Copyright © 2016 Nicole McGehee
Is your idea of a crowd three other people on your beach? Do you enjoy personalized, but barely visible service? Or perhaps you want the privacy to skinny-dip in your own pool.
If you’re looking to unplug — truly unplug — from TVs, phones and e-devices, but you want understated luxury and privacy, here are five enticing getaways you’ve probably never heard of. I’ve never been to any of them, but I want to go to all. To that end, I’ve researched them extensively, including Trip Advisor ratings. I have traveled enough — and written so many travel articles — that I know how to read between the lines of reviews and brochures. I think you can trust me on these, but, of course, do your own research before booking, and read the bad Trip Advisor reviews for specific criticism.
Very important: since the resorts’ own photos are copyrighted, you owe it to yourself to click on the links I’ve provided and view the full galleries for yourself. They are breathtaking. That said, most of these resorts provided me with photos.
La Fregate, The Seychelles
This lush tropical island chain is located 1000 miles east of Africa in the Indian Ocean. There are other world-class resorts in the archipelago, but La Fregate, a private island, has always captured my imagination. There are seven pristine beaches for just 16 villas. Each residence has its own pool and — the ultimate luxury — its own butler. Candlelight dinner on the beach? A picnic for just the two of you on an isolated stretch of sand? A rainforest tour? Massage and facial? No problem; your butler will make all the arrangements. There are no beach front villas here, rather they are perched on a cliff for endless sea views. But each residence gets a private golf cart, so you’re free to explore.
Much of the food served is grown in the resort’s gardens, and the cuisine is said to be very good, which is rare on single-resort islands. The Trip Advisor rating is 4 1/2 out of 5 stars, with 61 reviews. The one “terrible” review was written in 2006, and the only alarming flaw it pointed out were millipedes raining down from the ceiling. Okay, that’s pretty bad, but it was eight years ago, so be sure to read the raves, too.
Meridian Club, Pine Cay, Turks and Caicos http://www.meridianclub.com
I can’t say it better than the resort’s home page: “The Meridian Club, the only resort on Pine Cay, is a secluded island getaway on a privately owned 800-acre cay in the Turks and Caicos.Beautifully positioned on a two-mile stretch of talcum-powder beach – considered by many as the finest in the Caribbean – The Meridian Club is an environmentally-sensitive private island resort ideally suited for those seeking an unspoiled, upscale but unpretentious retreat. With no automobiles, televisions, radios or telephones ringing in your ears, you are left to unwind and enjoy the island’s natural beauty and tranquility. Soothing trade winds ensure comfortable temperatures and low humidity year round on our Turks and Caicos private island while the surrounding waters(averaging a pleasant 75° – 80° Fahrenheit) teem with marine life. Underwater visibility often exceeds 100 feet and there are miles of coral gardens within a five minute boat ride. Ashore, Pine Cay remains a pristine natural haven with vast open space and seven freshwater ponds, a perfect habitat for the abundant local fauna and flora.”
Trip Advisor gives this resort 5 stars with 88 reviews, 82 of which were “excellent, 3 very good. The “poor” review complained that the resort — though adults only — was overrun by noisy kids staying at the private homes on the island, since owners get club membership.
Coco Point Lodge, Barbuda, West Indies http://cocopoint.com
Not Bermuda, the honeymoon tradition with its very own “Triangle,” but BARBUDA, sister island to well-known Antigua, in the Caribbean. Barbuda has only 1500 inhabitants in its 15 x 8 square mile area. It features miles of unspoiled beach, clear water, and all manner of wildlife and birds. Trip Advisor guests give Coco Point Lodge five stars. Unusual for the Caribbean, guests rave about the food. Good thing, since this is an all-inclusive resort.
Words from the resort’s own website, “Coco Point provides the ultimate in relaxation and privacy, and it is luxurious without being too fancy, it is refined without being stuffy, it is in vogue and yet still understated. Our guests do not come to Coco Point to be seen — they come to Coco Point to do the seeing, some to open their eyes, and all to marvel in the view. Coco Point has not changed a whole lot over the last 52 years because it got it right the first time. Simple, special, and exceptional, and experiences to savor and remember — that is the Coco Point tradition, has and always will be.”
