Now that travel is firmly back on the agenda, where are the best 10 islands for adventure holidays & travel? We found the 10 best island vacations for you to visit if you love going off the beaten track and adventure is your middle name!
We Love Adventure Islands. Do You?
We seem to have a thing about islands! We’ve previously written about spending a month on Sardina, travelling across Madeira, hiking on the Isle of Skye, swimming off the coast of Sumatra, snorkelling from Siargao in The Philippines, the quietest top Greek islands, the best Greek party Islands and not to forget the top Croatian Islands but which are the best islands for adventure travel?
If you’re looking for a truly adventurous experience, here are the best islands to visits for Adventure Holidays.
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1. Best Islands for Adventure Holidays: Kaui, Hawai’i
If you are looking for a gorgeous Hawaiian island that is packed with adventurous activities, you’ll definitely want to head to the beautiful island of Kauai.
There are plenty of direct flights from the west coast of America to Lihue Airport however if you’re flying internationally you’ll more than likely fly into Honolulu on Oahu. From here you’ll need to take a 25-minute inter-island flight to Kauai. From here you could rent a car, while they have a good bus system, it doesn’t go everywhere and you won’t want to waste time taking the bus when you could be out exploring the island.
Kauai has 3 main areas: The North Shore, the East Shore and the South/West Shore. The highway doesn’t go all the way around the island (it’s blocked by the Na Pali coast.) So, if you are planning on doing a lot of Kauai adventures, you’ll want to stay on the East Shore so you can easily access both the north and south shores. See the range of resorts, boutique hotels and vacation rentals in Lihue and Kapaa below.
One of Kauai’s top attractions is the Waimea Canyon. People call it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and once you get there, you’ll see the uncanny resemblance. Waimea Canyon is an awesome place to go hiking and there are tons of trails worth checking out. It’s also a popular place to take a helicopter ride because there are some hidden waterfalls and crazy scenery that is best seen from the air. Just a bit further up the road is Kokee State Park where there are more trails and one of the most popular places for camping on Kauai.
Kauai is also an awesome place for water adventures. There are lots of incredible places to go snorkeling on Kauai, like Tunnels Beach and Poipu Beach Park. Plus, there’s amazing kayaking, diving and you can take a boat ride around the Na Pali Coast or even across the channel to the forbidden island of Ni’ihau. Kauai has all the other typical Hawaii adventures like ziplining, cave exploring, extensive hiking and more too.
Written by Marcie from Hawaii Travel with Kids. See more from Marcie on Facebook.
2. Top Islands To Travel For Adventure: Corsica, France
It may come as a surprise that the largest island in France is also the most adventurous! The island of Corsica, off the southern coast of France, is nicknamed the “Mountain in the sea”, and its 1700 peaks are sure to impress.
The highest mountain, Monte Cinto, stands close to 3000 meters high and is a hotspot for climbing, hiking and mountaineering. Yet you won’t have to venture that far to find challenging hikes – the famous GR20 will take you through the wild and rugged mountain ranges too.
Come winter, the GR20 becomes the Haute Route (also called the Alta Strada), and while it’s possible to tackle it on skis, you’d need to be an experienced ski mountaineer to take on the challenging track… Two ski resorts can also be found on Corsica for late winter fun – making it one of the few places that it’s possible to ski and surf in the same day!
Speaking of surfing, the island’s coast hosts its fair share of adventure also. Aside from catching waves, you can weave your way through the unforgiving Desert des Agriates on a 4WD tour (again, this is an advanced track that only the most experienced 4WD’ers should navigate), hiking or kayaking around the incredible Calanques de Piana, or canyoning in secret ravines near the craggy coast.
To get to Corsica, you can take the ferry from Nice or Toulon to one of four different ports on the island. This is a convenient option as it allows you to take your car with you if you’re travelling from mainland Europe. You can choose to sail during the day (in which case you could get lucky and spot some sea life on the way) or take the more leisurely overnight ferry and sleep in one of the dedicated cabins.
Alternatively, flights arrive into four international airports on the island from many places within France and several European capitals. If you fly in, it’s advisable to rent a car, as you’ll want to traverse the island in order to make the most of your stay and the range of adventure activities on offer.
Many tour operators are available to assist on adventurous outings, but it’s entirely possible to make your own way around the untamed island too – just make sure you’re well prepared!
