Dreamy beaches, silky warm seas, lush scenery, and endless sunshine: These are some of the top ingredients of the ideal tropical vacation. 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 mouthwatering cuisine. A few offer eco-adventures and wildlife-rich wilderness, and some sleepy islands seem to take you back in time. Divers flock to thriving coral reefs, and surfers seek 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 vacation hot spots covers some of the most beautiful islands in the world as well as ideas of fun things to do and destinations for all budgets, whether you’re seeking an over-the-water bungalow in Bora Bora or a bamboo hut on a Bali beach.
Port Douglas, Australia
About an hour’s drive north of Cairns in Queensland, Port Douglas is an ideal destination for adventurous nature lovers. This upscale town has evolved from its humble origins as a snoozy fishing village into a popular tropical tourist resort and a handy base for reef trips and wilderness safaris. Two of the richest ecosystems in Australia lie a short hop from here: the Great Barrier Reef, with superb diving and snorkeling, and the Daintree Rainforest, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Site, which tumbles to the reef-dappled waters of Cape Tribulation. The town’s leafy streets are lined with mango trees and palms, as well as a cluster of upscale shops, cafes, and art galleries, and its star feature is Four Mile Beach, a blond crescent of jungle-fringed sand. Swimming is restricted here during marine stinger season (November through June), however it’s always a favorite spot for a stroll. Other prime tourist attractions include the Wildlife Habitat and the Bally Hooley Sugar Train, which chugs through sugar cane fields to Mossman. Fishing trips and northbound expeditions through the rugged landscape of the Cape York Peninsula are also popular. The winter season, from May through September, is the best time to visit, when temperatures are cooler and drier weather prevails.