Private Islands You Can Stay On
Since “Robinson Crusoe” was first published 300 years ago, the idea of retreating to a remote island has held tremendous appeal. The notion of leaving civilization behind is simultaneously romantic, restorative and adventurous.
Now, with dozens of secluded isles available for rent around the world, the far-flung fantasy can be a reality. Travelers hoping to make like a celebrity or “Survivor” contestant — and those who simply want to get away from it all in the middle of a lake or ocean — have no shortage of options to do so.
From a stunning South Pacific paradise to a wondrous Swedish utopia, there’s a private retreat available for practically every budget and taste. The only thing left to do? Chart a course.
Coral Caye — Belize
Here's an offer intrepid travelers shouldn't refuse. “The Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola's two-acre private island is available to all — not just the filmmaker's consiglieres.
The mangrove-accented habitat, which once served as a commercial fishing camp, is outfitted with two well-appointed dwellings sporting beds for up to 12 guests, as well as a great house equipped with a full bar, kitchen, dining table and games. As the name suggests, there's plenty of nearby reefs, making the island a prime spot for snorkeling.
Of course, a trip to the Coral Caye won't resemble any scenes from “Apocalypse Now.” A private chef and butler are on hand to prepare Creole barbecue feasts, chop coconuts and keep Coppola's signature wine flowing.
Location: Sheltered behind the Belize Barrier Reef, the hideaway is a 25-minute boat ride from Coppola's eco-chic Turtle Inn resort along the Caribbean Sea.
Cost: Rates begin at $1,900 a night and increase depending on the season and guest occupancy.
Plocica Island — Croatia
This island situated between Korcula and Hvar offers unrivaled views of the Adriatic from a totally unique perspective: atop a lighthouse built in 1887. Inside the two-story structure, a pair of apartments provide basic accommodations, including bathrooms, a kitchen and television.
Plocica, which translates to “tile” in Croatian, was so named because of its low and flat topography. A stay on this refuge is more for visitors looking for peaceful solitude than over-the-top fabulousness. There's no private chef or tennis courts.
However, there are two beaches to enjoy: a rocky seabed on the southern tip of the island and a sandy lagoon on the northern side.
Location: Plocica is situated between the (also gorgeous) Croatian islands of Korcula and Hvar. It is accessible via a 25-minute boat ride from Prigradica, a small bay on Krocula, for an additional cost.
Cost: A stay on the island ranges from $100 to $1,200 a night, depending on the season.
Renaissance Island — Aruba
The Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino boasts its own 40-acre atoll available exclusively to resort guests during the day, but couples desiring the ultimate romantic escape can have the sprawling Caribbean sanctuary all to themselves.
The resort offers a special “Lovers Island” overnight package that includes a private boat transfer from the hotel’s dock, a lavish four-course meal, a marshmallow bonfire and one night in cabanas converted into luxurious accommodations. Other amenities include a picnic basket filled with late-night snacks and a cooler stocked with drinks, as well as necessities like toiletries, insect repellent, flashlights and a first-aid kit.
The experience includes a butler to assist couples with luggage and escort them around the island by candlelight, as well as a security guard posted on the other side of the island to ensure maximum privacy.
Location: The island is less than two miles from the Renaissance resort, off the western shore of Aruba.
Cost: Lovers can book the overnight package for a starting price of $2,000.
Necker Island — British Virgin Islands
Virgin mogul Richard Branson famously bought this 74-acre haven in the British Virgin Islands for $180,000 after visiting in 1978, long before he launched his own air, space and cruise lines. It's now one of the most lavish private islands available for rent in the world.
Necker Island includes such over-the-top amenities as a floating sushi bar, a giant chess board, a pair of tennis courts, a bunk room stocked with toys and games, and a staff of over 100 employees. The entire oasis comfortably sleeps about 30 guests across 15 different rooms.
Over the years, the island has attracted scads of celebrities, including Mariah Carey, Kate Winslet and Kate Moss, who held her 40th birthday party there. Branson and his team rode out Hurricane Irma hunkered in the island's wine cellar. After the storm devastated the island, he expanded the great house to 11 rooms and also added a bigger pool and outdoor lounge.
Location: Just east of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Necker isn’t far from the popular island of Tortola.
Cost: Get ready to drop around $78,000 a day — when Branson isn't around, of course.
