CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value, but does not review all financial companies or all available financial offers. We may receive compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CreditCards.com, and this compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Private islands are the playgrounds of the very rich and very famous. They’re the ultimate status symbol to announce that you’ve “made it.”
But what if we told you that you could have a private island experience of your own and for a fraction of the cost, thanks to credit card and hotel loyalty points and miles?
Well, that’s exactly what we’re here to tell you. Private islands are no longer just for the ultra wealthy. These days, they’re accessible to anyone with a stash of the correct credit card or hotel loyalty points.
Let’s take a look at some of the best options you can book with points and miles as well as how much it’ll cost you to live like a high roller without having to shell out tens — or hundreds — of thousands of dollars on your trip.
One of Sir Richard Branson’s private island escapes in the British Virgin Islands, Necker Island is a special place. The island itself is a portrait of Caribbean paradise, with lush vegetation, abundant wildlife and, of course, pristine beaches fronting vibrant turquoise waters.
The island’s getaway package has a capacity of just 40 people housed across 15 rooms, which are a combination of guest rooms in a single “Great House” along with several private villas scattered across the island. For larger groups, the island can accommodate up to 54 people.
This is the Caribbean, so you can expect a complete raft of water activities at your disposal, including snorkeling, diving, sailing, paddleboarding, kayaking, swimming and so much more. Back on land, you’ll have access to just about all the amenities you’d expect at a luxury resort: multiple pools, a sumptuous spa, daily fitness classes, tennis courts and more.
The island places a large emphasis on dining and drinking, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. There’s the Great House, which has a rooftop deck perfectly suited for sunset meals, a beach pavilion that seats up to 40 guests at one table, Turtle Beach where you can enjoy a more casual beach picnic or cocktails and even a floating sushi bar that’s placed in the main beach pool from which you can enjoy fresh sushi and sashimi.
How to book Necker Island
While Necker Island typically needs to be reserved in its entirety, it offers certain weeks — known as Celebration Weeks — during which guests can book a single room on the island. Even better, these rooms can be booked with points, though you’ll need a lot of them. If you’re a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver or Gold elite status member, you can book a room for two during a Celebration Week for the small sum of 1.5 million Virgin Points.
Located in Seychelles, one of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations, North Island has just 11 villas on an island that belongs completely to the resort, which means you’ll be sharing it with hardly any other guests at all.
Each villa is massive, with two bedrooms and more than 5,000 square feet of living space, along with private plunge pools. They’re surrounded by the island’s dramatic landscape dotted with jagged peaks and vibrant green jungles and culminating in beautiful white sand beaches and warm crystal-clear waters.
While at North Island, you’ll never get bored, thanks to the wide variety of activities on offer like fishing, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, sunset cruises and island explorations on foot or by buggy.
How to book North Island
North Island joined the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio several years ago, and you can now use Bonvoy points to book a stay. Note that you must stay a minimum of four nights, and each night will set you back in the ballpark of 385,000 Bonvoy points. Plus, you’ll be on the hook for a helicopter transfer that runs about $920 per person, per direction. Considering, though, that rooms routinely sell for well over $6,000 per night, this could represent a phenomenal use of Marriott points, provided you have a whole lot of points that are waiting to be used.
If you’re looking to get started on building that Bonvoy account balance, consider signing up for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. The card currently comes with a welcome bonus offer of 75,000 Bonvoy points, which you’ll get after spending $3,000 in the first three months of holding the card. (Terms apply.)
Situated on a private island just off the coast of the Thai tourist hot spot of Phuket, The Naka Island provides a private island experience at a great price. Once you arrive at the island via a speedboat transfer, you can take advantage of all it has to offer, including pristine beaches, oh-so-Thailand limestone cliffs and even coconut groves.
The resort has just 67 villas and 23 deluxe rooms and suites. Each offers stunning views of Phang Nga Bay, which is dotted with dramatic limestone formations. Beachfront villas feature private plunge pools and direct access to the stunning beaches of the island.
Guests can choose between a number of dining options, including a beachfront signature restaurant, an all-day casual restaurant, private dining and a bar right on the beach.
How to book Naka Island
The Naka Island is part of the Marriott Bonvoy program. In our searches, redemption rates tend to hover around the 40,000-point to 50,000-point mark on many dates; however, they can also reach the 60,000-point level on popular travel dates. Plus, this means a stay at Naka Island is eligible for the free night certificates that come with certain premium Marriott co-branded cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card on select dates.
Another entry in the British Virgin Islands, the Scrub Island resort is located on its very own island adjacent to Tortola.
The resort offers accommodations from “regular” guest rooms to a massive six-bedroom villa complete with its own swimming pool.
Elsewhere on the resort, you can enjoy three private beaches, a wide array of water sports and activities, multiple options for eating and drinking and more.
How to book Scrub Island
Scrub Island is part of the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio. While Marriott no longer publishes an award chart, free nights tend to cost around the 76,000-point mark on many nights. However, those rates can increase to nearly 100,000 points per night on more popular dates. If you’re looking to lock in a stay at the lower rate, be flexible with your travel dates and travel in the shoulder season or off-season.
