Whether you dream of being pampered at a resort or prefer to rough it out like Tom Hanks and his volleyball, here are 12 private islands to imagine the perfect self-isolation.
If you look out the window and see snow falling as you shuffle from your kitchen to your couch, take a second, close your eyes, and imagine yourself on a private island. You’re still following the rules of self-isolation, but this time you’re surrounded by gentle water, soft white sands, and trees with fruit ripe for the picking. Your days are spent in hammocks, and the next humans are at least an island over, much further than six feet away. Being on a private island would be so great right now.
Don’t despair: While we can no longer jump on a plane to get to these paradises, there’s comfort in knowing they still exist. And when travel is an option again, keep in mind that some are less expensive than you might think (and even come with private boats). But for the time being, shuffle back to that kitchen, make yourself a Mai Tai, and take in some eye candy featuring islands from Norway all the way to the Philippines.
Top Picks for You
Royal Belize, A Muy’Ono Resort
WHERE: Dangriga, Belize
Be the ruler of your own tropical kingdom—with prices starting at $11,500 a night—at Royal Belize. Designed for just one booking at a time, the price includes three luxe, beachy villas that sleep up to 16 guests, and a full staff including a manager, island chef, and adventure ambassador. A five-star PADI dive resort, Royal Belize is particularly attractive for underwater enthusiasts, but any skill level can enjoy paddleboarding, kayaking, and snorkeling in the nearby Belize barrier reef. Spear your own dinner on a lobster and conch diving excursion; don’t worry if you don’t catch anything, a gourmet meal will still be waiting for you in the grand “palapa.” A Muy’Ono property, sustainability is kept in mind courtesy of measures like a ban on single-use plastic and the establishment’s preference of reef-safe sunscreen.
INSIDER TIPTrips can also be arranged to Muy’Ono’s nearby Thatch Caye Resort for happy hour with fellow vacationers at their over the water Starfish Bar.
WHERE: The Exumas, Bahamas
Though a full island resort, there are just six scattered villas on the 50 acres of Fowl Cay, in the warm turquoise waters of the Exumas (named for its former home where locals kept their chickens for food). Each of the villas comes with a golf cart and a motorboat (and a lesson). So your backyard includes not just the whole island, but the famous Thunderball grotto—named for the James Bond flick which used it for filming—and the even more famous swimming pigs of the Exumas. Feed wild nurse sharks and stingrays, or stop off at the chill Staniel Cay Yacht Club, famously known as one of Jimmy Buffet’s favorite Caribbean haunts.
INSIDER TIPThere are 365 cays and islands in the Exumas which means you could feasibly take your boat to a different deserted beach every day of your stay.
WHERE: El Nido, Philippines
Airbnb has given us some unique properties, but who knew you could rent an entire island? And what’s more, it would be just around $350 a night? Surrounded by a coral reef and featuring preserved jungle, bamboo forest, and a beach that changes shape every season, Brother Island in the Philippines (also known as Small Darocotan) is a secluded private island paradise built for nature-lovers. A home designed in 1991 fits up to 16 people, with just one booking at a time, and the only other inhabitants on the island are the host and the staff, including a chef who cooks three meals a day.
INSIDER TIPExcursions like island-hopping, kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, massages and more can be booked, or you can just spend your time on a hammock admiring the azure water.
WHERE: British Virgin Islands, Caribbean
In 1979, Richard Branson bought Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands for $320,000—quite the steal as today it’s a vacation spot for celebrities like Mariah Carey, Kate Winslet, Oprah, Jimmy Fallon, David Beckham, and anyone else who wants to shell out at least $87,000 a night (after renovations this year, that minimum will go up to $102,000). For that hefty price, you’ll get the whole island with four restaurants (including a floating sushi bar); cool hangs with such wildlife as lemurs, flamingos, giant tortoises, and iguanas; spa treatments; on-the-water (and underwater) adventures; fitness classes, yoga, and tennis; and beach Olympics. For just a taste, individual villas can be booked during certain “celebration weeks.”
INSIDER TIPOnly a handful of places encourage the flamingo population breed, and Necker Island is one of them.
WHERE: Hvaler, Norway
If a rustic experience is what you’re after, head to the island of Båtholmen in Norway’s scenic archipelago of Hvaler, the municipality with the highest number of sunny days per year in Norway. Though plenty of other land is within sight, the 2.5-acre island is totally off the grid, with no running water (free water is available at a nearby grocery store) and a small red cabin accommodating up to five people. Books, board games, and candles make it extra cozy inside, while outside there are small private beaches a playhouse for children, and a small boat with a motor. Have fishing adventures and cook your catch over an open fire pit in the garden that doubles as a BBQ.
INSIDER TIPYou won’t be resigned to eating just fish. There are local shops with groceries accessible by boat.
Urraca Private Island
WHERE: Punta Laurel, Panama
Every structure on Urraca Private Island was constructed of mangroves and sits on stilts. Off the northern Caribbean coast of Panama, the eco lodge’s six solar-powered bungalows tower over crystal-clear waters, lending to biodiversity and plentiful marine life begging to be observed. The nearby Zapatilla Cays are easily accessible, with reefs to explore and night waters are filled with magical bioluminescence. For animal lovers, the island is also home to the Monkey Island Foundation, which provides care for orphaned monkeys; you can visit through educational tours even if you’re not staying on the island. Staff is composed of women from the local Ngäbe village, with seafood and seasonal fruits sourced from Ngäbe fishermen and farmers.
