Island getaways are a fantasy for many travelers. We dream of escaping the world on a beautiful white sandy beach with palm trees. Unfortunately, many incredible islands are overcrowded, and you’re often forced to fight for a spot on the beach with countless other tourists.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path vacation, little-known islands are definitely worth visiting. You will be rewarded with stunning empty beaches, exotic cuisine, a laid-back atmosphere, and incredible cultural experiences. Do you dream of visiting stunning secluded islands? Book your next trip on one of these 18 idyllic islands you’ve probably never heard of.
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1. Isle of Pines, New Caledonia
The Isle of Pines is a beautiful island in the archipelago of New Caledonia. Also called the closest island to paradise, it is famous for its tall native pines and stunning deserted beaches.
Whether you want to dive among the beautiful coral reef, hike the beautiful island’s trails or swim in crystal clear lagoon waters, the Isle of Pines has something for everyone.
Surrounded by beautiful pine trees, the Natural Pool is one of the most popular spots on the Isle of Pines. You can also choose to relax on one of the many empty and unspoiled beaches on the island. Other activities on the island include exploring Upi Bay on an outrigger canoe, climbing N’ga Peak and discovering the local culture at the Queen Hortense cave.
Perfect destination for a romantic getaway off the beaten path, this jewel of the Pacific is waiting to be explored.
2. Great Keppel Island, Australia
Located on the southern great barrier reef, Great Keppel Island is one of the best islands to visit in Australia. Home to some of the most beautiful beaches, Great Keppel Island is still fairly unspoiled.
Activities on Great Keppel Island include hiking, paddle boarding, snorkeling and diving with rays and turtles or exploring the homestead. Whether you’re looking for an epic adventure or a relaxing holiday, Great Keppel Island is one of the best destinations in Australia.
Great Keppel Island is the perfect place for nature lovers. The island’s rich fauna and flora will leave you speechless. Paradise for bird watchers, Great Keppel Island is also a great place to spot dolphins and whales from the beach.
This little piece of paradise is easily accessible from the mainland. Hop on a boat in Yeppoon, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Great Keppel Island. Don’t forget to catch one of the stunning sunsets the island offers. You’ll love it!
3. Nanuya Lailai, Fiji
Nanuya Lailai is an island of the Yasawa group in Fiji. This very small island is one of Fiji’s hidden gem. Truly authentic, it’s one of the best places to stay to see the real Fijian culture.
The island’s small village and friendly locals will charm you. Activities on the island include snorkeling with beautiful tropical fish, hiking, and relaxing in a hammock. The island only has one small supermarket, just a few hotels, and homestays. It’s easily accessible by boat from Nadi.
Stay at the Sunrise Lagoon homestay, with one of the friendliest families on the island. The home is located right on a beautiful white sand beach, and near the Blue Lagoon, the best snorkeling spot on the island.
Whether you enjoy cultural entertainment, island life, good food, or anything else Fiji has to offer, Nanuya Lailai is the right place for you.
4. Ly Son Island, Vietnam
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Ly Son Island is one of the most the most tranquil islands in Vietnam. Located off the South Coast Central of Vietnam in the Quang Ngai Province, it has stunning coastlines and very few crowds.
To enjoy the beauty of this small island, rent a motorbike from your accommodation and check out the various attractions. You can easily motorbike from one end of the island to the other in 15 minutes.
You’ll pass by the endless garlic and onion fields covered by the beige sands and may even smell them. The island is known to grow a specific garlic variety due to the rich nutrients from the volcanic soil. Stop by the various temples or take a short hike up the Gieng Tien Mountain to see the aerial view of the caldera.
If you want beach time, Ly Son isn’t the place as you’ll need to go to Phu Quoc Island for nicer sand. However, you can snorkel in the Cau Cave area or on An Binh Island (a 10-minute boat ride from Ly Son). Don’t forget to end the day with the freshest seafood at one of the seafood BBQ restaurants.
With over 200,000 tourists per year visiting, there is a focus on increasing their tourism and building more hotels along the coast. We encourage you to visit this island as soon as possible before it becomes too popular.
5. Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
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The Marquesas Islands are some of the most remote islands in the world. These islands are located 1000 miles northeast of Tahiti and nearly 2300 miles west of Easter Island. You might expect that they would have been some of the last Islands in the Pacific to be reached by the early Polynesian explorers but in fact, they were one of the first islands settled in what is now French Polynesia. Though, they were some of the last to be contacted by European explorers and thus maintain their distinct culture the longest.
