"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
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
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
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.