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Tranquillity isle: at Petit St. Vincent, a little means a lot

PETIT ST. VINCENT, Grenadines - Most Caribbean resorts start from a level playing field. They have clear turquoise waters, coral reefs, and sandy beaches.

Guests gather at the surf's edge. At times, however, visitors feel they have the island all to themselves, though there are two staff members per guest. (Cyndi Finkle)
Guests gather at the surf's edge. At times, however, visitors feel they have the island all to themselves, though there are two staff members per guest. (Cyndi Finkle)Read more

PETIT ST. VINCENT, Grenadines - Most Caribbean resorts start from a level playing field. They have clear turquoise waters, coral reefs, and sandy beaches. There's swimming, kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, and diving. But Petit St. Vincent, a tiny (115-acre) secluded island in the Grenadines, just north of Venezuela, is much more. PSV is better described by what's not there - no airport, no automobiles, no formal check-in, no keys, no TV, no room phones, no Internet, no shopping.

The resort has 22 luxurious stone cottages that are either set on hills with panoramic views of the Caribbean or look directly out at gorgeous, white sand beaches.

Haze Richardson developed this resort in the mid-1960s. When my husband and I visited PSV several years ago, Haze was the boss who really cared.

It was the little things at Petit St. Vincent that made the big difference.

Do you want to send a postcard home? They're in your room on the desk, stamped and ready to mail.

You forgot your beach bag? There are two, beautifully packaged, in the dressing room.

You're running out of clean clothes? There's laundry service, gratis, that returns your clothes within 24 hours - pressed, folded, beautifully wrapped, and tied with a bow.

Are you in the mood for a sweet little banana as you explore? Huge bunches are placed around the island for your munching pleasure.

Are you thirsty as you swing on a sheltered hammock at the beach? Just reach your hand out for a cup of ice water - large vacuum containers of ice water are placed at each secluded beach every morning.

Do you want some trees pruned outside your patio to improve the view? We did - and after we told Haze, it was done the next day.

Do you want privacy? Fly the red flag outside your cottage - it means "Do Not Disturb."

Do you want room service - or anything? Just pull up the yellow flag and leave a note. Room service is encouraged, and it's free.

Room service is available for all meals, in your own cottage or at any other location on the island. Most guests make use of the resort's beautiful bar and dining room for at least some of their meals, and there is a new beach restaurant for casual fare.

The food is wonderful - local lobster is always on the menu in season, September to the end of April. The service is top-notch, especially for a remote Caribbean island (there are two staff members for every guest).

Although Haze Richardson died in 2008, the new owners, Phil Stephenson and Robin Paterson, who purchased PSV in 2010, are adamant that the fundamental nature of the resort will not change. Instead, they have refreshed and elevated the accommodations, activities, and service.

All of the cottages now have air-conditioning, refrigerated minibars, completely new bathrooms and furniture, and amenities such as Bose iPod stations, Nespresso coffeemakers, and Frette towels. There is also a new beach bar and a hillside spa.

There are all kinds of water sports right off the beach (snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, and swimming) and beautiful hikes (the island has a two-mile fitness trail). There's tennis on the island, and golf can be arranged on nearby Canouan Island. You can sail to the Tobago Cays, which have some of the Caribbean's best snorkeling. Or you can sail around the island on Hobie Cats.

Cyndi Finkle and her husband, Temple Williams, wanted to go to a place where they could relax, be taken care of, disconnect from the world, and reconnect with each other to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary in October. "PSV was perfect," said the Los Angeles-based entrepreneur. "It was romantic and a totally unique experience. The service was stellar, but unobtrusive. The amenities are lush, plentiful (an espresso maker in the room, lots of extra-plush towels), and beautiful. We loved the secluded cottages, and at times felt as if we were the only ones on the island."

"PSV has always been a place to see and hear what you do want - and not the noise of 'modern' civilization,' " said Phil Stephenson. "It is special to many people because it is truly an island of tranquillity in a noisy, frazzled world. Besides being a beautiful tropical island, surrounded by white-sand beaches and living coral reefs, it is relaxing because it is remote, 'unplugged,' and provides peace and quiet to those who wish it. Not having TV, phone, Internet, and cars to distract you from time alone or with your loved ones, walking on a half-mile of beach alone, or eating your meals anywhere you wish on a private island - these are things that set us apart."

Larry Hirsch loves the "little things" about PSV. "I love that the PSV staff greeted us at the Barbados airport, then escorted us through customs and to the next flight," said the Alexandria, Va., builder and developer. "As well as the champagne and hors d'oeuvres that were served as we boarded the PSV launch for a short ride from Union Island. I loved that when we were met at the dock by the staff as we disembarked, they gave us a quick tour of the island in their 50-year-old, open, English, mini car (called a Mini Moke - there's even a facility on the island that repairs and makes parts for these cool little cars). "I liked that they grow many of their own vegetables on the island and raise a couple hundred chickens for fresh eggs. My wife, Kathy, and I loved the fresh cookies that would appear in our cottage from time to time. Even as we left the island to go home, we were handed a lunch-to-go for our travels - a nice, unexpected touch. Best of all, the staff members were genuinely friendly and happy. Their smiles were not forced."

Stephenson said the friendliness of the staff is genuine - many have been there for years and have bonded with repeat guests.

Having written this article about PSV, I'm ready to go back. So is Cyndi Finkle.

"In my crazy busy life, I had forgotten what it felt like to think my own thoughts, relax, and reconnect," she said. "I cannot wait to go back to recharge and replenish my spirit."

If You Go

Getting There

The major gateway is Barbados.

Airlines that fly to Barbados are:

  1. American Airlines (via Miami, JFK)

  2. JetBlue (JFK)

  3. Caribbean Airlines (via Trinidad)

  4. Air Canada (Toronto)

  5. US Airways (Charlotte, N.C.)

Petit St. Vincent representatives meet all guests at the Barbados airport when they disembark and guide them through immigration and to their flight to neighboring Union Island. PSV's captain, Maurice, will greet you at Union airport, and within minutes you'll be on a small boat headed for Petit St. Vincent.

Bags are all taken care of, thanks to luggage tags that PSV sends to each guest before they leave home.

Staying there

The rates begin at $1,080 per night, and include three meals per day and most nonalcoholic beverages.

All rates, including rates for additional children and adults, can be found at

The resort is closed in September and October.