With announcements about where we will (and won’t) be allowed to travel to this year imminent, all thoughts are on the luxurious – and much needed – breaks the summer might hold. But, if after a year in isolation, it still seems a little early to spend a fortnight surrounded by strangers in the confines of a tropical resort, there is another option.
From secluded private islands in the Maldives to elegant Italian palazzo, some of the world’s most luxurious hotels are available for private hire – meaning you and your (carefully selected) guests will have the place entirely to yourselves. Yes, you’ll need deep pockets to afford this kind of exclusivity but, after the last year, haven’t you earned it?
Here’s our guide to the best hotels around the world available for exclusive use.
Thanda Island, Tanzania
Planning the family reunion to end all family reunions? Nestled within Tanzania’s Shungimbili Marine Reserve, making it the only exclusive use protected marine reserve in the world, Thanda Island has been designed specifically for private hire. Accommodating 18 guests across a five-suite villa and two traditional Tanzanian Bandas (beach chalets), the emphasis here is on shutting out the rest of the world and making incredible memories.
Helicopter transfers, use of the island’s private yacht Sea Leopard (which can sleep a further eight people), meals, drinks and a huge span of activities – including unlimited spa treatments, private dive charters, swimming with whale sharks, deep sea fishing, jet skiing, water sports and yoga – are all included in the price, so once you arrive you needn’t worry about a thing. The island also comes equipped with a full gym, floodlit tennis court and a team of highly experienced staff ready to cater to your every whim.
Mandarin Oriental Canouan, St Vincent & The Grenadines
We can all agree that relaxing on a Caribbean beach, pina colada in hand, sounds like quite the antidote for the trials of the past year. And while the uninitiated head to Jamaica, Antigua and Barbados, those in the know are making a beeline for Canouan. This tiny speck of an island, which is part of St Vincent and the Grenadines, may measure in at less than three square miles but it is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes and breathtaking beaches in the Caribbean.
It also does a rather fine line in luxury hotels – one of the best being the Mandarin Oriental, which promises Eastern-influenced hospitality and service with a relaxed island vibe. Its 26 suites and 13 villas overlook the pristine Godahl Beach and, thanks to its special Slice of Paradise Buyout package, are all yours for the taking. As are its four bars and restaurants, spa, fitness centre, private jet and 1,200 aces of grounds. Sounds like more than just a slice of paradise to us.
Borgo Egnazia, Italy
Taking exclusive use of Puglia’s Borgo Egnazia is more like becoming lord of your own Italian village than hiring a hotel. This sprawling resort on the coastline at Savelletri di Fasano is inspired by traditional boxy Apulian architecture and the winding, labyrinthine towns of the area, creating an atmosphere where arriving to breakfast prepared by Puglian massaie feels not dissimilar to stumbling upon a friendly nonna who happens to have a few dozen spare pastries.
A hugely popular location for weddings and special events, Borgo Egnazia’s 63 suites, 29 villas and 92 rooms are available to hire for exclusive use, which also gives you and your guests run of the onsite beach club, two private beaches, bar and restaurant, which serves authentic Italian fare. There’s plenty to keep more active guests entertained as well, with the San Domenico golf course located minutes from the hotel and on site activities including a kids and teens club, Vair spa, gym, tennis courts, padel courts and water sports. That is, of course, if you don’t get lost wandering the streets of this truly magnificent hotel.
Velaa Private Island, Maldives
The Maldives is already a bucket list destination thanks to its reputation for privacy and luxury, but Velaa Private Island takes this to the next level with its takeover offering. Usually run as an ultra-luxe resort offering a range of beach and water villas, for bookings of at least four nights the entire resort can be booked privately, meaning guests have exclusive use of its pristine white beaches, tropical forests and numerous infinity pools.
With four restaurants, serving cuisines spanning teppanyaki, internationally-inspired fine dining and homestyle all day dishes, as well as a kids club, water toys and a range of boat excursions, there’s no need to worry about getting bored. There’s also a full-service spa boasting the Maldives’ only snow room, a nine-hole golf course, tennis and squash courts, a climbing wall, football pitch and yoga pavilion. In fact, the only thing you really need be concerned about is how to pack everything in to your stay.
Villa La Massa, Italy
Perched on the banks of the river Arno and just a 15-minute drive from Florence, Villa La Massa is the stuff Tuscan holiday dreams are made of. The sister property to Lake Como’s iconic Villa d’Este (which should give you some idea of the level of luxury to expect), Villa La Massa sits on a 25-acre private estate which is home to some of the country’s most impressive landscaped gardens, while guests are also privy to cookery, painting and yoga classes, wine tasting and treatments at the Arno Spa. There are also four bars and restaurants to choose from, including the hugely romantic Il Verrocchio and a 15th-century wine cellar housing some seriously impressive vintages.
Despite its 51 rooms and suites, a stay at Villa La Massa is more akin to staying at a lavish private family home than a modern hotel, making it the ultimate in exclusive use retreats. Able to accommodate more than 100 guests, it makes an incredible wedding venue, but we recommend booking it just for your nearest and dearest and enjoying life as Italian nobility for a week or two.
Zannier Hotels Omaanda and Zannier Hotels Sonop, Namibia
If you think safari has to mean roughing it in a sand swept tent, think again. Zannier has been offering super-luxury experiences to its guest for years and is one of the few hotel groups boasting not one, but two, safari-focused resorts for private hire. Start your trip at Zannier Omaanda, where ten gorgeously decked out huts located in the heart of the savannah offer unparalleled access to the wildlife of the area. Twice-daily game drives, rhino and elephant tracking and tours of the Zannier Reserve by animal rescue and protection charity N/a’an ku sê complete the experience.
A short flight away, Zannier Sonop feels like a different world. This remote desert resort is all about experiencing the isolated beauty of this destination in utter luxury. Fill your days with hot air balloon rides over the dunes and horse riding or e-biking through the desert before returning to relax and unwind at the outdoor pool, spa or cocktail bar. At night linger over a fine dinner at the onsite restaurant before availing yourself of the team’s expertise with a stargazing session. This is one holiday you won’t forget in a hurry.