In the modern age of excessive tourism, the Marquesas Islands remain one of the least visited island groups in the Pacific. The Marquesas Islands are comprised of 12 islands with 6 being inhabited. They have a population of about 9,000 people. With names like Ua Poa and Fatuous Hiva, they showcase some of the most striking landscapes in the world.
The Polynesian names for North and South Marquesas, Te Henua “Enana and Te Fenua ʻEnata” both mean “the land of men.” The Spanish explorer Medaña named the island group after his patron who was the Marquis of Cañete.
Robert Louis Stevenson, Herman Melville, and Paul Gauguin were some of the most famous 19th-century visitors and brought sporadic notoriety to Nuka Hiva and Hiva Oa.
There are very few hotels in the Marquesas Islands and only a few guesthouses. You can reach Nuka Hiva by air from Tahiti but most visitors arrive on ships. One of the most popular methods for visiting is the freighter/cruise ship the Aranui 5. It makes a roundtrip voyage from Papeete through the Marquesas Island every two weeks.
Top things to do in the Marquesas Islands:
Hike across Fatu Hiva. It is an eleven-mile trek up over the top of the island from Omao to Hanavave but the views are worth the climb.
Walk in footsteps of Herman Melville on Nuka Hiva where he found his inspiration for his first novel Typee.
Visit Paul Gauguin’s home and final resting place on Hiva Oa. The Paul Gauguin Cultural Center is well worth a visit for art history buffs.
Watch the clouds drift among the twelve peaks that surround the village of Hakahau on Ua Poa and then walk to the bay east of Hakahua Bay. You will likely have the beach to yourself.
Experience a pig roast at Yvonne’s Restaurant near the beach in Hatiheu on Nuka Hiva. Yvonne’s is well known for its banana-leaf-layered pig roasts in earthen ovens. After lunch, play Bocce Ball at the beach.
6. Haida Gwaii, Canada
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Haida Gwaii is an incredibly beautiful group of islands off the west coast of Canada, between Vancouver Island and Alaska. Formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands, they were renamed to reflect the fact that they are home to the Haida first nation’s people. They are sparsely populated and the southernmost islands are covered in pristine spruce and fir forests that make up Gwaii Haanas National Park.
This is a nature lover’s paradise. In addition to the beautiful forests that cover the islands and giant kelp floating in the sea, there are black bears and Sitka deer (slowly being eradicated, as they are not from here originally). It is difficult NOT to see bald eagles and osprey flying overhead and perched on tree branches. Chances are also good you will see seals, sea lions, orcas and possibly even humpback whales swimming by.
The only way to see the southern islands is by boat or seaplane. The best way is to take a sea kayaking trip. Haida Gwaii is also home to SG̱ang Gwaay Llanagaay (Ninstints in English), a large group of the best-preserved totem poles in the Pacific Northwest on the site of an abandoned Haida village. Seeing dozens of bleached wooden totem poles standing and lying in a clearing in the forest on the edge of a rocky beach is an incredible site, especially on a misty morning.
Haida Gwaii sees only about 15,000 visitors a year. Access is by ferry from Prince Rupert or flights from Vancouver, then a zodiac, boat or seaplane down to the national park. It is well worth the effort to get there.
7. Gozo, Malta
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One of the Maltese archipelago’s islands, Gozo is also one of the best lesser-known paradises to visit. With a population of only 37,000 people, the island has a quiet atmosphere that is reminiscent of what Malta once was.
An alluring island filled with magical landscapes made up of sparkling aquamarine water and indomitable rock formations, it is no wonder that it has been named as the home of Calypso, the nymph featured in Homer’s Odyssey. It has also become a set of film productions, like Game of Thrones, where Gozo’s Azure Window became a backdrop for some of its scenes in the first season.
An island with a lot of history, walking around Gozo will make you feel like you are traveling back in time to its different periods. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage to see the neolithic Ggantija temples which were built way before the Stonehenge. Then, take a walk around the sandy beach of Ramla Bay to explore some Roman ruins. Head up to the Citadel in Rabat to enjoy the breathtaking views from its bastions and learn about its rich history. You can also walk around the capital to see the Gozo Cathedral and the Old Prison.
With only 1,500,000 tourists visiting it each year, most of them there on a day trip or as part of a cruise, Gozo is an island paradise that you will rarely have to share with big crowds.
8. Ilha Grande, Brazil
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Ilha Grande is an island located about 150 km from Rio de Janeiro. If you’re looking for a vacation spot that offers both relaxing beaches and outdoor activities, then Ilha Grande is a perfect choice.
