These past few months have really changed the way we travel and, perhaps, even where we want to visit in the future, thanks to the new norm of social distancing.
Gone (or at least postponed) are the days where people wanted to go to the bustling night markets of Bangkok or the lively canals of Amsterdam. People are now going out of their way to avoid crowds — which might mean that popular tourist attractions just aren’t getting the same level of attention going forward, no matter how hyped these locations may be.
But, that doesn’t mean that we stop having fun on our holidays (whenever it’s safe to travel that is). Looking to holiday in complete seclusion, away from the rest of world? Whether you’re an introvert looking for a slice of far-flung paradise or someone looking to social distance in style — if you’ve got the funds to splurge, check out these ultra-luxury private islands that you can rent for that quiet vacation with just you and your travel buddies.
Located 40 minutes north of Malé, Cheval Blanc Randheli Private Island, also dubbed the ‘Owner’s Villa,’ offers guests a completely secluded, one-hectare island that is accessible by a private berth and jetty. The main four-bedroom villa has a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces for rest and relaxation, including a 25-metre long swimming pool, a private bar, private Guerlain spa and a grand piano for any musically inclined guests. Its three reception rooms and a separate guest villa also mean that you can bring as many friends as you like. With a dedicated team of 30 — from ambassadeurs (butlers) to chefs, yoga teachers to spa therapists — you have endless activities tailored to keep you entertained throughout the duration of your stay. Meanwhile, the private beaches, al fresco dining pergola, and meditation pavilions of the Cheval Blanc Randheli also make for a getaway that’s truly a cut above the rest.
This private island retreat is two hours by taxi and ferry from Athens airport, and allows you to experience Greece in a way that you probably haven’t before. Guests can completely rent out this private island villa that has been in the family for three generations. With 10 bedrooms, the main guest house hosts up to 22 people (with a minimum of 14). The recently modernised, neoclassical structure offers stunning views over the Aegean Sea. Guests can contact the property manager to put together customised activity packages that can include wine tastings, scuba diving and kayaking, as well as day trips in Athens. A gourmet chef and sailboat are also available upon request.
Located in the beautiful British Virgin Islands, Richard Branson’s Necker Island can also be rented out in its entirety for up to 34 people. Guests have a whole slate of activities to choose from, including land activities such as tennis and yoga or on/under water activities like wake-boarding, kite-surfing and snorkelling. Necker Island is also known for its vibrant nightlife, with themed evenings like Moroccan Night, complete with dinner and a bonfire under the starry sky; or UV Night, a mesmerising event where guests are provided with glow stick accessories to dance under black UV light.
For those of you who prefer an action-packed vacation, Ariara Island won’t disappoint. Located just over an hour via plane and sea southwest of Manila, the island features 10 beachside villas that you can book out with your friends, while a long list of activities and events will coax you from your lazy routine of lounging under the sun. From jet-skiing to Hobie Cat sailing, sub-winging to windsurfing, the island offers almost every water sport imaginable. Scuba diving and island hopping in particular is encouraged, especially with intriguing dive sites around the area such as World War II-era underwater shipwrecks or a colourful private reef. You can also get the chance to see 16th century Spanish fortifications, caves with stalactites and stalagmites, Filipino fishing villages and tribal communities before coming back to the island for dinner under the coconut palms.
The Azura Retreat on Quilalea Island now lets you rent out the entire 86-acre uninhabited island paradise and its nine villas. Located in the middle of a marine sanctuary, it markets itself as providing the ultimate ‘Robinson Crusoe’ castaway experience — meaning there are no telephones or iPod docks on the island. Fear not — WiFi is available, however the main focus of the retreat is to let you relax and escape from the technological humdrum of everyday life. You can instead choose to go on their scenic helicopter tours, visit neighbouring Ibo island — a heritage site filled with fascinating ruins — or go dolphin or whale watching. The stargazing and astronomy talks held by dedicated Sky Guides sound particularly interesting if you’re looking for an out of the box experience.
Thanda Island is another East African marine paradise that lets you interact with nature and history as you and your friends stay in a luxurious single villa or two traditional beach chalets (called Bandas). Guests have exclusive use of the Shungimbili Island Marine Reserve and three sea vessels to take you paddling, big game fishing or swimming with the gentle, near-extinct whale sharks, among a variety of other water adventures. You can also visit other surrounding islands and ports, such as the multicultural Dar Es Salaam or the historic Spice Island of Zanzibar, and take part in a traditional Swahili Feast to fully experience all that Thanda Island has to offer.
Located on the Belize Barrier Reef, Gladden Private Island is a jewel of a private island, and only has room for two couples: one in the main villa and another in a second master suite. If you particularly care about privacy, this is absolutely the right pick for you. Available activities range from snorkelling to enjoying local Belizian cuisine prepared by the resort’s chefs, exploring neighbouring islands or heading to the mainland for a change of pace before returning to the villa for its secluded charm.
Twenty minutes from Venice lies Isola Santa Cristina, a former garden island now home to a grand estate. With two master bedrooms, five double and two single bedrooms with private baths, the villa can accommodate around 15 guests at a time. Complete with a terrace, a second patio, a dedicated yoga room and a large swimming pool, the island is a stunning home away from home whether you enjoy entertaining or getting in some asanas in utter privacy. Excursions to the neighbouring islands are also easy, if you’re looking to soak up the local history and culture.
If you have ever wanted to have a private island experience in the Seychelles, the Six Senses Zil Pasyon resort on Félicité Island is the way to go. The recently announced unique island experience that will let you rent out the entirety of the resort for 20 guests for a maximum of a week at a time (although you could negotiate an extension). With a total of 30 pool villas on top of two private residences, guests can handpick where they wish to stay. During the week, you have full access to the island and its facilities and activities, which include blue-water fishing, a guided snorkelling tour of Koko Island Sanctuary and a sunset Champagne tasting.