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Image: Mabul
Courtesy of Sipadan Water Village Resort
Diving enthusiasts flock to Mabul, off the northeastern coast of Malaysia, where the exotic marine life is on a par with the Galapagos.
updated 5/2/2011 9:21:55 AM ET 2011-05-02T13:21:55

Hollywood scouts were on to something when they skipped over Mykonos and chose a secret island in Greece as the location for "Mamma Mia." The movie was a $600-million hit, in part because it fueled peoples’ fantasies of escaping to a secluded island (and yes, those catchy ABBA tunes didn’t hurt).

Surprisingly, that picture-perfect movie location, Skopelos, has stayed under the radar. When you hop off the ferry, you’ll be wowed by the view of the shimmering Aegean Sea, the island’s tile-roofed tavernas, and a decided lack of travelers.

Slideshow: Best secret islands on Earth

There are still gems like Skopelos hidden all around the globe, if you know where to look. T+L editors have done the hunting for you to uncover secret islands where you can truly unwind, from the rugged Chilean spot that inspired the novel "Robinson Crusoe" to a tiny island in the Caribbean that was virtually deserted for decades until a luxe resort opened in 2010.

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Similar high-end resorts have been popping up across Southeast Asia, where many islands are vying to be the next Phuket. So those looking to get far off the grid head to Con Dao, an archipelago 110 miles off Vietnam’s southeastern coast. Sheer granite cliffs border deserted beaches and crystal-blue water, and a private guide can lead you by motorbike to remote spots like the spectacular Dam Tre Bay lagoon.

Diving enthusiasts should opt instead for the secret island of Mabul, off the northeastern coast of Malaysia, where the marine life is on a par with the Galapagos. Even better, the native sea moths, bobtail squids, and elusive paintpot cuttlefish are some of the only inhabitants.

Travelers looking to commune with nature can also find solitude on Nicaragua’s acre-wide Jicaro Island on freshwater Lake Nicaragua. The nine casitas at Jicaro Island Ecolodge were built from storm-felled trees, and all the food is locally sourced; you can sip a passion-fruit-banana cocktail as you sit by the infinity pool.

Prefer something closer to home? On Washington’s Lummi Island, a nine-square-mile oasis on Puget Sound, you can sample the region’s bounty (net-caught salmon, spot prawns) while watching orcas ply the waters.

Whatever your daydream, you’ll find a destination to match by checking out our slideshow of secret islands around the world.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

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