8 Underrated Islands Around the World

With summer behind us, it's easy to slip into fantasies about where to spend your next island vacation. While Bermuda, Jamaica, Maui, and Mauritius all sound like fantastic options, they can also get crowded, especially during peak seasons. If you're looking to escape the tourist masses, but still want to enjoy all the sea, sand, and sun that come with island adventures, it may be time to start planning a trip to one of these eight underrated islands around the world. 

1. Cavallo, France

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Off the coast of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea, this little privately-owned French island attracts well-to-do tourists who come here to golf, sail, shop, and live the good life. It's certainly not the place you'd go for wild nightlife, but it's ideal for a quiet getaway. And unless you drive a Tesla, you may have to leave your wheels at home, as only bicycles and electric cars are allowed on the island. 

2. Santa Rosa Island, California

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The second largest of California's Channel Islands, Santa Rosa Island is a beautiful island alternative to the more famous Catalina Island further south. There's plenty to see and do here for lovers of natural beauty. There are no hotels or real services (beyond bathrooms and water supplies), so if you're planning to stay here overnight, you'll need to bring food and camping gear. Hiking is a popular activity on the island, but those wanting to swim or engage in other water sports should be careful, as the swells here can get quite strong.

3. Pom Pom Island, Malaysia

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Malaysia's Pom Pom Island checks all the boxes of a cliche tropical paradise (think gorgeous white-sand beaches and crystalline waters). This tiny coral reef island measures only about a mile-and-a-half in circumference and doesn't have a ton of developed facilities, making it a great option for those who want something really quiet and serene. Most people come here to dive, and the waters around the island are incredibly biodiverse, with all sorts of fish, coral species, cephalopods, and fish. Pom Pom Island is also a prime nesting spot for turtles, and swimmers and divers will likely spot the reptiles in the water throughout the year. 

4. Lamu Island, Kenya

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Lamu is a lovely little island off of the coast of Kenya, in East Africa. It's known for its history more than its beaches and is among the best-maintained old Swahili settlements on earth. In fact, Lamu Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its coral stone and mangrove buildings. The island is without cars, which means that travelers wanting to get around will have to rely on their own two feet. Best of all, those who do want to get out on the sand will find that many of the beaches here are nearly deserted except for the occasional fishermen, making it a great place to truly escape city life.

5. La Maddalena, Italy

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This tiny Italian island off the northern coast of Sardinia features a mix of gorgeous beaches and charming little streets. La Maddalena is the main island of a larger archipelago of the same name. Its beaches are characterized by stunningly clear, and often turquoise-hued, water and beautiful rock formations, plus plenty of golden sand. Keep in mind that this island is primarily a summer destination, and many of the essential services are only open during the summer months. 

6. Sulawesi, Indonesia


Most travelers to Indonesia make a beeline to one of the popular hot spots (think Bali, Sumatra, and Java). While these islands are all amazing, those who really want something unusual should consider heading north to Sulawesi. Formerly known as Celebes, this squid-shaped island has some of the most fantastic diving opportunities in the region. Most of the tourists you'll come across here visit for diving and diving alone. However, it's also an interesting place to learn more about local cultural life. Plus, the southern highlands of Tana Toraja are of particular interest to amateur anthropologists for their long, drawn-out burial rites.

7. Yap, Micronesia

 David Weekly/Flickr

If you're looking to head somewhere remote, Yap has you covered. This Micronesian island gets around 4,000 or so tourists every year and only has a tiny inventory of rooms (around 100 or so), though there has been talk of a Chinese company vying to build a huge resort on the island in the years to come. The island is best known as one of the last bastions of Micronesian culture. Though U.S. dollars are widely used here, Yap also has its own currency for larger transactions, consisting of stones too large to actually move.

8. Solta, Croatia

Anders Finn Jørgensen/Flickr

Out in the Adriatic Sea, about nine nautical miles from Split, the lovely island of Solta is often overlooked by tourists who head to more popular spots such as Hvar. This rustic island offers a great mix of beautiful pebbled bays filled with turquoise water along with acre upon acre of olive trees and vineyards. Dining opportunities abound, and the island is a great place to chow down on traditional Dalmatian cuisine with locally produced ingredients. Popular island specialties include wild rosemary honey, gold-hued olive oil, and freshly caught seafood. 

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