Hawaii is considered one of the most beautiful and alluring tropical destinations, not only in the United States but in the whole world. It’s a very special place, indeed.
Visitors can enjoy spectacular beaches, abundant and interesting fauna and flora, volcanoes and national parks, a unique culture and history, incredible weather, and welcoming locals. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular spots that people choose to go on vacation.
But – what if you don’t want to go there? Perhaps you’ve already visited Hawaii – once or too many times – and want to try something new.
Or – although most people love Hawaii – not every place clicks with every traveler, and you don’t feel that it would be right for you. Maybe you have something against the Pacific Ocean specifically, or perhaps you’re looking to travel outside of the United States instead of staying technically within it.
In recent years, travelers with a focus on sustainability have listened to calls to give the Hawaiian islands a break from overtourism. Whatever the reason – you may be looking for a place that’s like Hawaii that isn’t Hawaii – for your next vacation.
If you’re searching for an alternative tropical island getaway, check out this list of places like Hawaii that aren’t quite the same. You can expect to fall in love with at least some of them – if not all – so read on and get ready to start planning your trip!
What We Cover
|Type of Traveler
|Ko Samui, Thailand
|Seeking Remote Spots
1. The Bahamas
Are you looking for beautiful beaches without the long flight that often goes with it? The Bahamas are a tropical paradise that is not far away, and they’re quite affordable, too. If you live on the east coast of the United States, you can be on the beach in The Bahamas in just a few short hours, and flights are quick and easy from all other points in our nation as well.
There’s a lot of variety in The Bahamas, too. If you’re seeking an active vacation with lots of shopping and bar hopping, you might consider heading to the busy city of Nassau on New Providence Island.
If you’re traveling with kids, you might like mellower-but-still-very-happening Paradise Island – home of the famous Atlantis Resorts and countless others, waterparks, nightclubs, and more. People looking for perfect beaches and quiet relaxation will love Exuma or Eleuthera; those looking for active outdoor adventures might love Long Island best.
The Bahamas may not have volcanoes and mountains and luaus, but if you’re seeking an affordable tropical vacation with a bit of everything to offer, then a trip to The Bahamas is a great choice.
Best Place to Stay: Rollezz Villas Beach Resort
Things to Do in The Bahamas:
- Take a sunset dinner cruise on a catamaran
- Enjoy a jet ski excursion around the islands
- Swim with adorable pigs in the sea!
See Related: Best Resorts in North Bimini, The Bahamas
2. St. John, USVI
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it might feel like to be stranded on a deserted island – visit St. John, USVI. Of course, when you’re on tiny St. John, hotels, vacation rentals, bars, and restaurants are only moments away.
But it’s possible to sit on one of the best beaches in the world, according to dozens of lists – Trunk Bay. Briefly imagine what it might be like to be stuck there and realize that might not be the worst thing that could happen.
St. John is one of three major United States Virgin Islands, along with nearby St. Thomas and slightly more distant St. Croix, but it’s by far the best of the bunch. This little island is almost entirely national park land, thanks to the good ol’ Rockefellers’ donation of the land in 1956.
Two-thirds of this island is protected from development, making everything about it extra special. Of course, there are still plenty of places to stay on the other third and lots to see and do, despite the island’s small size.
You’ll love swimming alongside sea turtles when you visit St. John – it’s a beautiful reminder of the benefits of conservation and preservation. Best of all, you don’t need a passport to visit this United States territory – so visiting is easy.
Best Place to Stay: Gallows Point Resort
Things to Do in St. John, USVI:
- Go on a nighttime kayak adventure
- Charter a boat with your friends for a day on the water
- Take a day trip to the nearby British Virgin Islands (you’ll need a passport for that if you’re not British!)
See Related: Best Resorts in St. Thomas
3. St. Lucia
Another excellent alternative for the Hawaiian Islands in the Caribbean is St. Lucia. This island is small, but it has so much beauty and heart.
Unlike The Bahamas, which are almost entirely flat, St. Lucia has incredible, recognizable mountains, including its most famous pair – the Pitons – which rise from sea level on the island’s west coast. If you love waterfalls, you can see them here, too – the 15-meter-high Toraille is especially spectacular.
In fact, St. Lucia is so similar to Hawaii that you might think you’re there until you hear a local speaking St. Lucia French Creole – a language you certainly won’t hear in the Aloha State. And, like Hawaii, the people of St. Lucia are friendly and welcoming, and you’ll love learning about the local history and culture during your visit.
