There are islands with white-sand beaches all over the world, but once you’ve been to the Seychelles nothing seems to measure up. Its 115 islets lie in an end-of-the-world location 700 miles north of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, which sets the stage of remove. Most hotels have an island to themselves, creating the illusion of a private kingdom. And the Seychelles’ clear waters host some of the greatest marine biodiversity on earth, attracting divers, bone-fishermen, sea-kayakers, and sailors. While you can certainly splurge—the pinnacle of indulgence is still North Island—there’s no need to empty your bank account. At the Anse Soleil Beachcomber (from $88), a hotel with 14 rooms on a secluded beach on Mahe, only a cold beer will distract you from the vista of empty sand and sea.
Culebra, Puerto Rico
On many Caribbean islands, $2.25 won’t even get you a cocktail, but on Puerto Rico it’ll buy a ferry ride to Culebra, a seven-by-five-mile island that feels much farther than 17 miles away. This is a slice of bygone Caribbean, with not even a hint of a big resort or cruise ship. There are a handful of seafood shacks, small pensions, and a year-round population of about 2,000 laid-back locals. Rent a room at the Palmetto Guesthouse (doubles from $95), then wander to the harbor to hire a boatman to take you to beaches unreachable by foot. Culebra Divers offers scuba and snorkel trips.