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Soleil - a myTobago guide to Tobago holiday accommodation
 

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Soleil, Tobago

Soleil

5-bedroom Holiday Rental Villa

Soleil is undoubtedly the most stunning villa on Tobago and yet few visitors will ever even be aware of its existence or ever have the pleasure of seeing it.... Located beside the Caribbean Sea at the end of a discrete cul-de-sac on the Arnos Vale plantation, this amazing villa is straight off the pages of a glossy 'Amazing Homes'-type publication. With five hugely spacious bedrooms, this property drips tasteful luxury devoid of ostentation. [read more]

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Soleil

5-bedroom Holiday Rental Villa

Soleil is undoubtedly the most stunning villa on Tobago and yet few visitors will ever even be aware of its existence or ever have the pleasure of seeing it. Located beside the Caribbean Sea at the end of a discrete cul-de-sac on the Arnos Vale plantation, this amazing villa is straight off the pages of a glossy 'Amazing Homes'-type publication. With five hugely spacious bedrooms, this property drips tasteful luxury devoid of ostentation.

click/tap the photo to view a gallery of 60 photos

Property Description

Provided by the property, or taken from their website

Located in lovely Arnos Vale, Soleil is a truly impressive 5-bedroom villa regally perched on a hillside, with the blue-green waters of the Caribbean Sea practically on its doorstep. This very magical house of a thousand windows has a subtly soothing Japanese flavour. A decor that's somehow perfectly suited to the truly "elemental" and tropical views constantly being captured, by the well-thought out design of the villa itself.

Step out into the open courtyard, taking centre stage in this home, and you feel like you're outside. With no ceiling or roof to obscure, it's an architectural showcase for the sun, not to mention the many other points of interest the day, or especially the night, sky has to offer. Welcome to "Soleil": here you're worlds away from the distracting sights and restless sounds of the big city!

Plop your weary self down in any one of the look-out lounges considerately attached to each of the bedrooms. Watch your thinking mind stop, as your senses come alive with the smell of salt in the air and the sun's sparkling presence on the water before you.

French for sun -- so aptly named -- Soleil has indeed been brilliantly designed to intensify appreciation of setting; it's an elemental adventure waiting to happen!

The open courtyard is surrounded by the structure of the house itself: the foyer, kitchen, dining and living areas seamlessly flowing into one another, making entertaining more fluid; the adjoining nooks that make up the living area making it easy for guests to withdraw from "court", soak up the many seascapes individually framed by the windows lining every wall.

The courtyard and all rooms on this main level are impeccably and thoughtfully furnished to encourage large get-togethers, whilst providing cosy corners conducive to solitary retreat.

The large and beautifully designed modern kitchen, complete with an old-time hanging-pots-from-the-ceiling feel, comes equipped with more than enough stainless steel gadgets and appliances to satisfy! If not the chef in you, then Soleil's housekeeper Camille, who's a gem, happy to whip up 'all kind of' local food.

The dining area is graced with a handsome mahogany table, which Camille takes great pride in setting, with up to 12 persons guaranteed loads of elbow room.

The foyer flows into a mini-cocktail lounge area, replete with bar-stools and all the necessary accoutrements for you, or your guests, to right away cosy up! Wooden adirondack chairs in the open courtyard are not far, there for the ladies to recline with their refreshments. Tasteful comfort and the simplicity of refinement, a perfect blending of form and function, with none of the excess and exageration too often thought a 'must' for elegance.

On the other side of the kitchen is another counter that's more the official breakfast bar, adjoined by even more counter space for computing on Soleil's lap-top, or making use of the WiFi to connect on your own.

In the main villa, there are 4 bedrooms: the master suite is on the lower main floor, set very discretely off the living quarters; with 3 other amazingly just-as-nice bedrooms on the upper level.

The bedrooms are air-conditioned, though most will of course be content with the ceiling-fan and cool sea breeze. A direct-dial telephone and safety deposit box are a couple of the other standard features worth mentioning. But when it comes to bedroom features, these have to be vintage Soleil: the huge multi-coloured tiled shower rooms -- 'stall' would be a misnomer -- found in each of the ensuites; the lookout lounging rooms attached to each chamber, allowing guests to privately greet nature in all her tropical glory every morning. Maybe later spend some "alone" time in the twin loungers, which are of course perfectly positioned to allow for panoramic viewing of the sea and its scenery.

Judging from the facilities and furnishings found throughout, it is obvious that the utmost thought and care has gone into making every guest of Soleil feel special, yet uncannily also 'at home'.

On the ground level, there is a separate and self-contained apartment with living room, full kitchen & bathroom, and a sleeping alcove furnished with a queen-size bed. -- Soleil's 5th bedroom -- which can be rented for surplus guests. Or, on its own, at the last minute, if there is no one booked to stay upstairs. The living room opens onto the wooden pool deck with lily pond, barbeque area and the villa's two swimming pools.

