Being bohemian in the big city is so passé. Search out “La Vie Bohème” island-style instead, where you can skip out on urban smog in favor of sunshine, and forgo the standard island mega-resorts for artsy, rustic digs. We’ve rounded up seven island destinations that will have you letting loose and reconnecting with the good life in no time.
1. Cat Island, Bahamas
Part of the Bahamas‘ Out Islands chain, this tiny low-key island (at just 150 square miles) is only a half-hour flight from Nassau. You won’t find the typical Caribbean and Bahamian tourist crowd here. Instead, the beaches are pristine and empty, and the hotel options are of the rustic and cottage variety. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the world-class diving (plenty of coves and sharks to track) and hiking trails that crisscross the island.
Where to Stay: Tucked away on a quiet strip of powdery white beachfront, Fernandez Bay Village offers upscale cottages with air conditioning. For family vacationers and those interested in cooking their own fresh catch, there are also two-bedroom villas that come equipped with a full kitchen. Rates from $280/night.
Insider Tip: Cat Island was hit hard by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Though most hotel operations are back on track, do your research before booking.
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PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Cat Island Travel Guide for the latest hotel, restaurant, and shopping reviews.
2. Los Roques, Venezuela
For some R & R and a break from the usual city grind, Caracas residents head to Los Roques, a stunning archipelago of sunny isles in the Caribbean Sea. With its outstanding coral reefs, the islands, which were designated a national park, are a veritable snorkeler’s heaven. Kite surfers will also find suitable conditions with the consistently warm, salt-infused winds. Accommodations are pretty much exclusively located on the largest island, Gran Roque, and are largely found in cozy posadas, where fresh fish is a mainstay on their daily restaurant menus.
Where to Stay: Posada La Cigala, an eight-room hotel owned and operated by couple Enrique and Liana Ducournau, is great for single travelers. Located just at the entrance of town (close enough to the hubbub, relatively speaking, but far away enough to feel private), the posada also has a fantastic chef in-house that can accommodate specific diets. Rates from $100/night.
Insider Tip: No cars are allowed in Los Roques, but you can book boat transport to the chain’s smaller islands through your posada.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Venezuela: The Caribbean Coast Travel Guide for the latest hotel, restaurant, and shopping reviews.
3. Kauai, Hawaii
Hawaii is by no means an undiscovered destination, but for those who appreciate the best of luxury-meets-eco-friendly living, Kauai ranks supreme. The local residents have instituted a host of environmentally friendly measures, including a ban on plastic bags and limitations on island development. Plus, many of the area food options are organic or at least locally sourced. For aspiring yogis, head to Hanalei Bay where the boho set tote around yoga mats before grabbing a smoothie at the Harvest Market health food store.
Where to Stay: In Poipu, Turtle Cove Suites is a smart option. The four apartment-style units—the Ocean Suite is a true stunner with views of the Pacific Ocean—are modern, clean, and wonderfully appointed. Owner Joe Sylvester is wonderfully responsive. From $155/night.
Insider Tip: Kauai is the wettest of the Hawaiian Islands, so be sure to pack along some quick-drying gear.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Kauai Travel Guide for the latest hotel, restaurant, and shopping reviews.
4. Ibiza, Spain
Perhaps the original bohemian isle—it was once a simple peasant farming community and on the hippie travel loop that included Goa and Kathmandu—Ibiza, the third largest of the Balearic Islands, has since built a reputation on wild, all-night partying. But there’s more to this Spanish retreat than hot local nightclubs (like Amnesia and Space) and its hotbed of celebrities (like Jade Jagger), who have built their getaways there. Steer clear of the south, where the nightlife is clustered, and set course for Sant Joan in the north. There, you’ll discover farmland backdrops and beaches that are still splendidly idyllic.
Where to Stay: If you prefer your hotels a bit more polished, then try The Giri Residence, a five-suite boutique hotel in Sant Joan. The decor veers towards fashionable luxury and there’s also an on-site spa to recover after long day hikes. Rates from $288/night.
