How To Buy a Private Island in The Bahamas: The Process, Prices, and More

Ever dreamt of owning a private island in The Bahamas? Well, buckle up because we've created a guide to walk you through the process! From turquoise waters to exclusive retreats, everyone— from celebs to dreamers— is exploring island ownership in this tropical heaven. 

Imagine holidays away from the daily grind, basking in sunny beaches and exploring marine life without the crowds— this is only possible if you own your own island in The Bahamas since some 8 million tourists visit this island country in a year.

Whether you're after a personal hideaway or eyeing the islands for investment purposes, this guide covers everything. So, let’s break down the process, prices, and the sheer joy of making that island dream a reality!

Buying a private island in the Bahamas isn’t a hard nut to crack. With the expert guidance of experienced real estate agents and learning the essential steps involved in buying an island, you can set sail on your buying journey and enjoy a smooth buying experience.

Step 1. Determine Your Purpose

So you’ve decided to buy an island— first really think about it and decide why! Why do you want to own an island in The Bahamas?

Usually, people buy islands for one or all of the following reasons:

  • They want to enjoy the peace and solitude only a private island can offer

  • They want to develop the island for investment purposes

  • They want to take advantage of tax benefits that come with buying real estate in The Bahamas

Also consider the things you want to do in The Bahamas. Some islands are closer to nature that you can develop into natural parks; others might be more suitable for diving, fishing, or building marinas. Are you looking for an island with miles of pristine beaches to build a private retreat or resorts to rent out— your purpose will dictate your island selection.

Step 2. Find an Experienced Real Estate Agent

Embarking on the Bahamas real estate journey from afar can be a challenge for foreign buyers. Selecting the right island, tackling paperwork, and navigating permission can become quite challenging. 

You need a trustworthy guide who understands the ins and outs of buying and selling an island. Especially if your dream involves a commercial venture on your private island, be ready for permits tied to zoning and environmental restrictions.

Your solution? Bring in a local real estate agent as your eyes and ears on the ground. They know all about the availability, accessibility, benefits, and restrictions of different islands.

Permits, Regulations, and Restrictions

If you buy an undeveloped island, you will need permits before breaking ground. Each island has distinct traits and is bound by building and environmental regulations unique to its characteristics. 

Our skilled real estate agents are well-versed in these regulatory nuances. They can help you find a suitable island that fits your vision for your island retreat and also facilitate the acquisition of necessary permits for development.

Owner-broker Peter Dupuch advises, “You need to get a lot of permits and approvals from the government to develop an island, which is why it’s best to find an island that’s already developed that you can renovate or, at least, has approvals in place.”

Step 3. Determine the Cost

Now that you know your purpose and have a trusted aide with you, it’s time to look at your finances. How much money are you willing to spend— determine your budget in precise figures to navigate your choices. 

Factors Affecting Private Island Prices

The price of an island can significantly vary as it depends on many factors besides its size. “It can be anywhere from 3 million all the way up to 100 million,” says Peter.

Let’s see what factors affect the island price:

  • Buildable Area:  Bigger islands usually have more buildable area, so they are more expensive than smaller ones. However, “a bigger island may not always cost more,” warns Peter. An island with more surface area suitable for building infrastructure will be more expensive, regardless of size. 

  • Beaches:  Islands with larger and more sun-facing beach fronts tend to be more costly than those with less beach area or beaches with less sun.

  • Shape:  Islands with a circular shape tend to be more expensive because of their symmetrical alignment, allowing for a larger space for buildable infrastructure.

  • Demand:  After the COVID pandemic, real estate prices, especially for private islands, surged. People realised they could work remotely from the sunny Bahamas, prompting buyers to acquire second homes on the islands.

  • Development:  That’s a no-brainer. A turn-key island will be pricier than a fixer-upper. Even if an island is undeveloped, it will cost you more if it has all the permissions required for development.

Additional Costs of Island Ownership

The cost of owning an island isn’t just the purchase price. Apart from the buying cost, remember to factor in additional expenses related to construction, maintenance, and day-to-day logistics of living on a private island.

For construction projects, logistics matter. Without a nearby Home Depot, transporting materials, workforce and machinery becomes a challenge. Opt for an island near a settlement for easier commuting, or be prepared to cover transportation costs for both goods and people, along with housing and feeding expenses for your construction team.

Post-construction maintenance is crucial. Leaving the island vacant poses security risks, and saltwater conditions can harm structures. Hiring on-site property managers or a management company is common among owners who aren't there year-round. They handle everything from repairs to daily upkeep, ensuring your island paradise remains pristine.