Written by Nadine from Le Long Weekend. See more from Nadine on Instagram.
3. Best Adventure Islands To Visit: Iceland
Iceland is made for exploring and even without commercial tours, you can have an amazing adventure on this phenomenal island.
There are two ways to get to Iceland, either by flying into Keflavík airport in the southwest corner of the country or by ferry from Denmark. The ferry means that you can take your own vehicle and see the Faroe Islands on your way to or from Iceland. The crossing takes a number of days but brings you into Seydisfjordur in the south-east of the country meaning that you are starting your adventure away from the main tourist areas. See ferry prices here.
Iceland is best explored by car or camper van and the campsites are all well-kept and very inexpensive. Many have good facilities and even the most basic have a tap and toilet. The road conditions and weather can change quickly so it is essential to plan ahead and always have a back-up plan. Even in summer camping may need to be abandoned for a solid base for a night.
The Golden Circle that many people visit during a short trip to the country has a large geyser at Haukadalur, a natural geothermal area with mud pools and steaming vents. Thingvellir National Park is where two tectonic plates can be seen and you can dive between the plates and the stunning multi-section waterfall at Gullfoss is nearby.
After the Golden Circle, the landscape becomes more exposed and the massive glaciers can be seen as your drive east. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is the main lagoon where you can see the glaciers close-up, but this is very busy with boat tours. Before you reach Jökulsárlón there are smaller lagoons with equally impressive icebergs that you can have to yourself. At Jökulsárlón there is the beautiful Diamond Beach with ice being washed ashore with every wave. This is a magical place to walk and explore.
Following the ring road around you will see an ever-changing landscape, with the glacial landscape changing to gentle fjords and green meadows.
In the north things start to warm up again with the steaming and boiling geothermal landscape at Hverir and Krafla being an amazing area to visit before heading onwards towards Reykjavík. All around the country are natural hot springs heated geothermally. These are fantastic for a dip and the free versions are so much more fun to find and soak in than the huge commercialised spas.
Written by Suzanne from Meandering Wild. See more from Suzanne on Instagram.
4. Adventurous Islands To Travel: Siargao, The Philippines
This teardrop-shaped island on the southern extremities of The Philippines is packed full of charm, wonder and adventure and makes the perfect adventure holiday for couples, families and singles alike.
To get to the island of Siargao you’ll need to take an internal flight from another island in The Philippines or you can catch the long & bumpy ferry over from Cebu although I’d only recommend doing this if you have time to spare.
The island of Siargao is small at only 35km long and the best way to explore it is to hire a bike or tuk-tuk and drive yourself around. Tuktuks are so much fun and they give you the freedom to explore as you wish. We hired one with our three kids and travelled the island at ease, exploring all the hidden gems that most tourists don’t discover.
Siargao is famous for its Cloud 9 surf break but there’s so much more to do other than just surf. Don’t worry if you can’t surf because you can learn there in the shallow waves or you can go island hopping, go diving or snorkelling, visit Sugba Lagoon, lounge about in the tidal pools of Magpupunko Rock, shop at the markets, do yoga or just chillax on the beaches eating scrumptious food and admiring the views.
Most people don’t spend long Siargao which is a travesty. Siargao is a magical little island but if you want more adventure you can always stop off in Cebu afterwards to snorkel or dive with the whale sharks.
Written by Emma from Journey Of A Nomadic Family.
5. Adventure Island: Hormuz, Iran
Hormuz Island also called the Bloody Island or Rainbow Island of Iran, is one of the most colourful and adventurous islands on our planet. It’s probably one of the least visited islands in the world. This epic jewel is located in the southern part of Iran in the province of Hormozgan. You can only get there by ferry, either from Qeshm Island or the port city of Bandar Abbas. Ferries from Bandar Abbas to Hormuz leave at 7am, 9am, 12pm, 2pm, 5pm and 8:30pm. It takes roughly 40 minutes and costs 70,000 IRR. Ferries from Qeshm to Hormuz are at 7am and 2pm and take 50 minutes. The ticket is 90,000 IRR.
The most fun ways of exploring the island are simply on foot, by bike, or by tuk-tuk (rickshaw). You can easily rent a bike to see the island or hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you around the island.
Travelling on this tiny little island feels like being on another planet or being a character of a magical sci-fi fantasy. The most extraordinary parts of the island are Red Beach, the Rainbow Mountains and the Valley of Statue.
