Rent Your Own Bahamian Island
The Bahamas consists of 700 individual islands and roughly 2,400 cays, or coral reefs, spread out across 100,000 square miles in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida and Cabo. Still, it can feel a bit tight during tourist season, which runs from December to April.
Some find peace and quiet by leaving the resort and sailing to a private beach. Others escape the crowds by booking their own villa, rather than a hotel room. But those with more considerable means rent a private island.
The 13-acre Bonefish Cay is located in the Abacos chain of islands, which sits approximately 175 miles east of Florida and 100 miles north of Nassau. The 5,000-square-foot main lodge features a 28-foot maple bar, pool table, and professional kitchen—which comes complete with a private chef. There are also three individual bungalows, with a total of nine fully furnished guest suites (and one gym). You can expect complete privacy on Bonefish Cay, unless you venture to one of the neighboring islands, Treasure Cay and Spanish Cay, for a bit of golf or tennis. Rates begin at $53,530 per week.
Illusionist David Copperfield’s personal island, Musha Cay, can be yours for $39,000 to $57,000 per night, with a five-night minimum stay. The 150-acre atoll’s five houses accommodate you and up to 23 guests. Choose from Highview, a 10,000-square-foot hilltop spread with two kitchens and a sauna, a five-bedroom beachfront villa called Palm Terrace, or one of three beach houses. Or if you like, stay in all of them. Located 85 miles southeast of Nassau, Musha Cay has a staff of 30—a staff-to guest ratio of 5:4 at maximum capacity. Amenities include a private chef and outdoor movie theater. Google cofounder Sergey Brin got married here in 2007.
A 15-minute flight from Nassau, Little Whale Cay’s 93 private acres will set you back $12,000 to $15,000 per night. Once owned by American financier Wallace Groves, who developed resorts and casinos on Grand Bahama Island following his release from federal prison in 1941 (he was there for mail fraud), Little Whale’s three guesthouses accommodate up to 12 people at once. Groves, who died in 1988, originally conceived of the island as a bird sanctuary, and 34 species, including the Bahama woodstar, flamingos, domestic peacocks, and the endangered West Indian whistling duck, can be found there. Three tortoises, named Tomasina, Dixie, and Henrietta, also call Little Whale Cay, one of the 30-odd Berry Islands, home.
The Darby Islands—which consist of Big Darby, Little Darby, Bette Cay, Goat Cay, and Guana Cay—are available for a comparatively reasonable $2,500 per night. Accessible only by boat or aircraft, Big Darby was once a working plantation producing cotton and palm oil. The main house features a 4,000-square-foot great room, formal dining room, two sundecks and verandas, and a pool table. Share the crystal-clear waters between Big and Little Darby with wild eagle and leopard rays; feast on locally caught seafood upon your return. Comfortable though it may be, you’re still very much off the beaten path—communication between the Darbys and the rest of the world is more or less limited to mobile phone and marine band VHF radio.
Bridges Cay, a 29-acre private island located 13 miles south of Marsh Harbour, has been in the Pitcairn family for more than 50 years. The main house, called the Lookout, sleeps eight to 10; the Beach Villa sleeps two to four. As it sits squarely in the Bight of Old Robinson, Bridges Cay is protected from the open ocean. There are lush stands of mangroves a kayak ride away, and some of the finest snorkeling in the world can be found here. Check out the bat caves and historic lighthouse in Little Harbor, followed by rum punch and fish sandwiches at Pete’s Pub. Rates available upon request.
How to get there: Seaplane service can be arranged through various charter companies. Seabird Air (800-468-8639) is based in Nassau and operates a fleet of air-conditioned Cessna Caravan Amphibian aircraft. If you’re boating in, Seabird will send a seaplane to meet you wherever you tie up. Trans Island Airways (242-362-4006) of New Providence flies Cessna 402C seaplane charters year-round. Tropic Ocean Airways (800-767-0897) flies both three- and nine-passenger Cessnas between Florida and the Bahamas and was founded by a former U.S. Navy Top Gun fighter pilot.