Urraca Island — Panama
It might not be totally fair to call Urraca a private island. For one thing, it’s actually a mangrove lacking any sort of land. Instead, guests to this tropical paradise stay in six bright pink overwater bungalows connected by raised wooden paths.
Secondly, it’s not completely private. Over a dozen monkeys call Urraca home.
The absence of terra firma means all the activities involve water, from playing volleyball across a net tied to trees sprouting up from the sea, to posing for the perfect Instagram shot while lounging in hammocks and swings hanging above the water. Kayaks and cayucos — canoe-like boats — are available to explore the surrounding areas during the day, or to gaze at the bioluminescent waters at night.
The entire eco-friendly island can be rented for up to 16 guests.
Location: Urraca is located off the northeast coast of Panama, in the Bocas del Toro province.
Cost: Rates begin at $1,220 a night.
Nanuku Island — Fiji
For anyone wishing to recreate the 1980 castaway romance “The Blue Lagoon” starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins, Nanuku Island is the best place to attempt a reboot. The movie was filmed nearby at Fiji’s similarly gorgeous Nanuya Levu, now home to the boutique Turtle Island Resort.
Spanning 10 lush acres, this private island is available for a once-in-a-lifetime glamping experience for couples, families or friends. On the island’s beaches, guests might even glimpse hawksbill or leatherback turtles burying their precious eggs.
The overnight stay among the Beqa Lagoon system of coral reefs includes a beachside barbecue dinner served by a Nanuku staff member. At night, visitors can sleep in safari tents or, for a truly memorable slumber, under the stars.
Location: The island is a 25-minute boat ride from the palatial Nanuku Auberge Resort on the island of Veti Levu.
Cost: The experience is priced at $1,880 for up to four guests.
Musha Cay — Bahamas
David Copperfield’s magic career has clearly been very good to him — he owns this 150-acre private island, home to four beachfront villas and a palatial 10,000-square-foot hilltop house with panoramic views of Exumas.
The isle’s extravagant amenities include a tennis court, 28-foot catamaran, Balinese dining pavilion and 23-foot jet boat. The most magical feature is Dave’s Drive-In, an outdoor theater where moviegoers can watch films on a big screen from lounge chairs plopped in the sand.
The illusionist also owns 10 other nearby islands stretching across 400 miles, comprising an archipelago he’s appropriately dubbed Copperfield Bay. The bay collectively offers 40 different private beaches for exploration and relaxation. Abracadabra? Indeed.
Location: This sliver of paradise is situated about 85 miles southeast of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.
Cost: Copperfield has a trick up his sleeve that involves making $57,000 disappear — the price to stay a night here.
Båtholmen — Norway
The worlds of cabin camping and private islanding come together on this rocky outcropping ideal for rugged types.
While there’s no running water, a paddle and motor boat are available for island dwellers to zip around the surrounding area. Other possible diversions include snuggling up next to the fire pit and casting a line.
The itty-bitty cabin can only accommodate up to five people, and the bathroom facilities consist of a lone outhouse, so don’t expect to host a family reunion or any demanding divas on sunny Båtholmen.
Location: The island is part of the Hvaler archipelago near the Spjærøy Bridge, off the coast of Fredrikstad.
Cost: A stay in the island’s rustic red cottage starts at just $70 a person.
Isla Rosa — Colombia
This idyllic tiny island surrounded by coral reefs and turquoise waters is the prime spot for anyone who’s dreamed of reenacting a vacay from “The Real Housewives.” Isla Rosa is dominated by a pink villa and is fully staffed with a private chef, boat pilot, housekeeper, waiter and butler to cater to any whim.
The two-story, open-air abode, which accommodates up to 16 guests, is furnished with Caribbean chic decor across four bedrooms, including lounge chairs, hammocks and daybeds, all ideal for soaking up the sunshine.
Despite the island’s small size, Isla Rosa’s resident chef ensures there will be big flavors at each meal. Peruvian and Caribbean influences are fused to create fresher-than-fresh seafood dishes for visitors staying for the day or more.
Location: Isla Rosa is 18 miles from the major port city of Cartagena.
Cost: Rates start at about $800 a night.
Sundang Island — Philippines
Who says renting a private island needs to cost thousands of dollars? For a completely affordable experience, head to Sundang Island on tranquil Lake Lumot.
