Belize's Grand Bogue Caye is listed as one of the most expensive islands in '06.
Thanks and cheers,
By Sara Clemence
Updated: 6:10 p.m. ET March 3, 2006
They're not just for the pathologically reclusive or tragically stranded. Private islands, with their bare beaches, 360-degree views and delicious solitude, are coveted by billionaires and celebrities alike.
"If you win the lottery, you buy a private island," says Cheyenne Morrison, broker for Coldwell Banker Morrison's Private Islands in Port Douglas, Australia. "Or if you become a tech mogul, that's what you do. You think, 'I'll buy a yacht. I'll buy a private island.'"
The main incentive to owning an entire island is pretty obvious: keyword "private." A huge margin of water serves as a far more effective barrier to the outside world than a stone wall, automatic gate or towering privet hedge. There are no noisy neighbors; no photographers may set foot on your beach without permission.
There is also an element of fantasy to having your own private island--especially given the prices. Though pocket-sized properties without beaches, in dubious or chilly parts of the world, can be had for as little as $200,000, private islands are increasingly rare.
"Islands are very scarce, the good ones," says Farhad Vladi of international brokerage Vladi Private Islands in Hamburg, Germany.
Many have been set aside as nature preserves, sold off in parcels, developed into multiple resorts, or will simply be bought and held for decades. In some countries, such as the Philippines, foreigners are not allowed to buy private islands. So, it's no wonder prices for the biggest can be sky-high.
This year, for example, Forbes.com's 2006 list of the Most Expensive Private Islands tops out at nearly $40 million, the price for Isla de sa Ferradura, a Spanish property occupied by a luxurious resort villa. The ninth-most expensive private island on the market, a stunning example off the coast of St. Thomas known as Thatch Cay, clocks in at a tough-to-reach $24 million. And though we scoured real estate listings for the properties on our list, there are likely several more that are being sold very, very quietly at comparable prices--or higher.
The list of people who have owned private islands is long and illustrious. Mel Gibson paid $15 million for his cliff-ringed Fijian retreat. Richard Branson wisely bought Necker Island decades ago, when it was still possible to purchase such properties in the British Virgin Islands. Marlon Brando lived for years in rustic fashion on Tetiaroa in French Polynesia (the island is currently being turned into an eco-resort). Thought the world's richest person, Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Gates, is not known to own his own island, he reportedly toured Grand Bogue Caye, the largest available private island in Belize. Priced at $25 million, it has 314 acres and thousands of feet of pristine beach.
So, why don't more billionaires and celebrities own their own islands? For one thing, there is a finite supply of them. For another, they are not to everyone's tastes, no matter how appealing they might seem in the abstract. The best islands have beaches to lounge on, clear waters to swim and fish in and terraces to dine on, but unless your property happens to be close to civilization, you can rule out shopping, dining out and visiting museums.
In fact, access can be a real problem and some private islands are not large enough to land a Gulfstream, or have a harbor deep enough to handle anything larger than a small boat. Then, of course, there can be the hassle of ensuring there are always enough supplies, not to mention electricity and running water. Most islands aren't on a power grid and few are located near a Home Depot (nyse: HD - news - people ) or a Wal-Mart (nyse: WMT - news - people ). Last, but not the least, islands can be prone to salt damage, insects and, more important, natural disasters like tidal waves and hurricanes. After a while, even a billionaire may get fed up of having to constantly rebuild at the end of every hurricane season.
Still, advances in technology have made island living cheaper, more comfortable and less cut-off. You will still pay more to build a house on an island, since materials need to come in by boat, and for traveling you are generally at the mercy of the sea. But solar panels and wind power generators have become more affordable in recent years; so has desalination equipment.
"Communication was always the biggest drawback of an island," Morrison says. "Up until five or ten years ago, no matter how much money you had, you couldn't have telephone service; you had to rely on radio."
Wendy Auxillou (de la Fuente)
AUXILLOU BEACH SUITES
The #1 Ranked Caye Caulker Hotel
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