Top 21 island escapes

Plot your escape to one of the West's best islands--places so lovely you won't want your time there to end

Catalina Island, CA

Catalina Island, CA

This island retreat, only 40 minutes by ferry from the mainland, is the ultimate SoCal beach paradise and a great choice for a family weekend. You can splash around on Avalon Beach, stroll through the harbor town of Avalon, or take a jeep tour of the wild backcountry.

More: Explore Catalina

Maui, HI

Thomas J. Story

Maui, HI

The Magic Isle has its contradictions. Calm and lovely today, its ‘Iao Valley was where King Kamehameha I defeated Maui forces in his fight to unite Hawaii under his rule. Beach town Pa‘ia has two faces too: world-class surfer and windsurfer hangout, but also home to native Hawaiians whose island roots reach back centuries. Then there's the tiny coastal paradise of Hana—no stoplights, no chain stores, no TVs, just blissful beauty.

More: Experience the magic of Hana 

 

Vancouver Island, B.C.

Thomas J. Story

Vancouver Island, B.C.

There aren't many temperature-friendly and easily accessible places left in North America that offer as much as northern Vancouver Island does: a shortage of pavement and people, a profusion of serrated mountain peaks, remote lakes, pristine seacoasts, and ubiquitous (but harmless) black bears, especially without braving temperature extremes and traveling long, long distances.

More: British Columbia's island of discovery

Orcas Island, WA

Thomas J. Story

Orcas Island, WA

The long summer weekend was invented in Washington’s San Juan Islands, or should have been. Summer stretches languorously here, with 16 hours of daylight—enough time to savor orcas and eagles, kayaking and hiking, and a wonderful food scene. Orcas is the island of superlatives. It’s the biggest of all the San Juans’ 750 islands, with the highest mountain, the deepest fjords, and the most jaw-dropping views. All this inspiration draws a notably creative crowd, and many artists call Orcas home for at least part of the year.

More: San Juan Islands weekend adventure

Kauai, HI

Mark Skerbinek / Getty Images

Kauai, HI

Kauai is exactly what people picture when they imagine Hawaii--jungles, waterfalls, cliffs dropping down to turquoise ocean. Along Kauai’s North Shore, natural beauty soars to the supernatural; on the south side, sprawling beaches make for family-friendly getaways.

More: Beginner's guide to Kauai

Channel Islands National Park, CA

Lisa Vander Meulen

Channel Islands National Park, CA

It takes your catamaran roughly an hour to cross the Santa Barbara Channel from the Southern California mainland to Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz, part of the Channel Islands. And during that time, the world with all its worries falls away. The pretty cobbled beach is just a launching point: From here, you can snorkel in the diverse kelp forest just off the beach or paddle a kayak farther out, past the island’s dark cliffs and sea caves. On the short hike from the beach up Smugglers Road to the high bluff and the stand of cypress pines known as Delphine’s Grove,  you’ll fall under the spell of a sweeping ocean view and the sound of the wind in the boughs.

More: Top 10 national park beaches

Isla Espíritu Santo, Baja, Mexico

Glenn Oakley

Isla Espíritu Santo, Baja, Mexico

Arriving on Isla Espíritu Santo feels like sailing into a Maxfield Parrish painting—burnt sienna cliffs jutting out of cerulean waves. This desert isle’s population is big—if you count pelicans, parrot fish, and dolphins. If you count people? It’s uninhabited.

More: 10 all-to-yourself islands

Salt Spring Island, B.C.

José Mandojana

Salt Spring Island, B.C.

This woodsy, lush land—home to farmers and fishermen, and artists—feels a little ’60s. But when you set foot on Salt Spring Island, suddenly you have time to read an entire book ​on the back porch or nap on a rocky beach.

More: Escape to Salt Spring Island

Kodiak, AK

James Marshall

Kodiak, AK

For being the country’s second-largest island, Kodiak is remarkably intimate. Fog drifts through moss-cloaked, bear-loving forests, and only puffins break the silence at remote beaches. When your kayak drifts into a hidden cove on Anton Larsen Bay, the whole world shrinks down to that single moment with your few companions: sea lions, otters, and breaching humpback whales.

More: Beginner's guide to Alaska

San Juan Island, WA

Andrea M. Gómez

San Juan Island, WA

San Juan is the most populated island of its eponymous chain—so relatively cosmopolitan that its largest town, Friday Harbor, is dubbed “Sin City” by residents of other islands because of its wider selection of bars. Still, urban misbehaving isn’t what you first notice here: It’s the bucolic photo ops, captured on cliffside drives and yacht-bedecked harbors.

