Dream vacations always involve a degree of escape from the world- just you, the beach and the person bringing you a drink with an umbrella in it. And maybe your significant other or your immediate family. The private island caters to this sort of dream-luxury, comfort and the illusion that it’s just you and nature.
Necker Island, The Virgin Islands
Richard Branson bought Necker Island in 1978 for the astonishingly low price of 180,000 pounds (a little over $300,000 US), and spent the next three years (and a reported $10 million) turning it into an high-class resort, promising both privacy and top flight luxury. Guests like Oprah Winfrey and Kate Moss have escaped from their busy schedules to Necker Island and Branson reportedly summers there. The island is surrounded by coral reefs, and a combination of stunning tropical foliage and beautiful beaches. You can rent one of the six smaller houses, the great house, or the entire island, with rates starting at $2,500 for rooms, or $20,000 for the whole island, with a 5-day minimum stay. Activities range from the active, like surfing, hiking and snorkeling to the relaxed, with the island’s full spa, to the ultra-luxe, like excursions to the nearby golf courses or renting the Necker Nymph, a private submarine. In 2011, the Great House, Branson’s preferred home on Necker Island was destroyed by a fire caused by a lightning strike, which luckily no one was harmed in, and has since been remodeled, and now includes an outdoor terrace and crow’s nest on the roof, with panoramic views, according to the Daily Mail UK.
Musha Cay, The Bahamas
Musha Cay is the crown jewel of the islands of Copperfield Bay, owned by famed magician David Copperfield. He’s dedicated himself to turning the islands into “the most magical vacation destination in the world”, with a luxed-up drive in (instead of the car’s bucket seats, it’s chaise lounges), paths lined with rare tropical flowers, a games rooms with Houdini’s billiard tables, and guests can arrange to have fireworks, music or treasure hunts with the island’s creative team. Off the beaches, there’s snorkeling, boating and fishing options. Currently, a monkey exhibit is being constructed. Musha Cay can accommodate up to twenty-four guests at time, with rates at $39,000 a day, for up to 12 people, which includes all food and drink, and unlimited use of the island amenities. There’s a four-night minimum stay.
Nikoi Island, Indonesia
The fifteen beachfront houses of Nikoi Island are spaced out over five hectares, and shares the island with a wilderness sanctuary, providing stunning forests to explore. The beach houses are hand built with alang alang roots, with sea views, and are decorated in natural stone and wood. Meals are provided, and can be delivered in your beach house, enjoyed at the restaurant or on the beach. The chefs focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients prepared simply, as well as a full bar. The resort focuses on providing tranquility and seclusion, with activities including snorkeling, kayaking and day trips to local deserted islands. Rates start at $288 a night for a single beach house and $11,575 for the whole island, which includes meals.
Laucala Island, Fiji
Laucala has twenty-five villas, available for rent, scattered over the island, in coconut groves, by private beaches, and at the highest point of the island. This paradise offers five restaurants, with cuisines ranging from casual barbecue to haute cuisine, and options for ‘dining by design’- privately delivered, customized menus. The resort has an 18-hole championship golf course, stables, a fleet of boats, fishing, snorkeling and a PADI certified dive-center. For something more relaxing, Laucala also has a spa, with four treatment villas and a spa garden, where guests can pick the flowers and fruits used in their treatments. The spa uses several local treatments, from Fijian hot-and-cold stone therapy to body scrubs that use volcanic soil from the island. Staying at one of the villas starts at $2,500, while renting the whole island starts at $150,000 a night.
Lizard Island, Australia
Situated off the coast of North Queensland, Lizard Island has twenty-four beaches and shares its space with a national park over 1000 hectares large. It takes its name from the monitor lizards that wander the island, and is only accessible by private plane. Lizard Island offers diving excursions to the nearby Great Barrier Reef, as well as to smaller sites, like Cod Hole, populated by friendly, curious potato cod. The island’s bar and restaurant options are limited, but exquisite, and there is also the option to have private, beach side dinners delivered. And if you over-extend yourself diving one day, you just spend the next day at the Azure Spa, or maybe just lounging on one of the beaches. Rates start at $1,444 per night, and $165,000 for the whole island (with a minimum two-night stay).
