The World’s Dreamiest Private Islands, From the Maldives to Wisconsin

These 14 properties combine nature-filled seclusion with a touch of barefoot luxury.

An aerial view of an island with clear water, palm trees, white sand, and a swimming pool

Como Laucala Island is home to just 25 villas on a private-island paradise in Fiji.

Photo by Jason Busch

Few vacation experiences scream ultimate luxury quite like a stay on a private island. Whether you’re buying out the entire place or simply booking a villa, suite, or overwater bungalow, these islands are all about exclusivity: In fact, you’ll often need to take a private plane, yacht, or helicopter to access them. Once onshore, these lodgings can run the gamut stylistically from rustic and homey to design-forward and ultra-modern, but they almost always come with pampering and seclusion.

While private islands are most often associated with tropical destinations, such as the Seychelles and Fiji, they’re far from the only places where you can sprawl out on an island of your own. You and your family or friends can, for instance, book out Ted Turner’s old compound on a barrier island off South Carolina or escape to rugged island lodges in Scotland or in the middle of a Wisconsin lake. In any setting, these island retreats will often include untouched nature, stylish accommodations, personalized service, and a sustainable connection to the surrounding areas.

Here, 14 of our favorite private islands, in the United States and abroad, where you can feel like the world’s most pampered castaway.

Aerial view of villa on a white-sand beach overlooking expansive clear waters with a hilly green island in the background

Pelorus Private Island is surrounded by the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.

Photo by Jason Ierace

Pelorus Private Island, Australia

  • Location: Palm Islands, Queensland, Australia
  • Why we love it: Private chef, snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, unique water sports equipment like Schiller water bikes
  • Book now

Open as of this January, this brand-new island hideaway is undoubtedly the most luxurious way to experience the Great Barrier Reef, offering exclusive access to a nearly 1,000-acre paradise that’s accessible only by helicopter or private yacht. The five-suite villa exudes a chic coastal airiness, with whitewashed shiplap, Palladian limestone, rattan, and Italian linens. All meals are prepared by a private chef—think artisanal bread, signature cocktails, and wine pairings at dinner—and you’ll have access to a stocked toy chest that includes kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, snorkeling and fishing equipment, and even Schiller water bikes (which is a bit like a bike mounted on two pontoons). If you want to explore beyond the island, you can book guided Jet Ski and Seabob tours, explore the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA), or take a private boat charter to Hinchinbrook Island (Pouandai), Australia’s largest island national park.

Aearial view of small buildings on Moskito Island

Sir Richard Branson’s British Virgin Islands retreats are models of thoughtful sustainability.

Courtesy of Virgin Limited Edition

Necker Island and Moskito Island, British Virgin Islands

  • Location: British Virgin Islands
  • Why we love them: Options for whole-island buyouts and individual room rentals, focus on sustainability
  • Book now

Part of Virgin Limited Edition collection, Necker Island is home to the big man himself, Sir Richard Branson, and it’s one of the most stunning locations in the British Virgin Islands. The 74-acre island, ringed by white-sand beaches and colorful coral reefs, was badly battered by Hurricane Irma in 2017, but it came back stronger than ever, with a renewed focus on sustainability that included the installation of three wind turbines and a 1,230-panel solar farm. You can rent out the entire island, with space to sleep up to 48 adults and 6 children across a series of Balinese-inspired villas, and during select times of year, you can book individual rooms or suites.

In 2020, Virgin opened a sister property, the Branson Beach Estate, two miles away on Moskito Island (pictured above). It includes 11 bedrooms spread over three villas, which are connected by elevated wooden walkways. The island also includes a gym, tennis courts, and plenty of water-based activities, such as kitesurfing and deep-sea fishing.

Rectangular swimming pool set in large shallow pool with palm trees at Como Laucala Island in Fiji

Statement swimming pools don’t come much more dramatic than the one at Como Laucala Island in Fiji.

