Cayo Espanto (Belize):
One of the more famous privately owned resort islands, a stay at Cayo Espanto will only run you about $2,000 a night, and has been a key destination for a laundry-list of high-profile Hollywood celebs. It also served as Leonardo DiCaprio’s inspiration for Blackadore Cay (and he even partnered with owner Jeff Graham to draw up the plans).
Blackadore Caye (Belize):
Owned by the illustrious Leonardo DiCaprio, and setting him back $1.75 million in 2005, Blackadore Caye will be the site of the next big sustainable Four Seasons (if Leo gets his way).
Madeira Archipelago (Portugal):
Ever mysterious, it is the general consensus that Steven Spielberg owns an island off the coast of the Madeira Archipelago, but no one seems to know which. My wager is that he owns a chunk of either Madeira island or Porto Santo, since they look like the landscape-intersection between Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and Hook.
Indigo Island (Bahamas):
Hidden among the Exuma islands of the Bahamas, this island getaway owned by “the richest person in Europe” billionaire Bernard Arnault is a popular retreat for people who want seclusion and utter privacy (as both the clientele identities as well as the location of the island are closely guarded secrets). And at $26,000 a day, I can only imagine what other amenities might be included in a stay there.
North Island (Seychelles):
Purchased by Mikhail Prokhorov for a cool $35 million, this island served as the honeymoon site for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011. To me, it also looks exactly like the kind of place where a famous female pilot on her way around the world might park her plane and “disappear.”
Necker Island (British Virgin Islands):
You know, nothing says “I’ve made it” like dropping $62,000 a day to hang out with a small handful of other people (like Kate Winslet or Princess Diana), and look out on miles of ocean in all directions from a swimming pool on the coast.
D’arros Island (Seychelles):
Though this island may be more public in the near future (having recently changed hands from Liliane Bettencourt to the Save Our Seas conservation group), the 0.58 sq mile spit of land is still very much private at the moment, and rests on a detached coral reef.
The World (Dubai):
Build an island chain in the shape of the continents, they said. What’s the worst that could happen, they said. So they started building the 300 islands that would ultimately comprise “The World,” only to discover that most are sinking back into the ocean. I think there’s a lesson here about trying to own a chunk of the world… I just don’t quite know what it is yet.
Lanai Island (Hawaii):
If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you probably spent a portion of your trip seriously considering moving there. And for $500 million dollars, Larry Ellison demonstrated that you can buy more than just the property your house is on. Though he only owns 98% of the island, and shares it with the 3,000 native inhabitants already living there, Lanai is about as exclusive as Hawaii gets (as it is one of the least populated and developed islands in the chain).
White Bay Cay (Bahamas):
Another Exuma Island, this one is owned by Forbes’ 2011 “highest paid man in entertainment,” Tyler Perry. The 25-acre property set Mr. Perry back about $6.4 million, but (with a claim to fame like trademarking the phrase “What Would Jesus Do”), I’m sure the idea of owning an island was way more important to Mr. Perry than the accompanying price-tag.
Skorpios Island (Greece):
Owned by several generations of the Onassus family (and in fact, it was the site of the Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassus’ wedding), Skorpios Island was recently “sold” to Ekaterina Rybolovleva. I say “sold” since technically Aristotle Onassus’ will states that the island must remain in his family until they can no longer pay the upkeep, at which point it is to be turned over to Olympic Airways or the State. So the island is now leased for 100 years to Ekaterina Rybolovleva, and owned still by Athina Onassus Rousel.
Matangi Island (Fiji):
One of a triplet of volcanic islands, Matangi island is home to the most affordable resort on this list. Though you’ll be dropping just under a grand per night for your stay at Matangi, you’ll have the opportunity to check out what avid dive-bloggers are referring to as some of the best diving on the planet.
Little Halls Pond Cay (Bahamas):
$3.6 million and devilishly good looks are all it takes to buy yourself a private island in the Bahamas, as Johnny Depp can attest to. There are two ways onto Little Halls Pond Cay: Mr. Depp can invite you out there on his steam-powered yacht, or a handful of anecdotes say you might be able to sneak onto it, though I wouldn’t stay too long-- Depp loves it there and visits often.
Mago Island (Fiji):
Part of the Lau Islands of Fiji, Mago is one of the largest private islands in the Pacific Ocean, and is currently owned by Mel Gibson courtesy of $15 million dollars. If you’re not a cow, it’s likely you won’t get to visit the 5400-acre Mago, as Mel Gibson uses the island largely as a cattle ranch (as well as a getaway, of course).
St. Phillips Island (South Carolina):
Overlapping on some of the hottest contested area in the ‘states, St. Phillips Island has been one part island oasis to two parts headache for Ted Turner. Parts of it and the nearby St. Helena Island are said to be owned by the Gullah people, slave descendents who banded together to buy the property in the ‘20’s and who contested Turner’s ownership of the properties. Eventually Ted came to an agreement with the Gullah descendents, and he still owns the land, though lets almost no one aside from himself and the Gullah on it.
