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From mustique island to st baths, the most exclusive and luxurious getaways in our close-to -home tropical paradise

by Nubia DuVall Wilson

The holidays are over and now you’re simply beat as a new year and new responsibilities roll in. How to re-energize? Make an escape to a tropical isle where you can unplug and zone out, and between now and April, sun seekers will experience some of the best weather of the year on picturesque islands like St. Lucia and Mustique. Our guide to some of the most exclusive experiences in this simply amazing region, where you can kick back and relax like a royal, stay fit with adrenaline-fueled activities, or replenish with spa and wellness indulgences.

Unquestionably one of the most romantic resorts in the Caribbean, Jade Mountain is a hotel within Nick Troubetzkoy’s Anise Chastened resort. The retreat is comprised of 24 sanctuary suites with private infinity pools that offer unparalleled views of the sea and St. Lucia’s Pitons volcanic mountains (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Guests have exclusive access to the Jade Mountain Club restaurant, featuring James Beard Award winner Chef Allen Sussex’s cuisine, plus the resort’s 600-acre beach, six restaurants, water sports, and spa.

The four accommodation categories (Star, Moon, Sun, and Galaxy) reflect each suite’s particular elevation and square footage. Each has an open layout that features a bedroom, living area, and an extravagant infinity pool that all glide into one another, forming platforms that float out into nature. All have 15-foot ceilings and are designed with the fourth wall open to the views, while at the same time allowing for complete privacy. Five sky Jacuzzi suites feature a large hot tub for two, but no private pool.

Customized experiences at the resort include touring the Emerald Estates plantation to pick produce (to be included in a meal made for the guest) and making sweets at its chocolate laboratory. Gourmet cooking classes with wine pairings are also available.

A wide range of spa services can be enjoyed in the privacy of the Jade Mountain sanctuaries or at Kai en Ceil, Jade Mountain’s boutique spa and fitness studio. The Alchemy of Two is a romantic treatment for couples that begins with relaxing in a hot tub containing Body Bliss Elixir Male and Elixir Female Oils while sharing a variety of delicious treats, and ending with a synchronized aromatherapy massage.

There are two beaches, Anse Chastanet and Anse Mamin, connected via a coastal walkway. Palm thatched beach huts and beach lounge beds and towels are available for resident guests. Beach butlers provide food and beverage service, cool minted towels, sorbet, and fruit surprises throughout the day. The Watersports Center offers guests complimentary windsurfs and sunfish sailing boats (beginner lessons with the beach attendants can be provided). Off property, guests can go on a half-day sailing trip on the skippered resort yacht Serenity, jungle bike in Anse Mamin Valley, go on a guided boat snorkel trip, and walk through the volcanic Sulphur Springs Park. Rates start at $1,375 per night. One of the most exclusive private islands in the world, Mustique is a 1,400-acre retreat in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There, guests choose from 70-plus villas available for weekly rent or stay at the five-star hotel Cotton House. In addition, the island has one guesthouse called Firefly, along with a quaint downtown, a handful of restaurants, and multiple beaches. None of the world’s modern disturbances can be found here.

Timepiece Spread

Ever since Princess Margaret built her stunning villa Les Jolies Eaux in the 1960s, Mustique has been a sanctuary for royals and celebrities (you won’t find any paparazzi here, thanks to the strict security). Travelers love the designer villas and wide range of services, amenities, and recreational activities. A 30-minute transfer from Barbados on a Grenadine Airways flight, booked through The Mustique Company directly, brings you to this small gem. Each individually-owned villa has a private pool and features a distinct style of architecture and design, from Balinese and contemporary to Italian- and Moroccan-inspired. They range from two to nine bedrooms and include a minimum of three dedicated staff (chef, housekeeper, and gardener), plus a golf cart- like vehicle called a “mule.” A handful were recently renovated and refurbished, including Fisher House, Palmyra, Villa America, Plantation House, and Greenstone. Weekly rates range from $5,000 to $50,000 per week, depending on number of bedrooms and size.

