Little visited in comparison to the likes of nearby St Lucia and Barbados, the island of Bequia may be one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets. Pronounced “beckway”, it is an outpost of the Grenadines, nine miles south of St Vincent: untouched, sleepy, with a small-town charm and off the beaten track, it’s often referred to as “the Caribbean as it once was”.
That sense of tranquillity and tradition stems partially from Bequia’s inaccessibility. Domestic services from Barbados or St Lucia to the island can be infrequent and often unreliable with sudden cancellations. However, guests at one of its most luxurious hotels now have another option.
An aerial view of Bequia, with St.Vincent visible in the background CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
Cradled by the calm, turquoise waters of Friendship Bay, the Bequia Beach Hotel has a real throwback feel, designed with lots of colonial and Caribbean elements. Its owner is Bengt Mortstedt, a one-time lawyer from Sweden, who purchased the property after stumbling upon the island on a sailing trip in 2004. Having invested more than £10 million over the years in refurbishments, Morstedt last November launched an exclusive private-jet service to the island from both Barbados and St Lucia. Now guests can board a nine-seater Beechcraft King Air B200 private jet to reach this discreet island in minutes — just 25 from Barbados and 15 from St Lucia.
Access to the island has been made easier by Bequia Beach Hotel’s jet service CREDIT: BEQUIA BEACH HOTEL FACEBOOK
The property itself bears Mortstedt’s influence throughout. Its characterful reception lounge was inspired by the ornate Great Room of Mustique’s Cotton House hotel, designed in 1968 by British theatre stage designer Oliver Messel. Bequia’s interpretation of Messel’s Great Room features vintage furnishings personally sourced by Mortstedt, including suitcases that were used on ocean liners in the early 1900s, woven ceiling fans and colourful floral Egyptian tapestries.
The Bequia Beach House library
Colonial flourishes continue throughout the hotel’s 56 rooms and suites, showcased by four-poster beds draped with mesh netting, woven cane chairs and dark wood furnishings contrasted by bamboo lamps as well as botanical and tropical prints. The hotel’s most impressive quarters is the sprawling two-storey estate villa (priced from $12,495/£9,400 per week), perched on a hill overlooking the bay and islands in the far distance. The 4,860sq ft space features a wraparound terrace, a large private pool and sun deck, two master bedrooms and two twin rooms.
Modern, inventive takes on international cuisine can be sampled at the hotel’s main restaurant Bagatelle, run by the young, bearded Swedish chef Henrik Jonsson (previously of Copenhagen’s Michelin-starred Kadau). He’s assisted by a team of other hip Scandinavian chefs who add a Scandi-chic flavour to traditional Grenadine dishes made with local ingredients. Some of the unique dishes include lobster tail served with passion fruit and deep-fried risotto, baked beets with salted yoghurt, and coriander-salted kingfish with grilled cucumber and anchovies.
Traditionally styled interiors at Bequia Beach Hotel
Beyond the confines of the hotel, guests can explore an island covered in lush greenery and dotted by cascades of colourful traditional wooden houses. Bequia is home to only around 4,300 residents so explorations are hassle-free. The island’s Admiralty Bay harbour is considered one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean; beaches are undeveloped.
But the best way to explore the surrounding area is by yacht or — better yet — superyacht. To complement its private-jet offering, the 113ft (34.5m) superyacht Star of the Sea superyacht can be chartered by hotel guests.
Bequia at sunset CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
The Italian-built classic yacht from Benetti can accommodate 12 guests in six cabins, comes with a crew of seven and has form when it comes to hosting demanding clients — previous passengers have included members of the Saudi royal family. There’s a four-person Jacuzzi on the top deck, dining and sunbathing spaces on the upper deck and additional lounge areas on the lower deck.
Though its silhouette is stylish and its outdoor areas are finished with classic, pleasant navy-blue and white nautical-themed furnishings, the boat’s less-inviting interiors are surprisingly kitsch, clad with floral, striped and chequered upholstery splashed in bright orange, yellow and blue. Matched with mahogany wood furnishings and domed glass chandeliers, they give the internal spaces a dark, dated and tacky — rather than bright, elegant and vintage — look and feel.
Star of the Seas’ interiors won’t suit all tastes, but thankfully the superyacht’s extensive range of toys mean guests will likely spend most of their time on the decks or in the water
But luckily guests won’t need or want to spend much time in their cabins. A host of watersport equipment is available, including water skis, stand-up paddle boards, snorkelling kit, kayaks, fishing gear and inflatable flotation devices.
The yacht is often used by guests for a flexible 10-day itinerary (but shorter trips tailormade to guests preferences can also be arranged) through St Vincent and the Grenadines, the highlights of which include visits to smaller lagoons and uninhabited islands such as the Tobago Cays, where visitors can spot wildlife including iguanas at its marine park or swim with turtles in what is claimed to be among the best waters for snorkelling, alongside the Great Barrier Reef.
Other picturesque stops include Salt Whistle Bay at Mayreau, the smallest uninhabited island of the Grenadines, covering an area of only 1.5 square miles. The beautiful horseshoe shaped bay, sheltered by crystal-clear blue-green waters and giant palm trees, is also fascinating for its unique location where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic, allowing visitors to dip their feet in the Caribbean Sea on one side of the bay and in the Atlantic Ocean on the other side.
Tours of Mustique provide the opportunity to see the island’s distinctive ‘gingerbread’ houses CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
A trip to this part of the Caribbean wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Mustique, which forms the final stop in the itinerary. The celebrity haunt and favourite holiday destination of the royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is known for its private surroundings and secluded feel. During our tour of the island, a characterful local guide known as Boom Boom proudly claimed it was here that Prince George and Princess Charlotte were conceived.
Mustique was, like Bequia, another Caribbean beauty and luckily both islands escaped the recent hurricanes with minimal damage. As it is to the far south of the hurricane belt, most disturbances dissipate or miss the island; less severe tropical storms might occur between August and October.
With nations throughout the Caribbean working together to encourage holidaymakers to return, Bequia (and some of the region’s other lesser known corners) may soon no longer be a secret. Go now — before the crowds do — to enjoy these places in your own island time.
Seven nights’ B&B in an Ocean Suite at the Bequia Beach Hotel costs from £1,950 per person, including speedboat transfers and flights via Turquoise Holidays (0207 147 7087).
Charter prices for Star of the Sea start from $49,500/£37,175 per week during the summer season and from $59,500/£44,600 per week during the winter.