- From sandy beaches to crystal clear waters, you may think you’ve seen it all when it comes to island life – but it turns out many of the world’s best islands fly under the radar despite their spectacular beauty.
- Insider asked some of the most influential travel bloggers and experts from the likes of HotelTonight, Secret Escapes, Topdeck Travel, PK’s List, and TravelSupermarket for the most breathtaking and memorable lesser-known islands they have ever visited.
- Frequent travellers in our own office also contributed, and some tips were taken from digital journalists and TripAdvisor users.
- From a secret, sparkling spot in Sicily to a car-free Mexican retreat, scroll down for photos of 100 under-the-radar islands around the world.
- Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a story originally published in 2018.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“Reunion Island is a French Island territory located in the Indian Ocean, and is a fantastic alternative to the popular Maldives,” according to holiday rental site HomeToGo.
“Surrounded by beautiful beaches, the island also hosts lush tropical rainforests and is the perfect destination for nature lovers. Reunion Island is a photographer’s paradise with many impressive trails for trekking, glorious volcanoes, and turquoise blue waters. Perfect to practice your rusty French skills, the friendly local population makes the experience all the more enjoyable.”
Michel Karam, CEO of müvTravel, called Reunion Island “one of the most unusual island paradises on the planet.”
“The island is known for its volcanic, rain-forested interior, coral reefs and beaches,” he added.
Egadi Islands, Italy
These islands are an Italian secret, according to HomeToGo – at least until now.
“The Egadi Islands are three islands off the western coast of Sicily. Our data shows that this island is almost exclusively visited by Italians, although it includes all the features that make holidays perfect: beautiful beaches, sun, great food and fantastic wines.
“If you don’t want to travel to all three different islands, we recommend you stay in Marettimo. Although it is the hardest island to reach, it offers outstanding snorkelling and is the least touristy island of the Egadi Islands.”
Curaçao combines the best vibes of the Caribbean and Europe, according to HomeToGo.
“On this Dutch island, you will find gorgeous beaches and beautiful European inspired architecture,” a spokesperson said. “One of the most colourful parts of the island is the Pietermaai District. This vibrant neighbourhood has emerged as a trendy spot for bars and restaurants and is a must when visiting the island.”
According to HomeToGo, summer (June – August) is the best time to visit Curaçao for those hoping for a deal.
The Faroe Islands are a “refreshing” summer destination, according to HomeToGo.
“Too often overlooked by tourists as holidaymakers usually favour destinations where you can bask under the sun to have the perfect tan, these islands offer a fresh natural wonder,” the spokesperson said.
“Perfect for long walks in scenic surroundings, the Faroe Islands offer exceptional and wild natural sceneries and rare wildlife sightings, such as puffins. Also known as Lundy, Puffins are an Arctic bird of prey. The birds visit the Faroe Islands every year and can be seen from mid-April to September.”
The Azores, Portugal
Avid adventurers should look no further, according to HomeToGo.
“Off the western coast of Africa, the Azores are a Portuguese group of islands offering all the feats you could want for a perfect summer adventure. The remote archipelago offers world-class sea sports and activities, such as diving, whale watching, canyoning, surfing, and more. Combined with tasty Portuguese food and some jaw-dropping beaches to relax on, the islands should be on your list before they become the new place to be in Europe.”
Reigo Eljas, Country Director at lastminute.com, also suggested The Azores, adding: “We love a random fact about places and here’s one of our favourites, singer Nelly Furtado’s parents are from here. The Azores are also technically in Europe, as part of Portugal, despite being miles out into the North Atlantic Ocean and a good four hour flight.
“Don’t miss the Lagoa das Sete Cidades – this twin lake in a dormant volcano has one side green, the other side blue. Definitely one for the Instagram.”
Emma Leggat, Director of Communications for hotel deals and booking app HotelTonight, said: “This island’s secluded beaches, gorgeous hills and whitewashed villages make the perfect backdrop for anyone seeking a more laid-back vibe than the crowds of nearby Mykonos. Explore its charming villages and indulge your way through a culinary scene of renowned restaurants alongside authentic local gems.”
Renee Sundgren, Social Media Manager at Topdeck Travel, agreed that Paros doesn’t get the attention it deserves. “With its unrivalled natural beauty and stunning beaches, Paros is a must visit. Ideal for young travellers and couples, Paros offers everything that you would expect from an island in the Cyclades – blue-domed churches, dazzling whitewashed villages and magical sunsets,” she said.
Deia, Mallorca, Spain
While Mallorca itself is perhaps not quite so under-the-radar, Leggat suggests heading to the “fairytale-like village” of Deia, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site “thanks to its gorgeous mountainous landscape.”
“Artsy types, take note: Deia has attracted everyone from David Bowie to Beyoncé with its creative community, art galleries and a lively music scene,” according to Leggat.
“Kauai attracts a different crowd than Oahu or Maui with its sleepy-town charm,” according to Leggat. “Adventurous types will love hiking the rugged landscapes and pristine waterfalls, while there are plenty of luxe hotels on HotelTonight for those craving a more indulgent experience.” Her recommendations? Koa Kea Hotel and Resort or Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu.
“The magical archipelago of Madeira has been a well-kept secret until recently, a tropical getaway just a 90-minute flight from Lisbon,” Leggat said. “Hard not to fall for Madeira’s charm while you take a dip in black lava pools, browse colourful markets, or sip wine from a local vineyard. Go before the secret’s out!”
Also a fan of Madeira, Eljas added: “It’s got a bit of everything here – you can go hiking, sailing or spend a lazier time at the beach or at one of the many vineyards. Go to Cabo Giro for spectacular views – this is one of the highest sea cliffs in the world.
