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Your Own Private Caribbean

Connoisseurs of the Caribbean who crave an ever-more-exclusive getaway can call off the search. For the Caribbean as you've never seen it—no cars, no crowds—step ashore and join the very happy very few.

Peter Island Resort, British Virgin Islands It is a point of pride with me never to talk to strangers—not in line at the supermarket, not in elevators, and definitely not on vacation. But something about my day on Deadman's Beach had been so pleasant that I didn't pretend not to hear when the couple in the next palapa over called out, gesturing energetically. On this carefree Caribbean day, a soft breeze rustling the palm fronds, I was filled with goodwill.

Honeymooners from New Jersey in their late thirties, Chuck and Lorraine wasted no time in calling me by a diminutive no one has used since I was seven. Lorraine told me they had arrived on Peter Island two weeks earlier with the intention of staying five days. Before they knew it five days had grown to a week, a week to 10 days, and so on. Chuck, who is in the construction business and lives by his cell phone, even called his site supervisor and ordered him to take his number off speed dial. He would not be leaving Peter Island anytime soon. "It doesn't get any better than this, Chris," Chuck assured me, grabbing my shoulder for emphasis.

To quote Smokey Robinson, I second that emotion, for on almost every level Peter Island does not disappoint (no one expects great food in the Caribbean). If you have no experience of private-island resorts but always dreamed of going to one, it offers an excellent initiation, delivering in quantity everything the genre is known for, especially peace and privacy. Add to that a staff-to-guest ratio of two-to-one, atypical service for the region (it's friendly and professional), and five untrafficked beaches (Deadman's is a mile-long crescent of sugary sand).

A 30-minute boat ride from Tortola, Peter Island bristles with vegetation along most of its mountainous, 41/2-mile length. All the buildings are concentrated on 300 of the 1,200 acres, the balance being gloriously undeveloped. The size of the island feels just right: not too big, not too small.

The resort was launched in 1969 with 32 guest rooms in eight prefabricated A-frames shipped over by the founder, an industrialist, from his native Norway. Lorraine said her heart sank when she thought they were going to put her and Chuck in one of the chalets ("in the Caribbean?!"), built away from the action on reclaimed land directly on the harbor.

The rooms you want are any of the 20 junior suites in two-story cottages on Deadman's Beach, added when Amway became Peter Island's unlikely proprietor in 1978. (It is now privately owned by the company's chairman.) Refurbishment of this part of the resort, completed last year, cost $3.2 million, or an impressive $160,000 per unit. While the style of the accommodations is pleasantly safe, bathrooms in cedar shakes and volcanic stone have a high wow factor, with Jacuzzis and showers for two. When the blind is up on the glass wall that separates the stall from the bedroom, you can lather up with a view of Drake's Channel.

Peter Island wears the expensive perfume of exclusivity. As a guest you feel special, privileged. As Chuck put it, "Hey, man, let them eat johnnycakes!"
800/346-4451; www.peterisland.com; doubles from $615, including meals.

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