A bubble of inviolable luxury in an azure ocean, the Grenadine island of Mustique is home to the Cotton House, a coral-hued boutique hotel that combines French West Indies architecture with Caribbean trimmings. It’s the social hub of the island, too – every Tuesday, the super-rich neighbourhood villa owners flock to the Great Room bar for champagne and canapés.
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BlackSmith members receive a bottle of wine in their room. SilverSmiths and GoldSmiths will get a picnic lunch
Deluxe Seaview Rooms in Coutinot house grabbed our attention with 180-degree views from the corner overlooking the ocean. Booking the two-bed The Residence on the hilltop bags you a private pool, views of the Atlantic and the Caribbean, personal butler and use of the swankiest mule on the island (sports tyres and an extra gear).
Surrounded by smooth white flagstones and teak loungers built for lazing, the boot-shaped pool looks out across the manicured hotel gardens to the Caribbean sea. The bar – the island’s original sugar mill – provides poolside pick-me-ups.
Taking a cue from the island's abundant flora – Baobab trees, sweet jasmine and fragrant frangipani – the organic spa sources many ingredients from the surrounding grounds and gardens. The four rooms in the Cottage House Spa have ocean views to go with your kneading and nourishing treatments.
Leave your beach gear at home – you'll find a stylish tote in your room all packed up with flip-flops, snorkelling gear and a towel.
There are no roads as such on Mustique – it’s navigated by ‘mule’, essentially a souped-up golf cart.
Under-threes stay free; four- to 12-year-olds are $120 a night. Babysitting can be arranged for $11 an hour (plus 15 per cent VAT). Because Mustique’s entirely private, it’s one of the safest places to bring your kids in the world.
Yes. The chef sources as much food locally as possible from the on-site garden, island fisherman or nearby farmers. For the ultimate in recycling, excess kitchen oil is used as fuel on the organic farm. Green-friendly practices such as composting, solar panel-heated water, use of green cleaning products and recycling programs are all in place.
Ask for a sea-view spot at the Veranda; or dine privately in your room.
On-trend Armani or Temperley for dinner; Manolo Blahnik sandals and Missoni bikinis for lunch.
Three. Designed by theatrical visonary Oliver Messel, the Great Room is a neocolonial gathering point for afternoon tea or a classc rum cocktail. The Veranda is modern and fresh with a leaning toward Italian/Caribbean fine dining and a raw bar with just-caught specialties. In the shade of waving palm trees and overlooking Endeavor Bay, the Beach Cafe is an easygoing spot for fresh fish, light snacks and just-churned ice cream. Also, there are also special themed events hosted at the Beach Cafe on Tuesday and Saturday nights.
It doesn’t get more glam than Tuesday nights in the Great Room. Perch on a stool at the art deco oval bar, sipping on a dirty martini, while, all around, the island’s well-heeled and well-oiled villa owners gather for their weekly champagne mingle.
Veranda serves breakfast 7am–10:30am, lunch noon–4pm and dinner 7pm–9:30pm. Pop by the Beach Cafe for a bite from noon–3pm. The bar keeps serving until the last guest leaves.
Spread out over 13 tropical ocean-facing acres, Cotton House is set on the private island of Mustique, a small atoll that makes up St Vincent and the Grenadines.
There are no direct flights to Mustique, so you'll need to wing your way to either Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) on Barbados or Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) on St Lucia. Both airports are serviced by several airlines, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic rom the UK and American Airlines, Delta and Air Canada from North America. Scheduled flights from St Lucia to Mustique run daily throughout the year; scheduled flights from Barbados only run on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from November – April, and in July, August and October. Connecting chartered flights from both airports are serviced by Grenadine Airways and must be arranged in advance by contacting the hotel's reservations department ([email protected]; + 1 784 456 4777). A Cotton House member will greet you in either Barbados or St Lucia and direct you to your 50-minute puddle-jumper flight to the island. Arriving by private plane? You must confirm your flight schedule in advance with the hotel's reservations department to confirm your reservation and land on-island.
There are no cars on Mustique, but those with an international driving license can obtain a local driving permit and rent a jazzed-up golf cart for US$75-$95 to cruise around the island.
Worth getting out of bed for
You come here for the gentle surf, views of the sapphire sea and crowd-free swaths of sand – all of which are in abundance on this out-of-the-way isle. The hotel has a Watersports Centre on Endeavor Bay that’s well-stocked with boogie boards, snorkel gear, windsurfers, paddle boards and glass bottom kayaks for exploring the protected coral reefs that ring the shoreline. You can also arrange for a scuba-diving excursion or a swim with hawksbill turtles. Play pirate and sail a private charter to desolate islands made famous by Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean or cast a line for deep-sea tuna or mahi-mahi on a fishing tour. Of course, you could just nab one of the teak sunloungers and disappear beneath an umbrella with a good read at the beach or pool. Back on land, there’s plenty to keep all occupied. Sign up for a lesson with the resident tennis pro or join a daily drop-in tennis game on one of the four courts. Trek into the hills or gallop over deserted beaches on horseback, and golfers will want to set up a tee-time on the nearby island of Canouan to play the pro-worthy course there. After all that physical exertion, you should really schedule in some spa time for a soothing after-sun wrap or an energizing mud wrap, naturally.
