Unassuming Canouan Island Is the Caribbean’s Next Billionaire Playground – Cond Nast Traveler

When Princess Margaret famously fled her unhappy marriage for Mustique in the 1970s, she turned it into the blue-chip, blue-blood hideaway we know today, attracting a Studio 54 crowd that spanned everyone from Mick and Bianca Jagger to Bryan Ferry and David Bowie. But 50 years after the royal arguably created the first bona fide, A-list destination in the Caribbean, an unassuming, neighboring island is aiming to displace Mustique as the jet set getaway of the 2020s.

A small, barely five-square-mile nation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Canouan island has seen a recent flurry of luxury hotel activity. Last year, the Mandarin Oriental made its Caribbean debut on the eastern reaches, commandeering what was once the Pink Sands Club and rebooting the property to feel more Portofino than Port of Spain, expanding its 14, infinity poolequipped villas by a further dozen. Its larger sibling property, the Canouan Estate, has tennis courts and water sports, and even a 17th-century church. Both resorts, which sit together on the 1,200-acre Grenadine Estate, are owned by Italian developer Andrea Pignataro, whose clout has allegedly attracted Soho House to also open on the island: Multiple reports allege the member's club is taking over the former Tamarind Beach Hotel later this year. (A Soho House rep did not return requests for comment.) Those three hotels will later be joined by a fourth, the ultra-luxury chain Aman, which has earmarked another plot nearby and will begin construction soon.

Courtesy Mandarin Oriental, Canouan

Its easy to understand Canouans appeal. The islands natural assets are almost unmatched in the Caribbean. Small and easily navigatedgolf carts replace cars herethe islands name derives from a local word for land turtle, and the animals are so ubiquitous that you can take a short boat journey to the nearby cluster of Tobago Cays to observe them in a marine park preserve. Hummingbirds flit between the lush foliage, while rays, eels, and fishes teem through the reefs. One noteworthy coral outcrop runs for a mile and a half along the Atlantic side of the island, cushioning golden beaches like Mahault from harsh waves and creating clear, pool-like waters close to the coast. The best perch to observe it all is on Mount Royal, the highest point of the island, which overlooks the rest of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Mustique included).

Canouans size and self containment also add to its appeal for paparazzi-shy celebrities. You sometimes see photos of Simon Cowell, perhaps, sunbathing at Sandy Lane in Barbados, but were extremely private, says Duarte Correia, general manager at the Mandarin Oriental. Its one of our key differentiators, that whatever celebrity or high net worth visitor comes, they know nobody will be here. Some are less press-shy, though: Amy Schumer posted about her babymoon here, and Robert Downey Jrs yacht has been spotted moored nearby.

So why is it only just emerging as a destination? Turns out, Pignataro isnt the first person to try and make over Canouan island in Mustiques image. A Trump casino, a Raffles-branded resort, and a Jim Fazio-designed 18-hole golf course straddling Mount Royal, all appeared on the island in the early 2000s, but a lack of infrastructure on the island ultimately set each one up to fail. The casino has since been repurposed as a hurricane shelter, the Raffles resort was bulldozed, and while the golf course has survived, it is largely bereft of players.

When I landed for the first time here in 1998, there was no airway, just a runway with a wooden booth where the same guy handled immigration and everything, says Cinzia Occioni, who worked in one of those early hotels. There was only one road on the island, no supermarket and no doctor.

Courtesy Sandy Lane Marina

The current airport is unrecognizable and has recently seen its runway extended, specifically with large private jets in mind. The landing strip is now able to accommodate planes up to the size of a Boeing 737, meaning visitors no longer need to land in Barbados and transfer to a puddle jumper across to Canouan. Night landing is permitted, too, making it easier to schedule flights from farther flung destinations like New York City. Correia estimates that around 50 percent of Mandarin Orientals guests now arrive by private jet, and 38 such planes flew in and out over the recent holiday period.

And where the jet set goes, the yacht crew follows, as Canouans wealthy investors know all too well. Dermot Desmond, who owns Sandy Lane in nearby Barbados, injected an estimated quarter of a million dollars into a brand-new marina with 120 slips that can accommodate yachts of up to 330 feet, next to Canouans airport. Since it opened two years ago, Sandy Lane Marina has worked in tandem with the airport to help bring Canouan to the attention of one percenters at last. Most clients, especially first-time charterers, cant name a single island in the Grenadines. They know theyre beautiful, but thats just as far as their knowledge goes, says yacht charter specialist Kate Kalamaga. But the wealthier ones are asking more and more about Canouan.

Continue reading here:

Unassuming Canouan Island Is the Caribbean's Next Billionaire Playground - Cond Nast Traveler

Related Post

Comments are closed.