It would be nice to say that the only light visible at night from the private Caribbean island of Petit St. Vincent comes from the bright stars above, but that wouldn’t be true. Because every so often, there is the sweep of a flashlight across a grassy field or along one of the paths that crisscross the 115-acre island in St. Vincent & The Grenadines.
And why wouldn’t there be? Guests on the private isle, which was developed in the 1960s and still boasts just 22 cottages (starting, off-season, at $1,100 per night), come to the secluded spot to get away from it all—there’s no TV, internet or telephones—and there’s no other light as one heads from his well-appointed cabin to, say, the beachside bar or for a late-night swim.
During my recent visit to the island—which, thanks to new owners, has been freshly renovated and will continue to be updated in the coming months—I found these electric torch-illuminated late night walks to be my favorite parts of the trip. It’s likely because at night, with just a tiny beam to guide you, the luxurious island feels its most private, like there’s no one else in the world enjoying the warm air, the sound of the ocean or those stars, which, flashlight or not, are brighter than any this New Yorker has seen in years.
Not that there’s nothing to see by daylight. From the stunning surroundings to what’s happening under the sea and up in the air, Petit St. Vincent’s exclusive environs offer the well-heeled guest the best of the Caribbean without any of the crowds that come with easier-to-reach islands. What other perks are there to holing up on a private island? Check out DuJour’s Petit St. Vincent itinerary.
Where To Stay
On my mid-January visit, I stayed in one of the island’s one-bedroom cottages, number 19, which has a woodsy feel, thanks to tropical flora surrounding it, but is just steps from a view of the yachts bobbing in the turquoise bay or the brightly colored houses set into the cliffs of neighboring Petit Martinique. Going without a television and a phone could have been a trying experience had my bungalow not been outfitted with luxurious linens, a Nespresso coffee maker, a Bose iPod dock, a stocked minibar and chic furniture in a number of indoor and outdoor seating areas. (A complimentary jar of cookies is more homey, but a delicious touch nonetheless.)
Each cabin has its own quirks and unique touches. Mine, which I was told was a former owner’s hideout while his home was being renovated, had an outdoor shower, two separate seating areas on the grounds and, best of all, a private beach just a few steps down a wooden walkway. The stretch of sand was a bit rockier than some of the island’s more gentle shores, but considering that the beach (and the hammock and lounge chairs there) was all mine, it was an exceedingly lavish thing to have. Who needs cable when you can take your siesta on a hammock swinging gently over the ocean?
There are 16 of the one-bedroom cottages scattered about the island, and six two-bedroom units along the beaches for larger groups. Some folks stay off-island, mooring their yachts in the bay and disembarking for a drink or a snack, but most of the island is off limits to anyone who’s not staying there.
What To Do
It’s easy enough to lounge on one of the island’s many beaches, or to arrange a kayaking, fishing or snorkeling trip in the crystal water around it, but is worth your while—and the jaw-droppingly beautiful hour-long boat ride—to arrange a trip to nearby Tobago Cays Marine Park. Here, you’ll snorkel around a massive, bright coral reef, observe schools of fish darting through the water and swim alongside enormous sea turtles. A brief sojourn onto land to catch your breath can double as a chance to observe giant iguanas sunning themselves.
The cherry on top is the lunch that the resort packs for you—on a recent trip, fresh lobster grilled on deck, a spicy tomato soup and enough rum punch for a Pirates of the Caribbean cast party. For the more experienced diver, SCUBA trips—and PADI certification for those who need it—are also available. Bring sunscreen and apply regularly; a winter tan is something people envy, a winter sunburn not so much.
How To Unwind
There’s no better reason to take a break from the strong Caribbean sun than at Petit St. Vincent’s new spa, a serene, shady retreat build among the island’s trees. A variety of massages are available as are facials, body scrubs and any number of beauty treatments from manicures to waxing.
I enjoyed a 60-minute Balinese massage, but if I could do it again would book a longer one. Whatever stress I managed to store up between swimming, napping and snacking was obliterated by the procedure, but I think that with an additional half hour, more could have been found.
You can order most of the services directly to your cottage, but it would be a shame to miss out on the spa itself, where treatments begin with a glass of cold ginger tea and windows open to allow ocean sounds to score your experience.
How To Get Moving
If all the eating and lounging and napping in hammocks have you itching to break a sweat, there are plenty of ways to do it here. A visit to one of the island’s two yoga studios would do the trick, so would a morning spent along the surfside fitness trail, with its five stations for outdoor exercise or a morning match at the tennis court.
For a more scenic workout, a hike up to the top of Marni Hill provides a rocky, pretty cardio experience with the payoff of two inviting wooden deck chairs perched at the top of the peak and a smattering of wild orchids growing along the trail. Wear sneakers. My boat shoes weren’t quite up to the task of maneuvering the slopes, and I spent a bit of the hike worrying it would be my last. Considering the surroundings, though, there could have been worse ways to go.
Where To Dine
Considering privacy is the whole point of a private island, it’s not surprising that Petit St. Vincent allows all guests to take meals in their cabins. Food is ordered through a charming, Wes Andersonian system of placing an order in a mailbox outside your cottage and raising a yellow flag. I ordered breakfast to my cabin two mornings in a row and was very happy with the fresh fruit and exotic jams that came my way.
Outside my cabin, my favorite spot to dine was the beach bar, where I had my first meal on the island—a refreshing, post-flight bowl of gazpacho—and I was always happy to return. There’s no better place on the island to catch a sunset (or a pina colada), and during my stay it’s where guests mingled, whether during the Saturday night barbecue, complete with steel-drum band, or the Monday movie night, when we watched Roman Holiday and snacked on hot popcorn.
The beach bar is also the only spot where docked “yachties” are allowed to dine without reservations, which—in addition to a massive cocktail list—helps the bar gather what passes here for a raucous crowd. The menu here skews more snacky—options include pizza, sandwiches, salads and can’t-miss conch fritters—than foodie.
More formal dining is available at the main restaurant. Though you can eat there for any meal of the day, dinnertime is where the restaurant and its just-built wine cellar shine, thanks to a menu that changes daily and shows off the vegetables grown on the island. After a day in a swimsuit, putting on real clothes and meeting new friends for cold white wine and inventive eats was a relaxing, delicious way to underline PSV’s versatility. And save room for the rich desserts—the ice creams are particularly excellent—are served with absolutely no regard for the bathing suit you might need to wear the very next morning.