Every romance can use the heated boost of an exotic island getaway. Some islands escapes, however, can leave a couple cold while other exotic island getaways simply will take their breath away.
Three exotic island getaways that will prime the heart pump with pinch-me dream settings in remote locations are The Brando in the Society Islands of Tahiti, Song Saa, off the coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand, and Gili Lankanfushi in Indian Ocean amid the islands of the Maldives. The islands all present perfect places for what every couple requires: to disappear, to delight, to discover, to rediscover and to remember.
The Brando: Royalty, Celebrity, Sustainability
Disappearing is easy when your exotic island getaway is deep into the Pacific on an atoll so remote that mutineers of the Bounty tried to hide there. The Brando is an island unto itself on Tetiaro in French Polynesia – an island you might never find except for the glitterati that keep popping in for a weekend or a prolonged stay. Most recently those names included Johnny Depp, Barack Obama, who found the setting calm and evocative for writing his White House memoires; and Pippa Middleton, the younger sister of Kate Middleton, honeymooned there recently with new husband in one of the resort’s 35 lavish villas.
While remote as the crow flies, the island is easily accessible by private plane in a tranquil atoll 30 miles north of the island of Tahiti. The resort proudly shows its LEED platinum certification in its cleanliness, operations and focus on the surrounding environment. Beaches are made of delicious white sand and guests share their spaces with sea turtles, manta rays, colorful sea life and rare birds.
The island does come with more celebrity lore, of course. It is not hard to squint and see a thin, tanned and barefoot Marlon Brando walking the beaches with his new Tahitian bride met during the filming of the 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty. He bought the 193-acre island, composed of 12 motus, for around $200,000. It was a favored place for Tahitian royalty at the time and now offers one- to three-bedroom villas on spacious private beaches, each with its own secluded plunge pools and all designed around clean, renewable energy sources.
Villas range from 1,033 square feet to 2,648 square feet with cozy sitting areas in some, living rooms in others, private terraces or decks, lavish bathrooms, dining areas and kitchens in some, palatial closets, even an outdoor tub. Unplugged does not mean disconnected. Villas have rooms furnished with TV and DVD entertainment, with Wi-Fi throughout.
Dining is exquisitely French with the award-winning cuisine of Guy Martin of the Michelin two-star restaurant Le Grand Véfour in Paris. Venues range from the casual Beachcomber Café beachfront restaurant, to the fine dining Les Mutinés by Guy Martin restaurant, to the Te Manu Bar and Bob’s Bar, and in-room service.
Heavenly holistic body treatments happen at the Varua Te Ora Polynesian Spa. At the Explorer’s Center, guests can enjoy lectures from on-site scientists, and a library. Fitness fans can keep up their regimen at a fully equipped cadio and strength training gym – but the activities available may prove more interesting: bicycling, snorkeling, and bird watching, paddle boarding and scuba diving. Guests can explore the lagoon by Polynesian outrigger canoe, take a guided tour of the atoll’s motus, go out stargazing with a naturalist, swim in clear calm waters at Mermaid Bay or relax at the beach or pool.
Indulge in island chic black pearl jewelry or spend the afternoon with marine biologists at the Tetiaroa Society NGO’s laboratory located near the resort. Days are full of discovery in both science and romance.
The Brando is owned and operated by Pacific Beachcomber, which also owns and operates award winning resorts on Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, as well as the luxury cruise ship m/s Paul Gauguin. Published rates start at $3,381 per couple per night.
Gili Lankanfushi: Where the sea sings and breezes whisper
As the world gets smaller, the Maldives, once as remote as you could utter and still be on this planet, just gets closer and closer. The Maldives is really some 1,900 islands in 26 atolls spread over 56,000 square miles in a scattered archipelago below the nadir of Sri Lanka. Only 200 of those islands are inhabited and find Gili Lankanfushi among them in what seems to be a one island/one resort tradition.
Total flight duration from New York to Malé, the capital of the Maldives, is usually a little more than 18 hours – more if that flight is from Los Angeles. No flights are non-stop from the U.S. and that gives couples more time to enjoy the anticipation of staying in what has been tabbed as one of the top resorts in the world by TripAdvisor.
As romantic island getaway, Gili Lankanfushi could be considered a tempting model of aspiration. The Guests find 45 spacious overwater villas following a 20-minute speedboat ride from Velana International Airport on Malé. Wooden villas rise from the shallow ocean on stilts. It’s a quiet island, less than 2,000 feet long where guest move from one corner of the island to another on bicycles or barefoot in the soft sands. Privacy is the mantra with dedicated 24-hour butler service for each villa, terrace to beach access for each villa (make that six steps and counting), large living areas, expansive bathrooms, outdoor shower, even a roof loft on some villas so you can sleep under the stars.
