Private in the Caribbean
When we say “getaway,” we mean it. Turn off the Blackberry and head to one of these four resorts, where there’s nothing standing between you and the beach but a drink with an umbrella in it.
More Than Enough—Much, Much More
Each of Jade Mountain’s 24 “sanctuaries” has its own private infinity pool from which you can see the ocean.
There’s a spirited song that Jewish families sing during the Passover Seder, titled “It Would Have Been Enough.” The gist of it is, more or less, if God had not been so generous—had not, for example, provided the Sabbath or the Bible or the Ten Commandments—Jews would have been satisfied.
Four years ago, my husband and I visited Anse Chastanet, one of the loveliest, most romantic, most pastoral resorts in the Caribbean, with 49 uniquely designed rooms scattered about a verdant hillside overlooking the Caribbean Sea and the magnificent twin Piton Mountains on the rustic island of St. Lucia. It was, we believed, enough of a good thing. We were satisfied—extremely so.
Each infinity pool is made with a different color of recycled glass tile.
Last year, we returned to St. Lucia, this time to stay at Jade Mountain, Anse Chastanet’s new and exclusive “resort within a resort.” Sitting high above Anse Chastanet, Jade Mountain, also the brainchild of architect/hotelier Nick Troubetzkoy, is stunning, like Anse Chastanet, only more so. The moment we walked through the exotic wooden door of our suite, we knew we were in for an extraordinary experience. After all, when had we ever stayed in a hotel room with its very own infinity pool (bathing suits...who needs ’em?) or, for that matter, in a room without any interior walls? (There isn’t even a wall around the bathroom but, thanks to clever design, privacy is accorded.)
One of the on-site restaurant’s four scrumptious dinner courses.
At Jade Mountain, no two suites (here they’re called “sanctuaries”—and there are 24 of them) are alike. Each sanctuary is individually designed and furnished, and each has an infinity pool with a different shape and different color recycled glass tile. (The tile molds have been destroyed to guarantee exclusivity.) Even the toilets do not repeat themselves. And the suites lack a fourth wall, bringing the outdoors—and the birds, the geckos, and the sea breeze—in. The sanctuaries, however, do have one thing in common: 15-foot-tall ceilings and breathtaking views of those Piton Mountains. “Knees buckle when we show guests their rooms,” one staffer told us. “One day, I fear someone will have a heart attack.”
Our hearts raced on the treadmills at the brand-new health club with—what else?—spectacular views and quickened as we climbed the steps to the open-air dining room every morning and evening for fresh-made breakfasts and four-course gourmet dinners. (I highly recommend the vegetarian moussaka with feta cheese, the bajan-spiced tenderloin, and the soursop mousse with local banana purée.) They were soothed by yoga on the beach with a certified yoga instructor in the mornings, and mine nearly stopped altogether with the “Ultimate Forget the Outside World” massage at the spa (bliss for 105 minutes) with—need I repeat—breathtaking views.
Stunning views can be found even in the bathroom.
But the truth is, Jade Mountain didn’t have to be so spectacular. It didn’t have to be so unique. It didn’t have to offer individual infinity pools. Indeed, Anse Chastanet would have been enough. But, if you’ve got the dough (yes, private infinity pools and stunning everything don’t come cheap), Jade Mountain is indeed different from all other high-end resorts.
Soufriere, St. Lucia
(758) 459–4000/(800) 223-1108
Prices vary depending on package (daily rates range from $280 to $600 for two, plus tax). For the “Total Romance Package,” taking advantage of the Lovers’ Early Bird option (you get a seventh night free by booking early), room rates for seven days for two between November 1 and December 19 range from $11,542 to $14,728. Price includes, among other things, all tax and service, airport transfers to and fro, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, and all drinks including house wine (but not bottled wines and Champagne). Fly American Airlines in a connecting flight from Miami (three-hour flight).
your own (almost) private island
You can swim with sea turtles while snorkeling around the island.
Admit it. You’ve dreamed of a perfect, private island. You’re there, just the two of you, in a cottage on the white sand near properly turquoise waters, without another soul in sight. Perhaps your dream didn’t include gourmet food delivered, if you wanted, right to that charming and well-appointed cottage (two large rooms and two baths). Perhaps you were so busy conjuring Robinson Crusoe that you forgot to make provisions for yoga or a massage. But we suspect you’ll be able, somehow, to work them into your dream, too.
