200 miles east of Florida, the beautiful Abacos, in the Bahamas, offer some of the world’s best waters for boating and cruising. Also called the Out Islands or Family Islands, these peaceful Atlantic islands seem a world away from the busy tourist beaches of nearby Florida, with their secluded pine tree-lined beaches; thriving coral reefs; and sleepy fishing villages, where golf carts and boats are the main mode of transportation. British Loyalists settled on these islands and you can experience this heritage in the cute and colorful colonial houses lining the narrow streets. Prime areas for low-key vacations include adorable Elbow Cay , with its famous candy-striped lighthouse; charming three-mile-long Green Turtle Cay , which feels like a step back in time to the old Bahamas; and Treasure Cay , on Great Abaco, with its beautiful white-sand beach lapped by waters in technicolor turquoise. Guana Cay, Walker’s Cay and Man O’ War Cay are other popular islands. Favorite pastimes include fishing, diving, snorkeling, relaxing and chatting with the locals, and with miles of pristine beaches it’s easy to find your own private spot. of soft, white sand.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in the Abacos

9 Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye, Belize
Ambergris Caye, Belize

Off the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, Ambergris Caye in Belize is one of the country’s top tourist destinations and the largest of its 200 cayes. While Caribbean beaches are generally better for fishing than swimming, thanks to their thriving turtle grass flats, the stunning Hol Chan Marine Reserve more than compensates with excellent diving and snorkeling less than half a mile from shore. This underwater wonderland is part of the Belize Barrier Reef system, the second largest barrier reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Shark Ray Alley is a popular site, where divers can come face to face with nurse sharks and stingrays. Fishermen also flock here to hunt the flats for bonefish and try their luck for permit, tarpon, snook and barracuda. Part of the island’s charm is the colorful town of San Pedro , where golf carts rule the streets and hip restaurants serve fresh seafood and Mexican-inspired cuisine. Because the northern part of the island is a stone’s throw from Mexico, the island has a strong Mexican influence and many residents speak Spanish.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Ambergris Caye

10 Dominican Republic


Punta Cana

On the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic is a top choice for budget-conscious travelers, but this popular vacation destination is much more than beautiful beaches and budget resorts. Rich in history and culture, “DR,” as it is called, also has some of the most diverse ecosystems in the Caribbean, with steamy jungles, deserts, mangroves, coral reefs, savannah and soaring green peaks.

Get away from the tourist strips of Puerto Plata , Punta Cana , La Romana , and Samaná , where all-inclusive resorts converge along idyllic avenues of palm-lined beach, and you’ll discover a world of adventures. You can climb the Caribbean’s highest peaks, stroke the white waters of the Río Yaque del Norte, hike to waterfalls through steamy jungle, and cycle through pine forests along alpine trails. Cultural sights are also a highlight. The capital, Santo Domingo , is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with charming colonial architecture and a fascinating history. But if you just want to sunbathe, dive, swim, surf and snorkel on a beautiful beach, you will also find plenty of options here.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in the Dominican Republic

11 Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia
Bali, Indonesia

For those looking for a tropical holiday with a spiritual side, Bali beckons with its mystical charm. Temples filled with fragrant incense; rice fields glowing in the late orange sun; and the calm, friendly people of Bali add to the island’s irresistible appeal. If you’re looking for a lively beach scene with plenty of shops and restaurants, venture into busy Kuta or Seminyak , where you’ll also find fantastic surfing beaches. Sanur is a great place for families, with its gentle waves, and Ubud , in the lush hills away from the coastal buzz, is the emerald soul of the island. Bali is also known for its relatively affordable spa treatments, so you can pamper yourself without the sticker shock. Accommodation includes everything from cheap-as-chips hostels to luxury villas with personal chefs and drivers. The neighboring volcanic island of Lombok is also a popular destination, with less development than its famous sister island.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bali

