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July 4, 2017updated Dec 20, 2023

Private Island Escapes: Top 10

By Lauren Jade Hill

By Lauren Jade Hill

This story originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.

Hidden in the world’s most blissful archipelagos, these exclusive-use private island retreats promise beguiling beauty and unparalleled seclusion.

The Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse


Positioned on one of the two rocky Cuckolds Islands off the Maine coast, this lighthouse played an integral maritime role for many years after it was completed in the early 1900s. And now, having been renovated in 2013, the historic lighthouse is a luxury inn and private island retreat. Featuring just two suites—the East Suite and West Suite—the inn provides an intimate hideaway with elegant furnishings, marble bathrooms and sea views from each window. Whitewashed oak floors, wall paneling, plush fabrics and mahogany furnishings run throughout the entire space, with a wood-burning fireplace that makes the kitchen the heart of the home and wooden decks that provide the perfect place for sunset views. The cuisine here makes the most of local produce—the highlight is the innkeepers’ traditional Maine island lobster bake, served with fine wine and champagne. Private cruises give guests the chance to explore this coastline more while seeking out its sheltered coves.

Exclusive island rental from $3,500 for two nights. Contact Heather Graham and Mark Zinkiewicz, inn keepers,, +1 855 212 5252,



Hidden away in the Cuyo Archipelago, Amanpulo provides a tranquil retreat where pristine white sand is lapped by the warm turquoise waters of the Sulu Sea. Arriving by private plane, guests are led to contemporary casitas which, taking inspiration from the native bahay kubo homes, are open-plan with architectural elements representative of the region. Each beach-facing, treetop or hillside casita embraces the outdoor space through the integration of private wooden decks with sea views and inviting pools. Amanpulo then elevates the VIP treatment with butlers on hand and private chefs to cook freshly-caught seafood and island-grown produce. Set on a hillside, the spa benefits from far-reaching views too, with each pavilion providing a tranquil sanctuary for relaxation and pampering.Wildlife abounds both on land and beneath the surface of the water, making scuba diving and nature walks especially rewarding; green and hawksbill turtles nest here, birds migrate through the region and the island’s remote location makes it a remarkable spot for stargazing.

Exclusive island rental from $750,000 for two nights. Contact Christophe Olivro, general manager,, +63 297 652 00,

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Cayo Espanto


Three miles from San Pedro, in the Caribbean waters off the coast of Belize, this private island offers complete solitude. Here, sandy walkways lead guests through the forest of palms, and between each of the beachfront and overwater villas that incorporate open-air design with uninterrupted views out to sea, they’ll find private plunge pools and their own secluded spot on the island. Spa therapists are on hand, along with award-winning chefs who take pride in creating dishes based on the produce of the region. Scuba diving is especially remarkable here, but guests can also take to the water by sea kayak, stand-up paddleboard and sailboat, and set out on private trips to explore the rainforest and ancient Mayan ruins.

Exclusive island rental from $13,500 per night. Contact Russell Bramlett, reservations specialist,, +1 910 323 8355,

Dolphin Island


Stretching across just 14 acres and accommodating eight guests, Dolphin Island bestows a luxury castaway feel. The Relais & Châteaux retreat consists of a collection of stylish villas, from the main bure, which has an infinity pool and open veranda, to the open-air thatched hilltop sleep-out. Situated just 20 minutes from the Fijian island of Viti Levu, Dolphin Island also provides guests the opportunity to experience local life and get to know the unique culture of their surroundings, while its position in the Pacific means that the diving, kayaking and fishing promise to be extraordinary too; marine life thrives in the Bligh Waters this island is surrounded by, with four reef systems within easy reach. Back on land, a range of spa treatments ensure guests leave feeling rejuvenated after experiencing this alluring and culturally unique part of the world.

Exclusive island rental from $6,340 per night. Contact Sandy Hafner, reservations manager,, +64 7378 5791,

Isola Santa Cristina


An undiscovered island retreat, Isola Santa Cristina lies just 30 minutes from the canals of central Venice. This lush pocket of land flourishes with apricot trees and organic vines, with a lagoon that’s rich in birdlife as well as its own fishery. Tucked amid this wildlife-rich flora is the island’s luxurious property, combining Isola Santa Cristina’s tranquil setting with classic Venetian style. The elegant villa’s open-plan living space and nine sumptuous suites are stylishly furnished, integrating modern amenities within the grand facade, while the panoramic terrace features an outdoor fireplace and scenic patio, providing the ideal space for entertaining. The pool is bordered by a teak deck and lined with lounge chairs, but it’s the rooftop altana that has the best views of the famous lagoon, which guests can explore further on private boat tours.

