I shook my friend awake as the view from the windows of our tiny, four-seat plane turned from deep blue ocean to emerald hills. Massive villas with turquoise pools began to dot the tropical forest while paved roads snaked around an 18-hole golf course belonging to the Mandarin Oriental Canouan.
Minutes later, our private Mustique Airways charter plane was skidding down the one-lane runway of Canouan Airport.
Where Is Canouan?
Canouan isn’t like any Caribbean island I’ve ever visited, and frankly, I’d never heard of it before the opportunity to visit hit my inbox. A member of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it’s 3.5 miles long and 1.25 miles wide. It has a vibrant town of 1,700 people with schools, small bars, and local restaurants serving fish caught just a few steps away.
We flew from New York directly to Barbados, where a designated team guided us to our private charter plane for a 40-minute flight to Canouan. While we went with the local Mustique Airways, most of Mandarin Oriental Canouan’s guests opt for a Twin Otter propeller plane operated by SVGAir, their own private jet, or Mandarin Oriental’s six-seat resort jet.
Welcome to the Island of Turtles
The word Canouan is a Carib word for “island of turtles,” an apt description for this crescent-shaped slice of paradise. After presenting our vaccine cards and negative PCR tests, as well as signing some paperwork, we were on our way to the resort, dodging small, slow-moving turtles the entire way.
The Mandarin Oriental Canouan and Canouan Estates are spread out over a whopping 1,200 acres named the Grenadines Estate, crawling with adorable land turtles. After an early morning and two flights, our marble-clad suite was a breath of fresh, ocean air—literally. We had panoramic views of the Caribbean’s longest-living reef and a white-sand beach directly below.
Not Your Typical Caribbean Resort
Adding to its secluded luxury, the resort consists exclusively of suites and villas. There are 35 to choose from, with the majority housed in the large, Italian-style main building along with the restaurants, lobby, gym, and pool area. Covered in light marble with pops of pink beloved by the previous owner, the suites are massive and airy with modern touches like iPad-controlled curtains and lighting.
The seven newest villas are a vast departure from the southern European style. Perched on the hillside with stellar ocean views, they have distinctly Asian design with wooden features and clean, contemporary lines.
Starting at $1,300 per night, it’s one of the most expensive resorts in the entire Caribbean. Privacy and exclusivity come with a price tag, and celebrities from Amy Schumer to George and Amal Clooney to Mark Wahlberg are happy to pay it.
We popped the champagne and sat out on our screened-in porch, watching the ocean as the sky gently shifted pink. As is typical with many Caribbean resorts, the best way to get around is by golf cart. So, we hopped in one and cruised off to the Canouan Estates side of the property, where the billionaires and millionaires own lavish private residences (swerving for turtles along the way).
We arrived at L’Ance Guyac Beach Club, steps from the water. A seafood feast of scallops over squid-ink risotto, tuna tartare, and clams over pasta paired with a day of travel was all I needed to drift off to sleep in my pillowy bed.
Do as Little or as Much as You Want
Each of the suites and villas at the Mandarin Oriental Canouan comes with a private butler to help make reservations, plan activities, and answer any questions you may have.
After an à la carte breakfast of eggs benedict and salted caramel-covered waffles, we were bound for the infinity pool overlooking the turquoise water. A mango daiquiri later, and the ocean swim was calling.
There are endless activities on the property, including cruising around on a golf buggy admiring the 17th-century church brought over from England stone by stone. Guests can take a dip at any of the five private beaches or play a round of golf at the Jim Fazio-designed course followed by sunset cocktails on the 19th hole at Bellini’s.
With a spectacular reef right outside the resort, snorkeling is a must. There are also trips to the famous Tobago Islands, an excursion we’re glad we opted for despite stormy skies. A local guide took us snorkeling through the seagrass, where we spotted several green turtles munching away. Then, we went on land for a mini-hike to see iguanas scurrying in the sand.
An afternoon soak in the suite’s plunge tub is never a bad idea. Pair that with a spa treatment from the Balinese style spa set on the hillside to reach new levels of relaxation. When you hear that Amal Clooney said it was the best massage she’s ever had, you know you’re in the right place.
An Island Designed for Luxury
While you’ll likely spend your entire vacation inside the gates of the Mandarin Oriental Canouan, this remote destination is quickly becoming one of the most exclusive islands in the region.
The Soho House just opened its first Caribbean property on the island, and the Sandy Lane Yacht Club & Residences is welcoming vacationers looking to buy a small rental property or just dock their yacht in the marina. Aman is also set to begin construction on their newest Caribbean property. After a few days spent, here you can certainly see why.