We’re all for sprawling beach resorts with dozens of restaurants, comprehensive entertainment facilities and every amenity under the sun. But we’d trade a crowded beach for a private plot of sand almost any day — particularly, if it comes with a personal butler and free-flowing gin and tonics. That scene’s not just a daydream: From the stunningly clear waters of Indonesia to secluded beaches (and submarines) in Fiji, these are a few of the most alluring private island retreats in the South Pacific.
Laucala Island, Fiji
Composed of approximately 333 islands, Fiji is famous for its lavish private island getaways. Each little hub of tranquility has its own draw: Turtle Island is known for its authentic vibes, rustic oceanfront bures (villas) and exclusive beach experiences; Vomo Island has a reputation for excellent cuisine and private picnics on sister island Vomo Lailai; while new-to-town Kokomo Island Fiji spoils travelers with expansive villas, sunset yacht sailings and secluded infinity pools.
But the most eye-popping of all is Laucala Island, a pristine speck in the ocean that happens to be home to the eponymous eco-luxury resort where stars like Oprah Winfrey, Ludacris, Tony Hawk and Elle Macpherson spend their holidays.
Around the 3,460-acre island, which is owned by Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz (who purchased it from the Forbes family), you’ll find 25 luxurious private villas, tennis courts, multiple pools, an 18-hole David McLay Kidd-designed championship golf course, more than a dozen boats, an organic farm and even a DeepFlight Super Falcon submarine.
Bawah Island, Indonesia
A remote retreat off the coast of Singapore, Bawah Island opened in 2017 with much fanfare. Part of a mini archipelago of five islands, the resort is home to 35 suites, handcrafted from a mix of driftwood and bamboo. The eco-conscious efforts continue across nearly every aspect of the retreat, from locally grown produce to the zero-waste policy.
For nature lovers, this is heaven with a near-endless stream of possibilities, including hiking and kayaking, snorkeling, sailing, stargazing and diving. The location is particularly notable for the latter; divers appreciate the island’s proximity to Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago — one of the world’s most celebrated marine ecosystems.
Maldives Private Island at Voavah, Baa Atoll
Of course, pretty much every island in the Maldives is a private retreat these days, but they’re not all created equally. The cream of the crop can be found at Maldives Private Island at Voavah. Located in the Baa Atoll, this Four Seasons property is the world’s first exclusive-use UNESCO hideaway. The five-acre island contains just seven bedrooms (across three villas), each decked out with an assortment of local textiles, pretty copper touches, gleaming teak furniture and woven lampshades.
As a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, the Baa Atoll is pretty much the ideal when it comes to snorkeling and diving. There’s even a PADI dive center on site to ensure that you’re well-equipped to explore the underwater world. The ultra-exclusive retreat also offers a 62-foot private yacht (dubbed Voavah Summer) for sunset cocktails or manta ray spotting, has spaces for private island picnics and boasts a hangar full of jet skis and other high-voltage toys.
A wonderland for outdoorsy types, Cempedak comprises just 20 thatched-roof villas across the 42-acre private island. In this wild rainforest setting, you really feel like you’ve encountered raw, unapologetic nature in all its glory — there are kingfishers flying overhead, a family of sea otters living on the beach and even appearances from exotic pangolins (kind of like an anteater wearing a suit of armor). When it comes to marine life, snorkeling and diving are a treat thanks to colorful tropical fish.
The resort is committed to caring for its surroundings, as evidenced by the sustainable programs — think water recycling, solar panels, air-conditioner-free buildings (thanks to vernacular architecture techniques that enable natural ventilation), reclaimed wood furniture and a plastic-free policy.
Sister hotel Nikoi Island is in the same archipelago, should you be looking to extend the vacation.
Sankara Hotel & Spa Yakushima
Technically speaking, this Forbes Travel Guide Recommended resort isn’t a private island retreat, but it’s so secluded from the rest of Japan that it might as well be. Set off in the southeast corner of Yakushima island in the Okinawa archipelago, this adults-only getaway combines traditional ryokan charm with all the comforts of contemporary amenities.
The setting could not be more peaceful — picture a backdrop of mountains, ocean ahead and dense cedar woodlands all around. From this luxurious home base, you can experience Okinawa in all its green glory. On the adventure menu, you’ll find hiking through nearby Yakusugi Land nature park, kayaking and diving. And once you’ve completed all of that, find your calm in a mineral-packed onsen (hot spring) bath.