When money is no object, where do you go to get away from it all? Well, famous faces have been splashing out on their own private islands for years in a bid to escape the spotlight. These 20 celebrities carved out their very own slice of paradise in some of the most stunning spots on Earth. So, from Shakira to Johnny Depp, let’s discover which stars decided to go all-in on their own private tropical digs.
20. Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage was Hollywood’s highest earner during the height of his fame. In fact, he was worth an impressive $150 million, according to CNBC. That sounds like a lot of money to spend, right? Well, the actor gave it a good go! He splurged cash on a range of elaborate purchases – including a private island in the Bahamas. Cage reportedly paid $3 million for the idyll in 2006, which must have seemed like a bargain considering his relative wealth.
The island – called Leaf Cay – offers 45 acres of underdeveloped land in the Bahamas’ Exumas Island Chain. It also boasts sandy white beaches, sheltered lagoons and azure waters synonymous with a tropical haven. But it seems Cage didn’t find paradise here. It was later listed on the property website Rightmove for $8,500,000 with the potential for future development.
19. Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp apparently came across Little Halls Pond Cay in the Bahamas when he was making Pirates of the Caribbean. Page Six notes that he spent $3.6 million on the 45-acre island in 2004. Back then, the land had no infrastructure – though Depp soon set about building a ranch-style home featuring panoramic views.
Depp apparently named the beaches on Little Hall’s Pond Cay after those close to his heart. Two bear the name of his children Lily-Rose and Jack, and another takes the name of his ex: Vanessa Paradis. Gonzo beach is a nod to the author Hunter S. Thompson, while Brando beach honors the actor’s eponymous friend and mentor.
18. Rudolf Nureyev
Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev purchased the Li Galli archipelago of islands off Italy’s Amalfi Coast in 1988. He would spend the rest of his days in his Moorish style villa until his death five years later. The land was subsequently snapped up by a hotel owner, and it is still privately owned to this day.
Li Galli is still in private hands, but it’s open to the public if you’re willing to pay. According to the website Valdi Private Islands, there’s room for 12 guests at the island’s main house. This was built in 1922 and later renovated by the renowned architect Le Corbusier, and it comes with a price tag of $260,000 per week. While that might seem expensive, you also get catering, service, staff and a yacht included.
17. Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy purchased the Bahamian island of Rooster Cay in 2007 for $12 million, according to Boat International. Though some reports suggested that it is actually owned by the government of the Bahamas, which then leases it to individuals. Whatever the case, the laidback beauty spot has served as a vacation spot for the actor and his family over the years.
The six-hectare idyll is largely undeveloped but is just a short hop from the buzz of the Bahamian capital: Nassau. With that in mind, the beauty spot could prove popular with tourists if Murphy decided to establish a resort on the island. Nevertheless, it seems that Rooster Cay may already be open to visitors – with many Instagram users checking into “Eddie Murphy Island” on the platform.
16. John Lennon
Beatles star John Lennon bought the island of Dorinish in Ireland for just $2,300 back in 1967, Thejournal.ie notes. The trailblazing musician had reportedly fallen in love with the 19-acre chunk of land in County Mayo’s Clew Bay and even got the go-ahead to build a home there, but he never did. For two years in the 1970s, a group of hippies established a commune on the island. Though it’s mostly been uninhabited and remains so to this day.
Lennon reportedly had plans to retire in Dorninish, but his life was cut tragically short when he was shot dead in 1980. Yoko Ono later decided to sell the island following her husband’s death. Thejournal.ie reports that she raised around $40,000 in the process and subsequently donated it to an Irish orphanage.
15. Leonardo DiCaprio
According to The Culture Trip, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jeff Gram purchased Blackadore Caye off the coast of Belize for $1.75 million in 2005. Apparently, the former had fallen in love with the place after a scuba trip. The spot boasts 104 acres of unspoiled beauty, which DiCaprio and the businessman hope to turn into a world-leading eco-resort where guests can unwind in guilt-free luxury.
DiCaprio enlisted the architect Jason McLennon to design a 68-villa eco-resort with all the luxury trappings you’d expect. Highlights are expected to include floating villas and infinity pools. The resort will also feature fish shelters, artificial reefs and a manatee conservation site. The build was apparently due for completion in 2018, but its doors are yet to open at the time of writing.
