Travel

Three dreamy island getaways

Sea, sand and inspiration for your next (sometime in the future) Caribbean escape
GoldenEye Resort, Jamaica // courtesy GoldenEye Resort

GoldenEye Resort, Jamaica

by JOSEPHINE MATYAS

IT WAS THE END to one of those pristine GoldenEye days—sunshine fading to a dramatic sky streaked with red and orange, and a gentle breeze rustling the palm fronds overhead. As dusk fell, staff lit the flickering candles and torches lining the curved walkways and villa patios, nudging the radiance of the tropical sun into the magic of a Jamaican nighttime.

When I need to switch on a Caribbean daydream—serenity and diversion from pressures of the outside world—GoldenEye is where my mind wanders. Set on a natural seaside bluff, the secluded 52-acre estate is the perfect marriage of quiet beaches, lush tropical gardens and a laid-back vibe. As one of the sumptuous Island Outpost properties—founded by record producer Chris Blackwell, who guided musical careers including Bob Marley, Cat Stevens and U2—at GoldenEye guests feel like they are relaxing at the home of good friends.
One of the things I love about GoldenEye (and the list is long) is how history effortlessly bridges the 20th century right into our present day. The name comes from the original owner, British naval officer Ian Fleming who visited in the early 1940s, fell in love with the unkempt, abandoned donkey racecourse and built his minimalist-style home overlooking the seaside.

It was in the Fleming Villa that the author latched the shutters of the huge windows, dug deep into his experiences in Britain’s intelligence service and penned all 14 of the James Bond novels while wintering at his Jamaican getaway. Guests who rent the spacious main villa—with its private beach, media room, swimming pool and accommodations for ten—will find Fleming’s original writing desk pushed up against the bare wall, just as he placed it to close out the distraction of the irresistible surroundings.

Soon after Fleming’s death in 1964, Chris Blackwell bought the original estate in a somewhat roundabout transaction. The original buyer, reggae musician Bob Marley, backed away from the poshness of the surroundings, so Blackwell stepped in, crossed out Marley’s name on the sale documents and entered his own. Over time, Blackwell has added a collection of well-spaced beach and lagoon villas, cottages and barefoot-chic beach huts, with winding pathways and shrubbery to ensure privacy.

It is this harmony of indoor and outdoor living that GoldenEye achieves so effortlessly. My lagoon-fronted cottage had deep verandas and shuttered windows that I left wide open to catch the soothing, tropical breeze, the rhythm of the ocean and the nighttime chorus of chirping tree frogs. Steps from an interior decorated with colourful fabrics and custom-designed Jamaican furnishings, was the most luxurious shower I’d ever seen—a very sexy “007-ish” outdoor enclosure of chest-height bamboo topped with a gentle rainfall showerhead, all cosseted by a small jungle of greenery.

In certain circles, GoldenEye is recognized as a hip place to stay. With the ultimate level of seclusion and discreet service, the property appeals to those escaping the cold in true Bond-style. Over the years, guests—including Michael Cain, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Pierce Brosnan, Quincy Jones, Harrison Ford and Willie Nelson—have supported Blackwell’s not-for-profit Oracabessa Foundation by planting trees and making a donation to fund local education, sporting and entrepreneurship programs. The tropical greenery planted throughout the grounds has become a botanical guest book as well as a much-loved GoldenEye tradition. Before we lost the glow of early evening, I sat on the villa dock, swirled my toes in the bathtub-warm water before deciding to take out one of the blue kayaks tied up just an arms-length away. I paddled out to Snorkeler’s Cove and looked back at the private beach shaped like a delicious French croissant, absorbing what Fleming called his “wonderful annual escape … into blazing sunshine, natural beauty and the most healthy life I could wish to live.”

As dusk fell to darkness, I made note of the spots I’d indulge in a little snorkelling the next day. I tied up at my dock and—listening to the natural rhythm of GoldenEye that seamlessly blends the indoors and out—entered the calm envelope of my villa, preparing to step into the magic of that Jamaican evening.