The Red Beach is called Red Beach due to the fact that the soil of most part of the island is red. The sand is literally red and also colours the water of the Persian Gulf. You will absolutely feel out of this world here.
The Rainbow Mountain is the most colourful part of the island where you can see a spate of shades and hues of red, yellow, ochre, white, brown, grey, beige, green, gold, orange, and turquoise colours. It will take your breath away.
The Valley of Statue is a mind-blowing place where gigantic rocks have been sculpted into all kinds of strange shapes by the natural elements. The view from the rocks is thrilling.
On this island, even what you eat will amaze you. Can you imagine cooking with and eating the red soil from the beach and the mountains? One of the most essential ingredients of the local meals is indeed the red soil of the island. Two of the most famous foods from Hormuz Island are flatbread and stew made with red soil.
Due to the limited infrastructure on the island, the best way to stay on Hormuz Island is to camp or stay with a local family. It’s common on the island that families host travellers and organise activities for them for a humble amount of money. Many locals offer their rooms as guesthouses and you will be offered these from the moment you get on and off the ferry. There is one hostel that you can pre-book before arriving.
Camping on the beach is also really popular in Hormuz so if you have a tent then find a nice spot and set up camp. It’s legal in Iran to pitch a tent almost anywhere!
Written by Diana from The Globe-Trotting Detective. See more from Diana on Instagram.
6. Top 10 Adventure Islands: Lofoten Islands, Norway
Nestled along the western shore of Norway, in the Arctic Circle, are the Lofoten Islands. Photographers visit here from around the world to capture the incredible beauty of this place. But, it’s not just beautiful, it’s also the perfect destination for anyone seeking a bit of adventure.
Getting to the Lofoten Islands is where the adventure starts! This remote island destination is accessible by car, ferry and airplane, but choosing which suits you depends on your budget and your schedule.
The easiest way to get there and maximize your time is with a short flight from Oslo, Tromso, or Bodo. The three main airports in the Lofoten Islands are Leknes (LKN), Svolvaer (SVJ), and Harstad/ Narvik. Flight options vary greatly by season.
Prefer the freedom of exploring by car? The Lofoten Islands are about 8 hours from Tromso or 12 hours from Bodo.
Once in the Lofoten Islands, the best way to get around is by car. There is a public bus system with very limited access to anyplace off the main E-10 highway. To access the best photo spots and hiking trails, the public bus will not get you to where you want to go.
So, what is there to do in the Lofoten Islands? There are so many choices, no matter the season.
Definitely bring your hiking gear! The best trails include Mannen, located at Haukland Beach, and Ryten, located near Fredvang. Both will take you up to unbelievable viewpoints of the surrounding fjords. If you visit the Lofoten Islands in winter, which I highly recommend, bring crampons!
Spend time exploring the adorable fishing villages, such as Hamnoy and Nusfjord, with the iconic red cabins on stilts over the icy water of the Norwegian Sea. Many of the villages will have a cafe or bar where you can sit and enjoy the view with a bit of apple cake.
Prefer your adventures on the water? During the warmer months of the year, kayaks are available to rent so you can paddle around the fjords. If you’re feeling brave, head to Unstad and surf the frigid waters there year-round!
The adventure doesn’t end when the sun goes down – at least not for part of the year. From January to mid-March, the Lofoten Islands are a great place to chase the Northern Lights. During the four nights I was there, I saw the Northern Lights for hours every night dancing above our cabin. It’s a truly magical experience!
It may be a challenge to get there, but the Lofoten Islands will not disappoint anyone looking for an adventurous island destination.
Susan Gleissner from This Big Wild World. See more from Susan on Facebook.
7. Adventurous Travel Islands: Samoa, Pacific Islands
Have you heard of Samoa before? It’s a small island nation in the Pacific? Well, we’re here to tell you that it should be your next travel destination! When you think about Pacific islands, you’re probably picturing clear turquoise waters and golden palm tree-lined beaches. While you can certainly find this in Samoa, there is also enough off-the-beaten-path adventure to fill up a 10-day Samoa itinerary.
