Is your royal honeymoon coming up? Planning a casual birthday party for all your closest friends? Want a private island for that? Sure you do! Well, we’re here to help.
Below are some fabulous private islands to consider. All boast gorgeous beaches and breathtaking sunsets. Most have dazzling reefs and offer water sports and whilst on each you can expect a luxurious stay, amply pampered by staff trained to take care of you and your every not too radical whim. (No one will be flying to Belgium to pick up your favorite mustard by the way.)We’re on island time now.
Some private islands charge for things that others don’t – you want to find out before you go. For instance: Your spontaneous fireworks event may run you an extra $25,000.
While they may have all the latest hi-tech gear for your kids, that might not include babysitting! Your 3-hour treasure hunt could cost you $20,000 – we’re expecting some fabulous treasure for that….
On some islands listed here you can endlessly dive, channeling your inner Cousteau, and some will charge for each trip. Probably a lot. And while they may give you unlimited local alcohol, you could be paying extra for your favorite tipple or brew. We know that can add up. Don’t ask us how we know.
Remember hotel tax and a service charge. On some islands, massages are endlessly included (yes!) – on some they cost a substantial fee. (Which seems, frankly, wrong, and counter-productive.) Unlimited down dogs with your personal yoga instructor? Check on that….
Transportation to and from your island from the nearest airport or land may not be included. Really.
Read the fine print: Know your options and what’s covered and what’s not. You’ll most likely be liable for 100% of your booking fee in the event of a cancellation, within a specific time frame (so be sure what that is). So, if an emergency (or anything) comes up, travel insurance is a good thing!
If for whatever reason you can’t leave the island, through incapacitation or sickness, you’ll be charged for staying longer, at least the minimum stay, whatever that is declared as at the time of booking. To date no one we spoke to on any one of our chosen islands have had issues with guests unable to leave due to bad weather. They are equipped with solidly built shelters and an action plan if you do need to take cover. Island people take the weather in their stride, but if in doubt, book the dry season.
We’ve presented the facts you need, including current rates, who to speak to, and whether or not a local warrior can carry you from the seaplane to the shore. (You’re gonna have to keep reading to find that out.)
NECKER ISLAND, British Virgin Islands
Hurricane Irma, as you doubtless know, destroyed much of Necker Island. It’s expected to be repaired and rebuilt as needed, and made available to rent again.
Let’s start with the Big Daddy of private islands you can rent, publicized in extremis recently with the cuddly Branson/Obama bromance, and then, more darkly, as Branson rode out Irma in the property’s bunker/wine cellar.
“Vegas rules apply” on 74-acre Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, so you have carte blanche to live out fantasies of tropical debauchery. Necker has been happy to facilitate these.
Once this re-opens, book this one for your blowout birthday or if you’re shooting a sexy, beachy music video. What’s the point of “What happens on Necker, stays on Necker” if you’re just going to lounge around? Which, by the way, is an option that doesn’t suck either.
Your Landlord Sir Richard Branson. It’s his house, when he’s not renting it out.
For BFFS only The maximum occupancy is 34 adults, spread over the 19-bedroom, rather redundantly-named Great House, and 6 additional villas. Whoever’s footing the bill has dibs on the Master Suite (and its private outdoor hot tub) in the Great House.
Starting From Exclusive rental was at $80,000 per night. (We have no idea yet if they will drop this rate in the beginning once they re-open.) Split 34 ways, that’s $2,353 per person. Ha! They’re virtually giving it away.
Included Accommodation, all meals and drinks, two pools, Jacuzzis, all water sports equipment, tennis courts (plural). Oh, and a personal chef.
100 Staff for a Maximum of 34 Guests? Yeah, including an 11-person team dedicated to water sports, overseeing kitesurfing, sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing and kayaking. And presumably swimming lessons. And yes, it’s overkill.
Splashiest Way to the Beach? Wake up in the Great House, stretch, change into a swimsuit and zip line down to Turtle Beach. The flight is just a few seconds. A Champagne brunch can be waiting for you at the bottom.
Party On Fireworks, a pirate-themed treasure hunt, sushi served on floating islands in the pool – whatever you want, just about, can be coordinated by the reservations team.
Access It’s a 35-minute flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico, or a 1½ hour flight from Antigua. And no worries – we don’t want you to worry – your private helicopter can be accommodated, too.
A little-known Necker fact Celebration Weeks pop up throughout the year where you can book individual rooms without having to rent the entire island. Depending on the room, rates start at around $13,170 per couple for 3 nights, and don’t forget the extra 2.5% service charge. One imagines they will retain this.
High season: Mid-Dec thru mid-April
THATCH CAYE, Belize
There are islands where the main physical requirement is the ability to raise a refreshing alcoholic beverage to your lips. Then there are islands where you wake up pre-dawn so you can paddleboard into a rising sun, then strap tanks onto your back for dives to the world’s second-longest barrier reef, then take a Garifuna drumming class, and then head out on a night snorkel… We could go on.
