With 17,000 islands in Indonesia, Bali’s just the beginning. This winter, take a timeout on a sun-kissed private island across the Southeast Asian archipelago.
Looking at Indonesia on the map, the sprawling archipelago splatters like paint across the eastern hemisphere. The transcontinental country is the largest island nation in the world, thought to stretch across over 740,000 square miles with roughly 17,000 islands in its domain—though the final tally is still being verified by the United Nations. Naturally, the collection includes a few private island retreats, some of which are kitted out with bamboo architecture, tented camps, and even fantastical tree houses. At these Robinson Crusoe-esque getaways clear water and white sands are a given. Meanwhile, welcome surprises come in the form of spa safaris, private beach picnics, Technicolor scuba diving, and spontaneous wildlife encounters.
Telunas Private Island
Sitting in the Singapore Strait between Indonesia and Singapore, Telunas Private Island is home to just 15 villas—all of which are built over water, so you can wade in as soon as you wake up each morning. Made from upcycled wooden boats, each villa features high ceilings and wrap-around balconies for sea views from every angle. Elsewhere on the island? Travelers can choose from a long menu of activities, including kayaking, trekking, massages, village walks, and even private candlelit dinners by the water.
INSIDER TIPWhile many private islands cater to couples, this one is particularly family-friendly. The Sea Villas have a loft area that can accommodate two to three kids—plus the island has a communal kids’ club to keep everyone entertained.
Nihi Sumba Island
If Bali’s tourist-clogged arteries are starting to feel like a drag, Nihi Sumba Island might be more your speed. Set on a remote island that’s shared with the Sumbanese people, the wellness-oriented resort sets out to spoil guests with romantic canopy beds and locally made chocolate (free in the mini bars), jungle hikes, open-air yoga sessions, and surf lessons. One of the most indulgent adventures is the full-day Nihi Oka Spa Safari, which begins with a guided trek across the countryside, followed by a beachfront breakfast, and a series of customized treatments atop a cliffside spa bale.
INSIDER TIPThrough the Sumba Foundation, the hotel provides clean water, village aid, and educational opportunities to the Sumbanese people who share the island.
Pulau Pangkil Private Island Resort
A little island that takes just 30 minutes to circumnavigate by kayak, Pulau Pangkil Private Island Resort sits off Indonesia’s Bintan Island (though it’s easiest to access via Singapore’s Tanah Merah Ferry, near Changi Airport). If an aerial view doesn’t make you drop everything and book tickets, then the ultra-exclusive services certainly will. Guests have free rein of the entire island, from the 10 villas (endearingly dubbed “driftwood palaces”) to the volleyball court, tree houses, kitchen, pools, and more.
INSIDER TIPIt gets a little chilly come January but, other than that, it’s generally warm and sunny all year round.
Stretching across 15 hectares of rainforest and pristine beaches—about two and half hours east of Singapore by ferry—Nikoi Island is all about “serious relaxation.” Shaded by massive Banyan trees, the simple yet sophisticated beach houses have been built using traditional techniques, such as a double-layered grass roof that naturally ventilates the rooms with no need for air-conditioning. Go out for the day to explore the coral reefs and jungle, or simply linger by the pool amidst the granite boulders.
INSIDER TIPYou can rent a single beach house or keep the whole island to yourself, but bring a few friends…this place sleeps up to 60 people.
This posh private getaway lays claim to Moyo Island, reached most easily from Bali aboard an hour-long seaplane transfer. Set in the middle of a marine reserve, Amanwana strikes a happy balance between five-star resort and safari adventure. There’s a choice of two tent styles—Ocean or Jungle—all 20 of which are peppered along the coastline for added privacy. The large windows frame misty mornings and occasionally casual appearances by monkeys or deer. Meanwhile, the Flores Sea, at your doorstep, is a hotspot for scuba divers. Turtles and puffer fish make regular appearances in the neon coral reefs. Don’t dive quite yet? No problem! There’s a dive center on the island where you can get your PADI certification.
INSIDER TIPAmanwana is a gourmand’s happy place. Local fishermen deliver their catches daily and the chef plucks fresh greens and mint from the hotel’s own garden. Meals are always a highlight, ranging from white-linen dinners to casual beach barbecues, private picnics, and late-night bonfires.
This snail-shaped island ticks all the boxes: crescent white-sand beaches, clear seas, luxury wooden villas and a relatively easy-to-reach location off the coast of Singapore, in Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago. At Pulau Joyo, there are just 9 villas scattered across the jungle-hugged shoreline, all sporting hand-made details such as door carvings and grass roofs. Your days might consist of spa treatments, private picnics, kayaking, snorkeling or scuba diving. Come nightfall? Tuck into a sundowner from your beach bungalow or dine beside a blazing bonfire.
