Living a Robinson Crusoe life in luxury on your own private tropical island is the stuff of daydreams and lifestyles of the rich and famous. Yet, it’s possible. First, you just have to be on the lookout for a uninhabited island for sale. Then know what do to with it realistically.
“The main reasons why islands come onto the market are usually associated with the 3D’s – debt, divorce, or death. Sometimes, people just like a change of scenery and move to another area,” says Farhad Vladi, owner of Hamburg, Germany-headquartered Vladi Private Islands, with offices in Canada and New Zealand. “Of course, the main reason why people wish to own an island is that you have complete control of what you see. Caribbean islands are popular because of the climate and good infrastructure.”
The Bahamas is the most popular area with uninhabited islands regularly coming up for sale there. Belize, in Central America, is also a very hot island region with several islands in the Caribbean Sea. It’s an English-speaking country with currency conveniently in USD, easily accessible with a few hours short flight from most cities in North America. Less often, but not uncommon are islands for sale in the Eastern Caribbean, such as off Grenada.
Turning a sea-rimming circle of sand and palm trees into a home is a task that takes realistic planning and means.
“Most buyers are aware that building/maintaining an island is more expensive compared to mainland property but in some cases (especially for more remote islands) the extra expenses are higher than originally anticipated. For example, building costs can be 50 percent more than on the mainland. If the island is undeveloped, buyers need to make sure that they can acquire the necessary permits to build what they want. Does the island have sufficient elevation in case of flooding? Is the island large enough for your needs? Is there sufficient infrastructure on the mainland for your needs? How far is the closest hospital and how quickly can help arrive on the island if need be? What about cell phone reception? Groceries? Supplies?” says Sabah Memon, director of operations for Private Islands Inc., in Ontario, Canada.
Other things to consider are water depth for larger boats and is there a safe area to build a dock or pier.
“If you are planning on renting out your island you need to look at the whole project through the eyes of a potential renter and develop the island with these considerations: Will guests be safe getting to the island? Will you have a full-time caretaker? How close are neighboring islands? Some owners don’t mind neighbors, but most renters want complete privacy,” Memon adds.
Here is a sampling of five private islands currently for sale:
1. Neptune’s Nest, Bahamas. White sand beaches span the eastern and western shores of this 117-acre island located 40 miles northwest of Nassau in the Berry Islands. High cliffs separate the beaches and make space to live above sea level.
Locals say this 1-mile-long by ¾-mile wide island was once called Devil’s Cay to keep pirates at bay and away from stealing any buried treasure. Today, these waters are the haunts for spectacular scuba diving and sports fishing. No facilities or amenities. There are two airstrips nearby: one 12 miles to the northwest at Great Harbour Cay and the other 12 miles southwest at Chub Cay. www.vladi-private-islands.de. Price: US $9.5 million
2. Little St James, U.S. Virgin Islands. Former home of a bad boy financier, the 70-plus acres here have the trappings of a small resort once used as a private home. There’s a helipad, private dock, main residence, guest houses, private beaches, pools, water, electricity, and even a gas station. Dinghy distance to St. Thomas, St. John, and the British Virgin Islands. www.bespokerealestate.com. Price: US $55 million
3. White Island, Carriacou. Formerly owned by the late Italian luxury brand shoe designer, Salvatore Ferragamo, this 10-acre island boasts over 3000-foot of white sand beaches – hence its name. It’s rimmed with coral reefs, ranging from 8 to 40 feet in depth, that provides shelter as well as superb snorkeling and diving. There’s a nearby deep-water channel near shore where a superyacht can float at anchor. Carriacou’s mainland is nearby. The island is for sale with planning approval for an eco-friendly hotel, but these can be tailored to a residence as well. www.privateislandsonline.com. Price: US $5 million
4. Isle de Caille, Grenada. Located 3 miles off the coast of Grenada’s northern tip, this uninhabited island can easily be ready to call home. Four buildings, water (40,000-gallon tank), and electricity make for easy living on this 300-acre island where two volcanic peaks are separated by a valley, and there are several small bays and beaches. There are roads and an airstrip here. www.vladi-private-islands.de. Price: US $20 million
5. Funk Cay, Belize. Reefs surrounding this nearly 3-acre island, located 16 miles east of popular Placencia, teem with fish and places to enjoy watersports. Fly fish for bonefish on the flats, swim in the natural white sand pool to the island’s northwest, or cruise three miles away to the Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. A 35-foot area at the center of the island has already been cleared for a helipad. Other facilities already in place are an 80-foot by 30-foot dock, and three wooden buildings including one housing a generator-powered reverse osmosis unit that produces 3,000 gallons of fresh water per day. www.privateislandsonline.com. Price: US $1.5 million