There is a foot path leading down from the lower pool deck to the sea. The covered jetty down there has already become a popular wedding spot -- a really private and romantic place to exchange your vows. With just a few close friends and family as witnesses. With the sea for accompaniment.

This experience, your official Tobago adventure, begins when you are personally met at the airport by Curtis, who -- along with Soleil's professional managers and staff -- will be on call for the duration of your visit to ensure everything runs smoothly. Should you decide you need someone who knows the island to drive you around, Curtis is your man! Should you decide to hire a car, this could easily be organised, the car delivered at your convenience.

When you arrive at the villa, one of Soleil's managers Gillian will be there to greet you, pass over the keys, and give you a quick tour. Then all you have to do is unpack. Feel pampered! Your housekeeper will be there 3 days a week to clean and, together with the rest of "Team Soleil", she is there to ensure your stay is a carefree and relaxing one.

"Team Soleil" is also more than happy to assist in organising whichever nature or sight-seeing tours and activities you think you might be interested in --at reasonable rates, with trusted local guides! Horse riding, deep-sea diving, an all-inclusive day of snorkelling & sailing aboard "Island Girl", and a day-trip to Trinidad with a local Birding Expert are all activities worth considering. Not to mention a few more seasonal ones like sport-fishing, surfing at Mt. Irvine, or taking part in an SOS (Save our Seaturtles) Nesting or Hatchling Watch.

For the golf enthusiasts in your party, Gillian can also advise as to the particular golf packages available at Tobago's two award-winning 18-hole Championship golf courses, the one at Mt. Irvine being only a 5 - 10 minute drive from the villa. On-hand, you will find an in-house folder with a list of recommendations for dining, as well as flyers detailing local activities -- for those who prefer to make�it up as they go ... plan their own fun.

One thing for sure: whether home relaxing or out exploring, you can be as lazy AND adventurous as you want, when staying at Soleil!

myTobago Review

Our reviews are devoid of marketing hype. We aim to provide concise, unbiased factual information that will help you find Tobago holiday accommodation that perfectly matches your hopes, requirements and expectations.

The following review was produced during a 7-night stay at Soleil in March 2010.

Introduction

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the original Latin word villa as "a large country house, having an estate and consisting of buildings arranged around a courtyard." Readers will be more familiar with the more modern OED definition: "a rented holiday home abroad".

Soleil fits both definitions: The American owners built the house as both a family and rental holiday home. It is unarguably a large house and most definitely "in the country". A degree of poetic licence is needed with "having an estate", but the fact that it is located on a former sugar and cocoa estate is surely near enough. The really interesting part of the definition, however, is "arranged around a courtyard".

Yes, it is built around a courtyard. To find out more, please read on….

The Location

Soleil is located on a former sugar cane and cocoa plantation at Arnos Vale, just outside Plymouth. With a population of less than 10,000 and facilities to match, it is better to think of Plymouth as a large village, rather than Tobago's second largest town.

Most signs of the former sugar plantation are long gone. However, Arnos Vale boasts one of the finest bird life habitats on Tobago. As if not enough, Arnos Vale Bay offers some of the best snorkelling on the island.

Soleil is located at the end of a short private access road leading off the Mot Mot Trail, adjacent to the Arnos Vale Hotel. The Mot Mot Trail was originally a mule trail and used to transport sugar between Arnos Vale and Culloden. Although un-surfaced, the section of trail leading to Soleil is totally accessible and there is no need for a 4x4/SUV-type vehicle.

Arnos Vale is a 30-minute drive from the airport. It lies just outside the Crown Point-Plymouth-Scarborough triangle, the most densely populated part of Tobago. As such, it is further from the main shopping and restaurant areas, but in the heart of one of the most beautiful areas of Tobago. You are truly at one with nature. This is where Tobago really starts!

Visitors staying at Soleil will be met at the airport by a member of the friendly management team and transported back to the house. There are no facilities, other than those of the Arnos Vale Hotel, within walking distance of the villa, so a rental car or jeep is essential if you are to get the best out of the property. Local shopping facilities in Plymouth are limited. Taxis are available, but given the distance (20-25 minutes) from the main shopping/restaurant areas, this is likely to prove a more expensive and less convenient option than hiring a vehicle.

Architecture

Soleil was designed by one of the best-known architects in Trinidad. He has produced some of the most stunning villas on Tobago, with designs that exhibit huge creative talent. Soleil must be one of his crowning glories.

It is difficult to categorise the architectural style of Soleil because the design is so unique. The photos say it all! It is a truly extraordinary contemporary blend of Caribbean style with oriental overtones. One of the villa's most unusual features is the fact that it has been built around two roofless courtyards. It is quite astonishing to sit in the larger of the two and look up to see the sky with the upper floor gallery framing the picture. Extraordinary!

The house is built on a steep hillside and consists of three floors. The main accommodation is on the two upper floors. A self-contained one-bedroom apartment is located on the lower ground floor. This can be included in the rental when additional 'fifth bedroom' sleeping capacity is needed.

