Why you should visit Canouan before everybody else finds out about it.
If you’ve never heard of Canouan, you’re certainly not alone. A speck of an island with just 2,000 inhabitants, Canouan isn’t nearly as famous as bigger Caribbean islands like St. Barth’s, the Virgin Islands, or Turks & Caicos—and its inhabitants prefer it that way. You see, this is where the world’s billionaires come to escape the hassles of their stressful jobs and everyday lives and unwind in paradise. But they don’t have to be the only ones to have all the fun.
Nestled in the Lesser Antilles, Canouan is one of 32 islands that make up St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which has a total population of 110,000. Its position in the southeastern Caribbean has helped it maintain its pristine natural habitat, including one of the largest coral reefs in the Caribbean. There are no direct flights to Canouan from the U.S., so you’ll have to fly to an airport in St. Vincent, Grenada, Barbados, or St. Lucia and then hop on a short flight by propeller plane or private jet (which is the most popular way to get there).
Upon arriving, visitors are whisked over to the only five-star hotel operating at the moment: the Mandarin Oriental Canouan, which took over the old Pink Sands Club, which in turn replaced a Raffles resort. (It was that property’s sales and marketing director who described Canouan as the place where “billionaires go to get away from the millionaires,” according to Bloomberg, though the Mandarin Oriental is trying to distance itself from that characterization.)
The whitewashed main building has 26 ocean-facing suites which have marble floors, traditional décor, and bright pink accents. Suites on the ground floor have direct beach access, but actual billionaires should spring for one of the sleek new Patio Villas. Designed by Milan-based Arassociatti Architetti, they feature clean-lined spaces done up in natural wood and stone, spacious living/dining areas that can be opened up to the breeze, and a private pool. During the festive season, these villas can easily go for more than $10,000 per night. But good luck getting a reservation–they’re so in-demand that one family has a standing reservation for the last week of every month so they can return to the same villa and never risk that it’ll be booked by someone else.
The 1,200-acre resort also has five restaurants and bars, a freestanding spa that looks like it was airlifted from Bali, a kid’s club, a golf course, and an Anglican church used for weddings and other ceremonies. On the surrounding hills are the Grenadines Estates, which sell for $8.5 to $20 million. Their owners—most of whom are hedge fund managers or financiers—get a return on their investment by renting them out while they’re not in residence.
Days on Canouan consist of relaxing by the pool, indulging in a spa treatments, going for a hike, swimming or snorkeling in the sea, yachting over to the Tobago Cays, and chilling out at the boho-chic L’Ance Guyac, which serves excellent pasta and has a little shop selling beachy clothes and accessories—you know, normal things. Perhaps billionaires aren’t so different from the rest of us after all.
Changes are afoot, however, leaving some to wonder what will become of the island. About 1,200 acres of the island are managed by an Italian entrepreneur who prefers to remain anonymous, and he has big plans for Canouan. The architecture firm that recently built the aforementioned Patio Villas is working on plans for a series of Stone Villas, which can be purchased freehold and rented out as part of the Mandarin Oriental’s inventory. A resort by Aman is rising near L’Ance Guyac, and a hotel by Soho House is in the works. On the south side of the island, the airport has been expanded and a new 120-slip superyacht marina has been constructed at Glossy Bay. Just across the water, a series of buildings that look like something you’d find on the shores of Lake Como are under construction.
The starting rate for an Oceanview Suite at the Mandarin Oriental is $1,300—not so astronomical that you have to be a billionaire to stay there, though it will cost you a pretty penny. Whether Canouan will become the Caribbean’s next luxury hotspot remains to be seen, but for now, it’s still a pristine island paradise where you can escape the crowds.