Ah, Hong Kong summer – ’tis the season for typhoons, hot and humid days and amber-alert rain. Time to escape to soak up the sun on a deserted beach. Instead of heading to the usual spots, (we’re looking at you, Phuket, Ko Samui, Bali, Cebu and Kota Kinabalu!), change course to any of these three under-the-radar destinations. Unspoilt beaches, clear waters and no tourists await.
The only thing you’ll need to prepare for – apart from a glorious summer break – is making the extra effort to visit. This means taking local transportation like ferry transfer, bicycling and sometimes roughing it out on beach shacks. Trust us, these destinations are totally worth it.
Con Dao Islands is a group of 16 islands located south of Ho Chi Minh – a one-hour flight, to be precise. Home to only 6,000 residents, Con Dao is a former prison island for political prisoners during the French Colonial era, and has lots to offer for those wanting to discover unspoilt land.
Con Dao is home to one of the best diving spots in Vietnam with untouched corals and thriving marine life that includes turtles, rays, giant barracuda, cuttlefish and lots of tropical reef fish. Con Dao also has a national park comprising wildlife-rich tropical forests to trek. And then there’s the white-sand beaches at Bai Nhat beach near the town centre, Dat Doc Beach in the northwest (where Six Senses Con Dao is located) and An Hai Beach in the South (where most of the beachfront resorts are located), all of which offer the clean, sandy beaches and pristine waters that postcards are made of.
Ko Kradan, Trang Island, Thailand
Located on the southern part of the Andaman coast, Trang Islands offers an off-the-beaten-track option to the more popular Ko Phi-Phi, Phuket and Ko Samui islands. This is one of Thailand’s lesser-known unspoilt, coconut-palmed, sun-drenched island with powdery white beaches and clear blue waters.
The island to visit if you are looking to escape as a couple is Ko Kradan. From Hong Kong you’ll need to fly into Phuket, take a two-and-a-half hour ferry ride to Koh Ngaio, and from there it’s a 25-aminute ferry ride to Ko Kradan. There are no roads, villages, convenience stores, police stations or medical clinics on this island, just beach resorts, a 1.5km long strand of amazing powdery white beach and the lush Hat Chao Mai National Park.
Accommodation can be found at Paradise Lost, Reef Resort, Kalume Kradan Village and the island’s luxury boutique resort, the Sevenseas Resort. Enjoy a hike through the lush jungle trails, go snorkelling and watch beautiful pink-and-orange sunsets.
Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
Gili Trawang, a half-an-hour ferry ride away from Sanur in Bali, is relatively low key compared to the hugely popular Bali. Gili Trawangan is the largest of the Gilis, three tiny islands right off the northwestern coast of Lombok. The island is very popular and lively with a young, fun vibe consisting of the more adventurous European tourists. It’s a bit like Gilligan’s island where every building is a wooden hut and the place is very underdeveloped – we’re talking no cars, just dirt roads and bicycles to get around. You’ll even need a horse and cart to get your luggage to your hotel or home stay (locals offer their wooden homes as accommodation to tourists).
The little town has plenty of beach bars, diving centres, clubs, spas, tour kiosks and cafes all in wooden huts. Because it’s an island, water sports abound like kite-surfing, surfing, diving and snorkelling as the surrounding reef around the island is home to plenty of marine life. There are no five-star hotels here, but the existing beachfront hotels are chilled and sufficiently comfortable.