Photo by Jason Busch

Como Laucala Island, Fiji

  • Location: Fiji
  • Why we love it: 18-hole golf course, personal buggies for island exploration, villas scattered around the island for extra privacy
  • Book now

Laucala Island has had a wild history: Captain William Bligh (of Bounty infamy) first wrote about it on his ill-fated South Pacific journey, before the seven-mile-long Fijian paradise became a coconut farm and was then purchased by publishing giant Malcolm Forbes in 1972. Red Bull cofounder Dietrich Mateschitz turned the island into a luxury resort, and in 2021, it was taken over by Como Hotels and Resorts. The 25 Residences—stand-alone villas—are scattered around the island, bringing a sense of blissful seclusion, and they each have a private pool, an outdoor bath, a dedicated tau (Fijian for “friend”), and a golf cart for exploring. While you’re at Laucala, you can also play a round of golf on the 18-hole course, ride horses in the surf, or take an excursion on a classic 1970s sailing yacht.

A large house with a wooden staircase and a screened porch, surrounded by trees and palmettos on a rocky shoreline

Ted Turner’s former home is newly renovated and available for rentals.

Courtesy of St. Phillips Island, South Carolina

The Turner House at St. Phillips Island, South Carolina

  • Location: Near Beaufort, South Carolina
  • Why we love it: Exclusive full-island rental available, access to a fishing pier and kayaks
  • Book now

Media mogul Ted Turner, known for his unwavering dedication to sustainability, bought undeveloped St. Phillips Island, northeast of Hilton Head, in 1979. He later sold the four-mile-long barrier island to the state, and it’s now operated as part of Hunting Island State Park. Following renovations, the five-bedroom, five-bathroom Turner House became available to rent in 2020, and the retreat perfectly captures the Low Country spirit with a wooden staircase that leads to an 820-square-foot screened porch. Accessibly only by boat, the island accommodates 10 guests and includes beach access (plus chairs, umbrellas, and pop-up canopies), hiking trails, a fishing pier and rods, a firepit, bikes, kayaks, golf carts, and more. You can choose between a standard rental, which includes only the house and allows other visitors to take scheduled day tours to the island, or an exclusive rental, during which only your group will have access to the island.

A beachfront pool next to a cushioned seating area under a white umbrella

Few resorts in Australia offer more immediate access to the Great Barrier Reef than Lizard Island.

Photo by Elise Hassey

Lizard Island, Australia

  • Location: Queensland, Australia
  • Why we love it: Access to the Great Barrier Reef, architecturally significant house
  • Book now

The northernmost island resort on the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island is redefining barefoot luxury in the region. It’s surrounded by a national park, with a series of rooms, villas, and suites set within strolling distance of the beach and the reef beyond. Experiences include glass-bottom sea kayaking, guided snorkeling with the help of a motorized sea scooter, or fishing for mahi-mahi, tuna, and marlin off the outer reef. In 2022, the island added its most extravagant lodging option yet, the House, a three-story, three-bedroom residence on a secluded peninsula with a floorplan meant to evoke a stingray—complete with gill-shaped windows to let in the breeze. Made of rugged concrete, the climate-resilient space is designed to withstand cyclonic winds, and its interiors are filled with sumptuous detailing using rosewood timber, copper, and emerald quartzite.

A white canopy bed under a high wooden roof in a private villa

It’s not hard to see why Prince William and Kate Middleton decided to honeymoon on North Island.

Courtesy of North Island

North Island, a Luxury Collection Resort, Seychelles

  • Location: The Seychelles
  • Why we love it: Resident giant tortoises, conservation initiatives
  • Loyalty program: Marriott Bonvoy
  • Book now

Of all the many white-sand islands of the Seychelles, North Island—with only 11 ocean-view villas—is a crown jewel, set some 1,000 miles from the southeast coast of Africa. (Prince William and Kate Middleton honeymooned here, naturally.) Whether you rent out the island or stay in one of the villas and enjoy the private plunge pools, you’re guaranteed total privacy. Choose from several island activities like snorkeling, diving, fishing, hiking, or guided swimming with endangered sea turtles. And be sure to meet the island’s most famous resident, Brutus, a five-foot-long, 450-pound giant tortoise thought to be at least 160 years old. “Luxury with a conscience” is at the heart of everything, with many sustainability initiatives, such as reef and beach protection.

