SPICE ISLAND BEACH RESORT
Grand Anse Beach, St. George's, Grenada; 473-444-4258; spiceislandbeachresort.com.
The resort has 49 suites ranging in price from $1,042 to $2,052, double occupancy, including three meals and beverages.
Situated only 12 degrees north of the equator, Grenada, known as the Spice Isle, is a true tropical paradise, with rain forests, spectacular beaches and an idyllic climate. It was all the more devastating, then, when Hurricane Ivan severely damaged about 90 per cent of the island in 2004.
However, hotelier Sir Royston Hopkin saw the aftermath of Ivan as an opportunity to transform his Spice Island Beach Resort. The AAA four-diamond resort has risen out of the rubble.
The resort is 10 minutes from the airport on five-kilometre-long Grand Anse Beach, one of the Caribbean's most sensuous curves of white sand. The island's sleepy capital, St. George's, with its laid-back vibe, trendy shops and restaurants, is only a 15-minute shuttle ride away.
The minute you step into the breezy, unpretentious lobby, the difference between this casual, family-run hideaway and the region's more boisterous resorts is evident. The friendly staff make you feel like family.
Honeymooners, young families and celebrities looking for some uninterrupted R&R. About 70 per cent of guests hail from Europe, the remainder from North America.
Hopkin wanted his new resort to have the greenest possible buildings, so he called in Miami green-design specialists Kobi Karp - who employed grey-water recycling, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and other measures. For the grounds, Barbados landscapers Talma Mills Studio used local, drought-resistant plants and shade plants to conserve energy.
The resort's rounded lines and subtle tropical tones complement its three-hectare beachfront environment. No building is higher than the palm trees lining the shore, and the roof façades hide the large solar panels that power the rooms.
Open-air common areas are cooled by the trade winds instead of air conditioning (panoramic views of the bay and hills are a bonus). Common area furniture is simple but comfortable and locally made, while artwork from Grenada decorates the walls.
The suites, which range in size from 600 to 1,500 square feet, are decked out in lively Caribbean decor and include a host of modern conveniences such as air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, high-speed Internet, whirlpool tubs, eco-friendly Molton Brown toiletries and plush Frette linens. Guests with jet lag may find some relief with the small dispenser of Yuan Zhi sleep mist on the night tables beside the four-poster beds.
The Sea Grape Suites are nestled right next to the sea grapes and palm trees on the beach, so you can almost step out of bed onto the sand. Farther back from the beach, the large Luxury Almond and Royal Collection suites have walled garden courtyards with private plunge pools.
The staff work hard to carry out Hopkin's guests-as-family philosophy. After a couple of days, most of the staff will be addressing you by name and it seems you can't sit down anywhere without someone asking if they can get you anything. Pool suites get busy in the morning with gardening and pool staff, but they usually try to time their work when guests are at breakfast.
If you need some time away from the kids, the Nutmeg Pod children's activity centre will gladly keep them busy during the day. Concierges can arrange babysitting for the evening.
Aside from the spa, salt water pools and the fitness centre (which has Cybex equipment), there are a host of active options. Tour operators Aquanauts have a facility on the resort grounds. Sailboats, snorkelling gear, kayaks, tennis and cycling are all free.
FOOD AND DRINK
Oliver's, the resort's seaside restaurant, features excellent Creole and international cuisine, with spices, pigeon peas and plantain from Spice Island's garden. In fact, the resort grows all its own produce, part of an ambitious green program in the kitchen. There are no plastic cups here, all yard waste and kitchen scraps are composted, and chefs use as much local food as possible.
THINGS TO DO
Though the most appealing option may be a hammock stretched between the palms outside your room, the front desk will arrange golfing or a host of island tours, rain forest walks or shopping forays to the local market.
Large, comfortable suites and friendly staff.
Maintenance and cleaning staff can be noisy in the mornings.
You get what you're paying for: intimate, eco-friendly, part-of-the-family luxury.
The author was a guest of the resort.