Insider Tip: In true hippie style, pack sturdy hiking sandals. The north of the island is quite rugged and a quick hike here is well worth it for the gorgeous coastline views.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Ibiza and the Balearic Islands Travel Guide for the latest hotel, restaurant, and shopping reviews.
5. Koh Chang, Thailand
Ever since Leonardo DiCaprio starred in The Beach back in 2000, the Thailand tourism industry has boomed. While island paradises like Koh Samui and Koh Phangan (home to the infamous moon parties) have been overrun, there is still relative solitude to be found at Koh Chang, set in the Andaman Sea. This sparsely populated isle seduces visitors with its mellow vibe and rich local culture.
Where to Stay: Nirvana Koh Chang is an eco-friendly resort nestled amongst the palm trees in Bang Bao Bay, located a longish walk to town, just off the beaten track. The rooms were renovated in 2010, so they’re fairly up-to-date. There’s also a hotel restaurant called Tantra that is quite the romantic mood-setter: Set on stilts on the bay’s shallows, it appears to be floating on water. Rates from $65/night.
Insider Tip: Electricity to the island can be sporadic, so be prepared to unplug (literally).
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Thailand: Southern Beaches Travel Guide for the latest hotel, restaurant, and shopping reviews.
6. Gili Islands, Indonesia
Off the coast of Lombok, this trio of stunning Indonesian islands began its stint on the tourism circuit as a backpacker’s paradise. These days, the Gili Islands are a mix of modern comforts with a hippie throwback—hotels offer updated beachside bungalows, while restaurants play reggae music all day. Gili Trawangan, the party-loving isle of the three, and the furthest out, offers the most options for dining and activities. In the middle, Gili Meno, affords the quietest getaway. And Gili Air, the closest island to Lombok, has a wonderfully friendly local community, including sundry Westerners who have settled in recent years.
Where to Stay: Gili Trawangan may be the most boisterous of the trio, but there’s the quiet western side of the island, where Hotel Ombak Sunset is located. Per the name, the sunsets facing Bali are spectacular. All rooms come with a nice assortment of amenities. Rates from $224/night.
Insider Tip: With no airport, the Gili Islands provide the very essence of secluded island time, while no motorbike or cars are allowed once you arrive (you’ll have to plan for transport well ahead of time).
PLAN YOUR TRIP: See what Fodor’s Community Members have to say about the Gili Islands and nearby beaches. Explore the Indonesia Forum for tips and ideas from fellow travelers.
7. Siargao Island, Philippines
Where surfers go, laid-back vacationers will follow. This teardrop-shaped island in the Philippines turned into a surfers’ mecca in the ’90s, when Surfing Magazine highlighted the now famous “Cloud 9,” a smooth right-breaking wave; Siargao Island has since become host of the annual Siargao International Surfing Cup. The influx of boarders has brought along infrastructure (read: hotels and cool cafes, with prices remaining relatively affordable). During high season, the Cloud 9 beaches can get crowded, but there are plenty of other great spots. Beginning surfers can check out Jacking Horse, a popular and more gentle break, or hire a boat to nearby Daku Island, with its stunning white-sand beaches.
Where to Stay: For full immersion in surf culture, book a room at The Boardwalk on Cloud 9. Directly across from the famous surf break, the hotel is in the heart of the action. The bedrooms are no-frills, but are clean and a steal. The priciest, the superior room with beds for three, goes for $65 a night.
Insider Tip: Swimmers beware: Though the best surf conditions are during the monsoon season, from August until November, the prevailing winds can create rough waters.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: See what Fodor’s Community Members have to say about Siargao Island and the nearby beaches. Explore the Philippines Forum for tips and ideas from fellow travelers.
Photo Credits: courtesy Bahamas Ministry of Tourism; Ibiza Eivissa town via Shutterstock; Man snorkeling in Los Roques via Shutterstock; Silhouetted photographer via Shutterstock; Siam Bay via Shutterstock; Beach rest pavillion in Gili via Shutterstock; Surfers at Siargao Islands via Shutterstock