First of all, you have to visit Praia Lopes Mendes, one of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches. With 3 km of white sand and crystal clear water, it’s a surfer’s paradise and an amazing place to spend a quiet day. To explore more of the beaches on this island, take a full-day boat tour. It will take you to the dreamiest beaches of Ilha Grande (which some are only accessible by boat). Another cool activity is a full-day boat tour that takes you to small islands around Ilha Grande that are unpopulated. It’s an incredible opportunity to discover some beautiful unspoiled places in Brazil. The island also offers a variety of outdoor activities like hiking, snorkeling, waterfall canyoning, and more.
To get to Ilha Grande from Rio de Janeiro, you’ll need to take a bus to Angra dos Reis and then take a ferry to the island. Many travel agencies in Rio offer transfers to Ilha Grande that include a transfer by van from Rio to Angra dos Reis and ferry tickets.
9. Aitutaki, Cook Islands
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Aitutaki in the Cook Islands is that rare and special thing: a Polynesian island with stunning beaches, friendly locals, great little hotels and restaurants, and most shocking of all, hardly any tourists.
OK, it’s the second largest of the Cook Islands and attracts a quarter of the country’s visitors – around 29,000 a year, according to a 2015 report – but Aitutaki still feels like a well-kept secret. There are no chain hotels here, no internationally-owned resorts crowding the coastline with overpriced overwater bungalows. You’re never too far from a deserted stretch of beach, and if you head inland it’s even quieter. Hike into the hills for panoramic views and the sense that you really have gotten away from it all.
The best beaches, however, are out on Aitutaki’s lagoon. Join a tour or hire a water taxi to take you across its uniquely bright turquoise water, and discover Aitutaki’s 15 ‘motu’ – islets with powder-soft sand, long Instagrammable sandbanks, and endless opportunities to play castaway. For the ultimate feeling of isolation, you can ask a water taxi to drop you off on an islet for the day – just bring a picnic and lots of sunscreen.
Most of Aitutaki’s tourists come from New Zealand, so I recommend planning your trip around their school holidays if possible. Christmas is the busiest time of year in the Cooks, while September/October and April/May have fewer people and great weather.
10. Munroe Island, India
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Kerala’s backwaters are a popular tourist destination in South India. Most people visit the palm-fringed water canals from the touristic city of Allepey. There the waterways are very busy with houseboats, but there are many other places in Kerala to see the backwaters.
One place that is less known among travelers is Munroe island. A small island in Ashtamudi lake surrounded by a network of canals that are sometimes so narrow that they can only be visited by a small canoe. It is one if the most intimate and authentic ways to see Kerala’s backwaters.
The island itself is like a little paradise. There are some excellent homestays offering a glimpse into the daily life of people living on the island. Simply wandering around is a pleasure in itself, but you can also visit the local temple, a spice plantation or take a guide that shows you around.
The island has a rich biodiversity and is a great place to go birdwatching. When you stay on the island try to arrange a canoe tour in the early morning when the birds are most active. As the sun rises your guide will show you the different types of birds as he navigates through the canals. It’s a magical experience.
11. Koh Mook, Thailand
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If you are looking for a truly tropical island escape, look no further than Koh Mook! Part of the Trang islands that are poised to become the next big thing in Thai tourism, Koh Mook offers a beautiful secluded getaway devoid of the trappings of commercial tourism and crowds. If you love relaxing in beautiful beaches with clear waters, white sand lining the shores and without anyone in sight, you will love the place.
The beaches are all amazing. The most stunning of them is Sivalai beach (Ao Wua Nawn) where turquoise waters surround a peninsula of white sand. If you want to splurge, stay at the famous Sivalai beach resort. The other beaches include Ao Kham(near the village)and Farang/Charlie beach which is famous for its sunsets. Sip a cold beer while watching the sunset and feel your worries slip away!
Going from one end of the island to another can be done easily either by walking (half an hour) or by renting a scooter/motor taxi.
The biggest attraction here is the Emerald cave(Tham Morakot). Entering the cave involves swimming 100 meters through a dark tunnel which ends in a hidden grotto with a magical lagoon. The place can be overrun by packaged day trippers, so its best to hire a local longtail boat and head early.
Explore the village with its authentic, rustic Thai vibe. Check out the fishermen’s’ stilt houses and sample the local fare.
You can also hire a longtail and island hop to nearby Koh Ngai and Koh Kradan.
