Sleep With the Stars

The Blue Haven Hotel has a Hollywood history

By: Janice Mucalov

"The love goddess” Rita Hayworth slept here. So did Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr and Jack Lemmon. Back in the 1950s, Tobago’s Blue Haven Hotel was a popular Caribbean hideaway for Hollywood film stars, and several golden oldies were filmed at the acclaimed resort. But over time, Blue Haven fell into disrepair, and stayed that way for a quarter-century.

Enter Austrian millionaire Karl Pilstl and his Trinidadian wife in 2000. After extensively spiffing up the place, they reopened the Blue Haven to glowing reviews in Conde Nast Traveler and other publications. Many of those reviews remain today in well-known guidebooks and are published on the resort’s Web site. But clients will be better informed if they expect pleasant, moderate accommodations, rather than a top luxury property. (Rates are appropriate: In high season, a superior room runs $238 a night, plus tax, no surcharge for the Christmas holiday period.)

Commanding an impressive location on Tobago’s wilder Atlantic side, the Blue Haven is surrounded by ocean on three sides. Stone steps lead down a hill to a public dark-sand beach, with plenty of wave action for body surfing and a picturesque wooden beach bar. Close to the capital of Scarborough, the Blue Haven is convenient for visiting the town center.

The original building sports a coral-pink facade with white balcony trim, while the newer additions on either side are bright white. Instead of walls, royal blue canvas sheets separate the room balconies.

Inside, the same retro minimalist decor that once appealed to visiting celebrities is evident today. A stylish lobby bar opens onto a large outside deck, which overlooks the pounding surf.

The 55 whitewashed guestrooms have dark wood floors and firm, four-poster, mahogany king beds or two double sleigh beds. I was happy to see European-style white duvet covers (the Blue Haven attracts a largely European and British clientele). Some rooms also have a clever waist-high glass divider between the bathroom and bedroom, so you get a glimpse of the sea when showering.

But on our recent visit, we noticed that maintenance could have been better. Folks who observe such things might be disappointed by the frayed bathroom towels, soiled window coverings and rusted sliding cupboard doors. The lawns also needed mowing and the gardens were overgrown with weeds.

A buffet breakfast ($15 per person) is served in the Shutters on the Bay restaurant, which offers dinner in the evenings too. But unfortunately, while the room is very pretty, with wood floors and cane furniture, the crockery is chipped and the breakfast scrambled eggs and bacon on the buffet table were cool (the restaurant needs a fresh, made-to-order egg station).

But while we were there, the hotel exterior was being repainted and gardeners were re-landscaping some areas, so the Blue Haven is addressing certain maintenance concerns. Reports are that the beach changing facilities are also being upgraded. With a little attention to detail, the hotel will hopefully shine again soon.


While visitor numbers to Tobago have increased over the past few years, there are a limited number of rooms. Consequently, the island never feels over-run. Accommodation choices include hotels and several villa properties, which are popular with families.

Hilton Tobago Golf and Spa Resort By far the largest resort on the island, the Hilton, which has 200 brightly decorated guestrooms (all with high-speed Internet), is for some, the nicest hotel on the island. It features an 18-hole PGA golf course at its doorstep, three freshwater pools and a tiny beach.

Plantation Beach Villas Nestled on a hillside across the road from a golden sand beach, these six pink gingerbread-style homes offer 3,600 square feet of living space with three bedrooms. The villas are located in Stonehaven Bay, one of the most attractive pockets on the island. A pool and beach bar/cafe is found at the beach, which is shared by guests of nearby Grafton Beach Resort and Le Grand Courlan Resort & Spa. The beach at Stonehaven Bay is also one of three main nesting beaches in Tobago for the giant leatherback turtle, which comes ashore at night to lay its eggs between March and August. The SeaHorse restaurant and casual Indigo cafe (good for a drink and African drumming on Friday nights) are a few minutes walk down the coastal road.

Kariwak Holistic Haven Hotel Clients who want something a little different during their stay might be interested in the Kariwak. Here, they’ll find 24 simple rooms set in bungalows surrounded by gardens. Kariwak is not on the beach, but it offers holistic physiotherapy, aromatherapy and massage treatments as well as complimentary early morning tai chi, stretch or yoga classes. The hotel is known for its wholesome, fresh, organic meals and homemade breads, yogurt, ice cream and teas.