As the holiday travel season begins, people are packing their bags for Hawaii, Bora Bora, St. Lucia, the Greek Isles and so many other popular destinations. Travel + Leisure shares with us some of the little know islands around the globe that might be interesting alternatives for future travel.
Here are some of my favorites and click here to see the rest!
1. Sandön (Sweden)
There’s a reason mystery writer Stieg Larsson chose Sandön as a setting for his popular Millennium thriller trilogy: the island is covered in a forest of moss and pine trees, and a light fog shrouds the windblown beaches. Check in to the modern Sands Hotell (46-8/5715-3020; sandshotell.se; doubles from $298), just steps from the harbor in Sandön’s only town, Sandhamn. At Sandhamns Värdshus (46-8/5715-3051; dinner for two $100), chef Henrik Lepistö whips up classic Swedish dishes such as house-marinated herring and pytt i panna, a traditional hash with fried egg and beets.
2. Scrub Island (British Virgin Islands)
The name may suggest otherwise, but a trip here hardly constitutes roughing it. Once a pit stop for explorers, it’s been virtually uninhabited for decades—until last year, when the luxe Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina (877/890-7444; scrubisland.com; doubles from $375) opened its doors. What to expect? Spacious hillside villas, guided trips to nearby Norman Island, and sunset nature hikes.
3. Skopelos (Greece)
A one-hour ferry ride from Skiathos, the island of Skopelos is so picture-perfect (hidden coves; blue-roofed tavernas; hundreds of Byzantine-era churches) that Hollywood chose its Kastani Beach as a set for Mamma Mia. At the just-renovated Adrina Beach Hotel (Panormos; 34-24240/23371; adrina.gr; doubles from $98), the 49 pastel-colored rooms face the pine-tree-studded coastline, strewn with daybeds. Later this year, the same owners will debut the more upscale Adrina Resort & Spa (Panormos; 30-24240/23371; theresort.gr; doubles from $110), with 16 terraced rooms and 22 villas that look out onto the turquoise Aegean.
Don’t expect to see much night sky here: in summer, daylight shines for up to 21 hours on this rocky one-mile hideaway in Breiðafjörður Bay. Lush meadows and multicolored timber houses dot the scenery, and the mainland’s Snæfellsjökull volcano is always within eyeshot. In town, Hotel Flatey (354/555-7788; hotelflatey.is; doubles from $180) stays true to simple Scandinavian design (blond-wood furniture; whitewashed walls), and the downstairs restaurant turns into a live-concert venue for local talent at night.
5. Great Barrier Island (New Zealand)
At 104 square miles, “The Barrier” is the largest island off the Kiwi coast, but it’s also the most untouched. Spend your days hiking through dense kauri woods or exploring jagged inlets. Then refuel over mussel fritters at Tipi & Bobs (38 Puriri Bay Rd., Puriri Bay; 64-9/429-0550; dinner for two $45). The four modern rooms at the glass-walled Oruawharo Beach House (5 Ringwood St., Torbay; 64-9/473-6031; ihu.co.nz; doubles from $450) are designed by New Zealand architecture firm Fearon Hay and have spectacular views of Oruawharo Bay.
6. Islas de Rosario (Columbia)
Cartagena may be the latest Latin American hot spot, but do yourself a favor and venture off the coast to the Islas de Rosario—a chain of 27 mostly uninhabited islands that are home to the country's largest coral reef. With their mangrove-dotted white-sand beaches, they're also known as paradise for in-the-know Colombians. Stay at the tropical-chic San Pedro de Majagua Hotel (57-5/664-6070; hotelmajagua.com; doubles from $290), on Isla Grande. There, you'll find 17 white-on-white rooms with nautical accents (wooden oars, stripped lamps) and panoramic Caribbean views, and a restaurant that serves regional dishes such as fresh-caught snapper, grilled whole and served with coconut rice. Of note: the hotel organizes snorkeling and diving excursions in 45 different fishes.
7. Colonsay (Scotland)
A 2 1/2-hour ferry ride from the west-coast whisky town of Oban takes you to this remote Hebridean island. Sheep far outnumber people, and those who have made the wildflower-carpeted island home are the sort of characters who would have inspired Robert Burns. There’s the naturalist Kevin Byrne (44-1951/200-320; colonsayguide.co.uk; walks for two from $32), who can name every buzzard flying near the mile-long sands of Kiloran Bay, or proprietor Mike McNicholl of the General Store (44-1951/200-265; colonsayshop.net), who’ll tell you about the dolphins he just saw and sell you a bottle of Laphroaig. The Howard family owns the Colonsay Hotel (44-1951/200-316; colonsayestate.co.uk; doubles from $160), a nine-room Georgian inn built in 1750, with white pebble-dashed walls, sloping slate roofs, and spare furnishings. You can meet all the locals at the village hall for Saturday’s weekly ceilidh dance, as authentic a gathering as you’ll find in the British Isles.
8. Mabul (Malaysia)
Diving enthusiasts flock to Mabul, off the northeastern coast of Malaysia, where the exotic marine life is on a par with the Galápagos—native sea moths, bobtail squids, and the elusive paintpot cuttlefish are just a few of the inhabitants. At Sipadan Water Village Resort (6-089/784-227; swvresort.com; doubles from $365), the 45 stilted bungalows are cooled by constant sea breezes.