The resorts in the Bahamas or sandy beaches of Maui may sound like a perfect island getaway for some, but with fame comes crowds. These five incredible islands are little-known gems that offer all of the perks of your favorite vacation spots with the priceless addition of a little bit of solitude.
These incredible islands off the southern coast of Argentina are a wildlife hotspot and a dream come true for penguin lovers. With five different species of flightless birds calling the Falkland Islands their home and an interactive map showing visitors just where to look, this is the perfect place for those looking for a more personal wildlife experience. Though the maritime climate means it might not be the warmest destination, the lack of tourists and the long daylight hours during the summer months make it excellent for exploring. Cruise around on an ATV or hop on a boat or small plane to travel between the islands. It’s even said that Charles Darwin spent more time exploring species on the Falkland Islands than he did on the famed Galápagos.
These nine islands and eight islets located just 350 miles west of Senegal are the perfect place for a sunny getaway at any time of the year. Explore the vibrant volcanic landscape of Cape Verde, trek up its mountain trails or simply relax on the beach — this island truly has a setting for every type of traveler. Uninhabited until 1456, Cape Verde’s culture can now be characterized best by its morna music, which some call blues with a bit of saltiness. If a night out on the town isn’t your thing, opt instead for viewing the amazing wildlife that calls the island home. Gaze at passing birds from the beaches or take a dive under the water to marvel at the tropical fish and five species of turtles that frequent the island.
This cluster of islands in the South Pacific has no shortage of activities, regardless of whether you prefer land or sea. Many have compared the Cook Islands to Hawaii before the tourism surge hit, which means they’re a great choice for those who want to enjoy all there is to do without fighting the crowds. Take to the water for some kitesurfing, lagoon cruising or snorkeling with sea turtles, or stay on land and conquer the various hiking trails that snake across the islands. The capital island of Rarotonga is the biggest of the fifteen, though it’s definitely worth taking some time to explore them all. Muri lagoon, for example, is a spot not to be missed, and the Muri market is the best place to stock up on local goods.
Known around the world for its signature liqueur, Curaçao island (pronounced cure-ah-souw) in the Dutch Caribbean has stayed surprisingly under the radar. Walk among the colorful buildings of the old town (also a certified UNESCO World Heritage site) to feel like you’re in Amsterdam while still enjoying the year-round warmth of the tropics. The population is incredibly diverse, with residents representing over 50 different nationalities, and the island’s activity list is no less expansive. Between the festivals and beach clubs, nightlife on Curaçao is absolutely intoxicating, and foodies will delight at the range of food truck options and delicious eats. Those who prefer the quiet life can visit one of the island’s many art galleries or beaches followed by a shipwreck diving trip to marvel at dozens of unique fish and ocean life.
São Tomé and Principe
The two islands of São Tomé and Principe make up the tiny and underrated African country floating in the Gulf of Guinea. The larger of the two, São Tomé island is exactly what you might picture when thinking of sitting on a beach sipping rum — probably because Bacardi, the well-known rum manufacturer, actually filmed some of their advertisements on those very beaches. The island of Principe is much smaller though perfect for those who really want to immerse themselves in the rainforests and magma columns of these volcanic beauties. While there is only one endemic species of mammal, the ocean biodiversity of the islands is astounding and the emphasis placed on bird conservation makes the islands an excellent location for visiting species. Snorkeling or scuba diving around São Tomé will get you up close and personal with turtles, tropical fish, eels and even sharks. Did I mention the island specializes in chocolate, too?