1. Little Palm Island, Little Torch Key, FL
(RCA 2013 Rating: 93.8)
GETTING THERE: Two hours by road from Miami (or 20 minutes from airports in Marathon and Key West), plus a five-minute motor yacht to island.
DREAM FACTOR: 5 acres, 30 bungalows. Twenty-five years on, and this tiny slice of South Pacific paradise just keeps getting better. Hands down, the beautifully decorated Island Grand Suite is the bee’s knees with his-and-her bathtubs and small, private beach. Regardless, every suite here feels utterly private with personalized nameplates on doors and a staff as charming and quiet as the Key deer that roam this tropic idyll.
WALLET DAMAGE: From just under $1,000 per night for a regular suite (including welcome cocktail, the Gumby Slumber).
Photo Courtesy Little Palm Island
2. Fowl Cay Resort, Exumas, Bahamas
GETTING THERE: An hour and a half from Fort Lauderdale, or 40 minutes from Nassau, on scheduled and chartered flights to Staniel Cay airstrip, plus a seven-minute boat transfer.
DREAM FACTOR: 50 acres, 6 villas. Per its name, Fowl Cay was originally inhabited only by chickens (for local consumption). Now it's covered with one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas, fully stocked with your own golf cart and motorboat (with unlimited gas) to make exploring three beaches and neighboring islands a breeze. Plus there’s no need to pack snorkel gear, paddleboards, fishing gear, or the like—it’s all here and all-inclusive.
WALLET DAMAGE From just over $1,500 to shy of $3,000 per night during high season.
Photo Courtesy Fowl Cay Resort
3. Parrot Cay by COMO, Turks & Caicos
(RCA 2013 Rating: 89.0)
GETTING THERE: Multiple nonstop flights to Providenciales (average three hours) from New York, Miami, Charlotte, and Atlanta, plus a 50-minute car and boat transfer.
DREAM FACTOR 1,000 acres, 61 rooms. A perfect mile-long beach, excellent Shambhala spa, gorgeous infinity pool, and eye-popping snorkeling and scuba diving complement this resort’s chic, minimalist, Asian-inspired style. Expect to be surrounded by A-listers and honeymooners in hiding—pampered with homemade sorbets and chilled lemon-scented towels under the midday sun.
WALLET DAMAGE: From just under $700 per night for a Terrace Room in high season with breakfast and yoga classes (three-night minimum stay). Villas and Houses have private pools and start at $3,000 per night.
Photo Courtesy Parrot Cay by COMO
4. Jumby Bay (Rosewood), Antigua
(RCA 2013 Rating: 97.3)
GETTING THERE: Excellent nonstop flights from the U.S. to Antigua (3.5 hours) plus a private, seven-minute speedboat from the city of St. John.
DREAM FACTOR: 300 acres, 40 rooms. Reopened in 2013 after a tip-to-toe renovation, thankfully retaining its “British Colonial” ambience but with the addition of Nespresso coffee machines, Bose sound systems, and private golf carts to complement bicycles. An extensive kids’ club, no cars, gorgeous gardens, two pools, three tennis courts, three restaurants, and three beaches add up to a supremely family-friendly destination (with hefty, all-inclusive price tag to boot).
WALLET DAMAGE: From nearly $1,700 per night including all meals, cocktails, and house wine by the glass.
Photo Courtesy Jumby Bay (Rosewood)
5. Peter Island Resort, British Virgin Islands
(RCA 2013 Rating: 89.0)
GETTING THERE: Easiest via nonstop flights to St. Thomas, USVI from the U.S. (three hours average), plus an hour-and-a-half private ferry transfer from Charlotte Amalie.
DREAM FACTOR: 1,800 acres, 32 rooms, suites, and villas. Legendary pit stop for Christopher Columbus, Sir Francis Drake, and Blackbeard. It took a visionary Norwegian in the 1960s to turn this historic island into an exotic resort. Five beaches (fancy a private tiki hut with picnic lunch?), weekly garden tours, free water sport lessons on Hobie Cats, windsurfers, Sunfish sailboats, paddleboards, and stellar diving and hiking make this an outdoor enthusiasts’ nirvana.
WALLET DAMAGE: From just under $500 per night for an Ocean View Room to nearly $700 for a Beach Front Junior Suite—three-, four-, and six-bedroom villas are priced accordingly.
Photo Courtesy Peter Island Resort
6. Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, British Virgin Islands
(RCA 2013 Rating: 89.1)
GETTING THERE: Short hop from arrival in San Juan, Puerto Rico to Beef Island, Tortola, BVI on Seabourne or Cape Air, plus a 15-minute ferry transfer.
DREAM FACTOR: 230 acres, 52 rooms and suites, plus villas. The resort’s lagoon-style, multi-tiered pool with waterfalls aside, it’s worth taking a plunge in its quieter, more staid companion adjacent to North Beach after a nature hike or kayaking to Honeymoon Beach with picnic from the Gourmet Market. An extensive marina includes the Offshore Sailing School for novice landlubbers.
WALLET DAMAGE: From $1.200 per night for a Governor Suite Ocean View. (Note: This is a Marriott Autograph Collection property.)
Photo Courtesy Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina
7. Guana Island Resort, British Virgin Islands
GETTING THERE: Best from any flight arriving in St. Thomas, USVI (three hours from the U.S.). Multiple water taxis and ferries to Beef Island, Tortola, plus further 10-minute boat transfer.
DREAM FACTOR: 850 acres, 18 cottages and villas. Try beating seven private beaches…and unbeatable flora and fauna (including flamingos). Plus: 12 miles of hiking trails up and around the 806-foot summit of Sugarloaf Mountain, and interesting Amerindian and Quaker-settler history everywhere. Note: Kids are welcome, with reasonably strict guidelines. Wi-Fi has arrived, but there are no TVs or video games in sight.
WALLET DAMAGE: From $1,250, including three meals per day, wine, water sports, and Beef Island transfers (with four-plus-night bookings).
Photo Courtesy Guana Island ResortSee more island resorts