IF YOU DREAM OF A VISIT

  • GoldenEye’s 45 units range from small beach huts to the iconic Fleming Villa. Visit: goldeneye.com
  • Guests can fly into Montego Bay and arrange for the 90-minute drive to GoldenEye. A much closer alternative is the private airstrip at the Ian Fleming International Airport (a seven-minute drive from the resort).
  • The resort is looking forward to the 2021 release of the 25th Bond film, No Time To Die, which was partially shot in Jamaica. The film opens with James Bond sipping Blackwell Rum, a dark rum that celebrates the Blackwell legacy on the island.

The view of the Pitons from your private plunge pool at Ladera Resort, St. Lucia. // courtesy Ladera Resort

Ladera Resort, St.Lucia

by MARK STEVENS

AS MY WIFE and I ascend the stairway leading to our table in the Dasheene Restaurant at St. Lucia’s Ladera Resort, I stop to savour the view from this restaurant that clings to the crest of a precipitous volcanic ridge 300 metres above the Caribbean Sea.

The view could bring tears to the eyes of the most seasoned traveller.

The sun has begun to fall, etching shadows onto the face of the Pitons dead ahead, gilding the waters far below, burnishing the hardwood bar on the restaurant’s lower level. Beside the bar a musician in a floral print shirt serenades us with infectious island grooves accompanied by a chorus of tree frogs.

Three thoughts strike me almost simultaneously: This is paradise. Paradise is a perfect place for pampering. I deserve pampering.

Said pampering begins at a table with the best view in the world, where we indulge in fare worthy of paradise, thanks to executive chef Nigel Mitchel, whose menu features produce from neighbouring plantations along with herbs and spices grown in their onsite organic garden. To this day I remember those scallops with nothing short of intoxication (though such might have been helped by an offering of one of their 500 unique wine labels).
A handful of years have passed since the first time we visited Ladera, years in which I remembered the views—and the dining—with sheer delight.

Though Orlando Satchell, the chef who prepared that first repast, no longer commands the kitchen, tonight’s offering will be equally worthy of reminiscence. I also learn, to my delight, that Orlando’s opened his own place in nearby Soufriere. Promise to tear yourself away from Ladera at least once during your stay. Travel and Leisure just ranked Orlando’s among the world’s best restaurants; his take on fish and chips is truly worthy of paradise. But be forewarned: once you achieve Ladera you’d be hard put to leave in spite of the fact that St. Lucia boasts lush rainforest, towering peaks, alabaster beaches and idyllic waterfalls.

Built on the site of an erstwhile cocoa plantation called Rabot Estate, Ladera pays tribute to both that legacy and to its natural surroundings in architecture and design. Locally sourced tiles, island stone and hardwoods grown and harvested on-island are key features.

But it might be the rooms themselves that make it almost impossible to tear yourself away.

The resort boasts “three-wall rooms,” which means your living space and natural surroundings are one and the same, where the landscape on that exterior “wall” is a literal landscape. At day’s end take a dip in your private plunge pool while you’re serenaded by another perfect sunset before snugging down in a greenheart four-poster bed handcrafted onsite, surrounded by local carvings, artwork and stone features.

Dining with a view at Ladera Resort. // courtesy Ladera Resort

Each of the 37 suites and villas here at Ladera boasts those amenities, with options ranging from the two-bedroom Villa la Fleur replete with 12-metre infinity pool, full kitchen and airport transfers in a luxury car, to the Petit Piton Suites, featuring equally breath-taking views, open-air bedrooms and sitting areas. This is where I find myself, after a meal made in heaven mere steps away.

Here, chilling with a rum punch in my very own plunge pool, surveying moon-splashed seas, I ponder our plans for further exploration of the delights of St. Lucia. Maybe we’ll grow ambitious or wax adventurous. Maybe we’ll hike the Pitons or go for the less taxing Tet Paul Trail. Maybe we’ll hit a beach or shop in Castries. Or, maybe we’ll just stay put.

Ladera offers guests haute cuisine dining, haute monde service, accommodation with decor and furnishing reminiscent of a Caribbean Great House, some of the best view in the world and the ultimate in seclusion, all set amidst unparalleled paradise.

It is, in short, a perfect place for pampering.

