(CNN) -- Spin the globe, pick a spot and odds are good you'll alight on the color blue: 71% of the Earth's surface is covered with water.

Vast stretches of ocean spread from the edges of the continents, and what lies between the coasts is true wilderness. Far from terrestrial plants and light-filled shallows, the open ocean makes no accommodation for human comfort or survival.

Islands are the exception. These widely scattered landing places offer respite in the form of fresh water, abundant food and the occasional fruity cocktail.

Maybe that's the travel secret behind the evocative power of beautiful islands. Like the rainforest-cloaked island of Kaua'i, some are the summits of drowned volcanoes, smoking and burning above the waterline. Others, such as the Seychelles, are the scattered shards of continents, while atolls are coral crusted over a sinking landmass.

Every single one invites travelers to leave familiar shores behind.

From Norway's Arctic reaches to the sunny reefs of Palawan, these beautiful islands span latitudes, climates and cultures.

Whether you're dreaming of a beachy escape or plotting a course for the edges of the Earth, these are the world's 10 most beautiful islands:

With a red-hot origin story as an active volcano, Kaua'i's lava tubes and black-sand beaches are just the start of the island's searing beauty.

Native forest here provides habitat for bird species that only live in the Hawaiian islands, and a trip into the wilderness reveals hanging valleys and towering waterfalls above crystal-clear freshwater pools.

The most spectacular wilderness on Hawaii's "Garden Island" flanks the Na Pali Coast, which intrepid hikers can reach via a challenging trail known as one of America's toughest walks.