A COVID-Free Island Escape – Aura Davies

outdoor lounge with ocean view

A COVID-Free Island Escape

In 1958, Colin Tennant, the 3rd Baron Glenconner, bought the uninhabited island of Mustique for £45,000 from the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There were no roads, no running water, no nothing, but its beauty was unmistakable. And a decade later, he decided to invite friends and transformed the island into a bohemian West Indies escape—far from prying eyes, far from pretty much everything. Tennant famously gave a plot to his friend Princess Margaret and then sold parcels for private development—to rock stars, celebrities, socialites—with the owners making a common pledge to develop the island’s basic infrastructure. And the Mustique Company, perhaps the world’s most fabulous co-op, was formed.

outdoor lounge area with pool

There are two small hotels (the island-owned Cotton House with seventeen airy rooms, and the independent seven-room Firefly), but the majority of visitors stay in privately owned villas, many of which are rented out, fully staffed, when not occupied by the owners. There are just shy of a hundred homes on Mustique, and while eighteen were architected by set designer Oliver Messel, they’re all distinct—whether in style, size, views, or proximity to white sand beaches. There are small modern gems, Italian-style villas, and sprawling Balinese-inspired homes. If they’re not perched atop cliffs with 360-degree views of the water, they’re likely to have their own private stretches of sand or lagoons, which is kind of unnecessary because it’s actually a challenge to see other people on the island beaches without advance planning.

man standing on a porchbeverage at a tiki barplates of food on a tablebeachfront bar

Privacy abounds because the island more or less is private—you take a small charter from St. Lucia, and you must have a reservation to stay in order to book a seat (the Mustique Company dictates which plane you’re on, and in the age of COVID, you must furnish a negative PCR test to ensure that the island retains its COVID-free status). While some boats dock for a meal and a turn on the yacht-rock-y dance floor at Basil’s Bar—an open-air dockside spot famous for overserving everyone from Kate Moss to Mick Jagger to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge—you can’t exactly pop over to Mustique and wander around uninvited. It’s that small. There are also no cars: You zip around on foot or by golf cart, right past the statue of the mating turtles, which is one of the main orienting landmarks—after all, horny turtles are the unofficial island mascot because they are everywhere. That is, should you leave your villa; many people who come rarely venture out. Why would you? The homes are all stunning, massive, lined with infinity pools, outfitted with robust Wi-Fi, and staffed with lovely chefs and butlers who will fast become your friends. Some have private tennis courts, yoga pavilions, and other assorted amenities. For people who want to voyage beyond the ocean, you can hike (wear sunscreen), scuba dive, bird-watch, go deep-sea fishing, charter a sailboat, help the island’s conservation team replant coral on the reefs, golf, play tennis, or ride horses on the beach (Cotton House also has a small but excellent spa). There are a handful of restaurants, though unless you’re picnicking at the beach, you’ll eat most of your meals at home before heading out to Basil’s.

  • man standing on a porch
    beverage at a tiki bar
    plates of food on a table
    beachfront bar

  • While Mustique may be famous for drawing people who want to get a little crazy in the privacy of the Caribbean, the island’s biggest fans are arguably the kids. There are movie nights, snorkeling with sea turtles, a host of fantastic babysitters (ask for “D”) who know where to find the best shells on Macaroni Beach, and the aforementioned golf carts—little ones can safely get a little feral.

    There are a few homes suited for four people, but most are intended to be shared, making this the perfect escape for reunions and multifamily vacations. It’s also likely that you’ll make some new friends. In fact, the island has a robust villa-party scene, so you’ll probably be cocktailing: After all, you order all your alcohol and wine to be ferried over pre-arrival, and in an abundance of caution, you’ll order too much and then try to drink through most of it. While many visitors rebook for the following year before they’ve boarded the plane home—particularly if they want to claim their favorite villa—you’ll meet other groups intent on staying in as many different homes as possible. And you’ll understand why: The famous beaches will linger in your mind, the water is unmatched, but the villas and staff really make the trip. While each one has its upsides, here are a handful worth trying to book. (The full list is available here.)

    Paraiba

    Perched high in the treetops on the southern end of Mustique, this new addition to the island is a series of spread-out private suites—and depending on the size of your group, it can be booked as a four- or seven-bedroom home. Besides its views, it also has a tennis court, two swimming pools, a yoga pavilion and gym, and a games room.

  • pool with ocean view
    lounge chairs
    beach chairs overlooking the ocean

  • pool with ocean viewlounge chairsbeach chairs overlooking the ocean

    Pangolin

    Built in 1981 by Swedish architect and Messel protégé Arne Hasselqvist, this eight-bedroom villa was recently fully renovated. Situated on a hill with the views to match, it boasts lots of inside-outside nooks and a big pool.

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    bed in hotel room
    pool with hotel
    hotel interior

  • pool with ocean viewbed in hotel roompool with hotelhotel interior

    Mandalay

    It’s hard to talk about Mustique without talking about the late David Bowie, whose famous Balinese-inspired home is one of the most sought-after rentals. It has a multitude of pools, a wet bar, a rehearsal studio and stage, a games room, and a fully equipped gym.

  • hotel room
    ocean view from hotel
    pool with hotel

  • hotel roomocean view from hotelpool with hotel

    Hibiscus

    This Tuscan-inspired villa is built into the hillside right above Macaroni Beach, and almost every room has 270-degree panoramic views. There are six bedrooms spread across multiple stories (including some that are connected—ideal for littles), an infinity pool, a games room, and a dining gazebo that feels like it’s perched over the sea.

  • hotel room
    ocean view from hotel
    ocean view from hotel
    ocean view from hotel

  • hotel on a hillocean view from hotelocean view from hotelocean view from hotel

    Sunrise

    Stretched out across its own private beach, this six-bedroom villa is perfect for friends who want to spread out (there’s one cottage directly on the sand). It also has a cinema, a games room, and a gym.

  • hotel room
    ocean view from hotel

  • hotel roomocean view from hotel

    Serenity Bay

    With only three bedrooms, this is one of the island’s cozier villas. It has access to the water—no beach, but perfect for those who want easy access for quick midday plunges when the pool won’t suffice.

  • ocean view from hotel
    ocean view from hotel
    ocean view from hotel
    ocean view from hotel

  • ocean view from hotelocean view from hotelocean view from hotelocean view from hotel

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