City dwellers may feel like they’ve become immune to the beeping, engine revving, and smog that accompany the packed streets of a metropolis. But until you escape into nature for a few days, you don’t realize the profound effect that the noise and pollution truly have on your psyche.
And for many, nowhere on Earth feels more slowed down and peaceful than islands without cars, or motorcycles, or engines of any kind.
Another beautiful thing about islands without cars? They don’t have airports either. That’s why we included the simplest directions for how to get there (and how long it takes!) from anywhere in the world.
The 5 Most Stunning Islands Without Cars are:
- Mackinac Island, Michigan
- Caye Caulker, Belize
- Lake Titicaca’s floating islands, Peru
- The Gili Islands, Indonesia
- Isla Holbox, Mexico
The Top 5 Islands Without Cars
1. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Travel Back in Time
Bikes and horse-drawn carriages are as speedy as it gets on this small island that sits perfectly between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
Mackinac Island, pronounced “MackinAW” by locals, was voted the friendliest island on Earth by Travel + Leisure in 2015. Locals also have a loving nickname for out-of-towners: fudgies. (But we’ll let you discover why for yourselves.)
This retro island is great for romantic getaways, family trips, and everything in between. As the only one of our favorite islands without cars that’s on U.S. soil, Mackinac Island is great for Midwesterners to take a road trip to a slower-paced getaway.
Most of the island is covered by a state park with wooded trails and caves, perfect for escaping into nature.
Stop by the Grand Hotel for high tea in the afternoons and to experience the world’s longest porch that wraps around the outside of this Victorian-era gem of the island. At the end of the day, the island is renowned for its regularly scheduled programming: spectacular sunsets.
After dark, you’ll find plenty of nightlife with live music or you can choose to enjoy the sounds of the island while stargazing from a waterside Adirondack chair.
How to Get There: Most visitors catch a ride to Mackinac Island on ferry boats that depart from Mackinaw City (at the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, at the southern end of the Mackinac Bridge) and St. Ignace (at the bottom of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, at the northern end of the bridge).
Fly into Detroit Pellston and rent a car. (Yes, this seems counterintuitive but it’s definitely the easiest way. You will park and take a ferry to the actual island.)
2. Caye Caulker, Belize
The ‘Go Slow’ Spot of the Islands Without Cars
Carless Caye Caulker is known for operating on island time. More specifically, the island’s motto “Go Slow,” tells you everything you need to know about the vibe here.
Locals spend their days creating delicious aromas at their waterside grill shacks, playing soccer on the beaches, and – well – just going slow.
On a lazy afternoon, grab a bicycle and take a cruise around the streets of the tiny island, enjoying the abundance of colorful, handpainted signs.
Did you know the second largest reef in the world is located off Caye Caulker? The Belize Barrier Reef is home to a massive marine sinkhole, a nearly perfect circle of blackness that sits among the bright blue waters of the Caribbean, clearly visible from outer space.
Snorkeling and diving are popular pastimes here. Take a boat for a snorkeling trip and you’ll see plenty of nurse sharks and stingrays among the coral. Spearfishing is a popular activity, and the locals will take you out to try and catch your own barracuda. Afterward, they’ll grill it up for you, jerk-spiced of course, on a beachside fire.
Many visitors choose to spend their days at The Lazy Lizard bar. This outdoor bar near “The Split” is perfect for enjoying buckets of beer or “lizard bowls” at the in-water tables while waiting for the sunset view over the water.
How to Get There: Fly into Belize City and hop a ferry that heads out to the Cayes.
3. Lake Titicaca’s floating islands, Peru
No need for cars on these manmade islands
There are certainly no cars on Lake Titicaca’s floating islands considering the islands are made entirely of reeds from the lake itself.
That’s right, handmade islands. And the Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca have been around since before the Incan civilizations. Stepping foot on the squishy surface of these islands, surrounded by the bright clothing and smiling faces of the locals, is an instant stress reliever.
Even the boats are made of the Totora reeds. These boats, as the elder residents will cheekily tell you, are used by the local teenagers when they need a bit of alone time. Hard to blame them as the islands are tiny (and the one-room homes, even smaller).
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. Spending a few days on these islands is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Consider combining a trip to the Uros Islands with a visit to Machu Picchu, the other beloved car-less destination in Peru.
How to Get There: There are plenty of ways to get to Puno after flying into Peru’s international airport in Lima. Some companies offer Hop on/Hop off buses that take you to popular destinations around the country if you want to make your way slowly. If you want to head straight to Lake Titicaca, there is a local airport in Puno and from Puno, boats leave daily to explore the islands.
4. The Gili Islands, Indonesia
Sea turtles galore on these islands without cars off Bali
While neighboring Bali is notorious for its streets jampacked with cars and motorbikes, the Gili Islands are a little haven of motor-free quiet. These three islands without cars, Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan, and Gili Air, are a backpackers’ paradise. But these islands without cars also make a great destination for travelers of all kinds.
Gili ‘T’ is known for its party vibes while Gili Meno is the “honeymoon island,” and Gili Air is stuck somewhere in-between.
Sea turtles are abundant in the waters around the Gili Islands and snorkel boat tours are a beloved activity for visitors.
It’ll take you less than two hours to walk around the circumference of any of the islands. Along the way, you’ll enjoy plenty of sea views and waterfront shacks to stop for a fresh fruit shake. There’s no risk of getting lost on these little hunks of paradise, so wander away.
How to Get There: Fly to Denpasar and hop a taxi (~1.5 hours) to Padang Bai where you’ll catch the ferry to the Gili Islands.
5. Isla Holbox, Mexico
A Mexican-Caribbean Oasis
Limited cell service, limited wifi, and very limited means of transportation. This island off the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is one of our favorite islands without cars for many reasons. (Unless you count golf carts as cars.)
Located between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, Isla Holbox is rich in marine life; sea turtles and whale sharks are crowd favorites.
What else can you expect on this tiny island? Picturesque sunsets, warm water, fresh fruits, and the same spicy, indulgent cuisine you love from mainland Mexico. Walk along the sandbar or stop and take a nap in one of the famous, colorful Holbox hammocks.
It’s easy to get to (perhaps even easier than Mackinac depending on which state you’re coming from). Flights to Cancun are typically very affordable from most of the United States.
How to Get There: Fly to Cancun and travel to Chiquila to take the ferry. Then, in less than two hours you’ll be on one of our favorite islands without cars.