Travel + Leisure Readers' 5 Favorite Islands in Mexico and Central and South America of 2024

The Galápagos was the favorite for T+L readers among islands in Mexico, Central America, and South America in our annual “World’s Best Awards” survey for 2024.

<p>guenterguni/Getty Images</p>

guenterguni/Getty Images

No matter what type of island getaway you've dreamed up, chances are it's a reality found along the coastlines of Central America, South America, and Mexico. The waters along these shores are peppered with dozens of idyllic, beachy islands, and each one offers something a little different from the next. Whether it’s epic underwater diving and wildlife viewing, or groves of coconut palms, this region can make your tropical island fantasies come true. Discover which islands in Mexico, Central America, and South America caught Travel + Leisure readers' attention in 2024.

How Voting Works

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 hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Over 186,000 T+L readers completed the 2024 survey. A total of more than 700,000 votes were cast across over 8,700 properties (hotels, cities, cruise lines, etc.).

Islands were specifically rated on the criteria below:

  • Natural attractions/beaches

  • Activities/sights

  • Restaurants/food

  • People/friendliness

  • Value

For each characteristic, respondents could choose a rating of excellent, above average, average, below average, or poor. The final scores are averages of these responses.

What Readers Loved

Both along the Belize Barrier Reef, known for the famed Great Blue Hole, Caye Caulker (No. 2) and Ambergris Caye (No. 3) remained on the list this year. But the two islands, while both stunning with white sand beaches and tropical hues, have different vibes to offer visitors. Caye Caulker is known for its backpacker-friendly, laid-back style. One reader described it as "the little sister to Ambergris Caye," praising it for its small-town culture and various dining options, while Ambergris Caye swings a little more luxe thanks to its offering of upscale hotels and resorts.

Just off the coast of Cancun's Hotel Zone, Isla Mujeres (No. 4) has a completely different atmosphere from the buzzy, resort-heavy mainland. Here, life moves at a much slower pace and its main beach, Playa Norte, is one of the most beautiful in Mexico. One reader says they have visited 20 times in 30 years, while another one says they would move there if given the opportunity.

Over in Honduras, one reader deemed Roatán Island (No. 5) to be a well-kept secret, while others praised it for its spectacularly pristine beaches, tranquil water perfect for snorkeling, and its low volume of tourists.

The Galápagos Islands in Ecuador secured the No. 1 spot again this year, holding its title for the 24th consecutive year. This epic, adventure-prone destination is often at the top of many travelers' bucket lists for its ecological diversity and pristine environment, so it’s no surprise readers sing its praise.

The Winner

Galápagos Islands: Ecuador

<p>paulacobleigh/Getty Images</p>

paulacobleigh/Getty Images

Readers agree: The Galápagos Islands in Ecuador are a must for nature lovers of all kind, with its 9,000 species found on the islands and its surrounding waters. This archipelago of islands was put on the map in the 19th century when Charles Darwin wrote about the awe-inspiring diversity of wildlife across the Galápagos. Since then, not much has changed, and therein lies the magic and mystery of South America's most famous island chain. One reader noted, "I don't think there is anywhere else on the planet like these islands.” And another went as far to say that their "soul was soothed" by what they saw, and that they "felt privileged to observe the many natural wonders” here.

The Full List

1. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader score: 91.26

2. Caye Caulker, Belize

Reader Score: 87.71

3. Ambergris Caye, Belize

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 84.56

4. Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Reader Score: 82.03

5. Roatán Island, Honduras

Reader Score: 80.31

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