Two people are at a beach bar to my right, two others laze on sun loungers, and another snoozes in a hammock under a giant tree. To my left, nothing but chalk-white sand lapped by a turquoise ocean. It’s January, Caribbean high season, and there are just six of us on beautiful White Bay Beach on Guana Island, a little-known hideaway near Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.
If I feel like a half dozen is a crowd, there are six other beaches to choose from. And that’s Guana by design, deliberately low key and intentionally under the tourist radar. I tell friends about the place and invariably get a cocked head, raised eyebrow, never-heard-of-it kind of response, which is just the way I like it.
Privately owned Guana Island is an 850-acre hump- backed beauty of tropical forests, hills and valleys you’ll never share with more than 45 guests. Even in the high season, it’s a maximum number the owners set to ensure complete and blessed isolation for world-weary guests looking to escape from reality.
Reached via shuttle boat from nearby Beef Island Airport on Tortola, Guana has a mix of stone-washed cottages and spacious villas, sprinkled along the island’s hilly spine, most styled in a nod to the island’s history. Guana was once a plantation owned by American Quakers, and artifacts abound, from the old sugar mill foundation by the flamingo pond to a rusted cannon on a hilly mount.
Much of the island architecture is beguilingly charming, with elegant cottages and villas surrounded by colorful flower gardens and lush tropical vegetation. Twelve miles of well-marked hiking trails — some easy, others lung burners — crisscross the hilly island, many leading to sea views which will take your breath away and make your walk that much more rewarding.
Stunning island views on Guana
You can happily snorkel, kayak, paddleboat, sail a Hobie Wave, and play tennis or croquet, but there are also plenty of do-nothing options—essentially the main drawcard of Guana Island, which only recently ceded to 21st century demands by adding Internet access. With so many beach options, hanging out with a book and a cold beer is the most popular one.
Named for the distinctive iguana shape of one of its windswept promontories, Guana may have a Robinson Crusoe feel about it, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice any creature comforts or culinary desires.
The all-inclusive resort offers a range of comfortable accommodations including 15 sea-view cottages dotted along the island’s mountainous spine, and all boasting spectacular panoramas stretching as far as St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience, Guana offers a choice of spacious villas, including the signature Jost House Villa, a 10,000-square-foot, three-bedroom beauty with a heated infinity pool winding around the house, a patio with Atlantic and Caribbean views, a chef’s kitchen and dining area, music system, and private staff. Aside from in-villa dining, all meals are enjoyed in the Great House, the best seats being outside for those killer views on private patios where you may be watched by giant, harmless iguanas.
Guana’s talented Executive Chef Xavier Arnau, formerly of Aman Resorts in Turks & Caicos and Morocco, as well as Ubon by Nobu in London, delivers culinary treats, his menus infused with fresh fish and produce from the island’s own orchard.
There is no marina or public facilities, further adding to the isolation. You arrive and depart by shuttle boat operating between Guana and Tortola, and when you leave, the staff scatter flower petals on the water behind you, an island tradition meaning you will return. I’ve been back three times. Never underestimate the power of the flower on Guana. guana.com