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Top five island destinations

SmarterTravel

Island vacations provide time for reflectionÂ?time to listen to the sounds of the surf as your stress level subsides. And for more energetic moments, islands offer everything from diving to rock-climbing. To help you decide where to go, weÂ?ve listed some of our favorites. WeÂ?ve also outlined ways that you can keep your finances watertight while you enjoy your time on the beach.

Our top five island destinations are:

Among all the amazing islands in the world, we picked these for their geographical diversity and wide array of activities. We also wanted to find a mixture of high seasons to suit all schedules.

The Big Island of Hawaii

Hawaii, commonly referred to as the Big Island, may be small in population (about 150,000), but its landmass is larger than all of the other Hawaiian Islands put together. It also has a stunning array of landscapesÂ?rainforests, volcanoes, even snowy mountaintopsÂ?making it ideal for all sorts of adventure activities. On the coast, there are spectacular beaches of white, black, and even green sand for those who prefer relaxation. For more action, donÂ?t miss surfing the waves or snorkeling below the surface.

Budget-minded travelers will find that camping options are plentiful, and there are a number of hostels on the island. And though renting a car is the most efficient way to get around, the islandÂ?s bus system can bring you from the beach to the volcano for much less money. For more ways to save, see SmarterTravel.comÂ?s Hawaii Vacation Guide, with recommendations on how to find the best prices on packages, airfares, cruises, and more. For the latest offers, there are often airfare, hotel, and vacation deals to the islands.

For more information on the Big Island, visit GoHawaii.com.

Corsica, France

Nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea are CorsicaÂ?s sunny beaches, dramatic mountains, and some of the worldÂ?s finest cuisineÂ?imagine a combination of Italian and French, with an emphasis on fruits de mer (seafood). Corsica is ideal for travelers who want an active vacation, as the popular GR20 trail has more than 100 miles of pathways to explore, and there are about 30 scuba diving centers as well. If you prefer sightseeing to sweating, the port of Bonifacio is built into cliffs that rise more than 200 feet above the sea. Those with a love of history can see how the island’s capital, Ajaccio, celebrates the life of its most famous son, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Frugal travelers can avail themselves of Corsica’s many camping opportunities and cut their expenses significantly. Another way to save is by avoiding the peak season (typically July and August) and visit while the sun still shines, yet most European tourists have already finished their summer holidays. September and October are a good bet for the sun-seeking budget traveler.

For more information on Corsica, visit FranceGuide.com.

Prince Edward Island, Canada

Prince Edward Island’s culture is strongly rooted in its history, and that is a large part of its appeal. Many inhabitants trace their ancestry to Ireland and Scotland, and there are Celtic accents in everything from the traditional music played in the islandÂ?s pubs to its culinary staples, such as fish and chips. Apart from food and entertainment, PEI has miles of sandy beaches, and plenty of opportunities for recreation, from biking to kayaking. Fishing is also extremely popular here, and many visitors charter boats in search of a big catch.

For good weather and lower prices, visit PEI during its shoulder seasons (May through June and mid-September through October). Also, picking properties somewhat outside the most popular areas (such as Cavendish) is a good bet for finding lower prices. Another money-saving option is to rent a cottage and prepare your own meals, thus saving on restaurant bills. If youÂ?re in search of discounts, the provinceÂ?s official government website has a searchable database of vacation packages.

For more information on PEI, visit TravelCanada.ca.

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike much of the Caribbean, including its fellow Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix, St. John remains largely undeveloped and pristine. Why? Because two-thirds of the island is protected as a national park. This lack of infrastructure is St. JohnÂ?s biggest asset, as it draws travelers in search of natural beauty and environmentally sustainable tourism. And while St. John is not large (just 27 square miles), there is no shortage of things to do there, from the many hikes through the Virgin Islands National Park to the miles of white sand beaches along the coast. The island is mostly rural, but there are restaurants, shops, and bars in Cruz Bay.

While no one would claim that the U.S. Virgin Islands are a bargain destination, there are ways to save on St. John. Camping is much more affordable than staying at most of the available hotels, and Cinnamon Bay Campground is just steps to the beach. You canÂ?t fly directly to St. John, but there are often last-minute airfare specials to St. Thomas, just a ferry ride away.

For more information on St. John, visit USVItourism.vi.

Washington Island, Wisconsin

Half a nation away from either the Atlantic or Pacific sits tiny Washington Island. Just off the tip of the Door County peninsula, the waters of both Green Bay and Lake Michigan lap at its shores. It may not seem exotic at first, but the island boasts WisconsinÂ?s oldest Icelandic settlement, and celebrates its Scandinavian heritage with a music festival each August. Despite a year-round community of about 700, Washington Island welcomes thousands of visitors during the summer months. Many come for the bass and salmon fishing, or just to escape the heat of nearby cities.

Though Washington Island isnÂ?t particularly pricey overall, it is possible to cut costs further by staying at inland hotels, a cheaper option than accommodations on the water. And those who choose this option wonÂ?t be completely landlocked, as there are public beaches around the island. For those coming from farther away, check SmarterTravel.com for Chicago flight deals and last-minute airfare sales to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison.

For more information on Washington Island, visit WashingtonIsland.com.

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