Aerial view of white-sand beach with clear seawater, palm trees, buildings, and long, rectangular pool

A visit to Miavana is the perfect add-on to many East African safari trips.

Courtesy of Miavana

Miavana by Time+Tide, Madagascar

  • Location: Madagascar
  • Why we love it: Spacious villas, lemur treks, a museum-like cabinet of curiosities
  • Book now

Miavana, a private island hotel off the northeast coast of Madagascar, promises all the relaxing benefits of an unhurried island paradise but with lots of adventure options that will make you feel like you’re on safari: nature treks to see the island’s resident crowned lemurs, bird-watching by boat, or snorkeling or diving among unspoiled coral reefs. The “smallest” of the 14 villas sprawls over more than 6,600 square feet, so consider these homes away from home. You don’t want to miss the museum-quality “Cabinet des Curiosities” in the main public space, which includes a gorgeous butterfly collection, an antique ship’s wheel, and the skeletons of two extinct Madagascan species, the pygmy hippo and the elephant bird.

A plant-covered shoreline with a sailboat in the water and streaky clouds in a blue sky

Renting Hawkins Island comes with the use of a small sailboat.

Courtesy of Hawkins-Bermuda’s Private Island

Hawkins Island, Bermuda

  • Location: Bermuda
  • Why we love it: Complimentary use of a sailboat, private beachfront, room for 16
  • Book now

Bermuda, with its pink sand, intimate coves, and impressive dining, is a quick flight from most eastern U.S. cities. Beyond the big resorts, there’s a lesser-known private island option that offers even more exclusivity: the 25-acre Hawkins Island, with its woodland reserve and beach overlooking the Great Sound. You can buy out the entire island for up to 16 guests across two accommodations, the 8-person Main Villa and the 8-person Guard House. The stay includes all boat transfers to the marina, a laundry facility, and water sports equipment, including kayaks, paddleboards, and a small sailboat.

A still pond with water lilies and a stone castle in the background on a grassy shore

Surround yourself with the beauty of Scotland at this private island hotel.

Courtesy of Isle of Eriska

Isle of Eriska, Scotland

  • Location: Loch Creran, Scotland
  • Why we love it: Wildlife including roe deer and otters, whisky and gin tasting, many outdoor activities
  • Book now

On the Isle of Eriska, a 365-acre private island with a hotel and spa, you’re a 30-minute drive from seaside Oban, but the area feels much more remote, surrounded by the wild beauty of Scottish lakes and mountains with abundant wildlife, including roe deer, seals, otters, golden eagles, and badgers. Step into a pair of Wellingtons (they keep them by the front door) and explore the grounds on foot, or choose to linger over the whisky menu in the main house. The guest rooms and suites are delightfully mismatched, each drawing on the unique architecture of the space, but there are also plenty of options for groups of different sizes, including spa and garden cottages hidden in the historic stables and the six-person Arnott’s House. While on the property, you can take part in such activities as archery, axe-throwing, falconry, beekeeping, fishing, golfing, and much more.

Aerial view of beach on Gladden Island, with accommodations and small pool at right

Gladden Island is in the center of Belize’s barrier reef, one of the finest in the world.

Courtesy of Onefinestay

Gladden Private Island, Belize

  • Location: Belize Barrier Reef
  • Why we love it: Access to a stunning reef, seasonal swimming with whale sharks, private chef
  • Book now

Four hours from Miami by plane and then boat, Gladden Private Island is right in the center of Belize’s Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world. This is the ultimate honeymoon experience, with a villa designed for one couple, although kids are welcome. The house chef prepares meals with organic produce from the garden and seafood fished straight from the surrounding waters. You can snorkel just offshore or arrange a visit to nearby Gladden Spit or the Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, where whale sharks congregate from April through June.