“For sheer silliness, you’ve got to try the Monte Toboggan run in Funchal. You’re basically taken back down a hill in a wicker toboggan by chaps in straw hats (it dates from the 1850s). It sounds like a tourist trap, well it is a bit, but where else in the world are you going to do it.”
“When people first land in Madeira, they often comment that they don’t feel like they are in Europe,” Silvia Dias, Strategy and Marketing Manager for Discover Madeira, added.
“The subtropical archipelago is on the same latitude as Morocco, with all year round warmth and some of the most fertile growing conditions in the world – this makes the landscape incredibly lush.”
This is a great alternative to Ibiza if you’re looking for a Spanish holiday, according to Leggat.
“For the daring, there’s even a restaurant on top of a volcano.”
Isla Holbox, Mexico
“Near Cancun but untouched by the party scene, Isla Holbox is the favourite low-key destination of locals,” Leggat said. “This tiny hideaway is gaining a reputation as the next Tulum, and it’s worth the trek for its relaxed atmosphere and serene beaches.”
John-Lee Saez, Managing Director for KAYAK Europe, added: “When people think of beach holidays to Mexico, Cancun is right up there at the top, however it is often packed with tourists and known mostly for its party atmosphere. If you are after something a little quieter but close by, Isla Holbox is a car free island that has flamingos, whale sharks and turtles. If you can’t find relaxation and peace here, you won’t find it anywhere.”
Île de Ré, France
“In-the-know Parisians have been flocking to this picture-perfect island of vineyards and white sand beaches on the west coast of France,” Leggat said. “The island has all the natural beauty and charm of the Riviera – minus the touristy crowds – and is small enough to explore on a bike or horseback before winding down in a hotel with stunning ocean views.”
Leggat said: “You may be dreaming of a trip to Capri, but don’t overlook this equally gorgeous island in the Gulf of Naples. Explore natural thermal springs and dine on aperitivos by the beach before retreating to one of the island’s charming boutique hotels. Hard to imagine a more perfect day!”
“A pearl among the Croatian islands, Vis spent much of its recent history closed off to tourists as it served as a military base up until the late 80s,” according to Renee Sundgren, Social Media Manager at Topdeck Travel.
“As the island began to slowly open up to the rest of the world, travellers have been flocking to the beautiful island for culture, authenticity and culinary delights. With its gorgeous beaches and secluded bays, Vis is the perfect holiday getaway for those seeking peace and tranquility.”
Jason Goldberg, Founder and Director of SpaSeekers, added: “Vis is a beautiful, tranquil island which is the furthest inhabited island off the Croatian mainland, free from high rise resorts.
“As Vis was cut off from foreign visitors until 1989, the isolation preserved the island from development and is now an attraction for travellers who seek authenticity, nature, gourmet delights and most importantly peace and quiet.”
“One of the most beautiful and stunning islands on the Florida Keys, this paradise spot offers something for everyone,” according to Sundgren.
“Also known as ‘The Village of Islands,’ Islamorada was voted as one of the most romantic islands in the U.S. – and it’s easy to see why! With unbroken horizons of sky and crystal-clear waters, Islamorada provides visitors with picture postcard perfect views from every bridge and restaurant.”
Gili Meno, Indonesia
Emma McWhinney, UK Head of Editorial for Secret Escapes, said: “As breathtaking and beach-blessed as nearby tourist hotspots Bali and Gili T, Gili Meno, with its mist-shrouded mountains, white sand beaches and turquoise clear waters, is a must-visit for adventurous travellers looking to explore a more serene and rugged landscape. Expect to be mesmerised by its laid-back charm and schools of colourful fish that swim in the coral reefs located just offshore.”
“As St Lucia’s overlooked sister island, Martinique, also known as the ‘island of flowers,’ offers stunning unspoilt rainforest, dramatic cliffside terrain and clear, calm waters that won’t disappoint,” according to McWhinney. “As an overseas region of France, its culture reflects its French influences but with a Caribbean twist. Visitors can spend their time here hiking through tropical rainforest, dining on freshly caught fish in the restaurants dotted along the beachfronts and kayaking on the serene stretches of water.”
Western Visayas, Philippines
“Often overlooked by the popular tourist spots of Cebu, Bohol, and Boracay, the Western Visayas offer plenty of untouched, secluded and uncrowded beaches for uninterrupted rest and relaxation,” McWhinney said.
“For tucked away coves, fresh fish beach barbecues and the sweetest mangoes in the world (they even host an all-you-can-eat mango festival every May), head to the island of Guimaras. Nearby Negros Occidental island, is home to Danjugen Island, a 43- hectare marine sanctuary, with five lagoons, limestone forests, a bat cave, white sand beaches, kayaking and incredibly clear waters for snorkelling the coral reef. For world class diving, zip down the coast to Sipalay, home to the mini chocolate hills and incredible dive sites, including an old shipwreck and plenty of beach hangouts, popular with the friendly locals.”
Petit St. Vincent
If you’re looking for a private island stay, Petit St Vincent (PSV) offers a place to “truly disconnect and unwind, whilst still being extremely well looked after,” according to the resort’s General Manager Matthew Semark.
“The 22 cottages and villas on this private island are spread across 115 acres, dotted between tropical vegetation, on bluffs and long, near-deserted white sandy beaches,” he said. “So if space is what you’re after, PSV is for you. There are no locks on the doors, no TVs, limited WiFi and a flagpole communication system for requests. We offer guests world-class food and wine, some of the best diving in the Caribbean, with the Cousteau Dive Centre, as well as yoga, tennis and hiking. We are also committed to numerous eco-practices to minimise our footprint.”