The closest we’ve come to fulfilling this dream was on our visit to Petit St. Vincent Resort. The place was Haze Richardson’s dream 40 years ago. He bought his own 113-acre island in the Grenadines—west of Barbados, south of St. Lucia—and built an escape for dreamers. It was once necessary to charter a boat to reach Petit St. Vincent island. Now you can fly to Barbados, hop on a small plane to Union Island, where Maurice meets you for the 25-minute boat ride to your hideaway. Piña coladas and Hayes himself, who likes to greet the guests, await at the dock.
Raise a yellow flag outside your cottage at the Petit St. Vincent Resort if you want coffee, food, or drinks brought to your room.
No air conditioning here; the sea breeze blowing through the huge screen doors cools things off just fine. No pressure to hang out, make conversation, or dress up. No swimming pool—how can you beat that ocean? No spa, though you can order a massage. No tipping (a 10-percent service charge is added to your bill). No TV. No Internet. No telephones in the rooms—instead you communicate your wishes by raising one of two flags: yellow for a request (coffee, food, or drinks in your room, a ride up to the dining room, or to another beach); red to alert the staff that the two of you do not want to be disturbed right now (not that there’s much disturbing going on anyway). Just sea views from everywhere, an excess of sandy beaches, lovely vegetation, fine food and drink and, above all, privacy and the chance to really relax.
Relax we did. Wake up, go for a swim in front of the cottage. Breakfast arrives on a tray at the time we requested: we chose fresh fruits, home-baked pastries, and a fish stew from the plentiful menu. After that, some reading on the patio overlooking the water, or lying back down in the bed overlooking the water, or actually walking a few steps to the lounge chairs beside the water. Maybe a walk around the island or a quick paddle in a kayak.
And then, why, it’s time for lunch. Just for a change, we walk around the path to the hilltop dining room, take a table outside overlooking sailboats in the cove, and help ourselves to the buffet: a selection of salads including lobster (a lot of lobster tail gets grilled around here), kingfish, salmon cake, and steak. Then—how do you like that!—it’s nap time back in the cottage. We raise the red flag.
The cottages come with breathtaking ocean views.
Another swim: there are private day-use beach huts out on the west side of the island, with their own yellow and red flags. Maybe some tennis on the lighted court in the evening. Then, after night falls, we stroll back to the restaurant for a potent rum punch and another fine feast. One evening, we ate our first barracuda. Remarkably tender; it will not be our last.
Pull the curtain back and fall asleep to the sound of the waves and a view of the moonlight on the tropical waters. All this relaxing was transferred one day to a 72-foot, all-local-wood schooner, Jambalaya—built, based on a local design, and captained by ex-Englishman Jeff Stevens. After two intensely tranquil hours tacking across the trade winds through the islands, we arrived, with a sea turtle escort, at Tobago Cays National Park—for some world-class snorkeling (two of our shipmates went scuba diving instead) and a chance to swim with khaki-green, balletic sea turtles. Some beer and wine, then Jeff—the captain’s no slouch as a cook!—grilled lunch: more lobster tail, steak, kingfish, a selection of fresh vegetables, and dessert.
This is the sort of place where you see others only when you’re in the mood to see others. Everyone—and most guests are regulars who come back year after year—is lost in their own island dream, their own private version of relaxing. While out on a jog one morning, a white haired fellow walking toward breakfast glanced at us, smiled, and then announced, “Too much activity!”
— Steven Irving
Petit St. Vincent Resort
The Grenadines, St. Vincent
US Office: PO Box 841338, Pembroke Pines, FL
(954) 963-7401, (800) 654-9326; psvresort.com
Cost: $675 per couple (November to mid-December); $1,020 (mid-
December to early January) Includes three meals a day, coffee, afternoon tea, and use of all non-motorized equipment including kayaks, wind surfers, sailboats, tennis courts, and snorkeling.
Rediscovering St. Kitts
The new Marriott Resort in St. Kitts is hardly small and intimate—but one good reason to come and discover the sister island of Nevis.
St. Kitts may not come to mind that quickly when you face the delightful task of selecting a Caribbean island upon which to shed your winter costume and your chill for a little while.
That oversight probably has nothing to do with the island’s beauty or friendliness—both abundant. Its wonders include a full complement of perfect beaches with a dormant volcanic peak, Mount Liamuaga, adding height, a green backdrop, and a little drama behind them. Indeed, visitors, probably including Christopher Columbus and Captain John Smith, have been luxuriating on and around those beaches and under that mountain for half a millennium.
