Islands Under the Radar

Looking for your own private paradise? You probably haven’t heard of these islands, but trust us, you’ll want these “secret islands” all to yourself. Just don’t bring a crowd, please.

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Republic of Vanuatu
Republic of Vanuatu

Republic of Vanuatu

A short ferry ride from the capital of Port Vila is the picturesque private-island resort of Iririki. 960 1280

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Fiji

Fiji

By far the most tourist-friendly destination, Castaway Island attracts honeymooners, scuba divers and families looking to escape to Fiji. 960 1280

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New Caledonia

New Caledonia

The lighthouse on Amedee Island was made in France and reflects its ties to the country, some 12,000 miles away. 960 1280

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Torres Strait Islands

Torres Strait Islands

A family walks along Bach Beach on Thursday Island, which -- like many of the Torres Strait Islands -- is part of Queensland, Australia. 960 1280

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West Papua

West Papua

The view from the top of Pulau Wayag Island in West Papua, the least populous province in Indonesia. 960 1280

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

A fierce battleground during the second World War, the Solomon Islands are now a diving destination like much of Melanesia. 960 1280

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

One of the most culturally diverse places in the world, it’s believed that over 1,000 different groups speaking over 800 different languages coexist in Papua New Guinea. 960 1280

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Maluku

Maluku

The volcanic Banda Islands are part of Maluku, historically known as the "Spice Islands." 960 1280

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Photos

The road to Hana is long and winding, with interesting stops along the way. Four miles into your trip will bring you to the colorful town of Paia where you can get a fish burger at the popular Paia Fishmarket, then head to Hookipa Beach, also known as the windsurfing capital of the world. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Located on the mid-slope of Maui's Haleakala volcano, Makawao has one foot in its plantation past and another in its thriving arts community. It's also the biggest little town in the area known as Upcountry Maui and is famous for its Hawaiian cowboys, known as paniolo. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

From the air, the Hana Highway looks like a zigzag line drawn by a three year old. It twists and turns for 52 miles and takes anywhere from two to four hours to traverse depending on how many cars you meet on the one-way bridges. In fact, there are 54 bridges and 600 curves to make sure you're paying attention. And please do, because in addition to the traffic, the flowing waterfalls, plunging pools, scenic rainforests and the town of Hana are well worth the drive. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

There are rewards in life that are all the sweeter because of the effort it took to get there. Hana is such a place. Separated from the rest of Maui, you'll feel as if you stumbled upon the land that time forgot. Spend a few nights in Hana and soon you'll have trouble remembering where you came from and wondering why you'd ever go back. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Take a farm-to-table culinary journey at Oo Farms in Upcountry Maui. Located along the slope of Haleakala, the fertile soil of Upcountry is home to some of Maui's finest farmland. Oo Farms is owned and maintained by I'O and Pacific'O restaurants in Lahaina, so their perfect peppers, hearty greens and even local asparagus go straight from harvest to your favorite dish. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Every evening on the northernmost cliffs of Maui's Kaanapali Beach, a cliff diver lights the torches then dives off Puu Kekaa, or Black Rock. This dramatic show is a reenactment of a feat performed by Maui's revered King Kahekili. Surrounded by restaurants, the ceremony also takes on a modern twist, signaling the end of the day and the start of your own private celebration. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Maui has always been a magnet for those who love the sea, from Hawaiian voyagers to whaling ships and modern-day catamarans that glide upon the water. Complete your Maui vacation with a few hours offshore, tacking up and down the coastline with the West Maui Mountains in your view. Add a splash of champagne or a frosty mai tai and there's nothing else like it. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

It doesn't matter how old you are'when you walk 'through an ocean,' the little kid in you comes out to play. Fantasy mixes with reality as you come nose to nose with wide-eyed tuna and white-tip reef sharks. Yellow butterfly fishes flutter like leaves around coral, while slick stingrays glide by without a care in the world. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Molokini is a small, crescent moon-shaped atoll off the coast of Maui. It's in a State Marine Life and Bird Conservation District, which means fishing is prohibited, so it's teeming with life. Take a snorkel or scuba tour and you'll be treated to a kaleidoscope of over 250 colorful varieties of tropical fish. Tours are available out of Maalaea Harbor and Lahaina. Insider tip: Early morning is best because the water is clear. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Maui might be for lovers, but it's also for golfers. And if you love golf, that's even better still. There are 14 courses on Maui, with several ranked at or near the top of the 'world's best' list. The PGA TOUR's Hyundai's Tournament of Champions is held here each year, so you never know who you might see on the course. This particular breathtaking beauty is the Makena North Course. Now that's a view that'll challenge your concentration. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Artist Peggy Hopper is known for her distinctive paintings of island women, with soft tones and gentle shapes that welcome you like a warm embrace. Her gallery is just one of many you will discover on Oahu. The Honolulu Academy of Arts and The Contemporary Museum feature enviable collections from around the world. On the First Friday of every month, the Chinatown district of Honolulu explodes into an urban block party with niche galleries and art shows practically on every corner. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