“Although many parts of the Philippines are beautiful, Palawan truly is a hidden gem,” according to Emma Grimster, spokesperson for deal comparison site TravelSupermarket.
“This treasure trove of emerald waters and jungle-filled mountains features some of the best spots to dive in the world where you can swim amongst abundant wildlife and shipwrecks. The best time to visit Palawan, an archipelagic province of the Philippines, is between October and May and be sure to hire a bangka boat (outrigger boat) to travel between the smaller islands.”
Saez of KAYAK also suggested Palawan, adding: “Palawan in the Phillipines is getting more and more popular, particularly with travel bloggers, but it is still an amazing paradise island full of lagoons which you can kayak through, taking in the beautiful surroundings and the huge amounts of tropical aquatic wildlife.”
“The charming island of Utila sits on the second largest barrier reef in the world and is the largest in the Western Hemisphere,” said Grimster. “The gentle whale shark whose migratory path passes the island are especially common in the surrounding waters, and Utila is one of the few places in the world where whale sharks can be observed all year around.
“Utila, located in the western Caribbean sea just off the northern coast of Honduras, is also known as one of the best and cheapest places in the world to obtain your scuba diving certification.”
Navarino Island, Chile
Grimster said: “As the closest land to the Antarctic continent, Navarino Island is also home to the southernmost trekking route in the world; the Dientes Circuit. This hike takes on average six days and is a nature-lover’s paradise with panoramic views of Puerto Williams, Canal Beagle and Ushuaia.
“Magnificent mountain ranges, vast lakes, forests and fishing villages make this captivating landscape at the far end of South America a breathtaking voyage. Adventurers should also travel to Windhond Bay at the south of the island to be in with a chance of spotting whales and orcas.”
“Known for it’s Neolithic Ġgantija Temple ruins, rural hiking paths, sandy beaches and rugged landscapes, Gozo is the sister island of Malta and makes up one of the 21 Maltese islands,” Grimster said. “The charming island boasts an average temperature of low 30s during the summer months, perfect weather to enjoy Gozo’s spectacular coastline.”
Jason Goldberg, Founder and Director of SpaSeekers, also suggested Gozo.
“Gozo has a mish-mash of Greek, Cyprian, and Sicilian cultures that have influenced the island over thousands of years,” he said. “Gozo’s fascinating historical background has left its mark on the island today with leaving an architectural legacy including the Ggantija Temples which can be explored by many today. The summer months offer tourists the chance to take part in the local fiesta celebrations, where they can relax and enjoy fireworks, band marches and vibrant atmosphere.”
“Head to Solta for a traditional glimpse of island life and to escape the crowds,” Grimster said.
“The hilly island with steep shores and rustic villages can be reached via a short ferry ride, nine miles to be exact, from the Croatian city of Split. Solta is acclaimed for its honey made from wild rosemary, and its olive oil made with fruits from trees that are over 1,000 years old. Travellers should be sure to taste the local cuisines whilst exploring the quaint island.”
Six Senses, Krabey Island, Cambodia
“This island resort is due to open its doors in November 2018, making this an absolute hidden gem,” said Travel Designer Katie Gillies of bespoke holiday company VIVID TRAVEL.
“This 30-acre island is located just off the stunning southern coast of Cambodia, offering all the top-notch facilities you’d expect from a Six Senses Resort – luxurious pool villas, a soul reviving spa and attentive staff. You will leave here feeling absolutely refreshed.”
Ko Lipe, Thailand
“This secluded island is shrouded in coconut plantations and offers incredible diving,” Gillies said. “Night swimming and snorkelling is a must do thanks to the glowing plankton that light up at night. This peaceful island offers access to some of the most fascinating uninhabited islands just off of its coast which can be reached by a long tail boat.”
Stewart Island, New Zealand
Caroline King, Travel Designer at VIVID TRAVEL, said: “For nature and wildlife lovers, there’s nowhere quite like this. It’s home to the world’s highest concentration of kiwis (birds!) and has a permanent population of only 380. Feeling overcrowded will certainly not be a problem here.”
San Blas Islands, Panama
James Asquith, founder of HolidaySwap and the youngest person to travel to every country, said: “Want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time and found a part of the world that is untouched? Then take a traditional sailboat between Cartagena in Colombia and Panama. The San Blas islands are in between and some of the most beautiful, untouched picturesque islands in the world.”
Asquith said: “One of the most inaccessible countries in the South Pacific, the journey here is completely worth it! Palm tree-lined, untouched beaches and a very friendly local population combined with warm and clear tropical waters makes Tuvalu both off the radar and unforgettable.”
“Want to be the first person to see the sunrise in the world? Then head down to the Eastern beaches early and if you get lucky you might just be by yourself – which means claiming to be the first person to watch the sunrise in the world,” Asquith said. “Pretty cool, huh?”
“Fancy stepping into an open-air World War Two museum that is largely untouched and the size of an island? Then the Solomon Islands is the place for you,” Asquith said.
“Beautiful beaches lined with palm trees are the setting for some of the best ship wreck diving, where many wrecks still poke out from the waters surface, relatively close to the coast line. Old tanks and plane wrecks can be found all over this island which was the setting of some of the Pacific’s fiercest battles during World War Two – but still, you see relatively few tourists here.”
