Buying your own private island is definitely a sign that you’ve made it. Back in the 1970s, Richard Branson was arguably the first famous face to popularise the idea of buying your own exotic island, and since then a whole host of celebrities have joined him.
In the article below, we take a look at 10 famous celebrities who have all bought their own private islands. Some of the A-listers in question have clearly made the extravagant investment to try and escape the limelight, while others hope to transform their islands into luxury eco-resort havens for all their celebrity friends!
20. Leonardo DiCaprio – Blackadore Caye
Leonardo DiCaprio has starred in films such as The Beach and Shutter Island, so maybe it’s no surprise that he decided to get himself a tropical island lined with sandy beaches and palm trees. In 2005, the Oscar winner purchased Blackadore Caye off the coast of Belize for $1.75 million, and since then he’s been busy working to transform it into an eco-luxury resort.
The Belizean government has approved Leo’s development plans for the 104-acre island, and experts predict that once construction has been finished, the resort will generate over $200 million in revenue over the course of 20 years, thanks to its biodiversity efforts and carbon neutral buildings.
19. Shakira – Bonds Cay
In 2011, Colombian hitmaker Shakira reportedly teamed up with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz to buy an island in the Bahamas. Bonds Cay is currently worth $13 million and, like DiCaprio, Shakira and her fellow owners once had big plans to turn the land into a carbon-neutral paradise.
Bonds Cay has plenty of white sand beaches, plus three salt pond lakes and a private cove beach. However, all the natural beauty may not have been enough for Shakira and co, as the island is currently up for sale again, with rumours suggesting that Shakira needs to sell the property to pay the $100 million her ex-boyfriend Antonio de la Rua won from her in a lawsuit.
18. Mel Gibson – Mago Island
In 2005, controversy-courting star Mel Gibson bought Mago – a volcanic island situated within Fiji’s Lau Group of islands, and therefore very far away from any prying paparazzi – at a cost of $9 million. Mago is a whopping bit of land – at 5,000 acres it’s one of the largest private islands in the South Pacific.
Gibson actually runs a cattle farm on Mago and has also met with local government representatives to discuss setting up other farming and fishing activities. Mago appeared in an episode of 30 Rock entitled Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning. The episode features a storyline in which a natural disaster hits the island, but the only victims are Gibson and his guest Jon Gosselin.
17. Julia Roberts – Island in the Bahamas
Julia Roberts has always tried to keep her personal life out of the press, but it has been rumoured that the actress has bought herself an island in the Bahamas. Not much is known about the land, which is reportedly worth over $6 million.
Roberts, formerly known as ‘America’s Sweetheart’, has managed to keep most of the details under wraps, so it’s safe to assume that she bought the island as a private residence. She’s in good company in the Bahamas though – some of her neighbours include Nicolas Cage, Lenny Kravitz and John Travolta.
16. Steven Spielberg – Island in Madeira
Steven Spielberg must not be too scared about spotting sharks in the water, as the Jaws director owns an island in the Madeira archipelago, off the coast of Portugal. In fact, reports have circulated that the Oscar-winning film veteran has actually purchased two uninhabited islands which are connected by a land barrier.
Spielberg reportedly bought the islands as a holiday home for him and his family to use when they wanted to spend quality time away from the press. So how does he travel down to Portugal for vacations? Well, the director is also the proud owner of an 86-metre luxury yacht, the Seven Seas, which he took on a 30,000-mile trip around the world in 2013.
15. Eddie Murphy – Rooster Cay
Funnyman Eddie Murphy purchased his island retreat of Rooster Cay for $12 million all the way back in 2007, the same year that his questionable comedy film Norbit was released. The comedian owns over 6 hectares of pristine tropical land, and what’s more, it’s only a short boat ride away from Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.
Nobody is quite sure what Murphy has been doing with the island, so it’s probably safe to say that, like Julia Roberts, he’s happy enjoying a quiet lifestyle and keeping himself to himself. However, experts say that Rooster Cay is ideally suited for luxury development, so who knows what the future holds? Maybe Murphy will venture into the world of hospitality yet.
14. Nicolas Cage – Leaf Cay
In 2006, Nicolas Cage purchased Leaf Cay, an exclusive island in the Exuma island chain in the Bahamas, for around $3,000,000. Situated 85 miles southeast of Nassau, Leaf Cay is a safe space for celebs looking to escape paparazzi, and at 45 acres, the island is full of pristine sandy beaches and a few private coves. The only problem, presumably, is Cage’s finances.
