Because they're remote, lush, warm, and perfectly picturesque, islands are among the most popular destinations for meetings and incentives, hands down. So much so that thousands of groups from all over the world flock to the likes of Aruba, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas every year. Big-name islands aren't your only choice for conducting business by the beach, however. Small, private islets also are a good option, offering many of the same assets of traditional island destinations, but with an additional advantage that groups in particular will appreciate: a small footprint, the benefits of which include increased intimacy, personalized service, and maximum privacy. Here are five hotels and resorts whose private islands are perfectly suited to sand-starved groups:
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino (Oranjestad, Aruba)
The Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino offers 556 accommodations across two hotels: the family-friendly Renaissance Ocean Suites and the adults-only Renaissance Marina Hotel. Both settings offer access to the resort's eight restaurants, bars, and cafes; its 24/7, 3,500-square-foot fitness center; its spa; and its 15,000-square-foot casino. Although the resort has 22,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space, groups looking for something a little more special can take an eight-minute water-taxi ride to Renaissance Island (pictured above). Along with Aruba's only private beaches -- including one that's family-friendly and one that's adults-only -- the 40-acre island has a "spa cove" where guests can receive seaside spa treatments, a renovated beach bar and restaurant, and a water sports program offering snorkeling, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, sailing cruises, ocean kayaks, and paddleboats. Groups can reserve part of the island or rent it out in its entirety.
El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (Fajardo, Puerto Rico)
Spread across 500 acres overlooking the Caribbean Sea where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, El Conquistador Resort is a Waldorf Astoria property that counts among its many amenities an 18-hole golf course; seven swimming pools; more than 23 restaurants, bars, and cafes; a 26,000-square-foot spa; and an onsite water park. Unquestionably, however, the highlight of the 918-room resort is Palomino Island, a 100-acre private island where guests can enjoy activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, and horseback riding. The island also can be transformed into an outdoor event venue for groups up to 1,400, who also will have their run of the resort's 100,000-square-foot conference center.
Sandals Royal Caribbean (Montego Bay, Jamaica)
At Sandals Royal Caribbean, British traditions loom large in honor of Jamaica's history as a British colony. There's the resort's Georgian-style "Great House," for instance, which is surrounded by manicured gardens and roaming peacocks, as well as its English amenities, including afternoon tea and croquet. Groups will trade Britain for Thailand, however, when they board a dragon boat to the resort's private offshore island. Inspired by the East, the island features a private beach, a circular pool, a Jacuzzi, a swim-up pool bar, private cabanas in which to receive spa treatments, and an on-island Thai restaurant, not to mention diverse entertainment options such as tropical cocktail parties, Reggae concerts, and bonfires.
Shangri-La's Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, Mauritius (Trou d'Eau Douce, Mauritius)
Thanks to its remote location in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, the island nation of Mauritius already feels pretty private. Just in case it doesn't feel secluded enough, however, Shangri-La's Le Touessrok Resort & Spa on the country's east coast offers its own, even more private island. Two of them, in fact: Ilot Mangénie and Ile aux Cerfs. The former is open exclusively to hotel guests and features a beach club with private cabanas and on-island butlers. The latter is home to an 18-hole championship golf course that was designed by pro-golfer Bernhard Langer, as well as water sports such as kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, and windsurfing, just to name a few. Both make spectacular event venues.
Canoe Island Lodge (Diamond Point, NY)
You don't have to drop big bucks and travel thousands of miles to partake in private-island life. Closer to home, in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, is Canoe Island Lodge, a historic resort that's been welcoming individual and group guests to the shores of Lake George since 1948. The family-run property can accommodate groups of up to 175 guests in accommodations ranging from lakeside chalets to traditional log cabins. Although the vibe is more "summer camp" than "beach vacation," there's just as much fun to be had on Lake George as there is in the Caribbean. Activities include hiking, sailing, fishing, and waterskiing, just to name a few. Plus, groups can utilize the natural-sand beach on Canoe Island -- the resort's private island, located three-quarters of a mile across Lake George -- for barbecues, clam bakes, and beach volleyball.