Trip Advisor gives this resort 5 stars, with 45 reviews. Forty-four are “excellent,” one is “terrible.” There’s always one, isn’t there?
Anjajavy Hotel, Madagascar, Africa, All photos for this property © Bipa.Fitiavana 2009 http://www.anjajavy.com/index_en.html#
Madagascar: even the name sounds exotic. This island off the coast of the African country of Mozambique boasts flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth. Says the hotel’s official website: “Home to lemurs, chameleons, tortoises, humming birds, medicinal plants, cocoa, vanilla, ylang-ylang, cloves, papyrus and carnivorous plants to name a few; Madagascar is one of the last remaining unspoilt oases on the planet. There are virgin forests, savannas, lazy bays and tiny islands to explore.”
Talk about remote, this resort cannot be accessed by road, but the property arranges private air service. Twenty-four rosewood villas on 1350 acres are set amidst a tropical garden, and front an unspoiled stretch of dazzling white sand. Dirt paths within the resort invite exploration, and boat excursions can also be arranged.
This resort has a five star rating on Trip Advisor. Out of 159 reviews, 150 are excellent, five are very good, three are average, and one is poor. The “poor” did not pinpoint any particular flaw, so maybe the low score should be thrown out, like in Olympic ice skating. Opinions on food ranged from very good to dreadful. Service: mixed reviews.
Travaasa, Maui, Hawaii http://travaasa.com/maui
Hawaii may be part of the USA, but it is one of the most remote island groups on earth, at least a five-hour plane trip from the nearest mainland. Although Maui has certainly been discovered — and can be crowded with tourists — most resorts are in the sunny south of the island. Take the famous, winding road to Hana, and you’ll end up in another world (the resort can also arrange a flight from southern Maui). It’s rainier here in northeastern Maui, and the beauty is untamed. You won’t find a white sand lagoon on the property, but a dramatic cliff, complete with the sound of crashing waves to lull you into relaxation.
Relaxation, in fact, is what Travaasa is all about, with its spa, yoga classes, and rustic-chic bungalows spread at discreet distances from one another. Here, they encourage you to try all manner of gentle adventures, from juicing and cooking classes to net fishing and gliding. Gliding will get your heart racing, it’s true, but it’s serene up there, in keeping with this resort’s natural philosophy.
The resort relies on Hawaii’s bounty for food, spa products, and activities. Jet skis? Forget it! Horseback riding, guided meditation? You’ve come to the right place.
This property has 625 Trip Advisor reviews, with over 500 rated as excellent or very good, and 25 “terrible”. Most of the “terrible” reviews seemed to result from pricing disputes caused by booking through third parties. Another problem highlighted in some reviews, however, appears to be cleanliness. The people who gave “terrible” ratings give hair-raising accounts of bugs, dust, and generally poor maintenance.
Even the most recent 5-star review had this to say, “If you are expecting modern and sparkling, stay somewhere else. If you want a transport back in time to the best of Hawaiian culture, race to make your reservations. We stayed in an older Hawaiian wooden cottage with a direct view to the ocean. The vistas were gorgeous, the grounds beautiful, the quiet nourishing, and the energy marvelous. There may have been cracks in the stone counter and dust on the ceiling fan blades, but we lacked for nothing. The rooms were spacious with decking and hot tub and really comfortable beds, delicious Kona coffee to grind and perk, yummy banana bread, complimentary wine on arrival and for a birthday, and a host of other amenities. The charming rooms had nice sitting areas, “kitchenette” spots, and a large bath facility. Every morning the sun and the sea greeted us firsthand. The breezes at night through the screen doors were heavenly. Our retreat was as private as we wanted. There was a wonderful, true Maui Aloha calm and consideration shown by all the attending employees.”
Overall, Trip Advisor gives this property a 4 1/2 out of 5-star rating, so I suggest you read the best and worst, and then reach your own conclusions.