By Jeanine Zelkas
I have always found the beautifully blue Caribbean and its dots of postcard-perfect islands to be among the most breathtaking destinations in the world, with the added convenience of proximity to New York making the trip even more desirable. What keeps me searching, however, for alternatives are the throngs of tourists and over-developed commercialism found on so many of them. Having recently returned from back-to-back Caribbean visits, these thoughts are foremost in my mind as I write about one of them.
Prior to spending a week on the popularly-visited Bahamas’ Paradise Island, I passed a few glorious days visiting the unspoiled and more paradise-like island of St Vincent. My destination there was the newly-opened, all-inclusive Buccament Bay Resort, the only five-star resort on the island and a luxury vacation spot that is ideal in so many ways, not the least of which is the overwhelming beauty of it.
Guests arrive either by ground shuttle from the little airport or by direct delivery to the beach by boat. I came to paradise via a prop plane from Barbados. The 30-minute drive from the very rustic - though soon to be replaced and upgraded - airport was a bit harrowing, as we traveled up, around and down the steep cliffs, but any and all tension quickly dissipated upon arrival to the beachside resort where we were welcomed with cool damp cloths and cocktails.
Located on the island’s southwest coast within a valley surrounded by a spectacularly beautiful backdrop of lush green rainforest-covered mountains, the all-villa accommodations are luxuriously appointed with incredibly comfortable beds and linens and power showers whose water falls down like rain from the ceiling. Each amazing villa has an espresso machine, a fridge stocked with water bottles, an ipod docking station, free (and fast) wifi, a large living room and an outdoor deck with its own plunge pool. The nightly turndown service includes rose petals in the toilets.
Their winding trails are bordered on either side by thoughtfully arranged landscaping and snake throughout the expansive property past villas, the fitness center, tennis courts, and a tranquil spa offering great facials and indoor or outdoor massages. It would be easy to get lost if not for the helpful signage guiding the way. Bicycles are available for quick travel. A passage through the lobby leads to the pretty white sand beach which is outfitted with umbrellas and dark brown rattan lounge chairs padded with thick white cushions. I favored the comfy hanging egg-shaped pod chairs dangling poolside. The long stretch of beach has a bar, waiter service and a coconut station where one of the accommodating staff members will happily machete a coconut into a tasty refreshing beverage.
The service overall is friendly and attentive without being intrusive. The resort boasts two swimming pools and several restaurants. I loved the spicy Indian food of Safran nestled among the foliage of the snaking pathways. There is also sushi, Italian and great fresh-caught and fresh-picked local fare served at other venues on the property. I began to crave the breakfast buffet’s succulent passion fruit halves and the shrimp burgers from the beachfront restaurant, they were that good. One evening’s lobster grill dinner on a terrace overlooking the beach was like a party, hosted by the local chef manning the grill - an extremely jovial fellow who loved interacting with the diners in an improvised one-man show.
With a wide variety of resort activities and offerings, there really is something for everyone. The pretty picturesque serene setting is perfect for anyone looking to just relax. For those wanting to partake in sports or other activities, the daily newsletter helps lead the way. There is beach yoga, martial arts training, a teen club, and, for younger visitors, a Kids’ Club that provides age-tailored activities and short excursions. The Pat Cash Tennis Academy, with its on-site pros and scheduled visits throughout the year by Cash and other Wimbledon champions, is available for lessons, as is the Liverpool Football Club Soccer School whose coaches have been trained by members of the Liverpool team and who are frequently joined by former Liverpool players to teach classes. Other unique facilities include a Performing Arts Academy where interested parties are trained in private or group settings by stage professionals to sing and perform music from Broadway and the West End.
Additionally, there is a wide selection of off-site activities. We spent one of our afternoons on a sailing excursion visiting Tobago Cays and other neighboring islands, passing flying fish, and stopping along the way to snorkel in the turquoise water with giant turtles as they munched on sea grass. Dryer day trip options included visiting St Vincent’s capital city, tropical gardens, nature trails, a turtle sanctuary, waterfalls and a volcano. The resort’s numerous on-site water sports include snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking, as well as, guided dives for all ability levels to the area’s healthy, unspoiled coral reefs. There are glass-bottom boats and whale-watching tours available too.
Evening at Buccament Bay is introduced by a stunning sunset that is best enjoyed sipping a cocktail while lounging upon a cushioned beach chair or aboard the sunset cruise which is almost always enhanced by dolphin sightings. Each night, there is live entertainment and a charming beach bonfire.
Owned and operated by Harlequin Hotels & Resorts, the Buccament Bay Resort is the first of several first-class hotels the company plans to open in the Caribbean. Future endeavors also include a private plane to conveniently transfer guests to St Vincent’s new airport from the easier to reach islands of Barbados, St Lucia and Puerto Rico. Designed to appeal to all, the resort is a great destination for families as well as for couples.
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