14. Celine Dion
Île Gagnon is apparently only accessible via a gated bridge. As such, it was the perfect retreat for the singer Celine Dion. The Canadian diva purchased the private island on Quebec’s Rivière des Mille Îles for $29 million, according to 9Honey. The site is home to an amazing six-bedroom mansion built in the style of a French Chateau. Meanwhile, Dion and her family relocated there in 2001 following extensive renovations.
Though Dion didn’t find peace on Île Gagnon. She put the island on the market in 2012 and eventually sold it in 2016 for $25.5 million, according to Boat International. The buyer’s details were kept private, but real estate photographs of the impressive pile revealed they’d purchased something pretty spectacular!
13. Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando famously purchased the French Polynesian island of Tetiaroa in 1966 after falling for its beauty while filming Mutiny on the Bounty six years prior. For the remainder of his life, the legendary actor spent extended periods on the atoll either alone or with family and friends.
Since 2014 Tetiaroa has been accessible to visitors thanks to The Brando – a luxury eco-resort. It opened exactly a decade after the eponymous star’s death and includes 35 beachside villas perfectly placed to watch manta rays, sea turtles and exotic birds pass by. With that in mind, it’s not hard to see why the likes of Barack Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio have vacationed on Tetiaroa.
12. George Clooney
George Clooney purchased his English home shortly after his 2014 nuptials to Amal Alamuddin. The actor bought his residence on the four-acre island of Sonning Eye for over $13 million, according to Architectural Digest. For that price, the couple gained a 17th-century mansion and their own private retreat on the River Thames – just 40 miles from London.
Following their purchase, the Clooneys set about renovating the new property. Updates included a private cinema, a new pool house and a massive terrace. Mostly though, the couple has retained the English country pile vibe. It boasts traditional decor and perfectly manicured gardens – all shielded from view by established trees and foliage.
11. Larry Ellison
According to Forbes, Larry Ellison has a net worth of $87.7 billion. So, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Oracle founder has spent some of that wealth on his very own piece of paradise. Business Insider notes that he purchased Lanai – Hawaii’s smallest inhabited island – for $300 million back in 2012. The 140-square-mile landmass is reportedly home to a population of 3,200 people, a number of local businesses, two golf courses and three hotels.
Lanai is known for being one of Hawaii’s most secluded spots. It has just one small town called Lanai City and a host of deserted hiking trails and beaches. Ellison – who is one of the richest people on the planet – reportedly wants to establish a sustainable wellness laboratory on the island. So far, he has built homes, renovated hotels and poured cash into green energy sources.
10. David Copperfield
In 2006 magician David Copperfield purchased an island atoll in Musha Cay – the Bahamas – for $50 million, according to People. He then spent a further $30 million establishing a luxury resort there which has hosted the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates, John Travolta and Oprah Winfrey. If that wasn’t enough, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem also chose the location to host their wedding in 2010.
Musha Cay could be yours to experience with 11 other guests for the eye-watering sum of $42,000 per night, the publication notes. That price tag includes accommodation at one of the five homes on the island and access to 40 private beaches, a speed boat, tennis courts and more. Best of all, you’ll have the whole island entirely to yourselves.
Did you know that popstar Shakira teamed up with Pink Floyd rocker Roger Waters to buy an island in the Bahamas? Yep, Bonds Cay set the duo back $16 million when they bought it in 2011, according to Cheat Sheet. But with its beautiful beaches, cascading waterfalls and sheltered lagoons, the celebrities seemingly felt that the tropical utopia was well worth the investment.
Shakira and Waters reportedly bought Bonds Cay with ambitions of transforming the island into a retreat for artists. The plans were to develop the location into a luxury destination complete with villas, hotels and private beaches. The dream was never realized though, and as of February 2021 the island was listed as for sale on the Vladi Private Islands website.
8. Bear Grylls
Survival expert Bear Grylls is equipped with the skills to survive in some of the most remote locations on Earth. So, it’s hardly surprising that he saw the potential in the little-known idyll of Saint Tudwal’s Island West in north Wales. Radio Times reports that Grylls snapped it up for just under $130,000 in 2001, and he has since set up home there with his family.
The island is known for its wildlife spotting opportunities – with seals, otters and dolphins regularly stopping by. Other features include a rugged coastline and Grylls’ lighthouse home. Life there is usually peaceful, though the adventurer ran into trouble in 2013 when he installed an 80-foot slide on the side of a cliff!
