Island Dreaming

Private Getaways at Your Fingertips

By Lindsay Maher

You know those visions of a warm hideaway that hold permanent residency in your mind, the ones of you wiggling your toes in white sand and preparing to dive into water so blue it stuns you into silence? The essence of good vibes and relaxation? I’m excited to tell you they aren’t as unattainable as they seem.

Take a minute to whoop and holler, then rescue your bathing suit from the clutches of the summer clothes you didn’t think you would need for a while. Private islands are the way to go this winter, giving real meaning to the word escape. In the middle of paradise—yes, it’s clichéd, but yes, it’s so fitting—there is no thinking, only doing: a cleanse for the mind and soul. At these resorts in the South Pacific, the daydream is the same, but the experience is different. Welcome to serenity.

Banyan Tree Bintan

If destination (within a destination) dining is your style, then consider a getaway to Banyan Tree Bintan. Just a 45-minute ferry ride from Singapore, the island of Bintan hugs the South China Sea and delivers dramatic rainforest visions as far as the eye can see. It feels exclusive, a secret between you and the island, one to reflect on for years to come. Explore at your leisure, taking day or half-day trips around Bintan and enjoy the tranquility.

Large windows expose the lush wonder that is Bintan, the ocean and distant mountains more a painting than reality. Canopies like clouds are draped gracefully over the bed in a room with a view you can see and touch. It’s almost panoramic, interrupted only by a vase of flowers and lounge stacked with pillows. Wherever you turn, know that the sights will be spectacular from your rustic abode.

Each cabana offers a private pool, outdoor dining table and outdoor bath, though the island also has a public guest pool with lounge seating. One of their specialties is destination dining, which includes private chefs and meals taken in a fisherman’s boat, a floating house on the sea or a massage in your cabana followed by dinner on the cliffs.

Here, you can learn the art of Thai cooking from Banyan Tree’s culinary experts and rent marine equipment to better understand the bay. You can unwind with a yoga class, or with a trip on the resort’s private speedboat, the Sense of the Sea. Don’t miss The Rainforest, a hydrothermal experience incorporating Asian wellness philosophy into their revitalizing treatments. Here, time is yours to find harmony from the pulse of the island, and to forget what snow is.

The Brando

Marlon Brando fell in love with Tetiaroa Attoll Island while filming Mutiny on the Bounty and it’s easy to see why. This French Polynesian island is exquisite, a blend of natural and cultural beauties that awaken your winter-cold bones and keep you wondering just when you’ll wake up.

A 20-minute plane ride from Tahiti will land you on Brando’s tropical haven, and a reservation at one of the island’s 35 private villas, every one with their own private pool overlooking a stretch of private beach, will land you intimate time with your significant other that you usually have to go searching with a flashlight for.

Warm interior design captures the essence of the world beyond your windows, floor-to-ceiling glass that invites the outdoors in to you. But it works both ways: the comfort of the indoors lures you out onto the deck to lounge by the pool before reaching out for the waves.

Feel the wonder of the island’s biodiversity by snorkeling in the coral gardens or taking scuba diving lessons in the crystal waters. Take a kayak, paddleboard or Polynesian outrigger canoe out onto the lagoon, or hit the trails for a hike to Motu Onetahi or for a bird discovery tour.

Though not a shopping destination, Tetiaroa has two places to purchase local ware: Hinerava, specializing in Tahitian pearl jewelry; and the Boutique on Tetiaroa, a gift shop at the Brando that also sells art, honey and vanilla beans to keep the holiday going after you return home.

Nikoi Island

Pulau Nikoi, a desert island, encourages being barefoot at all times and preserving the island in its most natural form. They are focused on sustainable tourism, maintaining greenery and a stable community. It is a place that your imagination will swim in, an oasis of driftwood beach houses, white sandy beaches and untouched jungle, save for the trails to satisfy your curiosities.

Traveling to the island is lengthy, but worth it. From Singapore, take a one-hour ferry to Bintan Resort, a one-hour taxi to the jetty, and a 20-minute launch to Nikoi. The rides are spectacular, delivering expansive views of the water; and when you arrive at your destination, take off your shoes and revel in the sandy glory.

Nikoi is available for rent both for individual beach houses and as a whole. An entire island to yourself sounds magical, doesn’t it? Either way, you’ll be sure to feel like you and your partner are the only two people in the world. Accommodations are surrounded by trees and shrubbery, swaying in the warm breeze, and have an open-air concept that mimics a (more comfortable) snooze on the beach. Every house has an iPhone speaker system, so get your playlist ready to accompany the roll of waves at your feet.

Every day is a new adventure, and not just for the kayaking, windsurfing and sailing opportunities. The menu changes daily, written on blackboards in their two dining rooms, and uses freshly sourced local ingredients to entice and excite your taste buds. Before hunkering down with a book on the beach, try rock climbing or diving. When it’s low tide, take a stroll down to the coral reef and examine the rock pools. And if you need to burn off any more energy, take a swing at tennis or croquet on their natural courts. Whatever you’re doing will sweep you up in easygoing serenity, the island a mellow state in itself.