“Bang in the middle of the Pacific, Federated States of Micronesia is a huge cluster of spread out islands,” according to Asquith. “Head to Chuuk which is easily accessible relative to some of the other islands, but is an amazing array of volcanoes, rainforest and coral reefs in a paradise setting, where you will feel like you have the whole place to yourself!”
“Not to be confused with the more we’ll known Dominican Republic, Dominica is one of the lesser visited Caribbean islands,” Asquith said. “Don’t expect lots of five-star beach resorts here, this is rugged, more rustic but incredibly stunning and largely untouched scenery. Steep cliffs with tropical greenery makes this island a hikers paradise.”
Palau (Rock Islands)
“Actually a collection of 300 small islands, located to the east of the Philippines, Palau is untouched and simply stunning,” according to Asquith. “Jellyfish Lake is an unbelievable sight to see, and Rock Islands is a perfect picture you will have likely seen before in a travel magazine, but this is where to find it.”
Asquith said: “The Kingdom of Tonga is very well know to many people, but it’s actually seldom visited. Tourists flock to the much more popular nearby Fiji and even Samoa, and the island of Tonga remains largely untouched from the tourist crowds.
“Everything seems to grow here, and locals are some of the happiest people not just in the Pacific but the world. This really does feel like care free island life. The national rugby team do everyday jobs and you may well see the King walking the streets of Tongatapu.”
“It’s a 3,500-acre private island in Fiji, and probably the best resort island in the world, where toys include a $US2.1 million private submarine to use by guests, a working farm with Wagyu cows, stables, a 18-hole championship golf course, and many more activities. With 400 staff for 25 villas, you will definitely be very well looked after.”
The Brando, Tetiaroa
“Your own private atoll in French Polynesia consisting of 12 islands that surrounds an incredible lagoon with a massive amount of sea life, The Brando was Marlon Brando’s former home turned luxury eco resort,” Kjellgren said. “No motorised sports, and all villas have direct beach access.”
The Philippines private island of Amanpulo “has probably the whitest beach anywhere,” according to Kjellgren, who added that the “diving is exceptional, you can kite surf on the back of the island, or just relax in your own beach or hill top villa.”
Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Félicité
“Felicite Island in the Seychelles is the most stunning island in what I consider the most beautiful place on earth as far as beach destinations goes,” Kjellgren said. “The massive boulders look like they have been carefully placed all over the island in strategic locations to form stunning photo ops. The Spa is the most visually stunning anywhere. All villas have pools with incredible views.”
Mustique Island, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
While the Caribbean’s Mustique Island is “not a private resort island in the regular sense,” Kjellgren said: “Here you rent one of the 80+ incredible villas operated by the Mystique company.
“Many celebrities own villas and others come here for the most private vacation anywhere. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to a house party, as people here love to mingle among likeminded people. Our favourite villa is Alumbrera – perched high above Macaroni Beach, the best beach on the island, and with direct access to the same.”
Soneva Jani, Maldives
Soneva Jani has “the most stunning and largest lagoon in the Maldives, hands down,” according to Kjellgren, who called it “barefoot luxury on a different level.”
“The perfect place for the playful, each villa is equipped with your own water slide and you can stargaze from your bed, as each roof is operated by remote control. But the top thing to do here is Cinema Paradiso, the coolest outdoor cinema anywhere.”
&Beyond Mnemba Island, Tanzania
A private island outside Zanzibar, Kjellgren called Mnemba Island “the most barefoot of barefoot luxury resorts anywhere, where you pay for what you don’t get (no windows, no doors, no air con). This is luxury paradise the way Robinson Crusoe intended.”
Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
Kjellgren said Aman Sveti Stefan is “a historic island in Montenegro turned luxury hotel, attached to the coast by a narrow path or isthmus as it’s called. 58 rooms, suites and villas have been manicured out of the 600-year-old dwellings with red-tiled roofs and you’ll also find three pink-sand beaches on this island.”
Pom Pom Island, Malaysia
“If you’re thinking of visiting Malaysia, Pom Pom island is a hidden gem that many haven’t heard of but has so much to offer,” according to Jason Goldberg, Founder and Director of spa booking site SpaSeekers.
“The island is 45 minutes ride by boat from Borneo’s coast, is surrounded by white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and air so clean that it boasts zero pollution – sure to put visitors in a zen-like state. Not only that, but Pom Pom island is the perfect destination for diving fanatics. The island has a rich tropical vegetation home to many green and hawkbill turtles, and an abundance of different species of fish.”
Lord Howe Island, Australia
“For those who are in need of a digital detox, Lord Howe Island is the perfect hidden island retreat,” Goldberg said. “The island has no cell phone reception and the few cars allowed have a strict 15-mile-per-hour speed limit – meaning travellers can go back to basics to relax and reset the inner equilibrium. For those who want a little adventure, Lord Howe Island is home to the world’s southernmost barrier coral reef boasting more than 90 species of coral and 500 species of tropical fish – making it a diver’s heaven.”
St Croix, US Virgin Islands
According to Goldberg: “St Croix in the Virgin Islands has a smaller population than its neighbouring St Thomas but is still a livewire for roadside Caribbean eats, quirky towns with stunning architecture, and lively nightlife. St Croix still holds the old world charm which has been lost on many other islands, and with a slow island pace this hidden island is perfect for those who want to take the time to stop and smell the frangipani.”
“Considered the Mediterranean’s best-kept secret, Formentera boasts of picturesque beaches just on the south coast of Ibiza – but the pace of life could not be any more different,” Goldberg said. “While those in the heart of Ibiza may party all those day and night, Formentera has a more languid way of life where days are spent lounging.”