Samoa is only reachable by plane (or a very, very long boat ride) through daily flights from New Zealand (Auckland) and Australia (Sydney & Brisbane). Once you’re in Samoa, the easiest way to get around is by rental car. Samoa consists of two main islands, Upolu & Savai’i, and most of the worthwhile things to do are easily reachable from the main roads that circumfere each island. It takes less than a full day to drive around each island, but that doesn’t mean that you should. There is enough to see and experience in Samoa to easily fill two weeks.
Samoa is absolutely incredible for snorkelling and diving. You’ll find a completely different world in its waters, teeming with life. Giant colourful clams the size of armchairs, coral reefs in all sorts of odd shapes that are teeming with vibrantly coloured exotic fish, sea turtles, funny pufferfish, and schools of fish that are large enough to block out the sun if you swim under them.
Then there are dozens of impressive waterfalls in Samoa, most of them with deep plunge pools with crystal clear water that you can swim in. There are even waterfalls that have polished the rocks so much that you can use them as waterslides.
Another interesting thing about Samoa is that it is volcanic, and previous eruptions have left massive lava fields on the shores that make you feel like you’re on another planet when walking on them. On the southern coast of Savai’i, the waves have carved out holes into these lava rocks. At high tide, the waves push water through these holes. Turning them into massive water cannons that shoot water up dozens of meters into the air.
If you’re into hiking, you can hike up to the crater of Mt. Matavanu from where you can overlook the whole island of Savai’i. Or you can delve into the underground lava tunnels, some of them big enough for a truck to drive through.
One of the highlights in Samoa is visiting the To Sua Ocean Trench. In a beautiful jungle-like garden, the ground suddenly disappears into a 30-meter deep hole. This hole, surrounded by lush greenery hanging down from the edges, is filled with the clearest saltwater you’ve ever seen. A ladder takes you down into the surprisingly warm water, and once you’re in we assure you that you’ll never want to leave again.
Written by Tom & Zi from We Are Craving Adventure. See more from them on Instagram.
8. Best Islands for Adventure Travel: Galapagos, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands are a spectacular archipelago on the Ecuadorian coast, one of those places that seem impossible to reach until you do and you pinch yourself to make sure it is all true. It can be an expensive trip but there are ways to enjoy it without breaking the bank, even for solo travellers and backpackers.
So if you are planning a Galapagos Islands Vacation on a budget here is what you have to know. You fly either from Guayaquil or Quito to San Cristobal or to Santa Cruz, the two most developed islands. If you decide to go on a cruise it’s better to book it in advance directly with the operator and they will organize everything for you. Some operators also organize the flights, but you would need to check with them.
I preferred to hop among the three islands, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela Island spending 4 to 5 days on each of them enjoying both free activities and organized tours.
There are scheduled ferries that take you from Santa Cruz to each island but no connection in between the other ones directly, so you will always have to go through Santa Cruz. It’s about 2 hrs each way and sometimes it can be choppy.
Each island has its own charm and many different things to do.
Highlights of Santa Cruz (free activities):
- Walk to Tortuga Bay beach – a lovely 30 minutes walk among threes and birds.
- Amazing snorkelling at Las Grietas and then relax in Playa Alemanes (boats leave from Puerto Ayora)
- Explore the highlands and visit the Giant Tortoise walking around freely
- Get to know the Conservancy project in the Charles Darwin Research foundation and relax in one of its 2 beaches
From Santa Cruz, there is a MUST-DO tour to St Bartolome’s island. It’s a bit expensive (180 USD) but it was the highlight of the trip (or one of them).
San Cristobal Island offers also amazing beaches and snorkelling where you can mingle with the hilarious sea lions, if you go in November and December you will see the playful little ones trying to come close to you, please do not touch them.
Insider tip: It’s prohibited by the law to touch the sea lions, especially the pups. In fact, if you touch them the mother would not recognize their smell anymore and will refuse to nurse them, abandoning them to their own destiny, which doesn’t have a happy ending.
One unmissable tour here is the 360º Island tour. Spectacular! Isabela Island is the most laid back and less developed island, to forget about WIFI and totally connect with the magnificent nature. Here you will see plenty of sea lions who will take over the beach by the pier and benches. Also will enjoy the view of the graceful pink flamingoes, and iguanas and of course, the giant tortoises. You will be able to rent a bike and enjoy the island in freedom. I will suggest you should also do a kayak tour to La Tintoreras where you will snorkel with sharks and see the adorable penguins.
There are so many things to love about the Galapagos islands and no matter if you go for a week or a month, it will definitely make a memorable trip.
