As mentioned, Hibiscus Heights offers a choice of three different apartments in the main house, plus a studio cottage in the grounds.
We would have been happy to stay in any of the apartments. However, the pièce de résistance of this lovely property is undoubtedly the three-bedroom Warm Breezes apartment, so it seemed most appropriate to make this the focus of our review. All four units are decorated, furnished and equipped to the same high standard as detailed in our main description of Warm Breezes.
Like almost every property outside the flat Crown Point/Lowlands area of Tobago, Hibiscus Heights is built on a hillside. Flights of stairs need to be negotiated for access to and from The Artist's Studio and Corner View, and even more so, Warm Breezes. As a result, the property would not be ideal for those with mobility problems. However, the single-storey Sweet Nest cottage is built at ground level with direct access from a small, flat parking area immediately in front of the cottage.
The property is surrounded by a high security fence discretely covered with bougainvillea and other colourful, thorny, tropical shrubs. Each accommodation unit has a small electronic safe for guest valuables.
Travellers who need to keep in touch with work, family or friends will be delighted to hear that Hibiscus Heights offers complimentary wireless access to a reasonably fast (by Tobago standards) Internet connection. This is available in all four accommodation units.
Without question, Warm Breezes is the centrepiece of Hibiscus Heights. This lovely apartment occupies nearly the entire upper floor of the house and offers some 2,700ft2/243m2 of comfortable floor space, including balconies but excluding the pool area. The apartment is well-decorated, beautifully furnished and quite well equipped. It would undoubtedly make a wonderful holiday home for a family or small group. Although Hibiscus Heights is only a short walk from an excellent beach, Warm Breezes even has its own small but usable private swimming pool and sunbathing area, located directly behind the apartment on the upper floor of the house.
After negotiating the steep driveway and climbing three flights of stairs, you soon start to appreciate the benefits of being at the top of the house. As you pause to catch your breath (well, you do at my age) you cannot fail but to be impressed by the wonderful views across Stone Haven Bay and Courland Bay. The palms and foliage hide the beach, but you can often hear the waves breaking on the rocky foreshore just 250 yards away, so your close proximity to the beach is never in doubt.
A wide wrap-around covered balcony with a deep roof overhang shades the house and keeps the house cool and breezy. Not that a lot of help is needed – the house faces north-east, directly into the prevailing winds.
Wide folding louvered doors lead off the covered balcony and into the main living area. With an open wooden ceiling that rises to nearly five metres, the room appears even more spacious than the 50m2 of floor space might suggest. With the front doors latched open, occupants can both soak up the sea views from the seating area at the front of the room, as well as being cooled by two ceiling fans and the through-breeze.
The walls of the room are painted in a cool pale olive with white highlights and ceiling. Starkness is relieved by attractive local paintings and delightful mobiles of shells and drift wood – or 'dangly things' as I call them. The seating area at the front of the room consists of a group of comfortable and attractive padded rattan armchairs and couches that would seat up to nine adults. A 28-inch flat screen television set with DVD player and a small tuner/CD-player are close at hand for entertainment. A small library of novels and other books are also available.
Between the seating area and the kitchen is a formal dining table. Somewhat heavy and ornate in appearance, it will not be to everyone's taste but does add a certain grandeur to the room and will seat six people with bags of elbow room. It became my office for the week of our stay.
Although not furnished as a breakfast bar, a range of kitchen units separates the kitchen from the living/dining room. Flanked by a long range of two-tier storage cupboards, there is certainly no lack of storage space. Most of the cupboards were packed with a wide range of kitchen utensils and other essentials.
The kitchen has a large six-burner gas stove (but no grill/broiler), a large fridge with freezer compartment, microwave, toaster, electric kettle and liquidiser. There is an extensive range of kitchen utensils, cutlery, crockery and glassware. The apartment is fully equipped for six people plus, so you won't be washing up all the time. The range of equipment and ancillaries available were excellent and the new owners are engaged in an activerenewal process to bring all kitchen equipment and ancilliaries up to date after the apparent relative neglect of the business over the past year or two by the previous owner.
The living room is not air-conditioned, nor does it need to be. It benefits from a lovely through-draught particularly if the rear kitchen windows and door are left open. The two large overhead fans were more than up to the job of keeping the main living area comfortable at all times.
The bedrooms are located on each side of the living/dining area, with the master bedroom on one side and the two smaller bedrooms on the other. Mum and Dad can make as much noise as they like without disturbing (or embarrassing) the kids. Mind you, given the age of our family, it would arguably be the other way around.