What's a pink Spanish-Moorish hotel doing in Waikiki? The answer: stealing your breath away. The Royal Hawaiian opened in1927 when the era of luxury travel to Hawaii was just beginning. After a five-day sea voyage, passengers would move into the 'Pink Palace of the Pacific,' bringing with them steamer trunks, servants, and even their Rolls Royce vehicles. In 2008, this classic gem underwent an extensive restoration to become the Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort. Gorgeous. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

A trip to Pearl Harbor will fill you with pride and also humility. The Arizona Memorial is dedicated to the USS Arizona's 1,102 sailors who were killed when Japanese Imperial forces attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Nearby, the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial honors the battleship where Japan's Emperor Hirohito surrendered to end World War II. A bit of trivia: the Missouri's bow is placed to convey that the battleship now watches over the Arizona so that her sailors may rest in peace. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Oahu is a shopaholic's paradise. Where else can you find Hawaiian-style coffee mugs in a big box store, hand-carved tikis made by those who understand the meaning of each groove, the latest designer brands, warehouse outlets with summer styles 365 days a year, plus, swap meets and farmer markets that offer foods and gifts you might not find anywhere else? 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

What's the best place to surf on Waikiki Beach? Just ask the 'Duke.' Duke Paoa Kahanamoku was Waikiki's best known beach boy, the 'Ambassador of Aloha' who introduced surfing to the world, and always, the consummate gentleman. He was also an Olympic champion who won three gold, two silver and one bronze medals. Today, residents and visitors alike drape leis on his statue as a gesture of aloha. And if you're searching for Waikiki's most perfect waves, Duke marks the spot. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

There's an indescribable something special about Waikiki Beach when the sun goes down. It's an energy, an undercurrent of nightlife that's about to unfold. Sophisticated nightspots. Island music scenes. Mai tais with flavors like lychee, li hing and mango. This is Waikiki Beach--the one and only. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

If you can stand on two feet, you can surf. Perhaps not well at first, but that's half the fun. Waikiki beach boys will show you what you how. You'll start with a lesson on the sand followed by a gentle push in the waves, and off you go. If you're serious, start early in the morning before the crowd shows up. After your lesson, you can rent a board and keep practicing. Watch out. It's addicting. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Haleiwa Town on Oahu's North Shore is part country, part chic, and all fun. It started as a beach town on the outskirts of the cane and pineapple fields and has retained its rustic roots. It's a must-stop for shaved ice, shopping, art galleries and crafts, and of course, good eats. It's also the perfect excuse to move a little slower and linger a little longer. Whether you're on your way to Pipeline and Waimea, or heading back to your hotel, Haleiwa is a 'no hurry, no worry' kind of place. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

'One paddle, two paddle, three paddle. Four to take me home.' These famous song lyrics are synonymous with outrigger canoes and paddling on Waikiki Beach. Hop in and you'll feel the thrill as your canoe glides out to sea. The best part of the ride is when you turn back toward shore and ride the waves in. It's like surfing while sitting down. In paddling there are two words you won't want to mix up: 'hui' means to switch paddling to the other side, while 'huli' means to turn over. Fun, but wet. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Ask anyone who lives on Oahu's Windward side where the best beach is located, and they'll say 'Kailua.' It's a thriving beach town where you can wear your pareo (wrap around) into the grocery store and flip flops (we call them 'slippers') are the only locally-approved footwear. And the beach, let's just say that it's the second-most photographed stretch of sand on the island. Kailua has several kayak rental and surf stores. If you're into kite boarding, this is also the beach of choice. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island

Of Georgia’s 4 barrier islands, the Golden Isles comes closest to an unspoiled paradise. The island has been privately owned longer than the United States has been a country! Today, the descendants of the most recent owner oversee the maintenance of the island’s 100,000 acres.

Island attractions: Overnight accommodations for up to 32 guests.
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Little St. Simons Island  

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island

A young visitor does the “Sanibel Stoop.” Sanibel Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast attracts travelers with its large number of seashells that wash up on the beach. The island is also home to more than 6,000 residents, but don’t expect any stoplights here. Locals are fiercely protective of the island; more than half the island is composed of wildlife refuges.

