The Maldives is top of the mind when we think of the world’s most relaxing destinations. But its ridiculous exclusivity and cost of travel can definitely sour any dream vacation plans. So if you’re looking for an island paradise with no crowds, don’t look too far. Here are our top picks for your next great escape.
As an archipelago in the tropics, the Philippines has more than its fair share of fantastic beaches. Skip the tourist flocks of Boracay, and head elsewhere in the Visayas region to Cebu. A rare mix of everything you need in a vacation, and more: water sports, powder-soft sands, and resorts and guesthouses for every budget range. Spend a day exploring the coastal mountains, which will treat you to spectacular sunsets and a view of the other 167 nearby islands dotting the sparkling sea.
Yes, this is a reference to the dragons. Komodo, Indonesia is a secluded paradise for nature lovers filled with lush mountains, crystal clear waters, and colourful coral reefs. And of course, exotic wildlife fresh off the set of Jurassic Park.
Koh Phayam, Thailand
Thailand is a great country with a lot to offer locals and tourists (READ: 6 Thrilling Bangkok Activities) but it can get overcrowded during peak holiday season. With a local population of roughly 500 people, and tourists heading to Thailand’s better known islands, Koh Phayam is wonderfully quiet. With all the holiday attractions of its more known neighbors, Koh Phayam is a beach paradise perfect if you don’t want to be disturbed.
Jeju Island, Korea
This longtime honeymoon spot for Korea’s newly weds boasts of incredible beaches, seas of exotic wildlife, and landscapes shaped by centuries of volcanic activity. Spend a day exploring Mt. Hallasan, a dormant volcano rising 1,950 meters above sea level and see the stunning crater lake and colourful fields of flowers, before heading back into town for some delicious (and affordable) seafood.
Con Dao Archipelago, Vietnam
Vietnam is full of incredible sights and steeped in culture and history. Much of Con Son is charmingly Gallic, with almost no traffic and a number of cheap and delicious cafes and restaurants. But for many years, many of the islands were used as prisons by the French and US. It’s an interesting but sobering history worth exploring, but be sure to end your visit on a high note. Enjoy the wildly idyllic beaches now mostly populated by nesting sea turtles.
North Borneo Beach, Sabah
The lack of roads and tourist facilities make a great deterrent. But isolation has its upsides, and Simpang Mengayau is a beach that has thrived from the solitude. Take day trip up north from Kota Kinabalu and enjoy kilometers of pristine coastline as the South China Sea crashes into the shore. And if you have the time, be sure to explore Sabah’s forests and see Mt. Alab and the Mahua Waterfall.