If you're dreaming of escaping to a blissful island with heavenly sands, turquoise waters and sunset views you don't have to share, you'll want to know where to find the world's unspoilt retreats for a dream holiday - and that's where we come in. We've searched high and low for the most beautiful, under-the-radar islands for you to avoid the crowds and experience your very own paradise on earth.
Whether you like to travel to faraway places or stay close to home, there are many hidden gems for you to live out your Robinson Crusoe fantasy. Many of the world's unsung islands are found in the unlikeliest of places, such as Germany, while in popular summer holiday locations, including Greece and Florida, you'll find a number of secret spots that are overlooked by the crowds.
Whichever part of the world you'd like to jet off to, these relaxing islands offer everything you need to switch off and soak up the serenity in a picture-perfect location. For those who like to keep active on holiday, you'll find plenty of way to keep you occupied, from coastal walks to snorkelling the crystal-clear waters.
Be inspired by our pick of the best undiscovered islands...
Paradise islands you've probably never heard of
Paradise islands you've probably never heard of
Situated south of Guadeloupe's Grand-Terre, Marie-Galante is accessed by ferry from the French Caribbean island's capital, Point-a-Pitre, as a wonderful day trip to explore stunning, empty beaches – there are ten gorgeous beaches to choose from. One of the more traditional activities is discovering the island by ox cart and Marie-Galante also boasts its own rum distillery which is open for tastings and tours. Book it: Western & Oriental offers seven-night holidays to Guadeloupe from £1,575 per person.
Sylt is the largest island in the North Sea and Germany's answer to the Hamptons. The island offers 25 miles of fine sandy beaches with strankorbs (typical German beach chairs) scattered along the coastline. Although it's a popular destination among Germans, it remains undiscovered by British tourists. Sylt's landscape also consists of flowering heaths and dramatic cliffs. Book it: HomeAway offers holiday rentals in Sylt including a sea-view apartment with a swimming pool from £62 per night.
Halfway to Italy in the Adriatic Sea lies the isolated Croatian island of Lastovo. The island was declared a nature park in 2006 and features charming bays, some of best fish in the Adriatic and an old medieval town. The tourists that do discover Lastovo are given a warm welcome and treated to the true delights of Croatia: think fine wine, seafood and getting around on rented mopeds. Book it: Hotel Solitudo offers seven-night stays from £315 per double room.
Part of the Koh Yao Islands, Koh Yao Yai is one of Thailand’s lesser-known isles, providing a calm and tranquil retreat for travellers. Located in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, the island is situated between its more lively neighbours, Phuket and Krabi. While Koh Yao Yai has no banking facilities, it has internet service, restaurants and some shops for those seeking relaxation with a dash of civilisation. Secluded in the Andaman Sea, it is rich in culture and authentic Thai traditions. Book it: Hayes & Jarvis offers ten-night holidays to Thailand combining Koh Yao Yai from £1,149 per person.
An exclusive island which sits off the north coast of Sicily in the Aeolian archipelago, Panarea is tranquil, free from traffic and large building developments, and has become a favourite for wealthy European jet-setters. The island is made up of beaches alongside cobbled footpaths and whitewashed houses, with spectacular scenery around every corner - the perfect mixture of cosmopolitan chic and boho beaches. Book it: Italy4Real offers tailor-made tours from 350 euros per night, including accommodation, tours and ground transport.
Located south of Naxos and north of Amorgos, Koufonissi makes up one of the five inhabited Small Cyclades, offering glorious white sand beaches, crystal waters and wild, rugged scenery. Despite there being little in the way of natural shade on the beaches, the more sheltered south-eastern coast benefits from the Meltemi wind in high-summer. There is a wide choice of restaurants, tavernas, cafés and small shops gathered in the village. Book it: Sunvil offers seven-night holidays at Anna Villa from £1,085 per person.
Inishbofin is a special area of conservation and protection, with a number of official walking routes and stunning beaches that boast clear waters, making snorkelling and swimming ideal. The small island is a tranquil space for visitors to relax, lying just seven miles off Galway’s coast and home to five townlands. It is a breeding area for many birds and wildlife, while offering the opportunity to fish, climb and explore, as well as watch the sun set on a beautiful island. Book it: Dolphin Hotel offers double rooms from 40 euros per night.
Halkidiki’s 'secret' island Ammouliani is just four miles long, has one village with a friendly population of only 542, and features a string of Caribbean-like sandy beaches. The village sits on a hill overlooking the harbour, with every point on the island no more than a gentle 40-minute walk away. There is a horse-drawn 'beach bus' which runs from the port to Alykes Beach, and a few seafood tavernas on the island offering the daily catch. Book it: Sunvil offers holidays at the Dominici Hotel from £691 per person.
Officially part of Colombia while closer to Nicaragua, Providencia is absolutely gorgeous and completely under the radar for most travellers. For those who like somewhere that ticks all the regular Caribbean boxes of powder white sand beaches, tropical reefs and picture-perfect lagoons in a relaxed and laid-back way, Providencia is just perfect. Book it: RealWorld offers a two-week tailor-made Colombia Highlights holidays for £2,295 per person.
Stewart Island, or Rakiura as it is also known, is the third largest island in New Zealand yet remains a hidden gem to many tourists. Located 30km south of the South Island, visitors can travel to Stewart Island either by ferry or flight. With over 85 per cent of the island as National Park, the lush island offers incredible hiking, walking and birdwatching opportunities. Book it: Austravel offers a 13-night holiday to New Zealand South Island and Stewart Island from £4,098 per person.
Florida's Cayo Costa Island boasts nine miles of glorious beaches and is only accessible by private boat or ferry, which is perfect for those who wish to enjoy a slower pace of holiday. As a State Park, visitors may catch a glimpse of manatees and pods of dolphins, as well as tropical birds. A trip to one of Fort Myers and Sanibel’s beaches isn't complete without a spot of shelling, while the water is very calm for families to hire a boat or sit back and enjoy the Florida sunshine on your own island. Book it: Stay at the Gasparilla Inn & Club, on nearby Gasparilla Island, from $265 per night.
The unspoilt island of Favignana is the largest of the three principal Egadi Islands, off the northwest coast of Sicily. The low-key holiday destination is mostly visited by Italians and the island's character is little-altered, with a leisurely way of life and simple authenticity. It is made up of two flat stretches of land on either side of a high rocky spine, topped by a fortress. Its town boasts restaurants, bars and shops, along with a port for the ferries and hydrofoils that run back to Trapani on mainland Sicily. Book it: Essential Italy offers eight-person villa Casa Faro Favignana from £2,300 per week.