More: 4 perfect days on the San Juan Islands

Antelope Island, UT

Alexa Miller

Antelope Island, UT

Day-trippers are drawn to Great Salt Lake's Antelope Island for its starkly beautiful windblown landscape. Picture miles of empty hiking and mountain biking trails, quiet roads for cyclists—even a surprise herd of free-range bison roaming around. Leave the beach frolickers behind for the secluded 5.6-mile round-trip Lakeside Trail, with views across the chalky blue lake.

More: 10 all-to-yourself islands

Big Island, HI

Thomas J. Story

Big Island, HI

To see the island at its wildest and most rejuvenating, explore the rain forests and waterfalls of the Hamakua Coast, which runs northwest from Hilo to Waipio Valley. For fiery geological excitement, view Halema‘uma‘u Crater in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

More: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park guide

Bainbridge Island, WA

Eden Batki

Bainbridge Island, WA

Just a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle, this artsy Puget Sound island is fast becoming one of the Northwest’s most happening wine destinations. Visit the island's buzzy tasting rooms, take a walk through a local park to overlook Manzanita Bay, and end the day with a bowl of French comfort food before heading back to the mainland.

More: Day trip to Bainbridge Island

 

Lummi Island, WA

Jim Henkens

Lummi Island, WA

Lummi is not one of the more celebrated of the San Juan Islands. The rich and famous don't have second homes here, and the island's visitors sleep in only a handful of places. The main pastimes are visiting farms and art studios and tooling around the perimeter road on foot or by bike, taking in views of Puget Sound on one side and Mt. Baker on the other. But the best part is the strong locavore scene, with restaurants capitalizing on this little land of blackberries, just-plucked salad greens, and sustainable salmon.

More: Great taste experiences on a Northwest isle

Oahu, HI

Erin Kunkel

Oahu, HI

If you think of Oahu only as home to Honolulu’s glittering hotels, the island’s more natural side will surprise you. But leeward Oahu carries you back to a sleepier, rural Hawaii. Frenetic Waikiki can be serene, once you experience it from the water. And windward Oahu, has a pleasing small-town vibe, along with world-class beaches. When you're looking for an alternative to Honolulu's bustle, check out Kailua. One visit and you'll be tempted to stay.

More: Kailua: Oahu's low-key paradise

Vashon Island, WA

Julia Kuskin

Vashon Island, WA

Enjoy an idyllic island getaway in Seattle’s backyard. Crowd-free and small enough to navigate by bike, Vashon Island was made for day-trippers.

More: Hop a ferry to Vashon Island 

Patos Island, WA

Thomas J. Story

Patos Island, WA

Patos Island is the San Juan you haven’t heard of—probably because the only way to get there is to charter a boat to its unnamed beaches and seven campsites. Walk the 1.5-mile forested loop trail, check out the tidepools, pick blackberries, or just relax on a bluff. Most magical moment? Watching harbor porpoises feed just past the lighthouse.

More: 10 all-to-yourself islands

North Mokulua Island, HI

Paul Souders / Corbis

North Mokulua Island, HI

A half-hour from the frenzy of Waikiki, the low-key town of Kailua is the shove-off point for even greater solitude. Paddle about an hour across warm, turquoise Kailua Bay to North Mokulua Island, one of a pair of protected bird sanctuaries known as the Mokes. En route, keep an eye out for the endangered honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle).

More: Kailua: Oahu's low-key paradise

Angel Island, CA

Rob D. Brodman

Angel Island, CA

Smack in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island  is a car-less hiker’s paradise, with knockout views of the city and the hills of Marin County. Once the last ferry leaves, the only people left are those who scored one of the island’s 11 campsites.

More: Insider guide to the San Francisco Bay Area

Anderson Island, WA

Amanda Koster

Anderson Island, WA

Ferry over from the Seattle area to Anderson Island for an unobstructed view of Mt. Rainier―and a dose of tranquility. The 8-mile-long island has no stoplights, one general store, a single restaurant, and about 1,000 year-round residents who want things to stay quiet and quaint. Which explains why you may not have heard of this southernmost island in Puget Sound, even though there is plenty to shout about: two rare freshwater island lakes, a stunning west-side beach, and a carefully preserved pioneer past.

More: Travel back in time to Anderson Island

North and South Pender Islands, B.C.

Robert Leon

North and South Pender Islands, B.C.

Hidden beaches dot the rocky shoreline, and fields break up the hilly, timbered interior; gravel roads lead to secluded homes, small farms, and artists' studios. They could be two of Washington's San Juan Islands―and would be, if the line had been drawn just a few miles to the north. Instead, North and South Pender Islands―just off Vancouver Island, British Columbia―are among the southernmost of Canada's Southern Gulf Islands, a paradise for paddlers―and anyone who loves hidden beaches small farms, and seaside spas. 

More: Quiet islands in British Columbia

Printed from:
http://www.sunset.com/travel/outdoor-adventure/best-islands-00418000083292/