Lake Mälaren, Sweden
But maybe you’re looking at all these sun-drenched paradises and thinking you want something a little less ‘vacation’ and a little more ‘retreat’. In that case, how about a private island on Lake Mälaren, Sweden. The island has a main house, a small house, a sauna and the round house, which has a view of Castle Gripsholm.The island’s a two minute boat ride from the town of Mariefred, which has museums, shops, restaurants and Castle Gripsholm, built in 1537, which houses the Swedish State portrait collection. The houses include the use of a boat and life jackets. It’s a little cooler than Lizard Island, but the lake’s great for a refreshing swim or fishing. If you find yourself in need of a big city excursion, than Stockholm’s only an hour or so away. The island can house ten people comfortably, and there’s a minimum of two-weeks rental, which starts at 64,000 Swedish krona, or about $9,700 US.
Spectacle Island, United States
In terms of quiet retreat, Spectacle Island, voted ‘America’s Best Loved Island Rental’ by Private Island Magazine in 2008, more than delivers. It’s a little island, only five acres in size, in Frenchman’s Bay, off the coast of Maine. The nearest town is the Bar Harbor, which is only a short boat ride away. The houses epitomize the rugged beauty of the East Coast, and are completely modernized: self sufficient from the mainland, with a Jacuzzi, full entertainment center, and a full kitchen. The kitchen can either be provisioned for your own cooking, or catered by a private chef. The island provides kayaks those who’d like to explore as well, and there’s options for whale and bird watching. The island can accommodate up to ten guests, between the main house and the beachfront bunkhouse, with rates that range from $500-1500 per night.
Cayo Espanto, Belize
But then again, there’s a lot to be said for a dedication to luxury. Cayo Espanto, off the coast of Belize in the Western Caribbean, is a five star resort with seven houses, six of which are beachfront villas, and the last of which is an over water bungalow. Each villa is private, screened from each other by mangrove trees. For those who want to do more than laze on the beach in complete privacy, there’s snorkeling, fishing and diving tours available, as well as birdwatching, picnic excursions to deserted islands, and trips to the mainland to see Mayan ruins. The trick is to balance complete, sun-drenched relaxation with activities. They also offer spa treatments, delivered to your villa. And the food is to die for: you fill out a survey before you arrive, and when you get there? Gourmet chefs prepare a new menu daily, based on your preferences. For a single villa, rent starts at $1,395 per night, and renting the whole island starts at $12,000, with a maximum of 18 guests.
Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos Islands
Parrot Cay, developed by COMO, has won ‘Best Hotel’ awards from International Traveller, Condé Nast, and the Five Star Alliance, to name a few. The facilities help set the high standards for Caribbean Luxury, with seventy two rooms, suites and villas available, each with a stunning view and a wide range of complimentary activities, including yoga classes, sailing, windsurfing and snorkeling, and paddle boarding in the island’s private wetlands. There are two restaurants on the island, Lotus and Terrace, a menu for optimized nutrition (COMO Shambhala cuisine), and options for private dining, in addition to room service. The spa offers not only a range of treatments, but also yoga retreats, and Ayurvedic treatments. Rates start at $500 per night, and during peak times require a minimum stay. Because of the privacy and luxury of the resort, it has become popular with celebrities, and hosted Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s wedding in 2005.
Vatulele Island Resort, Fiji
Vatulele is all-inclusive luxury taken to the next level: it can house up to thirty-eight people (or nineteen couples, which is who they prefer to rent to), attended to by 110 staff members. The island resort’s the result of Australian TV producer Henry Crawford’s teaming up with hotelier Martin Livingston. According to the owner’s philosophy, there’s no tv, telephones, money transactions or shoes on the island. This all comes together to ensure the most carefree stay possible. The resort offers eighteen deluxe villas (called bures), and recommends a stay of at least five days. Vatulele also has some of the best diving in Fiji, with twenty-two dive sites within about fifteen minutes. Rates for a single bure start at $785, and renting the whole island starts at $10,732 a night.