On my first visit to Necker Island in 2009, my breath was taken away. The same thing’s happened on every trip since. Is it beautiful beyond belief? Yes. Does it have clear blue waters and white sand beaches? Yes. Are there heavenly meals, spas and all water sports imaginable? Yes, yes and yes. What sets apart Richard and Joan Branson’s island escape in the British Virgin Islands (a 30-minute sail northeast from Tortola) is its heart and soul.
You feel at home the minute your feet leave the sweaty clutches of your city shoes. The staff is friendly and as invisible as you want. The Great House, which reopened in September following a 2011 fire I witnessed, is grander than ever. Each room has a balcony and a gigantic bed with delicious sheets and divine pillows. For kids, there’s one with three bunk beds (in which we recently fit six boys!).
Flamingos fly at sunset. Lemurs leap from trees. Tortoises loaf across pathways, reminding you that sometimes it’s good to slow down. And slow down you can: Float in the still waters or sink into a hammock with a book—or a loved one. Pursuits like paddleboarding, kite surfing and sailing allow for as much activity as you dare. I always hike the island (starting on its leeward side) to visit its remote end, the site of my favorite house, Bali Cliff. From there you can see fish and coral gardens in the sea as you sip your morning coffee. A more romantic spot does not exist. And few things beat a sunset massage at the clifftop spa. It’s paradise. No, it’s heaven. The island rents for $60,000 a night for up to 30 people; 877-577-8777; neckerisland.virgin.com.