Externally, Soleil looks hugely imposing – even intimidating. Locals refer to it as "the house of a thousand windows". Anyone who has had to walk around the house opening or closing the many shutters will agree with the description. Finished in green and white, they look stunning against the deep burnt orange of the external render. Whichever way you look at it, this is an imposing and exceptional property.

Because of the hillside location, the property would not suit visitors with restricted mobility, or who are confined to a wheelchair. For similar reasons, parents will need to keep a very close eye on youngsters.

Accommodation

Soleil looks massive and it is. Rough measurements indicate that the two upper floors occupy some 6500-7000ft². These figures don't include the self-contained apartment on the lower ground floor, or decking.

Living Areas

After passing through secure remotely-controlled electric gates, a short driveway leads up the hill to a spacious car park. The obligatory basketball stand announces American ownership as clearly as any flag. A black wrought iron door viewer grill set into tall, narrow, heavy wooden doors gives the impression that you stepping into a fairy castle. And, in a sense, you are.

On entry you are met by a visual feat. You just don't know where to look first. There is just so much to admire. Even after six days I was finding new and unusual design features to ponder and feast my eyes on. The house shouts 'interior design'. I checked, and was surprised to find that the furnishing and décor were entirely the work of the owners. Without meaning to sound patronising, I can only say "well done".

The entrance foyer encompasses the smaller of the two internal courtyards. How fascinating to look up and see blue sky and white puffy clouds. Inset a few inches below the surrounding walkways, the central section of floor acts as a shower tray, catching rainwater and channelling it to a central decorative drain.

To the left of the entrance foyer is a utility room, with washer and dryer, and a small cloakroom. To the right, four counter stools stand guard over a wide wooden counter top that acts as a mini cocktail bar, facing a truly fascinating kitchen.

You hesitate to step forward. Is this for real? The living area is 65 feet (20m) long and some 37 feet (11.4m) wide. It is entirely open plan, except for sixteen narrow structural pillars that support the upper floor. The pillars also serve to define separate intimate areas  without diminishing the overall sense of spaciousness. I wouldn't have believed that such a large area – around 2400sq.ft. – could manage to look cosy. It is clearly a case of exceptional design, both at architectural and interior décor level.    

The centre of the living area is dominated by the larger of the two courtyards. As with the entrance foyer, a 7.1x4.9m inset tiled inset floor represents both a visual feature and a practical solution to rainfall. Looking up at the upper floor gallery, I was reminded of the old Tudor timbered buildings common in the east of England and, to some degree, of medieval theatre's such as the Globe Theatre in London.

The courtyard is furnished with a wrought iron style mosaic table and four matching padded chairs, plus four cushioned wooden Adirondack chairs grouped round a small matching table. A dozen potted plants of varying size and type give a genuine courtyard feel to this wonderful feature and of course the plants flourish because of the benefits of natural watering.

To the left of the courtyard, wide timber doors beneath a huge decorative wooden lintel announce the master bedroom. On the opposite side, adjacent to the kitchen, a magnificent 10-foot polished mahogany table with twelve matching padded chairs promises sophisticated dining with the bonus of truly wonderful views.

Some two dozen green and white wooden window shutters dominate the front and side aspects of the living area. There are no glazed windows in the property. With the shutters open, the views over the Caribbean Sea, coastline and adjacent hillsides are truly extraordinary.

The prevailing north-east trade winds blow directly onto the long side aspect of the house. Given the inner courtyard design, it would be impossible to air-condition the living areas. Eleven strategically placed and very quiet overhead ceiling fans help stir the air and avoid heat build-up, but the truth is that with all the shutters open the house remains wonderfully cool – even during the very hot period of our stay when afternoon temperatures regularly exceeded 35°C (95°F).

Needless to say, the front sea-facing aspect of the living area offers the best views. From the palm thatched jetty jutting into the sea, to the cosy decks and tiered swimming pool, the panorama is a visual feast. And, as if that's not enough, there's the constantly changing colours of the sea, varying from deep blue to turquoise, plus the swirling white foam of the waves breaking over the rocky foreshore.

The clever design allows intimate cosy little 'corners' and areas to be formed without walls. For example, three adjacent but unconnected seating areas have been formed at the front of the living area. Each is furnished differently, but in total harmony. In some ways it is rather like the lounge of a hotel – but infinitely more intimate and personal. Even with a full occupancy of ten persons (including the 'annexe'), every member of the party is guaranteed a choice of quiet spot to themselves. With just the two of us in residence, we were rather rattling around like peas in a pod. However, it wasn't in the least intimidating. I keep using the words 'intimate' and 'cosy' but these really are, surprisingly, the most appropriate descriptions.

