Hide and chic: Private island resorts prove pandemic-safe splurges

These isolated retreats in the tropics are not only welcoming Americans, they’re reimagining what beach bliss can be.

If you haven’t traveled in a year and remain skittish about interacting with strangers, let us introduce you to a private island resort.

These isolated retreats in the tropics are not only welcoming Americans, they’re reimagining what beach bliss can be.

Palm of your hand

All you wannabe travelers who let your passports expire … worry not! Little Palm Island, in Little Torch Key, Fla. — the only private island resort in the contiguous United States — is having a renaissance after the double whammy of  devastating hurricanes  and the global pandemic.

Little Palm finally revealed its newly revamped self in June, with each of the 30 thatched-roof bungalows redesigned in a West Indies aesthetic, while the rest of the island’s 4 acres also received a noticeable update.

Guest quarters all come with outdoor showers, private sundecks and ocean views — but, notably, no televisions (or children!). Pack a book and a sense of adventure and scuba, snorkel, sail or sky dive, then watch the sun melt into the sea while sipping the resort’s signature Gumby Slumber cocktail,

In case you’ve forgotten how to chill out in the past year, this white-sand gem promises to reacquaint you with the feeling of  total relaxation.

Should you need more encouragement, head to the brand-new SpaTerre.

Rooms from $1,900.

All I Guana do is have some fun

Like everywhere else safe to travel, the British Virgin Islands require a negative test before arrival and another when you land on Tortola (ouch!).

But once you’re whisked by boat over to the 850-acre Guana Island, you’ll barely notice you’re quarantined for up to 24 hours — especially if you’re lucky enough to book the newly renovated North Beach Cottage that comes with its own beach stocked daily with pristine shells courtesy of Mother Nature.

Once you’re out, there is delightfully little to do. Chef Kael Mendoza will tour you around the 5-acre orchard, where more than 80 types of fruits, vegetables and herbs supply his kitchen. General Manager Jason du Plessis might take you for a hike to Chicken Rock (pack those water shoes!) and photograph you jumping off a cliff into a natural pool that rises and falls with the tide. Assistant manager Nicole Laurac will ensure your cocktails are replenished on White Bay Beach.


Though the 18-room resort was damaged by the back-to-back hurricanes of 2017, the ensuing years (plus mandated closure thanks to COVID) gave the owners ample time to revamp everything from the Domenica Club gathering hub to the Garden of Eden, where movies are projected outdoors.

Even when it’s full, the resort only hosts a maximum of 35 guests, most of whom are repeat visitors. Guana has long been the lair of tech billionaires and international influencers,  but its relatively affordable sticker price means you never know who you might meet at the nightly cocktail hour.

Rooms from $720, including meals.

Bon a Petit

Plan to stay at least a week on Petit St. Vincent, a 115-acre island flung off the already remote Grenadines archipelago in the southeastern corner of the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies. That’s because the country requires a PCR test upon arrival, so you’ll be blissfully confined to one of the 22 thatched-roof cottages and the socially distanced chaise lounges on the beach while you await a negative result.

Still, that’s quite a quarantine, considering the island offers two miles of white sand and ample staff to deliver jerk chicken and rum punch to wherever you’ve decided to settle in for those first 48 hours. (An on-island nurse will administer your PCR test 72 hours before departure).

Lovingly nicknamed PSV, this isolated resort has no televisions and almost no Wi-Fi, but it happens to be home to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Dive Center — so if you’ve been putting off that PADI certification, here’s your chance to swim safely with the fish, turtles, sharks and rays.

Guests who want to test the limits of a deprivation vacation can take over the “PSV Peninsula,” a new offering on the east side of the island sprinkled with four one-bedroom cottages and its own dining area. Imagine seven of your favorite friends cavorting on an untouched shore — you’ll be the envy of everyone isolating in their wearisome apartments.

Rooms from $1,350, meals included.