IF YOU DREAM OF A VISIT

  • Air Canada offers daily non-stop flights from Toronto to St. Lucia.
  • To book a little pampering in paradise: ladera.com

The Seven Stars Resort adults-only pool. // courtesy Seven Stars Resort

Seven Stars Resort & Spa, Turks and Caicos

by THERESA STORM

SLIPPING OFF MY SANDALS, I sink into soft talcum powder sand. Padding to where the turquoise waves of the Caribbean Sea gently wash over my feet, I begin to stroll Providenciales’ (aka Provo’s) award-garnering Grace Bay Beach, the undisputed crown jewel of the eight inhabited and 32 uninhabited islands and cays of the Turks & Caicos archipelago.

The islands are a mecca for sea and sand aficionados, who delight in exploring calm, reef-protected aquamarine waters rimming scores of icing sugar beaches. Once the “Caribbean’s best-kept secret,” excited tongues have wagged like town criers in the days of yore.

I understand why, soon after checking into Seven Stars Resort & Spa, nestled in a prime location between the serene stretch of Grace Bay’s white sand and the marine preserve of Princess Alexandra National Park. It numbers amongst the top luxury resorts in the Caribbean as well as in Provo, the most cosmopolitan of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Seven Stars is a haven away from home for sports icons, famous figures and the Hollywood elite, but staff won’t disclose who, citing guest privacy. Before arriving, I assumed the property is named for exceeding the five-star hotel rating system, but enroute to my suite I learn it’s named for the brilliant Pleiades star cluster—also known as the Seven Sisters, which is said to shine brightest over Turks and Caicos. Fitting, for the resort delivers everything guests desire under the stars, and the sun, too.

The 12-year-old property plans to retain its hard-won luxe star appeal and has recently completed its third round of refurbishments and improvements in 10 years. A multi-million-dollar top-to-bottom redesign of the resort’s 167 guest rooms also concluded, including the dozen Ocean Front Premier Three-Bedroom Suites, the highest-end offering.

The 3,250-square-foot contemporary Caribbean chic suites invite the cloud-studded blue sky, azure sea waters and the sweeping white sands of the bay into the Grand Salon through a panoramic wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.

There’s a barefoot casual, soothing feel to the open-concept living/dining-room and full kitchen, thanks to powder blue and taupe decor and textiles inspired by the natural surroundings. Comfortable custom furnishings and decorative elements and finishes, all by Orior, Ireland’s leading design firm, plus framed artworks by New York artist Andrew Humke, complete the fully equipped common space.

Feel like a star yet? Carry-on to the guest rooms, two of which have a sliding door directly onto the terrace and spectacular ocean views—best enjoyed in a plush robe from the sheer-draped canopy king bed. A laundry room and three marble bathrooms stocked with L’Occitane products, including one with a Jacuzzi soaker tub, wrap-up the indoor space.

The living space in a beachside villa at Seven Stars Resort. // courtesy Seven Stars Resort

For many, however, the pièce de résistance is definitely the expansive furnished terrace. Sinking into a deep upholstered chair and propping my legs on the matching ottoman, I survey the unparalleled views of Grace Bay Beach stretching for 19 unbroken kilometres along the island’s northeast coast. The vibrant, rich and contrasting colours of sand, sea and sky is nothing short of stunning.

Travel-weary, I don’t want to move from this soothing cocoon, but the emerald sparkle of the Caribbean’s surface spurs me for a swim in the bathtub wamr waters. Afterwards, I settle on a high stool at The Deck, Seven Star’s beachfront restaurant and bar. Ordering up a Sundowner and fresh ceviche, it’s the best place to watch the fiery red orb sizzle into the horizon.

If you’re anything like me, after a blissful few days of seven-star treatment, you’ll dig in your heels when it’s time to swap pillows of sugary sand for slushy snow.

IF YOU DREAM OF A VISIT

  • Air Canada and WestJet make the four-hour direct flight from Toronto to Provo
  • Visit sevenstarsgracebay.com; book a three-bedroom Oceanfront Premier Suite from USD $2,000 per night.
Seven Stars Resort, Turks and Caicos. // courtesy Seven Stars Resort

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