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13. Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
In Ko Phi Phi, a small archipelago in the Krabi Province of Thailand, lush limestone peaks rise from the tropical sea, and warm waters lap on palm-lined sugary shores. Slammed by the tsunami in 2004, Ko Phi Phi has now recovered. Its natural beauty still recalls the tropical island dream evoked in the famous Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach, which was filmed here at Maya Beach on the smaller neighboring island of Ko Phi Phi Leh. Ko Phi Phi Don is the only inhabited island and offers day trips to the surrounding islands. Other popular activities include swimming, snorkeling, and superb diving. Don’t miss Monkey Beach, famous for its cheeky namesake residents.
14. Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Sprinkled along the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands are Australia’s version of the classic tropical island fantasy. These 74 lush islands are the peaks of drowned hills rising above the strikingly blue Coral Sea. Sailing is a popular pastime here, and diving is excellent along the fish-rich coral reefs. This is an extremely fragile ecosystem protected by six national parks, and you can explore some of the islands on hiking trails. Accommodation ranges from beachfront campsites, eco-retreats, and family resorts to luxury escapes like Hayman Island and Qualia on Hamilton Island. Don’t miss the radiant silica sands of Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour are the main launching points for Whitsunday adventures.
15. Sardinia, Italy
Blissful white-sand beaches, rugged coastal peaks, mouthwatering cuisine, a unique blend of cultures, and ancient archeological treasures: What’s not to love about this saucy Italian isle? Most travelers have heard of the glamorous Costa Smeralda, or Emerald Coast, with its craggy coves and clear green seas, but this large and diverse Mediterranean isle also lays claim to many other attractions. Sardinia is home to the largest canyon in Europe, Gola su Gorropu; prehistoric archaeological sites; the captivating Catalan-tinged town of Alghero; and the medieval streets of Cagliari, the capital. While you’re here be sure to cruise along some of the scenic coastal drives and soak up the spectacular views.
16. St. Barts
Stunningly beautiful, yet understated, St. Barts lures movie stars and moguls from around the world, and for good reason. This pretty island offers a luscious taste of France in the tropics, with a relaxed charm that discerning travelers love. Glamorous blond beaches curve around its coastline, backed by rolling green hills. Privacy and seclusion are its other top selling points, but of course all this comes at a price. This alluring island is one of the Caribbean’s most expensive, but if money’s no object, you can ensconce yourself in a private villa or boutique hotel, dine on gourmet French cuisine until your heart’s content, and live the lifestyle of the rich and famous.