“About halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, American Samoa is a tropical escape truly off the beaten path,” according to Goldberg. “The island is 76 square miles large and can offer a colourful adventure around every corner. With its incredible volcanic peaks, rich heritage and lush scenery, American Samoa is perfect for those who wish to immerse themselves in ancient culture with idyllic surroundings. Humpback whale-watching is a must, but you could catch a glimpse of dolphins and sea turtles too.”
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Goldberg said: “As the islands inspired Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, the Galapagos Islands may also inspire you to think differently about the world. The white sandy beaches and clear blue skies may but it’s the wildlife that is the main attraction here. The Galapagos Islands are home to a plethora of island creatures that are found nowhere else in the world, and as there are no natural predators on the islands travellers can get up close and personal with the wildlife for some animal-assisted R&R.”
Graciosa, Canary Islands
“With just one tiny village on the entire island, tiny Graciosa is worlds away from its buzzing neighbour Lanzarote,” Goldberg said. “Travellers are able to immerse themselves in Spanish culture at a much slower pace, where whitewashed houses and roads of sand haven’t been tainted by modern life.”
“The 11th largest in the world, Sulawesi is considered as one of the most fascinating islands in Indonesia,” Goldberg said. “The locals and wildlife alike promise an eye-opening visit, with an abundance of native species to discover in dense jungles, elaborate local customs to observe and interesting local dishes to taste – Sulawesi offers an interesting island experience which is sure to inspire self-reflection.”
Michel Karam, CEO of travel planning site müvTravel, said this island in the French Riviera has “a rich history and charming character.”
“Just 15 minutes from Cannes, this tranquil island feels like a different world,” he said. “The island is alluring for its beautiful oceanic landscape and charming castle-like architecture.”
“Tucked away off the coast of Tanzania lies this unique island rich in culture and white sand beaches,” Karam said. “Zanzibar is unlike anything else. The abundance of marine life and turquoise blue waters proves that the snorkelling cannot be missed!”
Susanna Mander, Global Senior Director of Brand Marketing at Meliá Hotels & Resorts, called Zanzibar “stunning,” added that it “offers endless opportunities to discover, from sea safaris, to jungle treks to ancient city tours, while its pristine white beaches and shallow coral reefs are the jewel in the crown of the Indian Ocean.”
She suggests a stay at the five-star Melia Zanzibar, which “offers the perfect island hideaway, complete with private beach.”
Karam said: “Mljet is the southernmost and easternmost of the larger Adriatic islands of the Dalmatia region of Croatia and one of the most seductive of all the Adriatic islands. The establishment of a national park put the island on the tourist map, but Mljet is anything but overrun. Visitors are almost entirely drawn to the tourist enclave around Pomena. The remainder of the island retains the unspoilt air of tranquility that is truly breathtaking.”
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
“For those visiting the East Coast of the United States, this charming island is a must-see,” according to Karam. “Its colourful Victorian styled homes are especially unique and the long stretch of beaches are perfect for sunbathers and ocean swimmers alike. Not to mention, the massive dunes provide beautiful scenery for a nice stroll along the beach.”
Koh Rong, Cambodia
Jack Sheldon, the founder of travel deals newsletter Jack’s Flight Club, said: “Many come to Southeast Asia for well known resort islands like Bali, Phuket, or Boracay. And while those each have a lot to offer, none can match the incredible white sand and crystal clear water beaches of Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia. Once you arrive in mainland Cambodia, it’s a two-hour ferry ride south to reach this paradise. This island has no paved roads and you’ll be getting around on foot – the walking tours through the jungle are particularly amazing!”
“Bohol is not on everyone’s top three when coming to the Philippines, but it should be,” according to Sheldon. “While Islands like Boracay and Palawan offer well-known beach escapes, Bohol offers something more: jungle rivers and chocolate hills. I recommend staying a night or two (at least!) on the river at Nuts Huts or Fox & Firefly Cottages, to paddleboard or swim in the jungle and enjoy the millions of stars in total darkness at night.”
Lake Titicaca Floating Islands
“Why visit?” Sheldon asked. “Well, for one, they’re floating islands! Located 7km away from Puno, at Lake Titicaca there are 80 islands inhabited by the Uros people, who have lived on them for nearly 3000 years. The islands last about 20-25 years and are made out of Totora reeds and are about one metre thick. All of the buildings, furniture and boats are made out of the Totora reed, including the houses – there is even a watchtower on the biggest island, incredible!”
Anami Oshima, Japan
“The southwest islands reveal a Japan you may never know existed, a chain of semi-tropical islands similar to Hawaii or Southeast Asia,” Sheldon said. “One island in particular, Anami Oshima is the third largest off-shore island after Okinawa-honto, which boasts a mild subtropical climate all year round and takes about two hours in a plane from Tokyo. The island is home to some unusual flora, as well as the endemic Anamai black rabbit. The island is great to explore (via tuk-tuk) and you’ll be spoilt for choice by the crystal clear beaches along the coast.”
While Sheldon said everyone should have heard of Iceland he added that most may not have heard of The Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, sometimes called the Western Islands, which were “formed by submarine volcanoes around 11,000 years ago,” and are “steeped in beauty, nature, and history.”
“A visit here will not disappoint. The biggest and only inhabited island, Heimaey, is home to around 4000 people. For golf fans, the ‘Westman Islands Golf Club’ ranks quite high in Europe.”
Little Corn, Corn Islands, Nicaragua
Giuseppe Sarro, who works in International Communications for travel search platform HolidayPirates, said: “Little Corn is a tiny island, 70km off the coast of Nicaragua and the only way to get around the island is by foot, bike or horse.