Each villa offers private over water sundeck or rooftop sundeck with daybeds and dining, an open-air private bathroom with separate glass walled shower area, a king bed, and 2,250 square feet of aromatic hardwood interiors. The Private Reserve takes it to a whole new level with15,069 square feet of space on two floors, adding a second master suite with floor to ceiling windows on three sides, a guest room suite, lavish bath areas, a gym, his and her 24-hour butlers, a gourmet kitchen, customized wine cellar, personal motorized water vehicles, waterslide, pool, and entertainment room.
There are three restaurants specializing in dishes from Japan, Asia and the subcontinent, often with live cooking stations and always seafood. If nothing else, couples can share the joys of exploring new flavors in the homemade ice creams. Although an island in the middle of nowhere, Gili Lankanfushi is famous for its wine cave and its collection of prized labels that pour at these tables. A favorite Gili Lankanfushi experience is the wine tastings (with chocolate and cheese to complement) put together by the sommelier as well as several unique Tasting Journeys with Sake, wine, whiskey, Champagne and others paired with delectable food.
Remote as it is, there is much to do on this remote romantic island escape. The Meera Spa offers detoxifying couples treatments using seaweed as a central ingredient. Guests can listen to the song of the waves and watch glowing fish below the spa’s overwater location as they are massaged.
Snorkeling and diving in the surrounding clear warm waters is a divine but the resort is also gaining traction as a place to surf. The resort recently opened a dedicated surf center and now offers lessons in all seasons for beginners to pros.
Island fever is rare but should it strike it is easily quelled by a visit to, well, another island. As the capital of the Maldives is only minutes away, guests make day trips for shopping, dining and explorations. Nights offer movies under the stars – with popcorn and chocolate fondue.
Published starting rates run about $1,224 (subject to taxes) per villa per night, not including meals.
Song Saa: Floating to Cambodia
The two tiny heart shaped islands forming the remote resort of Song Saa is a mere 45-minute speedboat ride from Cambodia’s southwest coast has been a work of love for Rory and Melita Hunter who discovered the paradise Song Saa in 2006 and went about bringing its magic to life.
As scuba enthusiasts, Song Saa was never intended to exist as a resort paradise alone but always a work in progress – that work being the surrounding island habitats in what became Cambodia’s first marine reserve. Song Saa is the Khmer phrase for “The Sweethearts,” which describes the two side-by-side islands now connected by a bridge across the marine reserve. Island water is treated here and reused for growth of native vegetation. Driftwood and timber are recycled from old fishing boats to build furniture and construction for the resort’s 27 open and airy villas.
While these islands cover a 17 acres there are plenty of beaches, coves, walks, hidden snorkeling and diving sites and nooks and crannies around the resort itself to have privacy and the peace one seeks from a remote exotic island getaway.
Active guests can visit the watersports center for morning snorkels in search of seahorses around coral reefs –a must–, or afternoon kayaking through shady mangroves with the resident marine biologist, or finding out the best places around the island for night-time dips in bioluminescent waters.
All villas have ocean views – some are on the beach and some are over the water. Built with one or two bedrooms, each has its own deck with plunge pool and stunning views. Villas have thatched roofs and cooling stonewalls, huge four-poster fantasy beds wrapped in soft muslin and plenty of other amenities – stocked mini-bar, Wi-Fi, perfumed toiletries. All is part of the tariff, whether for one night or several.
Dining is a treat with Khmer fusion classics mixed with fresh local seafood and locally grown produce. Menus changed seasonally, if not daily, as diners enjoy the panoramas and the creatively repurposed driftwood décor. Guests, too, can get creative – about where on Song Saa to dine. Impeccable private meals can be presented just about anywhere one can sit and take in the beauty.
While spending some island time at Song Saa, a romantic island getaway should also contain some spa time and on Song Saa those moments are built into highly transformative experiences. Many of the treatments and themes have been inspired by the Khmer people and their use of natural herbs, plants and ancient relaxation practices to support the body’s natural healing.
Song Saa Private Island is accessible via private boat or yacht from Sihanoukville, a three-hour drive from Phnom Penh International Airport in Cambodia. Private yachts of all sizes can be moored there with a day rate inclusive of resort facilities, pool, restaurant and bar access, and some non-motorized sports. Helicopter transfers are also available from nearby cities, including Siem Reap.
Nightly rates run around $1,300 per night, inclusive.
Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates– Curator of undiscovered luxury travel locales with insider info and news from our worldwide portfolio of hotels, wellness retreats, and eco-resorts. View our portfolio on our Online Directory.
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