Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” Lyrics Meaning

The title of this song (“La Isla Bonita”) translates to “The Beautiful Island”. And likewise, its lyrics are dedicated to serving as a tribute to a tropical paradise which Madonna is particularly fond of due to its picturesque environment and “wild and free” nature. She also has an affinity for the local culture, particularly their music. And of course there is a hint of her falling in love with someone on the island also thrown into the mix.

At the beginning of the song, Madonna seemingly refers to this place as “San Pedro”. This has led some to believe that the lyrics are based on a town situated on an island in Belize. However, the Queen of Pop herself has clarified that she was not cognizant of the existence of that community and in fact implied at the time that she had never visited Latin America at all.

Rather, the song is a symbol of her appreciation of Latin Americans. And as far as Madonna’s personal history is concerned, she was heavily influenced by such people during her formative years in New York City, not too long before the release of the track. And what she remembers particularly about that experience is listening to their music. So her portrayal of “The Beautiful Island” has been formed primarily from popular Latin American music genres as well as what appears to be more or less stereotypical understandings of what a tropical paradise would be like, as opposed to actual reminiscing as the song infers.


So conclusively, as the first verse implies, “La Isla Bonita” is actually based on a fantasy. In other words, it is how the songstress idealizes a Latin American island and what her experience would be like if she had visited, particularly as a young girl. And on a higher level, it has even been interpreted as an expression of escapism, as in the artist desiring a sanctuary from her actual surroundings.

Lyrics of "La Isla Bonita"

American film and video director Mary Lambert handled the directing of the music video of “La Isla Bonita”. Lambert also directed the visuals for other Madonna hits, including “Like a Prayer“.

When did “La Isla Bonita” come out?

Madonna released this classic through Sire Records and Warner Bros. on 25 February 1987. It served as the fifth single from her bestselling third album, “True Blue”.

Since then it has also been featured on a couple of her greatest-hits albums.

Michael Jackson almost recorded the Song

The song was initially introduced to Michael Jackson (1958-2009) by Patrick Leonard. Eventually it was picked up by Madonna, a regular collaborator of Leonard’s.  And she contributed heavily to its final composition.

Who wrote “La Isla Bonita”?

Madonna and Leonard are credited as writers and producers of “La Isla Bonita”.

And the other writer is Bruce Gaitsch, who also played guitar (both acoustic and Spanish) on the track.

BTW, other Latin-American instruments that are used are Cubans drums and maracas.

A Major Hit 

The song proved to be a hit for the Queen of Pop, topping music charts in the countries below:

  • Austria
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Poland
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

 In topping the UK Singles Chart, Madonna set the record for most number-ones, at four in total, by a female artist on the list. Moreover “La Isla Bonita” marked her first number-one in France.

Owing to its huge global success, Madonna has been using this classic as a regular part of her touring setlists.

Cover Versions

“La Isla Bonita” has a following around the world, with successful covers having being released by Dutch, Mexican and Indonesian musicians.

In terms of the song being covered in Madonna’s homeland, the most successful would probably be that that of the Glee cast (featuring Ricky Martin) in 2012. This rendition charted on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Canadian Hot 100.

2 Responses

  1. Simboonath Singh says:

    By far, Madonna’s super classic ” La Isla Bonita” remains one of her best recordings thus far. This being said, her Spanish pronunciation, especially the first Spanish sentence in the song, i.e. “Como puede ser verdad.?, she ran into a little “diction” issue in her rendition of the last two words :ser verdad. She didn’t seem to have any other issues with the rest of the Spanish sentences that came later on in the song. GREAT MUSIC and song, nonetheless. Cheers Madonna 🙏

  2. Anonymous says:

    fantasy is awesome

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