Your essential guide to Canouan

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By Katharina Hahn

Katharina Hahn, originally from Vienna but based in London, is senior subeditor at Tatler magazine.

Find your bearings

A stay at Mandarin Oriental, Canouan means arriving in a small plane from Barbados – so you’ll first glimpse this vivid-green landscape from a bird’s-eye view. Part of the Caribbean archipelago of St Vincent and the Grenadines (which is made up of 32 isles and cays that also comprise Mustique and Palm Island), Canouan only measures five square miles across – but is made up of 1,200 lush acres and is home to a large coral reef. To navigate the vast estate at Mandarin Oriental, Canouan, guests are escorted in golf buggies (while villa guests have their own to use throughout their stay). Keep an eye out for the tortoises: Canouan means ‘the island of tortoises’ and you will see many of these friendly creatures making their way across the grounds. But the very first thing you’ll want to do is step onto the main terrace and gaze out at the turquoise sea down below. The ground floor suites all have screen doors that open directly onto the beach, so why resist the urge to take a dip straightaway?

Toast your arrival

Sip on a negroni in sleek Turtles bar, which transports you to the Hamptons with its gleaming wood and maritime décor, or take your drink to the portico outside while you decide where to dine later on. If you get the timing right, watching the sun go down from the 13th hole at the golf course with a glass of Champagne in hand, makes for a magical, soothing experience.

Get active

There will be lazy days when all you’ll want to do is take advantage of the sunloungers on Godhal Beach right out front or loll in the infinity pool, making only cocktail-related decisions. (There is also a handy little boutique if you need to glam up your beach look.) But when you feel like exploring, there are plenty of options: deep-sea fishing, or a visit to the Tobago Cays on a catamaran, which will take you to where parts of Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed; you can snorkel and spot turtles in the clear waters or merely bask in the sun with a picnic lunch on deck. Whether you’re advanced or a total beginner, a golf lesson is also an absolute must, if only to appreciate the stunning, verdant 18-hole course, designed by Jim Fazio. Head up Mount Royal, the highest point of the island, for unbeatable views, and if you are up for some paddleboarding, a boat taxi will whizz you to Shell Beach, which lives up to its name with pretty white coral and shells. Still got some energy? How about some tennis on one of the three night-lit courts?

Romeo and Juliet restaurants

The interior of Asian restaurant Romeo

Romeo and Juliet restaurants

The interior and kitchen at Romeo

Romeo and Juliet restaurants

The interior of Juliet

Romeo and Juliet restaurants

The bar at Juliet

Time travel

Hidden among the tropical island greenery, guests of Mandarin Oriental, Canouan may be surprised to find an Anglican church dating from the 17th century. It was transported here stone by stone and is occasionally still used for marriage ceremonies.

Dine in style 

Romeo and Juliet may have different roots but they belong together – we are, of course, talking about the hotel’s two main restaurants: at Romeo, which has a tandoor oven and is decorated in shades of royal blue and buttercup yellow, you can feast on exquisite pan-Asian food, while Juliet offers international classics, such as rock lobster, and is set against the backdrop of handpainted murals. Less formal but no less delicious are the tapas served at the Lagoon Café, while the Peruvian-Japanese Nikkei dishes at the Pool Bar are completely moreish, too (delicate tuna tartare and maki are highlights). If you’d rather put your feet in the sand while you enjoy the fresh catch of the day or a prawn roti, the dreamy alfresco Shell Beach Bar and Grill is the place for you.

Make time to unwind

Make time to unwind

Spa & Wellness

As befits a Mandarin Oriental property, Mandarin Oriental, Canouan includes a top-notch spa. It’s reached by taking the beach walkway and then a funicular to one of the elegantly appointed wooden spa villas nestled into the hillside. Go for deep relaxation with a fragrant facial or a knot-dissolving massage. And if you miss your daily downward dog, you can stretch your limbs at morning yoga on a wooden platform with the hypnotizing sight – and sound – of the waves beneath.

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And finally

Don’t leave without making a guided hike to Mount Royal the highest point on the island, which is 877 feet above sea level. The views are spectacular.

Views of Canouan

The Tobago Cays in the Grenadines. Photo: Getty Images

Views of Canouan

Tee off on the golf course, just minutes from the resort.

Views of Canouan

Dive into the beachfront infinity pool or swim in the azure sea.

Views of Canouan

The view from the top of Mount Royal on Canouan Island. Photo: Alamy