12 Port Douglas, Australia

Four Mile Beach
Four Mile Beach

About an hour’s drive north of Cairns in Queensland, Port Douglas is an ideal destination for adventurous nature lovers. This luxury city has evolved from its humble origins as a snoozy fishing village into a popular tropical tourist spot and a convenient base for reef tours and wilderness safaris. Two of the richest ecosystems in Australia are a short distance from here: the Great Barrier Reef, with fantastic diving and snorkelling, and the Daintree Rainforest, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Site, which tumbles to the reef-clad waters of Cape Tribulation . The city’s leafy streets are lined with mango trees and palms, as well as a cluster of chic shops, cafes and art galleries, and the star feature is Four Mile Beach , a blonde crescent of sand-fringed sand. Swimming here is limited during the sea day season (November to June), but it is always a favorite place for walking. Other major tourist attractions include the Wildlife Habitat and the Bally Hooley Sugar Train , which runs through sugar cane fields to Mossman. Fishing trips and expeditions north through the rugged landscape of the Cape York Peninsula are also popular. The winter season, from May to September, is the best time to visit, when temperatures are cooler and drier weather prevails.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Port Douglas

13 The coast of Andaman, Thailand

Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi Island

The Andaman Coast is a convenient base for exploring the spectacular islands of the Andaman Sea. These lush limestone peaks rise from turquoise waters to form one of the planet’s most striking seascapes. Famous islands include the Phi Phi Islands such as Ko Phi Phi Don, with its many resorts, and Ko Phi Phi Leh, where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach was filmed. These islands are on the popular Phuket Day Trip Circuit, but you can still find your own peaceful slice of paradise if you venture further afield. Phang Nga Bay is home to over a hundred of these emerald beauties, including the famous James Bond Island.

Popular areas to use as a base for exploring all this natural beauty are Krabi or the popular Phuket, Thailand’s largest island. The dazzling scenery continues inland at Khao Sok National Park , where you can interact with elephants amid the jungle-shrouded peaks. Accommodation ranges from homestays and cheap beachside bamboo shacks to luxury villa-style resorts on sea cliffs, but even high-end resorts here tend to be more affordable than other tropical destinations. This is a great choice if you’re looking for exotic culture, fiery food and delightful surroundings that won’t break the budget. Try to avoid the southwest monsoon, which usually hits the coast from late May to mid-October.

14 The Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica


The Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

On Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, the Nicoya Peninsula is a hotspot for surfers and ecotourists, with its pockets of jungle and long beaches washed by perfect barren breaks. Surfing can be great at any time of the year. Top tourist towns in the region include Tamarindo , the most developed town on the peninsula, with fantastic surfing for all levels at Playa Tamarindo, as well as a wide range of restaurants and hotels. It attracts a colorful mix of fun-loving backpackers, surfers, families and relaxed expats. Around Tamarindo you can snorkel, scuba dive, horseback ride, zip line, and observe turtles that nest from October to March near Playa Grande , one of Costa Rica’s most important breeding grounds for leatherback turtles. upscale Santa Teresa in Mal Pais , along the southwestern corner of the peninsula, is also known for its fantastic surfing, as well as yoga retreats, organic eateries and boutique hideaways. Other major points of interest include beautiful Nosara , backed by a tangle of green forest, Montezuma and peaceful Samara , one of the peninsula’s least developed towns. Not far from these beach towns, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve protects one of the last untouched areas of cloud forest in the continent.

Accommodation: Where to Stay on the Nicoya Peninsula

15 Florida Keys

Aerial photo
Aerial photo

Home to the only coral reef in the United States, the Florida Keys offers a fun tropical setting, fantastic fishing, and some lovely palm-tree-lined stretches of sand. Located south of Miami, more than 110 miles to about 90 miles from Cuba, the Keys are coral islands connected by trails so you can drive between them on the Overseas Highway, which runs from Key Largo south to Key West.

Top attractions include the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary at Key Largo, with fantastic diving and snorkeling; Bahia Honda State Park , where you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches; and legendary Key West , where an anything-goes attitude complements the colorful Caribbean-style cottages and rich Hemingway history. You can also visit the southernmost tip of the United States here. Islamorada calls itself the “Sport Fishing City of the World,” with tarpon, bonefish and permit to catch; and marathon running is also excellent for casting a line. Major fishing competitions are held every year in the surrounding waters. While you’re here, try some conch, a type of sea snail, and the famous key lime pie.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in the Florida Keys

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