As winter tightens its grip on the northern hemisphere, we find our minds drifting to warmer shores. It’s an occupational hazard here at Mr & Mrs Smith HQ. But we’re not bitter, and neither will you be, as you sink your sun-starved bones into the shores of these private-island hideaways.
Best for: marine wonders
Our hotel hunters have been rushed off their sunbeds recently, inspired to explore a slew of private-island pads. Coral Caye in Belize is one of our latest, fresh from director-turned-hotelier Francis Ford Coppola. He 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. It’s a private-island retreat set among the atolls and cayes of the Unesco-listed Belize Barrier Reef. Spend days strumming away in the Great House with its loaner instruments; kick back on the island’s mangrove-fringed beaches; then crash out in one of two tropical cottages, where hammock-strung decks face out to the sea. To explore the life aquatic, hire the island’s private boat for visits to nearby islands and snorkelling trips; or go scuba diving from Turtle Inn’s PADI-certified base, with the opportunity to swim with whale sharks.
Best for: utter indulgence
Another destination undergoing a luxury makeover at present is Cambodia – especially when it comes to the islands that lace its coast. A short boat ride from Sihanoukville, recently opened Song Saa unveils itself as a series of thatch-roofed pavilions, raised above the peacock-hued waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Contemporary Asian interiors pervade throughout, from the ocean-view villas, with their muslin-draped beds, to the open-sided Vista restaurant, pitched at the end of a long pier. A menu of southeast Asian specialities meets sigh-worthy sea views, and a crescent-shaped infinity pool and rainforest-fringed spa cap off the indulgence.
Best for: endless beaches
There’s no time to dawdle, though, as we 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 team of staff, an infinity pool, a private beach and – not sure if we mentioned this – the whole island to yourself.
Alternatively, cast your eyes over to Bawah Island, another of Indonesia’s 17,500 idyllic isles, which hides a private-island hotel. After a seaplane transfer, you’ll wave goodbye to social-media updates and touch down in the coral-rich Anambas archipelago. Set around a trio of blue lagoons, this eco-luxe resort fans out around a jungle-wrapped shoreline 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. By night, grab one of the beachside swings at the Boat House to dine with your toes in the sand.
Best for: affordable luxury
Hospitality in Nicaragua is booming and our next private island is testament to the country’s transformation. Just outside the colonial city of Granada, Jicaro Island Ecolodge is one of the more accessible desert-island experiences. You’ll start by puttering across the waters of Lake Nicaragua – the largest in Central America – before reaching the palm-flecked island and its rustic-chic casitas. Meals include caramel-coated chicken (flambéed in rum) and banana pancakes (doused in rum), all washed down with cocktails (shaken with rum). Essentially, you’ll leave happy – but not before you’ve sampled the spa, yoga classes and expert-led activities, from horse riding to hiking through the nearby cloud forest.
Best for: spa time
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 this year. Pitched on the private island of Félicité, amid the granite boulders and porcelain sands of the Seychelles archipelago, the spa at this Six Senses’ hideaway has five eco-themed treatment rooms – designed around the island’s flora and fauna – a sundeck-wrapped saltwater pool and a shoreside yoga pavilion. African-inspired treatments range from fig-infused body wraps to rose-crystal masks. Combine a stay here with the chance to witness East Africa’s ‘great migration’ – when over a million wildebeest, zebra and gazelles make a perilous pilgrimage in search of better grazing ground. Mr & Mrs Smith’s new bespoke Kenya and Seychelles itinerary takes in the spectacle, before touching down for time on the beach.
Feature image is the jetty lounge at Coral Caye