The master bedroom is almost as large as the living room – a massive 10.5 x 4 metres (42m2). This is larger than any suite at any hotel on the island. The room is elegant and features a comfortable king-size bed with a four poster decorative canopy/mosquito net. The furnishings are primarily of rattan and include nightstands with lamps, a six-drawer dressing table and mirror, plus two chairs. The room still manages to look very spacious. Two wide double doors lead directly onto the wrap-around balcony. The windows are fitted with traditional wooden louvers and keep the room shaded but not dark.
To the rear of the bedroom is a large walk-in wardrobe and en suite bathroom. The wardrobe offers a massive five metres of full-length clothes hanging space and storage shelves. Despite having clothing for a six-week stay, we made little impression on the available space.
It was a nice touch to find a pair of cosy bath-robes and extra pillows and blankets in the wardrobe of two of the three bedrooms.
The master bedroom en suite bathroom is long and narrow. It is attractively decorated with sea shells and other tropical knickknacks, like the rest of the apartment. The washbasin is set into a tiled vanity unit, with ample space for toiletries and bathroom essentials. Water pressure was good and there was always lots of hot water, so taking a shower was always a pleasure.
Visitors seldom realise how corrosive salt-laden tropical sea winds are, or how much damage they do. Plated bathroom fittings soon go and can rapidly become pitted and green as the underlying metal oxides. In this regard, Hibiscus Heights was better than average, but it is the one area where the age of the building does show a little.
Other bedroom facilities include an electric shaver socket and a hairdryer. Nice, soft, clean towels, including beach towels, are provided and changed regularly. The same applies to bed linen. Cheery housekeeper, Ingrid, services all the Hibiscus Heights apartments six times a week and laundry services can be arranged with her. An ironing board and steam iron are available for guest use.
To the other side of the living room, bedrooms two and three are not quite as spacious as the master bedroom, but are still more than adequate at 4x4m (16sq.m.). Both are furnished almost identically with a four-poster queen-size bed with decorative canopy, an additional single bed and nightstands with lamps on each side of the main bed. The white walls, wardrobes and other woodwork are echoed in the white mosquito nets and crisp white linen, relieved very effectively by vibrant, colourful soft furnishings and bedspreads. The overall feel is light, bright and relatively spacious.
Sandwiched between bedrooms two and three is a shared 'family' bathroom. It is finished and furnished in similar style to the en suite bathroom in the master bedroom and likewise equipped with washbasin, toilet and a large walk-in shower.
All three bedrooms have whisper-quiet, Toshiba split-unit air-conditioners as well as large ceiling fans. They quickly and efficiently bring a room down to the required temperature and then maintain that temperature in almost total silence, particularly when switched to 'silent' or 'economy' mode.
In addition to the air-con, the master bedroom has two large overhead fans. The other two bedrooms each have a single overhead fan. The deep roof overhang, strong breeze and shuttered bedroom windows combined to provide conditions that hardly required mechanical cooling. Our only use of the air-conditioning was to 'super-cool' the bedroom for an hour before retiring. Having done that, the near-silent overhead fans were more than enough to keep the air moving and night-time temperatures perfect. We slept well every night with remarkably little local noise to disturb us.
Up to two additional small divan beds can be provided for guests with small children. A high chair and crib/play-pen are also available for guests with infants.
A wide wrap-around balcony runs around two sides of the house. This is undoubtedly where visitors will spend a lot of their time. The balcony is furnished with a dining table and six chairs and a cosy seating area comprising of two comfortable padded rattan settees and an armchair. The views over the bay are quite beautiful. Not to be outdone, the grounds of Hibiscus Heights may be compact, but are a riot of colour, with every inch of ground covered by mature tropical plants.
Continuing around the balcony, guests are likely to be quite surprised by the sight of the open-air swimming pool and patio area extending across the back of the house – something you simply don't expect to find at the top of the house. Screened by high walls and offering almost total privacy, the 5.7 x 3.2m pool (depth: 0.62-1.1m) may not be exactly Olympic size, but then it hardly needs to be when you have the beautiful beach and turquoise waters of Stone Haven bay just a few minutes' walk away.
The pool deck is furnished with six padded sun loungers and an all-weather table and chairs. The deck area is also home to a gas barbeque unit – an invaluable piece of equipment given that the Mt.Irvine fish market is just a couple of minutes' drive down the road. You can buy fresh fish directly from the fishermen most afternoons, from around 4pm.