There was a time when, if you wanted to experience private-island life, your last name had to be Vanderbilt or Astor. That’s no longer the case. Vacationing on luxury isles—some independently owned, others part of bigger brands—may still come with hefty price tags, but the secluded playgrounds are more accessible than ever.
Forbes Travel Guide’s editors scoured the globe to find the most far-flung island destinations, ideal for those seeking privacy, world-class cuisine or a once-in-a-lifetime experience (think: swimming with sharks). Whatever the rationale, these oceanfront escapes can make you feel like the only person on Earth—even just for a moment.
When it comes to living it up like Hollywood’s elite, few places put you in their sandals quite like this South Pacific stunner. Justin Bieber is reportedly a fan, and Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban honeymooned here. Though we can’t say which stars have napped in one of the hammocks swaying above the turquoise waters, the A-list guest roster is so long we’re confident it has happened.
Marlon Brando may be best known for tough-guy roles in The Godfather and A Streetcar Named Desire, but he had a softer side away from the camera. When Brando visited the Tetiaroa atoll, he was so enamored by the French Polynesian island’s clear waters and coconut palms that he purchased it. The actor’s estate has gone on to create an all-inclusive wonderland comprising 35 villas and priceless views that’s become a haven for celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio.
Once the world’s biggest pineapple producer, Lanai transformed into a luxe retreat when billionaire Larry Ellison purchased the rugged Hawaiian island in 2012. The centerpiece is the Five-Star hotel with its marine preserve, beloved restaurants (Malibu Farm, Nobu) and golf course (where Bill Gates’ clifftop wedding took place).
Christopher Columbus found paradise when he discovered the white sand and turquoise waters of Jumby Bay in 1493. Today, the 300-acre Antigua hideaway stands ready to welcome anyone who washes ashore with well-appointed rooms and residences that have up to nine bedrooms, plus a dedicated staff and beachfront pools.
On the surface, this uber-exclusive hideaway 116 miles north of the Maldives’ capital city, Malé, is like any other property plopped in the middle of paradise—spotless shorelines, sparkling waters and sea-inspired décor. But dive a little deeper and you’ll discover a destination where travelers spend as much time rock climbing and playing tennis as they do kayaking and parasailing.
Fisher Island Club
Perched off the coast of Miami, this tropical oasis is just a ferry ride from vibrant South Beach. Outdoor activities (including golf and tennis) along with the inviting beach and toes-in-the-sand dining help you soak up the South Florida sun.
Rosewood Little Dix Bay
When this 500-acre Caribbean resort reopens in March 2020, expect even more laid-back island luxury. Tropical highlights will include three sea-view restaurants, a clifftop spa and plenty of sailing on the British Virgin Islands’ turquoise waters.
Four Seasons Maldives Private Island at Voavah
The world’s first exclusive-use UNESCO getaway, this breathtaking resort takes seclusion to another level. With just seven accommodations, there are no worries about crowds or commotion here. If anything, the only downside to having the five-acre playground all to yourself is not having anyone to share the sunset with you.
Four Seasons Hotel Bora Bora
Few would argue against Bora Bora’s inclusion on the “prettiest islands in the world” list. If the same conversation turned to the globe’s most impressive tropical resorts, this island hideaway’s overwater bungalows, opulent villas (including a 5,380-square-foot beauty) and out-of-this-world spa could end the debate before it has a chance to start.
Reopening after a renovation in April 2020, this Florida Keys oasis is the epitome of island living. Crushed seashell pathways lead to thatched-roof bungalows and an ocean-view pool. Look out for endangered Key deer and iguanas dotting the 5.5-acre property, too.
You can stay in lavish villas from designer Donna Karan, supermodel Christie Brinkley and rocker Keith Richards in this tranquil Turks and Caicos refuge. Aside from the star power, it’s also a wellness escape with yoga retreats and a robust menu of spa offerings.
From a floating sushi bar to abundant wildlife (lemurs and flamingos make frequent appearances), this British Virgin Islands utopia from billionaire Richard Branson is anything but ordinary. After a day at the beach, unwind with a game of life-sized chess while sipping Champagne at the Great House.
Six Senses Zil Pasyon
Conservation is key at this Seychelles resort, where coral-planting initiatives, organic cuisine and villas that blend into the surrounding landscape (outfitted with plunge pools and butler service, of course) create a private island sanctuary you can feel good about unwinding in.
Getting to this Fiji island is a breeze, since the hotel has its own airport. The 3,460-acre former Malcolm Forbes-owned property has everything you could ever want, including 14 boats, eight Fijian horses, a golf course and 25 thatched-roof villas spread amid coconut plantations, beaches and mountains—each with its own infinity pool. So you’ll never have a reason to leave.