By Nikki Ekstein
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What three things do you wish for?
Correct answer: a private plunge pool, a butler, and a beach bar with excellent frozen drinks, preferably set on the deck of a sailboat.
Private island resorts are having a moment — and the timing couldn’t be better. A globally tumultuous 2016 has exacerbated the travel trend of seeking remote corners and untouched places, of getting away from it all and feeling physically far away from all your worries.
It doesn’t matter what’s keeping you up at night at home; you’re likely to sleep easy when your biggest immediate concern is what drink will look best in your sunset Instagrams. If a bit of escapism is exactly what the doctor has in store, consider these nine openings that are pushing the envelope of luxury, from the Maldives to Belize.
The best part? Several will run you less than $500 per night.
St. Regis Maldives
You’ll find a majority of private island resorts in the Maldives, Seychelles, and Fiji, where small, outlying land masses make the perfect setting for a dreamy hotel. And yet, this spot — St. Regis’s first private island property — might be one of the dreamiest places to sleep in the Indian Ocean.
Opened on November 1, it has 77 butler-serviced villas shrouded in lush tropical flora, with many hovering directly over the water. The style is all blond-wood minimalism, putting the spotlight on the palm trees that sprout in every direction and the crystalline waters that lap at your doorstep. (Rooms from $1,771.)
Cempedak Island, Indonesia
From the shore, the 20 duplex villas that make up Cempedak look like shrunken mountains jutting straight out of the coastline, all woven bamboo and along grass, each with a balcony, deck, and pool. This well might be the world’s most ambitious bamboo architecture project — which will come as no surprise to those who are already familiar with the owners’ first project, Nikoi Island, which garnered a slew of hospitality awards for its innovative design and sustainability initiatives. (The two properties are fairly close to each other.) Just like its big sibling, Cempedak takes sustainability and community projects seriously. But that doesn’t make it any less a hedonist’s paradise. (Opens March, rooms from $350.)
Slated to open early in the new year, Miavana is one of the world’s most anticipated new hotels. Its 14 villas are being designed by the architect who created Wilderness Safari’s North Island resort in the Seychelles — known by industry insiders as one of the most jaw-droppingly stunning hotels anywhere under the sun.
It’ll be the first luxury hotel in Madagascar, where guests can go on lemur safaris. And it’s becoming a massive driver of conservation and community empowerment in the remote Nosy Ankao archipelago, with vibrant efforts to support local farmers and artisans. Talk about trifecta. (Rooms from $2,500 per person per night.)
Kamalame Cay, Bahamas
It’s known as one of the best hotels in the Caribbean, so colour us excited to learn that Kamalame has just introduced eight new, standard-setting beach bungalows. Each one is a study in china white, down to the white, denim sofas and linen curtains; outside are sea-facing rain showers and wide decks for night-time lounging.
But it’s the little things that make Kamalame special: daily homemade cookie deliveries, personal golf carts for each room, and an overwater spa for endless pampering. This is castaway living at its finest. (Rooms from $450.)
Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles
For a private island resort, Zil Pasyon is massive, with exclusive domain over the 652-acre FA(c) licitA (c) island — one of 115 islets that make up the Seychelles. And yet, it keeps its footprint small, with just 30 one- and two-bedroom pool villas (and 17 private residences).
Get there by taking a 20-minute helicopter ride (or an hour-and-a-half boat trip) from the main island, Mahe; you’ll arrive in a jungle paradise straight out of Robinson Crusoe. Except here, the beds have flowing white-fabric canopies, the beaches are pearlescent, and the spa is among the very best in the world.
Bonus: The property will also take you sailing to neighbouring islands for private fishing trips, hiking in the Coco de Mer Valley, or sunset drinks. (Rooms from $1,282.)
Four Seasons Maldives Voavah
When Four Seasons launched their private jet trips — which take travellers to their most luxurious properties around the world — the company proved that it was keen on taking luxury to new heights. Now it’s doing the same on dry land (and underwater) with the opening of its first private island resort, Maldives Voavah, where you, and only you, will have total domain over five pristine acres.
It offers guests exclusive access to a 62-foot yacht, which you can take to go scuba diving in a Unesco Biosphere reserve right off the island’s shores. (It’s home to one of the world’s largest populations of manta rays — but you’ll also spot “underwater pinnacles”, turtles, and dolphins.) The property takes the “private” theme seriously: Its seven bedrooms, spread among three homes, can be booked only on an exclusive basis.
Kokomo Island, Fiji
Fiji is like Australia’s Hamptons, so it’s no surprise that Australian billionaire and real estate developer Lang Walker chose the island chain as the setting for his hotel passion project. It’s also no surprise that he called it Kokomo — Walker has an entire fleet of yachts with the same name, which reportedly came from his childhood dinghy.
The island, with its 26 supersized villas and residences, is set toward the very northern tip of the Fijian archipelago, surrounded by the coral-filled Great Astrolabe Reef. But you may never leave the hotel’s main pool, with its silhouetted views of mountainous islands in the distance. Its bar, like all the other restaurants on property, uses organic fruits and vegetables from a garden right on site. (Opens in March, rooms from $1,995.)
Turneffe Island Resort, Belize
Turneffe technically isn’t new — it’s 15-years-old — but the property has just undergone a top-to-bottom facelift, with 22 upgraded rooms off the coast of Belize City. But so many of the things that make it special have nothing to do with its glossy new look.
For those who are far from the South Pacific, Turneffe offers a similar experience with a quick-hop flight. (Even the diving here is comparable, with proximity to the bucket-list-worthy Great Blue Hole diving site.) And the price point would justify a long haul: You can stay for as little as $2,090 per week, all-inclusive, depending on the package you book. (Rooms from $300.)
Milaidhoo caters to the iconic Maldivian island fantasy: Its water pool villas have gabled, straw-covered roofs, turquoise-and-sand colour palates, and infinity-edge, plunge freshwater pools that seem to disappear into the Indian Ocean. Unlike so many other properties of its kind, it’s kid-friendly. No matter how old you are, you’ll get a kick out of dining in the hotel’s signature restaurant, set on the deck of a traditional Maldivian sailboat. Go right at sunset, and order anything that was caught fresh that morning — your choices will be many. (Rooms from $1,476.)