Thatch Caye can fulfill these desires. That’s great news, because we guarantee that not everyone you’re inviting to your private island getaway is going to follow through on their commitment to daily pre-dawn yoga.
Starting From Starting from $9,950 for total-island rental, per night for up to 30 people, which works out to $330 per night per person all inclusive. 15 villas (8 over the water, air-conditioned!). For perspective, try finding that deal in Manhattan, where you’ll probably get a hotel room that when you raise a refreshing alcoholic beverage to your lips, you’ll bang your elbow into the TV/ironing board.
Do You Like Pina Coladas? The rate includes three meals a day, and all local beer and liquors – which includes no less than six types of Belizean rum (1 Barrel Rum, 5 Barrel Rum, Crystal Light Rum, Extra Mature, Coconut Rum and Belizean Rum, since you wanted to ask but thought it might be gauche).
The tale of the dog Dewey, a mutt, is the island’s unofficial mascot. When the island’s owners left Belize to head back to city life, he pined so much for the island that they returned with him for a vacation. Back on the beach, he was a different dog, and he has remained in the care of the island staff for two years now.
In homage to the island’s hairy champion, Thatch Caye is developing a signature cocktail called the Salty Dewey. Apparently it’s still in the works, because you don’t rush this kind of thing.
Dress Code This isn’t somewhere you need to blow-dry your hair to be suitable for dinner. Prepare to wear a swimsuit, flip flops, and a cover-up the whole time.
The Life Aquatic The best dive sites for the barrier reef are between 30 minutes to an hour and a half away by boat. For more experienced divers, if you want to take the full-day excursion to the famous Blue Hole deep dive, bring your diving log book. You’ll need to prove you’ve already done 25 dives in the past.
Photo Op Paddle out at dawn, then take a selfie with the island in the background.
Access Most travelers take a commuter flight from Belize City to Dangriga; from there it’s a 30-minute boat trip to the island, nine miles away.
High/Dry season: Late November to mid-April
MUSHA CAY, Bahamas
TURTLE ISLAND, Fiji
The message of Turtle Island isn’t one of hedonism or self-indulgence, although, naturally, it isn’t off the table either. For instance, you can pack up a lobster salad lunch and head off to a private beach somewhere on the 500-acre island for an entire day, which is not something you can do every day, is it?
Instead, come for mindful stewardship, a turtle sanctuary, and authentic cultural exchange. Here, you’re more likely to witness the dancing and music of a traditional meke ceremony, dine on a lovo feast prepared in an underground oven, or learn some of the language, rather than get down to some island DJ spinning – God knows why – Justin Bieber.
Starting From $26,995 per night, for a minimum of 5 nights. The island accommodates up to 28 people.
High/Dry season: May to October
COCO PRIVE KUDA HITHI ISLAND, Maldives
THANDA ISLAND, Tanzania (South Africa)
Mention Tanzania and most people think safari. Thanda Island is where you go to wash off the safari dust, but don’t want to compromise on wildlife or adventure. The island is located in the Shungi Mbili Island Marine Reserve, roughly 19 miles from the coast of Tanzania and is along a whale shark migration path and its waters are home to five species of turtle, dugong and dolphin. If you’re a millionaire zoologist, which is about as rare as a dugong (a cousin to the manatee), this is the island for you.
The whale sharks migrate through the neighborhood from October through February. With a little luck, you can catch that and the wildebeest migration on the mainland in one trip.
Starting From $10,000 a night to rent the island exclusively. The island’s villa has five bedrooms and two open-air thatched-roof chalets, which can serve as bedrooms.
Size Roughly 20 acres.
Included Beyond accommodation, you’ve got a Steinway piano, copper beach baths, a gym and an “extensive Ernest Hemingway book collection.” Good to see someone still cares enough about literature to advertise it!
Spring Cleaning After the owners bought the island, they removed three barges worth of trash. Now Thanda has East Africa’s largest solar field, is 100% self-sufficient and partners with the government and NGOs to protect the marine reserve.
Cape Cod East The villa was modeled after the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.
Not that Mafia The nearest inhabited island is Mafia, part of the Zanzibar archipelago. According to the website, “The name ‘Mafia’ is derived from the Arabic morfiyeh, meaning group or archipelago, and from the Swahili mahali pa afya, meaning ‘a healthy dwelling-place.’”
Must Eat Did you know tropical oysters were a thing? They are, and you can pluck them from the reef.
Access This is part of the whole adventure. The closest international airport is Dar es Salaam, on mainland Tanzania. From there you can charter a helicopter right to Thanda (roughly 45 minutes), or fly to remote Mafia Island and then take a boat to Thanda. Good thing there’s lots of beach to relax on once you get there.