“In the day the pristine waters provide perfect snorkelling and scuba diving conditions. At night we recommend taking advantage of the lack of light to stargaze. Corn island provides perfect views of stars, planets, a glimpse of the milky way and all of this with background music provided by the sounds of the Caribbean.”
Kwale Island, Tanzania
“A 30 minute sail on a traditional wooden dhow, off the south west coast of Zanzibar, Kwale is situated in the Menai Bay Conservation area,” according to Gem Bowles, UK Travel Editor for HolidayPirates.
“It is home to dense mangrove forests, baobab trees and even a pod or two of wild dolphins! The crystal clear water and healthy coral reefs makes it the perfect place for snorkelling!”
Stewart Island, New Zealand
Bowles said: “Known as the ‘anchor stone of the Maori’s canoe,’ this small island lies at the south of NZ and is one of the best places in the whole country to spot wild kiwis.”
Penguin Island, Western Australia
Niamh Walsh, Senior Editor for HolidayPirates in the UK, said: “It’s just an hour south of Perth and is home to hundreds of Little Penguins in their natural habitat, and the surrounding waters are also home to marine wildlife like seals, dolphins and, seasonally, whales. You can catch a boat there, or if you are feeling adventurous (and the tide is low), you can also swim there.”
Governors Island, New York, USA
Walsh said: “While most people have heard of Long Island, Ellis Island and even Liberty Island, there is another island in the Hudson River that offers spectacular views of the Manhattan – Governors Island. Accessible by ferry from downtown or Brooklyn, there are heaps of food vendors and even a bar for sundowner drinks overlooking lower Manhattan.”
Svalbard Islands, Norway
Sam Katterfield, Senior Editor for HolidayPirates UK, said: “This rugged archipelago is located halfway between between the North Pole and the Norwegian mainland. The islands offer great opportunities for spotting polar bears and the northern lights.”
“It’s tough to choose just one Scottish island but Islay stands out due to its world famous whisky distilleries,” Katterfield said. “Those peaty single malts will surely chase the winter cold away!”
Saint Martin, Caribbean
Saint Martin, full of beaches and coves, has the only land border between France and the Netherlands, even though it is nowhere near either country.
While the island was battled by Hurricane Irma, The New York Times reported in March that, though some bars and restaurants may have not re-opened, “crowds have yet to return, which means visitors will have stretches of sand to themselves.”
St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall
This small English tidal island in Mount’s Bay, Cornwall is connected to the town of Marazion by a pathway which is only accessible when the tide is out – otherwise, you can reach it by boat.
One TripAdvisor user said: “Getting up to the castle requires walking a very rocky and rugged path, but the reward is great! There is a family living here but they have made much of the castle available to the public. The history is fascinating and the views are breathtaking.”
St Kilda, Scotland
This isolated Scottish archipelago is the “remotest part of the British Isles,” according to its website, situated 41 miles west of Benbecula in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.
“Its islands with their exceptional cliffs and sea stacs form the most important seabird breeding station in north-west Europe,” it goes on. “The evacuation of its native population in 1930 brought to a close an extraordinary story of survival.”
One TripAdvisor user was taken by “the dramatic rocks rising straight up from the sea and the birds perching on the rocky ledges,” which he called “extraordinary.”
Lofoten Islands, Norway
“Lofoten Islands in Norway is more of an archipelago, but there is loads to explore and the scenery is unbelievable,” Saez from KAYAK said. “You can sleep in a little cabin, go fishing in the day then watch the Northern Lights from a hot tub. What more could you want?”
Just off the northern tip of Scotland, the Orknies are a chain of rugged, windswept islands with millennia of history.
Their dramatic cliff-tops are home to pre-historic monuments, and Viking tombs, while its waters are the final resting-place of the defeated WWI-era Imperial German Navy. Orkney is famous for oatcakes, Orkney cheddar, and is also home to the well-regarded Scapa distillery, makers of The Orcadian single-malt whisky.
The Orknies are also home to the world’s shortest flight route, a 2-minute hop between the islands of Westray and Papa Westray.
Jersey, Channel Islands
Keith Beecham, CEO, Visit Jersey, said: “Jersey is small on size, but big on personality. Sweeping bays open to cliff top views and the sea is never more than ten minutes away. This beautiful island ticks all the boxes with Michelin- starred restaurants, boutique hotels and a unique history and culture.
“From surfing the waves to kayaking, gentle walks through country lanes to revitalising cliff walks, Jersey’s island break offers something for everyone. Accessible from the UK via a short one-hour flight, we are an island that’s waiting to be discovered.”
BI senior editor Ali Millington recommends going in the summer to make the most of the beach – and booking a meal at Michelin-starred Bohemia.
Toronto Islands, Canada
“Toronto Island is accessible by a 13-minute ferry right from the city’s downtown area,” Ali Millington, Senior Editor at BI, said.
“The island – which is actually a group of 15 islands connects by bridges – boasts beaches, parks, and even a cute amusement park called Centreville. Plus, it’s worth it for the incredible view of the skyline from the ferry alone.”
John-Lee Saez, Managing Director for KAYAK Europe, said: “Hvar and Vis are beautiful hotspots in Croatia but are very popular with tourists. I would definitely recommend visiting Brač instead if you’re looking for something a little quieter. It is a bit cheaper than Hvar and it showcases the natural beauty of Croatia with its white pebble beach and authentic Croatian culture – a must if you’re doing an island hopping tour in the area.”