Although the island has excellent fishing waters and plenty of shelter, Cage bought Leaf Cay completely undeveloped. Leaf Cay needs plenty of care and attention to get it up to scratch, but Cage has unfortunately been cash-strapped since 2009. This might be why the island – which is situated between Lee Stocking Island and Norman’s Pond Cay – is now back on the market at $7 million.
13. Tim McGraw & Faith Hill – Goat Cay
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are country music royalty. So what do you do when you’ve got more money than you’ll ever be able to spend? Buy an island, of course! Like so many of their fellow celebs, McGraw and Hill have splashed out on a dream Bahamas treat for themselves and their family.
The power couple bought Goat Cay back in 2006 and subsequently built a 15,000 sq ft vacation home on their 17 acres of paradise. However, despite investing a fortune in the island, it looks as though Hill and McGraw are looking to downsize, because the island is now on the market for $35 million.
12. Richard Branson – Necker Island
Sir Richard Branson arguably popularised the idea of celebrities having their own island getaway. When he was making his first millions, Branson bought Necker in 1978 for only $180,000. Necker had been uninhabited by humans until the late 20th century, when the Virgin boss bought the land and started inviting his celebrity mates, including Princess Diana and Nelson Mandela.
Necker is a 30-hectare plot of land situated within the British Virgin Islands, and the resort was designed with a Balinese theme in mind. Branson rents out the island for $62,000 a day; the complex can house up to 34 guests and also has mooring facilities for luxury yachts.
Necker has suffered its fair share of misfortune over the years. In 2011, the Great House burned down while actress Kate Winslet was staying on the island. Then in 2017, most of Necker was destroyed by Hurricane Irma, though it has since been rebuilt.
11. Johnny Depp – Little Halls Pond Cay
Johnny Depp was filming the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie when he discovered the beauty of Little Halls Pond Cay in the Bahamas. He promptly snapped up the island for himself, paying $3.6 million for it in 2004. It contains six beaches, two of which are named Gonzo and Brando, in honour of Depp’s mentors Hunter S. Thompson and Marlon Brando. (The rest of the beaches are named after members of Depp’s family.)
Following his marriage to Amber Heard in February 2015, Depp hosted a raucous ‘wedding weekend’ party on the island, and he continues to visit by travelling to and fro on his yacht, the Vajoliroja. On his decision to buy the island, Depp simply stated: “I don’t think I’d ever seen any place so pure and beautiful. You can feel your pulse rate drop about 20 beats. It’s instant freedom.”
10. Tyler Perry – White Bay Cay
When you think of celebrities with unbelievably lavish lifestyles and unfathomable net worths, Tyler Perry probably isn’t the first name that springs to mind. However, thanks to decades of work writing stage plays, developing television shows and acting in behemoth titles like Star Trek, by 2011 he was the highest-paid man in entertainment.
Perry decided to invest his wealth in White Bay Cay, a previously undeveloped parcel of land in the Bahamas, that now boasts a 14,000-square-foot mansion, several boutique guest bungalows, a private marina and even a spa. Not a bad place to kick back and watch your money grow!
9. Lenny Kravitz – Eleutheta Archipelago
Unlike many celebrities who choose their island paradise based on the tax incentives, the price or the view: producer, actor, style icon and rockstar Lenny Kravitz actually has more of a connection to the place he has picked to call his home. His maternal grandfather was born on the island of Inagua in the Bahamas, and Kravitz has written many songs about his yearning to connect more fully to its history and culture.
This yearning inspired Lenny Kravitz to purchase a small island in the Eleuthera Archipelago, whose name derives from the Greek word for “free”. Kravitz spent the entire pandemic tucked away on his own private isle, and even lives there full time, as opposed to the many celebrities for whom their island is simply a summer retreat.
8. Ricky Martin – An island in the Angra dos Reis
If you only know him as the singer-songwriter responsible for the mega-smash hit that is Livin’ La Vida Loca, then it can be difficult to understand exactly how rich and famous Ricky Martin is. Not only does he have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but he has sold over 70 million records worldwide, and has a comfortable net worth of $130 million.
In 2008, Martin used his not inconsiderable wealth to buy an island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, in the region of Angra dos Reis. The area is flush with private islands owned by powerful individuals, thanks to its gorgeous climate, relatively cheap real estate and proximity to one of the most famous party cities in the world.