Island attractions: Shell collecting (peak season May to September).
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Visit Florida  

Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island

Welcome to the “happiest seaside town in America.” That’s the motto of South Carolina’s Kiawah Island -- its world-class golf courses are a big reason why. Kiawah is home to 5 award-winning golf courses, including Ocean Course designed by Pete Dye. The course, located on Kiawah’s easternmost end, hosted the 2012 PGA Championship.

Island attractions: In addition to golf, Beachwalker County Park.
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Kiawah Island Golf Resort  

Galveston Island

Galveston Island

Look, Forrest, it’s Bubba Gump Shrimp! Load up the kids and head an hour’s drive from Houston to Galveston Island. The island is just 27 miles long and 3 miles wide, but big on family entertainment. At Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, enjoy rollercoaster rides, carnival games and Bubba Gump Shrimp’s first-ever Texas location.

Island attractions: Also, Moody Gardens, Seawolf Park, Stewart Park, Schlitterbahn.
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Katie Haugland, flickr  

Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island

Take a 20-minute ferry ride from the town of Southport to reach Bald Head Island. Located at the tip of North Carolina’s Cape Fear, the island unfolds at an easy pace: No cars are allowed here, just golf carts -- and your 2 feet -- to get around. Kick back in a vacation rental, enjoy wine and music festivals, and take part in an annual fishing rodeo.

Island attractions: Bald Head Island Marina, Bald Head Island Golf Course, Island Retreat Spa and Salon.
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Bald Head Island Limited  

St. George Island

St. George Island

Love oysters? Head to Apalachicola Bay on St. George Island. The estuary is one of several outdoor pleasures on St. George, located off the Florida Panhandle. Along with oysters, the island offers great fishing spots for grouper, scallops, flounder, redfish, snapper, mullet and trout.

Island attractions: Also bird-watching, St. George Island State Park.
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Cedar Keys

Cedar Keys

The cluster of islands known as Cedar Keys near Florida’s mainland offer a laidback experience, and the city of Cedar Key is among the star attractions. The tranquil fishing village comes with a small-town Florida feel and wood-frame homes like this. Come lunchtime, swing by Tony’s Famous Cedar Key Clam Chowder, known for its signature dish.

Island attractions: Nature sites such as Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.
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Hatteras Island

Hatteras Island

Enjoy kiteboarding on Hatteras Island, part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The barrier island off the state’s coast is known for windsurfing and sport fishing -- earning it the nickname, “the blue marlin capital of the world.”

Island attractions: Also Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
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Ship Island

Ship Island

Walk through the shimmering quartz sand of Ship Island, one of 2 barrier islands located off the coast of Mississippi; you’ll find Fort Massachusetts on the island’s western end. The fort was built following the War of 1812, and has stood the test of time and nature's fury; it faced Hurricane Katrina with minimal impact.

Island attractions: Fishing, swimming and tours of Fort Massachusetts.
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Historic Ft Massachusetts - NPS photographer  

Grand Isle

Grand Isle

Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island is home to 1,500 residents who make their living from the seafood and oil industries. While the effects of the BP oil spill will be studied for years to come, the dolphins have returned, the waters washing up on the shore are clear, and the annual Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo (one of America’s largest saltwater fishing events) continues.

Island attractions: Fishing -- more than 280 species in surrounding waters.
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Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo  

Marco Island

Marco Island

What do Shania Twain, Leighton Meester and Alan Jackson all have in common? They all have homes on Marco Island. Located on southwest Florida’s Gulf coast, Marco Island entices visitors with white-sugar sand beaches and amazing marine life like this bottlenose dolphin.

Island attractions: The largest of Florida’s 10,000 Islands, Marco offers miles of beautiful beach.
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Georgia's Cumberland Island

Georgia's Cumberland Island

Before you dismiss this as a boring woodshed shot -- look closer: JFK Jr.’s nuptials took place inside this structure, known as the First African-Baptist Church, in September 1996. The small, 1-room church was established in 1893, rebuilt in 1937, and is located on Cumberland Island’s northern end.

Island attractions: Also Greyfield Inn, Plum Orchard mansion.
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Cheryl Coward, flickr  

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

The expansive Seven Mile Bridge is your gateway to the Florida Keys. As you cross the bridge, linking the Middle and Lower Keys, get ready for a breathtaking sight: the Gulf of Mexico on one side, the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Keep going and you’ll reach the “southernmost city in the continental USA,” Key West.

Keys attractions: A lot. Including Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum.
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Dauphin Island

Dauphin Island

We can’t forget Alabama. Of the dozens of islands off Alabama’s coast, Dauphin Island is among the star attractions. The barrier island, located 3 miles south of the mouth of Mobile Bay, is home to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and 164-acre Audubon Bird Sanctuary, making it a great getaway for the whole family.

Island attractions: Also Shell Mound Park, Fort Gaines.
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