Even a diehard city person needs an escape sometimes. The cinema legend knows just where you should plan yours.
“I like the word inn,” says Robert De Niro about what will, over the next three years, arise on a 391 acres along the sandy shores of Barbuda. And though it might be difficult to imagine the award-winning actor behind the young Vito Corleone and Jimmy Conway as a kindly innkeeper, the devil, as with everything De Niro does, is in the details—even sometimes in word choice. Inn is imperative here.
De Niro has been on these shores before. Thirty years ago, while taking a day trip from Antigua, he asked the boat’s crew to stop so he could see a stretch of Barbuda. Some things you just remember, and by 2023, schedule permitting, the Nobu Beach Inn will offer one- to four-bedroom villas with private pools and direct beach access. Surrounding the property will be privately owned residences, fully serviced by the inn. Enjoying the chef’s miso cod on this pristine beach sounds like a dream, and it has taken time. “I knew that if I were going to build something like this, I would have to find the perfect place. It’s a lot of work. And,” he says quietly, “I do other things.”
Some might remember this stretch of turquoise water as the site of the K Club, one of Princess Diana’s favorites. That resort had fallen into disrepair by 2004; 10 years later, De Niro and inn co-founder James Packer started looking into developing the property. There was opposition from community groups, and then came Hurricane Irma, which devastated the island in 2017. De Niro vowed to support Barbuda’s recovery. The word community comes up often—both the island’s existing one and the environment De Niro hopes to create with the inn. He wants it to be somewhere people come back to year after year, a destination that is “not too formal, the kind of place people really want to go to, and that they will make the effort to get to.”
Barbuda currently gets no direct commercial flights (an airport is opening next year that will accommodate private jets and small planes), so effort is required—but that seems part of the recipe for a low-key, word-of-mouth kind of place reminiscent of Mustique or Parrot Cay, or even De Niro and team’s Nobu Ryokan in Malibu or the Greenwich Hotel in New York. “Bob’s vision is for the Nobu Beach Inn to have the feeling of a hideaway,” says Trevor Horwell, CEO of Nobu Hospitality group. “There will be a sense of privacy and anonymity. The Malibu property you can’t even book online. Barbuda is like that. It’s quiet. We don’t want to make it a big destination. And we want local families to be a part of this, and to be proud of it.”
Creating a place that people return to, that becomes part of their lives, takes vision, strategy, and a little magic. Though the inn isn’t yet ready, a Nobu Barbuda restaurant is opening on the beach in December.