Travel Picks: Top 10 private-island escapes

LONDON Fri Feb 8, 2013 7:39pm IST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Owning your own idyllic island may be out of reach financially, but online boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith (www.mrandmrssmith.com) have come up with 10 exotic locales where you can feel as though you're the king of your own small world. Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. Romantic retreats

Matangi Private Island Resort, Fiji Islands, Fiji

Go all Robinson Crusoe with a hint of romance at Matangi Private Island Resort in Fiji where some of the 12 villas nestle in the tops of the trees (others hug the golden beach). Add a serene seaside spa and some dreamy diving and you have all the elements for a chic castaway stay. You definitely won't need to fend for yourself though: the kitchen crew can pack a picnic basket for the two of you to enjoy on heavenly Horseshoe Bay.

2. Eco indulgence

Song Saa Private Island, Koh Rong Islands, Cambodia

Australians Rory and Melita Hunter built Song Saa Private Island in Cambodia both to sustain the local community and provide important reef restoration and education programs. So far, so green. If you then imagine rustic bures with minimal luxury, you would be so, so wrong. Thatch and stone villas, all with private pools, are scattered over the water and in the jungle. And with just 27 on twin private isles, discretion is assured. Snorkel on the reef, have a seafood feast under the stars or let expert hands soothe you at Ila Spa Sanctuary.

3. Underwater adventure

Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Philippines

Finding a secluded patch of pure white sand isn't hard at Amanpulo boutique hotel on private Pamalican Island. Of the 40 rooms and 11 villas, 29 are Beach Casitas just steps from the water where reefs harbor jewel-bright coral and flitting fish. Inspired? The on-site PADI dive centre offers introductory dives, certification courses and trips to nearby dive sites where you can spy stingrays, splash with sea turtles and even find Nemo. For those who like to combine water with other liquids, the Kawayan Bar is a pontoon where you can lounge with a cocktail between bouts of duck-diving.

4. Ultimate escape

Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

Barefoot luxury doesn't come much better than this sun-kissed coral atoll, especially for those whose partners are obsessed with keeping in touch with work/friends/the rest of the world. At just-remote-enough, 37-room Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort in the Tuamotus the internet connection is sketchy. There'll be no excuses for not sprawling on the rose-pink sand, lounging by the lagoon at Tianoa Bar with a piña colada or gliding down the stairs of your Premium Overwater Bungalow into the warm, clear water. This being French Polynesia, the open-air Poreho Restaurant has a menu infused with Gallic classics and local specialties.

5. A-list antics

Parrot Cay by Como, Turks & Caicos, Caribbean

Maybe you'll spot Demi Moore downward dogging at the Shambala spa or Paul McCartney reading by the pool because celebrities love Parrot Cay by Como hotel in the Caribbean, the only property on a sprawling thousand-acre island. Even if you don't, you'll feel star struck at this elegant 70-room sanctuary where whitewashed villas have draped four-posters and the infinity pool's sunloungers overlook the beach. The ultimate in luxury though are the six Parrot Cay Estates, ranging from three to 11 bedrooms, situated away from the main resort and owned by the likes of Bruce Willis and Donna Karan.

6. Hiding out: Cayo Espanto, San Pedro, Belize

A tiny speck of land in the Caribbean Ocean off San Pedro is home to seven uber-private villas at Cayo Espanto retreat in Belize. Each is hidden within palm trees with a private pool (except Casa Ventana, which is set out at sea on its own pontoon), hammock for day-long siestas and a ‘houseman' who can chase up just about anything your castaway heart desires. Chef Patrick Houghton is a genius with a culinary wish-list and meals can be served anywhere on the island, including secluded stretches of sand where you won't see a single soul.

7. Serenity-meets-sociability

Naladhu, South Malé Atoll, Maldives

One moment you want seclusion, the next to be entertained people-watching by the pool; if so, Naladhu hotel in the Maldives is for you, with just 19 villas with either a lagoon view or one of the ocean. All have a breezy Hamptons vibe, with semi-alfresco baths and private pools for solo splashing. Outside, relax in a shady beach cabana or dine à deux on the sand. Naladhu is one of several small islands owned by Anantara and, should you want to mingle, boat transfers head to nearby Anantara Dhigu and Veli, where a spa and eight restaurants beckon.

8. Nature lovers

Frégate Island Private, Seychelles

While all private isles boast sand and lapping tides, many are too small to give you a taste of the wild life. Not if you venture to Frégate Island Private in the Seychelles. This chunk of granite languishing in the Indian Ocean is craggy, covered in tropical vegetation and home to fabulous flora and fauna. When you tear yourself away from your private pool deck (there are just 17 villas), wander the island's seven sublime beaches or hike trails looking for ultra-rare magpie robins and the Aldabra giant tortoise. There's jaw-dropping diving, too, and Frégate has a PADI centre.

9. Civilized wilderness

Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Leave your wallet and credit card in your room at Lizard Island boutique hotel on the Great Barrier Reef. Here, almost everything from daiquiris on the deck at Osprey's to snorkelling gear for underwater safaris is included in room rates. Forty villas are dotted around the huge island which has 27 romantic beaches, offshore reefs and swaying eucalypts. Splodge by your private pool or ask the staff to pack a picnic basket, borrow a motorized dinghy and mask and snorkel, and head for a deserted beach for all sorts of cavorting. The spa and diving here are world-class, too.

10. Glamping it up

Amanwana, Moyo Island, Indonesia

Idyllic Amanwana hotel on Moyo Island is just a short flight from Bali but remote enough to feel as though you've travelled far, far away. Twenty glam safari-style tents - some nestled in the jungle, others by the shore for quick bed-to-beach dashes - have dark wood flooring, romantically netted beds and yards of white divans for the idle hours. Take time out to be handled with care at waterside Jungle Cove Spa. You can also get close to nature since Moyo is a reserve. Spot shy Rusa deer darting in the forest or mask up to snorkel with sea turtles.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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