The Caribbean may be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about private islands, but you don’t want to miss this private island experience in Venice, Italy. Situated on an island called Isola delle Rose, this 5-star JW Marriott property offers a serene escape from crowded Venetian streets.
The hotel provides a private water shuttle to ferry guests between the hotel and the city at regular intervals, but you won’t be bored if you decide to spend a day (or two) at the resort.
The island spans 40 acres filled with verdant gardens and olive groves. The resort itself offers numerous luxury amenities, including a full-service spa, restaurants and bars, a gorgeous infinity pool with panoramic views of the Venetian skyline and more.
The JW Marriott Venice is also part of the Marriott Bonvoy program. Although Marriott no longer publishes an award chart, you can expect free nights to cost around 63,000 points on most nights. However, on the peak summer dates, those rates can increase to 70,000 points per night. Your best bet is traveling on off-peak, shoulder season dates where you can lock in nightly rates for as few as 54,000 points.
Part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, Calala Island is a very intimate resort in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Nicaragua, a location the resort refers to as the “NiCaribbean.”
The entire resort has only four — yes, four — suites available to book. The resort embraces a more “rustic” approach to luxury and exclusivity. Don’t expect to be wowed with high-end technology or state-of-the-art rooms here. But what you can count on is a glorious stay on what’s essentially your own private island on a beautiful stretch of beach.
The resort also employs an “ultra-all-inclusive” model, which means everything you do — from airport transfers to eating to drinking — is included in the price of entry, which means you can get an impressive value staying here, especially if you use points.
How to book Calala Island
Thanks to Hyatt’s partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World, you can use World of Hyatt points to book a stay at Calala Island. The property is a Category 8 World of Hyatt property, meaning free nights will cost you 35,000 points on off-peak nights, 40,000 points on standard nights and 45,000 points on peak nights.
World of Hyatt points are easy to earn, thanks to the transfer partnership the program has with Chase Ultimate Rewards. Points earned with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® can be transferred at a 1-to-1 rate to World of Hyatt, making a stay very much within reach.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. That bonus can put you well on your way toward a point redemption at Calala Island. For example, after meeting the minimum spending requirement, you’ll have nearly enough points for a two-night stay for free.
There are just 22 villas — all of which come with a private pool — on the resort. Guests can enjoy two on-site restaurants where private dinners on the beach can be arranged, a full-service spa, a shared resort pool and a fitness center all while taking in the stunning views of the Gulf of Thailand from the island’s gorgeous beach.
Cape Fahn is a Category 5 World of Hyatt hotel, meaning free nights will cost you 17,000 points on off-peak nights, 20,000 points on standard nights and 23,000 points on peak nights.
Remember, if you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer them to World of Hyatt at a 1-to-1 rate, making it relatively easy to book a private island escape. In fact, the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up bonus alone can get you three nights if you travel on standard dates (or off-peak dates — with points to spare).
Situated on its very own island in Australia’s Whitsundays archipelago in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, the InterContinental Hayman Island offers the amenities of a large resort in a secluded and exclusive private island setting.
Simply arriving at Hayman Island is dramatic. After you book your stay, you’ll be asked to choose your preference for your transfer between Hamilton and Hayman Islands. You can choose between a private charter, helicopter or boat — any of which will surely set the tone for what’s sure to be a luxurious and memorable vacation.
The resort itself offers several distinct wings of rooms, including residential-style villas with multiple bedrooms, full kitchens, private pools and more. There are five restaurants and bars to choose from, ranging from a signature fine dining experience to a relaxed poolside bar and grill serving up fresh light bites and refreshing cocktails.
This resort’s best amenity, though, is its unparalleled location among Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. As expected, the resort places a strong emphasis on educating guests about and protecting its natural environment. Of course, you’ll be able to participate in typical water activities like snorkeling, diving, fishing, sailing and so much more.
How to book InterContinental Hayman Island
The InterContinental Hayman Island is a member of IHG’s Rewards Club program, meaning you can use IHG points to book free nights. However, IHG doesn’t maintain an award chart, meaning the rate you pay will depend on the specific nights you’d like to travel. You can expect award nights to regularly cost in excess of 100,000 points per night.
To earn IHG Rewards points quickly, consider the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which currently has a sign-up bonus of 140,000 points and one free night after spending $3,000 within the first three months.
The Maldives is one of the most sought-after destinations — and for good reason. It’s got some of the most picture-perfect resorts in a stunning setting. However, rates can be exorbitantly expensive, including staying at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli, which is on its own island.
On the island, you’ll have access to the resort’s private lagoon with rich marine life, a spa and an outdoor infinity pool. Guests have access to their own butler for personalized, round-the-clock service. Plus, there’s plenty to keep you entertained, including water sports and diving excursions. Around the island, there are six restaurants and bars, so you’ll always have something new to try.
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort is part of the Marriott Bonvoy program, meaning you can redeem points for a free night stay. However, because Marriott no longer uses an award chart, the cost will vary per night depending on demand and dates of travel. Nightly rates tend to hover around the $1,500 mark, but reward nights can be had for as few as 94,000 points per night. However, nightly rates can creep as high as 160,000 points per night, so the key is to be flexible with your travel dates in order to lock in the lowest nightly rate.
Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.