7. David Copperfield – Musha Cay
David Copperfield was described by Forbes as “the most commercially successful magician in history”, so it’s no surprise that he could afford an island paradise of his own. What might surprise you though, is that Copperfield was not satisfied with just one island, and instead spent $50 million on a collection of 11 islands, called Musha Cay.
Copperfield didn’t buy the whole compound in one go. Instead, after purchasing his first slice of the land in the Bahamas, he fell head over heels in love with the location and bought up the surrounding 10 islands to ensure that his privacy and tranquillity wouldn’t be disrupted. Currently, his land boasts 40 private beaches, a gym, an outdoor theatre and multiple tennis courts – but it will cost you $57,000 a night to stay there.
6. Diana Ross – Taino
As the most famous member of The Supremes, who themselves are the best charting girl group of all time, Diana Ross is one of the most legendary performers on Earth. As a woman with a top 10 hit in every one of the last five decades, it’s not surprising that she found the money to invest in her own private island in French Polynesia, called Tiano.
Diana Ross didn’t embark on her island-buying journey as a solo endeavour, instead, she bought the parcel of land with her husband at the time, Arne Ness Jr. Unfortunately, when the two began divorce proceedings in 2000, they agreed to sell the island and split the money fairly. Thankfully, Ross’ net worth of $250 million means she could definitely buy another island if she wanted to!
5. Celine Dion – Île Gagnon
Diana Ross is not the only powerhouse vocalist to be lucky enough to afford an island all her own. Celine Dion, the pop superstar responsible for such hits as The Power of Love and My Heart Will Go On, was the proud owner of both a 24,000-square feet mansion and an 830,000-square feet private island in Quebec, in her home country of Canada.
The sprawling property is legendary even among other celebrities, with its numerous dining rooms and sunrooms, a library, a fully-outfitted gym and even a custom elevator so that guests don’t have to walk from floor to floor. Unfortunately, it has been put up for sale in recent years, making it the perfect summer home for anyone willing to pay $29 million on the dot.
4. Gene Hackman – An island off the coast of British Columbia
Gene Hackman might be retired now, but his decades of working as an actor in major flicks like The French Connection and The Royal Tenenbaums have more than set him up for life. As if two Academy Award wins, four Golden Globes and two BAFTAS weren’t enough, he has also had a flourishing career as a novelist, which has supplemented his income nicely.
All this wealth allowed Hackman to buy himself a nice little island in British Columbia, which sits at a conveniently commutable distance from Seattle, and has a three-bedroom home plus a guesthouse. However, Hackman sold the property in 2005 for a cool $3.4 million, presumably to buy an even cosier hideaway somewhere else.
3. Pamela Anderson – ‘Greece’
If there’s one celebrity you’d associate with the beach, it might well be Pamela Anderson. The former Baywatch pin-up turned heads in a tight red swimsuit, and her glamour led to Hollywood roles in movies like Barb Wire. However, the poor reception to these films, as well as a sex tape scandal with then-husband Tommy Lee (of Mötley Crüe), have led Anderson to stay a little further from the limelight in the intervening decades.
That doesn’t mean she hasn’t been living it large in her private life – in fact, Lee, with whom she has two children, bought ‘Greece’ for her as a gift in 2007. Heavy emphasis on the inverted commas: the island is part of the so-called World project in Dubai. Development of the islands stalled as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, however, and ‘Greece’ is yet to be the family paradise the Crüe drummer had intended.
2. George Clooney – Soaring Eye
The name George Clooney is synonymous with Hollywood glamour, so it’s pretty surprising to learn that he has chosen to live on The Thames in London, otherwise known as one of the filthiest rivers in the world. Why would he choose to build a new home on a private island in the middle of the Thames? Well, because his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, wanted to stay based in Britain.
Their private English island is more glamourous than it might sound: it sits on the border of Oxfordshire and is known as the “Soaring Eye” island. It’s also worth over $12 million, and came complete with its own cinema, a grand terrace and a new pool house, even before Clooney and his wife set about giving it a facelift. Not bad at all!
1. Brooke Shields – Emerald Island
Brooke Shields rocketed to fame as a child model and actress, so she’s had a lot of time to accumulate enough wealth to buy her own private paradise. With regular roles on hit shows such as Lipstick Jungle, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Jane the Virgin, it’s clear that she’s not slowing down when it comes to her workload.
Unfortunately, Brooke Shields had to put her gorgeous private New York hideaway up for sale after just a few years of owning it. The 8.5-acre site was tucked away in the middle of Chazy Lake in Adirondacks Park, and featured a log cabin with wood-burning fireplaces and extensive grounds.