Petit St. Vincent: A Grenadines’ Gem

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When considering the classic definition of a hideaway, it’s hard to come up with a better example than Petit St. Vincent. Renowned worldwide for the pristine seclusion it affords its guests, this verdant island floats serenely 40 miles south of St. Vincent in the Grenadines. Its lush green hills provide a stunning contrast to nearly two miles of white-sand beach and the Caribbean Sea’s dazzling shades of blue.

There is no on-isle airport or formal check-in process, just 22 stone cottages with peaked purpleheart-hardwood roofs tucked into 115 acres so that each visitor’s privacy is ensured. Want room service or a romantic lunch on the beach? Just hoist the yellow message flag outside your cottage and a staff member will drive a Mini Moke to answer your request. Active-minded travelers have a lighted tennis court on-site, plus world-class snorkeling, scuba and fishing all within reach. Despite its hidden quality, it’s easy to reach: most guests fly into Barbados for the short connecting flight to Union Island and motor launch ride to Petit St. Vincent.

Petit St. Vincent’s new primary owner, Philip Stephenson, first sailed past in 2009, and knew this wasn’t your average private island destination. “What struck me as unique was that the island from a distance appeared uninhabited, and it was only up close that you noticed the smallest signs of a discreet hotel there,” he says. “Petit St. Vincent is hilly and green rather than flat and scrubby, and the island is almost completely ringed by coral reefs, which protect the island’s beaches from erosion.” And, he teases, “the reefs foil the occasional pirate raider.”

Of course, guests don’t really have to worry about swashbucklers coming ashore, only the danger of visiting and never wanting to leave. Especially since the new ownership launched a series of upgrades that take the island to a new level, while honouring its natural beauty and laid-back spirit. Cottage renovations include expanded decks, new cedar doors, handcrafted teak and driftwood furniture that complement the marine hues of the soft furnishings, and custom seascapes on wooden panels created by artist Sara Ruskin.

“It’s a bit like remodeling an historic home,” Stephenson says. “You change the finishings and add modern amenities, but you don’t change the external profile or internal walls of the structure. We didn’t add any rooms, just renovated all of them, and we put in all new bathroom fixtures, air conditioning, furniture, drapes – and to top it off we discreetly added things like Nespresso machines and iPod players to make the rooms more comfortable.”

A beach bar and restaurant for casual lunch and cocktails now perches at the waters’ edge, creating an informal break from the main gathering area in the hotel bar. Nestled into the trees on the west side of Marni Hill is a spa with a driftwood and thatch relaxation pavilion and four timber treatment rooms (opening November 2011). A team of two new Chefs fuse their classical culinary skills with expertise from acclaimed properties and a native’s understanding of Caribbean zest to deliver a memorable gastronomic experience. For relaxed evening entertainment, the private island hosts weekly beach barbecues, a manager’s cocktail, and alfresco movie nights.

“Petit St. Vincent had a great, global reputation,” Stephenson says, “But, it was in need of some updating. We think we have done that without changing the fundamental nature of the place, which has appealed to so many since the late ’60s. Some people come and stay weeks just to quietly walk deserted beaches and read a bag of books. And they can still do that. But if you can also sleep in a nicer bed between nicer sheets, read by a better light, have a better shower, eat better food, and enjoy a massage in a hillside treatment room, then why not?”

What they haven’t done is install TV, internet, or telephones in the cottages – which would only distract from the island’s natural symphony of trade winds nuzzling the hills, breakfast birdcalls, and surf splashing against the beach. “We want to continue to principally appeal to the kind of guest who is secure enough to be distracted by his or her own thoughts or companions without needing the constant, roiling noise of the modern world,” Stephenson says.

For the ultimate in getting away from it all, the entire tropical island resort of Petit St. Vincent is available for rent at only $60,000 a night (for a five-night minimum). It’s the ideal escape for successful people who, as Stephenson says, “are secure enough to leave things behind for a while and enjoy the fiercely independent nature of life on their own island.”

And what an island it is.