So many travelers rely on islands to get away from it all, find peace of mind with their toes in the sand, and connect more deeply with nature and cultures along the seashore. With their new hotels, immersive cultural experiences, and notable sustainability efforts, these are the islands to visit in 2023.
With green mountains, active volcanoes, black-sand beaches, waterfalls, and hot springs, the true luxury of Dominica is its natural wonders. Thanks in part to its remoteness, the 293-square-mile, English- and Dominican Creole–speaking Caribbean island remains off the beaten track. It’s a paradise for hikers, with its Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring close to 300 miles of paths. The warm, tranquil waters make Dominica ideal for sea kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding at all experience levels.
Where to stay
- Book now: Coulibri Ridge
In October 2022, Coulibri Ridge opened as a fully off-grid eco-resort on 285 acres near Soufrière. The property of 14 suites was built with recyclable aluminum ceilings, recycled teak wood, and rocks sourced on site. Coulibri Ridge is powered by sun, wind, and rain, while the restaurant grows much of its produce from on-property gardens (Soon, the resort will have its own farm.) It’s the first Caribbean hotel to join Beyond Green, a portfolio of sustainably operated retreats under Preferred Travel Group.
Benguerra Island, Mozambique
Part of Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago, Benguerra Island is located within a national marine reserve in the turquoise Indian Ocean. A quick plane ride from Maputo or Johannesburg, the island is a playground for ocean enthusiasts in search of flamingos, dugongs, manta rays, dolphins, and humpback whales that pass through from July to October. Visitors can tour the nonprofit Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies (BCSS), a solar-powered ocean observatory. The center, whose team is majority Benguerran, is on the island’s northern end.
Where to stay
- Book Now: Kisawa Sanctuary
Located on Mozambique’s southernmost beach, Kisawa Sanctuary is a collection of 17 thatched-roof bungalows built sustainably using 3-D printing technology. (The textured walls are made of sand mixed with seawater to create eco-conscious mortar.) When not snorkeling with sharks or watching sea turtles nesting in the white sand, guests can participate in scientific studies at sister center BCSS with such hands-on activities as monitoring migrating humpback whales or going on diving excursions to test water acidification levels or to help tag pelagic fish.
This sun-soaked Mediterranean island, second in size to Sicily, is attractive not only to beachgoers but also to hikers, thanks to its mountainous landscape. History buffs will love the thousands of nuraghi—beehive-shaped Bronze Age ruins left behind by the Nuragic civilization between 1900 and 730 B.C.E.—scattered across the island’s undulating landscape.
Where to stay
- Book Now: 7Pines Resort Sardinia
Though it’s just 10 minutes by car from the tourist-thronged Costa Smeralda, the 7Pines Resort Sardinia feels a world away. The new-in-2022 retreat of 76 suites and guest rooms, set along 37 secluded acres of gardens, running trails, and beaches, faces the marine protected area surrounding the Maddalena islands. The retreat is a featured accommodation on new low-footprint, culture-focused Sardinia itineraries from the women-owned and -managed Dolomite Mountains. The trips take guests to archaeological ruins and on mountain treks, with stops at sheep herders’ huts for lunch.
Bali may be Indonesia’s most famous holiday destination, but this island to the east is twice as big, equally as alluring—and has a fraction of the tourists. Here, horses run free amid the savanna, rain forest, and waterfall-filled landscape while the steep thatched roofs of villages stretch skyward. A growing number of culturally sensitive, eco-conscious hotels are offering travelers exciting ways to seek solitude and adventure here with a lighter footprint.
Where to stay
On the southwestern part of the island, the Sanubari recently opened on a 247-acre reserve with more than a mile of white-sand beach. The resort, six villas made out of local teak wood and stone, works closely with surrounding kampungs (villages), having built a school and several water stations for the community. Guests can arrange village visits for a glimpse at local life and traditions, while surfing, fishing, mountain biking, and river SUP excursions are all on offer. The property’s kitchen is supplied by an on-site permaculture farm, which includes some 2,500 coconut trees.