INSIDER TIPAn enclosed lobster garden keeps the crustaceans alive until right before dinner. And if you’d like to catch one, the team will teach you how to do it yourself.
WHERE: Dalmatia, Croatia
Off the coast of Croatia, Plocica Island is where you live out your secluded lighthouse keeper fantasies—it’s one of the 1,185 islands scattered off Croatia’s coastline and only 48 of them featuring lighthouses. The flat and low terrain emphasizes a lone, white-walled lighthouse built in 1887 with two bedrooms that sleep up to 14 people, and if you choose the correct one, you can spot neighboring island lighthouses shining bright at dusk. A yard dotted with fig trees provides some shade for peaceful reading outdoors. Beaches are both rocky and sandy, with Adriatic waters and underwater landscapes conducive to both sport fishing and diving.
INSIDER TIPRemember to pick up all your necessary supplies before boating over. Valuable seclusion also means no stores.
Fregate Island Private
WHERE: Inner Islands, Seychelles
The luxurious butler service, wine cellar, jacuzzi, award-winning spa, personal golf buggies, private infinity pools, and powdery white sands are only a portion of what this exclusive island paradise offers, secluded in the Seychelles with 16 mahogany villas scattered throughout. Fregate Island Private emphasizes conservation and you’ll spot a sanctuary dedicated to the sustainability of the Seychelles Magpie Robin; nature thrives here, actually. This means, as a guest, you’ll have opportunities to walk island trails looking for birds and charismatic Giant Aldabra tortoises with a resident naturalist; you’ll also be able to help cultivate coral and dive into the Indian Ocean, spotting whale sharks and dolphins.
INSIDER TIPBring binoculars for a glimpse of the soaring frigate bird, after which the island was named.
WHERE: Queensland, Australia
Lizard Island—named by Captain Cook after he spotted its many, well, lizards—is the name of the only resort located on a 1,013-hectare National Park that carries the same name; it’s situated on the Great Barrier Reef, fringed by coral and a turquoise lagoon. That means you can spend your days on any of the destination’s 24 beaches, walking through nature, enjoying a spa treatment, or getting eyes on more than 2,000 species that reside there, like Giant Clam gardens and schools of tropical fish where the resident grouper, “Simon,” who weighs over 400 pounds, lives. Snorkel, dive, or explore in glass-bottomed kayaks, and later retire to seclusion in one of the 40 upscale airy villas and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows.
INSIDER TIPThe resort offers a Field Guide app to download before your stay that will help you explore the complex ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef.
WHERE: Koh Rong Archipelago, Cambodia
Plunge into your own private pool and know you’re traveling with a conscience—the eco-luxury villas of Song Saa in the Kong Ra Islands of Cambodia were all made by local hands with local materials and created with sustainability in mind. With residences right on the water, or in the jungle with views for miles around, each sports thatched roofs, blousy linen-draped canopy beds, up-cycled décor, and repurposed furniture, with all eyes toward stunning sunsets. And, of course, all ingredients served in the overwater restaurant and the causal bar are local, including burrata—Song Saa makes their own, from their dairy farm just on the mainland.
INSIDER TIPTo commemorate celebrations like birthdays or weddings, a traditional blessings ceremony by a local team of Buddhist monks can be arranged by the resort.
Petit St. Vincent
WHERE: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
The goal is to unplug on this 15-acre tropical island. Petit St. Vincent is a privately-owned luxury boutique whose 22 one-bedroom cottages and two-bedroom villas are free from phones, Wi-Fi, and television (to communicate with staff, you use a flag system). Spend days scuba diving, doing yoga in one of two pavilions, enjoying the Balinese-run luxury spa and wellness center, or eating all the locally-sourced seafood and fruit at two restaurants, plus a wine cellar considered one of the best in the West Indies. Or, just hang out at the beachside bar Goatie’s that offers excellent cocktails with a view across the pristine waters.
INSIDER TIPA full island buyout is available, should you want a tropical getaway to yourself and up to 55 of your friends.
Pangkor Laut Resort
WHERE: Lumut, Perak, Malaysia
There’s a suite named after Pavarotti at this private island luxury resort, nestled amidst an ancient rainforest and fringed by white sandy beaches and emerald waters. In the early ’90s, the singer visited and fell in love, declaring it a paradise, and in 2002 he officiated the opening of its Spa Village. Just a four-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur Airport (and a 20-minute speedboat ride) brings you to the 300-acre island—of which only a fraction has been developed for the resort—complete with swimming pools, beaches, gardens, jungle trails, and romantic spots for sunsets and sea views. Choose a villa that sits high in the hills, is tucked away in lush gardens, or is resting on stilts above the island’s tropical waters.
INSIDER TIPBring your binoculars for diverse wildlife watching; fruit bats, hornbills, white-bellied sea eagles, long-tailed macaques, oriental pied hornbills, and large monitor lizards roam the lands.