A few years ago, while touring through the waters of the Grenadines, I stumbled upon 115 acres of hidden oasis. Rising up out of the sparkling blue waters was a quiet, lush island: Petit St. Vincent, home to a world-class resort that seeks to emulate the sanctuary-like feel of the surrounding landscape. I was given a personal tour of the island, and was quickly captivated by almost 2 miles of white sand beaches; an abundance of tropical flora and wildlife; the sustainable designs of the resort’s 22 private, stone walled, thatch-roofed cottages; and — most of all — by the tranquility that washes over everything.
I knew, during that first encounter, that this hidden gem of the West Indies deserved more than a day’s exploration. And so I recently returned to Petit St. Vincent — this time accompanied by my girlfriend — to experience the island and its unplugged resort for a full luxurious week.
When we landed in Barbados, we were immediately struck by the hands-on nature of the vacation package. We were met by a representative of the resort, who walked us through the airport, checked us in, and ensured that we were seated comfortably on a private plane to Union Island (the closest airport to Petit St. Vincent). And while hours of travel made this rigorous attention feel jarring at first, we soon came to appreciate it for what it was: an opportunity to turn off our brains and travel stress-free, relaxing with the knowledge that we would be taken care of.
At Union we were again picked up and escorted to a boat, which would take us to our ultimate destination. As we pulled up to the dock of Petit St. Vincent, we were met with a blue and white cart (known as a Mini Moke), drinks, and a quiet welcome. First on the itinerary was a tour, in this cart, of the island. Even though I had explored it briefly before, it was a nice way to get reacquainted — or, in my girlfriend’s case, introduced — to the land and the facilities nestled throughout.
Following this introductory tour, we were shown to our cottage. Travellers will find, on Petit St. Vincent, whatever sort of cottage experience they seek; there are locations on the beach, tucked away in the woods, or perched on the hills and offering stunning views of the foliage that gives way to the blue waters beyond. Our cottage was one on a hill, with steps leading down to a private beach. We had our own patio with recliners and a nearby hammock. The interior was set up with a bedroom and comfortable sitting room, which included a fully stocked mini-bar, an espresso maker, and a jar of fresh cookies that magically seemed to refill itself — basically, everything we needed to make our stay comfortable, with many thoughtful little details.
Privacy is paramount at this resort. In lieu of calling a front desk, services operate via a flag system. Want cottage maintenance, breakfast in bed, bar service at lunch, afternoon tea, a pick-up? Fill in your request and simply place it in the slot at the base of the flag post; raise the yellow flag and the staff will quickly and quietly take note. Raising a red flag functions much the same as a “Do Not Disturb” sign. There is little interpersonal interaction unless you deliberately seek it out; if you request the presence of staff, you will open the door of your cottage to find employees waiting by the stone wall below, not wanting to infringe on your personal space. If they do wish to access the cottage, there is a cowbell that can be rung to request entry.
That being said, the staff members of this resort are friendly and knowledgeable; this cautious distance stems from respect for privacy rather than a standoffish attitude. Wherever we went on the island, we were greeted by name. There’s a general sense that everyone on the island knows who you are. Employees would regularly be familiar with our activities of the day or what we had planned for later. At one point, after returning to the island following a day excursion to the Tobago Cays, I approached the water sports area. “How was snorkelling this morning?” asked an employee.
Petit St. Vincent is a small island, and part of the joy of staying here is finding things to do. We got around the island by bicycle. A trail allowed us to explore the beaches and forest, and it is cleverly designed to help guests stay on top of their fitness routines. Along this trail there are self-directed fitness stations, where little charts describe a suggested activity for each: push-ups, pull-ups, stretches, etc. And while I didn’t make use of it, other guests raved about the island’s tree house-style spa — I’m betting this would be the perfect way to unwind after a workout.
The trail, which runs inland and along the beach, occasionally leads to secluded resting spots with chairs, umbrellas, and small tables, each constantly stocked with clean glasses and fresh ice water. These sitting areas are spaced far apart so that guests can sunbathe and relax in their own private section of the white, sandy beach.
There are two restaurants on the island, which were very accommodating of vegan and vegetarian dietary restrictions. The menus are composed of many local ingredients, grown right in the resort’s garden. Guests can stroll past this garden and see firsthand where the herbs and produce are grown, or visit the lively chicken coop. This is “farm-to-fork” in its purist form. Personally, I gravitated towards simple meals that showcased the island’s natural fruits; each morning, my “regular,” as the staff called it, was a fruit platter with passion fruit and a simple sandwich of avocado, cucumber, tomato, and radish. Occasionally I’d go for the juices, all of which are made fresh from carrots, apples, ginger, etc. (At one point, when I requested ginger in my fresh juice, I was told that it wasn’t an ingredient typically on hand — but before the end of breakfast, I was brought a fresh carrot and apple juice with ginger. Such is the level of the staff’s commitment.)
The island is well situated for day trips. A highlight for us was the journey to the Tobago Cays, off the coast of Union Island. The staff packed us vegetarian lunches and brought us there by sailboat to explore, snorkel, and see the massive iguanas that roam the place. Probably our favourite day adventure, though, was a private lunch on a sandbar, which rises up out of the ocean like a perfect cartoon oasis. The white sands are interrupted only by a thatch umbrella, which shades a seating area. I planned a picnic lunch here, and staff dropped us off and provided an outdoor carpet, stocked picnic basket, towels, and snorkelling gear, and left us for one of the most private dining experiences a person is likely to find.
My only regret during my stay was that I was late to try the island’s water sports. I hadn’t bothered with the paddle boats, and not having sailed since high school, I avoided that, too. But near the end of the stay, I decided to give it a try. A team member gave me a refresher course, and pretty quickly, it all started to come back to me. “You’re good to go,” he said, and sent us out to the open water on our own. It was just windy enough, and we saw so much sea life, like giant turtles that were three feet or longer. I loved the experience so much that I wish I’d done it on the very first day — if I had, it would quickly have become a part of my daily routine.
The staff’s attention to detail persisted right up until our time on the island ended. When I went to check out, I was given an envelope of 200 Eastern Caribbean dollars. “For the airport departure tax,” the concierge explained. She then handed us two soft cooler bags with packed vegetarian lunches and bottles of water to ensure that we wouldn’t get hungry or thirsty during the long journey ahead.
Petit St. Vincent isn’t a party island; this is the kind of vacation a person seeks out for solitude, peace, quality time with family, or a romantic retreat. There’s no dress code and no pressure to impress. Just as the resort was designed to have little environmental impact on the land, the staff will work hard to leave guests to their own devices — all while quietly instilling a respect for the place that will make you love it as much as they do.
Images via Petit St. Vincent.