You’ve don’t have to be Richard Branson to check-in to these private-island hotels – and you don’t need his bank balance, either. New retreats such as Joali in the Maldives are open to all and, in the case of this particular Indian Ocean retreat, come with 24 acres of 24-carat design and boat trips to seek out manta rays and turtle-feeding stations. The only rule? Leave your shoes at the shore…
The Maldives may be home to hotels with retractable roofs and slides that whisk you from suite to sea but, as yet, Wallpaper*-worthy design has been in short supply. However, on Muravandhoo Island, a 45-minute seaplane skip from Malé, Joali is shaking things up with interiors by Turkish design firm Autobahn and architecture from Tokyo-based Studio Glit. One of the world’s leading restaurant designers, Noriyoshi Muramatsu, was dispatched to style the Japanese-accented Saoke (one of four places to eat on the island) and bespoke installations throughout – including a treehouse in the shape of a manta ray by Cape Town’s Porky Hefer – cement Joali’s status as a destination for culture-loving castaways.
Another private-island pad with pedigree is Coral Caye in Belize, from director-turned-hotelier Francis Ford Coppola. The auteur already has a string of rustic-chic hotels in Guatemala, Buenos Aires, Basilicata and mainland Belize, but Coppola’s latest property is his most exclusive yet: a private-island retreat among the cayes of the Unesco-listed Belize Barrier Reef. Get the band back together in the Great House with free-to-use instruments, kick back on the island’s mangrove-fringed beaches and then crash out in one of two tropical cottages, where hammock-strung decks point towards the sea. To explore the life aquatic, hire the island’s private boat for visits to nearby islands or scuba dive from Turtle Inn’s PADI-certified base, keeping an eye out for whale sharks which visit between March and June.
Topping all the must-see travel lists for 2019 is Cambodia – whose islands are currently undergoing a luxury makeover, with the likes of Alila and Six Senses popping up. A speedboat ride from Sihanoukville, you’ll arrive at Song Saa, which unveils itself as a series of thatch-roofed pavilions, raised above the peacock-hued waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Contemporary interiors pervade throughout the ocean-view villas and the open-sided Vista restaurant, which sits at the end of a long pier, with a menu of southeast Asian specialities and sigh-worthy sea views. A crescent-shaped infinity pool and rainforest-fringed spa cap off the indulgence.
Next, let’s cruise over to Indonesia, where the ‘Secret Gilis’ – a string of lesser-known islands off the coast of Lombok – have recently welcomed exclusive-use Villa Selalu. Raised on the rainforested slopes of Gili Gede, the four-bedroom villa offers art-strewn interiors, a live-in team of staff, an infinity pool, a private beach and the whole island to yourself. Alternatively, cast your eyes over to the coral-rich Anambas archipelago where Bawah Island is set around a trio of blue lagoons with 35 standalone suites. If you’re wondering how you’ll keep entertained, there are 13 beaches, a spa, an open-air cinema and a host of watersports to try. By night, grab one of the beachside swings at the Boat House to dine with your toes in the sand.
A panel of in-the-know judges nominated Six Senses Zil Pasyon among the world’s 10 most-spoiling spas at the Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards in 2018 – and it’s not hard to see why. Pitched on the private island of Félicité, amid the granite boulders and porcelain sands of the Seychelles, its signature Six Senses spa has five eco-themed treatment rooms designed around the island’s flora and fauna with African-inspired treatments that range from fig-infused body wraps to rose-crystal masks. There’s also a saltwater pool, a shoreside yoga pavilion and outdoor cinema nights to keep you rushed off your feet.
Your speedboat ride to the rest of our private-island hotels awaits…
Feature image is Song Saa in Maldives.