Sailing is the most common way to explore the 32 islands forming Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a secluded string of islands and coral cays dotting the eastern Caribbean Sea between Saint Lucia and Grenada. Saint Vincent is the largest of the chain, but of the nine inhabited islands, one of the more interesting is the whale-shaped Palm Island, home to the luxurious Palm Island Resort.
From Barbados, a short, 45-minute hopper flight lands you in the southern Grenadines, on tiny Union Island, where the main draws are parasailing and the jetty—where yachts dock and ferries pick up passengers en route to other islands in the chain. On the 10-minute speed boat ride to Palm Island, you’ll be whisked past a beach bar on a manmade island—the foundation of which is conch shells—before pulling into the 135-acre island fringed by five soft-white beaches.
When the resort’s previous owners, John and Mary Caldwell, leased the land in 1966 for 99 years, it was a low-lying swamp known as Prune Island. After planting coconut palms to reclaim the land (there are now more than 2,000), the American couple constructed a 10-room hotel, The Palm Island Beach Club, which they ran for 30 years until it was purchased by an Englishman, James Lane, and Rob Barrett, the founder of Elite Islands Resorts. They transformed the property into Palm Island Resort—43 rooms and suites as well as a waterfront spa with al fresco standing tubs facing the sea.
Vaulted cottages with stone-encased outdoor showers are huddled around the north coastline near the dock and Royal Palm Restaurant, but if you hop on one of the bikes or golf carts available to you, you can have an entire beach to yourself. And for those who really want privacy, there’s a buyout option for up to 100 people.
As with most islands, the prime real estate is along the coast. The strategically placed thatched-roofed huts, hammocks and swings dangling over the sea make the island feel like a scene out of Blue Lagoon and draw repeat guests year after year (some of whom stay more than a month at a time).
With its offshore reefs, prime for snorkeling, this tucked-away island serves up the best the Caribbean has to offer—minus the crowds that descend on cruise ship-heavy destinations. Guests can even hop on the resort’s catamaran and sail around the neighboring Tobago Cays, Mayreau (the smallest inhabited island in the Grenadines), and Union Island’s Chatham Bay (reachable only by boat or four-wheel drive vehicle), breaking to picnic on deserted beaches or swim with sea turtles and sting rays.
Debuting this spring, the two-bedroom Seahorse Villa sits on the southern shore, on Petit Martinique Bay. Designed by London-based interior designer Siân Parry Jones, the white picket fence-encased swath of sand and villa is intended to “reflect the surroundings and vibrant color of the sea,” with whitewashed wood walls, large wicker lamp shades, and soft furnishings in shades of blue and white. Handmade Mexican clay tiles line the bathrooms, while salvaged ship masts form the outdoor shower’s enclosure.
With a long wooden deck for dining under the stars, breezy cabanas and day beds dotting the sand, and a few palm trees acting like stepping stones leading down to the sea, the new villa has, as the designer intended, a “home-away-from-home feel.”
Images courtesy of Palm Island Resort and Spa.