The i-escape blog / Lucy Richardson

By Lucy Richardson, Editor

So, you want to find actual paradise? Then you’ll need to forget everything you know and cast your eyes offshore towards the teeny specks of land marooned in the middle of the world’s oceans. Out here there are tropical islands you’ve never seen or heard of, untouched by crowds and unchanged in centuries. They aren’t easy to reach, but commit to the journey and you’ll be rewarded with paradise.

Here are 10 of the finest – all with secluded resorts so you can fully immerse yourself.

1 Song Saa, Cambodia

On a tiny island in the undeveloped Koh Rong Archipelago, which lies off the southwest coast of Cambodia, is a luxurious resort with a heart-warming conscience. Song Saa was founded by an Australian couple who stumbled on the area after hiring a boat to explore. They were the first to set up a hotel here, and have worked hard to preserve the environment ever since, setting up a marine reserve and employing full-time conservation staff. You can trek through virgin rainforest and visit local villages with them. Even the architecture blends beautifully into its environment; some villas are wrapped around trees in the jungle, others are suspended above the sea with steps down to the water, and all have private decks and plunge pools.

How to get there: Take an internal flight from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville Airport, or a 4-hour road trip from Phnom Penh, followed by the resort’s speedboat. Or book a helicopter transfer direct to Song Saa.

2 Nikoi, Indonesia

Nikoi is barefoot luxury writ large. This private island forms part of Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago, 2 hours south of Singapore, and it’s so unspoilt you feel you’ve rented the whole thing for yourself. The only buildings here are the resort’s 18 beautiful Indonesian houses, set right on the beach and generously spread across 5 hectares so they never feel crowded. The island’s remaining 10 hectares are a sanctuary for wildlife – sea turtles, monitor lizards, kingfishers and eagles all call it home. There’s no TV and no phones here, but there are two swimming pools and all manner of watersports, plus beachfront massages wherever you please.

How to get there: Catch a ferry from Singapore to Bintan, then a taxi and a private launch – all in all, it’s a journey of around 2 hours.

3 Mafia, Tanzania

You probably know Zanzibar but have you heard of Mafia, an untrodden island to the south? There is no noise or hassle here, no dusty roads, and no crowded hotels. There is simply sunshine and silence, and on a stretch of mangrove-lined beach, a clutch of wood-and-thatch dwellings known as the Pole Pole Bungalows. Their Swahili name translates as ‘take it easy’, and take it easy you will. Think massages on the beach, dhow trips to idyllic sandbanks, or leisurely dives down to stunning reefs – said to be some of the best in Africa.

How to get there: There are daily flights to Mafia from Dar es Salaam, which take around 30 minutes. If coming from other parts of Tanzania (including Zanzibar), you’ll need to go via Dar.

4 Con Dao, Vietnam

Off the south coast of Vietnam lies a tiny archipelago of mountainous islands subtly protruding from the sea. Con Dao – known for its history as a French and American prison, and, more recently, for its status as a national park – is an unspoilt land of incredible natural beauty. Crystal-clear seas, soaring cliffs, limitless skies… you know the sort. On the largest island, on a perfect curve of private beach, sits the Six Senses resort, a laidback hideaway that’s as stunning as the nature that surrounds it. 50 eco-chic villas have incredible bathrooms and private plunge pools, and the fun restaurant is styled like a Vietnamese market, offering everything from noodle dishes to elaborate canapes. This is a honeymoon paradise, but it’s also great for families, thanks to a kids’ club, kids’ mealtimes and a chic spa for tired parents.

How to get there: Con Dao has an airport with direct flights from Ho Chi Minh City (1 hour) and Hanoi (2.5 hours).

5 Havelock, India

Havelock Island isn’t the easiest place to get to, but boy, is it worth the effort. This coral-ringed island, part of India’s Andaman Islands, has some of the most spectacular beaches on earth, plus a sublime hideaway with all the spoiling benefits of a top hotel. At The Jalakara, there are no phones and minimal WiFi, just virgin rainforest and a canopy-level infinity pool. Food is delicious (British owner Mark is a chef), and the 7 boho-chic rooms are beautiful: one has a lily pond and hammocks, another has an Ayurvedic copper plunge pool; the tower room has 360-degree panoramic views over the sea. It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic place to disconnect from the world.