The house is primarily furnished with antiques of East Indian origin. Some 40% of Trinidadians are of East Indian descent and the import of antique furniture from the sub-continent is a flourishing industry. Whilst Tobago may not have the same racial mix, the furniture is totally appropriate and gives Soleil a wonderfully relaxed and mellow colonial feel. Without question, the décor and furnishing of the house are classy and totally practical and appropriate.

Various entertainment features are provided within the lounge area. A wonderful old antique cupboard hides a 27-inch Sony with digital satellite service, DVD and range of films. An antique-style radio with CD player, supplement a range of useful information books and selection of novels. Everything is in total keeping with the overall look and feel of the décor, with a very modern wine refrigerator being the only discordant note in otherwise impeccable furnishing.   

Kitchen

The kitchen area is a spacious 4.6m square. It is impressively equipped and you gain the impression that someone has put a lot of thought and care into both the presentation and practicality of everything provided.

A large four-ring electric stove and ceramic sink dominate a central kitchen island. A microwave oven is mounted conveniently to hand and a wide range of pans and utensils hang above the island. An adjacent section of units provides further work space, with a second ceramic sink and an electric dishwasher. This section doubles as a cocktail bar, servicing the bar stools accessed from the entrance foyer.

It was a surprise to find that the huge fridge-freezer didn't have an ice-maker or chilled water dispenser. Having said that, a bag of ice was provided and bottles of water can be stored in the fridge. There is also a separate small freezer that guests can use to make ice. Mind you, it is almost a relief to find something to criticise and make this review sound less like something dreamed up by an advertising or PR studio.

The kitchen benefits from several metres of under-counter storage drawers and cabinets. Each seemed to contain myriad sundry items that might be required, over and above the standard items such as kettles, filter coffee machines, toasters and food blenders, etc. There was still more thanenough storage space for our own groceries. Needless to say, there was also a substantial stock of crockery, cutlery, glassware and other sundries. Everything was spotlessly clean and in perfect working order. 

On arrival, we found that the housekeepers, Camille and Dawn, had produced a wonderful meal of stewed chicken in a rich local (spicy) sauce with macaroni pie, basmati rice callaloo and coleslaw. I have to say that it was the best welcome meal we have ever enjoyed at a villa. In fact it was so delicious that we enjoyed a second helping on the next night.

We were delighted to find that the fridge was well stocked with a comprehensive welcome pack covering our first breakfast, and more. The welcome pack included bacon, eggs, water, milk, juice, bread, butter and cheese. Welcome packs like these are fairly standard with most good villas, but what impressed us most, in many ways, was that there was also a very wide stock of staples like sugar, salt, condiments and seasonings. It is so frustrating wasting valuable holiday time shopping for these essentials, most of which will be discarded at the end of the stay.

Between the kitchen and dining area is a supplementary area of tiled work surface with cabinets and drawers. Furnished with five padded stools, it is perfect as a breakfast bar or casual dining spot. It also became my office for the duration of the stay. Even after installing two laptop computers and three large flight cases of camera and computer equipment, there was still lots of space in the kitchen/bar/office area.

The house is equipped with a telephone landline and wireless broadband Internet access. Working there was a joy. Not only did I have wonderful views over the pool and sea, but the constant breezes kept me cool despite the high temperatures experienced during our stay.

Bedrooms

The villa has four bedrooms. One master bedroom is located on the ground floorm, the others on the upper floor. Galleries run around the open courtyards, giving access to each of the bedrooms.

There is also a self-contained annexe on the pool-deck level of the house, beneath the main floors. The annexe can be optionally rented when sleeping capacity needs to be increased to five bedrooms/ten adults, or when parties require the additional facilities of the annexe.

Master Bedroom 1

The master bedroom and en suite bathroom are spacious and offer a combined floor space of 310ft2/28.8m².  

The bedroom is dominated by a king-size four-poster bed with decorative mosquito net. I say decorative, because mosquitoes were conspicuous by their absence during our 2010 visit, largely due to the lack of rain during the previous 'wet' season.

As one might imagine, the bed linen was of the finest quality. Sensibly, light cotton sheets were supplemented by a light cellular blanket, with a heavier counterpane on top for presentation. Linen is changed two or three times a week, as appropriate, as are hand, bath and beach towels.

The bed is flanked by bedside tables with attractive lamps. The lamps were not really powerful enough for reading, but fortunately a switch to the main wall lights is located just above the bed, so lack of light was hardly an issue.

Additional room furnishings included a dressing table with half-height mirror and four drawers, a separate swinging full-length mirror and a comfortable cushioned swivel chair. A security safe is provided and two wooden built-in 1.3m wardrobes, one offering full-length hanging space with shoe storage, and the other offering shelf storage. A pair of white fluffy bath robes are provided in each bedroom for guests.

The 20-inch TV and DVD player mounted high in one corner of the bedroom, drooping ugly cables, was largely unusable without first removing the mosquito net canopy. This seemed at odds with the overall image of traditional elegance. Hurray – something to moan about at last!