The Delana Villa’s infinity pool at Vatuvara Private Islands Resort, with several empty white lounge chairs on deck, with ocean in distance

The Delana Villa’s infinity pool looks out over the crystalline waters that have made Fiji a favorite diving destination.

Courtesy of Tourism Fiji

Vatuvara Private Islands Resort, Fiji

  • Location: Kaibu Island, Northern Lau Group, Fiji
  • Why we love it: Four-hole golf course, eco-friendly initiatives, conservation-focused activities
  • Book now

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stayed at Vatuvara Private Islands Resort in Fiji during their royal tour of Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. Royal or not, guests arrive by private plane on the island’s airstrip and settle into one of the three all-inclusive villas—each with its own infinity pool, massage room, and personal masseuse—scattered around the 800-acre island. Vatuvara is designed for relaxation, but there are plenty of ways to engage with your surroundings more actively and thoughtfully: There’s a four-hole, organic-certified golf course and putting green, cooking and basket-weaving classes, and water sports equipment like kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and Jet Skis. The eco-conscious resort runs on solar energy and houses an organic farm, and conservation-minded guests can join the resident marine scientist to restore a coral garden or snorkel through a giant clam nursery.

Dark-wood Allison’s Cabin surrounded with trees at Stout’s Island Lodge

Rent Allison’s Cabin at Stout’s Island Lodge.

Courtesy of Stout’s Island Lodge

Stout’s Island Lodge, Wisconsin

  • Location: Red Cedar Lake, Wisconsin
  • Why we love it: Historic lodge dating back more than a century, even smaller satellite islands for additional privacy, summer camp vibes
  • Book now

If you assume that all the best private islands are in the tropics, think again: The historic Stout’s Island Lodge sits in the middle of Wisconsin’s Red Cedar Lake, surrounded by thick forests and expansive waters filled with bluegill, bass, pike, and walleye. The original main lodge was built back in 1903 for Chicago businessman Frank Stout and modeled after the Adirondack Great Camps frequented by Vanderbilts and Rockefellers in the late 1800s. Stout and his family used it as a summer retreat for many years, and almost a century later, it was transformed into a luxury resort in the mid-1990s. The rustic-chic guest rooms and cabins each have their own unique decor: Some include log beds and stone fireplaces; others have botanical wallpapers and homey quilts. Those looking for even more privacy can opt to rent out one of the satellite islands: The two-acre Knapp Island Lodge has firepits, a kid’s glamping tent, and a handmade wooden canoe, while three-acre Van Reed Island boasts a four-bedroom summer home with wraparound decks and a rentable pontoon boat.

Aerial view of several small overwater buildings, with Thiladhoo Island in background

The waters around the Baa Atoll welcome whale sharks and manta rays.

Courtesy of the Nautilus Maldives

The Nautilus Maldives

  • Location: Thiladhoo Island, Baa Atoll, Maldives
  • Why we love it: Overwater spa with glass-bottomed treatment rooms, located in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
  • Book now

The Indian Ocean archipelago is beloved for its overwater bungalow options. At the Nautilus Maldives, there are only 26 beach and ocean houses sharing tiny, private Thiladhoo Island in the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve known for its whale sharks and manta rays. The room rate includes the services of a private butler, and there’s a 24-hour overwater spa with glass-bottomed treatment pavilions. Activities are designed to feel spontaneous and luxurious, meaning you might find yourself on a last-minute yacht adventure around the islands, screening a movie under the stars, or listening to live music and eating the freshest grilled seafood by a fire. For the ultimate experience, the island is home to a three-bedroom mansion with a private pool that’s ideal for families.

This article was originally published in 2021. It was most recently updated on February 16, 2024, with additional reporting by Nicholas DeRenzo.

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