With additional reporting by Anne Olivia Bauso.
Owning a private island is overrated and a lot of work -- or so we've heard from our many island-owning friends. You have to deal with the astronomical taxes, the development, and the upkeep. It's a full-time job, really (one that island owners simply pay other people to do, of course). But visiting a private island (or better yet, chartering one)? Visiting a private island is as great as everyone says. We've stayed on many a gorgeous private island in our travels, so we're speaking from experience here. Here are a dozen of our favorite private island resorts around the world.
We’ll dive right in with one of the most exclusive private island retreats in the world. The Brando is an uber-luxe island resort in Tahiti with generous all-inclusive services and chic, sustainable design. Each of the Brando’s 35 low-profile beachfront villas is stylish and modern, with a king-size bed, spa bathroom, plunge pool, and private access to the beach. Despite its small size and remote location, The Brando is able to offer a long list of activities and services to entertain guests. One of the most popular pastimes involves relaxing poolside and gazing out at the brilliant blue lagoon, but there are also numerous water sports and excursions to enjoy. Guests can take a self-propelled ride via paddleboard or kayak into the lagoon and out to explore the uninhabited small islands in the atoll. On land, there are yoga classes, two restaurants, a huge infinity pool, and a Polynesian-influenced spa.
The Maldives is a nation in the Indian Ocean consisting of more than 1,190 islands. Each resort (there are over 100 of them) is situated on an individual private island and most guests come to enjoy the incredible marine life through snorkeling and scuba diving. Gili Lankanfushi is widely considered to be the top resort in the Maldives — and for good reason. The stunning 45-villa resort delivers truly unpretentious, relaxed luxury in surroundings just as dreamy as one could hope for.
Exclusivity is paramount at Fowl Cay, a 50-acre private island resort in the Bahamas‘ Exumas Islands with a capacity of just 28 guests at any one time. With just six one- to three-bedroom villas, three isolated beaches, and lush and spacious grounds, Fowl Cay affords unparalleled privacy absolutely unmatched by your standard Caribbean resort.
Bora Bora, perhaps French Polynesia’s most famous island, is known for its incredible beauty, the highlight of which is its crystalline lagoon. Bora Bora’s main island is surrounded by dozens of tiny islands, known as motus. Most of Bora Bora’s most exclusive resorts — like the St. Regis, as well as the Four Seasons, InterContinental, and Le Meridien — are located on private motus, while more budget-friendly options are located on the main island. In addition to its modern design, two pools, a protected lagoonarium, and four restaurants, St. Regis offers the largest rooms in French Polynesia (they start at 1,550 square feet) and stunning views of Bora Bora’s famous Mt. Otemanu, which, in local mythology, is believed to be the birthplace of the Polynesian islands.
Maafushivaru is an all-inclusive boutique luxury resort in the South Ari Atoll, home to year-round whale sharks and many dolphins (guests have a great chance of spotting some). The island is beautiful and verdant, with white-sand beaches and a colorful house reef in the active and crystal-clear lagoon. Plus, Maafushivaru’s 48 villas are stylish and sophisticated and full of luxe amenities, like private decks, espresso machines, bathrobes, and minibars. One of Maafushivaru’s most special features is its private sister island, Lonubo. There are three free round-trip dhoni trips a day to the smaller, wilder, and totally idyllic island. Guests can also take day trips to Dhangethi, a local Maldivian island, and several other small, uninhabited islands used for snorkeling, fishing, and beach or barbecue visits.
Arguably the most luxurious resort in Turks and Caicos, the 75-room COMO Parrot Cay is a stunning private island retreat that caters to couples and wellness travelers. The sprawling 1,000-acre property is a mere 30-minute boat ride from Providenciales, but it feels worlds away. While there are several beaches across Parrot Cay, the main beach is located directly in front of the pool. This stretch of beach is almost shockingly beautiful, with sugar-white sand and electric-blue water. The beach offers a level of privacy unavailable on Providenciales, and guests can easily walk for miles without encountering other people.
The island of Qamea is stunning, with a secluded and natural — almost untouched — feel. The quiet and laid-back hotel’s 17 spacious bures are scattered across the property, providing guests with ample privacy during their stay. Qamea Resort was built around much of the island’s existing foliage, which along with the resort’s sandy pathways, gives the property a rustic-chic feel. Taveuni, the island across from Qamea, tends to be cloudier and rainier than other parts of Fiji, so Qamea guests should expect some showers.
Tropical Southeast Asian style meets Qatari over-the-top opulence at Banana Island Resort, an all-inclusive set on a 32-acre island off the coast of Doha. With overwater villas that look like they’ve been airlifted from the South Pacific, Banana Island is almost reminiscent of a luxe Polynesian resort. Banana Island is clearly well-suited to romantic couples (see: private above-water pool villas), but it goes above and beyond to appeal to families, too, with a two-person wave pool, an eight-lane bowling alley, a multi-level playpen, and a children’s pool area.
Hatchet Caye Resort eschews the typical over-the-top luxury found at similar private island getaways — and that’s exactly what makes it such a solid bet for those looking to escape from their everyday lives. Come here to unwind, but don’t expect much else beyond the sea and sun — and sharp rooms for bunking down at night. The property’s entire social scene consists an open-air grill and a series of small beaches. By late morning, guests gather around the bar for cocktails before departing for the day’s off-property water excursions. Afternoons and evenings are lively and convivial, although the atmosphere never rises to an all-out party.
The 65-room Taj Exotica Resort & Spa stands out among its Maldivian competition for its location on a private island with one of the largest lagoons in the country (home to herons, stingrays, and colorful fish), and its super-honed-in emphasis on romance. The five-pearl property offers indulgences such as personal butlers, private swimming pools, and poolside attendants who will spritz guests with chilled Evian water and polish their sunglasses. The resort has two gourmet restaurants (one on the beach and one over the water) and a beachfront bar. To enhance the romantic atmosphere, restaurants are so dimly lit that guests are given flashlights to read the dinner menu. For a hefty fee, guests can also arrange private dinners — in a treetop, on a sandbar, or floating out in the lagoon — or even order pizzas topped with caviar and gold leaf.
The upper-middle-range Treasure Island Resort has beautiful white-sand beaches, a three-tiered infinity pool overlooking the ocean, and a family-friendly vibe. The 68 contemporary bures (standalone bungalows) lack Fijian charm, but all have king-size beds (as well as a couch or an additional twin bed), mini-fridges, and furnished patios with hammocks. There are multiple restaurants on-site, including a standout Asian eatery, and all-inclusive packages are available. Other facilities offered are a spa and turtle sanctuary, but the resort’s crowning feature is the sandy beaches lining the island. There are multiple wonderful beach areas suitable for swimming and snorkeling, and free gear is provided. Plus, all rooms come with their own set of loungers and umbrellas.
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