All bedrooms are fully air-conditioned with modern split units. Although not the quietest that we have come across, they were relatively unobtrusive and we could still hear the sound of the waves breaking over the rocks below the villa when we set the a/c fan to the slowest setting. We would have preferred to dispense with the air-conditioner and rely on the natural breezes and overhead ceiling fan, but being on the ground floor it seemed unwise to leave the windows open at night, despite the constant presence of a security guard.

The en suite bathroom is another design feature. A handsome, rolled-top wrought iron bath dominated, while an attractive ceramic washbowl mounted on a simple but functional shelf stand provided storage space for toiletries. Three wall-mounted shelf units offered storage for additional items and, as with each of the other bedrooms, an electric hairdryer was provided.

The bathroom features a half-tiled shower stall with sea views, when the window shutters are open. It is almost like showering outside. On seeing the 8-inch raindrop shower head, my heart missed a beat. There's nothing I like and need more than good all-encompassing gentle shower to start and end the day. Sadly, it was not to be and herein lies our only substantive criticism of Soleil – water pressure. Or, to be more accurate, a lack of it.    

The fact is that all we got was a dribble. On investigation, we found that the house relied on mains pressure supplemented by gravity feed from the reserve water tanks utilised by every property on Tobago, due to the erratic water system. Our visit took place after a long and sustained hot period with little rainfall. The water company were limiting supplies in order to preserve water stocks. As a result, we often had no mains pressure and had to rely on the inadequate gravity feed to power theshowers. We are assured that an electric water pump is now being fitted to overcome the problem. Hopefully this will also automatically overcome an associated problem of hot water taking many minutes to heat and never rising above 'warm'.

Water pressure problems aside, the bedroom was both beautiful and comfortable. As with all the bedrooms, it also has its own 3.6x2.3m 'lookout lounge'. These small private balconies are furnished with a pair of comfortable chairs. They are wonderful spots for quiet solitude and reflection. The lookout in the master bedroom also has a vanity unit with washbasin.   

Master Bedroom 2

Soleil has two master bedrooms – one on the main level and a second, directly above the first, on the upper floor.

The two rooms share common dimensions and features, except that the upper master does not have an ugly TV spoiling the charm of the room. The bathroom in the upper master bedroom  has a large shower room, but the bath tub is replaced by a lovely antique wooden cabinet/chest of drawers. It may not be as practical, but it certainly looks the part.

One of the nicest things about the décor of Soleil, and the two master bedrooms in particular, is that each room is furnished slightly differently. So, everything from the impressive king-size hand-carved bed to the wash basin in the bathroom varies between the two master bedrooms.

Bedroom 3

The third bedroom occupies what amounts to the full width of the back of the house. Some guests may appreciate the distance between neighbouring bedrooms. No smutty comments, please!

Bedroom three is located above, and to the side, of the entrance foyer courtyard. It features a private bathroom, located on the opposite side of the 5m gallery that runs around the courtyard opening. The bathroom is therefore not technically en suite, but this should not worry prospective guests in the least. Yes, there is a five metre gallery between the bedroom and the bathroom, but this suite lies behind a private wall and is not visible from the main gallery or other bedrooms. It is actually quite fun to be able to look down into the entrance foyer and see the potted plants and bar stools at the cocktail bar, but in truth does not compromise privacy in the slightest.

The bedroom itself is a spacious 225ft2/21m², not counting the lookout balcony. Add the 90ft2/ 8.6m² bathroom and this suite is marginally larger than the master bedrooms. But, who's splitting hairs? Frankly I doubt whether anyone would notice the difference.

The bedroom is furnished with another impressive four-poster bed with decorative mosquito canopy, only this time it is a queen-size bed, rather than a king. Nevertheless, it is almost as attractive.Like all the other rooms, a security safe is provided. Additional furnishings include a small antiquedressing table, a small wardrobe with full length hanging (with lots of hangers), plus a pair ofcane armchairs and an antique clothes rail.

Leading off the bedroom, a 3.3x2.45m private 'lookout lounge' provides another peaceful spot to relax, with wonderful views out across the main deck and tiered swimming pool and out to the sea beyond.

The bathroom is equipped conventionally – although it is quite unfair to describe the fascinating crescent-shaped mirror of the vanity unit as 'conventional'. There is a fully-tiled large walk-in shower cubicle.

Bedroom 4

The fourth bedroom is located at the front of the house. At 26.7m², including the bathroom but excluding the lookout lounge, it is actually the smallest suite. Despite that, I would have possibly chosen it for the master suite. It just goes to show that this house can still spring surprises.

This bedroom is furnished with two single beds, separated by a single bedside table. Mosquito nets are suspended from wrought iron hoops above the head of each bed and can be unknotted and brought into action, if required. The room has a lovely collection of small antique benches and a lovely small bureau.

The spacious bathroom provides wonderful views out over the ocean. It has the usual trio of facilities, including a huge fully-tiled walk-in shower and an antique wardrobe providing 0.8m of full-length hanging space.

