Getting to Petit St Vincent, the 115-acre privately-owned jewel of an island in the southeastern Caribbean, can feel a little like disassembling a Russian nesting doll: each form of your journey’s transportation gets progressively smaller, until you finally arrive at your oceanfront cottage feeling a million miles from wherever you started your journey.
The jet that lands guests in Barbados is swapped for a small charter plane that hops over to nearby Union Island, which is then traded for a 20-minute boat ride that ends at Petit St Vincent’s dock. But don’t let this version of planes, trains and automobiles scare you away: After a warm welcome from the island’s general manager, Matthew Semark, and a few sips of the pina colada that you’re handed as you step onto the dock, a PSV staffer brings you to your private cottage in one of the island’s Mini-Mokes – which are the only motorized vehicles on the island. By the time you enter your cottage, you have the distinct feeling that you’re in on one of the world’s best secrets: the private resort island of Petit St Vincent.
Petit St Vincent, or PSV as it’s known colloquially, is often described first by what it does not have: there are no televisions, telephones or wireless connections in the cottages, and there are no cars, no formal check-in and no keys. What it does have is 22 one-and two-bedroom cottages dotted along the island’s beaches and bluffs, each positioned perfectly for the utmost in privacy and seclusion and for the best views. It also has a staff-to-guest ratio of two-to-one, two miles of secluded white-sand beaches, tennis courts, a fitness trail and some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean.
The island was developed into a private resort in the 1960’s by the late Haze Richardson, who was the beloved owner of the island until his death in 2008. The 22 cottages and Main Pavilion Restaurant were built by Swedish architect Arne Hasselqvist, who also built many of the original homes on the nearby island of Mustique. Guests who “discovered” the island in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s became devotees of PSV and many still return yearly, with their ever-growing extended family in tow.
In 2011, the island was purchased by Philip Stephenson and Robin Paterson, business partners who had both separately sailed by the island years before and made note of its enviable location (the Grenadines are known as one of the best sailing grounds in the world) and natural beauty. When they heard that it was on the market, they realized that it was an opportunity that they couldn’t pass up.
After much research and chatting with the island’s extremely loyal repeat guests, the new owners realized that while a small face-lift might be in order, it was imperative that they not change the essence of the island. So a strategic renovation project was put into place, and the result did not disappoint: a new beach restaurant and bar was constructed as well as a tucked-away treetop spa, and a design firm in Miami, D’Amico Design Associates, was hired to refresh the interiors of the cottages. The island remains blissfully “unplugged” yet with all of the amenities that one would expect from a five-star private resort island.
The majority of guests spend their time lounging at one of the private beach palapas on the West End Beach, snorkeling in the clear waters or enjoying the seclusion and views from their private cottages. Nightly rates include three meals a day, and those meals can be taken anywhere on the island. Guests can of course dine at either of the two restaurants, but can also have a private table set in any location they choose on the island – from the Atlantic Pier gazebo to a tucked-away corner on the West End Beach.
Ambitious guests can hike up to the top of Marni Hill (275’ feet high) and be rewarded with a 360-degree view of the southern Grenadines, take a tennis lesson or yoga class, kayak, windsurf or try stand-up paddleboarding. Guests can also sail out to the Tobago Cays, St Vincent and the Grenadine’s protected national park, where the snorkeling is on par with some of the best in the world.
It was these pristine waters that convinced Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the famous underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, to decide to open a dive center on PSV this November called Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Caribbean Divers. The dive center will be staffed by marine biologists and offer dive certification courses as well we introductory dives, snorkeling excursions and specialty dives. Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society, his southern California-based non-profit, is also assisting PSV with sustainability efforts to help make the resort more efficient and environmentally friendly.
While you could spend your entire time on PSV in total seclusion, seeing no one other than the staff member who brings your meals, there are ample opportunities to get to know your fellow guests (and you should, you never know who you might meet). PSV hosts a weekly BBQ at the Beach Restaurant with a steel drum band and freshly grilled lobster, Movie Night at the Beach Bar where guests watch one of the classics on an inflatable movie screen under the stars – with table service of course – and a weekly manager’s cocktail party.
Petit St Vincent has managed to pull off quite a coup in the world of trendy travel destinations and hipster hotels: the 45-year old resort has stayed true to its original classic Caribbean style while evolving elegantly into one of the world’s most exclusive hideaways.
Prices start at $1,100/night for a one-bedroom cottage based on double occupancy and include three meals per day, unlimited room service and non-motorized watersports. For more information, please visit www.petitstvincent.com.