For most of us, the dream vacation goes something like this: a tropical island, a beautiful beach, and a drink topped with an umbrella. Island vacations are something everyone can get behind, from the thrill-seekers to the beach bums. From islands less than a hundred miles from the North American shoreline to those that feel smack dab in the middle of nowhere, there’s no shortage of options when it comes time to pick our next destination. But not all islands are created equal.
There are the islands we’ve all heard of, and there are the islands we never knew existed. Thanks to an endless supply of bloggers and influencers flooding our social media feeds, practically anywhere in the world can look like the most luxurious place we’ve ever seen. But don’t let filters and good angles fool you, many of these destinations may leave you underwhelmed. For this list, we’re exploring the best and the worst of island vacation destinations. From the over-commercialized to the virtually undiscovered, to the accessible resorts to the most private islands you’ve never heard of. Here are the most overrated islands and the ones we can only dream of visiting.
25 overrated: Bermuda
Bermuda doesn’t have to an overrated experience, but it takes a little more work than other Caribbean Islands to get the most out of it. And if you’re not willing to put in a little effort, this is definitely not a vacation you’ll enjoy. The famous pink sand beaches, like Elbow Beach and Horseshoe Bay, are quite crowded in peak season, making them difficult to enjoy. The island is also pretty spread out, so you’ll have to learn how to use the public transportation system to get from one side of the island to the other.
24 overrated: Roatan, Honduras
Located in the Caribbean about 65 kilometers off the northern coast of Honduras, this small island rose in popularity for those trying to strike a balance between backpacking and beach lounging. But the island is only 8 kilometers across at its widest point, so the explorations are pretty limited and leave most visitors feeling underwhelmed. For those who decide to take guided tours, most reviewers on TripAdvisor found them overpriced and cheesy (Trip Advisor).
23 In our dreams: Grenada
The island of Grenada boasts all of the same great qualities of any other Caribbean island with about a third of the crowds. If you’re looking to lounge on the beach, choose from one of Granada’s soft sand beaches. If you’re into snorkeling, Grenada offers over 30 dive sites. And if you’re looking to take in local culture, explore the capital city of St. George, which US News named the most beautiful harbor town in the Caribbean (US News Travel).
22 overrated: Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greece has blown up on social media over the last couple of years. But that amount of attention has started to tarnish this once low-key Greek isle. Travel Lemming describes it as “one of the most overpriced, overcrowded and overrated travel destinations on the planet.”
It seems that most tourists feel the same way across the board, with one reviewer on TripAdvisor warning “if you expect to see the most wonderful, spectacular, romantic place in the world then you will probably be very disappointed.”
21 Overrated: Mustique Island, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines
On the surface, the private island of Mustique seems like a dream. Located in the Grenadines, West Indies, the island has approximately 100 private villas and just two hotels. However, visitors in recent years have complained of how overrated the small island has become. As you may expect on a private island, tourists have said they do not feel welcomed. One Trip Advisor user felt when they went to restaurants, the attitude was “drop three or four hundred dollars or leave quietly.” Yikes.
20 In our dreams: Ischia, Italy
Recently named the most “incredible Italian island you’ve never heard of” by National Geographic, Ischia may not be as popular as other Islands thanks to the lack of easy transport. In order to get to this volcanic island’s main village of Sant’Angelo, you’ll have to take an hour-long ferry from Naples through the Tyrrhenian Sea. Then you’ll have an hour-long bus ride, driving through beautiful fishing villages, hill towns and vineyards (National Geographic). Visitors here consider this island much more low-key than more popular Italian destinations, with visitors sharing “foreigners mostly head to Capri, but Ischia is where the Italians go.” (Forbes).
19 overrated: Key West, Florida
Key West may seem like a glamorous Oceanside town, but this is one place where the book doesn’t necessarily match the cover. It’s much more quaint than most expect, with a high retirement population. The keys don’t boast a ton of family-friendly options, nor does it offer a lively nightlife or culinary scene for singles. But you can’t tell from the prices of the hotels and resorts, where the average nightly rate is around $400 (Trip Advisor). Most hotels are not walking distance to the town center either, making getting around difficult.
18 overrated: Capri, Italy
Capri is one of those places you go to say you went there, but nothing more. Most describe this popular Italian island as “overpriced and touristy.” Shops here are more expensive than those in most of the country’s other destinations and do not stay open year round. Also not open year round: the famous Blue Grotto, which closes when there’s too many clouds (without sunlight, it is simply a dark cave). And those beautiful beaches the Amalfi Coast is known for? You’ll have to check them out somewhere else, because Capri has none (Everywhereist).
