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Outdoors

5 Incredible Private Islands You Can Actually Stay At

By Fiona Mokry
Read time: 0 minutes

Dreaming of leaving the world behind on your next vacation? While there are plenty of islands where you can travel to soak up the sun and escape the crowds, nothing says “off the grid” like booking a getaway to a private island. Look no further than these five private islands that you stay at — or even rent out entirely — on your next tropical vacation. 

Song Saa – Cambodia

Waterfront villages at Song Saa private island resort in Cambodia
Photo credit: Geordie Torr/ Alamy Stock Photo

Travelers often visit Cambodia to see cultural treasures such as the temple ruins of Angkor Wat, but many skip over the islands off the coast of the backpacker-frequented town of Sihanoukville. They’re missing out: These islands — part of the Koh Rong archipelago — beckon sun-seeking travelers with clear turquoise waters and pristine white sand beaches fringed with emerald jungle. Among them is the private slice of paradise called Song Saa, home to a 24-villa resort

When designing the resort, sustainability was front and center — including crafting felled timber into the bungalows and upcycling driftwood into room decor — but luxury never takes a backseat here. The overwater and jungle villas boast infinity pools, sun decks, day beds, and spacious bedrooms and living areas with lofted ceilings. Outside the villa walls, guests can partake in activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, nature safaris, yoga, bioluminescence trips, and Buddhist ceremonies.

Thanda Island – Tanzania

Sandy white beach in Tanzania
Photo credit: Robin Batista/ Shutterstock

After marveling at Tanzania’s incredible land-dwelling animals, sail across the Indian Ocean for a stay on the privately-owned Thanda Island. The five-bedroom villa with an outdoor pool is the only accommodation on the teardrop-shaped island off the coast of East Africa. It’s an ideal holiday beach house for small groups or families (babysitting services are even available). Villa rental also allows access to two nearby bandas (traditional tented beach chalets) for guests to experience an authentic slice of Tanzanian life. 

A protected marine reserve surrounds Thanda Island, and visitors can book water excursions like swimming with whale sharks, scuba diving and snorkeling with tropical marine life, or sailing on a traditional Arab dhow boat. Refuel with meals crafted by a private chef with a focus on fresh seafood like lobster, crab, tuna, and snapper caught off Thanda — and finally, finish with ice cream made with homemade coconut milk. 

Amilla – The Maldives

Pier leading to overwater bungalows in the Maldives
Photo credit: Mohamed Saamy/ Shutterstock

The Maldives may be the world’s flattest country, but with roughly 1,200 islands making up 26 different atolls, you’ll find paradise at nearly every turn. The island nation is home to a whopping 132 private islands, most with just one resort per island. Built on the oblong islet of Amilla in 2014, Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences is one of the most spacious among them and has a focus on eco-friendly and sustainable practices. 

Guests stay in light-filled, ocean-facing villas or tree-top bungalows, surrounded by the cerulean Indian Ocean and reefs teeming with marine life. Snorkeling and scuba diving, cultural activities, and divine culinary experiences are popular, but the 58-acre resort island is also an ideal place to just relax by wandering amongst the coconut trees and sunbathing on sugar-sand beaches while gazing out at the seemingly endless horizon.

Outer Banks Private Island – North Carolina

Lighthouse and white-picket fence in the Outer Banks of North Carolina
Photo credit: Spring Images/ Alamy Stock Photo

The Outer Banks are a string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, popular for their wide-open beaches, nature reserves, and golden sand dunes. The beachfront houses and hotels quickly book up during the summer months as crowds descend on the islands, but this private island Airbnb rental feels like a world away. 

A quick boat ride from Nags Head, the rustic yet roomy abode is stilted above the Roanoke Sound. It sleeps up to five guests and features an outdoor saltwater shower, a bright kitchen and living area, a covered porch, and a long wooden dock — perfect for stargazing or catching the sunrise. Guests can relax in the hammock, paddle or swim in the ocean, go sea kayaking, or take a boat or fishing tour. You might get cell service out here, but there’s no Wi-Fi. The forced disconnect means many visitors make good use of the readily supplied books, board games, and DVDs. 

Moskito Island – British Virgin Islands

Cove with sandy beach, turquoise waters, and sailboat in the British Virgin Islands
Photo credit: S.E.A. Photo/ Alamy Stock Photo

British business magnate Richard Branson purchased this Caribbean jewel in 2007 and transformed it into the Branson Beach Estate on Moskito Island. The three villas at this luxurious Balinese-inspired property can be reserved individually or all together to ensure the most exclusive stay. Each bungalow sleeps six to eight people and offers direct beach access, miles of ocean views, indoor and outdoor lounge areas, and an infinity pool. 

The property spreads across 19,000 square feet, and guests can access a fully-equipped gym, tennis courts, walking trails, private beaches, and beach barbecue facilities. Deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, kite surfing, sailing, and day trips to nearby islands can be arranged on request. 

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