The Cotton House Hotel was originally an 18th century cotton warehouse sugar mill, restored by the late British Designer Oliver Messel. The hotel’s complex is set on 13 acres and includes a pool, two restaurants, a spa, and 17 luxurious one-bedroom, suites, and cottages. Eleven rooms have their own plunge pools and the two-bedroom Cotton Hill Residence has a swimming pool and its own 24-hour butler. Guests have access to all island activities, including the weekly Tuesday evening cocktail party hosted by The Mustique Company at the Great Room Bar.

Breakfast and dinner are served at Veranda Restaurant (which wraps around the Great Room Bar); its fare, inspired by traditional Caribbean flavors, includes snapper cooked in coconut butter and roti spices and Barracuda baked with lemongrass and tamarind. For beachside meals, visit the Beach Café just steps from the water at Endeavour Bay. Fresh fish, lobster, light dishes, and a children’s menu are available throughout the day, with afternoon tea laid out by the lily pond. Rates start at $865/night for a Garden Cottage.

Activities include kayaking at the Water Sports Centre on Endeavour Bay, scuba diving, fishing, tennis, horseback riding, yoga, outdoor movie nights, and relaxing at the hotel’s spa, which recently partnered with the award-winning organic spa treatment line ilia.

One cannot have the true Mustique Island experience, however, without visiting Basil’s bar on Britannia Bay. This open-air watering hole has been hosting an international crowd for over 25 years. Check out “Jump Up” there on Wednesday nights in high season to enjoy a barbeque buffet dinner and live music. Laid back luxury at its best can be experienced in Jamaica’s Montego Bay, the capital of St. James Parish on the north coast. This bustling city has multiple restaurants and bars, mostly on Gloucester Avenue, which create a hot party scene at night known as the “hip strip.”

Beyond its epicenter are numerous beach resorts, adventure activities, and golf courses. Popular sandy stretches include Doctor’s Cave Beach and Walter Fletcher Beach (the latter home to an amusement park). Coral reefs in the protected waters of Montego Bay Marine Park are perfect for snorkeling and diving. Chukka Tours will take thrill seekers on a series of activities at the Good Hope Estate Park, such as dune buggy rides, zip-lining, challenge courses, and river tubing. Duffers can play on one of the most complicated and beautiful golf courses in the Caribbean at The Try all Club, which has a rich legacy, hosting professional legends such as Nick Faldo and Ernie Els, as well as a number of Johnnie Walker World Championship events.

For a luxury resort experience, stay at the 110-acre resort Round Hill, which features villas, boutique oceanfront rooms, a spa that lies on a hillside along a private bay, and award-winning seaside dining. There, guests can enjoy a made-to-order breakfast, swim among the natural coral reef along the beach (then have lunch in the hotel’s organic garden) and further relax during a massage treatment with renowned Elemis products. On Monday nights, guests are invited to the property’s Beach Party.

The oceanfront accommodations in Pineapple House, designed by Ralph Lauren, are steps from the white sand beach and main infinity pool, and some have private patios. Complete villas ranging from two to six bedrooms are available with private pools, freestanding tubs, and a dedicated staff. Couples who want a private pool, an ocean view, and extra space can book Deluxe Villas 4 or
24, which offer almost 2,000 square feet. Larger parties can stay in Premium Luxury Villas, which range up to 8,850 square feet and feature amenities like two pools, game rooms, and libraries. Oceanfront room rates start at $769 per night; complete two-bedroom villas start at $2,349 per night. Like its sister island Aruba, Curacao is just 800 miles north of the equator, which positions it below the hurricane belt and guarantees sunny skies and minimal rain. There are more than thirty beaches available, and Jet Blue began direct-flight service in 2015. The Dutch colony is fascinatingly diverse, with influences from Spanish, Arawak, French, West Indian, Portuguese, and African cultures. The capital, Willemstad, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is separated into two sides divided by Santa Anna Bay: Panda and the Otrobanda (“other side”). Travelers often feel as though they are in Amsterdam while walking around the historic buildings and shop, dine, and venture across the swaying Queen Emma Bridge.

