When you think of islands, we bet the first thing that springs to mind is your typical desert island paradise: remote, dotted with swaying palm trees, lined with beautiful beaches and surrounded by brilliant blue sea.

We had to break it to you, but islands come in all shapes and forms – although they are often home to beaches. From deserted beaches on a Vietnamese archipelago to bucket list-worthy beaches in Barbados, we've tracked down some of the very best...

Top Pick: Barbados

Barbados: land of beaches, dazzling blue seas and a local community so friendly and welcoming that you'll never want to leave. With credentials like these, it's no surprise the Caribbean island is up there on just about everyone's wishlist. You might already know of the spectacular Bathsheba beach and the must-visit Friday night fish fry at Oistins – paradise for anyone looking to hoover up plenty of local seafood, dance to steel drums or both. But there's a little more to discover, too. Stop in for a rum or three at roadside joint John Moores on the west coast, then take a seat at self-service, sharing-table-style restaurant Just Grillin' in Holetown, where you'll be able to dive into a platter of fish, rice and veg that's almost as big as you are.

Stay: Little Arches – cute and independent, with a rooftop terrace bar primed for soaking up the sunset, from £180pn. littlearches.com

Getting there: American Airlines flies from Heathrow to Barbados via Miami from £758 return. americanairlines.co.uk

Best of the rest...

Con Dao, Vietnam

Once you've had your fill of Ho Chi Minh City's bright lights and scooters, hop on a flight down to the Con Dao archipelago off Vietnam's south coast, where you'll find beaches, bougainvillea and, erm, some eerie abandoned prisons. Sure, they're not your usual tropical island fare, but trust us when we say they're well worth a visit.

Mustique, Caribbean

Mustique is the original celebrity playground; it's Balmoral meets the Balearics. There are only 120 residences here, of which around 80 are available to rent. Mick Jagger has been a resident since the early 1970s; yes, you can rent his six- bedroom beach house if you book early enough. Head to one of the island's three restaurants and you might even sit next to Kate Moss – because that's just what happens on Mustique.

Rangali island, Maldives

There are paradise islands – and then there's Conrad Maldives. White beaches where the sand is finer than talcum powder? Tick. Azure waters so piercing you'd swear there's been some kind of giant filter applied? Yup. Private villas on stilts with hot tubs and stairs directly into the ocean? You bet.

Zaya Nurai, Abu Dhabi

If you fancy a paradise getaway with a touch of Maldivian glam, but don't have the time or budget to actually get to the Maldives, give Zaya Nurai Island a go. A short boat ride away from the beating heart of Abu Dhabi, this 32-room hideaway is just about as remote and romantic as white-sand luxury gets, minus the whole seaplane thing.

Want to read about more idyllic isles? Discover the best islands for adventure.