Calling all Castaways: 10 Private Islands for a Once-in-a-Lifetime Vacation - Full-Time Travel

Calling all Castaways: 10 Private Islands for a Once-in-a-Lifetime Vacation

Calling all Castaways: 10 Private Islands for a Once-in-a-Lifetime Vacation

By Esme Benjamin

If you’re craving a relaxing vacation – one that truly feels like getting away from it all – a private island retreat is worth the splurge. Leave the buzzy mainland far behind in favor of thriving reefs, lush rainforests and sugar-fine sandy beaches with barely another soul in sight – all coupled with some of the most luxurious accommodations and thoughtful hospitality you’ve ever experienced. From the Maldives to the British Virgin Islands, and from the Florida Keys to England’s River Thames, here are 10 private islands to visit for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.

Two bedroom overwater villa | Courtesy of Song Saa Island

Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia

Though Cambodia’s coastline isn’t as famous as neighboring Thailand's, it’s every bit as beautiful. Case in point: Song Saa, a private island retreat in the Koh Rong Archipelago with a strong emphasis on sustainability and honoring its natural surroundings. Twenty-four private villas (including overwater bungalows), each with their own pool, are made from reclaimed timber and decorated with upcycled items (think: driftwood tables and lamps made from old oil drums). When you’re not enjoying Song Saa’s immaculate beaches and marine-abundant sea, embrace Cambodian culture by participating in guided mediation, a Buddhist ceremony (traditional blessings perfect for birthdays, anniversaries or honeymoons) or a tour of nearby Prek Svay village with the resort’s conservation team.

Courtesy of Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, Florida  

Down in the Florida Keys, on a pristine four-acre islet accessible only by boat or seaplane, you’ll find the United States’ only luxury private island resort. Your stay at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa begins with check-in cocktails at the Shore Station, after which you’ll settle into your own luxury bungalow. Unplugging is encouraged, so pause your social media scrolling in favor of scuba diving adventures, sailing, kayaking, dolphin spotting and even skydiving. If you’re in the mood for more chill time, head to Little Palm’s indoor-outdoor spa or seek out an unblemished patch of sand for an afternoon nap in the sunshine – two perennially popular options at this deeply relaxing resort.

The Meridian Club | By Esme Benjamin

The Meridian Club, Turks & Caicos 

The little island of Pine Cay in Turks & Caicos is a total reset for your nervous system: 800 acres of co-op-owned land encircled by a halo of white sand. The island’s sole resort, The Meridian Club, has just 12 rooms and suites set 150 ft from the ocean, giving guests access to some of the most beautiful, untouched and empty beaches in the whole of the Caribbean. Borrow a golf cart (the transportation of choice on Pine Cay) and explore sandy roads leading to secluded coves. Keep your eyes peeled for turtles and stingrays; they swim right up to the shore on Pine Cay.

Courtesy of The Brando

The Brando, French Polynesia 

Marlon Brando fell in love with the Tetiaroa atoll – a dozen untouched islets in French Polynesian, surrounded by a turquoise lagoon – while filming Mutiny on the Bounty, and in 1967 he purchased it with the intent of creating the world’s first post-carbon resort. The Brando is his legacy; a remote private island resort with a collection of expansive and luxurious villas, which honors Polynesian culture and local biodiversity. Learn about Tetiaroa’s marine life (including rays, reef sharks and turtles) from the onsite research scientists, explore the lagoon by kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or Polynesian outrigger canoe (va’a), cycle through the jungle, or take a bird discovery tour with a naturalist guide to take your knowledge and experience deeper.

The Branson Estate | Courtesy of Moskito Island

Moskito Island

On Richard Branson’s Moskito Island, guests enjoy the unparalleled luxury of their own private estate. There are three to choose from: The Oasis Estate, a hilltop hideaway sleeping up to 18, with a wrap-around infinity pool and swim-up bar; The Branson Estate, three villas sleeping up to 22 people, with its own private cove; and The Point Estate, a clifftop guesthouse accommodating 14 adults and eight children, with a hot tub and access to the island’s main beach. While there’s plenty to do within the confines of each estate, from alfresco movie nights to beach games, guests can also get out and explore Moskito Island’s communal recreation options, including hiking trails, tennis courts, and watersports.

