Why Hollywood Flocks to Mustique

Courtesy of The Mustique Company
A beach picnic in Mustique

The uber-private island within St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a haven away from paparazzi.

“Only in Mustique” is an oft-used phrase on the arguable star of the St. Vincent and Grenadines archipelago, which also comprises Bequia and Canouan. On the puddle jumper from St. Lucia to the three-mile-long private island famous for being the ultra-elite getaway of the late Princess Margaret, Bryan Adams shares vegan ginger cookies from Alberta, Canada, and shows off iPhone videos of the trio of baby possums he rescued.

Only on Mustique does every resident (currently including Mick Jagger, Tommy Hilfiger and Adams) have their folly, as one local describes the way neither design nor proclivities are strictly controlled. Aside from some 100 privately owned multimillion-dollar villas and estates on the island, there is the boutique hotel Cotton House.

Only in Mustique do people whose car collections include Rolls Royces and Bentleys happily get picked up in a Suzuki minivan and cheerily drive themselves between secluded island beaches and dinner parties at neighboring villas in a “mule” (island speak for souped-up golf cart). Only in Mustique is there not only no pretense, but no Teslas. Just a lot of tortoises, slowly roaming the postcard-perfect island reminding everyone the need for no urgency.

Familiar faces expressly vacation in Mustique because their getaways will not be chronicled in the tabloids or splashed across weekly gossip rags. Earlier this year, when a Brit publication leaked Prince William’s family holiday destination to a U.K. paper, the strict paparazzi-free policy was proved. Despite being on the island for a couple weeks, as Duchess Kate has done with her family for years, no one was able to reach them to steal photos. It’s a no-fly zone (long lenses are also banned), and all oncoming island guests are cleared and registered with the former Scotland Yard security detail.

It’s been like that for the entirety of Mustique’s half-century history. The island was originally purchased and developed by Scotsman Colin Tennant in 1968; he gifted Princess Margaret a 10-acre plot of land on which she would build Les Jolie Eaux. (The Queen herself dropped by on a few occasions in the '70s.) Raquel Welch staged video shoots on the island, even building a tiny sandy island and palm tree in the middle of the water at Lagoon Beach. Janet Jackson came on holiday and loved the food at her villa so much that she hired away the private chef. David Bowie built a Balinese-style manse (where he was photographed for Architectural Digest in 1992). Jagger has had a place for decades and is currently renovating a second pad next door.

Mustique seems to hold a certain allure for musicians (Paul McCartney, Johnny Depp, Amy Winehouse, Jennifer Lopez, Jon Bon Jovi, Dave Stewart and Shania Twain). Priyanka Chopra and hubby Nick Jonas Instagrammed their honeymoon on Mustique, sans geotags, earlier this year, a surprise destination planned by the singer that involved a private villa and infinity pool; they also had cocktails at the beloved Firefly hotel. They apparently loved Mustique so much that they returned months later for a summer holiday, along with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, according to Instagram clues.

Beyond the privacy factor, there are dozens of compelling reasons for holidaying on Mustique. First there’s the water: clear, blue and full of colorful fish. Then there's the seemingly endless array of perfect little beaches, mostly devoid of other humans. Lagoon Beach has a collection of “sheds,” more like palaces for butler-aided picnics. Around the corner is Princess Margaret Beach, where the royals like to swim. Visitors take hikes up to scenic peaks and stop by a charming bamboo chapel where Enrique Iglesias’ sister, Ana Boyer, was married.

The island features swoon-worthy architecture and design.The Cotton House is the best example of the so-called gingerbread design, with intricate trim and candy-colored exteriors. Each room is unique in the intimate boutique property with a postcard-worthy pool and sugar mill-turned-museum. The cafe introduces guests to traditional Vincentian spiced dishes and drinks, such as ginger juice with clove, and a Champagne cocktail with sorrel, a local dried flower similar to hibiscus. 

No one can make a trip to Mustique without visiting Basil’s Bar, the decades-old Bali-esque beachfront institution founded by then-bartender Vincentian Basil Charles — a longtime bestie and travel buddy of Jagger's — who still can be spotted in his cool white and linen ensembles at the Wednesday night Jump Ups and Sunday Night Sunset Jazz. Everyone sips colorful Caribbean cocktails and digs into fresh fish at the site that has served the likes of Hugh Grant, Winehouse, Jagger and Kate Moss.

January marks the Mustique Blues Festival in front of the open-air bar redesigned by Philippe Starck (and reopened earlier this year). Of course, the real beauty of Basil’s, like the rest of the island, is that the entire adventure of being there stays there.