Best Place to Stay: Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort
Things to Do in St. Lucia:
- Go on a land and sea tour and learn all about this island nation
- Try ziplining through the rainforest
- Explore the mountain terrain on an ATV tour
See Related: Hidden Gems in the Caribbean Sea
Jamaica is amazing. This island nation has so much heart and beauty that if you haven’t been before, you simply must make it a priority to go.
It’s only about the size of Connecticut, but it’s big on adventure and impact. Jamaica isn’t a wealthy country, but the locals have so much pride in their nation and its rich culture, and you’ll return home a changed person even after visiting briefly.
Jamaica’s beaches are spectacular – all the way around the island. The mountains are gorgeous and ethereal from near or far.
The food is great, and the music is everywhere around you and perfectly fits every moment. You’ll love the tropical weather, breezes, palm trees, and vibe.
And, on top of all that, there’s plenty to do there – countless tours are available right from your hotel to waterfalls, bamboo river rafting, rum distilleries, beach horseback riding, music-based tours, and so much more. You’ll love this special and magical place.
Best Place to Stay: The Cliff Hotel
Things to Do in Jamaica:
- Take a bamboo raft cruise on the Great River
- Visit natural wonders like Blue Hole, Secret Falls, and Dunn’s River Falls on a tour
- Go horseback riding along one of Jamaica’s beautiful beaches
See Related: Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts in Jamaica
Many visitors from the United States are drawn to Belize for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s easy – as a former British Colony, the official language is English, and this Central American country is welcoming and encouraging when it comes to tourism.
The beaches are lovely, and the forests are full of wildlife, including brightly colored birds, monkeys, tapirs, lizards, and other exciting creatures. It’s a small country at only 9,000 square miles, and it’s easy to get around and see lots of it in a short time.
There’s plenty to do in Belize to keep you busy if you somehow find yourself bored on that lounge chair on the beach. Offshore islands like Caye Caulker offer an island-style, quiet daytime period each day followed by an evening with plenty of nightlife – just keep an eye out for British soldiers taking a break from the local jungle warfare school!
History buffs on the mainland will love visiting Mayan ruins like Corzal, Altun Ha, and Lamanai. Snorkelers and scuba divers will love visiting the ocean in between for some of the best underwater exploration the Western Hemisphere has to offer.
There’s something for everyone in Belize, and you’re going to love it. It’s a perfect substitute for Hawaii; you may not want to try anywhere else after visiting once.
Best Place to Stay: Pelican Reef Villas Resort
Things to Do in Belize:
- Go tubing through ancient caves
- Visit the incredible Mayan ruins at Altun Ha and explore Belize City on a group tour
- Take a snorkeling excursion and swim with nurse sharks and stingrays
6. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of my personal favorite places on Earth. Once I found it, it took me a long time to want to even try anywhere else, and although I’ve broken my streak of going annually in recent years, I still try to get there as often as possible.
This Central American nation is for everybody, and everybody will feel comfortable there. It’s great for singles, couples, groups, or families.
It’s easy to get around, and there are accommodations at all price points. Options for tours, adventure activities, and simply relaxing are everywhere. The food is pretty good, and there is a plethora of restaurants and cafes to check out.
Tourists are welcome, and locals are friendly folks who mostly don’t mind taking some time to chat with you about any topic that you’d like. You don’t even need to speak Spanish (although it helps; please do at least try!). What more could you want?
There’s a reason it’s my favorite vacation spot anywhere in the world. I, for one, like it much better than I like Hawaii – although Hawaii’s certainly lovely, too.
Best Place to Stay: Suitree Experience Hotel
Things to Do in Costa Rica:
- Take a waterfall, volcano, and hot springs tour near La Fortuna
- Go whitewater rafting on one of Costa Rica’s spectacular rivers
- Check out some sloths and other local wildlife with a guide who can spot them better than you can!
Grenada is one of the smallest independent countries in the Western Hemisphere at only 216 square miles in size, and it’s the southernmost Western Hemisphere island destination on our list. So, if you’re looking for a tiny place that’s easy to explore and want to be as close as possible to the Equator, Grenada may be the perfect choice.
You’ll almost be in South America when you visit this spot! This island is known as the “Island of Spice” due to the many spices it produces and exports – specifically nutmeg.
