Best Island Reefs Top 10 Ranking

Here are the island reefs ranked from No. 1 to 10 as seen in the March 2010 issue of ISLANDS magazine. Find out more on the main Best Island Reefs page. Agree with this top 10 ranking? Disagree? This is the chance to cast your vote in the poll at right — or leave a comment for the ISLANDS editors at the bottom of this page.

1. Raja Ampat, Indonesia

"The most biodiverse marine life in the world," says ISLANDS editor Ty Sawyer. "Really you could include dozens of other islands from the Raja Ampat archipelago, but Wayag is my favorite." Papua Diving opens up that world with trips from its dive resorts on Kri Island as well as snorkeling on Cape Kri, known as a "highway of fish." All-inclusive rates from $310.

2. Lord Howe Island, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef deservedly gets about 2 million visitors a year. But no more than 400 lucky visitors are allowed at a time on Lord Howe. Outside the luxury Capella Lodge, the rare black cod, 500 other fish species and countless more adventures await. Nightly rates from $650.

3. Bonaire

Only one boat at a time is allowed at each of the island's 100 dive sites. Walk right into the water to dive at 1,000 Steps, or venture out to Captain Don's Reef off Klein Bonaire, named after Don Stewart, who pioneered sustainable travel here. The resort Captain Don's Habitat ­famously offers unlimited diving every day of the year, every hour of the day. Nightly rates from $145.

4. Wakatobi, Indonesia

As part of the ­Wakatobi Dive Resort's award-winning Collaborative Reef Conservation Program, many of the sites in this part of the Coral ­Triangle are a once-per-stay treat. Funky hairy squat lobster at "the Zoo" site, oriental sweetlips on the "Magnifica" plateau — enjoy it responsibly, all from a world-class resort accessible only by private air charter. Seven-night packages from $2,640.

5. Palau

Local dive guides and the Palau Conservation Society are ensuring that future travelers will enjoy these reefs that explode with 1,300 fish species and 700 corals where Pacific currents swirl together. With great care, Sam's Tours can lead you to the mandarinfish and giant tridacna clams that will leave you gaping in wonder. ­Local hotel rates from $87.

6. Sipadan Island, Malaysia

Massive schools of chevron barracuda patrol off Barracuda Point. Green sea turtles find footing on the sheer underwater walls that circle this tiny island. It's clear why Jacques Cousteau himself declared Sipadan "an untouched piece of art" 30 years ago. This June, PADI Diving Society will take its Ocean Safari trip to Sipadan with Borneo Divers. Safari rates from $2,400.

7. Niihau, Hawaii

Off this private, no-tourists island that's a two-hour boat ride west of Kauai, endangered monk seals are free to glide past pillow stars on a 280-foot wall. More stunning than a topside rainbow, that's just one sight on the Vertical Awareness dive with Seasport Divers. The Niihau Arches, the hard coral, the unexplored vibe — it's the truly hidden Hawaii. Dive trips from $295.

8. Andros Island, Bahamas

Dive Andros' barrier reef — the third largest in the world — and you'll realize that ranking the world's best reefs is harder than counting 3,000 fish species. Venture into the blue holes to see the sea monster Lucsa, or so the legend goes. Don't worry, the family-run, all-inclusive Small Hope Bay Lodge offers one-on-one dives to explore those underwater caves. Eight-day dive packages from $2,245.

9. Namena, Fiji

"The marine equivalent of the Serengeti." That's how Rick MacPherson, conservation programs director of the Coral Reef Alliance, describes the outer reef of the Namena Marine Reserve. Moody's Namena, on the one-mile-long island of Namenalala, offers up-close views of that success. Five-night dive packages from $1,750.

10. Belize islands

Lighthouse, Blue Hole, Turneffe — these are just a few of the must-do dives on the Belize Barrier Reef, second largest in the world and encompassing eight marine reserves. Ramon's Village Resort on Ambergris Caye whisks divers to those sites and more. You may love this reef so much, you'll think it's the best in the world. And you could be right. Nightly rates from $145.

ISLANDS considered and ranked reefs for responsible travelers based on the sustainable opportunities to snorkel, dive and explore. Research came from firsthand insight by ISLANDS editors Ty Sawyer and Jad Davenport, both global dive experts, along with reef-conservation groups, international authorities, local dive operators and islands readers.