From the private playgrounds of the rich and famous to luxe bohemian escapes on the Med, our guide to the world’s best island destinations.
HYDRA, THE SARONIC ISLANDS, GREECE
Stay: At the Orloff, a boutique hotel in a lovingly restored mansion a short stroll from Hydra’s historic harbour. Rooms have a chic old-world feel with antique furnishings, high ceilings and crisp white bed linen, and the premium suite commands views across the town’s sleepy cobbled streets towards the sea. Take breakfast beneath the lemon trees in the hotel’s secret garden and soak up the island’s bohemian vibe as you ponder what to do with your day.
Eat: Artists and bohemians once flocked to this little island in the Aegean Gulf to hang out, swap ideas and work in the Grecian sun. Roloi, a traditional café on the harbour was a favourite of Leonard Cohen’s and still retains its rustic charm. Alternatively, dine on nouvelle Greek cuisine at Téchnē’s or take a table by the sea at Omilos, once Lagoudera and a favourite haunt of the globe-trotting elite.
Do: Hydra found fame in 1957 as the location for Boy on a Dolphin starring Sophia Loren. Since then, little has changed – nothing can be built as it has protected status and the island remains blissfully car-free. Explore its unspoilt shores by boat and drink in the views of hillsides dotted with whitewashed houses and olive groves from the sea as you search for hidden coves and empty shingle beaches.
Image: Via The Orloff Hotel
CAVALLO, CORSICA, FRANCE
Stay: French cool meets understated luxury on Cavallo, a secret island escape off the coast of Corsica. The island’s only hotel, Hotel & Spa des Pêcheurs, sits right on the crystalline waters of the Med and is unique on this protected, private island. Cavallo became a celebrity retreat in the ‘70s when it was bought by a Parisian nightclub owner, and holidaymakers have reportedly included Catherine Deneuve, the Monaco royal family, Alicia Keys and Beyoncé.
Eat: At the hotel’s Shore Club. It has a bohemian, Ibizan feel with Italian influences from neighbouring Sardinia and the seafood is as fresh as it comes. Take a leisurely lunch at one of the seafront tables at the hotel’s Restaurant des Pecheurs where you can dine on fish carpaccio and grilled octopus and linger over a glass of rosé.
Do: Part of the appeal of island life is having nothing to do. Put your phone on aeroplane mode and take up residence on a sunlounger by the pool. Bid farewell to the modern world and spend your days alternating between sunbathing, swimming and eating. Bliss.
Image: Via Hotel & Spa des Pêcheurs
MUSTIQUE, SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES, THE WEST INDIES
Stay: Despite its reputation for exclusivity and cast of A-list regulars, Mustique’s laid-back island vibe is its main draw. No-one cares who’s-who when you’re in paradise. Take a room at The Cotton House, a storied boutique hotel and one of only two on Mustique. Alternatively, live in regal, flamboyant splendour for the duration of your stay and book a villa – Les Jolies Eaux occupies a private peninsula on the island’s southern tip and was owned for decades by everyone’s favourite renegade royal, HRH Princess Margaret.
Eat: Private chefs and decadent house dinners are de rigueur on Mustique. If you’re not on the guest list, other options are limited but no less lovely: The Cotton House offers formal dining in its Veranda Restaurant and relaxed sundowners at the Beach Café, whilst the legendary Basil’s Bar serves up barefoot barbeques of fresh-caught lobster and late-night DJ sessions on the beach.
Do: Attend the weekly Mustique Company cocktail party held every week at the Cotton House. It’s a great opportunity to mingle with the island’s residents and other guests. Apart from that – relax, and don’t do much at all.
Image: Via Mustique Island
KOKOMO ISLAND, FIJI
Stay: Kokomo combines the ease and luxury of private island living with authentic local culture. Perched on the edge of the Kadavu Archipelago and surrounded by the Great Astrolabe Reef, arrive at your private beachfront villa by seaplane and enjoy a slice of Fijian paradise complete with infinity pool and seamless views of the Pacific ocean.
Eat: Kokomo’s three restaurants and resident chefs have played a significant role in the revival of Fijian Cuisine and are dedicated to using fresh, local produce. They practice a ‘farm to table’ concept, growing a variety of local ingredients on the island that are then transformed into indulgent meals served on the beach, by the pool or in private from sunrise to sunset.
Do: The island’s spa is a sanctuary offering total relaxation in traditional Fijian style with treatments, yoga and pilates. After a moring of meditation, go on an underwater adventure – the resort is located on one of the world’s most pristine coral reefs with 49 unique dive sites ready for you to explore.
Image: Via Kokomo Private Island
NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, THE CARIBBEAN
Stay: Necker Island is Virgin tycoon Richard Branson’s private bolthole and he welcomes well-heeled guests in rock ‘n’ roll style to hide-away on his little slice of paradise. Both intimate and exclusive, it’s a Caribbean idyl with a billionaire pricetag – you’ll need to dig deep for a room at the island’s Balinese-style Great House, but the experience will be priceless.
Eat: After working up an apetite snorkelling on the reef, lunch is served on Turtle Beach in the leafy shade of the native trees. Each evening, cocktails at the bar are followed by lavish themed dinners held at various locations on the island. These can be intimate candle-lit affairs for two or celebratory feasts for many.
Do: As the A-listers do and hire the island for your own exclusive use. It’s the perfect location for a week-long house party fuelled by champagne and fiery Caribbean sunsets.