That’s a bit different from the pineapple and macadamia nut crops so well known in Hawaii. But, if you’re interested in learning where your food comes from, you can tour spice farms while visiting Grenada.
Along with spices, this small island has a lot to offer. Kind folks, beautiful beaches, waterfalls, colorful homes, blue skies, snorkeling, and plenty of Caribbean rum await you in Grenada – and despite its small size, you won’t find it overly crowded, either. It’s a great choice for people looking for a Hawaii alternative.
Best Place to Stay: Siesta Hotel; Morne Rouge, Grenada
Things to Do in Grenada:
- Try some rum and chocolate on a rum and chocolate sampling tour
- Take a snorkeling tour to view underwater sculptures at the famous Underwater Sculpture Park
- Learn about and indulge in the culinary delights of the Island of Spice on a food and sightseeing excursion
See Related: Best Travel Insurance for South America
8. Koh Samui, Thailand
If you’re interested in taking a long trip to a tropical island on the other side of the world, then you really, really should consider Koh Samui in Thailand, or honestly, any of the other mind-blowingly beautiful islands in this area, including Koh Phi Phi, Koh Tao, Koh Lanta, or even the big one – Phuket.
You will never see waters as blue as the waters in the Gulf of Thailand anywhere else. You’ll also not find palm trees standing as tall and proud, rock formations as interesting and beautiful, nor elaborate temples sparkling quite as brightly as you will in this part of the world. These islands truly are an incredible terrestrial paradise.
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island, but it’s only 88 square miles in size. It’s full of dense rainforest, notable beaches, mountains, and luxurious resorts – many of which are quite affordable. You’ll love relaxing on the beaches in Koh Samui, but you’ll also enjoy spending time on the water and participating in fun, unique, and exciting tours and nightlife opportunities.
The food is also great, and as I said above about Jamaica, you can expect to come back from a trip to the Thai islands as a better, more improved, and overall more enlightened person. A trip to Thailand will change your life.
Best Place to Stay: Anavana Beach Resort
Things to Do in Ko Samui:
- Take a cooking class and learn how to make Thai food from a local
- Mingle with elephants at an elephant sanctuary
- Take a private speedboat to Angthong Marine Park to snorkel with marine life
9. Bali, Indonesia
People say that everyone should visit Bali once in their lives, and that statement is absolutely true. Although it may cost you an arm and a leg and lots of hours on a plane to get there, it’s all worth it once you arrive.
The cost of living in Bali is relatively low, so you can have an affordable stay or go the other way and spend a lot of money to have a super luxurious resort stay of a level that most only dream of. Either way, you’re sure to have a great time.
This Indonesian island is safe for tourists, and you’ll love immersing yourself in its natural settings, rich history, and traditional culture. The beaches you’ll find here will stay with you forever. It’s small enough to explore it all during a medium-length trip without feeling overwhelmed, but it’s also large enough that you’ll never get bored, even on subsequent visits.
You’ll love the local people and architecture, and you’ll learn a great deal about Indonesian culture, even if that’s not your primary reason for visiting. Everything about Bali is fantastic, and it’s a great Hawaii alternative.
Best Place to Stay: Cicada Luxury Resort – Ubud
Things to Do in Bali:
- Tour Ubud and visit all of the most popular attractions like Tegenungan Waterfall, Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Ubud Palace, and more
- Take an ATV and whitewater rafting tour – all in one day!
- Make all your friends at home jealous by taking a Full-Day Instagram Highlights Tour and posting all your best photos
See Related: Best Organic Restaurants in Bali to Try
Fiji is similar to Hawaii in that it’s in the Pacific, but it’s far enough away from our fiftieth state that it’s across the International Date Line. Still, it looks and feels a lot like Hawaii.
The island cultures are similar, and so is the terrain. Even though there are no remaining volcanoes in Fiji, like Hawaii, the Fijian Islands were created by volcanic activity.
Viti Levu is the largest of the Fijian Islands and is home to about 70% of the nation’s population. There are 322 islands in all, and about 100 are inhabited.
Most visitors opt to stay on Denarau Island or Tokoriki Island; you’ll find lavish resorts on either one. You’ll also find impressive waterfalls, stunning beaches, blue lagoons, and reef-lined beaches perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Fiji is absolutely spectacular in every way. It’s one of our favorite destinations to recommend in the South Pacific.