Written by Isabella from Boundless Roads. See more from Isabella on Instagram.
9. Islands For Adventure Travellers: Sumatra, Indonesia
Sumatra seems to be somewhere that everyone has heard of but nobody has visited. So we decided to change that and we visited and backpacked part of it with our three kids. If you’re looking for an off the beaten track island for adventure holidays, Sumatra is definitely it.
The easiest way to get to Sumatra is to fly because the ferry from Malaysia takes DAYS and there are no cabins and no food shops onboard. We flew into Medan in the north (just a 45-minute flight from Malaysia) and out of Padang in the west. The flights in and around this part of south-east Asia are diabolical and always delayed. If you’re booking multiple legs, allow at least 3 hours in between flights. We booked a flight from Sumatra to Jakarta to Denpasar to Cairns and allowed 12 hours to get to Denpasar but we were dashing through the airport & only just made our last fight.
Once we’d landed in Medan, we used a private transfer to get us from the airport to the jungle of Bukit Lawang but after that, we used shared minibuses with other tourists, private taxis and boats to get around. The roads of Sumatra are much a work in progress and driving can be a little haphazard. Sometimes the maps are not always accurate and many roads are just bumpy tracks running through plantations, of which there seem to be thousands upon thousands of kilometres of.
Our first stop in Sumatra were the jungles of Bukit Lawang but if you don’t like tourists, be prepared for this to be tourist nightmare. It#s described as the gateway to the jungle and although you will see some animals, they’re re-conditioned animals saved from slavery that are put and fed in the local forests by locals. It’s fun to see the jungle animals but just know that they’re not entirely wild.
Following this, we headed down to Berastagi to climb an active volcano and visit the local ghost villages. Most travellers skip Berastagi for Bukittinggi where there’s Lake Toba, another volcano and the remains of a Dutch town. I’d strongly recommend visiting Bukittinggi as there’s more to do and it’s much more picturesque.
The fun really began though when we headed down to the west coast and stayed at Rimba’s ecolodge and Ricky’s Beach House. Our kids jumped a 10 metre waterfall and we swam the gorgeous turquoise waters near Merak island.
Written by Emma from Journey Of A Nomadic Family.
10. Islands for Adventure Holidays: Vieques, Puerto Rico
Vieques, a 52 square mile island located a few miles east of the Puerto Rican mainland, is unique, stunning, adventurous, and packed with history. After a quick 20-minute flight from San Juan, rent a Jeep and explore this tiny, yet mighty destination and immerse yourself in its beauty, history, and adventure.
But, first, a quick history lesson. The United States Navy once used Vieques as a bombing range and testing ground. However, fed up with the devastation of their precious homeland, the citizens of Vieques waged multiple protests, and by 1975, the Navy ceased their operations and began vacating the island. The area once used by the Navy is now a wildlife refuge. However, only a portion of it is open to the public, as much of the sanctuary is still undergoing clean-up of the contamination left by the US Navy.
Untouched, unspoiled and spectacular, Vieques has it all. Relax in the pristine white sand on one of the multiple palm tree-lined beaches with a rum drink or a taste of the local brew, Medalla Light. However, Vieques isn’t just a relaxing, tropical destination; there are a few unique adventures that you don’t want to miss.
If you are ready for adventure, kayaking the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world on the darkest night is magical. Mosquito Bay is full of tiny unicellular organisms called Pyrodinium bahamense, dinoflagellates “dinos.” When the dinos come in contact with your hand, a fish, or your oar, the interaction creates a burst of starry blue light.
Other unique adventures await, horseback riding on black sand beaches, scuba diving, and snorkelling the crystal blue water packed with the most colourful fish you’ve ever seen.
Save time to tour the Playa Grande Sugar Mill Ruins and learn about the rich history of the island’s sugar cane production.
And there’s more, Vieques has become a foodie’s paradise.
Stroll the newly refurbished and reconstructed Malecon, eat the local seafood and tropical fruits at one of the top island restaurants: El Quenepo, Bili, Bananas, or El Guayacan.
And of course, there is rum (Puerto Rico is considered the rum capital of the world). And Crab Island Distillery is the first handcrafted rum distillery on Vieques Island. Take a tour, enjoy the refreshing tropical taste of a Mojito, learn something new about the process of making rum, relax, sit back, and enjoy the local music.
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