Step 4. Compare and Evaluate the Islands

Begin your search by listing your wants (good to have) and needs (deal breakers). For instance, if you own a sizable boat, an island with shallow waters could be a deal breaker. Similarly, if frequent flights to the US are on your agenda, opt for a private island near an international airport. 

Look for islands that align with your ideal conditions as much as possible. 

What To Look For in a Private Island

The Bahamas offers a kaleidoscope of islands for sale, each with its own unique characteristics. Following are some essential factors to consider when selecting a private island for purchase.

Infrastructure: Turning vacant land into a marina or resort or acquiring a turn-key operational island? Consult a seasoned Quantity Surveyor for accurate construction or renovation cost estimates— “usually it averages around $1000 per square foot,” Peter estimates. 

For turn-key properties, assess maintenance costs, available amenities, and potential alterations like additional rooms or staff housing. Verify essential systems such as electricity generation, water supply, and sewerage pipelines. 

Beaches:  Beaches are a significant draw for private islands. Whether you're acquiring the island for personal enjoyment or aiming to attract visitors, nothing's as captivating as the vibrant mix of white sands, turquoise waters, and the shimmering sun. 

Pay attention to the type of beaches your island boasts: shallow beaches, surfing beaches, secluded shores, and beaches that appear with receding tides. Each holds its unique allure. 

Finally, don't forget to assess the sand texture— rocky shores might not be your ideal coastal companion.

Air Travel Access:  The Bahamas has international airports on many islands, for example, Nassau, Grand Bahama, Exuma, Eleuthera, Bimini, and more. For seamless travel between your home country and the island, choose an island near an international airport.

For those eyeing a remote paradise, ensure your island can accommodate an airstrip, guaranteeing convenient air travel access. Regardless, air connection should be a pivotal factor in your island-buying decision.

Elevation:  Elevation adds another layer of allure to an island, much like its beaches. Picture the breathtaking, unobstructed views from a home atop an elevated point. Beyond aesthetics, an elevated island is a secure investment in this era of rising ocean levels due to global warming. 

Proximity:  Note the islands near your private retreat. A developed island in the vicinity will ensure easy access to essential supplies, skilled workers for repairs, and everyday groceries. This convenience saves time and effort. 

Moreover, with a developed island in close reach, a quick boat ride opens doors to additional amenities like hotels, fine dining, golf courses, spas, and a host of other services and indulgences.

Orientation:  Southeast-facing islands, beaches and homesites benefit from the prevailing south easterly winds ensuring a constant cooling breeze. 

Boat Access:  Boat accessibility is key for transporting necessities, from groceries to construction materials. Islands encircled by shallow waters pose logistical challenges, making transporting goods and equipment challenging. You will likely need to construct a dock for easy access. 

Step 5. Visit the Island

While you may envision pristine white beaches, the reality might be rocky shores, or the infrastructure may require more investment than anticipated. A personal visit to the island before purchase is essential to avoid surprises later. 

It provides first-hand insight into future commutes and allows you to assess the infrastructure, beaches, and views. Does the prospect of living in this peaceful bliss still excite you? Does the idea of developing the island still align with your vision?

See if the island you like has a lease option. It will allow you to live on the island before you buy it, ensuring it's the right fit before sealing the deal.

Step 6. Close the Deal

Once you’ve found your dream island, it's time to close the deal. Our team will help you negotiate, ensuring you pay a fair price. Our knowledge of past transactions and market value is critical when it comes to securing your dream at a fair price.  We will connect you with the right attorney - you will need one well versed in the permitting process, one who is familiar with the approvals that are required. Should you wish to finance the purchase, we will connect you with a lending institution familiar with island purchases.

The closing cost will include the VAT (Value Added Tax) for the ownership transfer. You will also pay your attorney their fee to take care of the transaction. 

Remember to register your property with the Foreign Investment Board and the Central Bank Exchange Control Department so you can repatriate your profit in the currency of the initial investment after selling the property.

Notable Private Islands in The Bahamas

Not all islands in The Bahamas are habitable. Of those which are, many are still undeveloped and untouched, while others are in various stages of development. 

Some are fixer-uppers; they may have older structures in place and you can buy them and renovate them in your style or you can sometimes find a turn-key island that is ready to live on. 

Some private islands are near Grand Bahama and New Providence, so they can easily access the amenities on these developed islands. Others are remote, scattered among Family islands like Abaco Islands, Exuma, Eleuthera, and Berry Islands.

