Owning a private island is overrated and it’s actually a lot of work — or so we’ve heard from our many island-owning friends. You have to deal with the astronomical taxes, the development, the upkeep — it’s a full-time job (that island owners simply pay other people to do, of course). But visiting a private island? It’s as great as everyone says — and we know from experience. We’ve stayed on some gorgeous private islands in our travels, in equally gorgeous hotels and resorts. Here are six of our favorites:
#1: Gran Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado, Dominican Republic
The details: The D.R.’s only luxury resort set on its own island, the Gran Bahia Cayo Levantado offers a relaxing atmosphere for couples and families. There are scenic beaches and beautiful pools, and we love the details in the rooms: Four-poster beds, private Jacuzzi tubs, and island-inspired artwork give them a romantic vibe.
How to get there: From the Samana airport, it’s a 45-minute cab ride to the Bahia ferry station. From there, it’s a 10- to 15-minute ferry ride to Cayo Levantado. In lieu of the ferry, you can also hire a private panga boat to take you from Samana. We never said getting to a private island is easy, but it’s certainly worth the flight (…and drive and boat ride)!
#2: Paradise Point Resort and Spa, San Diego
The details: This 462-room property near Sea World has sprawling grounds, activities – such as tennis, a putting green, water sports, and basketball — galore, five pools, a spa, and bonfire pits for roasting s’mores after dark. But perhaps the highlight of this private island retreat is that it sits on a tranquil, mile-long beach.
How to get there: In Mission Bay, Paradise Point is connected to the mainland by Ingraham Street so reaching the resort is easy enough, and takes just about a 15-minute car ride from downtown San Diego.
#3: Fowl Cay Resort, Bahamas
The details: Crowded beaches are unheard of at this resort where a maximum of 28 guests at a time have free range of 50 acres and three beaches. Personal boats for daily excursions, on-call service, spacious villas with fully stocked kitchens and wet bars, and a host of all-inclusive activities make Fowl Cay a standout gem in the Exumas.
How to get there: The Exumas Islands (where the resort is located) are accessible by small charter plane via Fort Lauderdale or Nassau. Boat transfers to and from the airstrip are included in resort rates and take less than 10 minutes.
#4: The Grove Isle Hotel & Spa, Miami
Grove Isle allows guests a nice respite from crowded Miami. But guests will need to visit the mainland if they want to lounge on the beach.
The details: Off the coast of funky Coconut Grove, the Grove Isle Hotel offers big, beautiful rooms (each with a balcony and a stunning view), a spa, 12 tennis courts, a superb fitness center, and a marina. Along with beautiful views, the on-site, open-air restaurant serves up a popular buffet brunch, complete with an omelet station, a sushi station, and bottomless champagne and mimosas.
How to get there: The island is just a 15-minute drive from the Miami International Airport, but some guests choose to arrive by boat and dock at the marina.
#5: Parrot Cay and COMO Shambhala Retreat, Turks and Caicos
The details: This 1,000-acre all-inclusive resort is the definition of tranquility. With an incredible infinity-edge pool, the world-renowned COMO Shambhala Spa, waterfront Balinese-style villas, doting service, and more than three miles of pristine beaches, it’s easily one of the most luxurious and romantic options in the Caribbean.
How to get there: A 30-minute boat ride northeast of Providenciales is all it takes to find the utter isolation of Parrot Cay. Most guests fly into the Providenciales International Airport and take a 20-minute cab ride to meet the boat.
#6: Conch Key Cottages, Florida Keys
The details: Who says a private island retreat has to be pricey? The mid-range, 13-room Conch Keys Cottages is located on a tiny private island and offers a laid-back, relaxing vacation at an affordable price. Standard rooms are smallish, but villas and cottages are worth the upgrade, with full kitchens as well as sitting and dining areas.
How to get there: Conch Key Cottages is located on Walker’s Island, a private island along the Overseas Highway. The Marathon Airport and Islamorada are both just about a 20-minute drive away, but you will have to drive over an hour if you’re coming from Key West.