17 in our dreams: Cocoa Island, The Maldives
What could be more glamorous than a luxurious vacation in The Maldives? Vacationing on a luxurious private island in The Maldives. COMO Cocoa Island is an intimate private resort island boasting just 33 suites sitting above turquoise waters. The island is only accessible by boat from The Maldives airport, but in the opposite direction from the majority of the nation’s resorts, placing the island on a quieter and virtually undisturbed atoll. Aside from the hut-style suites, the resort also provides its wealthy guests with crystal-clear sand beaches, five-star dining and some of the best diving locations in the world (COMO Hotels).
16 Overrated: St. John, US Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are one of the most sought after vacation destinations in the Caribbean. But with so many islands to choose from, you might want to consider crossing St. John off your list of options. The smallest of the US Virgin Islands, it lacks the same level of luxury hotels and resorts than its counterparts. While most describe the beaches as clean and beautiful, they also describe them as very touristy. Snorkeling is the most popular water activity on the island, and the crowds of people practically swimming on top of one of another proves it (Trip Advisor).
15 Overrated: Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Bora Bora should officially change its name to Boring Boring. The New York Post named this uber popular destination one of the most overrated travel spots on the planet. The popular resorts everyone wants to stay at sit on their own private islets, so there’s no nightlife. Not that anyone wants to socialize anyways, as most travelers are on their honeymoon. If you enjoy paddle boarding in calm waters and snorkeling in clear waters, you’re in luck, because that’s literally all there is to do here (New York Post).
14 Overrated: St. Lucia
Ranked as the number one honeymoon destination by US News Travel, St. Lucia is a solo traveler or adventure seeker’s nightmare. Outside of the resort pool and beach areas, going off the resort can be quite expensive, from the transportation to the guided tours. Even dining off the resort poses a problem, as most of the good restaurants have a strict reservation only policy. Many travelers also tell similar stories of street vendors everywhere, who don’t seem to take no for an answer (Trip Advisor).
13 overrated: Paradise Island, Bahamas
Paradise Island in the Bahamas boasts the famous Atlantis resort, which began reopening towers after a massive renovation in 1998. But over the past two decades, the one-time modern attraction seems to have lost its luster. Business Insider said it best: everyone stays in Atlantis, but no one seems to actually enjoy it. “The rooms need updating, the food is expensive, and the attractions are only so-so.”
Reviewers on TripAdvisor have overwhelmingly similar sentiments, with bad food, rude staff and a general feeling of the whole place being overpriced.
12 Overrated: Langkawi, Malaysia
Langkawi, an archipelago on Malaysia’s west coast, has gotten a lot of hype recently for turquoise waters, picturesque beaches and jungle-clad hills. (Langkawi Info). But this destination has been popular amongst more local visitors for much different reasons. Langkawi is actually known as the place to go to “just shop for cheap stuff,” not exactly what you think of when picturing a tropical getaway (Travel Triangle). On top of that, several reviewers on TripAdvisor note how littered the beaches are.
11 overrated: Hawaii, United States
Hawaii may be a dream vacation for some, but many of those who do get to visit are pretty disappointed when they get there. Several of the major tourist destinations fail to live up to the hype. Waikiki Beach has been described by tourists and locals alike as dirty, overcrowded and stuffed with a plethora of kitschy souvenir shops. Famous Maui Beach has also failed to live up to the hype, which has been described as boring and much smaller than expected (Trip Advisor).
10 overrated: Grand Cayman, the Cayman Islands
Grand Cayman Island has become one of the most popular cruise destinations, meaning it is usually overrun with passengers of the docked ships. And with a limited amount of easily accessible coastline (about 13 kilometers), the crowds at up quickly. Most visitors have the same sentiments: overpriced and underwhelming. Most visitors share the same sentiments about this Caribbean destination: overpriced and underwhelming. Unfortunately, this overly commercialized Island seems to have lost its charming Caribbean vibe (Trip Advisor).
9 Overrated: Santa Catalina Island, California
Santa Catalina Island, typically referred to as simply Catalina, is a small island just off the coast of southern California. At only 76 square miles, it should come as no surprise that activities are rather limited here (Catalina Chamber). But the lack of options on this small island doesn’t seem to help with the crowd sizes, which are hefty year round. Getting there isn’t the quickest commute, either. It’s approximately an hour-long ferry ride, which will set you back $73.50. Most locals will suggest Newport Beach Balboa Island instead, which is less crowded and more accessible (Insider).