Best Place to Stay: Oarsman’s Bay Lodge
Things to Do in Fiji:
- Learn about local culture on a Cultural Night Tour
- Go river tubing on the Navua River
- Explore life under the sea and snorkel with sharks
See Related: Places Similar to the Maldives to Visit
11. Lakshadweep Islands, India
Have you heard of the Lakshadweep Islands in India? No? Great – lots of travelers haven’t, and that’s what keeps them a wonderful secret for those in the know.
This archipelago of islands is made up of 36 atolls and coral reefs off the southwestern coast of India. Together, their area is just over 12 square miles.
Although nearly 64,000 people live on these islands, they feel remote and deserted. Travelers seeking a quiet, relaxed, remote island vacation will feel right at home here.
Snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, canoeing, and kite surfing are popular activities during the daytime, and there is some nightlife to enjoy after you watch the incredible sunsets, too. You may find it costly, complicated, and lengthy to get to the Lakshadweep Islands, but any hassle and stress you feel will dissipate and disappear as soon as you step foot on the beach.
Where to Stay in the Lakshadweep Islands: Bangaram Island Resort
Things to Do in the Lakshadweep Islands:
- Go snorkeling in the Agatti Islands portion of this archipelago
- Check out the spectacular mosques on Kalpeni Island
- Try kite surfing on Kadmat Island
12. Ibiza, Spain
People looking for a tropical vacation with a lively nightlife scene will love visiting Ibiza in Spain. Like the Hawaiian islands, Ibiza is an island destination, only rather than being in the Pacific, it’s in the Mediterranean.
It’s also lined with white sand beaches and has fascinating history and nature – it’s a UNESCO Biodiversity and Culture World Heritage Site, after all. Plus, you’ll find a thriving art scene, shopping, and plenty of things to do.
If you’re not a partier, don’t let that put you off – Ibiza is also home to yoga and meditation retreats and serenity, if that’s what you seek, and there are lots of family-friendly activities as well. Ibiza is diverse and wonderful, and it’s a lovely option to consider if you’re looking for someplace to go that is similar to Hawaii, but, at the same time, altogether different.
Best Place to Stay: Hotel Rural & Spa Can Curreu
Things to Do in Ibiza:
- Take a hot air balloon ride over the island
- Hire a photographer for a professional photo shoot
- Take a sightseeing tour of Ibiza Town by bike
See Related: Best Greek Party Islands to Visit
13. Cook Islands
The Cook Islands are another South Pacific paradise. These islands are a self-governing nation but have political ties to New Zealand despite being 2000 miles east of it.
There are 15 islands and atolls in this island group, and they’re spread out over a very large area. There are five main islands; the largest, Rarotonga, is only 26 square miles in size, and there are only around 14,000 residents over all of them.
On the Cook Islands, unique hotels and all-inclusive resorts offer incredible service and ultimate relaxation. Every island is absolutely breathtaking and is more beautiful than the last. You can spend your days relaxing on the beach, taking in the natural beauty, exploring clear water lagoons, and swimming with tropical fish.
Life is slow and steady in the Cook Islands, and they’re a wonderful place to get away from it all. You may never want to go home.
Best Place to Stay: Little Polynesian Resort
Things to Do in the Cook Islands:
- Swim with sea turtles on a water and wildlife excursion
- Learn all about Rarotonga on an island discovery tour
- Take a half-day BBQ cruise with snorkeling and lunch to Muri Lagoon
How Can You Choose The Best Hawaii Alternative?
Great question – because they’re all amazing! Budget is certainly the first factor to consider. It’s quite a bit cheaper to visit somewhere like The Bahamas or even Belize than it would be to visit the Cook Islands or Fiji.
Time is also a factor, as you could easily visit the former for just a few days, whereas traveling to and from further destinations will clearly add quite a bit of time to your adventure. Almost all of these places are lovely at any time of the year, but you might want to find out the busiest and most costly times to go and avoid those.
No matter what, though – you’re going to love these alternatives to Hawaii – so just pick one, book it, and go!
Which island destination is most family-friendly?
Any beach vacation is a family-friendly spot, as your little ones will love playing in the sand and surf. Don’t forget to bring lots of eco-friendly sunscreen!
Paces like The Bahamas, Costa Rica, and even Ibiza may be best for you to travel with your little ones, as there are lots of family-friendly activities – like wildlife-based adventures, zip lines, and water parks – in those places that vacationers of all ages will enjoy.