Come summer 2013, Cap Karoso opens on the island’s west coast with 47 studios and 20 villas, each featuring hand-carved wooden panels modeled after Sumba’s multicolored ikat patterns. The resort will celebrate Marapu traditions through artist residencies, shaman-inspired therapies at the spa, and e-bike visits to a nearby village.
Far less visited compared to Spain’s other Balearic Islands (including Ibiza and Mallorca), this isle of fewer than 100,000 people charms travelers with its sleepy villages (like Fornells and Binibeca Vell), history (centuries-old lighthouses and archaeological sites), and local wines. The historic Illa del Rei off the island’s northeast coast features a sculpture garden run by Hauser & Wirth, where a new Martin Creed work recently joined pieces by such artists as Joan Miró and Louise Bourgeois.
Where to stay
- Book Now: Villa LeBlanc, a Gran Meliá Hotel
In July, Meliá Hotels International opened the net-zero five-star Villa Le Blanc off Santo Tomás Beach with whitewashed walls, traditional terra-cotta tile floors, and Menorcan arches inspired by the local vernacular architecture. The property has reduced CO2 emissions by 87 percent through such tactics as bioclimatic design, photovoltaic solar panels, and recovered heat, and it offsets the remaining 13 percent through environmental projects. The 159 guest rooms and suites all feature balconies, some with private pools and rooftop decks. Three Mediterranean restaurants, including one facing the sea, highlight ingredients from island farms and local seafood like Balearic Sea red lobster.
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos’s third-largest island, nicknamed Provo, is also its most beloved by travelers. The destination is home to the world’s third-largest reef, along with 35 national parks, nature reserves, and sanctuaries, and 12 miles of white sand. Water sports, from kite boarding to diving, also draw adventurers. A growing number of local companies offer more sustainable ways to experience it all, like Big Blue Collective, which runs tours on quieter and more environmentally friendly four-stroke boat motors.
Where to stay
- Book Now: Rock House
The oceanside Rock House opened in May 2022 with recycled limestone walls in its 46 villas, beneath the peaks of the island’s rugged north shore. It’s part of the destination’s long-established Grace Bay Resorts, which has a new partnership with Turks and Caicos Reef Fund (TCRF) that takes guests on expeditions to help plant coral in reef habitats or feed it in a new oceanfront lab. In early 2024, Grace Bay Resorts expects to open South Bank, a marina with contemporary-feeling waterfront residences, including a handful in a Piero Lissoni–designed building.
Hvar isn’t exactly quiet—its harbor on the Adriatic Sea is a pulsing, yacht-thronged scene in the summer. But it’s easy to get away from the crowds and into the Dalmatian island’s quieter corners, including secret beaches and coves and more UNESCO-designated sites than any other island can claim, or while wine tasting in a secluded seaside limestone cave. All of it can be explored by bike on more than 100 routes throughout the island.
Where to stay
- Book Now: Beach Bay Hvar Hotel
Opened in July 2022 in the city center, Beach Bay Hvar Hotel has 33 minimalist, sea-facing rooms with a soothing sandy palette. The resort is the country’s first hotel to sign UNESCO’s Sustainable Travel Pledge, committing to using renewable energy sources and minimal plastic packaging, while supporting local suppliers as much as possible. The property relies on 100 percent Hvar-sourced produce; an internal solar power plant, harnessing the island’s 2,800 annual sunshine hours per year, is a first for the island.
Raa Atoll, Maldives
The Maldives’ Raa Atoll—45 minutes north of Malé by seaplane—offers an ideal base for marine life aficionados. It’s home to bioluminescent waters at Vaadhoo Island, manta rays with 10- to 12-foot wingspans that congregate at Hanifaru Bay, and nearby reefs that are recovering well from a severe coral bleaching event in 2016.