8 Overrated: Exuma, Bahamas
Over the past decade or so, the Bahamas has arguably become the least exciting country in the Caribbean. Exuma Island picked up some travel steam a few years ago thanks to its famous Pig Beach. The name pretty much says it all: a beautiful beach where pigs swim around. Word is the pigs are pretty friendly too, as they’ve gotten used to all the human attention. While that will entertain you for a few hours, this small island doesn’t have much else to offer. After a week here, you might actually be excited to go back to work (Trip Advisor).
7 In our dreams: South Island, New Zealand
New Zealand is a nature-lover’s dream, and South Island offers the best of everything to be explored. Nine of New Zealand’s national parks are located here, offering a virtually unlimited supply of trails for biking, walking and hiking. South Islands also boasts the country’s highest mountains, largest lakes and biggest glaciers. Because of the multiple levels of altitude, the island also offers both skiing fields and beaches. And if you need a break from all of that activity, the South Island hosts the country’s most significant wine-producing region (New Zealand Travel Insider).
6 In our dreams: The Cook Islands
A nation made up of 15 islands in the South Pacific, The Cook Islands have the undeveloped charm Hawaii did 50 years ago, but with modern conveniences that compete with any other popular destination (Cook Islands Travel). While there are plenty of islands to choose from, Rarotonga is the largest and most visited. The island boats everything you could possibly want when you think of a tropical getaway. The locals are welcoming, the island is surrounded by white sand beaches, turquoise waters and swaying palm trees (Very Hungry Nomads).
5 in our dreams: Reunion Island
East of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, Reunion is one of the most interesting islands you could ever visit. Reunion has African, French and Chinese history mixed with the natural beauty of beaches, jungles and waterfalls. This island is an adventurer's dream and definitely not for the faint of heart. Despite technically being part of France, it is an 11-hour flight from Paris. Reunion is home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, the heaviest rain storms on the planet, the Indian Ocean’s highest peak, and the most shark attacks in the southern hemisphere (Traveler Australia).
4 in our dreams: Mauritius
While Mauritius has been a well-known destination to many Europeans, North Americans tourists have been slow to discover this small island nation. Mauritius has all of the big names associated with luxury accommodations like the Four Seasons, Shangri-La and the St. Regis. Not only are overwater villas less expensive here than in The Maldives, but alcohol is less expensive in Mauritius, since there are no legal restrictions against it. The entire island is surrounded by white sand beaches with coral reefs ideal for diving and snorkeling (Dine and Fash).
3 in our dreams: Necker Island, British Virgin Islands
After getting slammed by Hurricane Irma in 2017, Necker Island is officially up and running. Owned by billionaire Virgin founder Richard Branson, the resort-style accommodations sit on a private island in the British Virgin Islands. The resort, which can house groups of up to 30 guests, can be rented for $77,500 per night. If you’re looking for more of a bargain, you can take advantage of “celebration weeks” a few times a year, in which Branson allows individuals to book rooms for a much lower rate of $4,525 per night (BVI Beacon).
2 in our dreams: Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos
I’m not going to lie, anywhere you go in Turks and Caicos is most likely going to be fabulous. But the small resort island of Parrot Cay is arguably the most fabulous of all. Surrounded by soft sand and light turquoise waters, Parrot Cay is so exclusive it only boasts one very private resort that you probably can’t afford. Enjoyed by the likes of supermodel Lily Aldridge, music legend Paul McCartney and actor Brad Pitt, COMO Parrot Cay stretches over a mile on the coastline but packs in only 61 rooms starting at $1,200 per night during the off-season (Honeymoonist).
1 in our dreams: Laucala Island, Fiji
One of the world’s most exclusive private resorts, celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tony Hawke and Miranda Kerr have been flocking to this luxurious Fiji destination for one of the best vacations money can buy. Owned by Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz, the island is only accessible by private plane and consists of just 25 villas starting at $6,000 per night. The villas When Miranda Kerr and husband Jeffrey Spiegel honeymooned here, they rented the Mateschitz personal residence, located on one of the island’s highest points and costs $60,000 per night (Observer).
SOURCES: Tripadvisor.com; Insider.travel.com; Nypost.com; Theeverywhereist.com; Businessinsider.com; Langkawi-info.com; Traveltriangle.com; Travellemming.com; Nationalgeographic.com; Forbes.com; observer.com