Not that many of us, however, have flown there for sun and fun in the last years of the past millennium or the first years of the current one. The main reason for that is that the island’s economic focus had long been on the sugar industry, not on what the government calls the tourism industry—in other words: putting lots of energy into attracting a lot of us. That has (along with the price of sugar) changed. Tourism is now a priority, not just a sideline. Airlines have begun regular nonstop service from the United States—including JFK, (American Airlines). And new hotels are popping up.
The biggest sign of the renewed emphasis on tourism is the St. Kitts Marriott Resort, which opened in 2003 This is no intimate little bed and breakfast. The Marriott sits on 26 lusciously landscaped acres and features, along with a few large, lazy pools and a broad beach, a golf course, eight restaurants (including, our favorite, the oceanfront seafood restaurant, Blu), a 35,000-square-foot casino, and a 15,000-square-foot spa. Its 453 luxury rooms are spread out on five open, breezy floors. The Marriott has all a tourist might need—by itself. You can do lots of stuff here (go for a run on the jogging trails, get a massage at the Emerald Mist Spa, work off dinner at the Fitness Center, and/or play a round of golf on the only golf course in the Caribbean with holes on both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea). You also can do not much of anything here.
But do try to leave the resort occasionally to see what else this lovely island has to offer. We enjoyed, for example, the Caribelle Batik, which not only sells those colorful fabrics but features a fine botanical garden. It is also housed in a striking estate once owned by ancestors of Thomas Jefferson. We were also much taken by the multiple views down towards the water from Brimstone Hill—an old 17th-century fort on a hill.
The fact that St. Kitts is still relatively undiscovered adds, not surprisingly, to the pleasure of discovering it.
St. Kitts Marriot Resort &
The Royal Beach Casino
858 Frigate Bay Rd., Frigate Bay, St Kitts and Nevis
Flight time from NY: five hours
Room Rates for November: $129 - $411 (Garden View to Ocean View Room) His ‘n’ Hers Golf and Spa Package $279 - $585. Includes two spa treatments, two rounds of golf, bottle of wine, daily breakfast for two, and room taxes.
A Tranquil Oasis
Paynes Bay features lots of lush vegetation, even close to the beach.
The beautiful people were not there. (We heard they were off preening and checking each other out at Sandy Lane.) The name, Treasure Beach, seemed a bit hokey. The place was petite and nestled along the beach outside of Bridgetown in Barbados between a few other such hotels. It even—yes, this happens occasionally in the Caribbean—rained a bit.
Then why did we have such a good time at Treasure Beach? Having to walk just 25 steps—10 of those steps on sand—from our room to the turquoise water certainly helped. Being able to contemplate those waters from the second of our two stylish rooms, or to sit facing them on our own private patio, was a definite plus. The vegetation—we had a pink orchid tree in front of our room—was lush, colorful, and well manicured. This little place looked, from all angles, like an Impressionist’s version of a Caribbean hotel. And Barbados itself is, of course, a lively, thriving island.
While we were not in the hands of a celebrity chef, the food and wine at Treasure Beach were, as my hard-to-please, foodie companion attests, “quite good.” Her recommendations: the Angus tenderloin and the lobster, mango, and bacon salad; mine: the seafood curry. The staff was consistently friendly and helpful.
Some rooms at the Treasure Beach Hotel are just steps away from the sand.
But the great pleasure was the setting: grassy lawns, sheltered in part by huge trees, ended at the white sand beach. Stretch out here or there, shade or sun. Wait for the waiter to bring a drink. Race, in the warm, calm sea, out to the hotel’s raft. Jog along the long beach and examine some of the other resorts. (Maybe you’ll catch a beautiful person at one of them.) We noticed that, just beyond the rope demarking our beach, tour boats seemed to gather and fill the water with bobbing human heads. Why? The mystery was solved when the hotel’s assistant manager asked us if we had seen the turtles yet. The next time we noticed the boats we swam out ourselves and looked down to see a large, green turtle or two gliding around beneath us.
Maybe there are more fashionable places for turtles to visit, but they seemed to be having as much fun as we were.
Treasure Beach Hotel
Paynes Bay, St. James
Price $275-$1860 per couple, per night. Hotel-only price; Breakfast included at non-holiday times.