The 10 Best New Island Resorts

Want to be one of the first to sleep in an over-water villa or relax in a cliff-top hot tub? Here are 10 new boutique island resorts worth visiting.

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Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa, Borneo Mount Kinabalu towers 13,455 feet above you. Polish Bay beach and the South China Sea stretch in front. And rainforest dominates everything else. In the middle of it all lies Bunga Raya Resort, 47 locally handcrafted villas terraced in the jungle hillside like ornaments on a Christmas tree — your gateway to Borneo. Scents of 50 hibiscus species waft through your open window, along with lemongrass and wild ginger. Tongkat-ali trees create shade and local medicinal remedies. But even when you’re inside your ironwood, stilted villa, nature comes in. Trees poke through from floor to ceiling, and furniture is made from driftwood. Head to the surrounding Tunku Rahman Marine Park for diving, kayaking and a view of Borneo and your posh hillside digs. gayana-eco-resort.comCourtsey of Bunga Raya Island resort
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The Havannah, Vanuatu With just six rooms, the Havannah, opened in July 2009, makes you feel like you're part of the Vanuatu community, but with much more pampering. Staying here, on the northwest part of Éfaté island, also gives you the opportunity to experience real Melanesian village life through excursions the resort will organize for you. Meet the locals of nearby Tanoliu Village who invite you into their homes for laplap, tuluk and coconut milk. Men can even go into nakamal (men's houses) for kava tastings and to communicate with ancestral spirits through magic stones. Be sure to go on a bushwalk of Moso Island, visit Chief Roi Mata's Domain and snorkel off Lelepa island, searching for dugongs, cousin to the manatee. But Vanuatu calls on all your senses. Listen for more than 100 local languages and dialects and breathe in the wafts of cocoa. After a fulfilling and exhausting day of Vanuatu adventure, retreat back to the Havannah for a dinner of local fish on the jetty. It's the luxurious yet authentic way to visit Vanuatu. thehavannah.comCourtesy of The Havannah
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Hôtel Christopher, St. Barts In the Caribbean, a hotel is only as good as the beach that surrounds it. Luckily, the Hôtel Christopher has many, namely Lorient Beach, shielded by a fringing reef and unknown to many St. Barts visitors. Opened in December 2009, Christopher’s 38 ocean-facing rooms keep you in earshot of the lapping waves. The hotel also lives up to St. Barts’ reputation for classy Caribbean luxury. Laze the day away in one of the hotel’s pool mattresses (lounge chairs are old news) with a good book and the white sand and Caribbean blue just past your toes. For dinner, retreat to the hilltop just above the hotel, where Le Ti St. Bart, a popular restaurant, serves lobster ceviche, amazing desserts and crazy full-moon parties (be prepared to dance on tables). Or head to Gustavia, the capital and only town, for shopping and a cocktail at the oldest bar on the island, Le Select. But then, of course, it’s back to the beach. hotelchristopher.comCourtesy of Hôtel Christopher
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Kihavah Villas, Maldives Check into Kihavah and then never leave your room. Order breakfast in bed from your over-water villa while resting on your personalized pillow and looking out over the glassy Indian Ocean. Everything about Kihavah screams exclusive Maldivian indulgence, starting with the private, 35-minute seaplane ride and ending on Kihavah Huravalhi island, one of the most exclusive and preserved islands in the Maldives. Your home for the next week (or year) boasts a private pool, dining pavilion, wooden sundecks, swinging daybeds, outdoor showers and more. But there are two compelling reasons to leave your front door. Start with a Maldivian coconut exfoliation, followed by a champissage massage and exotic ginger bath at the Anantara Spa. Then try the on-site underwater restaurant; order the red snapper with lemongrass, ginger and black pepper, baked in front of you (while you’re underwater, of course) on a Himalayan salt block. The next day? Repeat as necessary. And you’ll be the first to experience one of these 74 pool villas, as Kihavah opens in December 2010. kihavah-maldives.anantara.comCourtesy of Kihavah Villas
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Rosalie Bay Resort, Dominica Rosalie Bay Resort embraces Dominica’s strongest side: rustic nature. Elaborate amenities are unnecessary when Dominica is your backdrop. Sleep in the shade of the Morne Trois Pitons, between the river and the bay where leatherback and green turtles come to lay their eggs in safety. Opened in August 2010, the 28 rooms make you feel like you’re staying in a local Caribbean village. The onyx-finished pool takes its cues from the surrounding black volcanic sand. Towering pourie trees encircle the Pourie Cottage. And wooden furniture, all handmade by local Dominicans, rests alongside the Rosalie River. To keep Dominica’s natural wonders intact, the island’s first wind turbine generates 70 percent of the resort’s electricity, with solar panels picking up the remainder. Be sure to ask the concierge to arrange a trip to Boiling Lake, Victoria Falls, the Emerald Pool and everything in between. From late March to early October, stick around the resort at night to watch 100-plus-pound turtles arrive on the beach. rosaliebay.comCourtesy of Rosalie Bat Resort
