There are some islands—St. Barts and Oahu for starters—that simply can’t be kept secret. Travelers flock there season after season for popular beaches, historical landmarks, or popular nightlife. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still less traveled parts of each island you can still claim as your own. Here, we’ve pulled back the curtain on five favorite holiday islands to reveal the hidden attractions that will re-awaken your sense of wonder.
Discover the Ibiza that Lies Beyond the Party Scene
Perhaps you’ve already partied your way through Ibiza’s world-famous clubs, or maybe you’ve avoided the island altogether because of its all-night-rave reputation. Either way, there’s more than meets the eye to this Spanish slice of paraíso. We say, check out beaches, like Cala Boix, a secluded dark sand beach northeast of Ibiza Town enclosed by high cliffs. Explore its countryside, where a bike ride through idyllic olive groves and lemon orchards is sure to expose you to Ibiza’s natural, more beautiful side. Finally, take a day trip to its neighbor island, the hippie haven of Formentera, where Bob Dylan once lived and Joni Mitchell wrote her all-time great album Blue. Despite its association with nightlife, large sections of the island are designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and therefore protected from development and commercialization. When you discover it, you’ll quickly learn there’s a lot more to Ibiza than nightlife.
Where to Stay: Villa Rica in San Jose, Ibiza
While Ibiza tempts many with its high-octane nightclubs, Villa Rica brings the party home. Overlooking the most exclusive bay on the island, the Bay of Cala Jondal, the house boasts its own underwater disco bar with subaquatic windows that peer into the outdoor swimming pool. It’s fully equipped with a sound system, projector, and DJ booth; it also has a skylounge that can host parties for up to 40 guests. And after the rager ends? Villa Rica is cleverly set up so you can recover in style. Relax in the detox sauna and steam room, then laze the day away while being waited on by the home’s two butlers, housekeeper, and personal chef. And if the happenin’ nightlife scene is calling to you, this spectacular property is just steps from famous beach bars Blue Marlin and Tropicana Beach and a 10-minute drive to the heart of the island, Ibiza Town.
Seek Out St. Barts’ Most Secluded Beaches
At any time of year other than December’s holiday weeks (the island’s peak season), St. Barts is far from the raucous, celebrity-filled hotspot you often see portrayed. In fact, for much of the year it’s quiet, laid-back, and low-key—a scene akin to where the south of France meets the tropics. To truly have an exclusive experience, set your sights on one of its most off-the-beaten-path beaches. For example, beautiful Colombier Beach is only accessible by foot or boat, so is it worth the challenging pursuit? We say, absolutely yes. Here, the beach’s curved bay is where you’ll find some of the island’s best snorkeling, with fish, starfish, and sea turtles visible in the crystal clear water. The views from the shore—at sunset in particular—is breathtaking and romantic, and includes glimpses of the 1960s home built by David Rockefeller. So how do you get there? Enjoying Colombier requires a 20-minute hike or a 10-minute boat ride from Gustavia, and either option is worth every second.
Where to Stay: Avenstar in Camaruche, St. Barts
This newly-built St. Barts property is perched high up in the hills, and provides everything you need for a luxurious stay on this slow-paced island. At Avenstar, swim laps on the back deck in one of two heated pools. Or just relax under a palm tree on a sun lounger with views of the water in the distance. A quiet evening can be spent by the villa’s waterfall stone garden, or in the home theater with one of your favorite films on screen. Avenstar is perfect for groups of up to 10 guests looking to maximize their time together in private; a wine cellar, espresso machine, and fully-loaded kitchen ensure you rarely have to go far for your favorite indulgence. And nearby are spa treatments, high-end shopping, and plenty of dining options are available in nearby Gustavia.
Spot Rare Iguanas on an Uninhabited Island in Turks and Caicos
Tucked between Provo and North Caicos within the Turks and Caicos archipelago lies a small island called Little Water Cay. It’s also known as “Iguana Island.” It’s here and only here that you can spot a little-known species called the Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana—an endemic lizard of a declining population that once totaled more than 15,000 and now is closer to 2,000, according to researchers from the University of California. The shy, harmless iguanas were nearly wiped out in the 1970s by cats and dogs brought to the islands by hotel workers. They are now the only creatures that inhabit Iguana Island, which visitors can tour along a boardwalk that traverses the island. It’s a can’t-miss chance to spot a rare reptile in its natural habitat.
