It’s almost impossible to write about Petit St Vincent without conjuring up a big old tropical cliché lifted straight from the pages of a bridal magazine. Yes, this a private island and yes, there are plenty of jaw-droppingly beautiful and apparently deserted beaches as well a seemingly endless number of spots to sip icy fruit cocktails and guzzle as much fresh lobster as you want. But cast aside thoughts of sun baked oligarchs and holidaying royalty. While Petit St Vincent might look like the quintessential Caribbean haunt at first glimpse, its earthy charm and cheerful inhabitants mark it out as something special.
Part of the St Vincent and the Grenadines, a chain of islands that formed the backdrop for most of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, PSV, as its affectionately nicknamed, is the most southerly of the bunch. Getting here is a bit of a marathon affair: first a nine hour flight to Barbados, then an aerial hop to neighbouring Union Island and finally, a 30 minute boat trip. But as the island’s sugared sands and azure sea hove into view, it soon starts to feel worth it.
With just 115 acres to play with, the island boasts just one resort – thankfully a lovely one where the towels are Bulgari and the beaches competitive sunbather free. Uninhabited until the 1960s, the island was bought by three businessmen who built a small hotel consisting of 22 cottages and main pavilion, all designed by Swedish architect Arne Hasselqvist – the man who famously created some of the luxury homes on the nearby island of Mustique. Looking around, it’s easy to see why they chose to build here. An ideal habitat for wildlife, (you’re likely to see more birds than people, not to mention PSV’s ‘eco lawn mower’, a very friendly sheep), the island is surrounded by a natural reef that creates the perfect habitat for snorkeling.
Better still, with two miles of almost entirely deserted palm-fringed beach, being on Petit St Vincent feels a little like being alone on your own private island. There’s nothing flashy, with even the rooms, price tag notwithstanding, feeling homely and understated. Dotted around the island, on cliffs, beaches and up in the hills, each cottage boasts unbelievable views – even the shower in our cottage had a perfect view of aquamarine ocean. Kitted out with the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in and an enormous deck, furnished with comfy sun loungers and a hammock big enough for two, it would be very easy to never leave the confines of your cottage.
What’s more PSV’s famous flag system makes it very easy to do just that. A flag post is located outside each cottage and guests simply hoist the yellow flag if they need anything – be it a rum punch or some snorkeling gear – or raise the red flag if they don’t want to be disturbed. Staff check the flag posts every 10 minutes or so, driving around in charming mini mokes (there are no cars on the island) which are used to ferry guests, room service and just about everything else.
Although, as with everything else, you can choose to have supper in your room; dinner at the hotel is the one part of the day where guests come together. There is a choice of two restaurants, the more formal restaurant in the main pavilion where breakfast and dinner are served and a more laid back beach bar. Much of what’s on offer comes courtesy of the island’s own vegetable garden which grows local delicacies such as callaloo and christophene as well as a chicken shed. Seafood, meanwhile, comes fresh from the neighbouring island of Petit Martinique, although lobster is always on offer.
The beach bar is the place to go for lobster- whether in a salad, on a pizza, with pasta or simply grilled – it’s all available and all delicious. Equally lovely are the local light bites such as spicy crab back and conch fritters. Dinner in the main pavillion is a more formal affair; I ate deliciously fresh crab and watermelon salad and pea soup made with peas from the chef’s garden, followed by pan fried marlin with sautéed eddo. Cocktails in the bar are dangerously good, try one of the freshly made Pina Coladas – it’s certainly no 80s throwback.
If you’ve had one too many, breakfast in your cottage more than makes up for it as we discovered one morning. Sitting on the terrace overlooking the Atlantic, joined only by a chirpy little bird, was pure bliss as we tucked into fresh watermelon juice, waffles and eggs benedict. The joy is that meals can be taken practically anywhere on the island: if you want a picnic at the top of the island’s Marni Hill (you’ll certainly deserve it after the slog up there), lunch at your beach palapa or dinner in the impossibly romantic beach pagoda, consider it done.
For those of a more restless disposition, PSV offers an impressive roster of watersports. We spent a very happy afternoon leisurely snorkeling around the island, but for the more energetic, the hotel is happy to arrange sailing excursions, surfing, kayaking, deep sea fishing and scuba diving. If terra firma is more your thing, PSV is perfect for hiking and jogging (it takes about 45 minutes to do a walking circuit) and there are trim trail exercise stations located throughout the island as well as pristine tennis courts. However, if you do make it out onto the open seas, the day charter to the Tobago Cays, a national marine park and habitat for green and hawksbill turtles, is well worth the effort.
After a week on the island, I was so chilled out I could barely be bothered to move and was contemplating taking up permanent residence. A trip to Petit St Vincent isn’t cheap but its understated charms and unspoilt beauty make it a worthy alternative to bigger, busier Caribbean islands. Not for this little piece of paradise swarms of ship-borne trippers or ostentatious oligarchs: instead, it’s a relaxed home from home that offers privacy in spades and a winning way with lobster. The Middletons, regular visitors to neighbouring Mustique, would adore it. But hopefully they, and the attendant hordes, won’t discover it too soon. It’s perfect just the way it is.