The Top Islands in Mexico and Central and South America

There are some travelers who ask only that an island getaway deliver a beautiful beach and the promise of 90-degree weather. But if you’re the kind of vacationer who craves more — say, world-class diving and wildlife encounters, or centuries-old ruins and an awe-inspiring coastline — the islands of Mexico and Central and South America are sure to deliver.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.

Indeed, T+L readers voted overwhelmingly for islands where adventure travel is the big draw. “The scuba diving was terrific,” said one reader of Isla Mujeres, which earned the No. 3 spot. Just a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancún, this Mexican isle is home to the largest concentration of whale sharks on the planet, along with an underwater “museum” of sunken sculptures and a sea-turtle hatchery.

Two spots in Belize made the list this year: Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The former, Belize’s largest island, is also big for diving (the country has the world’s second-longest barrier reef), but there’s plenty to do on dry land, from exploring the Mayan ruins to ziplining above the jungle. Meanwhile, Caye Caulker, a tiny, nearly car-free coral isle, received high praise for its sleepy pace and casual dining options. “This is a very laid-back and unpretentious island with local street vendors grilling seafood at night,” wrote one reader.

Chile’s Easter Island, by contrast, is “not a tropical paradise,” as one reader so succinctly put it. “The interest here is the archaeology.” Namely, the hundreds of moai statues, mammoth stone figures carved years ago by the Rapa Nui inhabitants. It’s a bucket-list destination that T+L readers feel lives up to the hype.

But it was another location that earned the coveted No. 1 slot on our list, resonating even more with T+L readers. Read on to find out about it.

Ambergris Caye, Belize

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