"In the South Seas," the poet Rupert Brooke wrote in 1914, "the Creator seems to have laid himself out to show what He can do." How right the poet was, for here lie some of the world's most dramatically beautiful islands. The best of the lot have jagged mountain peaks plunging into aquamarine lagoons.

Here are some that you see on travel posters and in brochures:

  • Moorea: To my mind, Moorea is the most beautiful island in the world. Nothing compares with its saw-toothed ridges and the great dark-green hulk of Mount Rotui separating glorious Cook's and Opunohu bays. The view from Tahiti of Moorea's dinosaur-like skyline is unforgettable.
  • Huahine: Although Moorea and Bora Bora get most of the ink, Huahine is almost as gorgeous. Its bays are surrounded by mountains that almost rival Moorea's. But since it is off the well-beaten tourist track, it still retains an air of old Polynesia. Relatively unhurried by both tourists and the pressures of modern life, its residents still greet you with a big smile and have time to sit and chat.
  • Bora Bora: The late James Michener thought Bora Bora was the most beautiful island in the world. Although tourism has turned this gem into a sort of expensive South Seas Disneyland since Michener's day, development hasn't altered the incredible beauty of Bora Bora's basaltic tombstone towering over a lagoon ranging in color from yellow to deep blue.
  • Maupiti: An unspoiled jewel, Maupiti is like nearby Bora Bora in miniature, but without any modern hotels or resorts. Like Bora Bora, its mountainous central island towers over a crystal-clear lagoon.
  • Rangiroa, Tikehau, Manihi, & Fakarava: These atolls are lumped together because they are equally beautiful. Each has a string of islets enclosing large lagoons, like giant lakes in the middle of the ocean.
  • Ua Pou & Fatu Hiva: The two most gorgeous of the Marquesas Islands, Ua Pou and Fatu Hiva both are high and mountainous, with cliffs and steep ridges outlining valleys descending to the edge of the sea. Ua Pou's mountain ridges are topped by stovepipe spires, while Virgin's Bay on Fatu Hiva is one of the world's most spectacularly beautiful yacht anchorages.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.