“Pantelleria is a beautiful rustic island off the coast of Italy,” Saez said. “Despite being the setting for Tilda Swinton’s character’s hideaway in the film ‘A Bigger Splash,’ it has never attracted a huge crowd but it’s the perfect escape to cleanse the body and soul with volcanic hot springs and mud baths, plus plenty of Instagram-worthy pictures of people jumping off of the cliffs into the deep blue water.”
“For something closer to home, Tiree Island in Scotland is a great destination for Brits wanted to enjoy the sky, sand and sea,” according to Saez. “It is lesser known than Skye, but has more beaches and less people so it is the perfect British secret escape.”
Reigo Eljas, Country Director at lastminute.com, told INSIDER: “While Majorca has been hogging the headlines – thanks to ITV2’s hit show ‘Love Island’ – its smaller sister island, Menorca, also has plenty to shout about. This is the perfect place for a quieter beach break. The whole island is recognised by UNESCO as a natural biosphere reserve, so if you like walking, cycling or horse riding you’ve got plenty of outstanding natural beauty to enjoy – especially along the famous 185 mile coastal path, Cami De Cavalls (Path of Horses), which rings the island.
“Hang out in the capital Mahon (the birthplace of mayonnaise, of all things) – this is one of the biggest natural harbours in the world. And then take to the water – the island has excellent water sport facilities and you can hire a boat or kayak to explore the island by sea.”
“While the hit ‘Mamma Mia’ films have had travellers flocking to Greece, think of Thassos as the undiscovered Skiathos (where the film is based),” Eljas said. “Known as the ‘Emerald of the Aegean,’ you’ll enjoy really stunning scenery and beaches. It’s got loads of quaint tavernas to laze around while you drink and eat – it really is very, very Greek.
“Thassos is also great for watersports including: diving, paddle boarding, kayaking and sailing. You can fly to Kavala and then it’s a lovely 30 minutes journey on a ferry from there.”
Boa Vista, Cape Verde
“This is one of the smaller Cape Verde Islands, the most easterly in fact, and literally translates as ‘good view’ – so you know you’re in for a treat,” according to Eljas.
“Just off the west coast of Senegal in Africa, it’s known for its all-year-round warm weather – which makes it also a perfect winter sun destination if you want to top up your tan later in the year. It’s also pretty breezy (especially nice when it’s hot), which means windsurfing is one of the main things you can do here. Don’t be confused if the locals tell you to head to Santa Monica beach – you’re not in California – this is one of the most famous beaches on the island and the golden sands stretch away as far as the eye can see. You can also fly direct there on certain days of the week.”
Eljas said: “It comes as a surprise to many people, given its close proximity to Italy and the island of Sardinia, that Corsica is actually part of France. But this makes it brilliant as you get a little bit of both countries wrapped up in one mediterranean island. Napoleon was actually born here, and you can visit his home, which is now a museum, La Maison Bonaparte.
“The word stunning is often overused, but the beaches and sea live up to the hype. The food here is also out of this world, and they’re really proud of the produce they grow on the island. So once you’ve visited the markets and restaurants, leave room in your suitcase for olive oil, honey and wine – you’ll be wanting to bring this stuff back.”
Casa en el Agua, Colombia
“Something of a hit on Instagram lately but still not so overbooked you can’t make a reservation, Casa en el Agua fully justifies the hype,” INSIDER Lifestyle Reporter Tom Murray said. “With happy hour running twice a day, lobster pots for exceptionally fresh meals and glowing plankton right on the hostel’s artificial beach – all starting for $US24 a night – it’s impossible to beat. Make sure to hop on the excursion to Islote, which becomes the most densely populated island on earth when all the locals come back from mainland Colombia.”
Burgh Island, England
Megan Ingham, Office Manager and HR Co-ordinator for BI UK, said: “Burgh Island is meant to be lovel – I haven’t personally been but my parents loved it. It has the famous Art Deco Burgh Island Hotel on it. Agatha Christie famously drew on it, which is why I’ve always wanted to go.”
Leon Sicilliano, Senior Video Producer for BI and INSIDER, said: “Like all the other southern Dalmatian Islands, Hvar has idyllic blue seas and sandy beaches. I’d highly recommend renting a moped while there to venture to the more remote (and less populated) beaches as well as checking out the harder to reach villages. Hvar town has a great vibe at night, lots of bars and places to eat fresh fish. While you’re there you also need to check out Veneranda, it’s a nightclub set in a hillside Venetian fortress which has a swimming pool in it!”
Ilha Grande, Rio
A tropical island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro considered to be one of the most beautiful in Brazil, with a visit here you’ll be “sharing your space with exotic birds and howling monkeys,” according to Sarah Brown, writing for The Culture Trip.
“If that doesn’t sound tropical enough, it is also a car-free zone, so getting around is entirely dependent on walking along on makeshift streets or forest trails,” she wrote.
BI UK’s Associate Product Manager Sabrina Cesar said: “Get a boat from Angra dos Reis and get ready to discover a Brazilian paradise.”
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Fiona Whitty wrote for The Independent: “Jagged mountain ranges, soft beaches, glimmering pools, velvet moors… they’re all up for grabs on the majestic Isle of Skye, Scotland’s second largest island off the west coast in the Inner Hebrides.”
Millington, who visited Ios in between more popular Greek holiday spots like Santorini and Athens, said: “This is an amazing, lesser-known find in the Greek islands. It’s got beautiful beaches, but it’s the vibe and the nightlife that should draw you here. If you’re up for a party, stay at Far Out Beach Club.“
Salt Spring Island, Canada
One of the Gulf Islands between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, tourists to Salt Spring Island haven’t changed “the magic of its vintage chilled-out ways,” according to The Globe and Mail.
