Islands Off the Beaten Path
Ever seen Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘The Beach’? Well this is our ultimate goal.
The best part about travelling is finding those hidden gems that you get to have all to yourself and not share with hordes of other tourists and backpackers. While the hustle and bustle of the main cities and towns are certainly an attraction, there is no better feeling than finding a deserted island with a handful of locals and untouched natural beauty.
By now you would have seen plenty of ‘must visit’ locations which are bound to be packed full of destination that everyone visits and are firmly directed at the more popular tourist trails. But this post is totally different. With thousands of hidden islands out there in the world these are some of my favourites that I stumbled across while travelling and that not many people have really heard of.
1. Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
This is Malaysia’s ultimate hidden getaway destination and definitely one of my favourites that I have ever had the pleasure to visit and experience. Split into two separate islands, Besar (‘Big’) and Kecil (‘Small’), each Perhentian offers a specific brand of relaxation. Besar is the more isolated of the two and as its name would suggest, is bigger in size.
Besar is considered to be the couple and family island with resorts whereas the Kecil is aimed more at backpackers and solo travellers. Both islands are insanely beautiful, surrounded by white sand beaches, crystal clear ocean water and a dense green forest and jagged rocks. The ultimate island paradise.
There is quite a lot to on both islands, primarily scuba diving, hiking, water sports, beach activities, boat cruises and pure relaxation. You can practically see to the bottom of the ocean floor which makes it ideal for scuba diving enthusiasts and snorkelling. There are huge sea turtles, sharks, clown fish and big blue spotted rays which are utterly breath-taking.
2. Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia
While these islands are becoming more popular in recent years, it’s still relatively untouched by modern tourism and only visited by a handful of backpackers which makes it an ideal location. There are technically two islands – Koh Rong being considered the party island and Koh Rong Sanloem is the chilled relaxed island.
I steered clear of the party island and went straight to the chilled island for a few day’s leisure and ‘me time’. The island is surrounded by beautiful white sand beaches, with some of the clearest water oceans I have ever seen and backed by dominating mountains cutting you off from the mainland and civilization.
One of my favourite parts was running into the ocean at night and watching in amazement as the water suddenly shined brightly around me glowing intensely the more I splashed around due to the bioluminescent plankton. Then during the day grab a drink, lay back and watch the world pass by you by with a huge smile on your face.
3. Monuriki Island, Fiji
This is most famously known as the island that Tom Hanks spent a huge part of his life on with his only companion – a Wilson ball in the film ‘Castaway’. It is a small uninhabited island situated off the coast of Viti Levu in the Fiji Islands. Most surrounding islands offer day trips and I would highly suggest booking it.
For lovers of the film, you can recreate all the famous moments and will instantly see a huge sign made on the beach out of drift wood stating ‘Help Me’. The sand is a bright white, the water has three or four different shades of blue and the jungle is such a lush green it tempts you every second your there to walk in and explore it.
If your guide is willing they will take you on a hike through the jungle and climb to one of the highest points on the island for one of the most breath-taking views you will ever see. Make sure your camera is charged because you will take about a million photos and videos while you are here.
4. Railay Beach, Thailand
This is a small peninsula which is made up of four beaches and surrounding by soaring limestone cliff tops that offers some of the best views in Krabi and is only accessible by boat. It offers one of the most tranquil settings with gorgeous white beaches lined with the famously brightly coloured long tail boats, caves and a secret lagoon hidden in the centre.
There are no footpaths, buses, cars, tuk tuks or motorbikes which is a pleasant break from the mainland and the only form of travel is by foot or boat. With a handful, of restaurants, resorts and hostels this an ideal place for a chilled-out beach getaway with hardly any backpackers clogging up the place.
Be sure to explore the hidden lagoon which is only accessible by rock climbing and the incredible cave formations around the island which will definitely take your breath away.
5. Faroe Islands, Denmark
If you haven’t heard of these islands yet, then you definitely will soon. Tucked away between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean, it is governed by Denmark and is a group of eighteen volcanic islands. With only 50,000 people combined it is a lot quieter than its Nordic neighbours Sweden, Norway and Iceland. In fact, sheep outnumber humans nearly 2:1.
It has unrivalled beauty with striking volcanic skylines, windswept mountains, crashing waves and jagged coastlines that will leave you stunned. Not to mention the most laughably adorable bird on the planet – the puffin that is home to thousands of these fantastic birds during the summer months.
These islands are also far enough north to see the Northern Lights in all of their spectacular and stunning natural glory in September to March. Be sure to rent a rustic wooden lodge in the middle of nowhere where you can be isolated from the world and leave you to hike the beautiful surroundings.
6. Phu Quoc, Vietnam
This is one of Vietnam’s largest islands and is arguably home to some the country’s most beautiful beaches. Strangely it is a lot closer to Cambodia’s border and only a stone’s throw away from Koh Rom Sanloem but despite its location it is relatively easy to reach. Once you land on its pearl white sandy beaches you won’t ever want to leave or take your eyes off its colourful sunsets.
With an economy still based around fishing and agriculture, the island is dotted by sleepy villages whose claim to fame is fish sauce, which is said to be the world's best. You can also visit black pepper and pearl farms, local night markets and take part in unique squid fishing tours come nightfall. It’s a super relaxing island with constant sunshine and nearly 135 species of coral fish including dugong, the hawksbill turtle and green turtle.
The great thing about Pho Quoc is that 50 per cent of it is a national park which nurtures the conservation of its tropical rain forests which include stunning waterfalls, vibrant coral reefs, wetlands and mountain landscape which runs around the island. While it is still not as busy as the mainland it is picking up in terms of tourism so be sure to visit before it becomes a tourist trap.
Be sure to check out my website for more information and travel advice as well as my Twitter @TakeLeapTravel and Instagram @taketheleaptravel.
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