Fantasy Islands

Venture to the far-flung reaches of the Indian and Pacific oceans to discover one revamped and six new resorts that define today’s ultra-exotic tropical getaways

BY PAUL RUBIO — Fall 2017



Nosy Ankao, Madagascar

Buzz: In June, Madagascar entered the world of luxury tourism with its first five-star resort. The 14-villa, eco-conscious Miavana, which means “to bring together” in local Malagasy, lies on a lush private island within the biodiverse Loky Manambato Protected Area of the country’s remote northeast. The property marks an international expansion by Time + Tide, a boutique brand synonymous with high-end, sustainable safari camps in Zambia. The company sought to implement its proven model of combining progressive conservation with luxury tourism in the ultimate unexploited location and found the ideal fit on Nosy Ankao. Constructed principally of locally sourced pink sandstone, the minimalist villas and common piazza hug the white sand beaches of the isle’s western side, offering ceaseless views of crystalline waters and the mountainous Madagascar mainland. The gourmet cuisine incorporates both Malagasy and French flairs and ingredients (think local zebu beef carpaccio), and activities range from lemur spotting on the proximate mainland and diving the surrounding coral reefs to kite surfing and fly-fishing.

Reaching paradise: Fly through Europe or Africa and connect to Antananarivo, the island’s capital city, followed by Diego Suarez (Antsiranana). Transfer by private helicopter to Nosy Ankao.

Info: From $2,500, including most activities;

Six Senses Zil Pasyon

Félicité Island, Seychelles

Buzz: The latest outpost of the rapidly expanding, wellness-imbued Six Senses brand took eight years to complete. The sole development on the Seychelles’ fifth-largest island fully opened in February with 30 exquisitely understated, plunge-pool-equipped villas etched into the hillsides of the isle’s west end. Delicately blending into the landscape, each villa delivers a front-row seat to the amalgam of towering granite slabs, bedrock boulders, white velvety sands, and lush jungle that makes the Seychelles so visually mind-blowing. At the spa, each glass-encased treatment room is singular in design, and a manicured boulder that jets into the ocean serves as the yoga pavilion, accessible by a hanging bridge. At the Island Café and Ocean Kitchen restaurants, chefs dish up fresh, organic, and healthy food inspired by flavors from the Spice Route and largely centered on seafood from surrounding waters. Away from the resort, don’t miss a guided hike; the other two-thirds of the island remain a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the highly endangered Coco de Mer (sea coconut) and other rare plant life rule.

Reaching paradise: Fly through Europe, the Middle East, or Africa and connect to Mahé, the Seychelles’ largest island, and then on to Praslin. Transfer by speedboat to Félicité Island.

Info: From $1,339;

Soneva Jani

Noonu Atoll, Maldives

Buzz: This resort, which opened last November, proves the overwater magic of the Maldives isn’t just for honeymooners. The family-centric property, surrounded by its own 3.5-mile lagoon, offers uninterrupted panoramic ocean views from its 24 overwater villas. At a minimum, each bilevel, overwater wooden villa accommodates two adults and two children, with most featuring creative amenities such as an overwater swing; a retractable, stargazing roof over the master bedroom; and a private water slide. Every guest gets a bicycle or tricycle for island exploration, and parents will appreciate the complimentary year-round kids program to entertain the little ones. Once you tuck in the kids, enjoy a late night of 1920s-inspired fun with movies (plus ice cream and popcorn) under the stars at Cinema Paradiso, the Maldives’ only silent cinema.

Reaching paradise: Fly through Europe or the Middle East and connect to Malé. Transfer to Soneva Jani by seaplane.

Info: From $1,870;

St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

Vommuli Island, Dhaalu Atoll, Maldives

Buzz: St. Regis Hotels & Resorts premiered its 16th resort and first private island getaway last November. Surfacing from the turquoise waters of unspoiled Dhaalu Atoll, it’s a collection of six dining venues, a spa, and 77 villas cast across 22-acre Vommuli Island and branching out toward a vibrant coral reef. At the property’s tip lies the 16,577-square-foot John Jacob Astor Estate, the Maldives’ largest three-bedroom overwater villa, boasting its own infinity pool, two Jacuzzi whirlpools, private gym, mini theater, and spa suite.

Reaching paradise: Fly through Europe or the Middle East and connect to Malé. Transfer to Vommuli by seaplane.

Info: From $1,770;


Conrad Bora Bora Nui

Motu To’opua, French Polynesia

Buzz: Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the overwater bungalow, Bora Bora welcomed this newest resort to its jewel-toned water world last spring. Besides its 28 hillside villas, 86 overwater bungalows (18 with private infinity pools) rise from the ocean shallows with vast viewing decks and catamaran nets for endless hours of sunbathing and snoozing atop the turquoise water. In addition, the Conrad houses two two-story overwater Presidential Villas — the only ones in French Polynesia — taking shape as two-bedroom, three-bathroom, floating thatch-roofed mansions, each with a sundeck, infinity pool, and whirlpool. If the endless ocean views grow old, head to the resort’s main pool for a cocktail at the swim-up bar or get pampered at the spa and chill out post-treatment at the open-air relaxation area overlooking a dazzling blue lagoon.

Reaching paradise: Fly through LA to Papeete, Tahiti, and connect to Bora Bora. Transfer by speedboat to the resort.

Info: From $480;

Laucala Island

Laucala Island, Fiji

Buzz: Laucala Island sat atop Fiji’s private-island-resort food chain before the strongest hurricane in Fiji’s recorded history ravaged the island nation in February 2016. Now, in its new iteration, the 3,500-acre property dutifully keeps its crown, each of its 25 thatch-roofed villas resurfacing as familiar but improved versions of their former selves, from the wood exteriors down to the plush daybeds and alfresco dining areas. In July, Laucala finalized its relaunch with the unveiling of a new culinary program that combines the freshness of produce and livestock from Laucala’s own 240-acre farm with French and Asian cooking techniques by newly appointed chef, Frenchman Jean Luc Amann. The resort also opened a private, full-service guest lounge at Nadi airport, the only Fiji resort offering such an amenity.

Reaching paradise: Fly through LA or San Francisco to Nadi. Luxuriate in Laucala’s private lounge and transfer to the resort by private plane.

Info: From $4,800, based on double occupancy, all-inclusive;

Kokomo Private Island

Yaukuve Levu Island, Fiji

Buzz: Unveiled in April, Kokomo Private Island lies on the edge of the untapped Kadavu Island Group, encircled by one of the Earth’s best dive and snorkel sites, the Great Astrolabe Reef. Colorful fish, manta rays, sea turtles, and thriving coral gardens saturate the water. Other watersports such as sailing and kayaking and land-based adventures such as hiking and cycling please the active traveler while those wanting to simply luxuriate in paradise won’t leave disappointed. Each of the 21 beachfront villas has its own infinity pool and walled garden with outdoor shower, plus each faces a prime stretch of white sand beach. You can also relax at the spa or in poolside cabanas. Anticipate savoring three memorable meals daily, made with locally sourced ingredients and accompanied by libations muddled with the freshest of fresh fruit.

Reaching paradise: Fly through LA or San Francisco to Nadi on Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island. Transfer to Kokomo by private seaplane.

Info: From $1,995, based on double-occupancy;


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