BI’s senior finance reporter Oscar Williams-Grut said: “Most people island hopping around Vancouver tend to go to Vancouver Island, the large, rugged outpost just off the cost. But Salt Spring Island, which is part of the same archipelago, is well worth a visit to. The 10,000 population island has village vibes, with craft fairs and local markets, as well as the same stunning nature and hiking landscape as its bigger neighbour. Oh, and you can get there by sea plane – what could be more fun?”
Heron Island, Australia
Tom Colson, Politics Reporter for BI UK, said: “Heron Island is a tiny resort on the southern tip of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and it is one of the most magical places you will ever visit. I spent my days snorkelling – expect to see shipwrecks, (friendly) sharks, and stringrays. You can also sees thousands of turtles hatching on the beaches if you visit at the right time of year.
“You can walk around the island in 20 minutes and there is a restaurant which serves beautiful fresh fish.”
Bat Island, Goa
“Bat Island is surrounded by some of the best and whitest beaches in Goa and, depending on the time of day, is surprisingly quiet for such a good snorkelling spot,” said BI UK Tech Reporter Shona Ghosh. “Anyone scared of night-time creatures doesn’t need to worry – you’re more likely to see dolphins than bats.”
Magnetic Island, Australia
“It’s a popular stop for travellers in Australia and has a famous boat wreckage on it,” Ingham said. “It’s a great spot for whale watching. Normally people do an off road jeep tour for a few days and camp there.”
Château d’If, France
BI UK Politics Reporter Adam Payne said: “A 10-minute boat ride from the port of beautiful Marseille is Château d’If, an island fortress oozing with history and with a stunning view of the southern coast of France. In the 18th century, it was used to imprison French revolutionaries, and their graffiti is there on the walls of the fortress for visitors to see today. It’s where famous French author, Alexandre Dumas, set his best-selling novel The Count of Monte Cristo.”
Tioman Island, Malaysia
One TripAdvisor user said: “Tioman is a close approximation of paradise, you won’t be sorry. Plenty of good beach dining. A trek through the jungle takes you to Monkey Bay – water [is] crystal clear. And there are giant monitor lizards running around. I ache to return.”
Slightly busier as the third largest island of Hawaii, according to House Beautiful, Oahu is home to the state capital of Honolulu – but there’s plenty more to explore.
“Perfect for history buffs and romantics alike, vacationers can visit Pearl Harbour or catch some waves (and rays) on the North Shore,” the site states.
Praslin Island, Seychelles
House Beautiful writes: “Praslin is the second biggest island in the Seychelles, off the coast of East Africa. Beaches like Anse Lazio are beloved destinations for vacation-goers to take in the peaceful turquoise waters. The exotic scenery is so beautiful that the Seychelles – Praslin included – are often called the true ‘Garden of Eden.'”
Steve Bramucci and Zach Johnston of Uproxx write: “Travelling to Yemen is not an easy task right now since the Saudis have put a nix on all flights to the island. That means sailing is going be your best option. For us, that makes this one all the more alluring.
“All of that aside, Socotra is one of the only places on earth that truly feels otherworldly. The trees look like little broccoli shrubs and are almost completely endemic. The landscape is a bizarre mix of craggy peaks and rolling sand dunes. The birds are even different. There’s literally no other place on earth like Socotra. And that means you’ve kinda gotta go… just to fully savvy how varied nature really is.”
“Rügen is a German island on the western reaches of the Baltic that feels a bit like you’re stepping back in time to a Belle Epoque jet-setting scene. Something straight out of a mid-century postcard,” according to Bramucci and Johnston.
“The beaches are massive and dotted with little wicker huts where you can chill, feast, and drink the days away. There are pedestrian only promenades peppered with kiosks selling locally smoked fish on freshly baked rolls and bottles of local beer. There are old-school resort hotels with spas and amazing views over the water.
“We can’t emphasise enough how chilled out this place is. You can spend the morning getting a massage, the afternoon swimming, eating smoked salmon, and day-drinking local white wine, and the evening hitting bars or lounging in a cool old hotel bar that probably has the word ‘palace’ in the name.”
Kodiak Island, Alaska, USA
Bramucci and Johnston write: “Kodiak Island is guaranteed adventure. This place is remote, wild, and extreme. And, yes, there’s a lot of big ol’ bears (so proceed with real caution and invest in a bear spray).
“There are a lot of reasons to visit Kodiak: Surfing, salmon fishing, trekking and hiking, camping, photography, unplugging from, well, everything but the wilds of nature. The island is a drastic place of dense old-growth forests rising into alpine peaks and then crashing down to craggy seashores. This is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.”
Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands
For a “less-trafficked” visit to the South Pacific, head to the Marquesas Islands.
“Nuku Hiva is a striking place,” according to Bramucci and Johnston. “The earth juts from the sea with violent, green jags covered with waterfalls so tall the water actually evaporates before it hits the ground again. The beaches are lined with those palms that lean just the right way.
“The food is fresh, vibrant, and pulled from the sea (alongside the pigs that run all over the island). Expect feasts of great, slow-cooked food with bright colours and flavours, all washed down with plenty of rum and beer.”
China is planning to transform Hainan Island, the size of a small country, into “a sprawling hub for foreign investment, gambling, tourism, and luxury,” according to BI’s Alexandra Ma.
The country has struggled to develop Hainan’s tourism industry for years, despite the fact the island is currently home to multiple luxury hotels, golf courses, and beaches – making it well worth a visit before everyone else catches on.
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