From the little 20-seater DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft on which I was flying from Barbados, I had a bird's eye view of the superyacht-dotted shoreline of Mustique.... but I was headed to the Caribbean island where Mustique types go to get away from the Mustique crowd.
Indeed, Mustique was the island where celebrities and the super-wealthy seeking an ultra-luxe hideaway used to head — including David Bowie, who built a vacation villa there. Now a different island in the relatively unspoilt Grenadines archipelago is poised to become one of the Caribbean’s most exclusive destinations: Canouan.
Just south of Mustique, the three-square-mile Canouan has proven history. Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Moss, and Mick Jagger have all been known to vacation there and it provided the backdrop for Bar Refaeli’s 2009 Sports Illustrated’s cover shoot. For a time, the island traded on the tagline "where the billionaires go to escape the millionaires." (It is said that 12 residents rank among the wealthiest people in the world.) And it's where Donald Trump once launched a short-lived casino, resort, and golf course. But now, with the late 2016 opening of the five-star Pink Sands Club, the island is all the more inviting. Ultra-exclusive, yes, but not entirely inaccessible for the mere millionaire... or even less well-endowed financially. Here's how to enjoy it.
For Sanctuary Seekers
The expansion of the Canouan Jet Port runway to nearly 6,000 feet means that the island is all the more accessible to those traveling via private jet. Fear not if you lack your own; you can still skip commercial air travel by making use of one of Pink Sands Club's two Cessna Citation private jets, which hold up to seven passengers. Book one of the resort's beachfront, residential style, one-bedroom penthouses for four nights and round-trip flights between Barbados and Canouan (around 30 minutes each way) are included. Once settled in, make an appointment for a treatment in one of the spa's two overwater bungalows and enjoy the added serenity of gazing down at the clear waters through the bungalow's glass floor.
For a Getaway With the Squad
Built into the 1,200-acre resort's hillside, adjacent to Pink Sands Club, Canouan Estate is a standalone luxury villa collection. Up to eight of your closest can fit into Silver Turtle, a six-bedroom, 6,000-square-foot split-level residence with Jacuzzi and an infinity pool jutting out to the aquamarine water. Villa guests have access to all the hotel services of the Pink Sands Club, which includes the spa, golf club, non-motorized watersports, and eight bars and restaurants, including Shell Beach, which the owners have designs to turn into a Nikki Beach-style club.
An eight-berth mega-yacht marina is scheduled to open close to the airport later this year. Until then, you can make use of Canouan Yacht Charter Services' 48-foot catamaran Splendid Adventurer for a day of sailing and snorkeling around the Tobago Cays, an archipelago of five small islands and long coral reefs. The main draw in this area is the protected Tobago Cays Marine Park where you can snorkel with sea turtles while the yacht crew prepares lunch. Within the marine park, Baradal, a tiny speck of an island, is home to a healthy population of iguanas. That's thanks to the repopulation efforts of the charter service's Captain Phil, a charming character, as you'll find should you be lucky enough to have him skipper your trip. From the anchorage area you can also spot Petit Tabac, a filming location for Pirates of the Caribbean.
The island's 18-hole championship golf course is considered one of the best in the world. The challenging course meanders around the bay and climbs 590 feet up to the highest point on the island. Here, at the 13th hole, you might, as I did, take the opportunity to toast the sunset looking toward the islands of Mustique, Bequia and the Tobago Cays as it dips below the Caribbean Sea. Some people say Pebble Beach, California has the best views, Head Golf Professional Kevin Boyko told me: "Pebble Beach wishes it had views like this."
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