James Island (British Columbia):
Good news! For $75 million, you can buy this Canadian gem from Craig McCaw, who is selling it to finance his $35 million dollar classic car purchase. The island, with its white-sand beaches and 18 hole signature golf course, has been jealously guarded by the McCaw family (but here’s hoping whoever buys it will let the rest of us enjoy it as well).
Musha Cay Island (Bahamas):
The only thing more magical than a stay at David Copperfield’s $150 million dollar personal island, is it’s impressive ability to make $40,000.00 disappear every day (for a minimum of 4 days). *Poof*
Rooster Cay (Bahamas):
I wonder if all of these Bahamian-Island-Owning-Celebrities get together and have a party. If so, I’m sure that Eddie Murphy, and his $15 million dollar Rooster Cay island keeps it pretty lively. The 15.4 acre property, also known as Long Cay, is prime real estate for resorts according to surveyors... but it looks like Eddie may be keeping it all for himself.
Brecqhou Island (Sark):
For a different kind of island vacation, consider the castle getaway on Brecqhou Island. Owned by brothers David and Frederick Barclay (and purchased for £2.3 million), Brecqhou was recently opened to the public in 2012 and can now be seen for the comparatively affordable rate of £165 a night. And yes, it looks like something right out of Zelda.
Nygard Cay (Bahamas)
Finally, an island getaway to fulfill my lifelong dream of being Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom. The resort at Nygard Cay is the perfect Inca/Aztec flavored party spot hosting models and Hollywood elite, and is named after owner and fashion titan Peter Nygard. And it’s growing, which not everyone (specifically the Save the Bay conservation organization) is happy about. What this means to the casual traveler, is it might either be the best time or the worst time to shoot over to Nygard Cay.
Leaf Cay (Bahamas):
Apparently there was a year where it was “the thing” to buy one of these islands, as a huge chunk of Hollywood apparently owns one. Leaf Cay, purchased by Nicholas Cage for $3 million dollars, is the source of some controversy: half the reports claim it’s the site for the next big Bahamian megaresort, others say the land is worthless because it is home to a rare species of Iguana, and therefore can’t be developed on.
Bonds Cay (Bahamas):
Shakira and ex-boyfriend Antonio de la Rua went in together on developing Bonds Cay, but since their split (and the resulting legal battles) the progress on the island has all-but-halted. Part of the legendary Berry Islands, Bonds Cay has also found some investment backing from Roger Waters, and is still exclusively invite-only until the development takes off.
Laucala Island (Fiji):
The final resting place of Malcolm Forbes, Laucala Island is now owned by Red Bull Boss Dietrich Mateschitz (and was sold to him by the Forbes family for $8.3 million in 2003). Mateschitz plans on developing the island into a resort, and will set the traveler back about $30,000 a night (though, as an added bonus, you might see John Travolta there, as he has been one of the only guests so far).
Goat Cay (Bahamas):
Goat Cay looks nothing like a goat, and as far as I can tell has nothing to do with goats (though it is geographically close to those viral island swimming pigs). Tim Mcgraw and Faith Hill joined the island-owner party in 2008, and are currently in the process of finishing their private getaway estate on the 17 acre property. To get an invite, you probably need to be BFF’s with the country singers, like Gweneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, who recently visited the island.
Robins Island (New York):
Are you fancy (and rich) enough to hobnob with Wall Streeter Louis Bacon during one of his driven pheasant hunts held on this sland off the coast of New Suffolk? If not, you’ll probably never get to meet and experience the “healthiest turtle population in the state,” as Robins Island is expressly closed to the public.
Sampson Cay (Bahamas):
If you weren’t lucky enough to visit the Sampson Cay Club resort pre-2013, and you don’t personally know John Malone, then the likelihood that you’ll be able to enjoy the popular Great Exuma getaway is slim to none. The “Darth Vader of business” is reported to have had a change of heart after developing the island into a bungalowed retreat, and many would-be guests are now being diverted to nearby islands.
Allen Island (Washington):
Part of the San Juan Islands, this island is not named after recent owner and Microsoft titan Paul Allen, but rather Lt. William Henry Allen who died during the War of 1812. The new owner, who remains anonymous, plans to develop the island into a close-nit community of family and friends, so unless you already know who he/she is, you probably won’t get the chance to enjoy the Washingtonian Island.
Guana Island (British Virgin Islands):
Guana Island is huge. Like, 7 white sand beaches, some tropical rainforest, and mountains huge. And it’s home to more species of wildlife and and plants than any other island studied in the area, which means your best ticket onto the island (aside from paying the steep charge to stay at the resort) is to be a scientist.
Fregate Island (Seychelles):
A popular private island-for-rent, there are currently accommodations for 16 people at a cost of about $2200 a night. Another conservation-heavy production, patrons can stay in confidence knowing that their visit helped plant over 100,000 trees on the island, and protected some of the indigenous wildlife.
New Holland Island (Russia):
Demonstrating that wealth and eccentricity do go hand-in-hand, this triangular island-fortress smack-dab in the middle of St. Petersburg (purchased by Roman Abramovich for $400 million) was historically the ship-building equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. The island may be considerably less exclusive soon, however, as it is currently undergoing a serious overhaul to protect the historical architecture, while creating a new “city-within-a-city” public space.