If you're ready to get away from it all and willing to forgo room service, marooning yourself on an uninhabited island can have its rewards. The trick is to ensure you get de-marooned before developing an emotional attachment to a volleyball. Here, some Castaway-style options.
Buccaneer Archipelago, Australia
Exploring the thousand islands in the Buccaneer chain, just off the coast of northwest Australia's Kimberly region, means foraging for fresh oysters and mud crabs, hiking through thick rainforests and along red-rock cliffs to find Aboriginal rock art, waterfalls, and natural whirlpools, and camping on empty beaches. But it's not all fun and games. You're likely to encounter dangerous 36-foot tides, deadly taipan snakes, sharks, and saltwater crocodiles. Best to bring an experienced guide: Hire one in the seaside town of Derby, on the mainland. For details, call the Derby Tourist Bureau (011-61-08-9191-1426; www.wt.comau/~derbytb).
Tobago Cays, Grenadines
Let the Prada set squabble over condos on Mustique. The place for solitude in the Grenadines is the Tobago Cays: Petit Rameau, Barabel, Jamesby, and Petit Bateau-four tiny, undeveloped islands some 20 miles south of St. Vincent. No rock stars or resorts to cast shadows on your beach towel here; just deserted beaches for camping and picnicking, and some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean, on shallow, untouched Horseshoe Reef, which surrounds the cays. For more information, contact Captain Yannis Catamarans on Union Island (784-458-8513; www.captainyannis.com) or the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Department of Tourism (800-729-1726; www.svgtourism.com).
Bacuit Archipelago, Palawan, Philippines
With its striking beaches and dramatic limestone cliffs, this place looks remarkably like the setting of the 1974 film The Man with the Golden Gun. Snorkel and sea kayak in the countless coves on forgotten islands such as Matinloc, Entalula, Shimizu, and Tapiutan, jewels of this 45-island archipelago just off the northeast coast of Palawan island. Hire a boat in the town of El Nido. For more information, contact the Philippines Department of Tourism (415-956-4060; www.tourism.gov.ph).
Los Roques National Park, Venezuela
Make Gran Roque the jumping-off point for your escape to a smaller roque of your choice. Most of the 340 islands and islets of this national park off Venezuela's northern coast are uninhabited, with about 40 large enough to set up camp. Fly from Caracas to Gran Roque (the largest island in the park), rent a boat at the Pez Raton Fishing Lodge (011-58-212-975-0906), and then sail to the sandy scrub-topped pancake of your choice, where you can fish and snorkel your days away. Camping is free, but you'll need a permit from the Inparques office on Gran Roque. For more information call the Venezuelan Embassy (202-342-2214: www.embavenez-us.org).
Ko Tarutao National Marine Park, Thailand
Thailand's northern islands tend to be swarming with rave-happy Europeans, but down south you're more likely to run into the occasional Chao Le (sea gypsy), sea turtle, dolphin, or crab-eating macaque. These 51 protected, little-visited islands, scattered across 575 square miles in the Andaman Sea, are covered with granite hills and snow-white beaches. The largest, Ko Tarutao, houses the park headquarters and is reachable by boat from PakBara, about 14 miles up the coast from Satun. From Ko Tarutao, charter a longtail boat to uninhabited isles like Ko Adang Rawi and Ko Khai. For more information, call the Tourism Authority of Thailand (800-842-4526; www.tourismthailand.org).
Islands for Sale
Forget champagne wishes and caviar dreams. If you had the cash, you'd go for coconuts and cays. You're not alone: The private-island real estate market has boomed in the last ten years. And why not? For the price of a suburban starter mansion, you can own not just a piece of the rock, but the whole darn thing.
Baboon Cay, Nicaragua-$494,000
Fifteen-acre cutie, just three miles from the jungle mainland. Small cabin with well and generator overlooks powdery beaches, palm trees galore. Only four to six feet above sea level, yet SO protected from rough seas by cays and coral. Dive the reefs, fish tarpon in the flats, stalk marlin offshore. Plenty of lizards, seagulls, and pelicans, but baboon-free. Why not rename the island once it's yours? Call Peter Tsokos at Tropical Islands, 305-273-8033; www.tropical-islands.com.
Therese Island, Seychelles-$3.85 million
Exotic Eden! Off the west coast of Mahé, this 179-acre stunner is ringed with white-sand beaches, shaded by rustling palms, and smack in the middle of some of the world's best diving and fishing. A reef protects its very swimmable south shore. Your only neighbors are the tortoises who call this beauty home. Limited development possible; plenty of fresh water. Call Vladi Private Islands, 011-49-40-33-89890; www.vladi.de.
