The slogan on the BVI license plates says "Nature's Little Secrets" and Guana must be one of the best-kept secrets in the Caribbean. Guana Island is an 850-acre privately owned island. At full capacity, they handle about 30 guests. This is a place to really get away and relax, literally off the grid. So, how do you transform from a hassled traveler (worried about a connecting flight or the ferry schedule), to a place of peace and serenity? It starts with the 10-minute boat ride from Tortola. Arriving at Guana Island, we were warmly greeted by Jason, the General Manager. We felt as though we were personal guests. Jason, April and the entire staff went out of their way to make sure our stay was perfect. From the website, I had a pretty good idea about what to expect, but here are some thoughts, and some things that surprised me.
It's like being on a private island with a group of friends. The first day we were greeted by the guests who had arrived before us. By the second day we knew everyone. Every time someone had to leave it was a sad event, accompanied by an exchange of email addresses. So, although you could find complete privacy, it was a social atmosphere.
Almost everyone had booked the trip through LuxuryLink! At times it was a like a little convention of LuxuryLink travelers - we compared notes on which packages we have purchased through LL, etc. It was a young crowd. We met three couples on their honeymoons. There was a variety of ages, but overall younger than I expected.
There are no organized activities, no phones, no TV. Once a week (usually Fridays) there's a BBQ down by the beach and a steel band. This was our last night there, and a great way to end a wonderful vacation. They also have "old movie" night about once a week (usually Thursdays), where a movie is shown outdoors in a lovely garden area. They're not trying to sell you excursions, but you could arrange to go out diving or on a trip to another island. The one activity that is popular is the "castaway picnic". A boat drops you at a remote beach on the island for a couple of hours, with a picnic lunch. This is an extra $75/couple, but certainly a unique experience. You have a prearranged time to be picked up, but they also give you a 2-way radio for emergencies.
The main building and cottages are up on a ridge. So everyone has a view of the sea, but not quite the same view. It's about a 10-minute walk down to the beach, and someone is always around to drive you back up. It's a bit steep, and after a day at the beach, we were grateful to accept the lift up the hill. The main beach is excellent, with soft sand and clear water. There are water toys, snorkel gear, kayaks, sunfish and a little catamaran. The massage hut is down by the beach also.
The main dining area consists of three tables for eight. There's another little deck with two tables for two. For dinner there's a seating chart. Your first night you're seated with just your party in this little private area. The other nights you're with others in the main area. But you can request a private table, and there are a couple of other secluded areas if you'd prefer dinner there. Breakfast and lunch are buffets. For breakfast there's also a "special" from the kitchen, such as pancakes or a special omelet. You can always order eggs or other items if you dont want the special. There's a option to have lunch brought to you on the beach. As with everything else, you just have to ask.
Dietary needs were accommodated. When booking the trip, they asked if we had special dietary considerations, and then asked again when we were checking in. With so few guests, there isn't the same variety of food choices that you would have at a large resort. But the quality is very high. Much of the produce is actually grown on the Island. Dr. Liao, the resident botanist, will give you a tour of the orchard. To meet Dr. Liao is an experience itself. He is one of the one most serene human beings I have ever met. One of the honeymoon couples that we met are vegans. They told me that the food exceeded their wildest expectations. For example, they had cream soups made with soy milk and rumor has it their poached pear was even better than the regular dessert.
850 acres is pretty big. If I thought we would hike every trail during our 5-day stay, that thought was quickly dispelled. Due to the heat, we only hiked before breakfast. If hiking is your thing, bring appropriate footwear. There are lots of ups and downs, rocky areas, etc. Sneakers worked for me.
The night sky was amazing. Jason told us the best place to look at the stars is from the deck behind the kitchen. You see nothing but the sky.
How to get there? The closest airport, Beef Island in Tortola, is only a ten-minute boat ride away. Guests from the U.S. seem to take American Eagle from Puerto Rico to Tortola. From Britain, the easiest way seemed to be on Liat from Antigua. Or, you can fly into St. Thomas and take a ferry, as we did. That way, you could also spend a night or two on St. John.
It's so hard to leave that there is a special ceremony for departing guests. They give you a hibiscus flower and take your photo. Then as the boat pulls away, you toss the flower into the water. If it floats back to shore, you'll visit Guana again. I certainly hope our flowers made it back, and that we will also.