Photographer: Duane Lewis

The Caribbean Resort Where Billionaires Go to Escape Millionaires

With the Pink Sands Club, Canouan aims to be the next St. Barth's.

Before there was the Pink Sands Club, there was the Raffles—the main place to stay in Canouan, a tiny island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines where "the billionaires go to get away from the millionaires." (At least, that's how Patrice Van Isacker, the resort's director of sales and marketing, described the place to me a few months ago, when he was visiting New York.)

The Raffles was a beacon of luxury: its TripAdvisor page has some of the most genuinely glowing reviews I've ever seen. Yet the Italian banker who has been developing Canouan as a luxury destination since the 1990s thought different and made a bet that he could reach an even higher standard. So the Raffles was razed to the ground.

Now, in its place, is hands-down the most ambitious resort to open in the Caribbean all year. It took $126 million and three years to build the property, which has just 26 suites and six villas. With a price point that starts at $2,300 in high season for a single room, it very well might be the most expensive resort in the Caribbean. Here's what all that money will buy you.

  1. Unspoiled Paradise
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    Unspoiled Paradise

    Eleven billionaires own land in Canouan, said Van Isacker, edging out Mustique and other nearby islands. Given that the island is just three square miles, you're practically guaranteed to rub elbows with the island's VIP visitors: Think Bill Gates, Tom Cruise, Bill O'Reilly, and Derek Jeter.

    Source: Pink Sands Club, Canouan

  2. Private-Jet Transfers
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    Private-Jet Transfers

    The experience begins before you step foot in the hotel—or eye this gorgeous courtyard known as the "hotel crescent." Fly through Barbados, St. Lucia, or Grenada, and as long as you're booking a four-night stay and availability permits, you'll get upgraded to a free private-jet transfer to Canouan. (The resort owns not one but two private jets.) From Barbados, it's only a 25-minute flight. You'll wish it were longer.

    Source: Pink Sands Club, Canouan

  3. Rooms Cost Nearly $1 Million to Build
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    Rooms Cost Nearly $1 Million to Build

    At least, that's General Manager David Nuenemann's best guess when it comes to how the budget broke down. Nuenemann says a cumulative 130,000 hours were spent on the design and research process for the resort, which included more than 2,000 drawings. Here, the Atlantic Ocean views from the one-bedroom penthouse suite.

    Source: Pink Sands Club, Canouan

  4. Fourteen Residences
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    Fourteen Residences

    Each of the resort's 14 residences is scattered around the 1,200-acre estate for the ultimate in privacy. They range in size from two-bedroom, 3,700-square-feet homes (from $1,250 a night) to a sprawling, nine-bedroom estate that's nearly 10,000 square feet (and $20,000 per night). And yes, all of them have private pools.

    Source: Canouan Estate

  5. Bernardaud China at the Pool Bar
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    Bernardaud China at the Pool Bar

    The property spent $2 million just on Bernardaud china for its five restaurants, which range from the pool bar (shown) to a high-end grill spot called Juliet. You'll find everything from chateaubriand and dover sole to jerk chicken on the various menus, along with one of the Caribbean's biggest Italian wine lists (with more than 400 labels). Enjoy it all with Ercuis silverware, which normally retails for more than $130 per set. Usually, it's just lip service to say "no expense has been spared," but here, management means it.

    Source: Pink Sands Club, Canouan

  6. Individualized Design
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    Individualized Design

    Here's a peek inside one of the 14 residences, with its gauzy canopy bed and a gilded telescope for nighttime stargazing on the verandah. The homes, villas, and rooms all have totally different aesthetics, so you can pick and choose the one(s) that sing to you. 

    Source: Canouan Estate

  7. Over-the-Top Villas
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    Over-the-Top Villas

    This is Il Sogno, one of six villas near the hotel. They're more daring and individual in their design than the residences. In this one, you'll find paintings by David Bromley and Richard Diekenborn on either side of the Caribbean-facing patio doors.

    Source: Canouan Estate

  8. Beyond the Beach
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    Beyond the Beach

    Aside from the three tennis courts shown here, Pink Sands also has a Jim Fazio-designed golf course with waterfront views from all 18 holes. (It's golf that draws a lot of people here in the first place.) If you prefer water sports, take one of the hotel's boats—it has catamarans, speedboats, and a yacht—to either Mustique or the Tobago Cays, where you can swim with sea turtles and snorkel one of the biggest coral reefs in the Caribbean.  

    Source: Pink Sands Club, Canouan

  9. High-tech Suites
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    High-tech Suites

    You'll find Super-soft Rivolta Carmignani linens (yes, in the resort's namesake color palette) and high-tech features in every suite, such as televisions embedded into mirrors on pocket doors and tablets to control nearly every facet of your room.

    Source: Pink Sands Club, Canouan

  10. A Lot of Pampering
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    A Lot of Pampering

    You could be enticed to while away a good portion of an afternoon in this bathroom. But the real place to get pampered is at the spa, which has two overwater bungalow treatment rooms with glass-bottomed floors. (An additional nine treatment rooms are tucked into the hillside and accessed by funicular.)

    Source: Pink Sands Club, Canouan

  11. And the List Goes On ...
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    And the List Goes On ...

    All the rooms have Italian marble floors. And Nuenemann said, perhaps jokingly, that no chair cost less than $5,000.

    Will Canouan ever break even? It's anyone's best guess. But it's sure to draw a well-heeled crowd. And an 88-berth marina opening on the island next year will only keep the luxury-seekers coming.

    Source: Pink Sands Club, Canouan