To the front of the bedroom, a 10m² 'lookout lounge' offers, by far, the best views in the house, looking out over the main pool deck and down to the shoreline with the wonderful sight and sound of the surf breaking over the rocks and out to the deep blue Caribbean sea far beyond.

The Annexe

As mentioned, Soleil has a spacious studio apartment, located on the sea-facing lower ground floor pool deck, This can be hired with the main house to provide 'fifth bedroom' capacity, increasing the total sleeping capacity to 10 persons. The annexe is never rented on its own, except at very short notice, so guests renting the main villa need have no fear that they will find themselves sharing the house with others.

The annexe consists of one large (390ft2/36.5m²) bedroom-living room and bathroom, plus an attached 270ft2/25m² lounge. The sleeping area is separated from the kitchen area by a three-quarter height wall and antique wooden folding screen. It is furnished with a queen-sized bed with bedside tables and lamps, a wardrobe providing 0.8m of full-length hanging space and a small cane chest of drawers.

The kitchen somewhat dominates the apartment and is superbly equipped with a four-burner electric oven (stove), microwave oven, medium-sized fridge-freezer, filter coffee maker, blender, toaster and – surprise, surprise – a dishwasher.

The bathroom continues the same high standards and is amply spacious enough for two people to use it at the same time. It is equipped with the usual trio of facilities, with the shower being a nice walk-in fully-tiled job with decent shower head.

The bed/living area has two small wooden shuttered windows, looking out over the deck. The apartment is cooled by a large modern split-unit air conditioner. Three large ceiling fans can be kept running throughout the day when the air-con should be turned off.

The attached 6.6x3.8m sitting room is a major feature in its own right. Three sets of high wooden louvered doors can be opened to reveal spectacular views across the pool and deck and out to sea. The annexe is shaded by the deep overhang of the upper floors and directly faces directly into the predominant breezes. The sitting room therefore has no need for air-conditioning, but two large overhead ceiling fans are fitted to prevent heat build up.  

The sitting room is furnished with a small group of soft leather cane sofas and an armchair, television and DVD player. A table-football table is provided and is sure to keep younger members of the party amused when they are not splashing around in the pool.

Parties may well wish to consider renting the annexe together with the main house even when they don't require the additional sleeping capacity. The sitting room of the annexe makes a wonderfully comfortable shaded, cool refuge directly on the pool deck; a feature that is sure to be appreciated by older members of the party who would like to join the younger members of the party around the pool, but don't wish to sit on the harder bench seats or sun loungers. The annexe lounge provides an ideal and comfortable environment.  

Swimming Pool & Decks

Soleil boasts some 2000ft² of external wooden decking. Most of this lies along the sea-facing frontage and then wraps around and down the length of the northern aspect, which faces into the dominant winds. The 4m overhang of the upper floors provides shade to parts of the deck for much of the day. Basically, at any time of day, you can find a portion of deck in the sun, or in shade.

Ideally located under the roof overhang, a hugely impressive 14ft wooden table with bench seating makes a gorgeous place for al fresco dining. This is where renting the annexe might be beneficial. Situated immediately adjacent to the table, the facilities of the annexe kitchen would be invaluable when preparing meals and drinks, etc. Without this, drinks and meals have to be carried some distance from the main kitchen.

To the front of the deck, a number of comfortable all-weather chairs and padded recliners offer lots of choice. An attractive tiled circular outside shower with large raindrop shower head offers welcome relief.

At the far end of the deck, a small all-weather table and four chairs are located next to a large Weber gas barbeque unit. The barbeque did us proud during our stay.   

A narrow water trough planted with water lilies and other water plants runs along the outer edge of the deck on the northern (side) aspect. The recirculating water re-enters the trough through a gentle cascade. The trough widens out and then abuts the upper level of the two-tier swimming pool, giving an almost seamless transition from one to the other.

The upper pool is roughly rectangular in shape with maximum dimensions of 5.4x2.2m and a depth of 0.8m (32in). Being located directly on the upper deck, this kiddie's pool is an ideal play area for the younger members of the party.   

The water from the upper pool cascades over an infinity edge into a slightly larger circular pool some six feet below. This second pool has a diameter of around 4.7m and a minimum depth of 2.2m. Clearly it is not a pool for serious swimming. It is probably best described as a large plunge pool.  

Adjacent to the lower pool, a small wooden deck offers yet another semi-private space for guests to 'do their own thing'. Furnished with an all-weather table and four chairs, plus two sun recliners, this deck offers wonderful views over the garden and sea. Steps lead down from it tothe lower parts of the hillside and foreshore. The bushes borderingthese steps were the jealously guarded home territory of a beautiful ruby-topaz hummingbird during our stay. The ruby-topaz is surely the most stunning of the five species of hummingbirds to be seen on Tobago and it was fascinating watching him see off any other birds that had the temerity to 'invade' his territory.

