1 Mnemba Island, Zanzibar
Barefoot luxury is the theme at Mnemba, the heart-shaped coral atoll which has been voted one of the most romantic islands in the world. You’ll kick off your sandals when you wade ashore from the boat bringing you from Zanzibar.
Your HQ will be a banda, or cottage, made from handwoven palm, thatch and driftwood, with a verandah and your own patch of shell-strewn sand. There are only 10 of them hidden among the casuarina trees, so you are more likely to meet a turtle or flock of waders than your nearest neighbour as you stroll around the island.
Don’t expect sophistication. Dress code for the day is a straw hat and Swahili wrap, entertainment is watching the outrigger canoes deliver lobsters for your supper, and action is snorkelling and diving. Take your flippers – who needs shoes?
· Journeys by Design (01273 623790; journeysbydesign.co.uk) offers a seven-night holiday including all meals, drinks, transfers and two dives a day, but not flights, for £2,730.
2 Lofoten Islands, Norway
Nowhere does the midnight sun shine to greater effect than on Norway’s Lofoten Islands, anchored above the Arctic Circle. Their purple mountains and green meadows, bright fishing boats and rust-red cottages on stilts are mirrored in Caribbean-blue sea. Edgar Allen Poe described the seas around as ‘lashed into ungovernable fury… the bed of waters seamed and scarred into a thousand conflicting channels bursts into frenzied convulsion – heaving, boiling, hissing’.
The main tourist islands, Austvagoy, Vestvagoy, Flakstad and Moskenes, appeal to writers and artists as well as outdoor enthusiasts, with climbing, hiking, riding, canoeing, biking, rafting and fishing highly popular. Puffins, cormorants, guillemots, eagles and seals bring in the wildlife watchers. For anyone with Viking ancestry a visit to the new Viking museum at Borg is a must.
· Inntravel (01653 629000; inntravel.co.uk) offers three-night breaks by air in winter for £649 half-board; a self-catering summer week starts at £860.
3 Roatan, Honduras
Slightly honky-tonk, utterly chilled, Roatan is the kind of island Hemingway might have holed up in if he hadn’t discovered Cuba first. While upmarket holidaymakers head for the smarter hotels of Sandy Bay, West End is the main independent travellers’ hangout, with dirt roads, an indolent charm and attractive guest houses strung out as far as the superb beaches at West Bay and Half Moon Bay. In between are dive shops and bars doing a line in the local Salva Vida (lifesaver) beer. They open when the owner feels like it and shut when he wants to go to bed.
Tourist attractions include an iguana breeding farm and bird park, and you can swim with the dolphins at the Marine Sciences Institution in Antony’s Key Resort. But Roatan’s pièce de resistance is the barrier reef, the second largest in the world – even if you can’t dive there is superb snorkelling from the beach.
· Trips Worldwide (0117 311 4400; tripsworldwide.co.uk) offers six nights mainly half board in Roatan on a 12-night holiday to Honduras including flights from £1,800.
4 Wilson Island, Australia
Australians call the Great Barrier Reef the eighth wonder of the world, and it’s on every traveller’s wish list. Alas, like so many reefs, this 1,500-mile stretch is ecologically fragile. But castaways can set sandal on the ‘new’ Wilson Island knowing that their creature comforts are based on sound environmental principles; heat and light are by solar power and each of the six tents are created out of natural materials. There are separate bathrooms for each tent.
Beachcombing and birdwatching, swimming and snorkelling, reef walks and relaxing in your hammock are what Wilson Island is about during the day. Wining, dining and socialising take place later in the communal Longhouse.
· Turquoise Holidays (0870 443 4177; turquoiseholidays.co.uk) offers three nights on Wilson Island and two on Heron Island for £698 including transfers from Gladstone, meals, drinks and activities.
5 Sveti Stefan, Montenegro:
Princess Margaret, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren used to beat a track up the sandy causeway to Sveti Stefan, the most exclusive watering-hole in the former Yugoslavia. Now part of Montenegro, the former fishing village is returning to its former glory – Claudia Schiffer and Jeremy Irons have certainly given it their seal of approval.
Many consider Montenegro to be the most beautiful part of the Adriatic, with its stupendous mountain backcloth, national parks and deeply indented fjords. Lord Byron was a fan. ‘When the pearls of nature were sown, handfuls of them were cast on this soil,’ enthused the poet.
The whole of Sveti Stefan was turned into a luxury hotel in the Sixties, its stone cottages, tiny chapels and alleyways earning it the title of the St Tropez of the Balkans, with its excellent sandy beaches flanking the causeway.
· Holiday Options (0870 013 0450; holidayoptions.co.uk) offers a week’s half-board from £569 including flights.
6 Angra Dos Reis Bay Islands, Brazil
Forget Rio and Ipanema, Angra dos Reis, 150 miles south, is where well-heeled Brazilians like to oil their pecs, hang out in boats and sip their caipirinhas. Some of the seafood restaurants, even those only accessible by sea, are harder to get a table at than London’s top haunts.
There is said to be an island for every day of the year in the Angra dos Reis Bay, so take your pick. If you are into big and busy, go for Ilha Grande, a prison until 10 years ago. It has dozens of sandy beaches, restaurants and fishing villages. Stay in the little Pousada Sitio do Lobo in a wild tropical setting in the north of the island.
If you prefer small, head for the 100m by 20m private island of Ilha do Ourico and the ultimate beach house. It has just five cabanas (the island only sleeps 10), with palm-thatched, Indonesian-styled sitting rooms and a glass-panelled floor so guests can watch the underwater action. If such a sybaritic lifestyle begins to pall, the island speedboat can whisk you off to another beach, and a traditional old fishing boat is available for longer odysseys.
· Cazenove & Loyd (020 7384 2332; caz-loyd.com) offers the Pousada Sitio do Lobo for $350 (£250) for a night’s B&B per double room. The Ilha do Ourico can be rented for £ 15,000 a week. Flights and transfers can be arranged.