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What Are the Best Reality TV Islands?

The Pacific and the Caribbean: Only one island group can get the final rose

Getty Images
Getty Images

They say no man is an island, but an island is probably one of the most important characters in the reality TV universe. What would a Bachelor proposal be without the white sands and aquamarine waters of the Caribbean? What would Dating Naked be if we were forced to view all that exposed junk without the beautiful tropical backdrop? (Visual torture, most likely.) Without an island, there never would have been three seasons of Temptation Island.

Why have the islands become so important? One can look at what islands have represented over the years: exploration, wildness, adventure, mystery, romance, the unknown, isolation, madness, anarchy — basically a tagline for any given season of The Bachelor. The island location is also malleable — it can be the backdrop of an erotic romance novel, or the setting of Cast Away when necessary, or Castaway, which is always necessary. An island can isolate contestants and drive them to boredom, which will create some moments of insanity (looking at you, Chad). More importantly, an island location is crucial in showing FCC-friendly amounts of skin: male contestants have an excuse to be shirtless, female contestants are forced to hang out in bathing suits. Try to think of reality TV without islands — more specifically, the location-scout-preferred Caribbean or Pacific islands. You can’t. But which island grouping has given more to reality television? Let’s see.

The Numbers

Let’s approach this with pure, logical, undeniable math. How many seasons of island-centric reality shows have been filmed on each?

Survivor: Pacific: 22; Caribbean: 0

Dating Naked: Pacific: 2; Caribbean: 0

Are You the One?: Pacific: 3; Caribbean: 1

Coupled: Pacific: 0; Caribbean: 1

Naked and Afraid: Pacific: 3 episodes; Caribbean: 2 episodes

The Challenge: Pacific: 0; Caribbean: 6

Temptation Island: Pacific: 0; Caribbean: 1

Paradise Hotel: Pacific: 0; Caribbean: 1

The Bachelor/The Bachelorette: Pacific: 1; Caribbean: 12

Bachelor in Paradise: Pacific: 0; Caribbean: 0 (Mexico: 3)

Pacific: 31 seasons; Caribbean: 24 seasons

Winner: Pacific

The Drama

It isn’t how often you film on the island, but what happens on that island that matters. While the Pacific islands can claim the very dramatic first season of Survivor and a very dramatic, very naked Richard Hatch, the Caribbean islands lay ownership over that early experiment in polyamory and open relationships that is Temptation Island. Remember Mandy and Billy?

But then The Bachelor/ette franchise pulled a Kanye and made several Caribbean islands famous, thanks to a few memorable seasons.

  • Vieques became known for the moment in Season 16 of The Bachelor when Ben Flajnik and Courtney Robertson broke the rules and had non-producer sanctioned, and brief (by Robertson’s recall), sex in the ocean.
  • St. Lucia: Season 18’s fantasy suites were located at the Viceroy’s Sugar Beach, which is now a historical monument to every awful thing Juan Pablo ever did to women.
  • St. Lucia: Season 14, Jake and Vienna epically sail aboard a boat that appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Anguilla: Season 15, The Bachelor, Anguilla was the site of the classy Brad Womack’s classiest group date: a photo shoot for Sports Illustrated, where two women went topless in order to win the rose. (Spoiler alert: It worked.)

But none of these orchestrated, “sexy” moments can hold a candle to the most dramatic narrative of all: human survival. The Challenge, Naked and Afraid, and Survivor have all called the Pacific islands home at one time or another. It’s where man must learn to make fire, sustain life, and fight off natural predators attempting to assert dominance, like CT.

Winner: Pacific

The Level of Emotional Attachment

As previously mentioned, where the Pacific islands are used in more menacing ways, threatening the very survival of man, the Caribbean islands are a backdrop for more dating shows — Are You the One?, Dating Naked, Paradise Hotel, and of course The Bachelor franchise. Because of this delineation, the Pacific islands are now associated with fear, desperation, uncertainty, starvation, and thirst. The romantic Caribbean islands are linked with fear, desperation, uncertainty, starvation, and thirst, but just at a romantic dinner at sunset, which is more palatable.

Now, if one of these islands hosted a show that combined both — say Blue Lagoon: The Reality Show — that region would be automatic winner. For now, love conquers all.

Winner: Caribbean

The Tourism Boost

Some imagined brochure copy from any of these places:

St. Lucia: Relive the fantasy suite!

Vieques: Where the waves come fast like Ben Flajnik!

Anguilla: If you lived here, you’d be dating naked by now!

Fiji: Survive! Maybe!

There are several slideshows on places like that show you the “8 Most Romantic resorts,” or articles that teach you how to “Vacay” at locations seen on The Bachelor. (Again, mostly Caribbean, save for Hawaii.) You rarely see slideshows that are like “vacation where that Naked and Afraid contestant ate that lizard they caught and then undercooked, and spent six days crapping themselves on camera and almost dying of dehydration.”

Winner: Caribbean

Pacific islands, the tribe has spoken.

Winner: Caribbean islands, will you accept the final rose?