The desire to jet off to an ultra-luxe, private island is what wanderlust dreams are made of. In that spirit we’ve curated the ultimate list of fantasy private islands so unbelievably beautiful, they almost hurt your eyes. Ask Richard Branson to fuel up the Learjet, pack your kaftan and bikini and let’s go.
The Vibe: Iconic. Alluring. Barefoot Glamour.
Part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, tiny Mustique Island (the Caribbean paradise is just three miles long) is rooted in royalty and intrigue. Founded by Scottish aristocrat Colin Tennant in the 1950s, the island transformed into a prestigious getaway (originally by invite only) for the rich and famous after Tennant gifted land to his friend, the late Princess Margaret as a wedding gift. Today the new generation of royals William and Kate love to escape here and rock legends Mick Jagger, Bryan Adams, and fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger all own homes here.
Why We Love It: Despite its exclusive history, Mustique is surprisingly laid back, think barefoot luxury at its best. On the island, guests mingle alongside villa owners and the elite at a weekly cocktail party held at the island’s only hotel, The Cotton House. Also part of the island’s DNA are spontaneous dinner invitations and private beach picnics (complete with fine china and butlers). Mustique’s rugged (Atlantic side), tranquil (Caribbean) stunningly beautiful beaches – where you’ll likely encounter no one else except maybe a lumbering tortoise – are also part of its longstanding allure. We loved starting our days with cliff walks by the sea followed by yoga on the beach overlooking ‘conch island,’ – littered with an artful pile of pink-and-white conch shells. And ending our nights dancing at the world-famous, jazz-and-blues Basil’s Bar, redesigned by Phillippe Starck.
Standouts: While the island has an array of villas, expect to live in the lap of luxury at Toucan Hill, the Moroccan-inspired home, owned by Delaware businesswoman and philanthropist Tatiana Copeland. The four-suite villa has 360-degree panoramic views – of the Caribbean and Atlantic – an infinity pool overlooking the sea (it’s spectacular at sunset), its own mirador, and a full-time staff of seven – overseen by New York native and longtime islander Patricia Medford, a proverbial guest favorite – to attend to every whim. Naturally, chic flowy kaftans, wraps, and bikinis are the mode du jour on Mustique, and you’ll find some dazzling creations by local designer Lotty B, at her Pinkhouse Boutique.
Laucala Island, Fiji
The Vibe: Exotic. Welcoming. Bucketlist.
Why We Love It: Even the most well-seasoned travelers have expressed their awe over this exclusive South Pacific hideaway. Once owned by Malcolm Forbes (Owner and Publisher of Forbes magazine, Laucala (pronounced “La-Thal-A”) Island now belongs to Austrian Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz. Celebrities love the island for its seclusion, privacy (staff-guest ratio 4 to 1), and the glass-encased pool that winds through lush lagoons and has been made insta-famous by many an A-list influencer and blissed-out guests. Guests stay in luxe thatch-roofed bures overlooking the sea that all come decorated with traditional Fijian furnishings.
Standouts: In addition to that pool, we love the island’s organic farm – which provides the vegetables, fruits and meats served in the resort’s five-restaurant dining options ranging from fine-dining and premiere wine list at The Plantation House to vibey Seagrass, specializing in Thai to open-air Rock Lounge serving light finger foods and exotic island cocktails. Also, a highlight is the island’s luxe spa, where spa-goers pick their own herbs, spices, and flowers from the island’s gardens to be incorporated into treatments featuring the spa’s four signature scents: Molikara (native citrus), Wainimate (medicinal herbs), Senikau (tropical blooms) and Qele (indigenous roots, woods, and spices). Guests also love picking their own vanilla, lemongrass, coffee, ylang-ylang, gingers to create their own essential oils, soaps, and lotions in the Spa Kitchen. And spending an evening at the island’s cultural village to experience traditional Fijian ceremonies and dances.
Kamalame Cay Private Island Resort & Residences, Bahamas
The Vibe: Chic. Gracious. Rustic.
Why We Love It: Second-generation Hew family member David, along with his husband Michael – both well-traveled food and design aficionados – have breathed new life into this hidden gem, reimagining its cuisine (Asian-accented Bahamian) and refreshing its décor (airy, light, West-Indies mod). We especially love the stylish beach villas with their billowing white curtains, beamed cathedral ceilings, and limestone walls. The lush garden pathways – framed by bougainvillea, hibiscus, frangipani, and ginger-lily. And the seemingly always deserted beaches – never crowded. Hop onto one of the coral-colored bikes or golf carts (parked outside every cottage) and journey to the sea. Expect to find extraordinary shells.
Standouts: The Kamalame Spa – built on stilts over the water – features its own holistic product line by Naturopathica’s Barbara Close, a renowned aromatherapist from New York, clinical aesthetician, and herbalist. Try the Vitamin Sea Brightening Facial treatment that incorporates biodynamic seaweed.. If that’s not enough to float you off to heaven, the ability to completely unplug is real. Every guest room comes sans wifi and television. There are hotspots available, but forget it we say.
Thanda Island, Tanzania
The Vibe: Far-flung. Sustainable. Eclectic
Why We Love It: Before Swedes Dan and Christin Olofsson – best known for Thanda Safari Lodge in South Africa – took it over, this 20-acre island was just a blip in the Indian Ocean. The original plan was to keep the island as their own personal escape, but we’re glad they decided to offer it as an exclusive rental (there’s five bedrooms accommodating up to ten people). As expected from these tastemakers, the attention to detail is exquisite with an emphasis on sustainability. Plantation-style villas, featuring deep wrap-around verandahs and four-poster beds – are all solar-powered. The private chef loves to prepare traditional Swahili feasts and the seafood – lobster, grilled prawns, ceviche –is fresh and plentiful. The island villa also comes with a Steinway piano, a reading library housing one of the largest Ernest Hemingway collections in Sweden, and your very own ‘boatman’ dedicated as your personal guide.
Standouts: The white-blue sea-hued décor is an interesting blend of New England (Nantucket/Martha’s Vineyard) meets East Africa. Sealife, dolphins, sharks, and turtles, are easily spotted. And for the ultimate indulgence, staff will drag an oversized copper bathtub onto the beach for a seaside, sunset soak. Just wow.
Little Palm Island, Florida Keys
The Vibe: Tropical. Timeless. Romantic.
Why We Love It: This little slice of island paradise might be just off the US mainland but it’s world’s away from the US. Closed since 2017 when it was decimated by Hurricane Irene, we were thrilled to see the reopening of Little Palm Island earlier this year complete with a few luxury upgrades, expanded SpaTerre, and enhanced dining options featuring local seafood with island spice. Accessible only by boat (or seaplane) off the Florida Keys coastline, you’ll be transported back in time immediately in lush, tropical, secluded island style. The island has 15 thatched-roof bungalows each with outdoor showers, copper soaking tubs, and ocean views.
Standouts: We’ve always loved the crushed seashell paths winding through lush foliage – and are happy they are still intact. Paddle-boarding and kayaking through the mangroves is another fave here. As is a private dinner for two on the beach at sunset – complete with tiki torches and locally inspired menu of Grouper Ceviche, 24 hr Braised Kurobuta Pork Shank and Pan Roasted Cobia by Miami chef Daniel Ganem