6 Island Escapes in Asia and the Pacific Where Vacation Dreams Really Do Come TrueBy Mark Johanson
There’s something about arriving on an island that makes people feel a thousand pounds lighter. Perhaps it’s that hypnotic water barrier, which instantly separates you from the rat race back home. Maybe it’s also the salty air, serene beaches and stellar seafood, which are guaranteed no matter what island you choose.
Whether you’re the type to seek out adventure, culture or pure relaxation, the islands of Asia and the Pacific listed below are certain to make worries from the world beyond fade into the empty horizon.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
Claim Your Slice of Paradise in Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Just six miles long — but with two towering volcanoes — Bora Bora is the very image of paradise. One of French Polynesia’s Society Islands, it’s a place of thatch-roofed overwater bungalows, perky palms and water so cerulean blue that it looks like the liquor swirling in your tropical cocktail.
Days here pass by in a haze of sun rays and sea breezes as you laze on the sand-fringed motus (islets), count fish in the kaleidoscopic coral gardens and explore the languid interior lagoon.
Find Solace in Lombok, Indonesia
Want to visit Bali but feel like you’re two decades late to the party? Neighboring Lombok, where you can escape from the crowds without having to sacrifice style, comfort or beauty, is the perfect alternative.
Lorded over by Indonesia’s second-tallest volcano, Mount Rinjani, the island’s northern half is a hiker’s dreamland with monkey-filled jungles, raging waterfalls and small villages encased in emerald green rice paddies.
Lombok’s quiet, southern shores are lined in bone-white (and often empty) beaches such as Tanjung Aan and Mawun, while the northwest has more bustling beach towns like Senggigi and is the gateway to Indonesia’s party-hard paradise: the Gili Islands.
Go Off the Beaten Path on Langkawi, Malaysia
Thailand tends to hog the spotlight when it comes to Southeast Asia’s island escapes, yet more discerning travelers have always preferred this northern Malaysian island just across the border, which has managed to develop its tourism industry while retaining its rural charm.
So, while you’ll find bar-packed beaches like Pantai Cenang, health-focused restaurants like Kolma and plenty of duty-free shopping, you’ll also discover serene stretches of empty sand, bird-filled mangrove swamps and waterfalls that tumble across virgin rainforests.
Think of it like a “best of both worlds” island for those who enjoy the company of fellow tourists … as long as there’s an easy escape from them!
Explore Outdoor Adventures in Hokkaido, Japan
Japan’s northernmost island has cultivated a reputation in recent years as one of Asia’s premier destinations for adventure travel. In the winter, powderhounds flock to Niseko, two hours southwest of the regional capital, Sapporo. You can carve turns at Niseko’s four interlinked ski resorts and then rest weary bones in the steamy onsens (hot springs).
In summer, thrill-seekers cycle past prismatic flower farms in Furano, kayak in the caldera lakes of Shikotsu-Toya National Park and climb up volcanic summits like Mount Yotei, a northern twin of Mount Fuji.
No matter where you go, Hokkaido is steeped in the distinct nature-based culture of the Ainu people, an Indigenous group with its own language, clothing and beliefs.
Discover Beachside Bliss in Phu Quoc, Vietnam
The powdery white sand beaches and crystalline waters of Vietnam’s largest island have made it one of the fastest-growing destinations in Southeast Asia. Yet more than half of the island remains protected within the Phu Quoc National Park, which features mountains clad in dense jungles, serpentine hiking trails and abundant wildlife (including rare hornbills and stumped tail macaques).
The main town and chief fishing port, Duong Dong, is famed for its sprawling night market where you can buy seafood, crafts, island-grown peppercorns and discounted name-brand clothing. Yet most visitors settle further afield at one of the serene coves of the south and northwestern coasts, such as Khem Beach or Bãi Dài, respectively.
Get Cultured in Tasmania, Australia
Tasmania used to be the butt of jokes for mainland Aussies, who saw it as a backwater languishing on the wrong side of the Bass Strait. Now, this cool-climate island is one of the most forward-thinking places in the nation. Restaurants like Fat Pig Farm source meals from their onsite gardens, distilleries like Hartshorn turn cheese byproduct into alcohol, and vineyards like Sailor Seeks Horse and Mewstone move beyond sparkling wines into vibrant pinot noirs and aromatic rieslings.
The regional capital, Hobart, has a burgeoning arts scene spurred by the 2011 opening of the groundbreaking Museum of Old and New Art. Of course, all of this is just an added bonus to the island’s raw, rugged beauty.