The joys of a faraway island
From secluded beaches to the Great Bear Rainforest, these are our top picks for living out the castaway vibe on a remote island.
Thailand may be firmly on the tourist trail, but there are plenty of hidden gems to discover – if you know where to look. Cape Kudu Hotel, a boutique haven tucked away on the tiny island of Koh Yao Noi, is one of our most serene spots. It feels more like a glamourous beach house than a hotel, centred around a tranquil infinity pool with views of limestone isles studded in the Andaman Sea. Incredible meals await in the Hornbill restaurant, named after the famous local bird; if you’re lucky, you may glimpse one nesting in the trees. The seaside-chic rooms have driftwood furnishings and a calming colour palette of white and teal blue – we love the Robinson Crusoe suite, which has a whirlpool tub on the balcony. Tick off island moments such as the Moonlit Cinema and yoga on the beach, or hop on a bicycle and explore the sandy shores, fishing villages and coconut farms of this sleepy little island.
Imagine skimming across the water in a speedboat to an emerald-cloaked island, ringed by a turquoise lagoon. Rustic villas are dotted among the greenery, the swimming pool glistens invitingly and myna birds call out across the jungle. You’re at Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, the only resort on Jurassic-like Silhouette Island, 20 miles north of Mahé. The drum beats to a slower pace here. Wake to leisurely breakfasts of freshly-made smoothies and cooked-to-order omelettes, then snorkel among tropical fish in the national marine park surrounding the island. After lunch, perhaps tasty Creole cuisine or wood-fired pizzas, explore the web of hiking trails that weave among coconut groves, past giant tortoises and flying foxes. We recommend the Anse Mondon trail, where at the end you’ll be rewarded with a refreshing swim in the bottle-blue lagoon of Silhouette’s prettiest cove, lined with cinnamon and palm trees. Later, treat yourself to an island-inspired cocktail by the pool or squeeze in a spa treatment before dinner.
A safari lodge isn’t the obvious choice for a secluded island holiday – but what a lodge. On a private island in the heart of the Okavango Delta, you’ll find just 12 high-ceiling tents flooded with light, each with its own plunge pool and sweeping views of the Delta, best enjoyed while snuggled up in your big, comfy bed with a morning cup of coffee. Belmond Eagle Island Lodge has a focus on water-based safaris, so you can silently glide past hippos in a traditional canoe as fish eagles soar overhead. It’s the perfect way to get up close to the wildlife of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pangulasian Island, Philippines
From Manila, it takes almost an hour by plane, 15 minutes by car and 45 minutes by boat to reach El Nido Resorts Pangulasian Islands. And that’s the easy route. But is it worth it? The Philippines still feels off-grid, somewhere that’s bound to muster a few ‘wow’ reactions before you travel – and after your return. This retreat is on one of Palawan’s unspoilt islands and it ticks all the boxes when it comes to soft sand, clear waters and a jungle backdrop, creating a pleasingly limited to-do list of relaxing on the beach, hiking in the forest and snorkelling or diving. The 42 Filipino villas are spaced out to give you a true sense of seclusion; and the resort’s location makes the most of both sunrise and sunset in this special part of the world.
Bequia Island, Caribbean
Saint Lucia, Antigua, Barbados – we’ve all heard about the most popular islands in the Caribbean. But what about the off-radar islands? There are over 700 islands, islets and cays in the Caribbean and Bequia Island is swept up under the umbrella of St Vincent and the Grenadines. This island is a tiddly seven square miles and can be reached on a 45-minute flight from Barbados, or 30-minute flight from Saint Lucia. The pretty island is charming, unspoilt and we’re captivated by the retro Bequia Beach Hotel on Friendship Beach. The design is based on the 1950s, with a nod towards the glamour of Beverly Hills, with poolside cabanas and colourful cocktails delivered to your lounger.
The Maldives is the posterchild for exotic island escapes; this far-flung archipelago consists of over a thousand jewel-like islands scattered across the Indian Ocean. Some resorts are just a quick speedboat ride from Malé, but Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa Maldives, a speck in the remote Meemu Atoll, is around a 40-minute seaplane ride away. Trust us; the extra travelling time is well worth it. The island’s name means ‘reef above water’ and it’s easy to see why; the coral-rich waters are a marine paradise of sharks, rays, mantas and turtles. The well-established dive centre will help you unlock the wonders of the ocean with snorkelling tours and dive excursions, or opt for a Water Bungalow and you can marvel at the aquatic life from dry land – these beautiful rooms have a glass floor viewing window. A walkway connects two islands; the main island is the social hub where you’ll find a duo of restaurants and a lively bar, and Platinum Island is an adults-only playground with an exclusive restaurant, bar and pool, plus a cluster of private beach bungalows perfect for undisturbed relaxation.
If you're picturing a Caribbean getaway more suited to Captain Jack Sparrow than glamorous celebrities, look no further than Dominica. This wildly idyllic island has untouched rainforest, wild rivers and rugged coves that once attracted pirates to its secret shores. There are rumours of loot still buried somewhere on the island, but nowadays, visitors come to unearth the real treasure; the island's raw, natural beauty. One of the island’s best hideaways is Secret Bay, a romantic eco-retreat perched dramatically on a cliff edge overlooking the sparkling sea. Just 10 treehouse-style pool villas tiptoe up the hillside, each beautifully crafted and designed with sustainability in mind. You could easily stay put here, order in-room dining via the complimentary iPhone and your villa host is on hand to ferry drinks to your door. For a change of scene, head to Zing Zing for island-to-table menus or try soul-stilling yoga on the newly-unveiled wellness pavilion. There's an impressive list of activities to choose when you’re ready to explore beyond your sanctuary, such as forest bathing, whale watching, and waterfall hikes.