By Tiffany Ryes – International Banker
While hotel staycations, country adventures and resort retreats are nice, nothing spells “ultimate escapade” more than jetting off to a private-island resort that is all your own. Staying on an island nestled in the middle of sparkling turquoise waters and waking up to unobstructed views of spectacular landscapes is simply heaven on earth.
For the discerning traveler looking to be inspired and pampered by a luxurious stay on a remote island, Asia offers plenty of options. The continent boasts of pristine beaches, exotic food, hospitable locals and every kind of natural wonder for travelers eager to fill their passports and their memories with sights, sounds, smells and tastes that only Asia can offer. Singapore, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Cambodia and Thailand—travel by air or sea just minutes off the mainland, and find for yourself a piece of a not-so-secret island getaway.
Song Saa Private Island Resort (Koh Rong Archipelago, Cambodia)
Sitting in the middle of a 100-hectare marine reserve, in the sapphire waters off the shores of Cambodia, the Koh Rong islands boast of many of nature’s untouched beauties. One of these is the eco-luxe Song Saa Private Island hotel.
Song Saa is a ground-breaking island resort because it is as ecologically friendly as eco-luxe resorts come. A 30-minute speedboat ride off the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville, the island resort effortlessly juxtaposes top-notch hospitality and sustainability in one opulent package. Song Saa also beautifully stays true to its roots, as the island’s thoughtful design is inspired by Cambodian fishing villages characterized by the thatch roofs and driftwood planks that make up the 27 exclusive villas dotting the shorelines.
Each of these airy yet inviting villas offers its own private pool with a clear and breathtaking view of the ocean right from the balcony, the day beds or the vast four-poster bed within. The décor chimes perfectly with its simple and unpretentious conservationist philosophy, as guests enjoy the spacious, well-appointed rooms.
The villas are interconnected by sun-bleached wooden walkways centrally leading to an overwater restaurant offering international and local cuisine, where guests can enjoy great food and afterwards retreat to the casual champagne bar. Meanwhile, the Ila Spa on the hilltop of the island provides relaxing wellness treatments and massages. For the more adventurous, the resort has a water-sports center that allows a deeper dive into the underwater magic of the island to see coral reefs and seahorses, as well as kayaking and snorkeling with the resident marine biologist. And then, once the night envelops the island, guests are treated to a captivating bioluminescent show brought by none other than nature itself.
Amanpulo Resort (Pamalican Island, Palawan, Philippines)
For the royal treatment, Amanpulo on Pamalican Island in the Philippines is the place to go. Taking the phrase “island paradise” to even greater—and more decadent—heights, this celebrity destination exceeds the expectations of even the most discerning and most skeptical seasoned traveler. From the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, guests are whisked off to a private plane on Amanpulo’s very own airstrip, where a red-carpet welcome awaits.
The island itself is heaven with its emerald-blue waters, brilliant and powdery white sand and clear azure skies. A destination for Hollywood and sports royalties such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Maria Sharapova and Michael Jackson, Amanpulo offers the ultimate in privacy, exclusivity and utterly high-end luxury. The staff are professional, knowledgeable and highly attentive to every guest’s needs, even before he or she asks for anything.
The trip to the 40 private casitas and 11 exclusive villas, via each guest’s golf cart driven by a dedicated guest assistant, gives a view of the various amenities of the island, such as the world-class Aman Spa, the Beach Club, the Clubhouse and a variety of restaurants that offer different cuisines from all over the world yet made with fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Finally, the beach casitas, inspired by the Filipino bahay kubo, offer an unimpeded view of the magnificent coastal horizon, and stepping inside will feel like entering a tropical home away from home.
High-end yet unpretentious, the interiors of the casitas spare no expense in providing comfort, from the detailed furnishings to the Egyptian cotton sheets draped on the king-size beds that dominate the bedroom. Meanwhile, the Cebu marble toilet and bath are spacious and well-appointed with top-of-the-line toiletries. Guests are also treated to their own Amanpulo survival kit, which includes a locally made straw beach bag, hat and fan, which also serve as souvenirs of this magical and ultra-exclusive Aman Resorts island retreat.
Nikoi Island (Bintan, Indonesia)
Part luxury island resort and part natural reserve, Nikoi Island is situated off the east coast of Bintan, Indonesia, and approximately an hour’s boat journey from southeast Singapore. The resort itself, which takes up only one third of the whole island while leaving the rest almost untouched, interconnects its venues with sand paths, staying true to its “luxury survivor” character.
Its beaches feature jewel-blue waters and fine white sand for miles, which are only dotted by tropical trees, plantation umbrellas and sun lounges. Beyond, 15 two-storey Robinson Crusoe-inspired beach houses provide eco-friendly accommodations that will have guests feeling like eager castaways in no man’s land, but with all the luxuries and pamperings of any five-star hotel.
The 15-hectare island’s enduring natural beauty is preserved by the use of only handcrafted driftwood as construction material throughout the resort, with traditional alang-alang grass roofs so the rooms do not require air conditioning to remain cool and comfortable day or night. As a special care to preserve the island as an ecological sanctuary, solar panels are used for heating, while diesel generators are solely used for refrigeration and pumping water.
For an exotic treat for the tastebuds, Nikoi Island houses one restaurant that offers local and international cuisine from its talented chefs, with locally sourced ingredients paired with a wine list from small vineyards around the world. Particularly interesting are two 30-foot-long driftwood slabs that serve as tables, while the floor is nothing but soft white sand. After a hearty dinner, guests can then retreat to any of the three bars: The Yogi’s Beach Bar sitting between two magnificent granite boulders, the beachy and casual Sunset Lounge and the Pool Bar that overlooks the sea.
Huvafen Fushi (North Male Atoll, Kaafu, Maldives)
The Maldives are well-known for having some of the most beautiful islands and resorts, but for the ultimate private-beach island holiday, nothing comes close to the so-called “dream isle” itself, the Huvafen Fushi by PER AQUUM.
Indulgent and outstanding, the multi-award-winning island resort truly delivers its promise of an exceptional luxury-island experience, from its finest thakuru (personal butler) service to its modern, distinctly designed bungalows overlooking dreamy vistas of the Indian Ocean. From the Male International Airport, guests are met by their very own thakurus and are then whisked off to a 30-minute speedboat ride to the private-island getaway.
Huvafen Fushi features 44 spacious thatched-roof villas that look traditional on the outside but with interiors splendidly tailor-made for luxury. Each palatial villa comes with plasma television, surround sound and Frank Gehry-designed furniture. The villas are placed strategically along the beach or on stilts interconnected by wooden planks. A stay in one of the stilted, above-water villas has guests raving about the glass-floored sitting rooms, where below schools of fish swimming in turquoise waters provide a disarming sight. However opulent, the eco-friendly resort still does its best to remain out of nature’s way and highlight the island’s beauty.
This internationally renowned resort features five Michelin-level restaurants, all with their own signature fare. This includes the Indian Ocean seafood restaurant Salt, all-day international dining room Celsius, casual wood-fired pizza spot Fogliani’s, and the famous Raw and Raw Bar, which offers a wide array of innovative raw cuisine. Particularly brilliant is Vinum, the resort’s unique underground wine cellar, which houses more than 6,000 bottles of wine and rare vintages.
Aside from the food and the variety of watersports and leisurely fishing trips in magnificent Huvafen Fushi, guests can also enjoy total tranquility and unity of the mind, body and sea with the world’s first-ever underwater spa, LIME.