Ligia Island, Greece-$800,000
Odysseus longed to return; so will you. This hilly, undeveloped, 32-acre gem floats in the fabulous boating grounds of the Ionian Sea, only nine miles from Ithaca (that Homeric hero's legendary home). Ligia is covered with intoxicatingly fragrant pines, poplars, and wildflowers. A concrete pier on the island's west coast awaits YOUR special yacht. Call Vassili at Ask Elena, 011-44-7808-403063; www.askelena.com.
Money Cay, Florida-$2.6 million
Ca-ching! This is the one! Five and a half acres of heaven, just 25 miles from colorful Key West. Coconut palms surround a three-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot designer bungalow with gourmet kitchen, cathedral ceilings, jacuzzi, satellite TV, and, in the living room, a wet bar built over a 300-gallon saltwater aquarium. Fab views from every room! Diving, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing just minutes away from your private dock. Call Money Key Inc., 305-745-3084; www.moneykeyinc.com.
Wavi Island, Fiji-$550,000
Do the Brando thing: This 26-acre dream sits within a coral reef just off Vanua Levu-the Savusavu airport is just minutes away. But why would you ever want to leave when you can fish, kayak, and snorkel in your own blue lagoon? The lush isle awaits your sensitive hand for development: a personal estate? Private island charter? Boutique resort? You decide. Won't last at this price! Call Pacific Islands Investments, 808-883-8000; www.pacislands.com.
Swan Island, Australia-$950,000
A nature-lover's wonder Down Under! Tucked in Port Philip Bay, about 40 miles southwest of Melbourne, this lovely 550-acre isle has it all: three fixer-upper houses, eight sparkling beaches bordered by undulating sand dunes, miles of walking trails, abundant abalone in the kelp gardens offshore-even its own fairy-penguin rookery. Private airstrip for easy access. Call Vladi Private Islands, 011-49-40-33-89890; www.vladi.de.
Namotu Island Blue Water Sports Resort, Fiji
A sandy, nine-acre strip on the outer fringes of the Mamanuca Islands, this place gets the full brunt of Pacific waves and wind-both perfect for riding. You won't see much of your bure (one of the six Fijian wood-frame huts with balconies) with the rolling Namotu lefts and powdery beaches calling your name-unless, of course, you're hearing things from drinking too much Kava by the pool. ($2,500 per person per week, including round-trip airfare from L.A.; for more on the resort, check out www.namotuisland.com; for reservations, call Waterways Travel, 800-928-3757).
Lizard Island, Australia
This 2,500-acre National Park is named for the ungainly monitor lizards that roam it, but the nouvelle cuisine, 40 Aussie-luxe guest rooms, and private airstrip are anything but Jurassic. The northernmost resort on the Great Barrier Reef also offers pristine diving at Cod Hole; snorkeling in the Blue Lagoon, where you'll see fields of coral, giant clams, and potato cod; 24 empty beaches; and infinite views from 1,178-foot Cooks Look mountain. (Doubles, US $320-$500; 011-61-7-3876-4644; www.lizardisland-australia.com).
Guana Island, British Virgin Islands
This hilly green island hideaway of only 850 acres doesn't allow more than 30 guests at a time. Nice. You can easily hide from the 29 others on seven sugar-sand beaches, an extensive network of hiking trails, and in the Guana Island Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can spot Phoenicopterus ruber, a rare species of pink flamingo. When you're ready to socialize, don your whites and play croquet on the manicured lawns, or sail, snorkel, and windsurf from the resort's beach. (Doubles, $640-$850; 284-494-2354; www.guana.com; rent the entire island for $11,500-$15,000 per day).
Soneva Fushi Resort & Spa, Maldives
The 62 rattan- and palm-wood-furnished villas and rooms are truly worthy of a sultan, and the 30 nearby dive sites are practically schooling with manta rays, guitar sharks, and batfish. The beaches and jungle of North Baa Atoll's 4,600-foot-long Kunfunadhoo Island are also worth the 24-hour flight. But be warned: You might never leave the Six Senses Spa-where you'll get kneaded to a noodle with New Agey treatments. (Doubles, $205-$365; 011-960-230-304; www.soneva-pavilion.com/soneva-fushi).
Dolphin Island Lodge, Uaguitupo Island, San Blas Islands, Panama
Swimming and cavorting with dolphins might be the draw, but you'll stay for dream-filled nights in your Kuna Indian-woven cotton hammock and feasts of tulle massy-a Kuna concoction made with coconut milk, plantain, and fish. Guests arrive by dugout canoe to find nine rustic cottages and a sprinkling of coconut palms on this tiny island in the 200-mile-long San Blas (or Kuna Yala) archipelago off Panama's northeast coast. The Lodge is run by Kuna Indians who will take you snorkeling, fishing, and sailing to uninhabited cays and to visit traditional villages (Two-day packages start at $270 per person, including round-trip airfare from Panama City; for more on the lodge, visit www.dolphinlodge.com; for reservations, call Lost World Adventures, 800-999-0558).