“Private island in the Caribbean.” They’re quite possibly the five sweetest words in the English language, and Petit St. Vincent, in the Grenadines, certainly doesn’t disappoint. Located 40 miles south of St. Vincent, the low-key luxury resort comprises 115 acres dotted with 22 rustic yet elegant cottages, surrounded by nearly two miles of beach.
PSV, as it’s locally known, first opened as a resort in 1968, and throughout the ’70s and ’80s it was a not-so-well-kept secret among the cognoscenti, until being eclipsed somewhat by islands like St. Barts and Mustique. However, under new owners, who have poured millions into renovations and improvements, PSV has been restored to its former glory. In 2013, it gained inclusion into the elite portfolio of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and it now regularly appears on “Top 10” lists of the most desirable island resorts.
Getting there is a bit of a challenge. The best option from Boston is JetBlue’s direct flight to Barbados, followed by an hourlong puddle jump to Union Island and a 20-minute boat to the Promised Land. But each step of the journey acts as a mini decompression chamber. By the time you’ve arrived at your one- or two-bedroom cottage—assembled from native stone and purpleheart hardwood, elevated on a lush hillside or set mere steps from the enticingly azure sea—you’re already in island mode.
The common areas at PSV consist of the Beach Bar and the Main Pavilion. Goatie’s Bar, at the former, is a place to sip a rum drink, toes in the sand, in the shade of a thatched roof flanked by almond and palm trees. A selection of tapas, Mediterranean fare and flatbreads from the on-site clay pizza oven offer sustenance, as does the view of yachts bobbing in the channel. The Main Pavilion, meanwhile, offers a more formal dining experience, with both indoor and outdoor seating, perched high on a hill, surrounded by frangipani and hibiscus and overlooking the leeward harbor. With a wine cellar boasting upward of 3,000 bottles, there’s a selection to satisfy the most demanding oenophile, while the chef creates prix fixe three-course meals that would please the fussiest gourmand. During lobster season (Nov. 1-April 31), guests can feast on all-you-can-eat lobster free of charge. Throughout the day, they also have the option to choose a romantic spot anywhere on the island to dine, whether it’s a picnic lunch or a candlelit dinner in a thatched hut on stilts over the water.
PSV welcomes the owners, guests and crews of the yachts that moor in its harbor, but only to its restaurants, spa and boutique. Beaches and the rest of the island, marked by signs saying “Zone Privé,” guarantee seclusion and serenity. That leaves 16 palapas carved into the maho- and palm-fringed beach to be claimed on a first-come, first-served basis. Each palapa boasts a hammock, two chaise lounges and a table for dining or card games, and they’re private enough that anyone averse to bathing suits can sunbathe au naturel with impunity.
For those looking to keep active, the island has a hiking trail and two beachside yoga pavilions, and all non-motorized water activities—snorkeling, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing and Sunfish or Hobie Cat sailing—are complimentary. But the dive center is where PSV really excels. Owned and operated by Jean-Michel Cousteau and colleague Don Santee, it delivers the expertise expected from the former’s famous pedigree and can arrange scuba excursions to the nearby Tobago Cays Marine Park. The less ambitious can confine their aerobic activity to the short walk up to the blissfully charming Hillside Spa, a Balinese-style oasis manned by Indonesian therapists who can work their magic on the most knotted muscles in open-air treatment rooms.
PSV isn’t for everyone. There are no phones, no TVs, and Wi-Fi service is available only near the main office. (The cottages do have air-conditioning, but most of the year, the trade winds gently do the trick and allow for the lapping waves to serve as guests’ lullaby.) The cottages’ bathrooms have curtains in place of doors, and guests alert staff of their wants with a signature driftwood flagpole system. But it’s precisely this upscale Robinson Crusoe vibe—with its lack of 21st-century distractions—that makes it an ideal place to unplug and recharge. A staff-to-guest ratio of more than two-to-one means that when a yellow flag is hoisted to request something, it’s delivered promptly. And when you raise a red flag as a “Do not disturb” sign, you have an island paradise all to yourself.
– Although the beaches have sand that’s as soft as a baby’s bottom, the coral reef ringing the island comes close to shore, and swim shoes are highly recommended.
– Expect long lines at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados. Leave ample time for flight connections.
Petit St. Vincent (800-654-9326) petitstvincent.com