Courtesy of Islas Secas

Islas Secas, Panama

There’s no better place to get acquainted with Panama’s wild Pacific Coast than Islas Secas, a tropical archipelago composed of 14 volcanic islands – 13 of them untouched and brimming with wildlife. Guests stay on the destination’s one occupied island, which contains just seven elegant casitas sleeping two to eight guests. This intimate environment facilitates a personal approach to hospitality – one that ensures an upscale experience, complete with spa treatments and gourmet dining, while also introducing guests to Panama’s raw nature through curated adventure activities. Don’t miss the chance to explore nearby Coiba National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the second-largest coral reef in the Eastern Pacific, by land and water.

Floating Spa | Courtesy of Monkey Island Estate

Monkey Island Estate, England 

When you picture private island getaways England probably doesn’t spring immediately to mind, but that’s exactly where you’ll find Monkey Island Estate – the historic former retreat of monarchs, aristocrats and artists, situated on the River Thames. Located a short distance from the hubbub of London and close to attractions like Windsor Palace and Ascot Racecourse (home of the annual Royal Ascot event, held each June), Monkey Island Estate offers guests a refined break in the British countryside, complete with elegant guest rooms, traditional Sunday roast dinner, and a floating spa housed inside a canal barge boat.

Glamping pod at Amilla | Courtesy of Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences

Amilla, Maldives 

It’s hard to select one standout private island paradise in the Maldives, an archipelagic country  brimming with them, but Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences gets our vote. Situated within the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, 70% of the island is composed of untouched, lush rainforest and pristine beach, so you never have to go far to find a deserted patch of paradise. But it’s not only the natural beauty of the destination that makes it so special – Amilla is dedicated to creating a personalized and surprise-filled experience for each guest, incorporating activities like ocean excursions, romantic sandbank picnics and wellness workshops. The resort’s villas (including overwater, poolside, and treetop options) are some of the biggest in the Maldives, but our accommodation choice would be glamping. Relax in a clear inflatable pod set in the jungle with access to a bathroom, showers, plunge pool, steam room and sauna.

Courtesy of Lizard Island

Lizard Island, Australia 

If visiting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is on your bucket list, make a plan to visit Lizard Island, the only resort in the country situated within a 2,503-acre National Park. Take advantage of the on-site experts with guided nature walks and visits to the Lizard Island Research Station, along with plenty of water-based activities, including driving, fishing, snorkeling, and chartered boat trips. After a day of adventuring, enjoy a meal with a view at one of the resort’s restaurants or an indulgent treatment at the spa, before hunkering down in your luxury villa. And don’t forget to put the in-room telescope to good use with some pre-bedtime stargazing.

Loggerhead Turtle on Little St. Simons Island | Courtesy of Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island, Georgia

Part of Georgia's Golden Isles, Little St. Simons Island boasts a virtually untouched landscape of diverse wetland ecosystems, maritime forests, and sand dunes. You can tour the island’s 11 acres with a naturalist guide, or strike out on your own and go bird watching, fishing, boating, or simply relax on the beach. The island’s only hotel is an ecolodge with space for up to 32 guests, composed of six cottages with a rustic feel. Tan leather sofas, wood-panel walls, working fireplaces, and porch swings offer a cozy place to rest and reconnect with loved ones after an adventure-packed day.

Featured image courtesy of The Brando

"This sculpture is called "Transmission" by artist Daniel Popper. Its a reminder that we are all rooted in love, unity and the divine. She stands a towering 28 feet tall and is located on Mojave Moon Ranch in Joshua Tree. The land is private property, so you can see it from the viewing platform off of Sunfair Road. And take it from me, it's best viewed at sunset."

Reel: @johnofah

There's more to Greece than the white and blue buildings and the surrounding Mediterranean Sea. If you're planning a visit, check out these places below!