Where to stay
Opened in 2022, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives consists of 80 pool villas on the western edge of the atoll. The resort offers several ways to experience the region’s culture and biodiversity, including cooking classes featuring local fish curry recipes and ocean excursions to observe dolphins and sea turtles. The resort converts paper products and vegetable waste into fertilizer and reduces its energy consumption through solar power. Northeast of Alila, on Muravandhoo island, Joali offers 73 villas with soaring ceilings and private outdoor terraces with pools. The atoll’s reef restoration program, led by a Maldivian marine biologist, is flourishing, growing some 5,000 new corals per year.
Travelers seeking off-the-grid adventure can find it on Queensland’s K’gari, pronounced gar-ree. It was formerly known as Fraser Island before the Queensland government handed it back to the Butchulla Indigenous community in 2022 and its Aboriginal name was restored. The world’s largest sand island—home to a dense rain forest—is a UNESCO World Heritage site and claims some 500 Indigenous archaeological sites, freshwater lakes, a 75-mile beach, and between July and November, a profusion of humpback whales nursing calves along the coast.
Where to stay
- Book Now: Kingfisher Bay Resort
At the recently renovated Kingfisher Bay Resort, 152 guest rooms have a private deck facing the lakes, the bush, or the sea. The hotel offers guided educational experiences centered on the island’s culture and biodiversity, including bush and canoe paddling excursions. Book a three-night guided hike with Fraser Island Hiking for an active exploration of the island’s natural attractions, including Valley of the Giants, home to an ancient tallowwood tree. Visitors can also sail, dive, or swim with whales with operators such as Hervey Bay Dive Centre.
For decades, the sparkling shores and tropical terrain of O‘ahu have been burdened by the negative effects of overtourism—especially the Waikiki neighborhood. But things are beginning to change: The state of Hawai‘i implemented a statewide chemical sunscreen ban and launched its malama voluntourism initiative in 2021. That program pairs nonprofit organizations with top hotels to encourage visitors to pick up trash on Waikiki Beach, for example, using a DIY kit from local nonprofit Sustainable Coastlines of Hawai‘i.
Where to Stay
The Twin Fin is so surf-centric it has video walls live streaming Hawaiian breaks all day (and waves around the world by night). The 645 bright rooms come with custom-printed surf ponchos to wear between swims, plus water bottles that can be topped up at on-property refilling stations. The resort partners with Parley for Oceans for beach cleanups, where collected ocean plastic becomes part of the hotel’s 16-foot wave-like art sculpture by local artist Dane Nishikawa. At the 228-room, tropical brutalist Wayfinder Waikiki, a dollar per stay goes to the nature and culture-focused Bishop Museum, which runs stargazing experiences, floral arranging, and lauhala weaving for visitors. On O’ahu’s North Shore, the recently renovated Turtle Bay Resort, with its 450 light-filled, earth-toned rooms sitting on close to 1,300 oceanfront acres, draws outdoors enthusiasts for everything from surfing to hiking and horseback riding.
Cayos Cochinos, Honduras
Spanning 300,000 acres with fewer than 200 Indigenous Garifuna residents, this group of islands 20 miles off the northern Honduran coast remains mostly off the tourist radar. The archipelago is home to fragile yet well-protected ecosystems (there’s no commercial fishing, no cars, and no bikes), including two forested islands, 12 sand cays, and miles of seagrass beds. It’s also the only place in the world with tree-dwelling pink boa constrictors. Modest tourism efforts are focused on engaging the small number of travelers and backpackers (fewer than 30,000 annually pre-COVID) with scientists around reef restoration and sea turtle conservation programs, many in partnership with the Cayos Cochinos Foundation.
Where to stay
- Book Now: Round Cay
The islands of Cayo Mayor and Cayo Menor, which sit along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, are managed by the Cayos Cochinos Foundation, and every stay supports conservation initiatives. The NGO runs a $3,000-per-night six-bedroom private island retreat on Round Cay on Airbnb. It also offers simpler cabins on Cayo Menor with large decks and hammocks, plus a food hall serving typical Honduran meals. Stays can involve lunches in local Garífuna fishing villages, tastings of the root-based spirit guifiti, and interactive Garífuna dance and hand-drumming performances.