Around 75 concrete steps, arranged in short flights, wend their way down the hillside from the lower pool deck to the bottom deck, just above the foreshore. Furnished with six Adirondack wooden chairs, this is a wonderful place to sit and watch the sunset, or enjoy the sound of the waves breaking over the rocky shore.

A large circular reproduction sugar kettle (bowl) planted with various water plants makes an interesting water feature. It was a teaming mass of tiny tadpoles, some with brightly coloured tails. Best of all, a copper-rumped hummingbird had built her tiny nest on one of the lower branches of the tree that partly shades the deck. She seemed unconcerned by our presence. We visited herevery day, but sadly the two eggs had not hatched before our departure.

Passing through a padlocked gate, you can drop down to a lovely little palm thatched jetty projecting out to sea beyond the rocky foreshore. What a romantic spot! No wonder that this has already become a firm favourite for those key wedding photos. In fact the whole villa offers a host of photo opportunities and makes Soleil a truly magical wedding destination.

Sadly, only the very most adventurous will attempt to swim here. It would be something of a problem getting into the water. Climbing over the boulders and rocks – not to mention the occasional razor-sharp coral rock – would be fraught with danger and far too high a risk to be recommended. Fortunately, lovely Arnos Vale beach is just a five minute walk down the road, so there is absolutely no need to take risks.

Arnos Vale beach is a typical picture postcard tropical beach. The associated small hotel isnow a shadow of what it once was. However, the facilities of the hotel can be useful – although visitors should be aware that they charge well over-the-odds at the beach bar (which now seems to be seldom open. Surprise! Surprise!).

Snorkelling in Arnos Vale Bay is generally perceived to be the best on the island and conditions are suitable for both novice and advanced snorkelers. The small reef is still in good condition and you will see a wonderful variety of colourful tropical fish. Turtles are fairly common during the breeding season (April-July) and at other times manta rays and moray eels may be seen.

Shopping, Catering & Dining

There is a small supermarket (small being the operative word) and a number of local stores in Plymouth, five minute drive away from Soleil.However, this will only satisfy very basic requirements.

The nearest "decent" supermarket is Morshead Gourmet Foods at Mount Pleasant. This is a 15 minute drive back towards the airport (turn left just before Me-Shells Restaurant, one mile from the Buccoo junction crossroad at the end of the golf course). This supermarket has an excellent choice of imported foods, but it has to be said that it is more expensive than the larger PennySaverssupermarkets further on in Canaan or Carnbee.

The fisherman's co-operative at Mount Irvine will be of particular interest to guests staying  at Soleil. You can't miss it because every afternoon from around 4:00-4:30pm you will see the fishermen selling their catch from the tables mounted next to the sea wall beside the beach and road. You won't get fresher fish anywhere. Simply tell the fishermen what you want and they will fillet the fish, or chop it into steaks. Shoot back to the villa, slap it on the barbeque and you are almost guaranteed a meal to cherish.

The Arnos Vale Hotel is open for dinner, but has a poor reputation for catering and, if their beach bar prices are anything to go by, the cost will be far in excess of quality and service provided. The associated Arnos Vale Waterwheel is set in a wonderful romantic location and was known for good catering at one time, but is currently closed and, we suspect, unlikely to reopen.

There are a few small local restaurants and take-away facilities in Plymouth. Please see our Restaurant listings for up-to-date details of all Plymouth eateries.

Apart from these limited options, it is a 15-20 minute drive to the half dozen or so excellent restaurants between the villages of Black Rock and Mount Pleasant.

Tours & Excursions

Soleil's location makes it an ideal base from which to tour the beautiful beaches of the northern Caribbean coast, the rain forest and indeed, the entire island. This can either be accomplished in your own self-drive rental vehicle,or through one of the many tour guides, most of whom will bewilling to pick you up from the property.

There are a number of very pleasant nature trails in the area. One particularly nice early morning walk, with wonderful coastal views, is the old Mot Mot Trail at the foot of the hill, beside the Arnos Vale Hotel. It takes about an hour to walk to the Footprints Eco Resort at Culloden, but you could always arrange to be collected from there for the short drive back. You could even break the journey on the way with a slight detour down the cliffs to Hidden Bay, although be warned that the seas can run high and make swimming a little tricky.

Although a self-drive car is by far the best way to experience Tobago, we do strongly recommend that first-time visitors to Tobago initially take a guided tour with one of the reputable tour services on the island. The villa's managers will gladly arrange this for you. This is a great way to get a general feel of the island and the background knowledge will make touring on your own very much more meaningful and rewarding.

Housekeeping & Staff

Soleil is serviced six days a week by housekeepers Camille and Dawn. They are both cheerful and helpful girls and we found their presence totally non-intrusive. Private arrangements can be made with the girls for additional cooking duties. If our welcome meal is anything to go by, they are excellent cooks – although visitors need to appreciate that almost without exception, local staff will only be able to cook 'local' food rather than the international range of cuisine that some people might expect.

