Best Secret Islands on Earth

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Andrea Fazzari

For white-sand beaches, salty breezes, freshly caught seafood, and no crowds, head to one of the world’s best secret islands.

Vietnam: Con Dao

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Phu Quoc might be hailed as the next Phuket, but those looking to get far off the grid head to this undiscovered archipelago just 110 miles off Vietnam’s southeastern coast. A 45-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City brings you to Con Son, the largest (and only inhabited) member of the 16-island chain. Here, sheer granite cliffs border deserted beaches and crystal-blue water—imagine a tropical Amalfi Coast without the crowds. Up until now, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a decent place to stay, but the arrival of the Six Senses Con Dao (Dat Doc Beach; 84-64/383-1222; sixsenses.com; villas from $685) has brought a welcome dose of luxury to the island. Standing along a stretch of golden sand are 50 airy villas (some with private pools) that look out onto the South China Sea. Food is a highlight here. In classic Six Senses style, the hotel’s Vietnamese restaurant is set up to resemble a market; there are separate stalls “hawking” noodles and rolls, while made-to-order dishes are cooked outside in charcoal-fueled woks. You may be tempted to never leave the resort, but the 20-square-mile island is well worth exploring. Hire a private guide from the hotel, who will bring you via motorbike to the area’s most remote spots, including a 19th-century hilltop lighthouse and the spectacular Dam Tre Bay lagoon.

T+L Tip: Take a boat trip to Bay Canh Island to view endangered hawksbill turtles during nesting season (May through September), arranged by the hotel. —Jennifer Chen

Best Secret Islands on Earth

Vietnam: Con Dao

Phu Quoc might be hailed as the next Phuket, but those looking to get far off the grid head to this undiscovered archipelago just 110 miles off Vietnam’s southeastern coast. A 45-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City brings you to Con Son, the largest (and only inhabited) member of the 16-island chain. Here, sheer granite cliffs border deserted beaches and crystal-blue water—imagine a tropical Amalfi Coast without the crowds. Up until now, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a decent place to stay, but the arrival of the Six Senses Con Dao (Dat Doc Beach; 84-64/383-1222; sixsenses.com; villas from $685) has brought a welcome dose of luxury to the island. Standing along a stretch of golden sand are 50 airy villas (some with private pools) that look out onto the South China Sea. Food is a highlight here. In classic Six Senses style, the hotel’s Vietnamese restaurant is set up to resemble a market; there are separate stalls “hawking” noodles and rolls, while made-to-order dishes are cooked outside in charcoal-fueled woks. You may be tempted to never leave the resort, but the 20-square-mile island is well worth exploring. Hire a private guide from the hotel, who will bring you via motorbike to the area’s most remote spots, including a 19th-century hilltop lighthouse and the spectacular Dam Tre Bay lagoon.

T+L Tip: Take a boat trip to Bay Canh Island to view endangered hawksbill turtles during nesting season (May through September), arranged by the hotel. —Jennifer Chen

Andrea Fazzari

Best Secret Islands on Earth

Hollywood scouts were on to something when they skipped over Mykonos and chose a secret island in Greece as the location for Mamma Mia. The movie was a $600-million hit, in part because it fueled peoples’ fantasies of escaping to a secluded island (and yes, those catchy ABBA tunes didn’t hurt).

Surprisingly, that picture-perfect movie location, Skopelos, has stayed under the radar. When you hop off the ferry, you’ll be wowed by the view of the shimmering Aegean Sea, the island’s tile-roofed tavernas, and a decided lack of travelers.

There are still gems like Skopelos hidden all around the globe, if you know where to look. T+L editors have done the hunting for you to uncover secret islands where you can truly unwind, from the rugged Chilean spot that inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe to a tiny island in the Caribbean that was virtually deserted for decades until a luxe resort opened in 2010.

Similar high-end resorts have been popping up across Southeast Asia, where many islands are vying to be the next Phuket. So those looking to get far off the grid head to Con Dao, an archipelago 110 miles off Vietnam’s southeastern coast. Sheer granite cliffs border deserted beaches and crystal-blue water, and a private guide can lead you by motorbike to remote spots like the spectacular Dam Tre Bay lagoon.

Diving enthusiasts should opt instead for the secret island of Mabul, off the northeastern coast of Malaysia, where the marine life is on a par with the Galapagos. Even better, the native sea moths, bobtail squids, and elusive paintpot cuttlefish are some of the only inhabitants.

Travelers looking to commune with nature can also find solitude on Nicaragua’s acre-wide Jicaro Island on freshwater Lake Nicaragua. The nine casitas at Jicaro Island Ecolodge were built from storm-felled trees, and all the food is locally sourced; you can sip a passion-fruit-banana cocktail as you sit by the infinity pool.

Prefer something closer to home? On Washington’s Lummi Island, a nine-square-mile oasis on Puget Sound, you can sample the region’s bounty (net-caught salmon, spot prawns) while watching orcas ply the waters.

Whatever your daydream, you’ll find a destination to match by checking out our slideshow of secret islands around the world.

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