In addition to exploring the capital, be sure to rent a car and beach hop. Playa Kenepa is a popular small cove 50 minutes northwest of Willemstad, where the water is shallow…perfect for snorkeling. Cas Abao is also to the north and has a water center with restroom facilities and chairs, snorkeling gear, and kayaks for rent. The Daiquiri Bar serves lunch and cocktails.

Curacao also has art lovers covered, as it is home to more than thirty local and international artists and four major art galleries. A good bet is to pick up some authentic folk art made by locals at Gallery Alma Blou (which also features contemporary art and photography), then relax in the patio cafe with coffee. Visit 3rd Project Gallery (the newest addition to the island) to see 15 local artists on display. End the day exploring the sprawling 270-year-old property of Landau’s Bloemhof, where there are large-scale outdoor exhibitions such as Cathedral of Thorns by famous Dutch artist Herman van Berge.

One of the largest resorts on the island is Santa Barbara Curacao Beach and Golf Resort. This AAA Four Diamond beachfront property on 2,000 acres offers various all-inclusive plans, seven restaurants and bars, luxury suites, three pools, a Pete Dye-designed championship golf course, four tennis courts, and Atabei Spa and Wellness services. Meal plans range from simple daily breakfast-only and three-meals per day plans to the Ultimate Luxury Plan for those who want all meals and drinks included, plus unlimited watersports rentals from the Dive &
Watersports Center.

All of the 350 rooms offer full balconies or patios. Sea Tradition Rooms offer guests a private pool and upgraded amenities among three separate buildings in a private enclave. Couples who want to stay in a luxury suite have multiple options, including the Tula Suite—an 820-square-foot accommodation with a foyer, half-bath, parlor, king bedroom, master bath, and a balcony with commanding views of the resort grounds. Rates range from $244 per night to $482 per night, depending on the chosen plan. St. Berths (short for Saint-Barthélemy), one of the Caribbean’s most elite and expensive islands, has been a playground for the rich and famous for decades. With
14 white-sand beaches, designer boutiques, art galleries, a hot nightlife scene, and multiple luxury hotels, it is small wonder that celebrities and models alike make this French island their preferred tropical getaway.

Start your trip by visiting the bustling port town Gust via to shop and enjoy gourmet cuisine in the plethora of restaurants helmed by international chefs.

One of the most unique properties is Eden Rock St Berths, perched on a rock promontory surrounded by St. Jean Bay and just a short drive from downtown Gust via. The hotel was opened in the 1950s by aviator adventurer Remy de Haenen, and quickly attracted Hollywood A-liters, artists, and business friends. Today, it is owned by David and Jane Matthews, who have combined their passion for art, music, and fashion into a luxury hotel experience where guests can choose from an array of guest rooms, suites, and villas. The hotel features a pristine beach, two Jean Georges Vongerichten restaurants, the Eden being fashion boutique, a rotating art gallery, and ER
Wellbeing spa services.

Accommodations are individually designed and based on themes, such as the Howard Hughes Loft: a discerningly masculine 1,500-square-foot one-bedroom with aviation themed décor, two copper clad bathrooms, three terraces, and a 360-degree view of the bay. The latest to the collection is the 2,200-square-foot Christopher Columbus Suite, inspired by its namesake. The luxurious one-bedroom features artwork by international artists, a custom-made private bar stocked with wine and spirits, a living room, large terrace, spa bathroom, and walk-in dressing room.

One of the most sought after accommodations in the hotel is Villa Rock star, a 16,000-square-foot beach house with six bedrooms, a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, living room, kitchen, gym, whiskey bar, and personal butler. Musicians and wannabe rock stars alike can rent time in the private recording studio with the legendary Nave music mixing console (used by John Lennon himself to record “Imagine”). Rates for the villa start at $19,686 per night. Starting rates at Eden Rock St Berths begin at $710 per night.