8 Secret Escapes You've Never Heard Of Before

Photo: Michaela Trimble.
Whether you’re looking to escape to a warm- or cold-weather destination, an island getaway is your best bet for a relaxing, mind-easing vacation. But more often than not, island paradises are teeming with crowds, making it hard to truly escape. Luckily, the more remote the island, the more tranquility you will find.
Read on to discover eight remote, yet accessible, island oases where a mix of local culture and seclusion make for an ideal getaway to find yourself, find peace, or simply find a tan.
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Photo: Michaela Trimble.
San Blas Islands, Panama
Just off the northern Caribbean coast of Panama lies the San Blas Archipelago, a group of 365 pristine, white-sand beach islands inhabited by the native Kuna Indians. The area is easy to access from Panama City, but it couldn’t feel more remote, as local traditions, culture, and customs have remained mostly intact. The locals open up their homes to travelers wishing to sunbathe by day and rest in thatched-roof casitas by night. Opt to join a Cacique Cruiser day trip from Panama, or, if you have a bit more time, you can island hop, backpacker-style, for weeks on end.
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Olkhon Island, Siberia
Are you in need of a change-your-life vacation? If the answer is yes, then Olkhon Island, in Siberia, may be the place for you. Located on the western shore of Lake Baikal and accessible by ferry, the island is home to the indigenous Buryats, followers of shamanism who believe the area is one of the five shamanic energy sources in the world. Homestays are offered in Khuzir, the main village, and day tours are available to the island’s many natural monuments.
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Westman Islands, Iceland
With more puffins than humans, the Westman Islands are a 14-island cluster off the southern coast of Iceland with immense natural beauty. Off-the-beaten-path and magically remote, Heimaey is the only island with permanent inhabitants, of which there are around 4,000. The most popular lodging is in local homestays in Heimaey, with the outer islands each having a small cabin only used during summer months. Reachable by a 40-minute ferry or short flight, the Westman Islands are well worth a stop during your next trip to Iceland.
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Photo: Colin Marshall/REX/Shutterstock.
Togean Islands, Indonesia
The Togeans make up an archipelago of 7,000 islands and islets off the northeast coast of Sulawesi, in Indonesia. As any visitor to this paradise will confirm, it takes time and effort to get there, but days filled with hammock naps, cold beers, and bonfires make it well worth the trip. Travass Life, specialists in authentic trips to Southeast Asia, can set you up on an unforgettable journey to the Togean Islands, where you’ll meet the local Bajo tribe, who live a seaborne lifestyle, going from island to island in wooden canoes.
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Photo: Michaela Trimble.
Isletas de Granada, Nicaragua
If you seek a chance to experience true stillness, then a visit to the Isletas de Granada on Lake Nicaragua is in order. Tiny islands make up the local ecosystem and a 15-minute boat ride from the Granada port will put you at the most idyllic, serene ecolodge in all of Nicaragua, Isleta el Espino. There, the staff is made up entirely of local residents in Granada and the Isletas. The three-bedroom property has a front-row view of Volcán Mombacho and all meals are sourced from ingredients fresh from Lake Nicaragua and the plentiful garden on property.
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Photo: Auscape/UIG/REX/Shutterstock.
Tiwi Islands, Australia
Located north of Darwin, the Tiwi Islands are known for their Aboriginal culture, lush rainforests, secluded waterfalls, and rock pools. Travelers can stay at one of the fishing lodges on the islands or join a deep-sea fishing expedition. The local art scene is not to be missed, with the most famous crafts being pukamanis, colorfully decorated burial poles towering up to 10-feet high (pictured). The islands can only be accessed by a pre-arranged tour with an Aboriginal guide, as a permit is required for entry.
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Photo: Ken Usami/Getty Images.
Yakushima Island, Japan
Interested in forest bathing? Yakushima Island may be the perfect place to practice this form of natural, outdoor meditation, because it’s home to an indigenous, UNESCO-protected ancient cedar forest, moss, and water system. The island can be reached by ferry from Kagoshima, yet it’s still maintained its extremely secluded, relatively unknown natural appeal. Soaring mountains and thick rainforests stretch through the entire 17-mile island, creating an eerie, mysterious experience full of cascading waterfalls, red-bottomed macaques (monkeys), and yakushika (deer). Opt to hike the Seibu Trail and stay at a local Airbnb.
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Photo: Geoff Moore/REX/Shutterstock.
Funzi Island, Kenya
Located off Kenya’s southern coast, surrounded by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, and home to a large population of sea turtles, sits little-known Funzi Island. In an area consisting of four mangrove-covered islands, Funzi Island serves as the mainland and home to 1,500 permanent inhabitants of the Shirazi tribe. Travelers can go on a crocodile safari or stay at the island’s one hotel, The Funzi Keys. To get to the island, take a ferry from the mainland or hop on a 15-minute flight from Mombasa.