TLC in T&C

Just a quick boat ride from mainland Turks and Caicos, COMO Parrot Cay’s 1,000 acres is home to 40 rooms, five suites and a gaggle of villas, houses and estates that can clock in at nearly 8,000 square feet.


That expansive sense of privacy makes the island a magnet for the private-jet crowd, though even island homeowners like Donna Karan and Keith Richards appear low-key at this wellness-focused retreat, where kids get their own curated play space, guests are encouraged to explore trails on free cruiser bikes and kayak safaris wend through the mangroves.

Owned by Singaporean hotelier Christina Ong, the resort retains an Asian appeal, with Caribbean dishes served during the day and Thai and Vietnamese cuisine presented at night in the Lotus restaurant and modalities that range from Japanese to Ayurvedic offered at the COMO Shambhala Spa.

You could always hole up in one of the new Beach Houses — with freestanding tubs, personal pools and interior designer Keith Hobbs’ beach house aesthetic — and let the butler bring fresh-caught fish to your sun-kissed patio until you’re stuffed. But then you’d miss out on tennis, fishing in the flats, windsurfing and planting your very own banana tree on the island’s plantation.

What sort of humblebragging would that provide on your Instagram feed?

Oh, and don’t worry about following the protocols to get back home: Along with transfers back to Providenciales, Parrot Cay now offers complimentary on-site COVID tests, so re-entry is a cinch.

Rooms from $795, including breakfast.

Orient yourself

Now here’s an island resort that knows what the people want!

Mandarin Oriental’s Canouan Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was recently awarded “Resort Bubble” status, which means that while you await the results of your COVID test upon arrival, you can still tool around certain areas of the 1,200-acre estate — including a dedicated restaurant, a private beach, the Jim Fazio-designed golf course, and your home-away-from-home that is one of the 26 suites or 13 villas.

Through the Castaway program, staff can set up dining wherever you want, like on secluded Mahault Beach or on a catamaran bound for one of the the 32 islands and cays that make up the Grenadines archipelago.

And because we are still freaking working from home a year on, Canouan launched a “Work from Paradise” package that helps ease the sting of whipping out the laptop on the beach with wellness offerings like hiking up Mt. Royal (887 feet) or swimming with sea turtles — as well as an “Extended Stay” deal that provides meals at 30 percent off and a $1,000 resort credit for every 30 days (!) you stay.


Mere mortals who stick around for a few mind-blowing days here are typically pretty active, sweating through mornings of biking, hiking, swimming, golfing and thwacking balls with a racket, before settling in for a sunset dinner of tandoori spiced lamb at Asianne followed by digestifs at Turtles Bar.

Rooms from $1,300.

On your marks, jet set, go

You’re forgiven if you missed the breaking news that Ambergris Cay, a 3-mile-long island owned by local resort operator the Turks and Caicos Collection, finally opened to visitors after a decade of stops and starts in 2018.

Now, it’s finally time to put this Caribbean jewel on your bucket list.

Operating with 10 beachfront suites and 20 three- and four-bedroom villas, the nearly undeveloped island’s airport is newly certified to accept international flights, with the longest runway in the Caribbean.

Jetsetters can fly direct to paradise from nearly any East Coast runway and be on the beach in three hours. The other 99 percent are obliged to take a complimentary puddle-jumper or 20-minute boat ride from Providenciales.

On island, a dedicated butler handles your luggage and check-in, while the on-site nurse schedules your COVID-19 PCR test for departure. But remoteness is the true luxury here.

Have a wade in waters so shallow and clear they can be seen from space, bask in daily spa treatments, gorge on three inventive meals each day and make a splash with a variety of water sports — all included in the rate.

Kids can hang at the crafts hut with certified sitters while grown-ups play castaway on a nearby uninhabited island with a lobster picnic, then everyone can rendezvous for a refreshing afternoon swim in their suite or villa’s very own pool. Lest walking to the spa is too much excitement, every serene, breezy accommodation comes with its own golf cart to encourage extreme laziness.

Suites from $2,450, all-inclusive for two; Villas from $4,800, all-inclusive for two adults and two children.

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