📍Kokkinopilos. Preveza
📍Verliga Dragon lake, Thessaly
📍Ithaca island, lonian Sea
📍Aoos springs lake, Epirus
📍Lake Prespes, Macedonia
📍Balda di Stringa waterfalls, Epirus
📍Meteora, Thessaly
📍Pelion, Thessaly
📍Lake Zorika, Epirus
📍Mt Lakmos
📍Crete island, Aegean Sea
📍Gistova Dragon lake, Macedonia

Reel: @farawayfarers

Swim or kayak through the limestone cliffs of the Twin Lagoon, a must-visit destination for those traveling to Coron, Palawan, Philippines. It is called "twin" lagoon because it consists of two lagoons separated by a limestone cliff, with one lagoon on top of the other. The water in the inner lagoon is warm and clear, with a stunning turquoise color that makes it popular for swimming and snorkeling.

Reel: @travelifejournal

Take a dip in a series of seven saltwater lagoons located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The Lagoons of Baltinache are known for their beautiful turquoise waters and unique geological formations. The high concentration of minerals in the water gives it a unique buoyancy that makes swimming in the lagoons a unique experience.

Reel: @everchanginghorizon

Watching the sun rise above the clouds at Haleakalā National Park is one of the most memorable experiences you could have. Haleakalā is a Hawaiian name that means “House of the Sun” and is an awesome place to watch the clear night sky and stars fade away as the sun lights up the sky and the earth.

Reel: @girlchill_sunset

Just 1 hour from Shanghai by train, Cherry Blossom Valley is a popular tourist destination, particularly in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The valley is named after the thousands of cherry blossom trees that cover the area and create a stunning display of pink and white flowers. The trees were originally planted in the 1980s by a group of Japanese experts who were invited to China to help with reforestation efforts. The best time to visit is typically in late March or early April. Get there early to beat the crowds!

Reel: @cyncynti

New Zealand is unbelievable. See it for yourself:

1. Fiordland National Park
2. A classic backcountry hut trip
3. Blue Pools walk
4. Hooker Lake
5. Milford Sound
6. Lake Pukaki

Reel: @kylekotajarvi

Surrounded by lush greenery, towering karst mountains, and the river flowing through, the Detian Waterfall is a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of the close relationship between China and Vietnam. It is the largest waterfall in Asia and the fourth largest cross-border waterfall in the world.

Reel: @sophoebelous

Escape to a serene and peaceful oasis away from the bustling city of Marrakech at Le Jardin Secret—a beautiful and historic garden where visitors can escape the noise and chaos and enjoy the beauty of nature. The garden was originally built in the 16th century and is home to many different species of plants, including exotic flowers, citrus trees, and palm trees.

Reel: @hypermiggzz

For a magical moment and bucket list travel experience, visit the end point of the annual monarch butterfly migration. Starting in August, the monarchs travel 2,800 miles south from Canada, making a temporary home amid the towering trees of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, where the two most popular sanctuaries to view them are el Rosario in the state of Michoacan and Piedra Herrada in Estado de México. Standing in silence while thousands of delicate wings beat in unison is something you'll never forget.

Reel: @juliiathompson

There's just something beautiful about snow covered landscapes like this popular attraction in southwestern Utah. Known for its unique geology, @brycecanyonnps_gov consists of a series of natural amphitheaters, called "hoodoos," formed by erosion of the rock layers.

Photo: @nathanleeallen

As we experience a couple more weeks of winter, we can't help but dream of tropical destinations like Hawaii. The warm water, sunny skies, and consistent waves make it an ideal destination for surfers. Hawaii has a vibrant surf culture and community and is also a beautiful place to explore outside of the water, with lush green mountains, stunning beaches, and unique cultural experiences.

Reel: @christopherballadarez

1. @sequoiakingsnps, California
2. @canyonlandsnps, Utah
3. @olympic_nps, Washington
4. @whitesandsnps, New Mexico
5. Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
6. Knik Glacier, Alaska

Reel: @nathanleeallen