The villa's caretaker, Curtis, was particularly helpful. A night watchman, Augist, is on constant duty during the hours of darkness and ensures the safety of guests. Augist is ably helped by Sandy, the villa's lovely pothound who the owners rescued from the local animal shelter.

Conclusion

It would be tempting providence to say that Soleil is the biggest house on Tobago. I can think of several that have more bedrooms and several that appear large enough to possibly put up a fight. However, after staying at more than30 rental villas on the island over the last ten years (and doublethat if you include hotels, guest houses and apartments, etc) and double that figure again in terms of houses we have visited or inspected, I have to say that it is the biggest house we know on Tobago.

We all know that size isn't everything. In theory, it should have been something of a strange experience for two people to stay in such a large house, particularly as we especially asked that the housekeepers only attended every third day, rather than daily, so that I could concentrate on the writing. Little did I know how easily I could have found a quiet corner. The point is that far from finding the place intimidating, we found it just totally amazingly relaxing. The very clever architectural design and interior décor have combined to create a home that looks quite stunning from the outside and is hugely cosy on the inside. Very, very clever!

What more can we say?

Reader Reports

This property has a weighted Reader Satisfaction Rating of 100%   . Click below to read the 23 reader reports that this is rating is based on.

Lindi Loubon from Trinidad visited in March 2016 and awarded   

My family and I stayed at Villa Soleil in March 2016, the location was very private and secluded, perfect for our event. The Villa is absolutely wonderful with everything you may possibly need on vacation ranging from kitchen utensils to hair dryers. The property is well kept, natural and beautiful, the view is simply breath taking.

Our event was a huge success, everything we imagined it to be, and the pictures...words cant describe.

Have a personal mode of transport and a little knowledge of the roads in Tobago and have the perfect event and holiday at Villa Soleil.

Michelle Burrell from U.S.A. visited in May 2014 and awarded   

After reviewing some of the reviews prior to visiting Soleil, I was extremely excited about my upcoming trip (May 2014). The arrival to Trinidad and Tobago airports was pretty scary. People were unfriendly and no type of organization or assistance offered to visitors. Moving on the taxi ride to the villa was frightening...the Tobago government should be ashamed for not having safe roads..the roads to the villa was absoultely unacceptable.

Upon my arrival I felt like I was in paradise. The lovely and more than efficient House Manager Judith, her assistant Sala were great. Both of these young ladies were caring, accomodating, fun, high energy, great spirit to be around. Their presentation of each meal was to die for. I never in my life felt so spoiled. If I could have packed them in my suitcase, and brought them home with me I would.

There was a slight hiccup...during our group day on a catamaran boat excursion, upon our return to Soleil there was no water. The water company was scheduled to come out and do repairs, unfortunately they did not show up. Our group found themselves gathering water from the pool just to be able to flush the toliets. This went on for 24hrs.

Fortunately, Ms. Judith and Sala made the best out of a horrible siutation. Judith made a phone call and our group were able to have access to a neighboring villa to shower and change. The next day, Judith and Sala returned with breakfast for the entire group. That was exceptionally fantastic actions on their part. Helen the property manager visted and made arrangements for the group to be moved to another villa closer inland. The accomodations were a bit of a downgrade from Soleil, but they were nice.

My overall experience I'd rate a 7...would be higher if not for the water issue. Again, I state the Tobago government should invest more into infrastructure. There needs to be a better way of getting to and from on those roads that lead up to high hills where many of the villas are.

I'd return to Soleil again only if I could be served by Judith and Sala. These women should be decorated with the hightest honor. Kind, professional, caring, humble and many more positive descriptions I could give of the both of them.

Location Map

To view a detailed interactive map showing the location of this property relative to restaurants, shops and sightseeing features, click this link  

4 Bedrooms:$550
Full Villa (5 Bedrooms):$600
Minimum Nights:3 nights
Property Type:Holiday Rental Villa
Bedrooms:5
Maximum Guests:10
Bathrooms:7 (5 ensuite)
Air-Conditioning:Bedrooms only, except for the studio apartment which is fully air-conditioned.
Children:children are welcome but need to be closely supervised by their parents.
Hair Dryers:Available
Telephone:A direct-dial telephone is available for local calls.
Internet Access:Yes
Television:Yes
Safety Deposit:There is a safety deposit box in every bedroom.
Wheelchair Access:No
Swimming Pool:Full pool
Tennis:Court at Arnos Vale Hotel open to public.
Catering Options:

Housekeeping:3 times per week
Baby-Sitting:Needs to be requested beforehand, so it can be arranged.
Personal Laundry:included but gratuities for this extra would be much appreciated by housekeeper.
Personal Cooking:By Arrangement
Location:Arnos Vale
Region:Lower Caribbean
Location Type:Village Outskirts
Airport:25 minutes
Beach:6-10 minute Walk