Given the exclusivity of this private island, there is not much in the way of nightlife or a restaurant scene beyond the hotel's glorious grounds. However, arrange for the hotel set you up with a gourmet lunch at one of the secluded picnic spots nestled along the shoreline for a romantic afternoon away from the hotel.
Please don’t go to the Cotton House on Mustique. Really. I’m serious. Even writing this review is a torture because reading it means you know about the place. Maybe just sail past this Caribbean island or fly over it. A cursory check on Google Earth would be a great option. Honestly, there’s no need to visit – no need at all.
I first went there in 1991 – with the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen – and, on the way back, decided to pretend I’d been to Barbados instead. The last thing you want is other people going and spoiling what’s unique about this boutique Caribbean hotel. I’ve been a dozen times now, and can say with authority that you wouldn’t like it. So please don’t go.
The Cotton House has just 19 guestrooms and sits in 20 acres of open gardens, which reach down to a thin strip of white sand before melting into the clearest turquoise Caribbean waters, which teem with fish right up to the shore. Its 17th century cotton-plantation house is home to the beautiful Great Room, in which you can read or play backgammon, indulge in a spot of afternoon tea, simply people-watch, or sit and stare dreamily at the ocean. There’s also a beach bar where movies are shown outdoors each week on a big screen in the evening, and a free weekly cocktail party. Very swish indeed.
Some basic facts to put you off a little more: this boutique hotel is actually the only one on Mustique besides the Firefly guesthouse, which incidentally has a fantastic restaurant (try the ceviche). Mustique covers just 1,400 pristine acres, and is part of St Vincent and the Grenadines, 100 miles west of Barbados. The Queen is head of state while the currency is pegged to the US Dollar – a good thing right now if you’re coming from Europe.
If you’re feeling energetic, you can play tennis, football and cricket. Or, for the romantically inclined, you could horse ride through the gently lapping surf. Hire a boat to try a spot of macho Hemingway-style deep-sea fishing or discover some of the world’s finest scuba diving in the Tobago Cays Marine Park. Alternatively, take a picnic to the beach – or rather have one set up for you there by the people at Cotton House. You could hike miles of trails or drive a quirky little Mini Moke to one of the island’s nine beaches. If there’s someone else there, don’t worry, there’s certain to be a completely empty one just round the corner.
The island has about 90 private houses and their owners form the Mustique Company, which runs the place like a mediaeval kingdom; they make their own laws, run their own customs checks, raise their own taxes and are responsible for all of Mustique’s water, electricity and champagne supplies. The owners themselves are more famous than the island – Mick Jagger, Felix Dennis, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain and Tommy Hilfiger are currently in situ, while Princess Margaret, Lord Lichfield and David Bowie are among the glittering array of former residents.
Don’t go to this Caribbean island at all at Christmas because Hugh Grant, Pierce Brosnan, Raquel Welch, Stella McCartney and Naomi Campbell will all try to get to the Cotton House buffet before you do.
Enough of why you shouldn’t go – here’s why you, ahem, should. Mustique is the French word for ‘mosquito’. Apparently, the island is roughly shaped like a mosquito, but I don’t think that’s the only reason for the name; the place has thousands of the blood-sucking swines. And sand flies, too. And don’t forget the deadly ‘no-see-ums’, whose name needs no explanation. Granted, a spot of repellent spray in the day and a mosquito net over the bed at night deals with 99 per cent of them, but you will get bitten a few times, guaranteed.
Also, the airport has no landing lights – homeowners don’t go in for pollution of any kind, baulking at intrusive lights and noisy little planes interrupting their aperitifs – so no aircraft land after dusk, which is about 5.30pm. This means you have to time your arrival and connection in Barbados or Antigua carefully to accommodate this. More than once I’ve had an unwanted night on a nearby island because my flight landed too late to make the connection.
So, what is so unique about Mustique that I don’t want you to spoil? Despite its reputation for glamour and celebrities, this is a real ‘no shoes, no news’ kind of place. Forget your BlackBerry, there’s no business centre at Cotton House and you won’t want to work anyway. If paradise doesn’t suit you then you’re not going to like it here. Other than that, Mustique is whatever you want it to be – sociable or private, relaxing or busy, suitable for honeymooners or families alike. And that’s the point. True luxury is having a place that is what you want it to be, when and how you want it to be. And that’s unique.