Where to Stay: Coral Pavilion in Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos
With the incomparable Grace Bay Beach as its backdrop, Coral Pavilion boasts stunning views, elegant decor, and what we’ve declared one of the best master bedrooms on the entire island. The villa’s private chef cooks up local delicacies for meals you can enjoy right on the beach at sunset. Guests are provided bicycles to explore nearby trails and watersports equipment to take full advantage of the beachfront location. And one of the best ways to wind down? Try Coral Pavilion’s special water massage treatment (easily arranged by your Luxury Retreats Concierge), which takes place right in the villa’s private swimming pool.
Find Serenity at One of Koh Samui’s Loveliest Waterfalls
Halfway between Nathon and Lamai Beach is Koh Samui’s prettiest hidden oasis: Namuang waterfall. Composed of two side-by-side cascades, one at 18 meters high, the other at an astounding 80 meters high, the double streams are nicknamed the “Purple Waterfalls” because of the unusual color of the rock face behind them. The site is easy to get to by car—it’s less than a mile off 4169 Highway Ring Road—but to scale to the top of the taller waterfall and enjoy its scenic summit views, you’ll need to walk about 30 minutes. Avid hikers can easily extend the trek by exploring nearby forest trails and lush jungle surroundings. And after all that exercise, a swim in the refreshing pool at the base of the cascades will feel even more refreshing.
Where to Stay: Pool on the Hill in Plai Laem, Koh Samui
Choeng Mon is a quiet, family-friendly beach located in Koh Samui’s northeast peninsula. It’s known for its great watersports and small offshore islets perfect for swimming or kayaking. It’s also just minutes from Pool on the Hill villa and serves as the foreground of the property’s outstanding ocean views. The home’s indoor and outdoor living areas seamlessly blend together, making it great for entertaining. Guests will love furnished living areas on the pool terrace encouraging them to work on their tan, enjoy some shade, or just stare out at the views. Aside from being steps from the beach, Pool on the Hill is well-situated for many of Koh Samui’s top attractions. The landmark Big Buddha Temple, with its popular 39-foot high gold Buddha statue, is less than 10 minutes away by car. Further west, Fisherman’s Village boasts one of the famous street markets on Koh Samui, The Walking Street Market, on a pedestrians-only road. It’s especially worth a visit on vibrant Friday nights for live music shows.
Indulge at Oahu’s Iconic Eateries
La Mariana Sailing Club is the last true tiki bar in Hawaii. Surrounded by boats and palm trees on Oahu’s Keehi boat harbor between downtown Honolulu and the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, it’s the kind of place you have to know about just to find. But when you get there, vintage decor reminiscent of “old Hawaii” makes you feel like you’re back in 1955, the year it opened. Its history may be what attracts you, but its fresh surf-and-turf staples and strong Mai Tais will be what ensure you enjoy yourself. Just a few minutes inland, another neighborhood institution called Liliha Bakery seems to freeze time. The celebrated eatery opened in 1950 and its team bakes around the clock to ensure every delicious dessert it sells is oven-fresh. We say, go for the famous coco puffs—but don’t take it from us, take it from The Daily Meal, which ranked Liliha as the United States’ 15th best bakery.
Where to Stay: Hale Mokulua in Kailua, Oahu
Situated within the Lanikai Beach community northeast of Honolulu, Hale Mokulua is a luxury beach house made to take advantage of Hawaii’s near-perfect weather. Outdoor spaces are plentiful, from the large swimming pool surrounded by palm trees to a cozy hammock perfect for an afternoon nap. And the villa’s indoor spaces are sophisticated, with high-end furnishings and appliances. Accommodating up to 14 guests at a time, each of the home’s bedrooms has its own ensuite bathroom, too. Just steps from Lanikai Beach and minutes from beachfront bars and vibrant nightlife, everything you need is within reach at Hale Mokulua.