Best Pure Islands Top 10 Ranking

  • Here are the best pure islands for natural, environmentally friendly island travel. ISLANDS experts ranked these destinations from No. 1 to 10 in the April/May 2010 issue, available in the ISLANDS Store. Excerpts from the article are below. 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. Vanuatu UNESCO World Heritage sites honor Chief Roi Mata on Éfaté, Lelepa and Artok islands; the Vatthe Conservation Area offers an oasis of biodiversity on Espiritu Santo; and low-impact resorts such as the Epi Island Guesthouse provide responsible lodging. Rates from $50. epiislandguesthouse.com2. Dominica Dominica is home to the Carib Territory, an enclave of 2,200 indigenous islanders whose ancestors predate Columbus. “The Carib village honors the heritage of the Kalingo people,” says Chris Vink of Calibishie Lodges. Rates from $95. calibishie-lodges.com3. Papua New Guinea A 2,000-foot-high peak, 429 coral varieties, 269 bird species. And that’s only the tip of Papua New Guinea. At the Tawali Resort, rainforest hikes include skull-filled caves, dive trips reveal hammerhead shark sightings and rooms overlook the jungle. Nightly rates from $170. tawali.com4. San Blas Islands, Panama Only 36 of these 365 San Blas islands are inhabited, and here travelers can witness life as it has been since the 16th century. Since tourism doesn’t fit into this simple way of life, mainland-based Coral Lodge offers the closest access. Rates from $150. corallodge.com5. Tasmania, Australia The Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area covers 3.46 million acres (20 percent of the island) and is home to myriad threatened species, including the eponymous Tasmanian devil. Eco-minded luxury resorts, like Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village, offer both sides of Tasmania. Rates from $170. cradlevillage.com.au Which is the best "pure" island?polls
  • 6. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
    The UNESCO World Heritage List calls this mostly uninhabited chain of 19 islands a "living museum and a showcase of evolution," citing land iguanas, giant tortoises and assorted finches among the countless varieties. Eleven-day cruises from $5,695. abercrombiekent.com

  • 7. Socotra, Yemen
    You may never make it to Socotra. Situated amid political turbulence and only modestly equipped for tourists, the Yemenese archipelago is inaccessible at best. And that's a large part of its purity. So even if you only hear legends of dragon's-blood trees, you can rest assured they're actually there. For rates, e-mail ecosocotra@socotraisland.org.

  • 8. Madeira, Portugal
    The Madeira Laurisilva Forest is the largest surviving area of its kind and a glimpse into the type of ecosystem that used to cover much of Europe. Spend your days hiking through the national park, spying endemic, long-toed pigeons. Then head back to Quinta del Bela Vista, a resort in Funchal. Rates from $230. belavistamadeira.com

  • 9. Lanai, Hawaii
    Everywhere on the isle feels like another step back in time, from the plantation-era Lanai City (no traffic lights, no high-rises) to the natural wonderland at the Kanepuu Preserve (home to 48 species of native plants) to Hotel Lanai, a beautiful cottage resort that was built in 1923 by James Dole. Rates from $99. hotellanai.com

  • 10. Channel Islands, California
    Here the biggest star is a Pacific gray whale and the foxiest character is, well, an island fox. See Southern California as it once was on a day trip to one of the five islands with Island Packers, one of only a few certified tour operators allowed in the park. Day trips from $45. ­islandpackers.com

  • ISLANDS considered and ranked these pure islands based on the efforts to preserve culture and ecology with UNESCO World Heritage sites, national parks and sustainable opportunities for responsible travelers. Research came from firsthand insight by ISLANDS editors, along with Sustainable Travel International, local tour operators and ISLANDS readers. **
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