12. Krk Island, Croatia
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If you plan a trip to Croatia, I bet you will be overwhelmed with such a vast choice and over 1000 small islands. But if you want to combine a trip to Trieste and North East Italy, then I highly recommend a trip to Krk Island. Located only 1.5 hours drive from Trieste on the border to Slovenia, this small island is a paradise for hiking lovers.
You can stay either in Krk and Baska, as they are the main township on this scarcely populated island. Alternatively, you can camp on the mainland or ideally on the southern coast of Baska which is famous for its glamourous nudist campsite.
Baska is a popular coastal town with a city beach, an array of small secluded bays, a fishing village, embraced by the calm Adriatic Sea and the surrounded by the Karst hills. There is nothing that beats Baska swim after a long day hiking in the beautiful lunar landscape of the Karst hills.
The best time for a trip is either May or September, as the core summer months is a busy time for the locals coming over from Slovenia, Italy, and Croatia for the school holidays. Visiting Krk island is a must when traveling around Europe.
13. Mozambique Island, Mozambique
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Visiting Ilha de Moçambique (Mozambique Island) is like stepping back in time. The crumbling faded grandeur of the colonial architecture and the slow pace of island life here will make you never want to leave.
Initially, I had created a jam-packed itinerary for my visit to Mozambique, which included visiting a whole other archipelago of islands. But, after a grueling 36-hour bus ride from Maputo, my husband and I were immediately captivated by the island and decided to spend all the rest of our time in Mozambique there.
During the Portuguese colonial era, Ilha de Moçambique was the capital of Mozambique. Nowadays, it doesn’t feel like a capital city at all. Instead, it’s a sleepy backwater, with quiet streets lined by crumbling colonial buildings.
The island is just three kilometers long and is divided into two parts. The Stone Town, where all the colonial architecture stands, is mostly empty. The Reed Town is where the local people live in tightly-packed quarters in makeshift homes. Some of these homes are made of reeds, which is how the neighborhood got its name.
Despite living with very modest means, the inhabitants of the island are jovial and friendly people, always ready to give visitors a bright smile. We managed to join in the celebrations at a couple of local festivals, including a street food festival where we tried lots of yummy African food.
14. São Nicolau, Cabo Verde
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Lodged between the busier Sal and São Vicente islands, many visitors often choose to skip São Nicolau. Big mistake! São Nicolau has a lot to offer in terms of cultural and natural attractions. Hike up Monte Gordo to enjoy fantastic views of the whole island and the neighboring uninhabited islets and aforementioned São Vicente. Observe the yearly Carnaval parades in Ribeira Brava or Tarrafal in February/March. Advance your knowledge of seafood with the local cuisine from búzio (conch) to buttery Serra (sawfish).
About 13.000 people live permanently on the island. This number swells with people visiting during the busier Carnaval months. In 2017, São Nicolau only received 0.3% of Cabo Verde’s total number of tourists – about 2.150 visitors in total. That’s the third-lowest after the much smaller islands of Maio and Brava.
Getting to São Nicolau can be done by plane or ferry. The Fast Ferry to São Vicente or Santiago goes only twice a month. Flights with Binter CV go directly to Santiago, São Vicente, and Sal. Make sure to pack some proper hiking shoes, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen. It’s very expensive to buy this locally! – along with your usual beach gear; this way, you’ll be able to experience this island’s remoteness and beauty to its fullest.
15. Kefalonia, Greece
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Hidden away in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Greece, lies the beautiful island of Kefalonia. If you’re looking for a place where you can experience what Greece might have been like fifty years ago before hordes of tourists took over, then this is it! With breathtaking views of turquoise beaches, white sand, and colorful houses, it’s hard to believe this island isn’t more popular.
Kefalonia has a little bit of everything. Castles, historic sites, amazing food, and of course beautiful beaches where you can relax and swim in the warm waters. Probably the most popular site on the island is the Mellisani Cave where you can tour an underground lake that shines the brightest blue at midday!
You can drive up into the mountains in the center of the island where you’ll be greeted by local farmers and hundreds of their goats who roam freely along the mountainous roads. From here you can get a 360-degree view of the entire island. Kefalonia is large enough to keep you busy enough for a few weeks, but not so big that it’s overwhelming.
Perhaps the biggest draw for Kefalonia is its affordability. You can catch a Ryanair flight from London for next to nothing and rent a house near the beach for a fraction of the price it would cost you on Greece’s more popular islands.
