We know you love Bora Bora and the Maldives. Problem is, so does everyone else. On your next island getaway, head to these amazing under-the-radar islands instead—some far-flung, off craggy coasts in Africa, Thailand, and Sicily, and some just a ferry ride away.
Photography: Getty Images | Words: Krisanne Fordhamwww.cntraveler.com
Despite being smack in the middle of Hawaii’s two most popular islands, Oahu and Maui, Molokai has somehow remained relatively under wraps. It's so sleepy, it doesn’t have a single traffic light, shopping mall, or chain of any kind—and that’s exactly why you’re here. Unlike the crowded, resort-studded beaches of Waikiki and Wailea, you’ll have 106 miles of peaceful, pristine coastline to yourself, and some of the highest sea cliffs in the world as a boundary. There aren't any major resorts either, but the Hotel Molokai (rooms from $127) has a beautiful beachfront location and aloha vibes.
The volcanic island of Pantelleria, some 60 miles from the coast of Sicily, remains blissfully off the tourist track. It helps that it's remote: It’s actually closer to Africa—about 40 miles to Tunisia—than to mainland Italy. The island itself has a rugged, desert-like landscape and no true beaches, though there are countless coves, perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. (Giorgio Armani, who has a home here, recommends mud baths in Lago di Venere.) The luxe new Sikelia resort is the best place to stay on the island (rooms from $571), but for a truly local experience, rent a dammuso, a traditional Pantellerian domed dwelling.
It's hard to get more far-flung than Mafia Island, located in the Zanzibar archipelago, 25 miles off the coast of mainland Tanzania. It’s also virtually undiscovered—visited by fewer than 1,000 tourists each year—and, most importantly, drop-dead gorgeous, ringed by virgin beaches and ocean so blue it looks Photoshopped. If you like to snorkel, Mafia Island Lodge is the ideal place to stay: Breezy rooms (from $220) are steps from Chole Bay, which has some of the most beautiful reefs in Africa.
Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean island of Dominica remains low key, even as throngs of French sun-seekers head to neighboring Guadeloupe and Martinique. You can do the beach thing, but you can also have an active vacation here: bathing in sulphur hot springs, and hiking through wild tropical rainforest at Morne Trois Pitons National Park, one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean. You can even snorkel through “champagne” at Champagne Beach (so called because of a natural phenomenon that makes trapped volcanic air bubble up out of the seabed like champagne bubbles). Or simply post up by your private infinity pool at Secret Bay, the island’s only luxury resort (bungalows from $519).
Just an hour’s flight from Bangkok, Koh Kood is still free of big chain hotels and honeymooning tourists, and remains one of Thailand’s last unspoiled islands (even though annoying travel editors like us told you about it). Unlike Phuket or Koh Samui, Koh Kood is largely undeveloped, so there’s not much to do besides loll about on its empty, powder-white beaches—but that solitude and tranquility is the main draw. Splurge on a villa at the Soneva Kiri resort if you can (rooms from $905), but if you’re on a budget, Cham’s House offers beachfront bungalows for a fraction of the price (rooms from $90).
The tiny French island of Cavallo doesn’t get the love or attention it deserves, overshadowed by the neighboring islands of Corsica and Sardinia. But we like it that way—it means we get the entire island (and its Caribbean-like beaches) all to ourselves. Cavallo’s coastline has been likened to “the Mustique of the Mediterranean,”—it's heavily studded with colossal, wind-sculpted granite formations that jut dramatically out onto the ocean and look like works of art. At the lavish Hotel & Spa des Pêcheurs, you can even stay in a guest room right up on the rocks, mere steps from the ocean (rooms from $610).
Block Island is a New England getaway at its best, with all its lighthouses, seagrass-lined beaches, and 30 miles of hiking trails. Though it's relatively accessible (a year-round ferry from Point Judith in Rhode Island gets you there in under an hour) it feels fairly relaxed, even in the summer months. The island’s only town, New Shoreham, is filled with boutiques and restaurants worth exploring, though it won’t take you very long. Stay at the historic Spring House Hotel, which famously hosted Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain, and Billy Joel, among other notable guests (rooms from $125).