Have you ever wanted an entire island all to yourself? (Yes, please.) It's the reason why private-island resorts are so appealing, but then you run into other guests throughout your stay. But now you can have an island to yourself — literally — thanks to Gladden Private Island, a new ultra-exclusive resort accommodating a maximum of four guests. And you certainly won't be roughing it: the island has all the bells and whistles of a luxury resort, including a dedicated staff. The project was spearheaded by Chris Krolow, CEO of Private Islands Inc. and executive producer and host of HGTV's Island Hunters, and his business partner David Keener, CEO of Vision Properties. We caught up with Krolow to ask what makes Gladden stand out above the rest.
Q. What made you decide to open a private-island resort?
A: I've been selling islands for 20 years as my main job and I've been all over the world hosting Island Hunters on HGTV, so I've been very immersed in the business for a long time. I own a few private islands around the world but none were the right fit for the concept I had in mind. With Gladden, the stars aligned. I found the perfect islands to build on, and David [Keener], who I worked with on another island project that was very successful, was able to secure all the permits we needed quickly and handle the construction side.
Q: How did you choose these two islands for the resort?
A: When I saw these islands 20 miles northeast of Placencia right on the reef, I knew they were perfect. They had been on the market for a while and no one wanted them because they were so remote. They're also too small for someone to build a large resort. But for this concept, they're just right.
Q: What makes Gladden Private Island unique?
A: Gladden is the culmination of all the good things I've seen, and solves all the problems I've seen. Ultra-private islands are awesome: the location is amazing, but they're hard to rent out because they don't have any level of service.
On the flipside, you've got all these amazing private-island resorts with impeccable service. Some of them have villas and are very exclusive, but it's almost the anti-private island. Even if it's a small resort and you're only there with a few other couples, what if you don't want to see those couples?
With Gladden, I had the solution: we built a single modern-Mayan-style villa for just one or two couples on the main island and housing for staff on the smaller island. The chef, manager and concierge are a two-minute boat ride away when signaled and completely out of view the rest of the time. We even installed a "privacy meter" to indicate if you are alone or if a member of staff is visiting the island for any reason. All support structures on the smaller island are hidden from sightlines of the main house, and there are no neighbors to be seen in any direction.
Q: What's included in the room rate?
A: At resorts, there's always an upcharge, but we do out very best to make sure everything is included. And because we only accommodate one or two couples, our onsite concierge will reach out ahead of time to find out their preferences. We plan meals and ship in whatever we have to. We discuss privacy level: do you want the staff to be as minimal as possible or do you want someone serving daiquiris by the pool?
We also schedule any activities. If you want to go out for dinner at Hatchet Caye or one of the neighboring islands, we will arrange it. Diving is included, and our managers are PADI-certified instructors. We have a full-time massage therapist on staff, so you can have as many massages as you want.
Q: How do you get there?
A: One of the best parts about Gladden is that it compares to Tahiti, the Seychelles and the Maldives — but it takes half the time to get there from the U.S. and Canada. From Miami, it's just a two-hour flight to Belize City. I leave Toronto at 9:30 a.m. and I'm on the island by lunch — and no jet lag!
Once guests arrive in Belize City, our concierge takes them from customs to the resort's helicopter, and then it's a 35-minute flight to Gladden. Plus, the ride flies over the Barrier Reef, one of the most amazing experiences you could imagine. And then you land on your own island with the staff is waiting with a welcome drink and a snack. After you've had some time to absorb everything, they come back, give you a tour and show you how things work.
And you're not just tucked into some destination where you're in the middle of nowhere. The snorkeling around Gladden is amazing. Boats don't really go out as far as the island, and the fish don't really know what people are, so they're not scared and will come right to you. Other parts of Belize don't offer that kind of experience. Plus the island is a five-minute boat ride from the Gladden Spit, where the whale sharks congregate, and 45 minutes from Placencia.
Q: What will guests love most about staying on Gladden?
A: When the staff leaves the island, you'll feel like the only people on the planet. Usually when you have that feeling, you're camping somewhere really remote — there's no air conditioning, Wi-Fi (that really works) or flat-screen Apple TVs.
At the end of every evening, you're on your own. It's such a feeling, when you see the staff light go off, the sun is going down, you've just had a meal prepared for you, martinis are waiting — you're just being completely pampered. It's pretty incredible.