7. John Wayne
Actor John Wayne apparently wasn’t afraid to talk politics. In the 1960s he voiced his support for Panamanian independence and criticized the United States’ control of the Panama Canal. The issue was finally resolved in favor of the Central American country in 1977, and leader Omar Torrijos wanted to show his thanks to the star. So, he gave him the beautiful Isla Taborcillo.
The island paradise reportedly boasts tropical beaches lined with mango and coconut groves. It also has a Wild West-themed town with a saloon bar – in honor of Wayne himself. Today, the island is owned by an Austrian publishing mogul called Ralph Hübner. Though visitors are welcomed on the island, which lies just 10 minutes off the coast of Panama’s Punta Chame.
6. Francis Ford Coppola
While he may be most famous for his directing career, Francis Ford Coppola is no stranger to the luxury travel industry. That’s because he and his family run a number of secluded getaway spots across the world – including Coral Caye. The island is off the coast of Belize, and it previously served as the filmmaker’s private retreat until he opened it up to paying visitors in 2016.
Rates started at $895 per night at the Coral Caye resort when it opened in 2016, according to Forbes. The two-acre island can accommodate a maximum of 12 people who can stay in two wooden bungalows. Guests also have access to snorkeling equipment, hammocks and canoes, while butler services and spa treatments are also on tap.
5. Larry Page
Google co-founder Larry Page is believed to have purchased his own idyll in the British Virgin Islands. The tech mogul has a connection with that part of the world, given that he wed his partner Lucy Southworth on Necker Island in 2007. As a result, it’s believed by local residents that Page purchased the nearby spot of Eustatia Island.
Eustatia Island is one of the jewels in the crown of the British Virgin Islands. The 35-acre isle reportedly enjoys 300 days of sun each year – with luscious landscapes and vibrant reefs. Its infrastructure also focuses on sustainability. Apparently, it has renewable energy sources and electric cars transport guests around the tropical paradise.
4. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw
Country power couple Faith Hill and Tim McGraw spent $1.2 million on their Bahamian getaway of Goat Cay in 2003, The Travel website notes. They subsequently spent nine years building a luxury mansion on the island. Not only that: McGraw and Hill also created homes for their staff and installed amenities like water and electricity.
The interior of Hill and McGraw’s home takes its inspiration from the stunning scenery all around them. In 2017 Hill told Architectural Digest, “We wanted to feel connected to the outside. When the breeze comes through the room, it’s just life-changing … It really is! It’s something for the soul.”
3. Beatrice Borromeo
Beatrice Borromeo came to public attention when she tied the knot with Pierre Casiraghi of Monaco back in 2015. But the European royal was already an aristocrat in her own right. What’s more, her family owns five private islands in Italy’s Lake Maggiore, which is where the couple hosted their star-studded wedding.
According to People, the Borromeo islands have been owned by the family they take their name from since the 17th century. They feature a number of palazzos, along with Renaissance buildings, terraced gardens, chapels and a fortified convent. Meanwhile, three of the five islands are open to visitors, while one – San Giovanni – is out of bounds.
2. Mel Gibson
Actor Mel Gibson purchased Mago Island soon after his film The Passion of the Christ was released in 2004. Forbes reports that the 5,400-acre spot off Fiji set him back $15 million when he bought it off a Japanese businessman. It’s reportedly one of the largest private islands on Earth and comes with white, powder beaches and sparkling lagoons.
Apart from an airstrip, Mago island is mostly undeveloped. The only inhabitants are a handful of caretakers who look after the patch of land. According to locals, its volcanic soil is the most fertile in the region. The isle’s interior also boasts coconut, mango, grapefruit, papaya and guava trees.
1. Richard Branson
When Virgin Records founder Richard Branson bought Necker Island in 1978 he paid only $180,000, according to The Travel website. Since then, he’s set about establishing a luxury resort on the land. And today, the spot in the British Virgin Islands is said to be worth more than $5 billion. Not a bad bang for your buck, right?
For a taste of the high life, Branson’s company notes that guests can book Necker Island all to themselves. This gives them and 21 other people access to their own private island in the Caribbean. Alternatively, the idyllic paradise hosts so-called “Celebration Weeks” throughout the year, when family and couples can book individual rooms at the exclusive resort.