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Discovering a tropical island paradise that hasn’t lost its authentic beauty to stampeding tourists yet is a rare occurrence nowadays. If you were to visit the island of Koh Phi Phi in Thailand during the early 1990s, you would have found beautiful coral reef systems, untouched marine fauna and crystal clear blue waters — fast-forward to 2017 and you’ll find fast food restaurants and hotels on every corner. What was once an immaculate tropical island has since suffered major damage due to increasing amounts of visitors. Here are five beautiful under-the-radar tropical places to visit before the tourists take over.
1. Coron Island, Philippines
This enchanting little village perched on the eastern half of Busuanga Island is without a doubt one of the most stunning tropical places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Eight years ago the entire island was without roads, phone lines or even a water system, but word has begun to spread and its recent growth has me worried that a steep spike in tourism is looming just around the corner — just look at what happened to its neighboring island, Boracay, over the past 10 years. If you visit Coron Island today, you’ll have the option to hop around 3,000 little islands, scuba dive in a plethora of clear water locations including Kayangan Lake, climb up mountains with breathtaking views, swim in natural hot springs and eat like a local without a Starbucks in sight.
2. Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
My first visit to this spectacular island was on a surprise birthday trip where I was literally blindfolded until the point when we boarded the ferry. After about an hour on the water, I was transferred to a tiny boat that would slowly drift us toward this tiny island — I had no idea where I was, only that I was somewhere off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, floating toward a slice of paradise. You’ll instantly fall in love with this remote island if you’re looking to unplug and get some much-needed peace and quiet. There are no roads, which means there are no big hotels and restaurants, and all you’ll find are private beachfront bungalows with little mom-and-pop restaurants. In fact, there are only a few places on the island that offer Wi-Fi at all and sometimes the signal is out completely. People come to this island to get away from it all, so it’s the perfect place for your next budget-friendly romantic getaway. You’ll find top-notch scuba diving, snorkeling, paddle boarding, fishing and the chance to swim at night with bioluminescent plankton, then wake up in the morning to white sandy beaches and dip your toes in the shimmering, unclouded water. What are you waiting for?
3. Roatán, Honduras
Surrounded by the second-largest coral reef in the world, it’s no surprise that this tropical destination is primarily visited by diving and snorkel enthusiasts. There aren’t many islands left in the Caribbean that you can visit without being shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists. Roatán has managed to hold onto its authentic charm while still being able to provide familiar western comforts. Cruise ships didn’t start coming here until 2005 and there aren’t a whole lot of flights to the area, which means the secret isn’t out quite yet, though this may change quickly as more people continue to flock to this 35-mile stretch of gorgeous Caribbean coastline. If you’ve never heard of Roatán, consider yourself lucky and put it on your list of tropical places to visit sooner than later.
4. Kep, Cambodia
What was once a French colonial resort town in southern Cambodia is now a quiet coastal getaway surrounded by tropical islands. Known for its seafood market, where the fish practically jump from the water to your plate, it’s easy to see why Kep won’t be kept a secret for long. For the time being, you’ll find very few tourists among the locals sampling fresh crab, lobster, shrimp (and pretty much anything that swims) at its popular seafood market — you can go there around sunset and have yourself a five-star meal for less than a few dollars. Travelers visit Kep for its laid-back atmosphere rather than an extensive list of activities. In the past, Kep was primarily limited to expats living in Phnom Penh looking for a quiet weekend getaway, but with a variety of nearby tropical islands like Koh Tonsay — better known as Rabbit Island — it’s no wonder Kep is becoming more difficult for visitors to stay away from.
5. Phú Quốc, Vietnam
This underdeveloped island is on the fast track to becoming Vietnam’s next major hotspot. Although it’s technically a Vietnamese island, you’ll find it positioned just off the coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand. Its sparkling waters, silky smooth sand and dramatic scenery make it a very picturesque locale. Although it’s now home to an international airport (PQC) and cruise ship port, the north and east sides of the island remain largely untouched by hoards of tourists. Take one of the dirt roads out past the rugged jungle for a taste of what the island was like way back when. Nowadays, visitors come to Phú Quốc for many reasons other than just the surf and sand. Explore its azure waters, isolated coves, pearl farms, pepper plantations or opt for a full-day tour of the nearby An Thoi islands, an archipelago of 15 islands and inlets off the southern coast. The best part is, you’ll find hardly any tourists — for now, that is.
Have you been to any of these places yet? Tell us about your experience, below.
Featured image of Coron Island in the Philippines courtesy of saiko3p via Getty Images.
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