Exclusive island rental from $2,200 per night. Contact Allison Zurfluh, head of communication,, +43 664 822 5080,

Necker Island


Undoubtedly one of the world’s most talked-about island retreats, Necker stands out for the bespoke nature of each guest’s stay, from personalized dining experiences to the celebrations that have made this island legendary. With an idyllic Caribbean setting, the 74-acre pocket of land owned by Sir Richard Branson hosts groups of up to 34 guests with a team of 100 staff. A Balinese-inspired Great House lies at the island’s heart, housing eight of the bedrooms, with smaller villas scattered around the island that each boast private pools and sea views. A watersports team affords guests the chance to scuba dive, windsurf, paddleboard and kite-surf, while activities such as beach Olympics can be arranged on request, with beach yoga and spa treatments to help guests unwind. Candlelit and fireside meals are hosted in a variety of scenic locations, along with the parties Necker Island has become so well known for.

Exclusive island rental from $80,000 per night. Contact Jenny Watkins, revenue and reservations manager,, +44 208 600 0440,

Nikoi Island


A mere two-and-a-half hour journey from Singapore, Nikoi is an easy escape from the city. The beachfront houses here are split between the north and south sides of the island, coming together in the west where a communal space provides an idyllic spot for fine dining and sunset cocktails. Handcrafted from driftwood with alang-alang grass roofs, each beach house is raised off the ground with open-air decks, to make the most of the views while catching the breeze that blows in from the sea. Savor every moment here by snorkeling, sailing, kayaking and windsurfing, or retreat to the island’s spa that has been set up in safari-style tents, with treatments such as a coffee, cacao and brown sugar scrub using natural ingredients. Nikoi’s two swimming pools can be found on the north side of the island, set dramatically into the natural granite rocks. For further exploration, guided trips can be taken to nearby uninhabited islands.

Exclusive island rental from $11,400 per night. Contact Tom Mumford, front of house,, +62 811 703 6665,

Over Yonder Cay


Championed for its sustainability as well as style and unbridled luxury, this private island retreat harnesses natural power in each of its four elegant villas: South Point, East Cove,West Sands and Meridian House. Accommodating two to 28 guests, the eco-friendly retreat is the epitome of barefoot luxury; here, villas come with their own private stretches of white sand, private Jacuzzis and infinity pools, and outdoor space that embraces their breathtaking surroundings. Days can be spent sailing the trade winds on a 28ft custom-built sloop, diving down to the reef that is rich in marine life, exploring nature trails and the nine-hole golf course. An afternoon can then be whiled away in the tranquil spa before strolling over to the Beach Club for sunset cocktails and sumptuous cuisine that showcases the fresh local seafood with rare vintage wines and champagne. The island’s private marina can accommodate yachts of up to 180ft and guests can also arrive by private seaplane.

Exclusive island rental from$52,000 per night. Contact Janus Kamradt, director,, +44 754 508 2874,

Thanda Island


In its position off the east coast of Tanzania, Thanda Island benefits from being located within its own marine reserve, with whale sharks and sea turtles often sighted in the pristine waters off the island’s shores. This extraordinary abundance of nature is complemented by the privileged experience the island provides. Just one five-suite villa and two Tanzanian bandas are found within the exclusive retreat, accommodating up to nine guests. While the main villa emanates East African elegance through its beach-house style and color scheme, incorporating lavish features such as an indoor aquarium and Steinway piano, the two more traditional bandas encompass locally carved furniture and fabrics in natural hues. An executive chef, butlers, a cocktail barman and spa therapist, along with a wealth of specialist guides, are all on hand throughout every guest’s stay from the moment they fly in by helicopter.

Exclusive island rental from $10,000 per night. Contact Lara Soldat, reservations manager,, +27 325 860 149,

Velaa Private Island


Situated within the picture-perfect Noonu Atoll and taking its name from the sea turtles that have long nested on its shores, this island is a true tropical idyll. Renting the island exclusively elevates the experience further, with the added luxury of uncompromised privacy. This extraordinary setting comes with the five-star luxury seen in the island’s 47 private villas, houses and exclusive residences, each of which has been crafted with luxury wood paneling from Borneo and Italian marble, and comes with the service of a personal butler. Adding to its appeal, the resort lays claim to what is said to be the most extensive wine collection in the Maldives, and the region’s only My Blend by Clarins spa, as well as its own submarine and collection of high-tech water toys such as hover boards. The resort’s stylish dining venues offer a wide range of cuisines and scenic settings, but bespoke experiences can also be arranged, from fireworks displays on the beach to sunset cruises on the island’s private yacht.

Exclusive island rental from $1m for four nights. Contact Ibrahim Inad, senior sales manager,, +960 656 5000,

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