How to get there: Havelock Island, in the Bay of Bengal, is 1.5-3.5 hours by boat from Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman Islands. Port Blair is easily accessible by air from mainland India.

6 Boipeba, Brazil

Boipeba is a tiny car-free utopia in Brazil’s Bahia state. It’s a designated Unesco Biosphere Reserve, fringed with shallow reefs, dense with Atlantic forest, and ringed with miles of unspoiled beaches. Moreré beach was voted second-most beautiful in Brazil, and it’s here you’ll find Boipeba Beach House, set on a hillside above the deserted stretch of sand. This beautiful, four-bedroom eco-home was built entirely from sustainable materials and has masses of space to kick back and embrace the castaway lifestyle. Better still, it’s fantastic for families, with a treehouse, slide and swing, a tropical garden, and surfboards to borrow.

How to get there: The nearest international airport is Salvador. From there you can take a private hopper plane to Boipeba (25 mins), or a taxi then boat combo to the island (6 hours in total).

7 Koh Yao Noi, Thailand

Forget the madding crowds of Phuket, and instead try the island of Koh Yao Noi, a secret idyll in glittering Phang Nga Bay. Here you’ll find small beachside restaurants, a friendly fishing community, and an interior of rice fields, palm trees and rubber plantations. Head to the island’s east coast to base yourself at stunning Koyao, a rustic-chic, back-to-nature resort with beachside villas and a dreamy infinity pool. Pick your own coconut in the plantations, zip around the island on moped or bicycle, or get up close to extraordinary marine life on a longtail trip to outer islands, where you can swim through caves and discover deserted coves.

How to get there: Fly to Phuket or Krabi, then take either a longboat or a speedboat to the local pier (30-40 mins), and finally a private tuk tuk to Koyao Island Resort.

8 Tioman, Malaysia

Satisfy your inner naturalist by stepping ashore Tioman, a little paradise off the east coast of Malaysia. The island is home to a number of endemic species, like the Kajang slender litter frog and the Tioman walking catfish, and the surrounding waters are chocka with multi-coloured coral. Adults wanting to get away from it all can retreat to one of the treehouses at JapaMala Resort, set in lush jungle on a private beach. Spend days kayaking to hidden coves or sauntering between the pool and beach, pausing for massages under the jungle canopy and dips in the cliff-top hot tub. Bliss.

How to get there: Catch the public ferry to Tioman from Mersing jetty, on the east coast of mainland Malaysia, which takes 2-3 hours. Transfers from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore to Mersing take around 4-6 hours.

9 Bequia, St Vincent & the Grenadines

The friendly island of Bequia spans just 7 square miles, though it’s one of the larger islands of the Grenadines. The vibe here is infectiously laid-back. There’s no traffic or resort hotels, just a handful of pastel cottages, a few thousand smiling locals and some picture-perfect beaches. In a prime waterfront spot overlooking Admiralty Bay and the island’s best beach sits Bequia Plantation Hotel, its 24 rooms and villas scattering expansive lawns with lofty palms. The restaurant here serves up inventive, fresh seafood and pizza, while Port Elizabeth’s (the island capital) cafés, bars and restaurants are within easy strolling distance along a scenic waterside path.

How to get there: Bequia has a little airport, which accommodates small hopper flights from islands such as St Lucia and Barbados. Otherwise, fly to St Vincent, then taxi to the wharf for the 1-hour ferry crossing to Bequia.

10 Gili Meno, Indonesia

Ok, some of you might have heard of the Gili Islands, off the coast of Bali, but the desert-island vibes here are too good to ignore. The smallest and quietest of the three Gilis is Meno, home to fewer than 500 people, and spanning just 2 kilometres. There are no paved roads here, just bicycles and some horse-drawn carts – though of course, you could easily get by on foot. Stumble onto the sand from the Gili Beach Houses, two laid-back dwellings at the water’s edge, each sleeping 8. Their gardens are made for relaxation, and they both have pools. The island’s lagoons are just across the beach, offering excellent snorkelling and scuba diving. Look out for turtles in the shallows.

How to get there: Transfers are available from Bali Airport to Padang Bai, on the island’s east coast, where you can board a ferry to Gili Meno (around 2 hours). The alternative is to fly from Denpasar to Lombok and get an airport taxi to the Bangsal harbour, then take a ferry to Gili Meno from there.