On the isle, a picturesque one-bedroom bungalow with a kitchen, bathroom and separate dining hall sits atop a grassy knoll that gently slopes into the water. Outside, trees dot the island and a dap-ay — a circle of stones surrounding a fire pit — provides the perfect spot to gather for a bonfire.
Accommodations are minimal; there’s no air conditioning, television or Wi-Fi, and the only available power available is from a generator. So come with your smartphone fully charged…or, better yet, leave it on the mainland.
Location: In the shadow of the Sierra Madres mountain range, Sundang is about a three-hour drive from Manila.
Cost: When we said affordable, we meant it; for less than $80 a night, you can have this island all to yourself!
Spitbank Fort — United Kingdom
There’s not a palm tree or sandy beach to be found on this unorthodox island, which is actually a naval fort that was completed in 1878 to protect the British Empire from invading troops. Today, it’s a floating hotel with several cheeky touches.
The fort’s impressive architecture includes 20-foot-thick walls, Victorian brick arches and sweeping cannon decks that have been lovingly restored to their original grandeur.
Within the fort, guests will find bars, a wine cellar, a game room and nine suites. On the roof, there’s a fire pit, hot tub, sauna and observation deck for surveying the Solent strait.
Location: Spitbank is nestled between the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth.
Cost: The entire fort can be rented out starting at $6,600 a night.
Melody Key — Florida
While a stay on most private islands requires a passport, an escape to Melody Key simply requires traveling to the furthermost reaches of the Sunshine State.
This six-acre enclave features a three-story, three-bedroom timber house with a kitchen, heated swimming pool, hot tub, sound system, outdoor grill and air conditioning. A roof deck offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the ocean and nearby islands.
For adventurous guests, kayaks and a 14-foot catamaran are available on site to explore the turquoise waters surrounding Melody Key.
Up to eight guests can be accommodated here comfortably.
Location: The solar-powered island is accessed from Summerland Key, located about a 35-minute drive from Key West, with included boat transportation.
Cost: Rates start at $170 per person per night.
Vini’s Farm — India
As the name suggests, this isn’t merely a private island — it’s also an organic farm, growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and other fresh fruits and veggies.
The experience begins when guests arrive by boat and are welcomed into a pastoral two-story farmhouse. Besides helping to harvest crops grown below sea level, guests can also grab a rod to fish, watch for birds like egrets and herons, and cruise around on a vallam — a traditional country boat.
A private chef will prepare meals for visitors made with the day’s harvest and fresh catches. For those who don’t want to be put to work on their vacation, hammocks punctuating the island offer a great place to catch a nap or read a book.
Location: The two-acre property is located on Lake Ashtamudi, at the mouth of the Kallada River on India's Malabar Coast.
Cost: Vini’s Farm is available beginning at $229 a night.
Utter Inn — Sweden
Here’s a private island with a man-made twist: The Utter Inn is an art project conceived by the famed artist and entrepreneur Mikael Genberg. At first glance, the property appears as if it’s a traditional red Swedish house floating on the surface of Lake Mälaren. It’s actually much deeper than that.
Inside, a hatch leads almost 10 feet down to an underwater bedroom with four observation windows for watching the local pike and perch swim around the basin. Genberg’s artistic intention was for humans to feel like they were the ones in an aquarium instead of the fish.
There’s a kayak available for traversing the lake, and guests are instructed to bring their own food.
Location: The nearest town is Västerås; Utter Inn guests arrive by boat from here and are picked up the next day.
Cost: A stay at this one-of-a-kind retreat begins at $165 a night.
Bird Island — Belize
If you want to be pampered, Bird Island isn't the place to book; there is no staff to cater to your every whim, and you'll need to bring and cook your own food. But this lack of staffing comes with a perk: total privacy.
Accommodations for up to 6 guests are spread across three buildings, including an over-the-water cabana.
The hosts also run a tour company, making activities — including fishing, lobstering and snorkeling in the Belize Barrier Reef — easy. Relax after a day of adventuring by sipping a glass of wine on an observatory offering views of the atoll.
Location: The island is a short boat ride away from the beach resort of Placencia, Belize. The hosts will ferry you to Bird Island at no additional cost.
Cost: With a four-night minimum, the cost is $595 per night.