The ultimate winter getaway this year is Petit St. Vincent
Spanning some 33 square miles and bookended by St. Vincent and Grenada, the Grenadines—a chain of 32 small islands in the West Indies—are known primarily for their cerulean seas, yacht-filled harbors, and rarefied enclaves like Canouan and Mustique, a storied bolt-hole for longtime resident Mick Jagger and other boldface names.
But a mere 27 miles away, the private island of Petit St. Vincent, or PSV for short—one of the world’s most exclusive but lesser-known resorts—offers travelers a truly off-the-grid getaway with a distinctly luxurious twist. Having celebrated its 50th birthday last year, PSV—a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection—recalls a bygone era, before an influx of sleek hotel chains and their attendant crowds transformed the Caribbean into one of the world’s preeminent playgrounds.
Elegance in simplicity
With just 22 cottages and villas nestled at picturesque points high and low across its 115 acres—from breezy beachfront perches to secluded hillsides boasting panoramic views of the island and beyond—it’s easy at times to feel as if you have the whole place to yourself. Constructed of hand-quarried volcanic stone, all accommodations feature vaulted hardwood ceilings, spacious living rooms, and indoor and outdoor dining areas. While TVs and Wi-Fi are intentionally absent—digital detoxing is one of PSV’s aims—creature comforts abound, including Bose sound systems, Nespresso coffee machines, and Italian linens. Freshly baked cookies and Woolite detergent for hand-washing bathing suits speak to PSV’s knack for thoughtful touches.
Whether you want to unwind in your hammock uninterrupted or enjoy a clay-oven pizza and bottle of rosé by the sea, PSV’s signature driftwood flagpole system keeps things simple. A raised red flag means “do not disturb,” while a yellow one summons the ever-smiling staff for room service orders and island transportation—namely a fleet of seven baby-blue Mokes, the iconic British beach buggy that achieved cult status in the 1970s and 1980s as the must-have holiday car for those in the know.
PSV’s delectable cuisine melds regional specialties with rib-sticking classics and incorporates the bounty of its expansive organic garden. (All meals and nonalcoholic drinks are included in the nightly rate.) The hilltop main pavilion restaurant serves breakfast (don’t miss the homemade lime yogurt and blueberry muffins) and an à la carte menu of three-course dinners that changes daily. You can wash down imaginative appetizers and main courses of just-caught mahi-mahi or Black Angus beef with a vintage from the 6,000-bottle wine cellar, topped off with desserts like a decadent chocolate tart laced with local rum or creamy coconut crème brûlée.
Flanked by swaying palms and almond trees, the achingly atmospheric beach restaurant brings PSV’s elegantly escapist ethos to life. Kick back under the shade of a thatched umbrella with a potent rum punch and some succulent conch fritters, toes in the sand, before you wander over to the live lobster pool to select your lunch, which arrives expertly grilled and accompanied by sides like mashed sweet potato and sautéed spinach.
After a few blissful hours that seem to magically melt away, head to the nearby hillside spa for a world-class massage, where the gifted Balinese therapists, colorful flower bowls, and open-air treatment rooms will temporarily transport you to Indonesia.
Later, grab a stool at Goatie’s Beach Bar—named for Noel “Goatie” Victory, a member of PSV’s team from when construction began in 1966 until his 2017 retirement—and quaff a heady selection from the house cocktail list (try the fruity but subtly sweet Charles’s Cooler) as the late-afternoon sun dapples the surrounding cyan sea. Weekly performances by reggae and steel-drum bands keep guests dancing and the drinks flowing well into the night.
Happiness on the high seas
Predictably, PSV spoils guests for choice of sea-centric activities. In late 2014, Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of legendary marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau, opened the resort’s state-of-the-art dive center, which offers a range of scuba certification courses as well as dive and snorkel excursions. (Sustainability initiatives at PSV include a coral restoration and reef monitoring project launched in 2016, with a newly constructed coral nursery on the island’s Atlantic side.) Glass-bottomed kayaks and Hobie Cats are perfect for perusing the island’s two-mile circumference by sea—an especially dazzling sojourn at sunset, when swaths of gold and lilac streak the azure sky.
Cocktailing aside, there’s perhaps no better way to while away the hours than by exploring PSV’s pristine environs by boat. Those who prefer propulsion by tropical zephyrs can book a full-day adventure on PSV’s 49-foot sloop, Beauty, helmed by Jeff Stevens, a charismatic Brit who has been sailing the Grenadines’ idyllic islands, bays, and reefs for nearly 30 years.
Or you can opt for a half-day jaunt aboard Artemis, one of the resort’s four motor yachts, which kicks off with a high-octane, 30-minute ride to the Tobago Cays Marine Park. Designated an official wildlife reserve in 2006, the 19-square-mile park’s crystalline waters are home to an array of exotic rainbow-hued fish as well as endangered green and hawksbill sea turtles, which paddle placidly in the sun-splashed currents as you snorkel past.
Once you’ve had your fill of underwater exploring, it’s a quick trip to palm-fringed Petit Rameau—one of five islets that, along with some of the Eastern Caribbean’s most vibrant coral reefs, make up the Tobago Cays archipelago—where friendly locals manning beachside booths serve up freshly grilled catches of the day and frosty drinks to visitors. Don’t be surprised to see scads of stingrays and wide-eyed porcupine fish patrolling the shallows as you stroll the powder-white shoreline sipping an ice-cold Hairoun, the local lager of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Its name—meaning “land of the blessed”—was bestowed upon St. Vincent by the island’s first settlers, who arrived from South America nearly 2,000 years ago.
Petit St. Vincent’s principal gateway is Barbados’s BGI airport, served by direct flights from New York, Miami, London, and Toronto. Guests are met upon arrival by a PSV representative and escorted to their Mustique Airways flight, which provides roundtrip transportation to Union Island (a 45-minute trip) exclusively for PSV patrons. From Union, it’s 20 minutes by boat to the resort—the wind in your hair and the sun on your face all the while.
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