Capri, Italy: The Amalfi coast has some of the most picturesque islands in the world, including Ischia, Procida and, of course, Capri, which attracts an international and well-heeled crowd.
updated 8/22/2005 6:08:40 PM ET 2005-08-22T22:08:40

For many people, islands are forbidding, somewhat frightening places. Isolated and cut off, they have been the refuge of castaways, exiles and evil geniuses, such as Prospero and Dr. No.

But there is another, altogether more appealing side to island life, too: One embraced by the Fletcher Christians and Paul Gauguins of the world who are looking to leave behind the confinements of civilization and reattune their circadian rhythms. The very fact that an island is essentially a world unto itself--a distinct entity--endows it with a natural freedom and purity not normally found on the mainland. On an island, people feel they can more easily shed their inhibitions, allowing themselves to indulge all of their physical appetites.

And yes, islands are sexy. Not only are inhibitions shed, so are clothes. Shoes become an after-thought, and tanned skin is proudly displayed. On some islands, in fact, clothes become purely optional, and bikinis seem modest.

Then there is the nightlife. During the high season, the beautiful people--young and old--drawn to an island's beaches and blue water, often behave as though life is so marvelous they don't want it to end. They carry on late into the night, whether at a pulsating nightclub or a local taverna. For people who prefer quieter evenings, there are nights filled with fish newly caught by local fisherman, bottles of honest wine and skies full of stars. What could be sexier than that?

To indulge in your own escapist fantasy and find out which islands made our annual list of the world's sexiest, read on.

The sexiest islands, of course, are about escapism. These are places where the normal codes of conduct are packed away with the empty suitcases and exhibitionism, whether physical or financial, becomes the order of the day. In such a hedonistic world, restraint is forgotten; yachts jostle for moorings in the harbor, trying to outdo each other in splendor and size; champagne is consumed like water; and work becomes a four-letter word. The primitive rules of attraction run rampant down the sandy beaches and through the rooms of rented seaside villas.

But while islands have so much in common, they can also be very different. Ibiza and Sardinia are glamorous and well-trodden Mediterranean playgrounds, whereas islands such as Bora Bora in French Polynesia or Thailand's Koh Samui are more remote and exotic, though equally luxurious.

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