Trust me, I have been that soldier for all of us.
My particular trip was to Petit Saint Vincent – a privately-owned island located at the southern tip of the Grenadines. It’s 115 acres of tropical island, populated with just 22 one- and two-bedroom villas scattered throughout the resort. (Though the entire island can be booked out for groups).
If you are of an age to remember that classic Bounty ad, all turquoise water and powdery white sand, then that’s what we’re talking.
“Would you be interested in a piece on divorce retreats?” I had asked my editor. If I was going to have to go through a divorce (and I was), I figured I might as well try and get a really fabulous holiday out of it. Further research into divorce retreats threw up a lot of options that seemed to involve mostly screaming in the desert. I’m past that, I thought impatiently. What I want is tropical relaxation; beaches and clear blue water, maybe some yoga on the side. Which is exactly what I found on PSV, as it is known.
Not exactly divorce, this was a four-day digital detox wellness retreat. As someone who is shamed weekly by those annoying pop-up messages on my phone announcing the previous week’s average daily usage (5-6 hours; I work from home and use my phone to play podcasts all morning, don’t judge me), I was the perfect target. Getting there was a matter of three flights: to London, then to Barbados, and a further approximately one-hour trip to Union Island, from where we got a boat to our final destination, a 25-minute trip.
The individual accommodations on PSV are free from telephones, WiFi and televisions, instead the focus is on sizeable private terraces and balconies. Some of the villas are beachside, some are set higher up on the hill, all boast impressive views. Each villa is linked to a flag system; you hoist your yellow flag for a room service or housekeeping request, red to signal you want privacy. It felt incredibly decadent.
The communal buildings (restaurants, bars, spa) are spread throughout the island rather than tightly knit in a central location, which served to underline the relaxed atmosphere of the resort. You could wander around the sandy lanes of the place and only occasionally spot another person. This is laid-back luxury, a sort of unplugged vibe, rather than anything too fussy or uptight. One restaurant is hillside, one beachside, and it was here that we ate on the first night, a delicious all-you-could-eat barbecue with surf and turf options as well as numerous varieties of salads and potato.
When the original hotel owners first purchased the island in the mid 1960s, it was at the time uninhabited, owned by a resident of the neighbouring island Petit Martinique. After persuading her to sell it to them, two of the three owners then lived on PSV, clearing the land to make way for the building work. One of the men remained on the island as hotel manager, eventually becoming the full owner of the island and hotel. The current owners spotted, and fell in love with, the island while sailing in the area. The fact that the hotel has never been part of a hotel chain, but rather a passion project of private individuals, is reflected in the mood of the place, which feels like something that has organically, and naturally, developed over time.”Will four days be enough to really chill?” I fretted (I know, insufferable). In fact, the laid-back atmosphere means from the moment you step off the boat on to the jetty, and are handed a colourful cocktail, you begin an immediate deep dive into relaxation.
A more recent addition is the Balinese hilltop spa, set in amongst the trees, which is where we made our way after breakfast the first morning. Breakfast had been preceded by a hike to the island’s highest point, Marni Hill a 275 ft summit, for incredible views of the surrounding islands and sea. This is best undertaken early, or late, in the day, to avoid walking in high sun. For those who wish to partake, the island offers a number of water sport options, including kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving, diving and deep-sea fishing. I spotted some particularly hardy guests making use of the tennis courts even in the midday heat. Bicycles are also available to all guests who wish to make their own way around the island.
After two days of sinking into a coma of relaxation, punctuated by meals, beach walks, and the occasional sea swim, we took to the high seas (it seems appropriate to say given we were heading into Pirates of the Caribbean territory). After breakfast we set off on the resort’s sailing sloop, Beauty, to explore around the Grenadine islands.
We stopped at the Tobago Cays, where parts of the movie starring Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley were filmed (scenes in which the two actors get stranded on an island), for a potter around one of the islands, some scuba diving with turtles and starfish, and lunch on board the boat – yet another barbecue meal I’ve been dreaming of ever since; red snapper in a spicy broth, melt-in-the-mouth steak, and floury potatoes.
It helped that phones weren’t really possible on such a water-heavy day trip (some of us may have broken the digital detox back at the main hotel on occasion), but the sense of having gone somewhere entirely remote and away from it all, as we sat on the boat eating and watching rays and turtles swim below, was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Our final day began with yoga on the pavilion in Conch Bay before breakfast. When you’ve practised yoga looking out over the Atlantic, going back to your local gym’s version of same can prove quite tricky. In fact, re-entry to IRL in general proves fairly difficult after you have holidayed on a private island, and sat on a beach, apparently totally on your own, counting shades of turquoise in the water in front of you.
I know. Poor me.
Rates at Petit St Vincent start from $1,200 (£870) per room per night, based on two sharing a one-bedroom cottage in low season. Includes three meals daily, all non-alcoholic beverages, the use of non-motorised water sports and all facilities at the resort. For further information, visit petitstvincent.com or call +1 (954) 963 7401. For flights see virginatlantic.com.
This feature originally ran in The Sunday Independent.
Sunday Indo Living