This jaw-dropper makes barefoot luxury seem like the only civilized way to live. On the approach to Cempedak—off the coast of Bintan, about two and a half hours from Singapore—the first thing you’ll notice are the crescent-shaped villas, artfully crafted out of grass and bamboo. If the private plunge pools, high vaulted ceilings, and balconies don’t sweep you off your feet, then the island’s tennis and croquet courts should do the trick. The island is known for its rainforests and massive granite boulders, but travelers aren’t the only ones flocking here: eagles, otters, and even pangolins (an endangered species that looks like an anteater) are also known to enjoy the sea views.
INSIDER TIPCempedak sits in the heart of a pristine archipelago, so be sure to pencil in some island hopping. While you’re at it, ask the hotel about the private picnics—they can arrange a meal for two on a deserted island of your choice.
If you’re in the market for affordable beachfront villas and an endless menu of watersports, then Leebong Island might be the ticket. Providing a more budget-friendly alternative to the typical private island experience, this little islet—about one hour north from Jakarta by plane—offers about 90 acres of rich tropical forest, mangroves, and coastlines. Travelers can visit on a day trip or rent one of the two teakwood villas or the amazing tree house, which looks like it fell out of FernGully, or simply rent a tent. Accommodations are relatively back-to-basics, but overnight guests can tap into all the usual hotel amenities, including complimentary breakfast, dinner, and even a guided mangrove tour.
INSIDER TIPThe Wi-Fi can be spotty at times, but consider it an excuse to set that out-of-office reply and unplug for the week.
Kura Kura Resort
Located in the Karimunjawa Archipelago (northeast of Jakarta), Kura Kura Resort centers world-class diving, fresh locally sourced seafood (caught fresh each morning), and romantic accommodations. With 15 cottages and 20 villas—many of which have private pools—the resort is the only address on tropical Menyawakan Island and recently expanded to include a few new additions, including a palm-fringed Blue Bar, Sunset Lounge, and spa.
It’s the kind of place where there’s nothing to do, and yet, not enough time to do it all. The highlights? Travelers can explore the lagoons, snorkel and scuba throughout the surrounding National Marine Park (home to shipwrecks and teeming with colorful fish), play beach volleyball, or simply bask in the sunshine.
INSIDER TIPKura Kura is a great place to learn to dive thanks to a comprehensive and affordable course selection. From “Bubblemaker” underwater breathing classes for kids to adult “Discovery” lessons and a full-on PADI Scuba Diver course, everyone can get a taste of the underwater world.
A luxurious private island resort, Misool promises easy access to one of Indonesia’s most famous diving areas: Raja Ampat, in West Papua. Celebrated for its abundant marine life and exotic coral, the region is thought to be one of the most biodiverse corners of the globe.
Accessible from West Papua’s Sorong harbor via four-hour-long private speed boat journey, Misool can be found in its own Misool Marine Reserve, within the Raja Ampat Shark and Manta Sanctuary. Situated on the secluded island of Batbitim, the resort has plenty of eco credentials—for starters, the buildings were crafted from reclaimed wood and built on-site, plus the resort supports multiple community and reef conservation programs, which are managed by its sister non-profit organization, Misool Foundation.
INSIDER TIPThere’s a mix of beachfront villas and overwater cottages built across two lagoons—north and south. Both styles offer easy access to the water, but the overwater cottages on the north lagoon come with wide verandas, traditional grass roofs, and easier access to the restaurant and dive center.
Cove Eco Resort
Another sanctuary for divers, Cove Eco Resort is located in an epicenter of biodiversity. Set on the northern side of the Raja Ampat archipelago, the hotel enjoys a private plot on Yeben Island, rimmed with palm trees and white beaches. While it’s just a short swim to picture-perfect reefs in every direction, snorkelers and divers alike will especially appreciate the island’s manta-spotting corridor, which welcomes fevers to the area’s crystal-clear waters.
INSIDER TIPTo ensure travelers arrive without a hitch, the hotel provides door-to-door transfers from Sorong Airport in West Papua to Yeben Island.
Pulo Cinta Eco Resort
Honeymooners flock to Pulo Cinta Eco Resort, off the coast of Sulawesi Island, for a reason: Not only is the resort built in the shape of a heart, with overwater villas spread out for privacy, but it also has a love story of its own. It’s said to be the place where the Prince of Gorontalo—an Indonesian province—pursued a forbidden romance with the daughter of a Dutch merchant. Since the island was in the middle of a trade route, in the Tomini Gulf, it supposedly became the couple’s clandestine meeting spot. Today, travelers will discover spacious bungalows with outdoor decks, direct access to the water, bean bags, hammocks, and total seclusion.
INSIDER TIPIf celebrating something special, ask about private dining experiences. The staff will set up a table for two, so you can dine alone under a starry night sky.