It’s sad but true: Most of us can’t afford to rent out our own private island every time we go on vacation. (Although doing so might be more affordable than you think!) But your choice doesn’t have to be between a private island or one that’s been overrun by tourists. You just have to think (or, rather, travel) outside of the box. When you head to any of these amazing-yet-underrated islands, you’ll find the same beauty and solitude that you would if you went somewhere private—for a fraction of the price.
This series of 15 islands located northeast of New Zealand promise stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage that will fill your trip with excitement. Any of the Cook Islands provide visitors with the opportunity to wander through thick jungles, sunbathe on warm, placid beaches, witness Polynesian village life, or learn about thousands of years of Polynesian history as you explore these remarkable islands.
Culebra, Puerto Rico
Sleepy Culebra is truly a place where you can get away from it all. It’s a mere 30-minute flight or ferry ride from San Juan, which is a short flight from most major U.S. cities. In spite of its accessibility for U.S. citizens, Culebra hasn’t been overrun by tourists. Instead, the small island maintains a relaxed vibe and an emphasis on its natural treasures. Most of the island is designated as a natural refuge, and the island boasts some of the healthiest coral reefs in the Caribbean in addition to top-ranking Flamenco Beach.
Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, Dominica is one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. The opportunities for recreating in the great outdoors are virtually endless here. Climb mountains in the Morne Tois Pitons National Park, hike trails through dense jungles, picnic by the stunning Victoria or Trafalgar waterfall, SCUBA dive in Champagne Reef, or sunbathe on any of the island’s stunning black sand beaches.
Guam is a U.S. territory, which means it’s incredibly easy to visit the island as a U.S. citizen—and yet surprisingly few Americans do so. That’s a shame, because the island promises star-sand beaches, hospitable locals, the opportunity to explore thousands of years of history, delicious food, duty-free shopping zones, and striking natural beauty in the form of rainforests, waterfalls, palm trees, beaches, and world-renowned views of the sunset.
Koh Lipe, Thailand
Off the southern end of Thailand lies an island that receives a shockingly small amount of press relative to the amazing vacation it affords. The warm beaches are perfect for relaxing days in the sand, while gorgeous ocean waters promise great snorkeling and wildlife sighting opportunities in addition to delicious fresh-caught seafood served up at local establishments. Given that many lodgings shut off the electricity around midnight, this is truly the place to get away from it all.
Most world travelers can name at least one Greek island, whether it’s Santorini or Crete. But fewer travelers could name Skopelos, even though the island is home to gorgeous sites and a relaxing atmosphere comparable to Greece’s more famous islands. Located an hour’s ferry ride from Skiathos, Skopelos boasts pristine coastlines, historic architecture, lush gardens, delicious food, and stunning ocean views.
Even lovers of landlocked states will find something enchanting about these underrated islands, all of which promise a little slice of paradise.