16. Lanyu, Taiwan
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Lanyu, better known as Orchid Island is a small island off the east coast of Taiwan. In the summer it’s quite popular, but winter things are pretty quiet. This is the most “authentic” Taiwanese place in Taiwan being the home of a lot of aboriginal culture. The road around the island is 36 kilometers making a scooter or car pretty much essential for a visit. You can also rent a bike if you prefer that, but you won’t be able to see as much that way.
Orchid Island is home to the best snorkeling and diving in Taiwan with its unpolluted coral reefs. You can visit an aboriginal culture museum, explore small caves, motorbike around the island, and admire the views of the coast from the highest point on the island. Explore the villages and enjoy the scenery along the shore.
Summer is the best time to go because the weather is much better and everything is open. You will definitely, need to book flights in advance if you plan to visit then. There are only six flights a day and two ferries that can be canceled because of the weather. Visiting in winter is not for the faint of heart. In the winter, flights cancellation is common, weather is not great, and not everything will be open. No matter when you go, give yourself a few extra days on each end in case you do have flight or ferry issues. While I had a tough time there, it was beautiful and I would love to give it another try.
17. Marajó, Brazil
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The island of Marajó is known for its rustic beauty, natural fauna and flora, vast green tracks of land and for being the largest fluviomarine island in the world. Marajó’s shores are bathed by the Tocantins River, the Amazon River, and the Atlantic Ocean. Marajó is approximately 3 hours by boat from the city of Belém do Pará, in the northern region of Brazil.
Marajó Island is an attractive side trip for many of the travelers who visit Belém. They can explore nature, the beaches and the roots of the Marajoara indigenous peoples who inhabited the island more than 3,000 years ago.
You can cross the island by ship, smaller express boats and cargo ferries. The ships depart for Soure from Belem on a regular schedule transporting passengers at a cost of 35.00 to 45.00 BRL (US$1 = 3.75BRL). The express boats make the crossing to Ilha do Marajó in an average 2 hours also from Belém at a cost of 45.00BRL. The ferries leave from Icoaraci and transport cars, buses and cargo.
Uncrowded beaches are one of the main attractions of Marajó. Here are a few recommendations:
Joanes Beach in the village of Joanes near Salvaterra offers a bit of history. There you can see the church ruins left by the Jesuits before Brazil was colonized by Portugal in the 17th century. The beach is extensive and pleasant, with restaurants and bars nearby.
Praia Grande in Salvaterra has beautiful landscapes of thick sand near the bustling main street where there are small kiosks selling drinks and food typical of the Marajó cuisine. There are several beachfront restaurants and inns. It is not uncommon to see one of the famous Buffalo of Marajó (a native water buffalo) trodding down the beach.
Praia do Pesqueiro is famous for its fine sand and small maloca-style restaurants at the edge of the beach. Here it is possible to discover the local cuisine with several Marajoara dishes, including buffalo meat, shrimp and crab, and the fish with açaí. Be sure to try buffalo cheese too.
Barra Velha Beach is a beach surrounded by mangroves and is little visited by tourists. If you are fortunate you may see a flock of Guaras /Scarlet Ibis in the late afternoon.
18. Saint Helena, United Kingdom
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It’s fair to say very few people have heard of St Helena, a remote British island found 1,200 miles west of the Angola/Namibia border in the South Atlantic Ocean. Less than two years ago, the only means of getting there was a five-day voyage by sea.
St Helena is now accessible via a new airport which reduces the trip to six hours from mainland Africa. This 47 square mile dot is most famous for being the place Napoleon Bonaparte was last exiled and died.
St Helena may be small but it packs a punch in terms of natural beauty and offers plenty for visitors to see and do. Meet Jonathan, a rare Seychelles giant tortoise who is in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest land animal at 187 years, swim with whale sharks (Jan-Apr) for a truly magical experience and climb the 699 steps of Jacob’s Ladder which is 280m high.
A great way to explore St Helena’s scenic sights are through the many hiking trails along rugged coastlines, arid deserts, and lush cloud forest. The latter showcases the island’s unique flora and striking panoramic views. For those seek lesser-known islands then St Helena is for you, a budding tourist destination that had 5,200 visitors last year. Get there before everyone else gets wind of it!
These 18 idyllic islands will definitely ravish those who don’t like the crowd. Whether you’re looking for an adventurous or a relaxing holiday, remote islands have it all. It’s time to pack your bags and head to one of these amazing destinations. I hope this post inspired your wanderlust! Do you know any of these idyllic islands? Let me know in the comments below!
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