I'll be honest: My wife and I were leery when we saw the last stretch of road to Laluna, a quarter-mile-long, impossibly runneled chunk of Caribbean dirt with more ruts than Keith Richard's face. It was enough to make us wonder if conditions had improved in Grenada since "the intervention," as locals call the 1983 American-led invasion that made the island safe again for banana daiquiris and cinch medical degrees. Indeed, as Laluna co-manager Wendy Potter, the wife of proprietor Bernardo Bertucci, puts it, "Even now we get calls from America asking, 'Is the war still going on?' "
Happily, Grenada has been at peace for two decades now, and in Laluna it has one of the region's most tempting hideaways, a tiny yet tony gem (maximum guests: 32) that's well worth the chauffeured schlep over a rutted road. Carved into an oleander-and hibiscus-scented hillside above a nearly deserted beach, Laluna is the brainchild of Bertucci, a 39-year-old Italian by way of New York City, where he spent 10 years in the fashion industry as a consultant to Giorgio Armani, La Perla and Prada. It's no coincidence that his 16 cottages—cool concrete dusted in shades of blue, green and cinnamon—are the work of the same designer who did Armani's European vacation villa.
On an island that was named by the Spanish, ruled by the French and colonized by the English, it makes perfect sense that Grenada's most stylish hideaway would be run by Italians, who have brought a distinctly global flavor. "Everything here has a story," Bertucci says. The teak four-poster beds, hand-carved bathroom mirrors and kooky crotch-grabbing fertility symbols? Bertucci handpicked them in Bali. The Medusa-style light fixtures and exotic bath creams? Imported from Italy. Why, Bertucci even thatched the open-air bar and restaurant with 30,000 pounds of elephant grass direct from Vietnam.
Guests can embark on excursions to the rain forest, visit the Saturday spice market in nearby St. George's and take spins on a Hobie Cat, kayak or mountain bike. Or they can do what we did: lounge on the beach, enjoy in-room massages and watch the sunset from our private plunge pool overlooking the sea.
Nighttime brings a new cast of characters. There's chef Benedetto La Fiura, whose Sicilian specialties (with a Caribbean twist) put the fare at Tony Soprano's favorite restaurant to shame. There's Wilton, the dread-locked David Blaine of barmen, who can entrance you with an industrial-strength rum punch and a bulging bag of parlor tricks.
Two years after its launch Laluna has turned into a hot spot among in-the-know fashionistas, to say nothing of urban hipsters from New York, London and Milan who want to avoid the tourist hordes that overrun the neighboring islands. (Model Jerry Hall and former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart are two recent guests.) Best of all, Laluna is proof positive that you don't need a flamethrowing, drum-banging floor show to have a memorable Caribbean vacation. Good food, a gorgeous setting and a chill vibe: Another U.S. invasion may be coming, only this time it won't be the Marines.