Travel Spotlight

First Look: Pink Sand Club (now the Mandarin Oriental Canouan)

Note: Indagare visited the Pink Sands Club soon after it opened in 2016. The resort then joined the Mandarin Oriental Portfolio as Mandarin Oriental Canouan. Read our article about visiting it as a Mandarin Oriental here, and see below for our first look at the Pink Sands Club in 2016.

Emerald green, glowing turquoise, powder white. These are the colors of Canouan Island, one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets and the home of a glorious new resort.

Situated in the heart of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the southern Antilles (20 minutes from Barbados by plane), Canouan Island—just five square miles in size—is a verdant utopia of rolling hills, gloriously unspoiled beaches and true natural splendor. With a local population of just under 2,000 people and only two resorts on the entire island, it is fairly undeveloped, and as a result, has long been an off-the-radar escape. That is, until now.

While Canouan Island itself is still relatively unknown, the sprawling, 1,200-acre Canouan Estate (comprised of 14 privately owned villas, a famed Jim Fazio–designed championship golf course and a tennis club) has been around since the late 1990’s, when Raffles owned it. Yet in October 2016, after years of changing ownership and a massive $200 million renovation, Canouan Estate finally unveiled a widely anticipated, sparkling new addition to its property: Pink Sands Club. The lavish boutique hotel commands the perfect location on Canouan: a quite curve of lush hillside that looks out over the stunning, pristine sands of Godahl Beach. The true draw of Pink Sands Club is the perfect blend of the new hotel’s extravagance with the unspoiled, magnificent topography that frames it.

The ultra-chic, glamorous and unabashedly romantic Pink Sands Club has set a new standard of high-end luxury in the Grenadines, an area of the Caribbean already known as a posh retreat, mostly thanks to Mustique and its troop of well-heeled (and royal) visitors. The 26-suite, six-villa property is an awe-inspiring amalgam of gray marbled floors and archways, sprawling terraces, pale walls and the hotel’s signature hot pink accents, which create a striking contrast against the lustrous turquoise ocean that serves as the backdrop of almost every vantage point. What makes the color of the water around Canouan so remarkable is the extensive barrier reef that runs along the Atlantic side of the island; the shallow lagoon in this area creates astonishingly calm, transparent, emerald-hued water (locally known as ‘The Bath’ for its incredibly tepid temperatures) that contrasts exquisitely with the deep navy depths beyond it.

Pink Sands Club is undeniably cutting edge and contemporary, yet its glossy newness is tastefully balanced with elegant, European design more suited to elite cosmopolitan hotels than to a boutique island hideaway. The décor of each suite has a touch of colonial Caribbean flair: dark mahogany accents, vintage trunks at the end of each bed, plantation chairs with sloped backs and light, airy draperies are reminiscent of British West Indies style. The grounds of Pink Sands Club are immaculately manicured (the powdery sand of both beaches is raked every morning and every night) and the lush, mountainous terrain of Canouan Estate is a natural backcloth for the resort’s sleek outdoor amenities. An understated yet spectacular infinity pool with bright magenta lounge chairs and umbrellas sits on the middle level of a three-tier terrace that overlooks the expansive beach. A few steps down a curved stone staircase leads directly into the sand, where the calm water is translucent. Out in the ocean, right where the pale-emerald color turns dark, sit two over-the-water bungalows. These glass-bottom palapas are massage huts that are part of the Club’s extraordinary Asian-influenced spa.

Canouan Estate boasts six exceptional restaurants—three are located on the grounds of the Pink Sands Club—all of which utilize fresh produce from the on-property hydroponic farm. Romeo serves eclectic international cuisine and the large, airy eatery is a striking blend of bright yellow booths and navy blue, nautical-themed fabrics and patterns. Lagoon Café’s outstanding breakfast menu offers a delicious variety of healthy and organic dishes, like the egg white and herb omelet topped with fresh avocado-mango salsa. But the true gem is the lovely and aptly named Juliet, a sophisticated option with an exclusive yet unpretentious vibe and beautiful beach views.

Beyond the resort, there are plenty of areas for guests to explore, especially the picturesque and secluded Tobago Cays, a cluster of five small, uninhabited islands—the most remote and undeveloped area of the Grenadines—that is less than an hour’s boat ride from Canouan. Beyond the cays, other islands in the Grenadines like tiny Bequia and luxe Mustique are also an easy boat ride away. This sleepy and delightfully undeveloped region is the Caribbean of the past, with a sense of authenticity that is rare on most islands nowadays, where casinos and sky-high resort complexes have started to reign supreme.

Even with the introduction of the opulent Pink Sands Club, the rest of Canouan Island has remained refreshingly unchanged, which is why it is still favored by yachters and families who are attracted to its seclusion and quiet, discreet lifestyle. The Club, however, boasts a flagrantly striking aesthetic. Stark contrasts are prevalent throughout: hot pink is set against tourmaline blue; classic style is mixed with a contemporary vibe; secluded hidden coves sit beside large, lively beaches. But perhaps the most extreme contrast of all is the one that both perfectly defines The Pink Sands Club and also makes it so unusual: extreme high-end luxury is offered amidst the simplicity of pure, unadulterated natural beauty.

On my first morning at Pink Sands, I slid out of bed at sunrise, savoring the feel of cool marble against my bare feet, and, after making myself an espresso, I whisked my hand across the iPad that controls every aspect of the room (from making spa appointments, to managing the lights, curtains and music). With one light touch of a finger, the large yet discretely mounted TV facing the bed faded into a large mirror; with another, the entire mirrored-wall slid open to expose the enormous living room, patio, balcony and the glorious ocean beyond. Early morning rays of sun filled the room with a hazy golden glow as I slid open the large French doors and sank into a chair, propping my feet up against the railing. The warm, sweet-tinged air was still. The property noiseless but for the hypnotizing sound of waves crashing against the shore. I took a long, deep breath and stared out into the blue infinity, my mind blissfully at ease. This is what the Pink Sands Club promises and delivers: privacy, tranquility and a chance of respite from the hectic world. I felt, in those brief moments of peace and silence before the hotel came to life, that I was truly on my own private island paradise. Just me, and that incredible sea.

Fast Facts:

  • Who Should Go: Couples, honeymooners, golfers or families looking for a lavish beach vacation with extremely luxurious and private accommodations.
  • Who Should Not Go: Younger travelers or groups looking for a trendy, see-and-be-seen spot with a lively nightlife scene.
  • When to Go: Like other Caribbean islands, high season runs from December through May, but year-round temperatures range from 70-85 degrees.
  • Getting There: Fly into Barbados (four hours from New York City) then take a small connecting flight to Canouan (about one-and-a-half hours with three stops on other Grenadines islands first). Pink Sands Club also offers VIP airport assistance and, if desired, private jet transfers directly from Barbados to Canouan (20 minutes).
  • Good to Know: Canouan Estate is accessible to all Pink Sands Club guests (getting around by golf cart) and features a collection of private villas and residences, an additional two restaurants, the 18-hole golf course, the golf club house and kids club.

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