Let’s explore private islands in The Bahamas

Let’s look at some of the notable private islands in The Bahamas owned by the world’s rich and famous:

1. Musha Cay

Location: Exuma

Size: 700 acres

Musha Cay, The Bahamas' hidden gem, is a paradise known for its exclusivity and ultimate privacy. Owned by legendary illusionist David Copperfield, it's the luxury island living at its finest. 

This ultra-private tropical retreat, available for exclusive rental only, offers dream-like experiences for up to 24 guests of your choice. With 700 lush acres spread across 11 islands, 40 secluded sugar sand beaches, and five spectacular guest houses, Musha Cay promises the pinnacle of luxury and seclusion. 

2. Little Whale Cay

Location:  Berry Islands

Size:  40 acres

Little Whale Cay is a true gem of Berry Islands. It was developed as a private Island residence by Wallace Groves, a US businessman who later sold it to Peter Austin, a British millionaire connected with the Saudi royal family.

The private island retreat is available for rent and features three luxury villas accommodating 12 guests.

The island features amenities like an all-weather tennis court, an infinity pool, and a gym, all boasting picturesque sea views. The island also features a 2,000ft airstrip and two private harbours for easy accessibility.

3. Little Hall's Pond's Cay

Location: Exuma

Size: 45 acres

Little Hall’s Pond Cay is a 45-acre private paradise, once owned by the legendary Johnny Depp, now in the hands of the renowned author JK Rowling. 

With crystal-clear waters lapping at pristine sandy beaches, it's a scuba diver's dream and a nature lover's haven. This slice of heaven features a ranch-style house with a 360-degree view, all powered by solar energy. 

With a rich history as Johnny Depp's spiritual oasis, it's a unique and multimillion-dollar property that offers unrestricted private island access, making it a real estate gem in the Caribbean.

4. Leaf Cay 

Location: Exuma

Size: 30 acres

Stunningly beautiful and perfectly placed, the Leaf Cay lies right at the centre of the Exuma Island chain. Now in the hands of the famous actor, Nicolas Cage, the island is underdeveloped but has approvals. 

The island has three exotic beaches and perfect deep waters for unlimited fishing and snorkelling activities.

The island is close to famous attractions like Big Major Cay, home to the original swimming pigs, Thunderball Grotto, known for its extensive underwater cave system, and Compass Cay, home to nurse sharks.

5. White Bay Cay

Location: Exuma

Size: 25 acres

Owned by the famous billionaire writer-actor-producer Tyler Perry, White Cay is another jewel in the heart of the Exumas. The combination of the pink sand, pristine beaches, and crystal clear water is jaw-dropping.

In 2009, the actor spent $7 million on his 40th birthday to give himself a perfect gift of this secure and secluded private retreat. The island features a luxurious and gigantic Balinese-style mansion, and six guest villas open for invitees only. 

Actor Aaron O’Connell and model Natalie Pack hosted their epic engagement on this island. 

Benefits of Owning an Island in The Bahamas

Despite the challenges, Bahamian islands attract A-listers and anyone who can afford them. This allure is rooted in the benefits of owning an island in The Bahamas far surpass the challenges. Let's explore how:

Investment Potential and Property Appreciation:  Beyond personal enjoyment, owning a private island in a sought-after location can be a savvy investment. Private islands are likely to appreciate over time, being in high demand among business leaders, celebrities, and politicians— they present a lucrative opportunity for future revenue generation.

Personalised Retreat:  Imagine an idyllic getaway on a private island, surrounded by natural landscapes, turquoise waters, and sun-soaked beaches— that’s your home! Indulge in marine life encounters through snorkelling and scuba diving, or visit neighbouring islands to enjoy casinos, spas, nightlife, and golf courses.

Business Opportunities in Hospitality and Tourism:  In a country driven by real estate and tourism like the Bahamas, owning a private island provides continuous access to tourists. Capitalise on this by making your paradise available for special events, corporate retreats, or holiday stays, generating a premium passive income due to your island’s exclusivity, luxuries, and natural beauty.

Whether your dream involves spending a serene day on your private beach or building a grand resort, ERA Dupuch Real Estate is your key to turning those dreams into reality. Partner with our trusted local real estate agents and brokers to find the perfect island that aligns with your unique preferences. 

Don't just dream it; make it happen with ERA Dupuch Real Estate — your gateway to owning your own paradise in The Bahamas. Contact us now and let the journey to your private island begin!


Posted by Helen Dupuch on
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