There are plenty of places around the world that offer heavenly road trips. Cruising down the Italian coastline or across Route 66 are unbeatable options, but touring an island by car is a more unique experience.
Places that are often thought of for relaxing by the beach still have plenty to offer outside of their biggest tourist towns. Whether you’re in the Caribbean, traipsing a Hawaiian island or exploring northern Japan, these five islands make for enchanting, out-of-the-box road trip options.
Believe it or not, Iceland is a popular road trip destination because it has so much to offer drivers. The island only has one main road—the Ring Road—that makes it easy to see the entire isle on your trip.
Few islands can offer a road trip with the outstanding sights found in Iceland. Clocking in at 1,332 kilometers, or 828 miles, the route travels through picturesque farm towns and open fields, alongside rushing waterfalls and sprawling beaches, and atop plummeting fjords and soaring mountains. Animals like wild horses, reindeer, sheep, birds and cows can also be seen from the road. Plus you just might spot the Northern Lights if you drive at night.
Iceland offers a myriad of car rental companies, including Outback Car Rental, MyCar, Lotus Car Rental, Ace Car Rental and more. Seatbelts are always required.
While some Caribbean island roads are filled with potholes, dangerous drivers and citizens on mopeds, Aruba is different. With streets that are usually fine quality and relatively lax rental rules—don’t leave the country—the island makes for great road trips.
With just over 800 kilometers of roads on the entire isle, it’s no surprise that you can get around quickly. Drivers can expect stunning scenery along the western coastline’s rocky cliffs and in the coastal plains to the north. Further south, road trippers can stop by Arikok National Park for unique sights like lava, quartz and limestone formations. Get out of the car and hike to spot donkeys, goats, birds, rabbits and reptiles like lizards and snakes.
If you plan to explore off the beaten path, make sure you have the proper car—preferably with four-wheel drive. Worldwide rental companies like Hertz, Alamo, National, Budget and Avis all operate on the island.
The northern island of Japan, Hokkaido, provides a stark contrast to its southern neighbors. Roughly one-fifth of the country’s land, it is also home to only a small percentage of Japanese citizens.
While trains are the ideal way to travel on the Japanese island of Honshu, Hokkaido has a slower vibe that is perfect for road trips. You’re already in luck because it’s a cheaper part of the country, making hotels and restaurants more affordable. As you wander, you’ll find raw landscapes: national parks, forests filled with beech trees, volcanoes and even isolated coastal towns. Oh, and plenty of space.
Spend the day exploring the great outdoors before heading to a seaside village that offers fresh seafood. You’ll avoid the crowds in Japan’s tourist areas while seeing a part of the country that most never do.
Thanks to advanced Japanese technology, expect to fall in love with local GPS. You’ll never get lost on Hokkaido. However, gas stations are sometimes far off and close early so make sure you fill up when possible. Running out of gas is simply not part of the perfect road trip.
Few spots offer the versatility that Maui does. In a single day, visitors can venture between the sandy shores, the waterfall-filled rainforests and the rocky volcanic peaks. Though it’s one of the larger Hawaiian islands, it’s still relatively small and easy to get around.
The beautiful scenery on Maui makes it one of the most visited islands in the world. Aside from the fauna and gorgeous views, road trippers can stay active by learning to surf, hiking Haleakala or swimming in cool waterfall pools.
With regular sunshine and a plethora of rental companies to choose from, you can’t go wrong traveling Maui by car.
Isle of Wight, England
This is one road trip that might surprise you. It’s short and sweet—but that doesn’t mean it’s not entirely worth it.
The 19-kilometer Military Road on the Isle of Wight traverses the southern part of the island, running from coast to coast. To one side, you’ll spot green fields sometimes blanketed in colorful wildflowers as far as the eye can see. On the other, catch a glimpse of the towering cliffs rising up over the deep turquoise ocean. The winding road makes for a stomach-in-your-throat feeling as it hugs the cliffs so drive carefully.
Because of the potentially dangerous conditions, it’s always best to check that the road is open before setting out on the isle roads.
Taking a road trip involves a lot of planning, but it also involves prevention. Rental cars are typically kept up, but double-check to make sure the car you’re driving is safe. If you’re borrowing a car from a friend that lives on an island, make sure to grab some spare parts to fix any problems that may arise once you set out. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when you’re wandering unfamiliar roads in foreign lands.