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Remote Islands for a Tropical Getaway

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Sometimes you think you’re stepping off a ship or plane onto a tranquil island paradise — only to be swarmed by merchants offering everything from jet ski rides to helicopter tours.

Other times, that “private” island promised to you was also promised to hundreds of strangers you’re now sharing it with.

There is a time for riding aboard rental watercraft and soaking in a beach party atmosphere, but sometimes we crave remote island experiences instead of living out the verses from a Jimmy Buffet song. We want to be able to hear ourselves think and enjoy sun-splashed panoramas on tropical beaches.

But remote islands are also a balancing act. We’re seeking solitude in paradise, but we also have a certain level of amenities we’re comfortable with. For some, it’s simply a hammock hung on a palm tree. For others, it’s a resort steeped in privacy, a restaurant or two, and a couple of recreation options.

Here are some remote islands that range the gamut from lonely getaways to toned-town tropical destinations.

Ha’apai, Tonga’s Remote Islands

The sign of a good remote island is a primitive tourism website. When you visit Ha’apai’s virtual hub, it’s a relic of an AOL, decades-old era. And when you arrive, it all makes sense.

Part of Tonga, Ha’apai includes 62 islands adding up to a mere 43 sq. miles of lands; so, lots of coastline, right? Known for lagoons, barrier reefs and even active volcanos, it’s the backdrop of the world’s most beautiful postcards.1 But only 17 of those islands are inhabited, boasting a total population of 8,000 inhabitants, giving you a choice of just how deserted you want your dream remote island to be.2

If you want company of the marine life instead of humans, Tonga is on the shortlist of nations allowing a true open-water whale immersion experience. But before you swim up to a humpback whale, know that you actually will want an experienced operator by your side — and you’ll want to soak in all the necessary precautions to take to make this mid-ocean meeting safe for you and the whale population.1

The Perhentians— No Roads, No Worries in Malaysia

Read up on Malaysia’s Perhentians and you’ll likely run into this fun fact before finishing the first paragraph: there are no roads.

In fact, only two of the Perhentians seven islands are inhabited: Perhentian Besar (Big Perhentian) and Perhentian Kecil (Small Perhentian). While the big island is known for more upscale resorts, the smaller is its budget-friendly, low-key little brother.3

Whatever choice you make, don’t worry about renting a car. And there is a very good chance your smart phone will have the same reception as a conch shell. Instead, bask on the beaches that are often recognized as among the world’s best. Then meet the locals and fellow travelers for a happy hour beverage at this tropical “stopping point” — the Malaysian translation for Perhentian.4

San Salvador Island — The Bahamas’ New, Quiet World

Long before favorite island anthem “Conch Ain’t Got no Bone” rang out from inviting beach bungalows-turned-restaurants, explorer Christopher Columbus stumbled onto the shores of San Salvador Island (then called Guanahani).

Somehow, this mountain peak poking through the ocean never got as crowded or commercialized as some of its fellow islands. Instead, only 1,000 Bahamians call it home, in addition to travelers who flock to the beaches and nearby reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving.

With an international airport that will give you a quick flight from Florida, dozens of top dive sites, a sprinkling of resorts, and historic markers charting Columbus’ landing, San Salvador might just be that ideal middle ground of remote islands that combine tranquility with accessibility.5

Zanzibar, Tanzania’s Spiced-Up Remote Islands

Zanzibar is in the middle of a metamorphosis, having shifted from an archipelago known as a capital of the spice trade and exotic wildlife sightseeing to a playground for the upper crust. But don’t let the rising tide of posh resorts fool you — Zanzibar is still out there. Despite the fact that the four-island archipelago boasts a population of more than one million, the inviting Indian Ocean destination’s beaches have plenty of open spots for you to fish, snorkel or simply lounge in paradise. And if you’re a history buff who wants to escape the jam-packed tours of other spots, be sure to check the centuries-old palatial ruins and breeze through Stone Town, a World Heritage Site. This is no vanilla vacation, but be sure to bring home plenty of it (and coriander, too).6

Some travelers seek out remote islands that allow them to get lost. Other wants to escape the mobs and tourist-trap attractions without abandoning all the modern amenities. Each of these approaches is best complemented by a travel insurance plan that can help you with a travel delay, lost bag or other snafu. Just be sure to send us a postcard — and by postcard we mean gorgeous selfie without a crowd of people in the background.

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