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Sankara Hotel & Spa, Japan Japan's bucket-list-worthy Yakushima island begs you to stay outside — the untouched emerald forests, snowcapped mountains and pristine beaches will make sure you do, until you must sleep. And do that at Sankara, an auberge-style, 29-room hotel that opened in March 2010, for easy access to all of Yakushima's greatness and a luxury bed at night. From Sankara, start driving the one road that circumnavigates the island. Without stopping it takes about three hours. But if you want to take in all of Yakushima's sights, you'll need days. Take pictures of yakuzaru (monkeys) and yakushika (deers) along the Seibu-rindo Forest Path. Hike to the center of the island, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see the huge, ancient yakusugi cedar trees, including Jomon-Sugi, said to be the oldest cedar in the world. Stroll past the green-sea-turtle sanctuaries along the beaches. Verdant moss, crystal-clear rivers, cherry azaleas and granite shorelines surround you at every turn, proving that Japan is in the details. And after seeing firsthand what makes up Sankara's backdrop, you'll appreciate the resort's green initiatives even more. Oh, and its butler service. sankarahotel-spa.com/enCourtesy of Sankara Hotel & Spa
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Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania Be one of the first to sleep in an over-water villa in the Maldives; relax in a cliff-top hot tub in England; or enjoy a wraparound porch facing the South China Sea in Borneo. These boutique resorts are the cool new kids on the island, upping the ante on all levels — sustainability, location, service, food. But even the best new resorts don’t stand out like tuxedos in a biker bar; they humbly fit in with their natural surroundings, like Tasmania’s Saffire Freycinet resort, perfectly perched on the Freycinet Peninsula on the island’s east coast. The resort’s design mimics the waves, mountain peaks and sand dunes around it, and the sun’s rays reflecting off Great Oyster Bay are your wake-up call. Slowly sit up in bed, but don’t get up quite yet. A wall made completely of glass lets in the westerly views. Trawlers bring in the day’s fresh catch of crawfish, scallops and deep-sea fish. You’ll eat those for dinner later at the on-site restaurant (along with local, grass-fed beef and lamb and all locally grown produce). Migrating whales and dolphins surface in the bay, while Freycinet National Park surrounds you. And that’s all from the comfort of your bed. OK, now it’s time to get up and explore. Opened in April 2010, Saffire Freycinet’s 20 free-standing luxury suites offer ocean views, private decks and access to all that makes Tasmania a more, say, efficient Australia — indigenous creatures like the Tasmanian devil, temperate rainforests and four wine regions, all on an island less than one-tenth the size of its big sister. And all the while, have peace of mind knowing you’re staying at a resort dedicated to environmental sustainability. saffire-freycinet.com.auCourtesy of Saffire Freycinet
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The Scarlet, England The Scarlet, perched on the cliffs of Cornwall, England, makes luxury and sustainability one in the same. Solar panels heat the indoor swimming pool (which flows to the outdoor infinity pool); a native sea-thrift roof resembles the surrounding cliffs; and the living reed bed in the pool replaces the need for harsh chemicals — the Scarlet and its 37 rooms make indulgence green and guilt-free. And since opening in September 2009, its modern, sleek design brings a new vibe to the old county draped in Iron Age history. One look at the hanging “relaxation pods” and Ayurvedic treatment menu, and it’s clear this is a different kind of Cornwall. Get a massage in the luxury canvas tent; then retreat outside with a glass of European wine to a hot-tub seaweed bath overlooking the British Atlantic. scarlethotel.co.ukCourtesy of The Scarlet
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Tucker’s Point, Bermuda A British territory close to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with Caribbean-like characteristics and African ancestry — seems like Bermuda has a slight identity crisis. But Tucker’s Point Hotel & Spa, opened in April 2009, proves these attributes meld perfectly together. After a quick flight from the East Coast, check into one of the 88 rooms and get your quintessentially Bermudan do-it-yourself Dark ’n’ Stormy kit: two cans of ginger beer, a bottle of dark rum and a lime. Make your first drink while overlooking Harrington Sound and Castle Harbour. But then it’s time to see Bermuda as it was meant to be seen — from the Caribbean-esque beach. Hop on a quick trolley to the island’s longest private beach, which provides complete seclusion. Sit back and indulge in fresh-from-the-sea fish under a shaded pergola and appreciate all that makes up Tucker’s Point. tuckerspointhotelandspa.comCourtesy of Tucker Point
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Zoetry Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Punta Cana has its fair share of wrist-band-required, buffet-bursting all-inclusives. But this one offers an authentic twist. Zoetry Agua Punta Cana sits alone. And sometimes, alone is a glorious thing. To get here, drive an hour from the thatched-roof airport, past the Bavaro-beach hotel zone. But don't worry — you won't lift a finger for the next week. The 53 suites, crafted from local cane and bamboo, opened in November 2009. Book the "Endless Privileges" package and forget about check-in or checkout times. Instead, stay as long as you desire. Enjoy Mama Juanas made from local rum, a private brown-sugar-sand beach, endless windsurfing and a host of traditional Dominican dishes, like pica pollo frito con tostones de plátano. Do as little or as much as you want. It's Punta Cana's anthem. zoetryresorts.com
Courtesy of Zoetry Punta Cana